Date   

The Power of the Cross: 149th Edition, September 20, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 149th Edition, September 20, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Announcement


We are happy to announce Setting Captives Free’s latest publication called “The Gospel for the Church: Rediscovering the Power of the Cross”. Written by Erick Hurt, this is a powerful call for the church to return to the message of the cross for the transformation of lives. We highly recommend this book and encourage all to get a copy for themselves and another for their pastor/church leaders. If you would love to see a reformation centered in the gospel, click here

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Teaching

Going out into the world of sin is very dangerous. Like playing with fire, sin can burn us so bad as to be beyond recognition, or even take our lives (James 1:15). Possibly you have your own story of giving in to temptation, which then became chains of bondage, and maybe you have been years trying to break free. 

One of the most important truths God teaches us, His children, is to be anchored to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:19), to remain with Him and in Him, to tether ourselves to the cross so that we are safe from sin’s destruction.  “Remain in me, as I also remain in you” (John 15:4). But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).

For the last several newsletters, we've been studying the Book of Ruth. We've read and discussed Naomi's journey with Ruth from Moab back to God's people in Bethlehem and noted God's provision in leading Ruth to glean in the field of a wealthy man from Bethlehem. At the end of Chapter 2, we see Naomi's response when Ruth returns with all the grain she gathered from her work in Boaz's field. 

Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else's field you might be harmed’” (Ruth 2:22). 

Naomi had previously told Ruth that Boaz was a “Kinsman-Redeemer,” one who could buy back what had been lost or forfeited, and now Naomi instructs Ruth to stay in his field where she would be safe, warning “in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

In this passage, we see Boaz from Bethlehem as both the Redeemer and Protector. His role becomes prominent in the rest of the Book of Ruth as the hero of the story. Boaz is the one who would receive the outcast, care for, protect, and provide for her, redeem and marry her.

Boaz's role points forward to the intent of another Man from Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, Provider, and Protector. As Jesus went to the cross, He loved you unto death and all the way to the grave (John 13:1). He endured Calvary's agony to redeem you out of the slave market of sin with His own body and blood, forgiving your sin completely and setting you free. “In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death, and so we have forgiveness of sins. How rich is God's grace, 8 which he has given to us so fully and freely” (Ephesians 1:7-8 NCV). 

Jesus took your shame and disgrace onto Himself so that you could live eternally as a loved and fully accepted child of God (Ephesians 1:6). The Law stood against you, as it did with Ruth the Moabite, but Jesus met the requirements of the Law for you. He sacrificed His life to give you a new life that is abundantly blessed and fruitful. By His death on the cross, He has released you from your past and set you free to a new future - one of eternal union with Him as your Provider and Protector. By His resurrection He empowers you with His Spirit to walk with Him, and not live gratifying the lusts of your flesh.

Friend, the danger we have experienced with our involvement in sin warns us now to stay with our Redeemer, to remain in Him (John 15:4-11) where we will experience both His favor and His protection. "In someone else's field, you might be harmed."  If we turn to food, sexual impurity, alcohol for comfort, we will be harmed. Indeed, if we place our hope in anything (religion, education, social justice, politics, etc.) other than Jesus, we will be harmed. Jesus alone has what we need. Only He has loved us as we need. Come to Him and find shelter under His wings and rest in His finished work, experience salvation through His death and resurrection, and ongoing life transformation through viewing His sacrifice for you. 

As we now learn to stay with and in Him, we can say with the Psalmist:

“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. 4I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:3-4

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.

These Setting Captives Free groups are available (you can join all appropriate groups):
 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 148th Edition, September 13, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 148th Edition, September 13, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Announcement

Last week we introduced a new communication platform that has already afforded us ministry opportunities together. We have had impromptu Bible studies, ongoing worship music while text, voice and or video chatting, sharing of testimonies, live prayer (with voice/video), and other ministry opportunities. If you are new and would like to join, simply click the links below.

The groups are available to join here (you can join all appropriate groups):

 

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Teaching

If you have been on this newsletter for any length of time, you know we are seeing the power of God to break our chains of sin, looking together at the Book of Ruth.

Last week in one of our Marco Polo groups, one of our mentors shared the following very powerful word imagery of what it is like to find freedom. For the newsletter this week, I wanted to invite you to watch this powerful video. You can find it here: https://youtu.be/7vlzUmlqXcg

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Testimonies

Nick writes, "The principles in the Purity Bootcamp course are helpful. Washing at the cross has changed me and helped me truly know the love God has for me. It has helped push out my sexual impurity, it has led me to understand the severity of my sin, and how my sin has led to Christ suffering for me and has brought me to a place of humble repentance and kneeling before the cross.

 

Walking by the Spirit was only possible by first washing at the cross for me. I would not have known how to walk by the Spirit and not gratify my flesh had I not known the reality of Christ's sacrifice and His salvation for me.

 

Warring against the flesh has allowed God to give me a specific battle plan, which has not allowed me to watch pornography in several weeks. I still fall in many ways, but instead of wallowing in my shame, which will lead me away from God, I turn to God and confess my sin, and allow His Spirit to work within me.

 

I have seen a change in my soul; Christ's sacrifice becomes so much clearer to me thanks to this study. I absolutely recommend this course. It has gospel truth infused into every lesson, making sure the things taught are godly, proper, and holy. This course has helped me see the gospel so much more intimately, recognizing that the gospel is for me and you and everyone. It has helped me realize that victory is already ours because of Christ's sacrifice, which has led to unspeakable joy."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 147th Edition, September 6, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 147th Edition, September 6, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

Announcement

We are introducing a new communication platform. The platform will afford us ministry opportunities together such as impromptu Bible studies, ongoing worship music while text, voice and or video chatting, sharing of testimonies, live prayer (with voice/video), live Bible studies and many other opportunities. 

The groups are available to join here (you can join all appropriate groups):

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Teaching

Even though our struggles vary, on some level we all know what it is like to live in bondage to sin. We understand the weakness of our flesh and how it clamors for gratification. Intense thought-strongholds can capture our imaginations, and sin can drag us into its trap, leaving us with nothing but guilt and shame. And by trial and error, we have learned that no mere human solution will ever set us free. But we do not despair because there is a Solution!

 

In these weekly newsletters, we’ve been studying the Book of Ruth together. So far, we have seen that Ruth was “a Moabite from Moab” (Ruth 2:6), which means she was an outcast from a land of idolatry (1:15), an enemy of the people of God, and barred, by law, from ever entering the presence of God’s people (Deuteronomy 23:3). Nevertheless, God has brought Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem and specifically to a worthy and wealthy man named Boaz.

 

Today we come to chapter 2 verses 9-14. As we read these verses, we will see God’s solution for Ruth and Naomi as well as the Solution for our sin problem. Now, let’s listen in as Boaz and Ruth converse, Boaz begins: 

Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” 10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied, “I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” 13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” 14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.

We can immediately see that Boaz has taken the roles of “protector” and “provider” for Ruth. He protects her by instructing his men not to lay a hand on her, and he provides for her by inviting her to drink his water when thirsty, and gather grain behind his female workers. His invitation to Ruth to come and drink reminds me of God’s invitation to us in Isaiah 55:1 which says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

In Boaz’ provision and protection of Ruth, we get a glimpse of our Lord and Savior “because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 Net Bible).

As she walked with Naomi from Moab, Ruth did not know how the people of Bethlehem would receive her, but she certainly was not expecting the kindness that Boaz showed. In response to Boaz, Ruth bowed with her face to the ground in gratitude and appreciation for the grace Boaz was giving her, and blurted out this question, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” 

We can imagine how her question affected Boaz. Did it cause him to stop and remember the life of his mother, Rahab? Did he recall that she was once an outcast prostitute from the land of Jericho, who, by faith, hid the spies, and so they received her into their community? 

Friend, let's stop and consider God's kindness to us who were separate from Christ and outcasts in our sin. Ephesians 2:12 is a perfect description of not only Rahab from Jericho and Ruth from Moab but also you and me as Gentile sinners: "remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world."

But even as Boaz, the wealthy and worthy man from Bethlehem, showed kindness to Ruth, calling her “my daughter” and providing for and protecting her, so too, the Lord Jesus Christ, the wealthy and worthy God-man, born in Bethlehem, seeks, provides for and protects all outcast sinners. Just as Boaz graciously received an outcast Moabite woman, so Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest (Matthew 11:28), and to work in His harvest field (Matthew 11:29-30). Jesus prayed, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost…” (John 17:12).

Boaz responds to Ruth’s gratitude by saying: “I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.

Ruth had left her homeland, family, and all that was familiar and comfortable and entrusted her life to God and found refuge under His wings (verse 12). She had turned from the land of idolatry and put faith in God. Like the Thessalonians who would come after her, Ruth “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). 

Such is the life of a Christian. Like Ruth, we must leave behind our past life of sin to embrace the God who forsook all heaven for us. Jesus died on the cross for us, and His love calls us to die to our past sinful lives and find a life of safety and satisfaction in Him. "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We leave our "Moab" behind, cutting it off and burning all bridges to it, for we have been drawn to the Son of God who was cut off and burned in the fire of God's wrath for us. 

Finally, please notice what an amazing thing that Boaz, the wealthy man from Bethlehem, did for Ruth, the outcast Moabite: “At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar” (Ruth 2:14). 

What incredible grace! This poor Moabite woman, according to the Law, could have been pushed away; instead, she was brought near. Boaz could have said, “Get out of my field,” but instead, he said, “come over here,” drawing Ruth near. Similarly, we are told in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

And what does Boaz offer to Ruth? “Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar” (Ruth 2:14). These (bread and wine) are symbols of the gospel of Jesus Christ. On the night Jesus was betrayed, the Bible says “he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”

Oh, friend, today Jesus invites you to come to Him just as you are, sinful and wretched, outcast and unworthy, and to receive His broken body and spilled-out blood as a full atonement for your sins and as a feast for your soul. He has died for you, and risen for you; put your faith in that message! And as you believe it, you will find the power of the Holy Spirit to die with Christ to your past and be free from the power of sin.

Summary: We are all, like Ruth, from the land of idolatry. We are outcasts because of our sin, enemies of God because of our evil behavior, doomed to perish in our sins. 

But there is a Man from Bethlehem who loves to receive foreigners and outcasts, who draws us near to Himself, who will provide for and protect us, and who has given His body and His blood for us. 

Because Jesus receives sinners, and His death in our place makes us holy and righteous, Psalm 87 is fulfilled, which describes how people from all nations, even outcasts, and foreigners, are treated as if we were full-fledged children of God, born in the nation of Israel:

I mention Rahab and Babylon to my followers. Here are Philistia and Tyre, along with Ethiopia. It is said of them, ‘This one was born there.’ 5 But it is said of Zionʼs residents, ‘Each one of these was born in her, and the sovereign One makes her secure.’ 6 The LORD writes in the census book of the nations, ‘This one was born there.’ (Selah)” (Psalm 87:4-6 NET).

We will see this very truth played out in the rest of the Book of Ruth, and we will see it played out in our own lives as we continue to walk with Jesus. Because of His work on the cross and the work of His Holy Spirit in us, we can indeed walk free from entangling and enslaving sin.

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Testimonies

John writes, "In the Purity Bootcamp course I have learned that I cannot undo my past, but because Jesus died for my sins, I have been set free from the condemnation in which Satan would have me remain. I am now free to live a wholesome, clean, and righteous life. Focussing on Jesus at the cross and keeping my eyes fixed on Him by seeking truth through the word and His sacrifice, I am set free. I have also become aware of my weakness in this battle, and I know that without my Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to the truth, I would continue to be trapped in sin. I am now armored for the daily, hourly, and even minute by minute battle that lies ahead.

Before this course, I was lost. My wife and I were at rock bottom in our relationship, and whether we would stay together at all was very much in the balance. The things that had been revealed about my sexual sin were very damaging to my wife, and her trust and belief in me were rightly at an all-time low. My guilt and shame were massive and threatened to destroy me. It was an awful time.

Thank you, Lord, that my wife remembered this course that our son took several years ago. She asked that I do it, but it took me about six weeks to get to it. I wish I had started it earlier as it has been an absolute revelation to me. Quickly in my study, it was recommended that my wife do the course for spouses. She wasn't keen as you might expect, given that it was me who was at fault, but in support of me and our marriage, she agreed to do it. She has just completed it, bless her. With us both studying in parallel ways like this, we have been brought to a unified understanding of sin, our weaknesses, and God's power of healing and forgiveness over us.

When I started the course, I was wallowing in the mess of my own making and saw no way out for me because of the awful sins I had committed against my wife and our marriage. I had rather glibly understood before (being a notional Christian at the time) that Jesus died for my sins. What I didn't fully appreciate, however, was that in turning to Him and confessing my sins, that I would not only be set free from them but that I would also be set free from condemnation. It was a powerful truth for me and was the single most significant truth that got me hooked on Jesus' gift to us (me). Since truly getting this, I have started to feel freer and cleaner as the course has progressed. Being in the Navy and having been shackled to the corrosive effects of porn for 40+ years, I hadn't really appreciated the damage it was doing to my relationships and the damage that it was doing to me. I now realize I have not been in a 'right' place with myself, with my wife, but most importantly, with God. Through this wonderful course, I am now in a much better place than before. Despite the repairing nature of what still needs to be completed in our marriage, I feel in a much better place personally. I feel cleaner and, my head is clearing of all the inappropriate images, and my wife and I are becoming more intimate with each other than we have been for years. She was always available to me, but I slowly withdrew from her over many years as I slid down the slippery slope of sin.

I have put in place measures to help me stay clean. I am coming to the cross multiple times each day, and my wife and I are reading devotionals and scripture together once again, not having done this regularly for a long time. We are also praying regularly together now, and I feel we are both on the same narrow path to the gates of Heaven together. I have not felt like doing or looking at anything inappropriate since the massive bust-up, but I am not so foolish to believe that as soon as I think I'm safe from temptation that that is when Satan will trip me up. As such, I plan to continue seeking the Lord and sit at Jesus' feet and look for a follow-up course to this one and seek more fellowship with Christian men once the Lockdown eases. Thank you for a course that saved my marriage, but also has saved me. Sexual sin was slowly killing me, and I am so glad that I can now recognize its damaging effects and now know the route to defeating how Satan uses it to destroy lives. I would recommend this course to anyone suffering from the ill effects of sexual sin and lusting. 

I recommend this course. This course has set me free in so many ways. It has freed me from my sinful ways and condemnation, which I hadn't realized was a significant barrier to my healing.

Brenda writes, "My heart is so full as I type these words, as the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course has revolutionized my life.

Although I've been a devout Christian for decades, my heart has finally been opened to the incredible depth and power of the cross of Christ and what it means to be victorious through suffering with Christ. I am in love with Philippians 3:10!!! I feel privileged to understand what it means to savor Christ...to feast on Him as the choicest meal. I am so much more focused on Jesus and what His sacrifice should evoke in me - the joy of suffering with Him!  I love having the opportunity to fast daily and spend my time focused on Him instead of food.

I started this course on July 1, 2020, and my eating habits changed immediately - I have not gone back to how I ate prior!!!  That in itself is a victory because I was consumed with food; it was a miserable addiction.

My stomach growls now bring me joy when I feel and hear them.  Admittedly, I'm not all the way there yet, as I don't ALWAYS wait for hunger pangs (based on my schedule), but I generally wait to eat at least 18-20 hours after my previous meal, which is a miracle for me. I know it'll get better as I intend to stick with the " waiting for hunger" plan. I love that I am no longer consumed with self-gratification with food. I love that when I have my meal in the afternoon/evening, I know I'm done; that's it.  Though sometimes tempted to snack at night as I used to, those are fleeting thoughts because my body tells me I am still full (not hungry), so why eat?

I love my newfound freedom of eating chocolate or a slice of cake and not feeling guilty.  Everything tastes so much better when I wait to eat as God intended; my taste buds explode with how good my food tastes.  I enjoy my food now.

I've lost about 7 lbs or so.  I don't yet feel much difference in how my clothes fit; I'm a little discouraged about that, but because I know this is right and God will continue to carry me, I am happily staying the course. I trust God will bring victory.  I know it is a spiritual battle, and I feel extremely secure in God's plan to grant me victory and draw me closer to Himself in the process!

I recommend that everyone take this course.  It is not just for overweight people as it teaches through the scriptures the correct, GODLY way we should view and approach our relationship with food.  The focus on God's Word ~ especially on Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross ~ is amazing and life-changing!  It brings true freedom from food addiction, diets, shame, guilt, self-doubt, etc.  Jesus truly is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Everything tastes so much better when you eat according to God's will for you! You will never regret taking this course and applying the biblical principles in it to your life."


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 146th Edition, August 30, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 146th Edition, August 30, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

Announcement

 

We are happy to announce the latest translation of the Purity Bootcamp. For his protection, we are unable to publish the name of the volunteer who did the translation work, but we thank God for him and appreciate his ministry. You will find the Chinese translation of the Purity Bootcamp here. 

 

Announcement

 

A new weight loss course is now available. If you struggle with overeating, misuse of food, laziness, etc. or know someone who does, you will find the Weight Loss Bootcamp course here

 

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Teaching

God’s Solution for Freedom

God has provided one solution for all the sin and sorrow, all the sickness and pain, all the suffering and death; it is the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross towers above the human wreckage of sin; it stands tall over all the defunct kingdoms of man and is planted firmly as God's solution for all the hurricanes and storms that come into our lives. 

Notice how God clearly shows this truth as we continue our study of the Book of Ruth.

Up to this point, there was a famine in the land, so Naomi and her husband and two sons left Bethlehem (the house of Bread) and went out into Moab, the enemy of God's people. While there, the husband (Elimelek) and two sons (Mahlon and Kilion) all died, and Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah. Naomi heard God had come to the aid of His people in Bethlehem, so she set out on the road back to Bethlehem, and Ruth went with her.

When she arrived in Bethlehem, people recognized her as Naomi, but Naomi said, "Call me Mara" (meaning “bitter”) and described her life in very bleak terms - "bitter," "empty," "afflicted," and "misfortunate" (Ruth 1:20-21). Naomi's time in Moab had taken everything and everyone important to her and left her with nothing, leaving her feeling bitter, empty, and hopeless. 

The grim description of Naomi's life in Moab is a summary of the carnage produced by human sin and tragedy: terrible loss, heart-felt pain, inner turmoil, and despair. As we go through this life, we experience the consequences of sin and its curse on this world (the loss of loved ones, sickness, injustice, and suffering of all kinds), and along the way, we might believe we have no joy in the present, and there is no hope for the future. 

If you relate to Naomi's feelings, please notice how the next chapter of Ruth begins:

"Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz" (Ruth 2:1). 

