The Power of the Cross: 179th Edition, May 2, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 179th Edition, May 2, 2021


Greetings friends,


Welcome, new subscribers! This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find it helpful and encouraging.




Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 178



There are two main questions that every religion tries to answer: first, how can we be right with God, and second, how can we overcome sin? Indeed most people who come to Jesus have questions like these. They might say: "I believe the gospel; I'm glad Jesus died to save me, but how do I change? I know about the cross, but how do I stop sinning? How do I move from the basic Christian life on to maturity?" These are good and reasonable questions!

When we hear the gospel and believe it, we become Christians. Over time, we understand that our former way of life was sinful, so we want to change. Unfortunately, in our pursuit of freedom, many of us forget the message of the cross and instead seek out quick fixes. For example, we want to lose weight, so we turn to the diet community who tells us to cut carbs or adjust our macros - simple! Or we're trapped in pornography, so we put a filter or accountability software on our device - done!

Yet, sin is not so easily overcome. We end up failing repeatedly - going from one diet to another, one accountability program or step system to another, always looking for that right combination of rules, steps, or tips that will enlighten and transform us! Sure, we believe the message of the cross, but that was only to make us right with God, not to help us stop sinning. The message of the cross is for salvation, not sanctification. 

And so we seem to forget all about the cross as we go on the hunt to find some system or method with the proper steps or rules or accountability to free us from bondage to sin and help us with the practical issues of life.

Now, the false teachers in Galatia would have wholeheartedly agreed with this Law based approach to freedom. They would have said, "It is good that you believe Paul's gospel, but now, to be right with God AND go on to perfection, you must obey the Law. If you live right and obey God's Law, you will receive God's love, and by keeping His Law, you will overcome sin and become perfected."

But Paul declared law-based righteousness to be a false teaching because the message is wrong. The right message is: you can't obey perfectly, so Jesus came and obeyed in your place, and then He died as a perfect sacrifice to pay for your disobedience, and when you believe this message God counts you as righteous and holy! And by believing this message again and again you grow in maturity, you overcome sin, and more and more you resemble Christ!

At this point, Paul uses an Old Testament illustration to prove this point and help everyone understand how the gospel applies to our lives, so he quotes from Genesis 15:6, "So also Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 

Notice that Abraham was not righteous, but then he heard something, he believed what he heard, and God credited his believing that message as righteousness for Abraham. The word translated "credited" is an accounting term; accountants might list the debits on one side of the paper and credits on the other. And when Abraham believed a particular message, a marvelous transaction happened - God credited righteousness to Abraham and simultaneously, God removed all Abraham's sin debts - no sins on the debit side, righteousness on the credit side.

And Paul went on to say in Galatians 3:7 that "those who have faith in Jesus are children of Abraham."  Paul is talking about you and me here. He just told us how to be credited with righteousness. To be "the children of Abraham" means to resemble Abraham, believe as he did, and share in his blessing. It is as if Paul had said, "These Judaising teachers talk so much about being children of Abraham, and they say that it is by circumcision and obeying God that you become a son of Abraham. But this is a lie. Abraham believed a certain message and by faith was made right with God.” It follows, then, that if we believe as Abraham did, we are his descendants. Think about what Paul is saying: even if someone is "circumcised on the eighth day...a Hebrew of for righteousness based on the law, faultless," but if he is not a believer in the gospel, he is not a child of Abraham.

So what exactly did Abraham believe which made him right with God? Galatians 3:8 answers the question. It says, "Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." God announced the gospel, and Abraham believed the gospel, and it was credited to Him as righteousness.

The Scriptures teach us here that we become righteous by hearing and believing the gospel message. The rest of Galatians shows us that we grow into maturity the same way we became believers: by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ again and again. The power of the Holy Spirit accompanies the gospel message to all who believe it (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

But wait a minute: that's not the gospel that "all nations on earth will be blessed through you."  The gospel is that Christ died for our sins was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-6), so how did God announce the gospel to Abraham?

