Date   
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


The Power of the Cross: 131st Edition, May 17, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 131st Edition, May 17, 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

Salvation and Freedom From Sin by Grace

Those enslaved to sin frequently feel as if there is no way out for them. Sin can get such a grip on a heart and life, have such a stranglehold, that the relentless images and immediate pull of sin can feel overwhelming and impossible to escape. 

And indeed, when we give in to any sin, time and time again, we become weakened, dull in our thinking, weighed down with guilt, and covered in shame. We end up confused, extremely discouraged, and thoroughly frustrated with ourselves. We might wonder, "Why can't I just stop this?"

We might go years and years in our sinful condition until we become entirely hopeless that we will ever change. We read glowing testimonies of how God set other people free, and the beginning of their story sounds so much like ours - yet, for some reason unknown to us, we don't find that same freedom. Instead, we plod along in quiet despair, believing that freedom seems to be for everyone else, but not for us. We despair, thinking, "I can't lose weight!"  "I  can't be free from porn!" "I cannot forgive my spouse!" "I cannot stop smoking, no matter what I try!" "I can't break free from ...."  But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Both salvation, and our freedom from sin, come by the grace of God, purchased at the cross for us and is actuated by faith in Jesus’ finished work. Notice how this is made clear by Paul’s words to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14). 

The grace of God is extremely powerful as we can see in Titus 2, grace offers (brings) salvation and teaches us to live differently. In other words, God's grace saves, sanctifies, and sets us free. 

The phrase "the grace of God has appeared" means that the grace of God came to us in the form of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came from God "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). 

Grace lived without sin in your place to award you all the blessings promised to those who keep the Law perfectly; then Grace died in your place to remove the curse of God that is on every life that breaks the Law. Grace lived and died for you, because Grace, in the Person of Jesus Christ, loves you dearly (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Friend, the grace of God accomplishes something because it comes to the heart of a believer with power. Notice what grace believed does for us:




“It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12).

God’s grace does not merely save us from judgment, God’s wrath, and hell, as excellent as all those are; it also teaches us to live differently, teaching us to say no to worldly passions. 

Think of the benefit of this: what is overeating? It is simply a worldly passion, a deep inner desire to gratify our flesh. What are drunkenness, abuse of drugs, immorality with its resulting gratification of the flesh, or any other form of sin? These are all gratification of our flesh, worldly passions, and carnal lust. That’s it—nothing more, nothing less.

And God’s grace teaches us to say no to the flesh and to live a self-controlled life, a life that is upright rather than fallen down, a life that is godly right here and now, as we wait for Jesus to come and take us home. This freedom and transformation of life is the power of grace!

But grace is not merely a theological term or an inanimate concept; no, grace is a Person, Jesus Christ! And grace comes to us as we look at the cross and believe the message of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. Indeed, Jesus purchased grace for us by the payment of His blood for our sins.


“Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13-14).

Oh, friend, look at the purchase price made for you to receive grace! Look at the suffering Jesus willingly endured: the rejection and mocking, the pain and torture, the blood and sweat, the agony and tears, the horror and wrath, the piercing and death! Look at His love poured out for you on Calvary’s hill! Look at His wounds and scars, look at the nails and thorns, look at the bleeding and dying! Oh, yes, it’s true, Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus is grace in action: grace covered in blood, grace won on a cursed tree, grace, full and free!

Jesus paid a high price for you to receive grace! It was the price of a perfect life and a substitutionary death! It was a price conceived in love, in eternity past, implemented in time by love, and the results of this love last throughout all eternity as we worship Him in heaven “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). His powerful death on the cross is how Jesus lovingly served us: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many!“ (Matthew 20:28). 

Consider Titus 2:14 in the Amplified version:

“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).

Jesus’ death purchased our freedom!

Now notice the results of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus died to:

  1. Redeem us. He repurchased us from our sins. He paid a ransom price to rescue us from captivity to Satan and our flesh. His very own blood is the price He paid because of His infinite love for you.