Here we find the remedy for Naomi's pain, bitterness, emptiness, and hopeless condition - a man from Bethlehem named Boaz! The rest of the Book of Ruth fills this story out for us, but for now, let's just see the wonderful contrast between the end of Ruth 1 and the beginning of Ruth 2. Naomi's significant loss, her bitterness, emptiness, misfortune, and pain would all find their resolution in this great man from Bethlehem, who would become the redeemer.

But before we get too far ahead of the story, let's stop and notice some things about Ruth:

Ruth asked if she could go work in a field to pick up some leftover grain, so they'd have something to eat, and Naomi agreed and sent her on her way. The Bible then marvelously records the following: "As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek" (Ruth 2:3). 

Take note of that beginning phrase, "As it turned out..." Some versions say, "she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz." Almost as if it were a coincidence, or by chance, Ruth found herself working in Boaz's field.

Friend, this little statement is God's way of teaching us that God plans every little detail of our lives. God ordains even small things that seem inconsequential or happenstance for the good of His children. After all, if Ruth hadn’t “happened” to come to Boaz's field, all humankind would have perished in sin, because the Messiah of the world would not have been born to die on a cross for our salvation. That's how important this little "happenstance" was. We will see this truth taught further in the coming chapters of Ruth.

Can't you just hear God speaking His word over Ruth, as she "happens" to walk into Boaz's field to glean? "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Next, Boaz comes to the field and asks who the young woman working in his field is? The overseer says, "She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi" (Ruth 2:6). Wow! He calls her "the Moabite from Moab." Isn't that a bit of an overstatement? It seems he wants to be sure that everyone knows where Ruth is from, her past, that she is from Israelite's enemy Moab. 

We can understand his concern when we read what God said about Moabites: "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. 4 For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you" (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The overseer wanted Boaz, and everyone within earshot, to know that Ruth was "a Moabite from Moab."

Friend, as you live in this world and discover the power and consequences of sin, you will experience pain and possibly some devastating results (Romans 5:17). And some people will want to "warn" others about you; they will remind you of your past and label you with it: "A Moabite from Moab." "A divorced man." "A drunk." "An impure woman." 

Illustration: There was a woman who had lived a sinful life who followed Jesus to the home of a religious leader. Her heart had been so pierced with the forgiveness and freedom she received from Jesus that she wept at His feet, washing and kissing His feet and drying them with her hair. But notice the response of the religious leader: “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). He just said this slur to himself, many others will verbalize it and treat you with disdain.

How many are there who have seen the cross of love covering their sins, and wept tears at the pierced feet of Jesus having experienced the power of forgiveness to turn them from sin, only to hear someone reminding them of their past sins and failures? 

These dear and precious souls for whom Jesus died are despised and rejected, and their hearts ache when others refuse to separate them from their past. But thankfully, Jesus speaks a better word through His work on the cross; this passage describes them accurately: “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). 

Amazing grace: The good news for Ruth (and for us) is that there is another man in this story who does not address Ruth as a Moabite from Moab. Listen to how Boaz speaks to her: "So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field, and don't go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me" (Ruth 2:8). 

Did you see the grace Boaz gives Ruth? He calls her "my daughter," a term of family acceptance, care, assurance that she belongs and that she is not only welcome but wanted. Boaz showed surprising grace to this outcast Moabite when he invited her to remain with his workers and stay with those under his care and protection. 

Likewise, God has grace for you, friend. To all who have crucified Christ by their sin and made themselves "enemies in their minds due to their evil behavior" (Colossians 1:21), God gives this grace: "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). 

I can imagine Ruth rushing home after her day of picking up grain and saying something like this, "Naomi, I heard a man call me 'a Moabite from Moab, and it hurt so much to be reminded of my past, of where I have come from, but you won't believe this! I met this wealthy man, this worthy man, this man of great standing, and get this; he called me his daughter! It was as if he truly cared for me, and he invited me to stay in his field. I was like, what kind of love is this, that I should be called a daughter of Boaz!?" 

Summary: Friend, as you see the Man from Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross for you, arms stretched wide open in acceptance of you, let this passage resound in your heart today:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). 

Now the story of Ruth is starting to get good! We have seen the misery, the loss, the bitterness and emptiness of Naomi and Ruth in Ruth chapter 1, but now, in chapter 2, we have met a worthy man from Bethlehem who will transform their lives. 

Similarly, your sin has probably hurt you in many ways, and maybe even those close to you. You may have experienced deep pain, loss, bitterness, and emptiness. But there is a Man from Bethlehem, a Man of great worth, Who is the Solution to your every problem. Stay tuned as we continue our study in Ruth to discover how to access all that Jesus is for you.

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Testimonies

Aileen writes, "The United Front course and my mentor Joce helped me in many ways like viewing my husband with God's eyes and showing him love instead of anger or fear. I have learned that it is better to leave righteousness to God and trust Him completely and not feel responsible for my husband's sins. I don't know how long this journey of purity will take him, and I don't really care that much anymore because I know that Jesus already forgave him and myself every sin we ever committed. I have learned that I am not the "perfect one" while he is the sinner but that we are both sinners, struggling with different things, reaching out for Jesus' help, and forgiveness. I am a much stronger and fearless version of myself, I would say, and I am so thankful for this.

 

I totally recommend this course to others, even if their spouse is struggling with something besides sexual sin. You learn so much about grace and love and yourself, which is always an improvement. The only thing is that I couldn't find this course in German, for me it wasn't a big deal, because my English is pretty good, but for someone who's not that confident in English it might be a problem."

Mikael writes, "The principles in the Setting Captives Free Purity courses have truly changed my daily life. Washing daily at the cross and treating my flesh and its sinful desires as something to battle was not where I was 90 days ago. I am so thankful that God used my pastors and these courses to turn me around completely. Walking by the Spirit daily and seeking His wisdom and guidance in every step I take has brought me such peace and confidence as I move through the storms brought on by my sinful actions of the past."

 

As a result of learning to wash, war, and walk, my life has entirely changed through this course. I thank God for all that He has taught me throughout this course and for the incredible mercy He has shown me. I've never felt so close to Him or so confident in His love for me. I am definitely still a work in progress, but I am no longer living in slavery to sexual sin!

 

My mentor Alex was incredible! I thank God for connecting the two of us, and I thank Alex for his guidance and prayers!

 

I highly recommend this course! It is life-changing and clearly outlines a biblical faith-based plan for seeking the Lord and being set free from slavery to sin!"


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 145th Edition, August 23, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 145th Edition, August 23, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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 From An Old Identity

You may have discovered, as I have, that one of the difficulties we face when we return from living in habitual sin is that we retain the identity of the sin. We mistakenly connect ourselves with the sin that trapped us, and this false identity is one of the ways in which the devil can keep us in bondage or lure us back into that sin.

When people in anonymous groups stand up and say, "Hello, my name is ________, and I am an _________" they are illustrating this principle. Or when people of the world voice their identity according to their temptations and thought strongholds, they demonstrate this truth and consequently remain in bondage. People who describe themselves as a "Foodie" will continue their slavery to food as long as they retain that identity. Because our behavior is so closely bound up with our identity, separating ourselves from our sin is one of the most challenging difficulties to overcome when coming out of a sinful lifestyle.

We can see this truth illustrated in Naomi's life as we are studying the Book of Ruth. When Naomi returned to Bethlehem from Moab, along with her young Moabite daughter in law named Ruth, the whole town was stirred because of them (Ruth 1:19) and they said, "Can this be Naomi?" Notice Naomi's answer:

"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me" (Ruth 1:20-21). 

Naomi mistakenly thought that her identity changed during her time in Moab. She tells everyone that her new identity was that of bitterness and loss, emptiness, and misfortune. She was so closely associated with her past, her loss and affliction, that she wanted to be called "Mara," which means "bitter," instead of her real name, Naomi, which means "pleasant." 

Naomi blames the Lord for her loss and her difficult circumstances. While she and her husband decided to leave Bethlehem, "the House of Bread," and go out to Moab, the enemy of God's people, she said the Lord is responsible for all her calamities:

"The Almighty has made my life very bitter" (verse 20).
"...The Lord has brought me back empty" (verse 21).
"The Lord has afflicted me" (verse 21).
"The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me" (verse 21).

It is all too common to blame the Lord for our choices and to rail out against Him when we experience loss. I remember, personally, losing everything near and dear to me about 25 years ago, and was left homeless, penniless, and friendless due to my sin, yet my heart was bitter toward God. Like Naomi, I wrongly blamed God for it all. "A person's own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord" (Proverbs 19:3). 

So, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, identifying with her loss, stating she was bitter, empty, afflicted, and misfortunate. As far as she knew, all hope died along with her husband and sons in Moab, and she was left with nothing except her Moabite daughter in law, Ruth—end of story.

Maybe you feel this way or have felt this way in the past - hopeless because of your circumstances, only seeing the loss and devastation you've experienced. Maybe your marriage has been ruined, or you lost your kids, health, job, or ministry, and your identity is in your bitterness, what you've lost, and in the past. You feel empty and afflicted, bitter, and misfortunate. All hope has died—end of story.

Not so fast! 

The famine was over, and the "House of Bread" would have bread again. The barley harvest was beginning, so there was hope for the future, and in some way, God's provision would include both Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. 

How do we apply this experience from Naomi's life to our own lives? Think of it like this: when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He had purposely become like Naomi: empty and afflicted, having suffered great loss spiritually and physically. In His life, He was penniless, homeless, destitute, and in His death, He was loaded down with our guilt, suffered rejection from His Father, and died alone. 

He purposely experienced all these things, for you and me. Think of it: He became empty to fill you with the Holy Spirit, He suffered a complete loss that you might experience eternal gain, He took on your guilt that you might be unburdened of it and forgiven of all sin. He endured purposeful rejection so that you might be fully accepted, no matter your past, your sin, your loss. Christ gave up all of Heaven, and in Him, you gain all of Heaven, by His love and grace demonstrated through His death on the cross for you.

Now think about the next major event after the cross: the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost. If you remember that day, 3,000 people were saved as they heard the good news of Jesus' death for their sins and His resurrection for their justification. It was the beginning of the harvest, where both Jew and Gentile heard the good news and were brought into the family of God.

As a believer, the cross and the Holy Spirit guarantee a bright future for you! No matter what loss you have experienced, Jesus redeems you and every bit of your past. 

"In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding" (Ephesians 1:7-8).

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all" (Psalm 34:18-19).

"and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Isaiah 61:3).

I wonder if, as Naomi walked back to Bethlehem and saw people bringing in the sheaves, gathering the barley, did she see any connection with her own life? Naomi's grief and bitterness may have blinded her to what was happening, but God was gathering Ruth and Naomi into His family and preparing a glorious future for these ladies. Naomi was about to lose her identity of bitterness, loss, and misfortune, through the work of a Redeemer from Bethlehem named Boaz.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. I can't wait to see what the second chapter of Ruth has in store for us. And if you've experienced loss and devastation in your life also, I can't wait to see what the second chapter of your life has for you. 

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Testimonies

Alyssa writes, "I am so glad my sister-in-law recommended this course, A United Front at Setting Captives Free to me. Before this course, I felt paralyzed by my thoughts, circumstances, and feelings of being unwanted or undesIrable. Throughout this course, I have learned how to take thoughts captive and the process of renewing my mind with thoughts of Jesus Christ and the love He so boldly shared with us when He lived His life on this earth and died purely to save us from our past, present and future sins and shortcomings. I have dug deeper and more intimately into my relationship with God due to the circumstances in my marriage. I have learned to keep my eyes on God and do my part as a God-fearing wife for my husband. Although I have yet to see a change in my husband and my circumstances have seemingly gotten worse, I can cling to the joy and love of Christ that is a lifter of my head. My outlook has changed from one of hopelessness and fear of the future to one that sees the hope and lives in faith that God will do His work, and in the meantime, I follow Him, getting closer to Him and resting in His love for me. This course mostly helped me realign my thoughts with thoughts more edifying to God instead of crippling thoughts that made me sink deeper into the pit of sadness and hopelessness. God is good, and His love for us is immeasurable.

 

My mentor (Cheryle P.) was a huge help to me and a constant source of love and encouragement. She was able to decipher the lies that I was clinging to and brought me to the right way of thinking. She constantly pointed me towards Scripture and God's truth. She helped to encourage me through all the hurts and struggles and came alongside me in battle through prayer. I am so grateful I received the mentor I did.

 

I highly recommend this course to any woman feeling hurt by their spouse's actions and decisions. God has a way of using circumstances like this to draw us closer to Him, to come to a better understanding of who He is and His unwavering characteristics. That is precisely what this course does; it helps you process your hurts and pain and then replace it with the love that Christ has for us—renewing our minds with thoughts of His goodness and love. As a result, I have a more intimate relationship with God, I have a driving desire to live for Him, and part of that is treating our husbands with love and respect despite their shortcomings. This course gives practical ways to show God's love through our words, actions, and love towards our husband that will hopefully help lead them to a deeper relationship with God and ultimately with you."

Steven writes, "The truths taught in the Purity courses at Setting Captives Free have helped me very much. When I see myself as I am in my natural condition - dark, depraved, dirty, consumed by lust, ashamed, guilty, a failure - I have no choice or any other desire but to wallow in pornography, self-gratification, and sexual impurity. But when I come to the cross and remember the lengths to which Jesus was willing to go and the agony he suffered, I am consumed with a desire to worship Him, be washed by Him and walk with Him. I find that at the cross, I can drink of living water that always satisfies and never runs out. I find his Holy Spirit who wants to lead me, warn me, and woo me back to Jesus. At the cross, I find a place of victory where sin and death have already been defeated, where Satan's accusations have been disarmed and where the sins of my flesh were nailed, rendering them powerless to reign over me.

 

At the beginning of this course, I thought, "This is too simple. There must be more to it than just believing the gospel." But over the past several weeks of studying, learning, and applying these three simple truths, I have found power, confidence, victory, and hope. "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me..." (Romans 15:18a)

 

My life since early adolescence has been an almost constant struggle with pornography and self-gratification. I was raised in a Christian home, prayed the sinner's prayer at an early age, was active in church and youth group, attended a Christian college, and served as a worship pastor at four churches. Yet I was a hypocrite. I outwardly proclaimed Christ and called others to worship and to repentance while trying to hide my inner heart of darkness.

 

On several occasions, I experienced seasons of confession, repentance, and restoration, but for most of my 52 years on earth, I have been a slave to pornography and self-gratification. This slavery and hypocrisy hindered my ability to minister to others, build effective, honest friendships, be a good husband and father, and, most importantly, hindered my fellowship with God.

 

One day several months ago, I clocked out of work, went to my car, and found all my personal belongings packed up with a note from my wife saying that she was kicking me out because she was tired of hurting and watching me self-destruct. I spent the next two weeks angry, bitter, ashamed, worthless, confused, and ignoring God. In fact, I binged on pornography and self-gratification like there was no tomorrow.

 

Then, on a Sunday morning, I surrendered. I confessed my sin to God in tears and cried out to Him for mercy. He heard my prayers and led me to reach out to a Pastor for help. Then I found the Purity Boot camp from Setting Captives Free online. That same day I enrolled in the course, requested a mentor, and began a three-month journey from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. After I finished the Boot camp, I immediately enrolled in the 60-day Purity Follow-up course. No mentor was available, but I have an accountability partner from my church that receives the lessons as I submit them, and we get together to discuss what I am learning.

 

Through these courses, God has shown Himself to me in great grace and transforming power. Daily I come to the cross in prayer, the Word, and worship. I am learning more and more about what it means to walk in the Spirit. Where once there was constant defeat and failure, I am experiencing victory over the flesh and temptation. I understand that I will never be perfect this side of eternity, but sin and the flesh are losing their grip on me. And when I do sin, I can come back to the cross to find grace and forgiveness through my Advocate, Jesus, who reminds me that I still belong to Him.

 

As I write this, I am overwhelmed at the changes in my thought patterns, behavior, desires, and outlook on life in general. My wife and I are still separated but are working toward restoration. She is going through the A United Front course, which has led to several conversations about what God is doing and where He is leading us. For the first time in many years, I have hope.

 

I highly recommend this course to anyone battling sexual impurity and enslaved to sin. The power is not in the study itself but the gospel. I knew many of these truths beforehand, even taught them to others. It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. This course will bring you back to the simple truth that Jesus died to redeem sinners and that through believing in Him and His finished work on the cross by faith, you can be set free from the penalty AND the power of sin to walk in new life."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



Corrected Link to Watch Party

Mike Cleveland
 

I’m sorry, I sent the wrong link to the watch party. This is the correct link, come and join us right now for the party: https://youtubefiesta.com/party/17842103-feec-4d4f-9a7c-f989944e6a4b

We will watch the movie “Do You Believe”? And we’re playing worship songs right now.

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



Join the Watch Party

Mike Cleveland
 

You are invited to a Setting Captives Free “Watch Party” where we will watch “Do You Believe?”. The movie starts at 2:00 PM Pacific today, but come join us right now for some worship music and a short introduction. Click here to join the party https://youtu.be/leh-4fCc5MI.

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 144th Edition, August 16, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 144th Edition, August 16, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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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Announcement

 

You are invited to a Setting Captives Free “Watch Party” next Saturday August 22 at 2:00 PM Pacific time (check World Timebuddy for your local time). We will watch “Do You Believe?” and chat together virtually. Please put it on your calendar if you would like to attend, and check your email next Saturday before 2:00 PM for a link to join.

 

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Announcement

 

The Setting Captives Free 30-day devotional “Looking to Jesus” has been translated into Spanish, and is now live on the website. We want to thank Melissa Solano Calvo who volunteered her time to do this translation work freely. To view the Miranda A Jesús course, click here

 

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Teaching

Freedom Through Separation

Have you ever felt that there is no way you will ever be free from sins that easily beset you? Have you thought something like, "I'll have this the rest of my life!" Or maybe you've tried, as I have, to spiritualize your sin struggle by saying, "It is my 'thorn in the flesh,' I'll have to learn to live with it." 

Well, I have some good news for you! God can set you free from things you have struggled with all your life. He can separate you from thought patterns you've had and habits of gratifying your flesh that you may have had as far back as you can remember. How does He do this? Let's find out.

The Book of Ruth opens with a description of a man named Elimelech and his family living in Bethlehem during a time of famine. Because of the scarcity of food, this family decided to leave Bethlehem (the "house of Bread") and go to Moab. Now the Moabites were enemies of God's people. Nevertheless, Elimelech and his family stayed in Moab. Then Elimelech died, leaving his wife Naomi, a widow with two sons. Despite their loss, the family remained in Moab, and the two sons married Moabite women, a sin according to the Law of God. A few years later, both sons died, leaving Naomi with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. These three women were pitiable; they had lost their husbands, their social standing, their homes, their means of support, a chance for children - everything that mattered. 