I'm going to stop here and leave that question for you to ponder. I'm hoping you'll read the rest of this passage, Galatians 3:10-14, to see how this statement - "all nations on earth will be blessed through you" - is the gospel and why it is such good news for you and me today. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts or questions about this passage, and we will continue our study in Galatians next week.



Michelle writes, "In the Weight Loss Bootcamp course, I have gained a healthy perspective on my issue with food. Before this course, I didn't understand if I was struggling with gluttony, an addiction, or what it was, but I now feel like I have a healthy understanding of it.  I feel less shame and condemnation and more able to call it what it is and bring Jesus into it.


I wash at the cross daily and am learning to abide in His Spirit daily - seeking Him moment by moment with all my stress, insecurities, decisions - inviting Him into my day and all the big and little things, including what I should eat.


I also feel more equipped to war against my flesh. Understanding it's not in my nature to make the best decision - only to eat when I'm hungry and move my body regularly, but that I need to constantly fight my sin and laziness and do what I know God is calling me to do. Making these choices isn't easy and requires a soldier-like mindset - to fight the temptation to fall back into old habits.  Overall, I still feel my battle plan needs some work, but I have faith I can work that out and receive what I need by abiding in Jesus; I believe He will guide me. Praise God for this course!


Physically, I feel less bloated and lethargic. I have more energy, am excited about moving my body, and find it easier to attend to all of the needs of my three small children.


I recommended this course because it is so biblically based and focused on Jesus!"

Emily writes, "The spiritual changes that have taken place in my life while taking the Freedom from Fear and Anxiety course are that the Lord is showing me how important it is to preach the gospel to myself daily (1 Cor 15:3-4; Eph.2:4-6,8-9; Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; Titus 3:4-7; etc.); the need to cast all my anxieties upon Him (daily & often), because He really does care about me (1 Peter 5:7). God is also helping me, by the power of the Holy Spirit and His living and powerful Word, to walk in step with Him (Gal.5:16,25), submit to Him, and resist the devil (James 4:7).


Other changes would be that I am experiencing more of the peace of God (not to be confused with peace with God which I received at salvation) daily. I believe the Lord has helped me be more of an encouragement to my husband and others in my sphere of influence. I'm able to concentrate better on tasks of daily living and be a more effective witness for the Lord (though there is definitely room for improvement with this).


I am so thankful to God that He helped me through this Fear and Anxiety study. I never realized that fear and anxiety were such an issue in my life; but then, God knew, and He was/is so gracious to show me the things in my life that need to be rooted out so I can enjoy sweet fellowship with Him and the people He has brought into my life.


Also, I am so grateful for Joce, who the Lord set free from worry and anxiety and empowered her to develop this devotional."

Ivan writes, "In the Purity Bootcamp course, I learned that walking in the Spirit & warring against the flesh are by-products of washing at the cross which I never get enough of and is fresh and new every day.


The cross of Jesus used to be a story that I'd heard 1,000 times. But now, the cross has become the tree of life for me. I now see the message of the gospel and know and live in its truth.


The cross of Jesus is not just a story now. I come to the cross daily, and I listen to bible teachers preaching the truth about the gospel. I was tired of listening to naysayers, and Christ chose to reveal Himself to me. Not by my works but by His Grace. I was His enemy when He put Himself on that cross. I was Not deserving that He should die for me..."at the cross at the cross where I first saw the light." I AM BORN AGAIN!!! His great love has broken me several times. There are no words!!!!


I would recommend this course to anyone in trouble and anyone who thinks he knows the gospel. I thought I knew till the scales fell from my eyes. I pray that all men take this course. We ALL need it...notwithstanding the high percentage of sexual impurity among men nowadays. Jesus Christ is the ONLY answer. And it's at the cross where we meet Him."


Friend, if you find you agree 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 consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. Thank you in advance. 


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

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