  1. Purchase our freedom. Jesus’ death was the purchase price paid that we might be free from the penalty, power, and, ultimately, the presence of sin. 

  1. Purify us. If Jesus took your sins on Himself, became sin for you, and died under the penalty of sin, then you have no sin. He became sin for you; you become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus made you pure. He cleansed, washed, and made you spotless. Proverbs tells us, “blows that wound cleanse away evil” (Proverbs 20:30), Jesus received the blows that wound and you receive the cleansing.  But now he has 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). 

Summary:

Sin’s power and control in our lives can indeed be discouraging, frustrating, and weakening to us. We can become hopeless in our fight against it, having tried so hard and failed so often. 

But rather than wallowing in despair or turning to the world with its worldly wisdom, we must learn how to receive grace! Learn how to apply the cross to our sin struggles. Learn to come daily to the cross, loaded down with sin, look up, and see your load being taken off of you and put on the dying Lamb of God. See Jesus weighed down with the sins of the world as He gave His life for you. See Him bleed to atone for all your sins. See Him die with forgiveness on His lips. See Him declare the victory, saying with a loud voice, “It is finished!” Then you will truly be able to say, “Mine was the transgression, thine the deadly pain” (Paul Gerhardt 1607-1676). 

As you look at the cross, you see that God replaced your scarlet sins with the whiteness of snow (Isaiah 1:18). He cast our sins behind his back (Isaiah 38:17), blotted them out to never again bring them to mind (Isaiah 43:25). He swept them away like a dissolving cloud or mist (Isaiah 44:22), tread them into the ground without a trace, and cast them into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19)! Yes, God removed your transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:8–12). Come live in this grace and learn from it.

I want to end this writing with a question, and please feel free to simply hit “reply” and send your answer (your response won’t be seen or used publicly): 

Question: Can you think of a story in the Old Testament that coincides perfectly with Titus 2:14? Please share it.

Let me know your thoughts, and next week’s newsletter will focus on the corresponding story I have in mind.

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Testimonies

 

Kimberly writes, "The Setting Captives Free Weight Loss is so helpful. It prioritizes Christ over the desires of the flesh. Knowing Jesus sets me free!! His Word satisfies like no other, and my spirit rejoices! 

 

I had started this course about five years ago but only completed the 1st half. I was telling a friend about the website, and thought I should come back and finish the course! In the meantime, I had used intermittent fasting and a popular diet program but knew, deep down, if the spiritual part remained unaddressed, no weight loss would be lasting. It was refreshing and spiritually satisfying to start again and commit to following through to completion! Putting my heart and mind into seeking the Lord and learning of Him, I experienced in a new way, Jesus' words, "My yoke is easy" (Matthew 11:29). I had previously been unwilling to "stay under" His guidance and instruction long enough to grow through discipline to delight! The joy of the Lord lifted me in new ways and freed me from the cravings of the flesh that can never be satisfied, which has been especially helpful now with the Corona Virus lockdown! I have lost about 5 pounds, but I am more thrilled with the peace that comes from not having to think about food and enjoying time with the Lord!!

 

I recommend this course because it offers clear biblical teaching as well as comments from others who are taking the course. It is so instructive and Holy Spirit directed! It helps you focus on Christ, look to Him for wisdom and understanding through His Word, and learn to wait on Him. Delighting in the rich spiritual food Jesus offers is life-transforming! He is all that we need! The 30-day course format helps you to incorporate the biblical principles and grow in the Lord!"

 

David writes, "I find the principles taught at Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp to be helpful. I have no power to war against the flesh if I don't wash at the cross. Before I learned to wash at the cross, I would become proud if I didn't sin or overwhelmed by shame if I did fall to temptation. But when I wash at the cross, I get excited about the gospel and want to share it with those around me. I actually started teaching a small group after learning the principles in this course.