Elimelech and his family's downward spiral is a vivid illustration of James 1:14-15, "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." 

After ten years of living in Moab and experiencing so much loss, Naomi heard the good news that God had provided food in Bethlehem, so she and her two daughters-in-law set out to return home. “With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah” (Ruth 1:7). Notice what Naomi says to her two daughters-in-law as they are all headed to Bethlehem:

"Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband" (Ruth 1:8-9).

When the two daughters state that they will go with her to Bethlehem, she urges them to return to their own homes:

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord's hand has turned against me!” (Ruth 1:11-13).

Naomi knows that her Moabite daughters-in-law would not be able to marry and have children if they followed her to Bethlehem. There would be nothing for them there, so Naomi urges them to return home to their previous lives and family, for there would be a tremendous cost to follow her. Likewise, Jesus teaches us to "...count the cost" (Luke 14:28) of following Him by saying "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26-27).

Orpah listens, weighs out what it would mean to go with her mother-in-law but decides to return home. "Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye…" (Ruth 1:14). But Ruth clung to Naomi and didn't want to leave, so Naomi said to her, "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her" (Ruth 1:15). 

We see that Orpah would not part with her people or her gods, and chose her former life over a new life with God and His people. After having set out on the road to God's people and God's blessings, she returned to life as she knew it, back to familiarity and idolatry. "Of them the proverbs are true: 'A dog returns to its vomit,' and, 'A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud" (2 Peter 2:22). Orpah didn't know that "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them" (Jonah 2:8).

However, Ruth made a different choice, which included a clear separation from her past life, her people and her gods: "But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her" (Ruth 1:16-18).

Ruth was about to experience a new life of love and blessing, real freedom from idolatry, unspeakable joy, and true fellowship with God and His people. But her freedom was to come through separation. Notice what she was separating from:

  1. Her people.Your people will be my people.” As humans, we find identity in our family, our heritage, our people. Ruth was determined to give all that up for her new life with new people.

  1. Her idols. Your God will be my God.” Rather than taking her idols with her and hiding them, as did Rachel (Genesis 31:34), Ruth gave them up and declared that she was changing gods and would now follow and worship only the living and true God. The Thessalonians likewise “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). 

  1. Her home.Where you die, I will die.” She did not cling to her previous comforts, home life, family, or friends; instead, she clung to her new God and His people only.

Ruth was willing to separate from anything and everything having to do with her past and her previous idolatry. And as we continue reading in Ruth, we will find that she experiences powerful redemption, glorious freedom, true love, usefulness in the family of God, fruitfulness in marriage, and even put into the line of the coming Messiah.

Freedom Through Separation

Believers in Jesus have undergone a separation, not unlike what Ruth experienced. “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” (Colossians 2:11-12). 

The good news of Jesus’ death on the cross includes not only your complete pardon and forgiveness but also your total separation from your previous self. Even as circumcision is the separating of a male child from his flesh, so the cross separates us from our “whole self, ruled by the flesh.” As you see Jesus’ dying, think of your old self ruled by the flesh as being cut away from you, circumcised from you, separated from you, and buried in a tomb.

And now, the living out of this circumcision means that we are as resolute as Ruth was in leaving our past self and our past life behind. We wholeheartedly turn away from gratifying our flesh, we turn away from previous comforts and our past idols, and we begin to find an entirely new life in Christ. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

As you consider Orpah who returned to her gods and Ruth who found new life in the Living God, think of this passage of Scripture: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). There are always two groups of people, those who believe in the cross as the message of freedom and experience the power of it, and those who return to sin and perish. I pray that you will be one who finds life in Jesus’ death, power in His cross, and transformation at Calvary’s hill!

Freedom comes through separation. Look at the cross of Jesus, and see your previous self dying, and look at the resurrection of Jesus and see your new self rising. Now live out your separation, and you’ll find freedom.

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Testimonies

Andrea writes, "The principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course are ESSENTIAL to walk closely with Christ. If I were to continue to savor the things the world offered instead of Him, I wouldn't connect with Him the way I should. If I didn't learn what suffering with Jesus meant, I would continue in my sin, indulging every whim of my flesh, not realizing that it keeps me from knowing my Savior intimately. If I didn't learn to walk with the Spirit, keeping in step with Him every day, I wouldn't be sensitive to what He was trying to teach me, how He was trying to mold me. I would miss the boat entirely. And sadly, that's precisely how my Christian life has been in the past. I can't remember a time when I didn't love God and want to follow and serve Him, but I always felt something was missing. These three key principles were the missing pieces. I'm SO grateful to have found this study. Thank you, Jesus!

 

I feel like I have come alive since doing this study! There are principles taught here that I never understood before. It's like a light bulb has come on for me. I didn't really have a walk with Christ before. I wanted one. I've had spurts of times when I tried to seek Him through reading devotionals and trying to set a schedule of getting into the Word, but then it never stuck. I always felt extremely defeated in this area of my life. I wondered why I couldn't feel connected to Christ. This study has opened my eyes!

 

The wisdom of God shared simply and effectively in this study has been completely transformative. I was so steeped in the world, following its pleasures, indulging my flesh constantly, it's no wonder I couldn't feel a real closeness with my Savior. I was a slave to overeating, diets, the pursuit of weight loss, vanity - the list is long. Now I believe I understand more of what it means to give all for Christ. Suffering with Him draws me closer to Him and gives me a peace that passes all understanding. Savoring His Word satisfies my heart when I'm facing temptation. I no longer have to worry about food plans or diets or being obsessed with the scale. He has freed me of all of that!

 

One of the biggest revelations God brought to me was from the book of Acts. In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John come up to a lame man begging at the city gate. In these verses, what jumped out at me was the specific description of how the men interacted: "Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!' So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them." In these verses, I saw the importance of looking with intention. Peter and John "looked straight at him," and Peter said, "Look at us!" Then the man "gave them his FULL attention, expecting to get something." Of course, what this man expected to get was a pittance compared to what Peter and John would give him through God's power, but he gave them his full attention in expectation, and then he was HEALED. So God made it very clear to me that to be healed from this lifelong battle with food/dieting/weight loss, I have to seek Him with expectation.  And in another lesson, Mike spoke about the Israelites bitten by poisonous snakes, and to receive healing, they had to look directly at a bronze snake that was raised on a pole. Similarly, we have to look directly at the cross to our precious Jesus, who was raised on a pole for our complete healing and salvation! It was amazing to see how beautifully God brought all of this to me when I needed it.

 

I now do not doubt that this is the ONLY path out of wandering in the wilderness and finally walking into the freedom of the Promised Land. It may have taken me thirty years to get here, but I thank God for His patience, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I know this is a process, but I'm excited and hopeful for the future. I had put my scale away for most of this course, but I finally got it out today to see where I was. I have lost seven pounds since starting this 30-day study! And I know I'm on my way, with God's help, to having a healthy body, but that is no longer the focus of my life. It's a blessing to be sure, but now my attention and my hope are in Christ.

 

I highly recommend Setting Captives Free. The truths in these studies are powerful, and the way they are put together is so easy to understand and put into practice. The emphasis on looking to Christ for our complete satisfaction is woven throughout the course. And that understanding is necessary to walk in the freedom that Christ purchased for us."

Moses writes, "The Purity Boot Camp course has been very insightful and helpful. I can say that the course has transformed my entire life. Not only did I find freedom from sexual impurity, but I also found freedom from anxiety, and I rediscovered Jesus.

 

The Bible became clear to me as a result of going through this course. I have been reminded of the blessings God has freely extended to us and of our ability to overcome the tactics of the evil one through our new position in Christ.

 

After applying the biblical principles of this course to my life, my marriage was saved. My relationship with my wife is better than it has ever been. She has also become very passionate about Setting Captives Free. We are also learning how to pray and wait upon the Lord as a family.

 

A few years ago, I was hopeless about life. I was unsure of my salvation, and I was consistently angry and anxious. I was in a very dark and dirty place. Fast forward to today, I'm a new man! I am hopeful about the
future, and I am eager for God to start using me to reach the unsaved. I thank God for those behind this course. May God continue to bless and keep you. Now, I'm on to the Mentorship Course.

 

I have recommended this course to a LOT of people!  And I already know that two of them have been set free by applying the principles in this course."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 143rd Edition, August 9, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 143rd Edition, August 9, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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 Hearing the Gospel

Many of us have experienced the terrible consequences of our sin. Maybe we’ve ruined a marriage due to impurity or bitterness, or ruined our bodies with too much food and too little exercise. Perhaps we have harmed our minds with alcohol or drugs, or poisoned our consciences so much that we now live under the power of guilt and condemnation. 

If you find yourself or know someone in a ruined situation, you might be wondering what to do. Is there freedom or healing for those who got it all wrong? 

Situation: In the Book of Ruth, we read about a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1). Famine is the result of ruined food supply - crops fail, nothing grows, and hunger abounds.

Sin: a man by the name of Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, experienced this famine, and they left Bethlehem (the “house of bread”) and went to “sojourn” for a time in the land of Moab. 

The sin of Elimelech and his family was in not trusting the Lord for provision but leaving God and His people and going out into the world to meet their needs. “This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).

This family went to Moab, of all places. Moab was the enemy of God’s people, and the Law of God forbid any Moabite from ever coming into the assembly of God’s people. “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:3).

How often have we felt a lack, a famine in our lives, and sought to take matters into our own hands and meet our own needs? How many times have we turned to other humans, false saviors, and false comforts? And have you ever noticed how a “sojourn,” which means a short visit, can turn into much longer than we expect? Naomi and her family intended to take a brief “sojourn” to Moab but ended up living there for ten years.

Suffering: “After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:4-5). 

Perhaps you've heard this quote from Dr. Robert G. Lee, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, Sin will cost you more than you want to pay." If not, you've no doubt read the Bible's summary of Ruth chapter 1: "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Certainly, that was true in this family's case as Naomi lost her husband and both sons.

It's true for us, too. The devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10), and as we give in to his temptations, over time, we discover such loss and ruin in our lives. We often look back on what once was, who we once were, what we used to have and be and do, and a terrible soul sadness attacks us. The loss is great, and the pain is so significant that we might even fear we will never gain back what we lost.

Savior: “When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah” (Ruth 1:6-7).

Naomi heard some good news. She heard that God had come to the aid of His people by providing food. God came to help His people by providing food; God was the Savior of His people. This good news drew Naomi back home. 

I do not know where you are at today. Maybe you're still looking at the wine, red and sparkly in the cup (Proverbs 23:31), meaning you still see the allurement of sin, the shiny pictures of pornography, the enticing food images, etc. Or maybe you have already drunk the wine, given in to temptation, and gratified the lust of your flesh and are reeling from it. Perhaps you've lost much, or maybe all, you're in a terrible famine, and something has died. 

There is good news for you today. God has come to your aid by providing what you need, Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35 - see song lyrics below). Two thousand years ago, God came down to this earth in a body like yours and mine. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship" (Galatians 4:4). God came to us in the Person of Jesus to bear all your sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24) so that you would be forgiven of your sins through believing this message. "In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us" (Ephesians 1:7). "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12). 

Jesus came to suffer and be punished so that you would be at peace with God. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). He came to die so that you would not have to pay the penalty of your sins and would live forever. He came to crucify your old self with Him so that the power of sin would be broken in your life. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

Finally, Jesus came as the Bread of Life, to feed and nourish you, remove your hunger, and destroy all famines in your life. In coming as Bread, Jesus’ body was broken for you, that you might be healed and made whole. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

I am the Bread of Life
All who eat this Bread will never die
I am God's love revealed
I am broken that you might be healed

All who eat of this heavenly Bread
All who drink this cup of the covenant
You will live forever for I will raise you up

I am the Bread of Life
All who eat this Bread will never die
I am God's love revealed
I am broken that you might be healed

No one who comes to Me shall ever hunger again
No one who believes shall ever thirst
All that the Father draws shall come to Me
And I will give them rest

I am the Bread of Life
All who eat this Bread will never die
I am God's love revealed
I am broken that you might be healed

Songwriters: JOHN MICHAEL TALBOT
© Universal Music Publishing Group
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

Please look once again at the effect that hearing this good news had on Naomi:

With her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah” (Ruth 1:7). The good news drew Naomi and her daughters-in-law out of the land of Moab and toward the “house of bread.”

Now notice the designed effect of the good news of the gospel:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:32-33 emphasis mine).

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 emphasis mine).

Summary: Jesus was broken on the cross to repair your brokenness from sin! Jesus' becoming sin for you, means full forgiveness and pardon for you! His wounds are your healing! His death has opened up the way for you to return home to God. Do you hear this good news today? If so, then come home! Come to God, your Father, the One who runs to meet all returning prodigals.

If you are returning home to God, would you write to us and tell us your story? Simply write to helpdesk@... and tell us how the good news of the cross is bringing you home, and we will celebrate with you!

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Testimonies

 

Dawn writes, Wow, so many changes have taken place in my life since I started the A United Front course at Setting Captives Free. My pride in believing I am better than my husband is gone. Seeing Christ on the Cross for me and my husband has been incredibly freeing. My anger and bitterness have been replaced with forgiveness, grace, mercy, and compassion. My Gracious Savior has humbled me. My heart is open and softened towards my husband, and Christ is restoring the years of grief we have been carrying. We are finally looking to the Cross together as one flesh, seeking Him for all our needs. We are becoming more comfortable with physical intimacy and trusting the Lord to grow us further in this part of our relationship.

 

I am thankful God gave me my mentor Joce to walk alongside me through this course. Joce has been used mightily by the Holy Spirit to help me answer some challenging questions and reveal some incredible truths about Christ on the Cross. She has become my most trusted friend next to Christ and my husband. She truly desires to draw closer to Christ herself, and it is reflected in every response I receive. Her example of going to the Cross is a desire for myself as well.

 

I know I still have much to learn, so I’m so eager to start another study at Setting Captives Free to continue feasting on Jesus moment by moment of every day. I am by no means an expert now in forgiveness, but I know I will get better and better by the blood of Jesus. In His time, I too will reflect Christ more and more with great JOY!!!!

 

Blessings and prayers for each of you who are on this journey with me. Remember, we are not alone; we are all in this together to draw closer to Christ together as Sister in Him. 🙏🏻💗🙏🏻💗🙏🏻

 

This course is helpful for all marriages. None of us are without sin, and this study helps us learn how to seek Christ for freedom, healing, and spiritual growth. We need the important truths found in these lessons to lead us to the Cross repeatedly. There IS peace in Christ!!!

 

Jordan writes, "The principles taught in the Purity Bootcamp course have been invaluable in my fight against sin and my walk with Christ. Not only the biblical principles but even the order in which they were presented and taught has been instrumental in my growth and freedom.

 

Over the past 30 days, I have experienced freedom from sin and the bondage of pornography and sexual immorality. First, washing at the cross has helped me to know and experience the freedom and forgiveness from sin that christ bought at the cross. Secondly, walking in the Spirit has helped me refocus my walk with God and be purposeful in seeking him. Finally, warring against my flesh has allowed me to experience freedom from sin and impurity. My power in warring against my flesh has come from Christ and been supported by His grace to me in leading me through the first two principles. Because of the victory I have seen in Christ, I have been able to refocus on my walk with God. I have also been revitalized in fighting sin and am continuing to be encouraged by the victory in Christ, a victory I am confident He has already won for me, which strengthens my confidence in the fight. I am further resolved in my fight now by the joy I am experiencing in Christ, which is a direct result of the freedom from sin I am currently experiencing.

 

I had a Setting Captives Free mentor (Orlando). The feedback he provided was beneficial. What I found most helpful, though, was the consistent encouragement and dedication he had to pray for me.

 

Purity Bootcamp is a powerful tool in the fight for freedom. I recommend it to anyone who is fed up with defeat and wants to experience freedom and joy in their walk with God. If you can resonate with this description and are ready to get serious in your fight, there is no better starting place than this course. It is biblically-based and consistently ties back to the gospel, which is appropriate as the only place we can hope to find real and lasting freedom from sin is at the foot of the cross. Don't make excuses or minimize your sin anymore; instead, humbly acknowledge your need for Christ's cleansing power and run toward him so that you can experience the same freedom I currently am."

 

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 142nd Edition, August 2, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 142nd Edition, August 2, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.

 

----------

Teaching

Freedom Through Death

The world’s method of freedom is to try harder, do better, work the program, or do the steps. In contrast, the Bible teaches that freedom comes through death, not works.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). 

It is easy to see that the world's approach to freedom and the biblical path to freedom from habitual sin are worlds apart. The first leaves us in guilt, under condemnation, always striving and trying. The second frees us from the guilt of sin, thereby freeing us from the power of sin. Only forgiven sin can be overcome, so it is necessary to see the cross of Jesus as our own cross, to see our old self as having died with Jesus.

This week, I want to share a passage with you that illustrates the benefits of the cross, and specifically, of our old selves being crucified with Jesus. 

The person of Job in the Bible suffered terribly at the hands of Satan; in one day, all of Job's children died, and everything he owned was either stolen or destroyed. He was devastated. Shortly after these heavy blows, Job became ill. Things were so bad that Job's wife told him that he should curse God and die. In his grief, Job began to regret the day he was born. He speaks out his lament in the following words as he “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1):

Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? 17 There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. 18 Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver's shout. 19 The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners” (Job 3:16-19).

Notice the following points from Job’s lament:

  1. In death, the weary are at rest (vs. 17). 
  2. In death, captives enjoy their ease (vs. 18).
  3. In death, captives no longer hear the shout of the slavedriver (vs. 18).
  4. In death, slaves are freed from their owners.

While all of the above is literally true in physical death, what we are doing today is seeing that “our old self was crucified with” Jesus and therefore these benefits belong to us spiritually, today!

In death, the weary are at rest. You and I have wearied ourselves under the Law, tried to keep it and fallen short, tried to measure up to the standard it requires but failed, and worn ourselves out with the effort. But look there at the cross, see yourself as hanging on the cross with Jesus, dead to the world. You are at rest, finally. No more living under the curse of the Law, for the law only applies while someone is living (Romans 7). The Law cannot condemn you anymore for you died. You are at rest.

In death, captives enjoy their ease. The word “ease” here means to be at peace, to rest, to be secure. In other words, whereas previously these people were captives, now they are securely resting peacefully. Look at the cross, and see yourself, the previous captive, now resting in Jesus. At the cross, you became a true Sabbath keeper, freed from captivity and resting peacefully.

In death, captives no longer hear the shout of the slavedriver. By looking at the cross we see that we died to sin, we died to Satan’s temptations, we died to the world. Now we hear the voice of Jesus at the cross: “You are forgiven! You are justified! You are loved! You are freed!”

