The Power of the Cross: 106th Edition, November 17, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. We publish once per week on Sunday. The newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.

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Teaching:

Freedom Through the “heart cutting" of God’s Word

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

To be free from a lifestyle of sin, such as gluttony and laziness, sexual impurity, greed and idolatry, or any other form of life-dominating behavior, takes a deeply “heart cutting” experience of God’s Word. That is, God’s Word must expose our heart (“innermost thoughts and desires”) for what it is, show us how it is polluted and defiled, and then show us how the message of the cross cuts out our old heart and gives us a new one. With a new heart comes new thoughts and desires leading to a new life.

Notice what happened when Peter preached the message of the cross in Acts chapter 2:

Acts 2:37 (NIV) When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

The preaching of the message of the cross cut the hearts of those who heard it, it exposed their “innermost thoughts and desires”, they saw that they had wicked hearts and desires, and they were eager for change. This is the effect of the good news of the cross. 

Yet there is a warning here:

Hebrews 4:2 (NIV) For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

The context of the “heart cutting” of the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) is the “good news” (Hebrews 4:2), but there is a warning which tells us that the preaching of the cross can be meaningless in our lives, if we do not believe and obey the message. The way we access the freeing benefit of the cross is through believing the good news, and obeying the message. 

Here is how this looks in the life of one who is captive to sin’s power:

We are stuck in a lifestyle of gratifying our flesh with its sinful cravings. We are sinning turning to our own way of living, sinning against God, breaking His commands by continual gratifying the lusts of our flesh. But then we are confronted with the “good news", the message of the cross. 

We see that Jesus has been tried, found to be not guilty, and then punished by beating with a cat-o-nine-tails. He is led up Golgotha’s hill, carrying His own cross to the place of execution. They put a crown of thorns on Him, pound nails in His hands and feet, blood is spraying everywhere, and then they lift Him up on the cross to die. He prays for forgiveness of those who have nailed Him there, He assures a believing thief of eternal life, He declares “It is finished!” then He bows His head, offers up His Spirit to the Father, and is dead. A roman soldier pierces his heart with a sword, and blood that forgives our every sin, and water that cleanses us of all unrighteousness, comes flowing out of Jesus’ heart. "This is the one who came by water and blood —Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:6). 

And we are told that it was because God so loved us (John 3:16), and that Jesus Christ so loved us (John 13:1), that Jesus suffered death for our sins. “Greater love has no man, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). And we realize that it is not because we are good people, kind and loving people, that Jesus died for us; but rather, because we are sinners. "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Yes, Jesus died for sinners, and for those who were His enemies: "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).

We are told that we, our old selves, were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). We are told that He died for us and we died in Him. We are told that He rose from the dead three days later, and that we rose in Him, a new person with a new heart and a new life, who are now learning to set our hearts and minds on things above. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

In other words, at the cross/resurrection event, our hearts were exposed as sinful and wicked, and they were cut out of us and we were given new hearts, according to the New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36:26-27:

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Now we have a choice: do we put faith in that heart-cutting message of love, believing what we see at the cross and hear from God’s Word? If yes, we begin to experience the power of the cross. We begin to find this amazing power of love and forgiveness that breaks the power of canceled sin, and sets the captive free! We begin to experience resurrection power, Holy Spirit power. Gospel love begins pouring into our hearts, opening our prison doors, breaking the power of sin, and we begin to walk in newness of life by the power of God’s Spirit. The message of the cross has cut our hearts deeply, and healed our hearts thoroughly. We’ve undergone a heart transplant.

Colossians 2:11-12 (NIV) In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Our inmost thoughts and desires (our “hearts”) have been exposed at the cross in this deep “cutting” work of the “good news.” Our sinful desires are seeming to die with Jesus on the cross, and we are finding an explosive new power within us. This is the power of love that mends our cut hearts, it is the power of the Holy Spirit who leads us away from fleshly living, it is the power of the resurrection that lifts us up and out of the grave of sin. Oh blessed God, Who has put His Son to death in our place, who has crucified us with Him, and who has raised us up to new life!