 

Walking by the Spirit is somewhat elusive to me, but I guess that's because He is like the wind - unseen. He does cry out with my Spirit, though, when I'm reading the Word (Romans 8). I'm learning to love my time in the Word. When I spoke at church today, I found myself nervous. I had a moment to pray, and I prayed for courage, which the Lord provided.

 

Warring against the flesh is still hard for me. I am good with computers, and that makes the typical avenues more challenging to implement. This new computer helps though, because I don't know how to circumvent covenant eyes on it. I'm also pretty bad at following through with plans. It's my prayer right now to get better at that.

 

Jesus is the only answer to overcoming my sin struggles. This course points me back to Him when I am wayward. I've come to realize, though, I really can enjoy my time with God, but I can't come to Him simply looking for bread like the 5000. I have to come to Him looking for Him, and He will take care of me. I used to sit praying for long periods asking for stuff from God. I'd pray for peace or to love others better or to stop sinning, but I hadn't sought God. I'm learning to love God, not just for what He's done for me, but for who He is.

 

Washing at the cross removes the barrier between God and me. Walking by the Spirit means I have my best friend with me all the time. Warring against the flesh is the natural outflow of knowing and loving God because I learn to hate what He hates.

 

I tell people about this course regularly, as well as other courses that Setting Captives Free offers. I've learned that Christ is the one who sets men free, who "has broken the gates of bronze, And cut the bars of iron in two." There is no victory apart from Christ."

 

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The Looking to Jesus 30-day devotional is a great addition to your Bible study time. Each lesson contains three short sections: Teaching, Illustration, and Application. This book will help you apply the gospel to your everyday life! Click here to order your copy. One reader said, "I've been a Christian for about 15 years (I was a late bloomer) and have been reading and studying God's Word since then; I was pretty confident in my understanding of Jesus and my salvation. This series of lessons opened my eyes in a new way and showed me how blind I really was. I was limiting my God - I was doubting Him. This series was a helpful way for me not just to read the Bible, but to apply it to my daily life and to see the beautiful parallels found in the Old and New Testaments."

 

 

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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.


The Power of the Cross: 130th Edition, May 10, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 130th Edition, May 10, 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

We are happy to announce that our newest course is completely finished. Written by Erick Hurt, The Gospel For the Church was born out of a burning heart’s desire to see the church of Jesus Christ return to the one message God has given us to proclaim, the gospel of Jesus Christ. This course will be published soon, but you can study through it at no cost by clicking here.

Additionally, we are happy to announce that the Setting Captives Free course A United Front has been translated into Dutch by our wonderful volunteer translator team, Petrus and Theo. It is in the process of being uploaded to the Setting Captives Free website. We are grateful for the ministry of those who have a passion to help God’s people in doing this work of translating.

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Teaching

Did you know that there are only two things that we must know and experience to be set free from both sin's penalty and sin's power?

This thought might seem ludicrous to people who have tried so many things to get free. Some people have gone to counseling offices for years, have attended 12-step groups, support groups, group therapy, and tried mind-altering drugs (prescribed or not), etc. Some have gone on pilgrimages to "sacred" places to learn from gurus. Others have read stacks of self-help books, and still, others have tried religion, science, psychology, psychiatry, and anything else they could find, all of which ended in disappointment.

To these, it might seem implausible that lasting freedom from habitual sin is not only attainable but also simple, but it is true. Indeed, the entire Bible points to these two things, these essential truths, and calls us to put faith in them, and as we do, we walk out of sin's prison and begin learning how to live in freedom. 

So, what are these two powerful truths that God has used to liberate people for thousands of years? 