In death, slaves are freed from their owners. Physically speaking, it is true that the slavedriver has lost his slave when the slave dies, but it is also true spiritually. It is a powerful statement and why there is only real freedom to be found at the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, you as a believer were set free from Satan’s kingdom, you were freed from your harsh taskmaster and purchased by Jesus. You no longer belong to “your father, the devil” (John 8:44), no longer are you a “child of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), now you are a son or daughter of the living God. As such, you do not need to listen to nor obey your previous owner. Your old self who listened to him, in the past, and carried out his orders, is now dead and freed through death.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). 


Oh, friend, let the final truth sink into your heart, recorded in Job 3:22, speaking about all believers' experience in dying with Jesus: "..who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave." Not only do the weary find rest, the captives find peaceful ease as they no longer hear the shout of the slavedriver, not only are slaves freed from their owners, but we are also filled with gladness and rejoice at the cross!

Now that’s the way to be free!

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Testimonies

Molly writes, "The biblical principles of the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course were so helpful. The first principle helped me to see that Jesus is my daily bread, my portion, where I go to feed my soul! That I can not feed my soul with physical food because it lets me down every time. When I am weary, frustrated, lonely, tired, bored, angry, desiring to please my flesh - He is who and what I need to run to. He alone can give me rest, peace, true intimacy, purpose, contentment, and pleasure.

 

The second principle helped me to appreciate Jesus SO much more and what He suffered. Being hungry or denying my flesh is NOT suffering the way Jesus did. I will never know the suffering that He endured for me, and because of this, I can suffer some hunger pangs and denying the lust of my flesh, the lust of my eyes, and my sinful pride of wanting control. God is in control, and He works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, so if I am suffering mistreatment or someone has sinned against me, HE is who I should go to because He alone understands what it means to be sinned against - He is HOLY and perfect and should not have been sinned against, but He suffered even though He did not deserve it and did this in my place. My response should be to suffer with Him and feel blessed to partake in that suffering, like Paul.

 

The third principle has been the power that I have not previously relied on but quenched. I have ignored the Holy Spirit's leading and guiding and have had the opportunity, through this course, to see VERY SPECIFIC sin and repent.

 

I am so thankful to God for this course! I have lost 14 pounds so far, which is awesome, but the best things I shed were:

  • My lifelong addiction to food
  • The sins of gluttony, overindulgence, food idolatry, self-hate, selfishness, and overall disobedience
  • An unrepentant heart toward those sins
  • Deception of specific sins
  • Ignoring the Holy Spirit
  • Constantly carrying out the desires of my flesh

 

This course helped me recognize that I was not concerned about how my overeating and overindulgence affected those around me. I had been so selfish and self-focused, always carrying out the desires of my flesh, not concerned about how my poor health and being overweight affected my marriage and ministry. Poor health and obesity had kept me from serving to the best of my ability both at church and in my marriage. I recognized that I have been careless in stewarding the body that God has given me and that I will give an account for the things that He has given me to steward. 

 

Before this course, food was on my mind more than Christ or the affairs of others. So, even though I professed to be a believer, my thoughts, attitudes, and actions did not reflect that - I did not follow His commands to love God and love my neighbor. I loved food with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I have been living to eat for a long time now, and when I first began the course, I could not even remember the last time I had felt a hunger pang - then BOOM! I remembered that in 2018 I had to fast for three days because of a gallbladder attack that resulted in two surgeries. (Perhaps that should have been a wake-up call?) I have never had to deny myself or suffer hunger - and always quickly satisfied with having "my way right away." Before being saved, I was addicted to smoking cigarettes and marijuana, but when I repented of my sin and turned to Christ, He delivered me from those addictions fairly quickly. But I realized not long before taking this course that my food addiction was worse than those addictions because it was just more accepted. So, I would get convicted about overeating, but not listen and suffer the consequences of weight gain, heartburn, etc. I was using food to relieve chronic pain (looking to food for comfort), boredom/discontentment (looking to food for entertainment), anxiety (looking to food for peace), loneliness (looking to food for friendship/relationship/intimacy), when I felt out of control or dissatisfied with people/circumstances (looking to food for satisfaction), and to give me an instant reward (looking to food for gratification). 

 

For most of my life, and even since knowing Christ, my God was my stomach, and I set my mind on earthly things.

I praise God for conviction of sin. I did confess this a few years ago at church and have sought Biblical counseling for it in the past. And I have had some good prayer partners, read some fabulous books, had great counseling (that counselor pointed me to Setting Captives Free) - but no book or program has done what Setting Captives Free did for me. 

 

Being able to log in and have a daily lesson that pointed me to the cross with Scriptures included, coupled with the personal testimonies from Mike, his wife, my mentor Colleen, and others who have been through the program, helped me to be (what I believe) is successful in this study. But more than completing the study successfully, it is almost as if I am where I was at after I was first graciously saved! This is a new turning from a besetting sin. And I understand progressive sanctification - and now I look at it as something to enjoy. Before this, it felt like work. But my desire to bring glory to God and enjoy Him in the process has deepened. My intimacy with Him has changed and grown. I have a new appreciation for my salvation, my precious Savior and my loving Heavenly Father and God, and His precious Holy Spirit. I also have been hungering more for His word and longing for it. And I have been blessed and felt so loved by and more love for His beloved saints!

My mentor Colleen has been an enormous encouragement, prayer partner, counselor, exhort-er, admonish-er, resource giver, and just an overall help to me. It is amazing to experience real fellowship through an online course. She prays for me, and I pray for her (and you all!) daily. To stay on track, I am going to investigate other courses on this site and also the possibility of mentoring others. I have referred several people here - one couple I know have already signed up, and I have the teaching books in my Amazon basket in the event I have the opportunity to teach this course through my church or even just at a home group.

 

I have recommended this course to other people. I have told them that if they are feeling hopeless toward a besetting sin, this is a place where they can come and find freedom in Christ and deliverance. Thank you so much for this ministry.” 

Joe writes, "The only sin I will have victory over is forgiven sin. Jesus did the work and then provided the Spirit to set my mind and actions (warring against the flesh).

 

The Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course has helped me tremendously in my battle for purity. I have not sinned with pornography during this course. I count this course as a gift from God to strengthen me in my fight against pornography. The lessons on washing at the cross, walking in the Holy Spirit's power, and battling the old sinful nature have been instrumental in building my defenses against this destructive and offensive sin.

 

About the time I started this class, I actually was truly saved. I had lived for years as a hypocritical Pharisee. The Lord finally redeemed me after convicting me of the grievousness of my sin. I felt then that God empowered me to battle pornography as well as other sins. Simply put, an unbeliever (or false professor) has no chance of victory over sin.

 

Today, as I am finishing up this wonderful course, I felt the devil came at me with a flood of temptations in my mind. It has been the most challenging day of all, but, Praise the LORD!, God has given me the grace to get through it. My battle plan has kept me on the right course. Even today's temptations are a "grace" because it reminds me that I can never let up. After all, Satan will never let up. I must wake up and get ready for battle, and, as I do, I see Jesus is more glorious, and I long to be with him even more.

 

This course is the best I have seen in teaching on battling the sin of pornography. This course is rooted in the power of the Gospel to change us from disobedient to obedient followers of Christ. Other programs are more psychoanalytical or nonredemptive (i.e., "I'm a sex addict"), or graphic, etc. By far, the best is Setting Captives Free!!"

----------

 

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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 141st Edition, July 26, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 141st Edition, July 26, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.

 

----------

Teaching

Freedom Through Never-Ending Love

Do you ever feel as though God’s love has cooled toward you? Maybe you think that your sinning has finally made God angry enough to withdraw His love. Or perhaps you don’t “feel” His love, so you’ve let distance come into your relationship with God because of this perceived “lack.” Or maybe you’ve turned back to sinful “comforts” because you’ve asked God to show you His love but don’t feel He has answered you. 

Years ago, I used to feel as though God would accept me into His presence after I sinned because of the cross, but that when He did, He somehow held me at a distance. Or that God would receive me but must have held His nose whenever I came near to Him.

My past thinking of God accepting me but holding me at a distance was such a wrong view of God, a merely human view. I had to learn to base my thinking on what God says, rather than what I was feeling at any particular point in time.

Jody Cleveland wrote the following to our mentors at Setting Captives Free: 

We all experience the Bride's feelings in Song of Solomon, "Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother's sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!"  We all innately know that we do not deserve Jesus or His love. We think, "I am dark. I have failed. I am not..."  But Jesus' death on the cross proves His love irrefutably, which is why we must look to the cross continuously as proof that Jesus has made us acceptable.  As long as we look to ourselves, we will flounder...either in feelings of failure and misery or in the sinful pride and arrogance which come before a fall. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus and His cross, we are transformed, our hearts are renewed, and we grow in grace, becoming stable in the gospel of Jesus!


One of the greatest things you can do to grow as a Christian is to refuse to come to conclusions based on what you see, your experience, how you feel, etc. Instead, draw conclusions based on what Scripture tells you and what the cross of Jesus speaks to you. In other words, learn to look away from yourself, how well you are doing or not doing; instead, look to Jesus and how well He did, His success at the cross.

Notice how Paul does this in our concluding section of Romans 8: 

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul had previously stated in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” After meditating and speaking about this gospel truth, Paul helps us come to the proper conclusion. Because God didn’t spare His own Son, you will never be separated from His love! Because God didn’t spare His own Son, you will be more than a conqueror through Him who loved you! Because God didn’t spare His own Son, He will continue to pour out His love on you through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), and nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from His love.

If you look at the cross of Christ, you see the basis for God never taking His love from you. If God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to die in your place, He clearly loves you more than life itself and will love you eternally. He will love you through sickness and suffering, through trials and temptations, through falls and failure, through weak flesh and worldwide pandemics; He will love you endlessly!

Notice too how your victory over sin and death is tied to the cross:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Paul tied our victory (“we are more than conquerors”) straight to the cross (“through Him who loved us”). Notice He doesn’t say “...through Him who loves us”, but rather “through Him who loved us!” Paul is not teaching that God no longer loves us. He is making a point by directing us to the one time in history when God demonstrated His love for us (Romans 5:8) most significantly! By sending Jesus to suffer wounds that would heal us, hang on a cross that would forgive us, die a death that would make us right with Him, and give us eternal life, God loved us. Paul is using the cross of Christ (and teaching us to use it) as the basis for promising us victory!


Consider the graphic of Romans 8:37 above for a moment. Did you see the mistake? Romans 8:37 is misquoted! See how the very foundation of our conquering was removed? Concision is good but not at the expense of clarity.  

Down through the ages, people have warped this verse to say, “In Christ, we are more than conquerors” or “I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loves me.” Those statements sound good, but they remove the cross, the very thing Paul is basing our victory on, and therefore they remove the power of God to a faltering believer. The cross where God loved us unto death, the cross where Jesus shed His blood to atone for our wrongs, the cross where He gave His life to make us spotless and holy, is the basis for our victory. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  

Illustration



“Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.” Exodus 17:8-13

In the above passage, we see the newly liberated Israelites facing one of their first battles as freed people. And God had some things to teach His people, the main lesson being that though they were to fight, the battle was the Lord’s, and the outcome was up to Him. 

For this reason, while Joshua took the fighting men into battle, Moses took two men, Aaron and Hur, to intercede on behalf of God’s people at the top of a hill. And as long as Moses’ arms were up, the Israelites won, when Moses dropped his arms, their enemies gained the upper hand. The outcome of the battle was that “Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.” Wow! What an extraordinary way to win the war, right?

Are you wondering how this story applies to us? Or how it points to the cross and the victory we receive through it?

First, we can see that, though Joshua and all the soldiers did the fighting, the battle was truly won by what Moses did on the hill. Exodus 17:11 said that Israel prevailed when Moses held up his hands, but when Moses lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. So even though Joshua and his troops were engaged in combat, God made the outcome of the battle dependent on Moses’ intercession.

Next, we see that Moses took two other men to the top of the hill with him, so that there would be three men on the hill, but the one in the center won the battle for his soldiers below. The victory was won by what that one man did on the hill. 

Now, we can start to understand some critical things about this battle account and how it applies to us. Every day, we are like the Israelites, fighting the battle against sin, against wrong desires, against temptation, against the deceitful scheming of the devil.

But how do we fight against the devil, against wrong thoughts and actions, against selfish motives, against our very selves?

Well, can you picture this with me for just a moment? Joshua and the troops are fighting the Amalekites to death. They are in the heat of the battle; spears are clanging, blood is flying, people are dying. And just then, an Israelite soldier turns to a hill in the distance and catches a glimpse of three men on that hill, and the man in the center has his arms outstretched and upraised in victory. He understands that it is Moses, and he is interceding on their behalf and is praying for them.

Oh, friend, two thousand years ago, on a hill far away, three men were hanging on crosses. The Man in the middle had ascended the hill with his cross to fight a crucial battle, not for Himself but for us. He went to fight the devil (Hebrews 2:14) and win for us. 

The Israelite victory was won by what Moses did on the hill in Joshua's day, and similarly, our battles are won by what that Man (Jesus) did on the hill of Calvary. Jesus Christ held out His arms and died on the hill of Calvary, but by His death, He defeated the devil and crucified our sin. His cross was a sword plunged into the heart of our enemy. Jesus defeated the devil's accusations against us, for what can the devil say about one whose sins have been washed away? He defeated the devil's power, for the devil's power consists in deception, and now the whole world sees that the devil's intention is not to give life but rather to kill. On the cross, as Jesus' arms were outstretched and upraised in victory, He won the battle for us.

My friend, do you struggle with the power of temptation and sin? Look to Jesus! Do you find yourself falling and receiving wounds at the hands of your enemy? Look up and see the Man, Jesus on the hill interceding for you, defeating the devil on your behalf, securing your full pardon, and victory over sin. The battle will not be won by your efforts, but by the work of Another. Your victory is in Jesus' death on the cross.
As we catch sight of the horror of that cross, the torture of that innocent and pure Man, of the blood He shed for our forgiveness and reconciliation, we are strengthened to fight, and energized for success in the battle.

When the battle was over, Joshua could have said, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” by interceding for us on the hill.” (adapted rendering of Romans 8:37)!

Summary: Draw Conclusions Based On The Cross

As Paul continues to look at the cross, he erupts with praise and deep conviction about God’s love. He is drawing conclusions based on what He sees at the cross when he says:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Jesus died for us, but He rose again in power, and now He ever lives to lift His hands in intercession for us, and absolutely nothing will separate us from His love.

  • Do you want to be convinced of God’s love for you? Look at the cross! Learn to look away from your thoughts and feelings, learn to draw conclusions based on what you see at the cross.

  • Do you want to be convinced that you will conquer sin? Look at the cross! See that you are more than a conqueror through Him who loved you unto death and back.

  • Do you want to be convinced that nothing will separate you, ever, from the love of God? Look at the cross! Jesus was baptized in God’s wrath, and you are the receptor of God’s love forever!

Testimonies

April writes, The Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course was so encouraging and helpful. I have learned so much!

 

I have been a slave to food and diets my entire adult life. While not overweight, food and body image have constantly enslaved me. I used to weigh myself multiple times a day, every day. I have tried many ways of eating and diets, but none have satisfied. This course was my last-ditch effort, out of true desperation, to get free from this lifelong slavery. God has used this study to set me free! The first two weeks were rocky, and there were several times when I fell back into gluttony. I confessed this and then recommitted to walking by the Spirit.

 

I looked forward to my lessons every morning. They truly set my day on the right path of following the Lord in all areas. Since the first week in the course, I haven’t weighed myself, but my clothes are finally starting to feel looser. I also don’t feel tempted to overeat or eat when I’m not hungry like before. I finally feel like God is chipping away and knocking down this idol in my life! I am so thankful!

 

I plan on doing this course again for another 30 days to continue to pursue the Lord and be encouraged each day as he sets me free from this. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for me in the next 30 days!

 

These principles are truly the only way to be set free from this sin—not diets, not weight loss programs, not “will power.” The reason is that it’s all God’s word, which has everything we need for life and godliness! This pursuit of holiness by God’s strength is truly the only way to true lasting peace, joy, and freedom.

Pastor Ken writes, “I find the principles taught at Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp to be much more than helpful. I find them to be essential. Obligatory, empowering, liberating, sanctifying, and God-honoring, too.

 

The Lord has changed and reinforced more things in my life in the last 30 days than I can list here. But here are three highlights:

 1) I’ve recognized better than ever that the cross is not just a significant signpost on my life journey. It is my daily center. It is my lifelong destination. Philippians 3:8-11 means more to me now than ever before.

 2) Besides sexual temptation, I struggle daily with bitterness and depression. Some days they almost consume me, and no spiritual “pep talk” is effective for very long. But washing at the cross, walking in the Spirit, and warring against the flesh, by God’s grace, are sufficient so that even amid these trials, I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me!

 3) I have a renewed love for my wife and awareness of my responsibility to love her as Christ loves the church. I am fulfilling some aspects of that responsibility for the first time in 30 years. I only pray that the Lord be gracious to restore the years that the locusts have eaten.

 

I am so grateful that this study did not emphasize sobriety contracts, counting days of sobriety, or delving into all of the details of our sins. Instead, it took us right to the cross and kept us looking there for 30 days. I would never have realized these three highlights if the study had been based on recovery principles instead of redemption. Praise the Lord for His wonderful mercy to us through the cross!

 

I recommend this course! As someone who did the support groups, sobriety contracts, and counting days for years, nothing compares to washing daily at the cross, walking in the Spirit, and warring against the flesh. This study points to a more effective way to deal with sexual sin."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 140th Edition, July 19, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 140th Edition, July 19, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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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Announcement: The newest book from Setting Captives Free called “The Cross Applied: Finding Life in Jesus’ Death” is now available on Amazon. Click here to purchase. 

 
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Teaching

Freedom Through the Gospel

If you have lived in this world for any length of time, you know that there are a thousand voices offering freedom. Every new-age and self-help guru alive promises freedom; every religious book from the Bhagavad Gita to the Book of Mormon promises freedom - freedom from your own self-conceptualized you, freedom from the physical bodies' limitations, freedom from bondage to the mind, freedom from addictive behaviors, and so on.  The prevalence of this promise proves there is a universal desire for freedom. 

Interestingly, every religious book, new guru, support group, and method, except the gospel of Jesus Christ, teaches, in some way, that freedom is up to you, your choices, and what you do. You are the mastermind of your future; you are the creator of what comes, your decisions and choices bring the future and the freedom you envision. 

And yet the world continues to spiral downward. All the chaos, strife, and suffering in our world demonstrates that visualizing the future and self-actualization techniques, nor following steps for self-improvement, do not bring the freedom that humanity craves.

But there is one particular teaching that does not burden you, put you at the center of your universe, or tell you that you create your future by your perfect decisions. There is one teaching that can provide real and lasting freedom, and millions of people down through the ages have experienced this power, and many today are living in the freedom it gives.