Oh this most blessed cutting power of the cross of Christ! To experience it once is to begin to find freedom, to experience it again and again is to experience ongoing heart change and life change, discovering the truth that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God’s Word that cuts our hearts and transforms us, is the “good news” about Christ crucified and risen for our forgiveness and freedom. 

Question: Are you seeing the cross and believing this message today? Is it cutting your own heart? Reply to this email, if you’d like, let me know your thoughts, and I’ll celebrate with you or pray with you.

Come to the cross and find freedom through “cutting.” It hurts. It heals. It frees. 

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Testimonies:

Weight Loss course:

Yuri writes, "The principles in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course helped me to remember many biblical truths, to see many things in a new way, and to accept for myself a new revelation and experience.

In this past month, I became more focused on Christ and His Sacrifice. I am walking more in the Spirit and God's Word. I don't have a job right now, so it was easy for me to accept some of my findings and new thoughts from the lessons of the course. I eat smaller portions; I don't make huge meaningless snacks between meals. I found that I can eat an apple, for example, and I am satisfied. I am eating fewer sweets.

I eat whatever I want when I am hungry. I know that I can eat a large portion if there is such a desire while not experiencing guilt. During the course, I ate a lot of food for my son's birthday, and at memorial dinners two times after the funerals, but I still lost 10 kilos or 22 pounds. The result exceeded my expectations. My stomach doesn't look pregnant anymore. Of course, clothes became more comfortable because they fit better.

I live in Russia, and I very much want the Russians to be able to study this course because I know that many suffer from overweight, but for this purpose, it is necessary to translate the course into Russian. I don 't know if I can handle it, but I'd like to do it quietly and gradually.

The principles of this course teach to savoring Christ, suffer with Him, and walk in the Spirit, so I recommend this course for every person. Glory, honor, praise, gratitude, and worship to our Lord and Savior!”

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Have you checked out the all new A United Front course? It has been streamlined and pruned, focused and clarified. Here are two testimonies, one from the husband and one from the wife, that show the power of the cross:

Husband Todd writes, "While taking the A United Front course, I gained a better understanding of the gospel (Christ's death and resurrection) and the depth of God's love for me. I learned the importance of having a relationship with God first and then out of the overflow, loving my wife as a priority. I am hopeful and confident that our marriage will heal as we continue to learn from Jesus how He wants us to live. I have a better understanding of what my wife has experienced because of my sin and how Jesus says I should respond."

Wife Kelly writes, "So much has taken place in my heart and marriage as I have completed the A United Front course! I've learned I am not alone; God is with me, and also our church family has helped us a lot for which I am thankful. I have grown closer to my heavenly Father, had many deep and meaningful conversations with God and with my husband. I have learned to communicate better with my husband. I've learned more about what God wants and expects from our marriage. I am very thankful for the A United Front course, and I recommend it.”

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Purity Bootcamp

Bob writes,My walk has been strengthened through the Purity Boot Camp course, and I feel like I am on a new path with better insight into the gospel and my identity with Christ. I feel like God is changing my desires and giving me a new appreciation for the cross. Sometimes I feel tempted but have thus far been able to run to the cross and flee the temptations. I pray for that to continue.

I feel a sense of victory as I walk in Christ’s victory and look forward, not back. I am learning to see myself as a saint and not a sinner and being aware that although the war is won, I still face battles. My Setting Captives Free mentor, Nicklas, was a great encouragement, and I have great affection and appreciation for him walking with me through this course.

I recommend this course! If God can set me on a new course, He can do it for anyone. There is new life in the gospel and a new identity in Christ. This course has helped me see the gospel in a new light and given me a battle plan and hope for a future without sexual sin. It is freeing to know just how much Christ has freed me and that I can walk as a new man in his victory.

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Is there someone you could forward this email to, that might need gospel encouragement in their lives? Anyone can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by sending a blank email to main+subscribe@SettingCaptivesFree.groups.ioand then responding back to the email.

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Friend if you find you are in agreement with the mission of Setting Captives Free, to see the gospel of Jesus Christ change hearts and lives, would you please consider helping us to continue reaching people with the gospel? Please pray for us, and also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. https://settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

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