Two Powerful Truths


Please read the following passage:

“Now the Jews murmured and found fault with Him because He said, "I am the Bread that came down out of heaven." 42 They kept saying, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now [have the arrogance to] say, ‘I have come down out of heaven'?" 43 So Jesus answered, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him [giving him the desire to come to Me], and I will raise him up [from the dead] on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught of God.' Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He [who was with the Father and] who is from God; He [alone] has seen the Father. 47 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he who believes [in Me as Savior—whoever adheres to, trusts in, relies on, and has faith in Me—already] has eternal life [that is, now possesses it]. 48 I am the Bread of Life [the Living Bread which gives and sustains life]. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the Bread that comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the Living Bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread [believes in Me, accepts Me as Savior], he will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh (body)." John 6:41-51 (Amplified Bible - AMP) 

In John 6:41-43, we read that the Jews were murmuring amongst themselves because Jesus said, “I Am the Bread that came down out of heaven.” They thought they knew who Jesus was and where He was from because they knew His parents, Mary and Joseph. It seemed outlandish to them for Jesus to claim that He came down from heaven. What? Did Jesus think that He was God? What arrogance!

It is this total incomprehension of who Jesus was that kept these Jews in the dark, confused, misunderstanding both Jesus and themselves. In John 8, we see them tell Jesus that they "have never been enslaved to anyone" (verse 33). Really? Historically, Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and, in Jesus' day, Israel was under Roman rule. The Jews speaking with Jesus did not understand themselves; they were confused as to who Jesus was and who they were. They were slaves thinking they were free.

Friend, when we do not have a correct view of Jesus Christ, we do not see ourselves accurately either. The first truth that we must experience is who Jesus is

Who Jesus Is


Now when Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they answered, "Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or [just] one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15 AMP). 

Jesus asked His disciples an extremely important question, "but who do you say that I Am?"  And Peter answered correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-18

Friend, unless God the Father reveals to us who Jesus is, as He did to Peter, we will be confused about who Jesus is and who we are. Indeed, we will remain slaves, thinking we are free, like the Jews of Jesus' day.

In John 5:39, Jesus said that the Scriptures testify about Him so studying our Bibles is one of the best ways to come to a clear understanding of who Jesus is. Let’s quickly look at a couple of passages that “testify” about Jesus and help us understand who He is.

For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 AMP). 
In the book of Isaiah, we read that Jesus was the child born, speaking of His humanity, but also the Son given, showing His Deity. Jesus would govern the world as the Mighty God, one with the "Everlasting Father." Jesus' mission was to make peace on earth by dying to remove the hostility between God and Man, and He rose from the dead to live as the Wonderful Counselor in all who believe.

In the book of Psalms, David tells us who Jesus is:

Your arrows are sharp; The peoples (nations) fall under You; Your arrows pierce the hearts of the King's enemies. 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You have loved righteousness (virtue, morality, justice) and hated wickedness; Therefore God, your God, has anointed You Above Your companions with the oil of jubilation” (Psalm 45:5-7 AMP). 

In Psalm 45:5-7, we see Jesus as the One who came to earth to live and die in the sinner’s place, bearing the sin of the world in His own body, and to be pierced through His heart with the arrows of God’s wrath against sin. We see Him on the cross being treated as an enemy of the King so that we who were enemies of God would be reconciled to Him through the cross.

Then David shows us Jesus rising from the dead in victory, anointed in resurrection power over His companions, and now seated on the throne of God forever, ruling and reigning in justice and righteousness. 

Jesus is the Creator, God, through whom God made all things (John 1:3), and through whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). He is the Word who was with God in the beginning and is God Himself (John 1:1). In Jesus, God came to draw God and man together, through His suffering death to remove our sin. 

Why is it important to know who Jesus is? Because to be saved and set free from sin, we must believe He can rescue us (Colossians 1:13). We must know and believe that Jesus is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17), powerful enough to deliver (Psalm 91:3), that He is God who made us and able to change our hearts and heal us. 

So, the Jews in John chapter 6 were entirely confused about who Jesus was, believing He was only a man, and were consequently totally confused about themselves. When seeking freedom, the first thing that you and I must understand is that Jesus is Almighty God, and as such, He is fully capable of rescuing and delivering, healing, and restoring us.