What is this teaching?



Let’s continue in our study of Romans chapter 8 to see this truth:

“What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? 32 He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. 34 Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us” (Romans 8:31-34 AMP).

Notice all the freedoms promised and provided in the gospel of Jesus Christ:

Number 1: Freedom from All Plots Against Us.If God is for us, who can be successful against us?” (Romans 8:31). The Bible is realistic in its presentation of the enemies we believers have: the world, the flesh, and the devil. All are plotting our demise, seeking to bring us down, to weaken and destroy us.  Indeed, the Bible tells us “...all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]” (2 Timothy 3:12 AMP).

But the believer also knows that God is for us, and when God  is for us no one can successfully be against us. There is no threat to the Christian that will ever keep us from God's plan for our life; no weapon can destroy the ones for whom Jesus died, for the cross freed us, even as the resurrection vindicated Jesus and justified us: “No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; And every tongue that rises against you in judgment you will condemn. This [peace, righteousness, security, and triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And this is their vindication from Me," says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17 AMP). 

Number 2: Freedom From All Charges: Who will bring any charge against God's elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]” (Romans 8:33 AMP). The believer knows their sin, rebellion, and disobedience, their life of gratifying the flesh, following the devil into temptation, and hurting other people. 

But the believer also knows that, at the cross, Jesus took on Himself all the charges against the believer. Jesus became sin as if He had done the sinning, and He was the guilty one. The penalty for our wrongs was paid in full by Jesus on the cross, so we believers are free from all charges and their associated penalties.

Number 3: Freedom From Condemnation: Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us” (Romans 8:34).

Guilt is a huge issue in the lives of all people. The devil works with our conscience to show us our failures. As we see our sin, we lament it. Our burden of guilt grows more substantial with each remembrance until the shame and condemnation cripple us. Many people try to drown out their guilt with alcohol; others try to distract themselves from it by binge-watching media or binge eating their favorite food; still, others attempt to work it off in their chosen religion or 12-step program.

But none of our efforts to assuage our guilt are useful for long, as God has designed only one way to be free from guilt and its associated condemnation. Notice how God has dealt with guilt and condemnation through the gospel: “Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us


Do you see the logic of these statements? Think of it: who is the only one who can condemn you? It's the One who took your condemnation for you. Who is the only one who can require you to pay the penalty for your sins? It's the One who paid the penalty of your sins. Who is the only one who can attribute guilt to you? The One who carried your guilt and shame up Calvary's hill and died with it. Who is the only one who can bring down the punishment of death on you? It's Jesus who died for you, Jesus, who rose for you and now intercedes for you.

What does all this mean? Christ has made you free! When you put faith in the gospel message, you are free from all charges that could be leveled against you, you are free from all plots of Satan and evil people, and you are free from guilt and condemnation. 

And what does this freedom from accusation, guilt, and condemnation do for us who believe? As we put faith in the gospel daily, it breaks the power of sin in our lives! It sets us free! 

Freeing us is indeed what Jesus came to do, as He stated in Isaiah 61:1: 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me
To bring good news to the humble and afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted,
To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives And freedom to prisoners,”

Look at Jesus dying and see your guilt dying. Look at Jesus buried and see your guilt dead and buried. Look at Jesus rising and see your freedom rising, alive and well! Look at Jesus interceding for you in heaven, and see His power to keep you from falling and present you faultless before the throne.

Finally, remember that everything Jesus did was for you! He lived for you, He died died for you, He rose for you, and He is interceding for you. As you look to Jesus and His cross and put fresh faith in His work on your behalf, you will experience freedom in Christ, and the power of your canceled sin will be broken!

Yes, “it is for freedom that Christ set us free!” (Galatians 5:1).

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Testimonies

Olumide writes, "The biblical principles in the Setting Captives Free purity courses are helpful to me. As I wash at the cross, I am humbled by the sight of Jesus suffering and dying because of my sins. When I see what He went through for my sake, I am motivated to love Him in return and surrender to Him completely. I willing want to give myself to him. He enables me to walk by the Spirit, choose what the Spirit wants rather than what my flesh desires, and then fight against my flesh and ask God for a battle plan to defeat my enemy.

In this study, I have gained a deeper understanding of the cross and its role in my life moment by moment. I have learned that I am to go the cross daily to receive cleansing and washing from Jesus' blood and receive the power to live the new life. As I have washed at the cross over the last 90 days (Purity Bootcamp and now Purity Follow-up), I have begun to experience a closer relationship with God. I have seen my desire for God and to please Him become greater than it has ever been. I have learned what it means to walk by the Spirit, choosing what the Spirit wants over my flesh's desires, which has enabled me to war against my flesh moment by moment—using the battle plans that God has given to me as I have asked him for help and wisdom to fight the war against my flesh. 

I have also grown closer to my wife and my children and become bolder in my witness as I have received God's forgiveness for my sins of lust and impurity and let go of shame and guilt. I have learned how to fight the temptations that come my way by looking at the cross and remembering that I am no longer a slave to sin, and it has no power over me. Because I died with Jesus on the cross, I have been brought out of slavery to sin and into a relationship with God so that I can choose to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. 

Now, I don't have to be afraid of falling or stumbling because I know that if I do sin, I have an advocate with my Father, Jesus, who died for me on the cross. That knowledge gives me confidence before God, and I don't have to live full of fear that I will give in to temptation. I thank God for the opportunity to go through this series of studies and for the blessing of Setting captives free. I have already started telling people about this website and how it can help give the right perspective on the battle against impurity and any other besetting sin. 

One other significant change that has happened is that I no longer see myself as an addict, counting down the days I have been free from impurity! I am a saved sinner; I am raised with Christ to a new life. The addict is dead, and a newborn man is living through the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave. Praise be to God on high.

I strongly recommend this series of Bible studies to anyone looking for freedom from porn, impurity, and lust. In fact, I recommend this study for all people who want to follow Christ and are struggling with sins that they are trying to overcome. These studies help you see and understand the ongoing significance of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. They help you connect with God and start on a path that draws you near to Him.

Trieks writes,The A United Front course at Setting Captives Free was an unexpected treasure for me!

 

I started in the course feeling sorry for myself and angry at my husband. The first thing I learned was that I should feel compassion for my husband and be angry at our sinful nature. I realized that we are all slaves of sin, saved by Jesus Christ, to be clean and free. This understanding changed everything for me and primarily how I viewed myself and my spouse.

 

Around Lesson 8, Gospel Counsel, I asked for a mentor because I realized I needed someone to help me apply the gospel to my situation. Cheryle was so kind as to go back to my previous lessons and give me answers to those and also mentoring me on the following lessons. She was a great help and blessing to me.

 

Some days were quite hard. I could see that many questions were confronting my long-held "safe answers" and beliefs. In the meantime, Covid 19 came and brought even more challenges. But looking back, I can see that every lesson was also a lesson in real life. For the first time in my life, Easter weekend was so special. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were real for my husband and me!

 

Two ideas spoke to me in a completely new way. First, Hebrews 12:2, to keep my eyes on Jesus. Somehow, in all my years as Christian, I did not grasp that concept. I knew Jesus saved me, and I knew I would see Him in Heaven one day. But I missed the practical instruction to keep my eyes on Him in everyday decisions. Suddenly, I didn't feel alone anymore!

 

The second idea was that I don't have to feel "guilty" for desiring my husband's love and intimacy. God gave us the gift of physical intimacy in marriage to enjoy in the way He explains it in the Bible. Our bodies belong to Jesus but also to each other, and we have to treat the gift accordingly. (With love and respect)

 

Thank you for making this course available for people like me, feeling alone and isolated in dealing with the issue of sexual impurity. This course made a beautiful shift in my marriage that I did not expect! I pray that our Lord and Savior will bless your work."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 139th Edition, July 12, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 139th Edition, July 12, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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 Spirit

We can all identify with moments of weakness. We know what it’s like: we get the thought to gratify our flesh in some way, we might initially try to resist the temptation, but then the idea comes to life in our minds, and it forcefully argues for us to gratify ourselves until we yield. It is a vicious and exhausting experience.


This weakness of the flesh has been a defining characteristic of the human race, ever since Adam and Eve succumbed to it in the garden of Eden. Throughout time, humanity has attempted to restrain the flesh through one method or another. In his poem The Odyssey, Homer describes our plight well when he tells of Ulysses ordering his men to strap him to the mast of his ship so that when he heard the siren song, he would be unable to jump into the sea to his death. People down through the ages have tried radical and extreme things to avoid “jumping into the sea” of sin when tempted.

But for those who put their faith in Jesus, there is a better way. The role of the Holy Spirit is that of “Helper” when we are weak. As Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and return to His Father, He assured His disciples of His ongoing presence with them: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17 AMP). 


Today, as we continue in our study of Romans 8, let’s notice how the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness:

In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. 27 And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God's people in accordance with God's will.” (Romans 8:26-27).

As we can see from the above passage, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. He prays for us, interceding with groans and sighs, His love and ministry to us expressed in ways that are too deep for words. He is your Helper, your Intercessor, your Prayer Warrior.

And what is the requirement for you to experience His work? Weakness! The Spirit helps us in our weakness! When tempted, tired, not at our best, and weak, the Spirit comes to us and helps us. 

In the life of Jesus, we see Him repeatedly serving the weakest of people. He went to the sick and sinful, to the weak and wounded, always to love them through healing touches and words of life. He cleansed lepers, gave sight to the blind, cast demons out of those long oppressed by Satan, and, most importantly, forgave the sins of many. Their weakness was His call to action. He helped them in their weakness.

The Holy Spirit is Jesus in us. He, like Jesus when He was in the world, helps us in our weakness. Are we tired of trying? The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Are we worn out from our self-effort? The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Have we fallen into sin? The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. The very things that we think would repulse God and disqualify us - our weakness, helplessness, and sin - is the very qualification that brings Him to us.  

Illustration: In 1 Samuel 23, we read how King Saul had relentlessly been trying to kill David, and David has become weary of it all; he is discouraged, tired, and weak. 

 

But just then, Jonathan, King Saul's son, came to David and "helped him find strength in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). And how did Jonathan encourage David? By reminding David of God's promise that David would become king. "Don't be afraid," he said. "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this" (1 Samuel 23:17). As Jonathan reminded David of God's Word and God's promise, David found strength in God.

Jonathan, here, is illustrating the role of the Holy Spirit, our "Helper." When we are weak, weary, and worn out, the Spirit comes to us and reminds us of God's Word and God's promise. God's Holy Spirit comes to us and invites us to look to the cross: "Look there! Jesus is suffering in your place to make you right with God, He is dying to free you from sin's penalty and power. Remember, God has promised you victory through Jesus' death and that you will be an overcomer by looking at the cross and believing. Look what Jesus accomplished for you. Look at the cross and live in your forgiveness and freedom as the new creation that you are." 

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26). 

Victory at the Cross


As the Spirit of God comes to you in your weakness and redirects your focus to the cross, you find God's strength activated in your life. The Spirit of God points us to the cross and empowers us supernaturally. Notice from 1 Corinthians 2, the connection between the message of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5 emphasis mine).

When you look at the cross and see your forgiveness purchased by the blood of Jesus and your freedom through Jesus' death, you will experience the Spirit's power. If you feel weak and powerless, you need the word of the cross and the Spirit's power for renewal. 

As we continue to consider Romans 8, we see that it is God's commitment to us to use every circumstance and event, each detail of our lives, to shape and mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:28-29 NIV). 

Looking at the cross, we see God removing our sin and giving us Jesus’ righteousness, and that cross becomes God’s commitment to continue working in us until we look like His Son! 

Summary: All humans are weak, but through his death on the cross, Jesus removed our sin and provided the Holy Spirit for all who believe. The Spirit comes to us in our weakness, redirects our attention to the cross where we find the strength we need. The Spirit is our Helper, and as we walk by His power, we stop living in the weakness of our flesh. Freedom from the domination of our flesh comes through walking by the Spirit. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

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Testimonies

Audrey writes,  "The change in my heart after starting this course at Setting Captives Free was dramatic. I went from a girl bound by sexual impurity, sin, and a bunch of labels that I had accepted about myself, to a strong woman of God that now gives the devil a run for his money. My family started to notice that when I smiled, it came from my heart, and that the way I spoke was even different. My Uncle had told me that he hadn't seen me this happy since I was a little girl. People started to tell me that they noticed something different about me, and a couple had asked what I had that was different. I told them about this course and what it has done for me.

 

I'm also very thankful for my mentor Kelly Dorsey, she was such an encouragement, and I don't know what I would have done without her. Her continuous prayers and comments where a Godsend, and I can only pray that God blesses her abundantly.

 

I recommend this course. If you are struggling with sexual sin, take this course, and God will lead you to victory in Jesus. Don't give up; always remember that God is with you. You are a child of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings; if He is for you, nothing can stand against you. This course will help you understand what Jesus did on the Cross, and it will teach you what it means to walk in what God has for you. It will be a constant reminder of how much Jesus loves you and that He is always with you."

Jenny writes, "The truths taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course are helpful; they gave me a new mindset. I pray these principles and verses each morning over my day so that I keep that mindset as my motivation!

 

Spiritually, I am closer to God than I have been before. I feel that He is walking on this journey with me, not condemning me but cheering me and drawing me closer to Him. Physically, my clothes are looser. I feel lighter and not like I am dragging myself from one place to another. I feel like my body is finally functioning as it should!"

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 138th Edition, July 5, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 138th Edition, July 5, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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 Faith

For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us! 19 For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been moaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only this, but we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit [a joyful indication of the blessings to come], even we groan inwardly, as we wait eagerly for [the sign of] our adoption as sons—the redemption and transformation of our body [at the resurrection]. 24 For in this hope we were saved [by faith]. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait eagerly for it with patience and composure” (Romans 8:18-25).

The World Groans In Pain


Romans 8:18-25 speaks to the conditions in which we all live: sufferings, frustration, futility, bondage, moanings, pain, and groans. This list is an accurate description of the world and all who live in it ever since sin entered. In our lives, we keenly experience some or all of these at one time or another. 

We all know pain and frustration. Moaning and groaning are easily understood. Bondage is a biblical word that describes our life in the flesh as we habitually gratify our lusts and do so to the point we’re unable to break free, resulting in suffering, pain, and groanings. 

But did you notice what Paul said about all these present sufferings? “For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!” (Romans 8:18). 

My wife and I have three friends who are all suffering from stage 4 cancer; their suffering looms large in their minds and bodies and affects their families and friends profoundly. They have genuine concerns about the future. On a larger scale, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, viruses, violence, etc. bring destruction and death to thousands worldwide. 

How is it that Paul can look at all the horrific suffering (his own and that of others) and declare that it is unworthy to be compared to the glory to come? Let’s study and find out.


One of the titles for Jesus in the Book of Isaiah is that of the "Suffering Servant." Jesus purposely came to our world and took on Himself all the suffering of humanity, all the sickness, and sin, the evils, and ills of a suffering and dying world, to rescue us from it. 

When we consider this descriptive passage from Romans 8, we get a clear picture of what Jesus, the Suffering Servant, endured: sufferings, frustration, futility, bondage, moanings, pain, and groans. These words describe the life and death of Jesus Christ as He lived in a world under the curse, as He was made sin for us, and as He died to rescue us from it. The result of Jesus' death on the cross is that all who put faith in this good news are forgiven of all sin, set free from sin's power ongoingly, and will one day be free from all suffering, all pain, all sickness, and even death itself. “...and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). 

But how does this happen? How do we experience this freedom?

Freedom Through Faith


The Amplified version of the Bible words Romans 8:18 like this:

For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!

Now we see the key factor in experiencing victory in our own lives. God has made every spiritual blessing depend on faith. “God, our Father, has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.” — Martin Luther

Putting faith to the message of the gospel sets us free from sin’s penalty and power, and when we see the future by faith, it puts the problems of this life into perspective. Your victory in this life hinges on seeing Jesus taking your sins on Himself, dying in your place, your old self dying in Him and then rising again. Believing this message makes you new, and causes all problems in life to shrink to their proper size. 

Illustration: In Numbers 13, we can read how twelve Israelites went to spy out the land God promised to them. Ten spies brought back a bad report: "Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are." 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, "The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them" (Numbers 13:31-33). Notice how these unbelieving spies focused on the strength and power of the enemy.

But two spies brought a good report. Joshua and Caleb saw the same things the other spies saw, but notice what they were looking at: "The land through which we passed as spies is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them" (Numbers 14:7-9). 

Joshua and Caleb viewed the giants as not worthy of being compared to the promise God had made to give them the land since they only mentioned: "the people of the land" in passing. These two men were focused on God, His promise to them, and His power to accomplish what He promised. All twelve spies traveled through the same land, but their different focus and mindset caused them to experience it differently. Fear dominated the large group of spies, but faith provided a different perspective to Joshua and Caleb.

When the cross (God's completed promise of our redemption and freedom) looms large in our minds, giant problems seem much smaller, and unworthy to be compared to the glory purchased for us by Jesus and His blood. 

Oh, friends, this is the way to view all of life through the eyes of faith! Do you see your sin as a huge mountain that you can't get around? Faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ can move that mountain! 

I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sin in my life is not worthy to be compared with the cross's power to conquer it! It's not worthy of being compared with resurrection power. And it's not worthy of being compared to the power of the Holy Spirit who is in me. Putting faith in the message of the cross provides for and enables such boldness! "For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God]" (1 John 5:4 AMP). 

And the extra good news is that this same gospel application method works for all suffering we encounter, including cancer, Covid-19, earthquakes, hurricanes, all the issues of a groaning creation, and all the problems of life. When we put faith in the accomplishment of Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection, all problems, sin and suffering of life are diminished to their proper place. 

Paul ends this section by placing importance on faith, "For in this hope we were saved [by faith]. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait eagerly for it with patience and composure" (Romans 8:24-25). 

We do not yet see all sufferings gone, but we live in the hope that one day it will be so. We might not see the power of sin entirely broken in our lives, we still struggle with our flesh, but we live in the hope that one day it will be so. And we know these things to be true, and we put faith in the source of it all, the cross of Jesus Christ.

Oh, how true it is that freedom comes, not by putting fences around our behavior, but by putting faith in our Savior's finished work. Viewing the cross of Christ as that which forgives our sin and removes it from us, as well as that which will one day remove all suffering and sickness of life, puts everything into perspective. Because Jesus removed our sin and overcame death and the grave, we no longer even fear the giant of death, as death for the believer is merely a "sleep" now, and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 

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Testimonies

 

Karen writes, "I truly found the principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course helpful in my walk with Christ. I feel so much closer to God and have the desire to get to know Him more deeply. I haven't mastered the suffering part. I will say that food no longer has the hold on me that it once did. When I  am eating, I get full quicker than before. I think that savoring Jesus has led me to be able to keep more in step with the Spirit. I trust that as my relationship deepens with Christ, it will become more so that my steps are in line with the Spirit.

