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"Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again ... Brothers and sisters, if I’m still preaching the Law, why am I still being harassed? In that case, the offense of the cross would be canceled." (Galatians 5:1,11 CEB)

There is a lot of contention - some of it violent - these days over the rights protected in the Constitution by the First Amendment, the header of the Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The so-called "establishment clause" - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - was intended to be balanced by the "free exercise clause" - "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The rest speaks to sacred rights to free speech, to peaceful assembly, and to be able to hold our government accountable to "we the people." The controversy now is that government has the mandate to shut down religious speech and any other words that might cause offense to anyone. If we eliminate everything that offends somebody, then we won't speak or write at all - everybody is offended by something, and we can't keep track of it all in an entire nation.

But the fact is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news that offends. You know the old "I've got good news/bad news" jokes:

Person One - "I've got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?"

Person Two - "Hmmm - What's the bad news?"

Person One - "We have nothing but dirt to eat."

Person Two - "Ugh. That's pretty bad. What's the good news?"

Person One - "There's plenty of dirt to go around."

The Gospel is a good news/bad news kind of thing. The Good News is that God loves everyone so much He came to earth in the form of Jesus to to take the punishment for our sin on the cross, win for us new life, and give us eternal life. The Bad News is that you can't make it for yourself, you can only decide it for yourself. You have to give your life to Jesus Christ. Put them both together and you get new life and eternal life, but it means a willingness to give up all pretensions, surrender to Him, and

live for Him. The Bible is not a self-help book; there are no award shows for people who accept Him. There are no special, heroic deeds to do; He is the one Hero, and accepting Him requires humbly surrendering to Him. Paul says that is the price of freedom, and Jesus has set us free to be free from sin and death. But the offense of the cross is that we can't achieve it by skill or talents, it's an unearned gift. That offense can't be removed, or the Gospel would be gutted.

Freedom is not a political thing, or an abstract thing, or a right - it's something that goes beyond rights. It's the tangible reality of the death and resurrection of a real-time, living Savior. If people don't like the message, they won't like the messenger either, but you are in your rights and in your responsibility to live it out for people to see through you that Jesus is real, and has an incredible gift to give us. It's something that should stir us - a stirring that will not accept chains and bondage, but embraces true freedom.

Those who demand their right not to be offended aren't going to like this good news/bad news Gospel. The offense is pretty pointed and direct, and it's not going away.

And that is the good news.

Blessings from here to eternity,

Pastor Drew

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