 

All my life, I have struggled with weight problems. I realize now that food has been more to me than for physical nourishment. Here I am, a 68-year-old woman. I am sad it took me so long to find true freedom, as I feel I now have through the blood of Jesus applied to my life. I have had both of my hips replaced already. Possibly that is a direct result of my gluttony. For too many years, I have carried excess weight on my 5 ft frame, but I thank Jesus for giving me another chance to honor the body He has given me.

 

Even more than the physical benefits is the spiritual benefit of these lessons. Each day I begin by kneeling at the cross and again experience the wonder and comfort of God's provision for my salvation and sanctification -  what overwhelming love and grace my Father has for me! It makes me want to tell more people about God's plan for them, and how loved they are by God. I used to be more timid in sharing my faith, but I feel myself being more emboldened to share about my wonderful Savior.

 

This course has been truly life-changing for me. I have lost around 7 pounds effortlessly. I am looking forward to continuing on this journey. I definitely recommend this course. This course leads to true freedom in the weight loss arena."

 

Dean writes, "I am learning to continue to apply the truths taught at Purity Bootcamp everyday...knowing that they are my life now! It is a joy to find myself at the cross of Jesus...longing to wash and fellowship with Christ. It is so refreshing to come into the throne room of grace each day. I know just how much I need to come to the cross and wash every day to be empowered to battle against my flesh. And as I experience growing freedom and strength in walking in the Spirit, I know the enemy is defeated, but I will always need to be going to the cross to walk in the victory that Christ won for me! And as I do, I can walk victorious and confidently more and more each day.

 

I have learned that washing at the cross is not a one-time event, nor is it a check-off activity once a day; instead, it is a life-journey that takes me right to God's grace and compassion. There, I can be real and lay down my anxieties, guilt, and shame. I can take up His robe of righteousness and walk in freedom throughout the day. But at the end of the day is when I used to struggle because the enemy would have a hay day in my mind. Today, however, I battle it out in God's strength - not mine - praying the promises of God back to Him, praising Him no matter what I'm going through. I have discovered the power of praise through music and often play worship music in the afternoon, and now in the evening, to help me keep focused on what Jesus did and what He continues to do in my life. It helps to set my mind and heart on Him as I read my Bible, pray, and meditate on His words as a personal letter to me. I have noticed that my flesh's power is dying more and more as I start AND end my day at the cross. I have learned that it is just as powerful a thing to end the day in prayer and washing as it is in the morning; it keeps my accounts short with God and keeps my heart at peace with Him.

 

I highly recommend this course to anyone struggling with pornography or any sexual impurity; really, anyone who wants to learn how to draw near the throne of grace and be set free from impure compulsions of any kind. This course was not my savior, but it was instrumental in helping me get back on course with the One Who IS my Savior, Jesus Christ. I needed to learn, again, how to walk in the Spirit of God so that I can be empowered to battle the flesh. Sometimes we need to be refreshed in the battle because, let's face it, we get battle-weary from time to time and need to bask in the waters of freedom and grace.

 

This 30-day course was like stepping into the river of life again. It was refreshing and challenging at the same time. I needed both. I need a time of rejuvenation and serenity, not to let down my guard, but to be strengthened and encouraged to go another round or two. I believe that is what is missing in the daily routine of today's Christian...we get worn out, or run down, or get complacent. This course will help you fall on your knees in thankfulness and awe at the cross where healing and restoration can occur. Then, in the Holy Spirit's strength, you can find your legs and feet under you again and go back to the battle like a warrior for purity, donning the full armor of God, and walk in the Spirit to victory!"

 

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 137th Edition, June 28, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 137th Edition, June 28, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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 Sonship and Suffering

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God's judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. 17And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:15-17 AMP).

Many of us came to Setting Captives Free because we or someone we know have had a spirit of slavery to sin. The world calls it "addiction," but anyone who has lived through it knows that "slavery" is a far more accurate description. 

Enslaved to sin, we are not free; temptation can overpower us at any time, and our flesh is a harsh taskmaster who demands our compliance. Bound to sin, we have nothing to protect us from the power of sin. "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness" (Romans 6:20 NIV). Such is the life of everyone from birth. We are each born unbelieving, spiritually dead in our sins. Paul describes this dark time in our lives in this way: "you presented your bodily members as slaves to impurity and to [moral] lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness…" (Romans 6:19 AMP).

But this sin slavery experience is not limited to unbelievers, Christians can also have times of slavery to the flesh, to doubt, to dark thoughts, to temptation, etc. Paul said, as a Christian, "We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]" (Romans 7:14 AMP). 

Slavery to sin fosters feelings of helplessness and despair in the believer's life. We are like a bird caught in a snare; the more we attempt to break free, the more exhausted we become until we believe that we cannot be free because it seems that sin keeps winning the battle, and we keep falling and failing. It is as though sin has kept us under its thumb, pressing us down, keeping us under its load of guilt and shame. It is misery.

This "spirit of slavery" also leads to fear. "...a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God's judgment]" (Romans 8:15). As slaves of sin, fear can dominate our lives - fear of continuing this cycle of slavery, and remaining a slave for the rest of our lives, fear of God's judgment, knowing that sin deserves punishment, fear of hell, an eternity apart from God. A life dominated and controlled by fear can lead us to try to set fences around our behavior to keep us from sin or to do strange and extreme things to break free from sin's power. 

But God has not left us to exasperation in sin slavery; there is good news for all who put their faith in Jesus' death and resurrection! For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God's judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15 AMP). 


As believers, we have not received the spirit of slavery, but that of sonship. As followers of Christ, our identity is in Him. We are in the eternal, blood-bought family of God - His adopted sons and daughters!

Did you notice the contrast in Romans 8:15? Slavery vs. sonship. Fear vs. freedom.

Illustration: Compare the lives of Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was born into slavery, but Isaac was born into freedom as the son of promise born to Abraham and Sarah. Ismael was sent away, but Isaac was a permanent member of the family. Ishmael had no inheritance, but Isaac was heir to all that Abraham had (Genesis 24:36). 

Friend, if you are a believer, you are not a slave like Ishmael, you are a son of freedom like Isaac, with a Father who loves you and has provided an eternal inheritance for you. We are to live according to our identity, not as slaves but as sons and daughters of God. 

Illustration: After wild living and squandering the family wealth, the prodigal son thought he would return home to his father as a slave. He planned to tell his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:19). Instead, his father welcomed him home with the words, “Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let us [invite everyone and] feast and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was [as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.' So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-24 AMP Emphasis mine). 

Friend, as a believer, you are not a slave; you are a child of God. You do not have to work your way into God's favor, nor pay off your debt of sin; Jesus has done that for you, and you are now every bit as much a child of God as Jesus Christ Himself is! 

So, you might ask, how does this understanding set us free from sin's power? How does it help me when temptations bombard my mind and body? The answer to this is found in the maxim: we live according to our identity. If we believe ourselves to be slaves of sin, then when temptation hits us, we will give in and gratify our flesh. But if we know that we are not slaves but sons and daughters of God, if we remember that we have been given a spirit of sonship, not slavery, then we will live out our new identity as a member of God's family. As children of God, we can learn to command our flesh, not the other way around. As believers, we have received the power of the cross over sin, the world, and our flesh; but we must learn to use it. We can learn to live as the children of God that we are.

Casting doubt on our identity in Christ is how Satan keeps men and women enslaved through his false teaching of "once an addict, always an addict." When Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness he said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3), desiring Jesus to question His identity.

As a child of God, you have not been given a spirit of slavery or fear (2 Timothy 1:7). As God's child, you have full rights as a son or daughter of God, with instant access to the Father, and an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). You have an intimate relationship with God now, where the Spirit inside you enables you to cry "Abba, Father," a term of intimacy and love. Because of the cross, God is no longer in the role of our Judge but rather our Abba Father.

How did this happen? How were you rescued from slavery? How has your fear been removed; how were you made a child of God and given an inheritance?


The cross was a divine rescue. Jesus took your sin and guilt on Himself to pardon you from sin and free you from all charges. Because Jesus was charged with your sin, "Who will bring any charge against God's elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]" (Romans 8:33). He hung on a criminal's cross in open shame to pay for your every wrong. He died under the curse of the Law and the wrath of God to give you full rights as a son or daughter of God. This new identity is your legal right and your power to live differently.

Think of this: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was treated as though He were not a Son at all, but rather a law-breaking criminal, and God executed Him (cut Him off temporarily) to adopt you into His family eternally. As Jesus hung on the cross, blood pouring from every wound, He felt and acknowledged this break in the relationship and could not even address God as His Father any longer. In anguish, Jesus cried, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). 

See Jesus on the cross, cut off from His Father so that you could be brought in, adopted as a child of God who will receive an eternal inheritance. See Him suffering in poverty to make you rich in grace:For you are recognizing [more clearly] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [His astonishing kindness, His generosity, His gracious favor], that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor so that by His poverty you might become rich (abundantly blessed)” (2 Corinthians 8:9). 

And what does it do for us to know that Jesus took our punishment to pardon us? This understanding removes all fear of punishment! God does not punish twice; He does not punish both the Son of God and the sons of God. We now live without fear or dread of upcoming punishment, for the perfect love of God at the cross has removed all fear. "There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God's judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God's love]" (1 John 4:8 AMP). We are not fearful slaves; we are sons and daughters, eternally forgiven and free.

But there is more to sonship than freedom.  If we want to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, we must embrace all the rights of our identity in Christ, which include suffering. “And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17).


Look at the above picture of Jesus on the cross for a minute. Examine it carefully. 

The problem with examining any picture of Jesus on the cross is that not only is the person not Jesus, but the image cannot show Jesus’ suffering in its fullness. On the cross, Jesus was not only covered with our sin; He became sin. He suffered so severely that He no longer appeared human (Isaiah 52:14) because sin distorts and mars. We can see this in our own lives; when caught in sin traps, we no longer appear to be the children of God that we are.

The cross is, in its purest definition, suffering in the flesh! Though we have never resisted sin to the point of shedding blood, Jesus did! And suffering is part of our rights as children of God.

If we study the context of Romans 8, we see that life in the Spirit is described as “habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). When we look long enough at the cross in Scripture, it enables us to gladly, willingly, and joyfully take up our cross and die to sin with Jesus. This dying involves suffering intensely, as we say “no” to our flesh and “yes” to God’s Spirit. The fact that Jesus loved us unto death makes us hate our sins unto their death. 

Think of how freeing this right of suffering is! Continual viewing of the cross makes us believers willing to deny our flesh its cravings and wants. Seeing the cross makes us so angry at sin, so ready to die to it, that we become eager to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature and we gladly suffer to do so. We crucify our impure lusts, we stab a sword into the heart of our laziness and gluttony, we nail unforgiveness, bitterness, deception, and revenge to a cross, and it hurts to do so! But we find freedom through this Holy Spirit empowered aggression against the sin that formerly held us captive.

And through this suffering, we experience exquisite and intimate fellowship with Jesus in His suffering! “And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]” (Philippians 3:10 AMP). 

Summary: This passage in Romans 8:15-17 tells us that we have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear, but rather a Spirit of sonship, giving us free access to God and intimacy with Him, enabling us to cry Abba, Father! And as God's children, we share in Jesus' suffering so that we may also share in His glory. Sonship and suffering is the biblical way to freedom from sin.

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Testimonies

Timi writes, "Since taking the A United Front course at Setting Captives Free, so many things have changed regarding my husband's and my spiritual journey. In the beginning, the only thing I could focus on was my husband's sin and the devastation and pain that I felt. My husband had disclosed sin struggles to me before; however, this time, it was much more involved than in times past. I knew this time we had to do something radically different, or else we would continue to live in this pattern of sin and pain.

 

With the knowledge I now had about how bad his sin had gotten over the past few years, I was desperate for healing, but was having a hard time connecting with God. I felt that I just wanted God to take away the pain. It was too great to bear. Then one morning on my meditative walk, I had the realization that Jesus was with my husband when he chose to do the sinful things he did.  Jesus was there in the moments of my husband's sin. With this realization, I was able to connect with God in a way that I hadn't connected before. I knew that God felt the exact pain that I was feeling. Even more so, God was also feeling pain from me as I had not been choosing to connect with Him in a long time. God was feeling unchosen and undesired because of my husband's sin and mine too.

 

At this point, I started the A United Front course, which has been so beneficial in my walk with God. It has helped me to focus on Jesus and my relationship with God and to realize that I wasn't previously connected to the power and grace of the cross.  With the lessons, I was able to see past my hurt and see God waiting for me to connect with Him, waiting for me to be open, honest, and, most importantly, vulnerable with Him. I have learned to understand the pull of Satan and his lies that we unwittingly believe.

 

As my husband has continued in the Setting Captives Free purity courses, I have seen a miracle happen in front of me. My husband is connecting with God daily in a way that I have never seen from anyone. Seeing his experience is inspiring me to go deeper in my relationship with God, in a way that I never have before. This course has helped me to see my husband's sin through God's eyes and to love as Jesus loves. It has helped us have open and honest conversations as we share what we are learning in the lessons. These conversations are not always easy ones, but they are so healing as we both know that God is with us and will never leave us.

 

I always recommend this course to women who want help for their hearts and marriages affected by sexual sin. I feel that this course always directs people to the Bible and God, which is the only place we will find true healing."

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 136th Edition, June 21, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 136th Edition, June 21, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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

Freed From Obligation To Your Flesh


Our flesh is constant in its demand for gratification. Like a 2-year-old that throws a temper tantrum if it doesn’t get what it wants, our flesh demands its comforts and thrills; it craves and requires us to give in and gratify its every whim.

But God has done something about this for us. We can read about it in Romans 8:12-14:

So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but not to our flesh [our human nature, our worldliness, our sinful capacity], to live according to the [impulses of the] flesh [our nature without the Holy Spirit]— 13 for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever. 14 For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14 AMP).

The first verse of Romans 8 teaches us that there is "no condemnation" for those who are in Christ Jesus, and the last verse of Romans 8 tells us that there is "no separation" from the love of God (Romans 8:39) for those who put their faith in Jesus. And between those two glorious truths, we learn that believers have no obligation to our flesh, to live according to the impulses and desires. This freedom from the flesh's power is a critical understanding to have, for it means that when our selfish 2-year-old craves and yearns for something, we are not obligated to gratify its desires. When temptation knocks on our door, we have no obligation to answer.

And this life is entirely different from when we lived under the Law of Sin and Death (Romans 8:2) with the flesh's mindset. Previously, we had to submit and obey, give in to our cravings, and live according to the terms set out by the Law of Sin and Death. Much like when the Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians and were required to obey their harsh taskmaster, so we had to do what our flesh told us to do.

But something has happened so that now we are no longer under the Law of Sin and Death, and no longer obligated to the flesh. Or to put it another way, the parents don't obey the child; they are under no obligation to give in to the toddler's demands. 

Think of how freeing this truth is! When hit with the thought or image of some way to gratify my flesh, I am now under no obligation to yield to it. I have no obligation to the flesh, to obey its cravings. What marvelous and liberating power the cross of Christ brings into our lives!

But how did this happen? Why am I no longer under the Law of Sin and Death, and why am I no longer obligated to obey the lusts of my flesh? 

Let’s discuss these questions by way of an illustration:

Joseph as a Slave in Egypt


Do you remember the story of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into slavery (Genesis 37)? As the slave of Potiphar, Joseph was entirely at the disposal of his master, had no free will to do as he pleased, and was required to submit and obey in all things upon threat of imprisonment or even death. 

Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison, but eventually, God orchestrated circumstances such that Joseph was raised up out of prison, brought into the presence of Pharaoh, and made the second-in-command of all of Egypt. 

Now, consider this: what if Potiphar, Joseph's previous master, had come to Joseph and told him to do certain things? "Joseph, bring all the cattle into the stalls, now!" or "Joseph, run tell the cooks to make venison for lunch." Would Joseph be obligated to obey? Of course not! Joseph was no longer under Potiphar's rule; he was raised up to the throne, and he was actually over Potiphar now! Joseph was under no obligation to his previous master, having been raised up to a higher place.

Why is it that you, as a believer, have no obligation to obey your flesh? 

Raised Up With Christ


And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6 AMP). 

As Jesus Christ went to the cross, you were in Him! Your old self died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. And you, a brand new you, was raised up with Christ and seated in heaven with Him. You are now above your old master, the flesh, and have no obligation to obey its demands and cravings. “So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but not to our flesh [our human nature, our worldliness, our sinful capacity], to live according to the [impulses of the] flesh [our nature without the Holy Spirit]—” (Romans 8:12 AMP). 

So, when you look at the cross, you see the death of your Substitute and the death of your Old Self. And when you look at the resurrection of Jesus, you see not only the resurrection of Jesus but also the creation of your New Self. And your new self is above your old master, which means you are not obligated to obey your flesh.

But our text tells us that we do have an obligation. Let’s read Romans 8:13 to see the obligation that we believers do have.
...for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever” (Romans 8:13 AMP). 

We are obligated to “habitually put to death the sinful deeds of the body.” Notice what this verse does not say:

  • We are not to try to “manage our addiction.” Addiction management is a worldly concept that leaves us in bondage. We are not to manage our sins but rather to crucify them. Jesus was not merely wounded on the cross so that He had to manage His wounds; no He was put to death for you. Likewise, we put overeating to death! We put pornography viewing and all sexual impurity to death! We put unforgiveness and bitterness to death! We put gratifying our flesh, the way the old man used to live, to death! 

  • We are not to wean ourselves off of our sin, cutting back slowly, eventually quitting the behavior; instead, we are to put to death the sinful deeds of the body. Jesus pursued the cross with a resolute determination (Isaiah 50:7) until His blood was shed, and His Spirit given up out of love for you. David said, “I pursued my enemies and overtook them, And I did not turn back until they were consumed. 38 I shattered them so that they were not able to rise; They fell [wounded] under my feet” (Psalm 18:37-38). 

  • We are not to leave any provision for us to return to our previous life of sins; instead, we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body. A cross is an extreme instrument of death. It means death to the flesh, dying to sin, and our past of guilt and shame. Clothed in Christ, we must not make any allowances for our flesh and its cravings. “But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for [nor even think about gratifying] the flesh in regard to its improper desires” (Romans 13:13-14 AMP). 

Summary

How does a person get free from sinful bondage? It is through the cross of Jesus Christ where the believer died with Jesus and is therefore no longer under the Law of Sin and Death, and where the believer was raised with Christ and is no longer under his previous master and has no obligation to obey the flesh. It is through taking our obligation seriously to put to death the sinful deeds of the body, focusing on the cross of Christ, and rejoicing in our crucified and risen life with Jesus.

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Testimonies

Ronke writes, "The A United Front course has allowed me to focus on the cross rather than on my hurts. Each time my husband had a fall into sin in the past, it would adversely affect my relationship with God. This time around, my faith relationship has been positively affected by the lessons in this study.

 

Now, I'm able to see my husband as God's child whom God loves, who God wants to restore to fellowship with God and me, and I can be instrumental to that process.  I've also learned to truly forgive my husband as God has forgiven me through Jesus.  When I struggle with my thoughts, I take all my thoughts captive to Jesus, and He calms me.

 

I am learning more to think about things I say and let the Holy Spirit guide my conversations so that they are edifying and do not tear down my husband. I am understanding better what it means to bear the fruits of compassion, kindness, and patience. The lessons on sexual intimacy helped me manage my thoughts on this subject, and embrace, and enjoy the gift of physical intimacy again in my marriage.

 

I recommend the course. It will help you deal with hurt and betrayal, but there's also a lot of focus on your relationship and walk with God. We are all accountable to God, and shouldn't let the grievous wrongs or hurt that we have experienced rob us of the pure joy of our salvation and our blessings in Jesus. Jesus has provided healing for us through His death on the cross, and this course will help you experience it."

Will writes, "The biblical principles taught in the Setting Captives Free purity courses are things I knew, but going through the study made them more tangible. Like many others, I started just reading the study and my Bible through the same lens I have been for years, but then something just clicked, and I started to put more faith in Jesus as opposed to myself.

 

It is no coincidence that my freedom coincided with me doing this study! I now see my battle with lust and impurity differently! I no longer see it is a slog or something that I have to put up with daily. I now see it as something that, because of Jesus, has and is being dealt with DAILY! It is so freeing!

 

YES! I recommend this course! It is a Bible-based approach to purity. The best I have encountered! What more can a true disciple of Jesus want? Theologically sound Bible lessons are hard to come by. Ones based on purity? Never thought I would encounter one, but I did at Setting Captives Free."

Gary writes, "The truths taught in the Purity Bootcamp course are absolutely essential!

 

I have been battling slavery to pornography off and on for over 20 years.  I tried everything - counseling, groups, accountability partners, screens, blocks, etc. but nothing worked for more than a little while.  I had convinced myself, all the way to the core of my being, that I needed the temporary release provided by porn.  I also developed a laundry list of slights, actions of others, and excuses that allowed me to give in to immorality easily.  And when I did give in to sexual impurity, I fell into despair and let myself sink even farther into impurity. It was a terrible cycle. I loved Jesus, but I was too frightened to give up what I thought was my only pleasure.  I was trapped by satan and my own flesh.

When I began this study, I knew that the only way to re-establish the kind of relationship with Jesus that I so desperately desired would be to really dig in and receive from God the strength I needed to win the battle.

I knew all of the principles outlined in this course, but through prayer and humility, I was able to actually use the strength and faith available to me through Jesus to make it through these thirty days with no incidents and nearly no temptation to do so!  Being in communion with God daily with sincerity is what this course did for me.

 

I recommend this course to others! This course was the light in the darkness that I needed.  I am absolutely sure that the Holy Spirit led me to this study, and I know it will help others as well!"

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 135th Edition, June 14, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 135th Edition, June 14, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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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Announcement

Setting Captives Free Conference: We are happy to announce our next Setting Captives Free conference to be held in Payson, Arizona at the Ponderosa Bible Church. The dates are February 26-28, 2021. Put this date on your schedule to come and experience the supernatural power of God in gospel preaching and prayer, testimonies and times of worship, fellowship and food. We’re praying that God would use this weekend in a powerful way to bring many to freedom at the cross of Christ. More information to follow.

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Friends were invited to speak in their church, and they made a powerpoint presentation and sent it to us with permission to use. I’m attaching it to this email if you’d like to use it with your own church or send to others. Thank you Janet and Aravind!

 

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Teaching

Freedom Through a Change in Mindset

In the past couple of newsletters (here and here), we've seen how hard it is to get free from sin's debilitating power. The subtlety of temptation and the pull of sin are potent forces in our lives, and freedom from this demonic deathly power is a work of God's divine, life-giving power. 

We've seen that Jesus' death on the cross frees us from condemnation (Romans 8:1) because Jesus was condemned in our place. He became a sin offering (Romans 8:3), a sacrifice of atonement; He paid our debt of sin and satisfied God's justice for us. Jesus' work on the cross frees us from the penalty of our sins, even as Barabbas was set free from death because Jesus took His place. 

Then we saw that the Law of the Spirit of Life sets us free from the Law of Sin and Death (Romans 8:2). So believers are free from the penalty of sin and are being progressively set free from the power of sin. 

Today we will see that this freedom comes with a powerful shift in our thinking, a change of our mindset, a reorientation of our imaginations, and thoughts. 

Is Your Mind Set on the Flesh, or on the Things of the Spirit?


When we see Jesus bearing His cross up Calvary's hill, laid out on it, and nailed to it, and we hear about Jesus' death in our place and put faith in that message, many things happen. Believers in Jesus are no longer under any condemnation, for their guilt died with Jesus when He became their sin offering. In God's eyes, all believers are pure and spotless, perfect, and holy, just as King Solomon saw the one he loved and said, "there is no flaw in you" (Song of Solomon 4:7). Also, believers receive the Spirit of Life, whose purpose is to free us from sin's power as we walk with Him. And finally, our mindset shifts from focusing on the flesh and its cravings to focusing on "the things of the Spirit."

"For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]" (Romans 8:5). 

We know what it is like to have our minds on the things of the flesh, don't we? Our imaginations get hit with tempting ideas or images that can become lodged in our minds, the purpose of which is to weaken us so that we give in and gratify our lusts. For example, Eve "saw that the tree was good for food and that it was delightful to look at" (Genesis 3:6 AMP), and her examination of the forbidden tree led her and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve's mindset was on that which would gratify her flesh, and so it is with every one of her children through the ages. We were all in that garden with her, examining the tree, thinking, and focusing on how it would satisfy our cravings, and we live in that garden and make the same choice today whenever we follow the lust of our flesh.

But the way to be free from this intense type of focus on fleshly gratification is to fix our eyes on another tree, to see the Tree of Life, the cross of Christ in all of its hideous beauty, in all of its repulsive attraction. To see the suffering of Jesus endured for our salvation, the pain Jesus experienced for our pardon, the wounds of Jesus sustained for our healing, and to put faith in what He accomplished on that tree. The first Adam partook of a tree and brought death to the whole world; the last Adam (Jesus) partook of a tree and brought life to every believer (1 Corinthians 15:22). The first Adam blamed His bride, the last Adam took the blame for His bride.

Putting faith in the message of the cross brings with it a change in our mindset. We begin to experience the power of the cross as it knocks down lofty imaginations of sin just like the ark of God knocked down Dagon in the temple (1 Samuel 5:1-4), and it captures our thoughts to those things that are of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Where previously we were "enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior" (Colossians 1:21), now we have been "reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (Colossians 1:22). Our mindset is changing because of this reconciliation that happened at the cross!

"If we live according to the Spirit, we set our minds on things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5). But this brings up the question, what are "the things of the Spirit"? What are the things of God? What "things" does the believer fixate on now?

To help us answer this question, we can remember an interaction that Jesus and Peter had, as Jesus was preparing to go to His death on the cross. As we carefully examine this interaction, we will be able to see the answer to the question: "what are the things of the Spirit?" (Or "what are the things of God?)" Let's look at it together:

Is Your Mind set on the Things of Man or the Things of God?


And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:31-33 ESV). 

Mark 8:31-33 makes it clear what “the things of God” are. Jesus had just explained to His disciples that He was going to the cross to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day. In other words, Jesus was preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-6), focusing them on the details of His cross and resurrection.

Peter rebuked Jesus because Peter’s view of the coming Messiah was that of a reigning King who would defeat the Romans and free the Israelites from their Roman dominion. Peter was not thinking of the cross by which Jesus would defeat sin and Satan and free all humanity from their domination. Peter needed a change in his mindset, to where he would begin focusing on the cross of Jesus, which would then lead him to take up his cross and follow Jesus. 

So, now we see what “the things of God” or “the things of the Spirit” are. “The things of the Spirit” are the cross of Christ, the glorious purchase price Jesus would gladly pay to rescue us from sin and Satan, His willing substitution of Himself for His people, His wounds for our healing and His death for our lives. And this truth is wonderfully helpful and liberating to all who embrace it. 

Are you wondering how fixing our minds on the things of the Spirit, that is, focusing on the cross, frees us from slavery to sin? Are you asking, how does focusing on Jesus’ death free me from the powerful pull of pornography, the relentless pull of social media, the continuous thoughts of food or shopping that come into my mind, or the constant thoughts of alcohol, revenge, etc. that trouble me?

Fixing Our Eyes on the Cross Sets Us Free From Sin


When a person begins seeing the cross of Christ and understanding what Jesus endured for them, their heart becomes cut by the sight of the suffering Savior. “Now when they heard this (the message of the cross) they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). While this happens initially at salvation, it continues to happen as often as we view the cross with eyes of faith (Galatians 3:1)!

This cutting of the heart begins to make Jesus precious to us who believe, and it draws us in to examine the cross even closer. When it does, we meditate on the scenes of Calvary to see and understand it better. We listen to the messages Jesus preached from the cross - hearing the good news with our ears and seeing the gospel unfold before our very eyes. And as we do, we become captivated by this miracle of mercy and grace. The love of God warms our hearts, His forgiveness overwhelms us, and we become like the woman of Luke 7:36-50 - weeping at the feet of Jesus, serving Him out of thankfulness.

This experience draws us even closer to the God who loved us and gave His Son for us, to Jesus, who loved us and gave Himself for us, and it allows us to feel the oneness that we have with Jesus by faith. As we see the cross up close and personal, we enter into the experience of it ourselves. We begin taking up our own cross, finding freedom in dying to sin and living for God and serving Him. 

Do you understand? By looking to Jesus and His cross, and giving all our senses over to fellowshipping with Christ in His sufferings, we experience a change in our mindset. We move away from thinking about how we can gratify our flesh to how we are crucified with Christ. As we think about “the things of the Spirit,” which is the cross of Christ, we are changed. We engage our resurrected mind and experience the power of the cross. 

Freedom comes through a new mindset, one that is focused on the cross of Calvary and our own cross. Notice how the Scriptures tell us to have the cross mindset in Philippians chapter 2 (I’ve emphasized the point in the text below):

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-6).

Having the same mindset as Christ had when He approached the cross would not only bring freedom to us from the power of sin but also change how we interact with each other. Just as Jesus preferred you and me over His own flesh, so we would begin putting other’s preferences ahead of our own. Just as Jesus humbled Himself to serve us at the cross, we would humble ourselves to help others. Just as He laid down His rights because of His love, so we would no longer demand our own rights but love others instead. Just as Jesus sunk so low on the cross to raise us to heaven, so we would give of ourselves to raise others up in love.

See what focusing on the cross, having the mindset of the cross does? Oh, how powerful and freeing it is! May God enable us to have the cross mindset in our lives for His glory!

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Testimonies

 

William writes, "The Setting Captives Free Depression study taught me that God comforts us through Jesus so we can comfort others that are now going through the same thing. Jesus is my hope, and the love he has shown to me on the cross and through resurrection is the hope I now share others. If I received comfort, it only came from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My comfort in Christ is to be shared with the world in pain because they do not have the hope of Christ. Also, I can comfort my brothers and sisters in Christ who are burdened by helping them fix their eyes on Christ's cross.

 

At church this week, we talked about how the grace of God motivates us to live a godly life. I was able to share how the cross of Christ has changed my life from depressed to joyful. I have my mind on the cross daily. The cross was a great motivation to live a righteous life, but now it is, even more, the cross gives me hope for my mood and emotions not to overtake me. Thank you, God, for the cross of Christ.

 

I am thankful for the cross of Christ. When I started this study, I was in a state of depression that was so overwhelming that I was at the end of my rope. I knew the cross was the answer, but I could not shake my feelings of dread. Everyday focusing on the cross of Christ was the answer!

 

I am really thankful for the way Setting Captives Free points to the cross of Christ. The depression I had was overtaking me, I knew the answer was the cross, but I could not do it myself, I needed help. This study helped me focus on the cross, and it did something I was thinking was impossible; the cross gives me hope for my depression. Now I believe that Jesus overcomes everything, even depression. Thank you, Jesus.

And sometimes a short and concise testimony is nice to read, also:

Lydia writes,Yes, the principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course have been helpful, especially walking by the Spirit. If the Spirit guides me in everything, I will savor and suffer with Jesus as a natural result of the Spirit.

Here are the changes that have taken place with me in the past 30 lessons of the Weight Loss course: More focus on Jesus = Less focus on food = Less weight on me!

Yes, I have recommended this course to several people and have recommended other Setting Captives Free courses as well. The teaching is so solid and gospel-focused. You all are truly blessed with the gifts of the Spirit and you share those gifts in such a helpful way. I love Setting Captives Free!"

 

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 134th Edition, June 7, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 134th Edition, June 7, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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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Announcements


Setting Captives Free has released a new 30-Day devotional course called The Cross Applied: Finding Life in Jesus’ Death. This is an updated and revised version of the course that was released over 10 years ago. It will be in print shortly. Here is what one student said about this course:

 

"When I first thought about doing a 30 lesson Bible study about the cross, I wondered how that was possible. This study has caused me to want to spend the rest of my life studying, meditating on, and rejoicing in all that Jesus accomplished there. I love Jesus more than I ever have, and God has really re-kindled my desire to tell others about him." - Jerry

 

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Teaching

 

Freedom Through the Christian’s New Law

 

For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2 AMP). 

 

Sin brings a heavy burden, a weight of guilt so crushing that after giving in to sin so long and often, we can feel nearly destroyed by the guilt. This guilt is suffocating, for we have sinned knowingly, and for so many years that we come to believe that God would be right in sending us to hell. 

 

 

The Old Covenant Law of 10 Commandments was given at Mt. Sinai to the nation of Israel (Exodus 20), revealing God's character and His requirements for man. And yet humanity proved its inability to keep God's Law; we failed to measure up to God's standard and were doomed under God's holy wrath against sin. 

 

Indeed, the purpose of the Law was to reveal God's character and our sin. The Law gave strength to sin and stirred it up in the hearts and lives of all people. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin [by which it brings death] is the law" (1 Corinthians 15:56 AMP).

 

So, the Old Covenant Law was “the Law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). This “law of sin” worked powerfully upon our old nature, requiring us to obey our lusts and yield to temptation when and however it came to us. 

 

For some, this meant obeying the desire to overeat food; to others, it meant following whatever sexual impulse we had, or venting our anger and rage on other people or their property. For others, it meant abusing alcohol, drugs, or our position of authority. And on and on the flesh’s obedience to the “law of sin and death” goes, wreaking havoc on all, making life absolutely miserable. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). 

 

But God, from eternity past, planned a New Covenant which would have far different results for those under it. It is a better law, called “the Law of the Spirit of Life” (Romans 8:2), and this Law sets us free from the Law of sin and death. The Old Covenant Law worked in our old selves, requiring obedience to sin and producing death, but the New Covenant works in our new selves and produces life. How does this happen?

 

Every Believer’s Old Self Died

 

When Jesus died on the cross, all who would ever believe died with Him. In God's eyes, all believers died under the penalty of their sin, died under the wrath of God, and died to the law of sin and death. "We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6 AMP). 

To really understand this truth and believe this good news, it is important to "see" it happen, even as Moses told the Israelites, “Stand still and you will see the salvation of the Lord!” (Exodus 14:13). You should see yourself in Jesus - the perfect Son of God - burdened with all our sins (past, present, and future) being brought before the religious leaders and the Roman authorities to stand trial. Even though Jesus is repeatedly proclaimed innocent, He is treated as "guilty," and given the sentence of "Death by Crucifixion!" 

Safe in Jesus, you watch as He is stripped naked and strapped to a whipping pole and flogged for crimes against God's holiness that you committed. Then Jesus willingly takes up His cross and begins the climb up Golgotha, "the place of the skull", to suffer for hours and then die. 

Hear the soldiers and the crowd mock and abuse Jesus, but He does not retaliate. He quietly endures your punishment. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself]; Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before her shearers, So He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7 AMP). 

See Jesus lie down on the cross, stretching out His hands and feet to receive the nails that your sins purchased. Watch the soldiers lift the cross and drop it into place. You recall the law which stated, "cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree" (Deuteronomy 21:23), and as you view Jesus, who is no longer even recognizable as a man, you see the curse of God in all its horror.

Suddenly, the whole world goes dark, it is midnight at midday (Deuteronomy 28:29), the ground shakes, and you understand that, for your sins, God the Father cannot look at Jesus and has forsaken Him. You agree with His decision, for you know that God's eyes are too pure to look on evil (Habakkuk 1:13) the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and the cross is payday. Until finally, after hours of agony, you hear Jesus' words of victory, "It is finished! Father, into your hands, I commit my Spirit." And then Jesus gives up His life to death, and the old you died along with Him. Your sins have been atoned. “...for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).

After watching this you think to yourself...

"I have been crucified with Christ…" 

"My old self (my human nature without the Holy Spirit) was nailed to the cross with Him..."

"Even so, I consider myself to be dead to sin..."

But this is not the end of the story!



Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:3). 

I will not take the time to play out this resurrection scenario, hoping you will do that for yourself and experience the power of it as you do. (If you want to write this scenario of resurrection, I’d love to see it. Just hit “reply” to this email and send it to me.) The truth is stated clearly, that not only did you die with Jesus, but you have also risen with Him a new creation, a new person with a new heart and a new life, just as God promised: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

So, what has happened?

Your old self that was under the Old Law of Sin and Death was crucified with Christ; the old you died and was buried. You have risen with Christ as a new creation. Your new self is no longer under the Law of Sin and death; instead, you have received the Spirit of Life when you put faith in the message of the cross, and He is your new Law!

As your new Law, the Spirit of God works powerfully in your new self, energizing and enabling you to walk differently and live differently than you did when you were under the Law of sin and death. The Spirit of God is the Person of God the Father and God the Son in One, and He (They) lead you and guide you and walk with you, working in you and freeing you from the Law of Sin and Death and the power of sin. “For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 AMP). 

And what does this all accomplish? Notice the following three things:

  1. Jesus removed your burden of guilt.  In Christ, you died under the penalty of your sin when you were crucified with Christ. In Christ, you rose a new creation, and you are now entirely free from the weight of guilt! You, yes, you reading these words right now, if you are a believer, are forgiven of all sin and freed of all blame, punishment, and condemnation. "Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered up and completely buried. "Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him” (Romans 4:7-8 AMP). 

  1. Jesus has set you free from the Law of Sin and death, for your old self died and was buried. The Old Covenant is not binding on you, for it was nailed to the cross along with Christ and you. ...having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 AMP). 

  1. Jesus has raised you to new life, and you are now under a new law, the Law of the Spirit of Life! You no longer have any obligation to obey sin any more than Balam was required to obey Balak (Numbers 22 and 23). You are not your old self! You are a new creation under a new law. Your new life consists of walking by the Spirit so that you don’t gratify the lusts of your flesh (Galatians 5:16) and enjoying this beautiful relationship that you have with God, purchased for you at the cross of Christ, and enabled by the Spirit of God. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2 AMP). 

This is the very way in which God frees captives!

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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 133rd Edition, May 31, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 133rd Edition, May 31, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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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Announcements

 

The French translation of the Purity Boot Camp course, Parcours Vers La Pureté, is now available online. We want to sincerely thank our volunteer French translation team: Sébastien and Noëmie Schutz and Daniel Colin. Your hard work and consistent efforts are deeply appreciated! We are praying that many in the French-speaking world would find freedom in Christ by reading in their language about Jesus' power to set them free through His death and resurrection. 

 

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Teaching

Freedom By The Trinity

An innate desire for freedom of body, mind, and spirit resides within the human heart. Down through the years, the pursuit of freedom has led people to use extreme measures. Wars have raged - civil, national, global, and internal - and lives sacrificed for the sake of freedom. 

Some have left homes and families hoping to taste freedom. Others have traveled the world in search of a guru who can help them realize their “true selves,” hoping for freedom in their minds. A few have even taken severe measures against their bodies trying to subdue it. 

But at the end of all the fighting and searching, there comes a dawning realization that while these efforts might achieve some temporary and limited forms of freedom, they are not enough. The flesh remains, enlightenment eludes, bondage persists, residual fear and doubt disturb the peace, and sinful thoughts and struggles continue.  

All because God has designed one unique way for us humans to experience freedom, and war, guru instruction, and self-flagellation is not it. 

Struggling With Sin


Humanity's struggle with sin is universal and deadly. We all know the power of temptations that pop into our minds and drag us into sin (James 1:15). We have all grasped after methods that promised to free us from the power of sin's constant pull. Isolation, restrictive diets, accountability, memorizing Bible verses, will-power, programs, counseling, filters, blockers, vows, promises, and many more things attempted for freedom's sake, all fall short. 

So, the struggle with sin continues, and sometimes it is the same sin struggle all of our lives. The problem, it seems, is internal, and to date, humanity has found no way to be free from ourselves. Consequently, we are left bound in iron chains that cannot be broken, under the power of sin, feeling like a failure, with guilt and shame covering our lives.

The apostle Paul described his struggle with sin like this:

We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]” (Romans 7:14-15 AMP).

But the good news is that God has made a way of freedom; indeed, He has been setting captives free for thousands of years through His method, which is brought about by all three members of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

First: Freedom Through God, the Son


The Bible tells us that God has provided a way of freedom so radical, so extreme, so seemingly irrational, that it would never enter into the heart of man to discover it. This means of freedom is so contrary to human thinking that it is impossible to accept it unless God supernaturally opens our hearts and minds to receive it and believe it. The way to freedom is through God the Son dying on a cross in the place of all sinners. How does this free us?

Notice how this is taught in Romans 8:1-4:

“Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man's nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son], 4 so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power] (Romans 8:1-4 AMP).

Romans 8:1-4 is a powerful passage, following Romans 7, where Paul describes his slavery to sin and the flesh. The first thing God wants us to understand is that there is:

No Condemnation:

“Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. (Romans 8:1). 

The woman caught in adultery was cast before the crowd and exposed openly and shamed publicly. The Jewish leaders reminded Jesus that the law required death by stoning for adulterers. Jesus upheld the law and stated, "He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7). No religious leader could stand up to that kind of scrutiny, and the ones who thought they could had but to read Jesus' handwriting in the dust to be convicted of their sin, drop their stones, hang their heads, and slink away.

Jesus then turned and spoke directly to the woman caught in adultery, saying, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" (John 8:10), to which she replied, "No one, Lord." Jesus replied, "I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more"] (John 8:11).

Jesus knew that in the not-too-distant future, He would die on the cross to make payment for and receive the condemnation for the sin’s of this woman, and the entire world. He would experience death in her place and ours (Hebrews 2:9). He knew He would take her judgment, and so He could, without hesitation, declare her free from all blame and invite her to a new life of purity.

Jesus’ sacrifice in our place to free us from condemnation is a powerfully freeing truth! Romans 8:3 describes Jesus as a “sin offering”. Despite the Jews’ complaints, Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent, yet in the court of Heaven, according to the plan established before the foundations of the world, Jesus was judged in our place and handed a guilty verdict. Though completely innocent, Jesus was condemned to death for crimes He did not commit. As our “sin offering”, Jesus has freed all who believe from the penalty of all their sin. We are like the woman caught in adultery: guilty, condemned to death by the Law, set free by Jesus’ sacrifice, and now, no matter how we are doing in our struggle against sin, there is no condemnation for us!

But if this were all that the cross did, we would only have a future hope for freedom in heaven and be left to remain in bondage while on earth. Freedom from the penalty of sin is good, but what about its insidious, enslaving power? 

Second: Freedom Through God, the Spirit

For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2 AMP).

Sin and death were laws that governed our old selves, our fleshly selves, our natural selves. Sin was a law that we were forced to obey, as long as we had hearts of stone and an old dead nature energized and actuated by Satan. When tempted to indulge our flesh, we gave in immediately (or after some brief dialogue with the devil) because we were under the law of sin and obliged to obey its every demand. We could try to say no, try to stop, but because we were under the rule of sin, we eventually had to obey.

The same is true regarding death. Every person ever born is born under the law of death. From birth, we begin our fated march to the graveyard, getting closer with every step in life, following the law of death to the grave. 

But everything changes for those who put their faith in Jesus. Through believing the message of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is also a law, but He leads and guides our new nature, our new selves into the abundant life that Jesus purchased for us. He lifts us above the law of sin and death, and we live now in His power and not in the weakness of our flesh.  All who live by the Spirit do not gratify the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

God, the Father, orchestrated our way of freedom by giving His Son and His Spirit to all who believe. God, the Father, worked with God the Son and God the Spirit to plan, enact, and bring to fulfillment the way that sets us free from sin.

Through Jesus, God has done what the Old Covenant, Ten Commandment Law could never do. The Old Law required the obedience of our old selves, but we could never obey perfectly. Through the cross, God put us to death with Christ and made us free from all condemnation, so that we are free entirely from the penalty of our sins. He then raised us to new life with Jesus, giving us a new heart and nature, and put a new Spirit within us. This Spirit of God is a law to our new nature, a Law of life and liberty, making us free from the old law of sin and death. 

For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man's nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son]” (Romans 8:3). 

Think of humanity trying to obey God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, for centuries. The requirement was to overcome the old nature and obey all of God’s requirements in thought and practice. Perfect obedience or death and hell were our only options.

And after four thousand years of trying and failing, it became evident to the entire world (seen and unseen) that the flesh of man is weak and unable to obey God’s Law. We could not free ourselves from the laws of sin and death. We discovered through our own experience that the Law itself is good and holy, but it had no power to make us good and holy. 

But what the Law was powerless to do, God did! God came to earth, wrapped Himself in a human body with all its weakness, and was born in a dirty, smelly manger. Jesus lived His life under the Law, to fulfill the Law for you and credit His obedience as yours! He purposed and planned every step in His life to take Him to the cross, and as He climbed up Calvary’s hill, you were on His mind and in His heart (Isaiah 49:15-16)! He bore your sin as a “sin offering,” He carried your sin with all its associated burdens in His body as He ascended Golgotha.

Then at the top of the hill, Jesus was laid out on the cross-beams, and He was made sin for you. He was nailed to the cross and lifted above the earth, to hang between God and man as the only worthy Intercessor. He hung for you, dear friend, and for me. He hung in darkness, absorbing all of God’s wrath for you, that you might be free of it! He absorbed the sting of sin and death clothed only with a crown of thorns and the shame of all humanity.

Then He died, as your “sin offering” to cleanse you and make you holy and sinless. “For by the one offering He has perfected forever and completely cleansed those who are being sanctified [bringing each believer to spiritual completion and maturity]” (Hebrews 10:14 AMP). 

Finally, early on Sunday morning, as the rays of the dawn began their first work of the day, Jesus rose from the dead as Conqueror and King. Just as Aaron’s rod that was a dead stick the night before, came to life early in the morning as proof of Aaron’s God-ordained priesthood (Numbers 17:1-8), so Jesus rose from the dead and “budded and blossomed” with fruit, the fruit of all believers. He was vindicated in His resurrection when He rose to justify you before the Father. His resurrection is proof that the payment made for your sins was accepted; a full atonement was secured on your behalf. If you are a believer, you are completely absolved of all sin. Jesus “was betrayed and crucified because of our sins, and was raised [from the dead] because of our justification [our acquittal—absolving us of all sin before God]” (Romans 4:25). 

After God, the Son, Jesus, ascended to the Father, the Spirit of God descended to His people. The Spirit of God is the One who raises us to new life with resurrection power, who breaks the power of canceled sin, Who leads us away from flesh driven and selfish living, Who works new life into our decaying bodies, and Who is our new Law for living. As we open the pages of the Bible, the Spirit leads us to see Jesus in His suffering and overcoming, being our “sin offering” and our “resurrection power.” 

God the Father made us holy by sending His Son and His Spirit! The One to take the penalty of sin, and the Other to break the power of sin. “He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness]” (2 Corinthians 5:21 AMP). 

The Result


...so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power]” (Romans 8:4). 

How glorious is this good news of freedom through the Trinity! God made it possible for you and me to meet the requirements of the Law. His way is to do what we could not do ourselves, and He did this by putting our old nature/old selves to death with Christ on the cross, raising us with Christ as a new people, and giving us the Spirit to be our new Law. As we walk with Him, we don’t gratify the lusts of our flesh, and the Law is fulfilled in us. 

Because of the work of God, the Son, for us and the work of God, the Spirit in us, we are seen by God, the Father, as holy and perfect, law-keepers who never sinned, obedient from birth.

Yes, the Trinity has set us free! God the Father loved us profoundly and sent God, the Son, to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Then the Father and Son gave God the Spirit, to all who believe, to lead us and walk with us and be our Guide forever. We read His Word; our hearts are cut at the cross, and our spirits come out of the grave of sin through faith in the gospel!

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Testimonies

Ben writes, "Since taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I have realized the extreme importance of having a heart change and seeing Jesus, who died for my sin. A result of the heart change is that we walk by the Spirit who gives the strength to fight the passions of the flesh. Through this study, I have realized that the only way to gain true freedom is by having a heart change, and the only way to experience heart change is to come to the cross of Jesus daily with a contrite heart.

 

Setting Captives Free is all about the gospel; I love how they use examples from all over the Word of God, including the Old Testament. Walking by the Spirit is the only way to war against the flesh effectively.

 

I spent many years in bondage to pornography and impurity trying to get free. I knew that, as a Christian, I had hope unlike others involved in my form of sinful attractions, but guess I never believed or cared enough to seek God genuinely, I had this mindset that I needed to get my life right then God would show me the way in my life.

 

I fell in love with a girl but knew I could never be the Godly young man she deserves, so I began to pray and beg God to show me the way out, I needed help! I was powerless to escape bondage, and I knew it. I started reading Christian books for Christian young men and purity, the one I was reading recommended Setting Captives Free, I figured why not? Setting Captives Free helped me get in the word daily and see my need for Jesus.

 

By the grace of God, I have experienced change, unlike I would have imagined! I still struggle, but I have not gratified my flesh as I did previously, I have a heart for change, God, and others to find 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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 132nd Edition, May 24, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 132nd Edition, May 24, 2020


Greetings friends,

 

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining. This weekly 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

Dear friends,

Thank you for your comments on last week’s newsletter, sending in your thoughts on Old Testament stories that correspond with Titus 2:14. What a blessing!

Here is the passage we were looking at together:

who [willingly] gave Himself [to be crucified] on our behalf to redeem us and purchase our freedom from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a chosen and very special people to be His own possession, who are enthusiastic for doing what is good” (Titus 2:14 AMP). 

The Heavy Weight and Bondage of Sin



Many believers have attempted to find freedom from the sins that plague us through so many different methods, and yet many remain held fast by the cords of bondage. Overeating, impurity, greed, gossip, slander, sinful anger, and more trap and hinder us in our relationship with God and others. Even worse, every time we give in to the specific sin that easily trips us up, the burden of it becomes more substantial, our bondage more severe, our guilt more unbearable. Our struggle is not a new one.

After decades of sinning against God, committing spiritual adultery through idol worship, and other forms of rebellion, God’s people, the Israelites were in a similar condition. They carried a massive weight of sin and bondage on their national shoulders. But at the time of the prophet Hosea, Israel was unconcerned about their sin problem.

To get their attention and communicate His message to His people, God told His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute as an illustration of how the Israelites had prostituted themselves to foreign lovers. So, Hosea married Gomer, a prostitute, and they had children. God told Hosea to name one of his children Lo-Ruhamah, meaning “Unloved,” also translated as “No Mercy,” and another Lo-Ammi, meaning “Not My People,” for God had said, “For you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9). 
Soon after she married Hosea, Gomer returned to her life of prostitution, going away from her husband into the arms and bed of another lover, as a picture of the nation of Israel's spiritual adultery committed against God, her Husband.

God was appropriately angry with Israel for her adultery, but in love, He did not respond with hate. Instead, while Israel was still in her shame, God made a promise about a time coming when something would be done about the national sin of Israel:

“Yet the number of the sons of Israel Shall be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, "You are not My people," It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God." Then the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel shall be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great and glorious will be the day of Jezreel.” Hosea 1:10-11 (Amplified Bible - AMP) 

Set Free By Love


Despite their sin and God’s turning away from the Israelites, He offers hope. A time would come when all Israel would gather under one Leader and flourish under Him. "...if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

But there was something that needed to happen before they would gather under that Leader. God wanted to illustrate this special event, so He said this to Hosea:

Then the Lord said to me, "’Go again, love a woman (Gomer) who is beloved by her husband and yet is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love the raisin cakes [used in the feasts in pagan worship].’ 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley [the price of a common slave]” (Hosea 3:1-2 AMP).

Can you imagine the scene? Hosea loved his wife deeply, but she was running after other lovers. Gomer's sin is heartbreaking to Hosea, but because of his love for her, he goes to purchase her back, to redeem her from her adulteries. Watch as Hosea takes silver and barley and makes the payment (the price of a common slave), buying his wife out of an adulterous relationship, bringing her back to himself in love. He has loved her, paid for her, and reclaimed her; she is his!

Oh, friend, please don't miss the point of this story! See God loving you amid your sin as He sends Jesus to purchase you out of your slavery to sin. Feel His love explode into your heart as you watch Jesus go up to His cross on Calvary's hill. He has taken with him not silver and barley, but something much more costly, His own body and blood! And there, as He hangs naked, in darkness and suffering, He has taken your sin away, wholly forgiven you, and purchased your freedom! "who [willingly] gave Himself [to be crucified] on our behalf to redeem us and purchase our freedom from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a chosen and very special people to be His own possession, who are enthusiastic for doing what is good" (Titus 2:14). Yes, you, like Gomer, have been set free by love. By the purchase price of Another, who loved you and gave Himself for you. “Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10 AMP). 

In 1880, Fanny Crosby wrote these lyrics that have touched so many hearts as they testify of how Jesus paid the ransom for us:

Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
Love paid the ransom for me. [1]


Take a moment to consider how Gomer must have felt. She knew what she was doing was wrong; she was living in adultery, having turned from the one who loved her to another who would only use her, covered in sin and guilt. She probably thought she would be abandoned to her sin forever; there was no hope of reconciliation; her heart was far from her husband.

But then Hosea came, and she learned that he still loved her! What? Her? And then she discovers that Hosea has paid the price to get her back! He demonstrated his love for her by purchasing her freedom. Can you see her weeping with the realization that she is still loved? Can you see her returning to Hosea, her body wracked with sobs as she blubbers out the words, “How could you still love me!? Don’t you know what I’ve done?!” 

And now, understand that you are Gomer! “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Let yourself be shocked by the Love that went so far as to purchase you to be God’s own possession, His loved wife. Be in awe of what He paid, His own precious blood, to bring you home. 

We must never forget the scene unfolded before our eyes. Our Husband, Jesus Christ, wearing a crown of thorns, blood flowing down His body as He loves us unto death, buying us out of sin, making us His own, loving us to the end of time and throughout all eternity. 

“Faith unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom ... By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died and descended into hell that he might overcome them all ... Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ, marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ, and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own …” (Martin Luther, quoted in The Divine Substitute: The Atonement in the Bible and History)

Now, what is your response to this unspeakable love, so deep and so intense toward you? 

Hosea said to Gomer, and Jesus says to us, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you” (Hosea 3:3). 

Yes, in response to this incredible life-giving love, you want to live the rest of your life in purity, not returning ever again to the arms of sin but living in fidelity and faithfulness to Him who bought you and set you free by grace. 

Turn away from overeating with a passion, as if it were a false lover; turn away from overdrinking as if it were the arms of another, turn away from pornography and all forms of impurity as if it was the bed of Satan that caused you to be unfaithful to Jesus who has bled and died for your freedom, and who rose for your justification. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). 

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Testimonies

Don writes, "The three main biblical principles taught in the Purity Boot Camp have opened my eyes to a new way of looking at what Jesus did for me. It has really helped me see the power of the cross. I have always known in my mind that Jesus died for me, but I had never really taken it into my heart and understood the power of the cross. I had never understood that Jesus had already won my war over sin and death, and all I had to do was to stay close to Him.

 

Setting Captives Free has changed the way that I look at the cross and what Jesus did for me.  At first, I was skeptical about the program and how effective it would be, but once I got into the lessons, I started to see that I had never really taken to heart the sacrifice that Jesus has made for me. He died so that I could be free from sin and guilt. Satan would like to keep me in bondage to sin, but Christ has washed me clean at the cross and set me free. All I have to do is accept the gift that Jesus has given me and walk by His Spirit. I thank Jesus for my freedom, and I pray that he will always keep me close to him.

I recommend Setting Captives Free to anyone who is struggling with any habitual sin. I would also encourage them to take it seriously and not just think of it as a program. You have to put your heart into truly looking at
what Christ has done for you and to accept His sacrifice to be set free."

Did you know that you can get the Purity Bootcamp course in digital format? Simply click the image below to get your copy:



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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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free