But did you notice what else Jesus said to the Jews He was speaking to in John chapter 6? Let’s look at it again:

“I am the Living Bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread [believes in Me, accepts Me as Savior], he will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh (body).” (John 6:51 AMP). 

To have freedom from habitual sin, the second truth we must know and experience is what Jesus came to do.

What Jesus Came to Do


Jesus said He came as Bread from heaven to give life to the world. Then He defined that “bread” as His “flesh” or His body. In other words, Jesus came to offer His body as a ransom price for our sins, an atoning sacrifice for our wrongs, and His body, offered in our place, would be food for our souls. Jesus came to die, and His sacrificial offering nourishes us; we become full and satisfied as we feed on Jesus’ death in our place.

Job tells us what Jesus came to do, by expressing this longing:

He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more” (Job 9:32-34 NIV).

Job is longing for the work of Jesus, expressed in these ways:

  1. Job wants someone to mediate between God and himself, someone to bring them together. As both God and Man, Jesus came to unite God and man, through His death in our place, Jesus removed the sin that separated us, and through His resurrection from the dead He now ever lives to intercede for us.

  1. Job longs for someone to remove God’s rod from him and relieve his terror. After being whipped until His back was striped and hit in the face with a rod (Micah 5:1), Jesus climbed Calvary’s hill, loaded down with your sin. He was nailed to a cross as punishment for your sin. He took the rod of God’s wrath for you. Jesus was beaten until unrecognizable and shed His blood to forgive and free you. Jesus took the terror of God’s rod away from you, having been judged in your place and condemned to death for your sin. 

Isaiah tells us what Jesus came to do:

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. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV). 

Jesus Died for Your Sin, Jesus Rose From the Dead




But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

Jesus rose as the firstfruits, showing that you and I will follow when “all will be made alive.” Jesus rose to justify you before God, proving that the payment He made on the cross was sufficient to pay all the wages of sin. He rose to show that your sins were forgiven and removed from you, that your guilt was crucified and buried, that your salvation was accomplished, your rescue was complete, and your eternal life was purchased! Hallelujah to the risen Lamb!

Why do we need to know who Jesus is and what He came to do? So that we can trust His finished work, put faith in what He accomplished, and finally be free from sin’s horrendous penalty and sin’s hideous power. As we believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we feed on Him, and His death and resurrection nourish and satisfy us so that we don’t want to look elsewhere for fullness. 

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Testimonies

 

Zdenek writes, "The biblical principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course were absolutely helpful to me! It's amazing! 

 

I have experienced massive changes during the past month. The first changes started right after the first day of the course. I have noticed things happening in me right after the first cleansing at the Cross. And after
a couple of days, my wife also noticed me changing. I have been helping more at home, being less selfish, taking more care of our son, my wife, our home, and more. Even in other relationships, I have seen changes.
My relationship with Jesus has changed, and it has changed in a great way. I have moved way closer to Him!

 

I see His sacrifice in a completely new way; now I know HE has died for ME!  I'm way more thankful now than I was before. I'm grateful for my life, my salvation, for breaking the chains of my sinful body, for my wife, for my son, for everything God gives us or has given us so far. For all the blessings that come from Him.

 

I've been washing at the Cross several times a day. When temptation comes, I run to wash at the Cross, and it helps me go through any temptation that comes my way.

 

Walking in the Spirit was a new thing for me. I have never considered the Holy Spirit to be this important. I've been a newborn Christian for the past three years, and I didn't know how important the Holy Spirit actually is, and how important walking in Him is. I now know that being filled with the Spirit, having Him cleanse my heart, and walking in Him is one of the most important things for the rest of my life.

 

Warring against my flesh has changed many things. I no longer have access to pages where I used to go and look at immoral content. I have closed my social media accounts and also have been using a page/word blocked in my browser. Warring my flesh has made sex with my wife way more joyful, passionate, and intimate as well, because I now only seek her, her body, her help. Also, I now know that I have to go straight to my wife when I feel temptation might come/or when it comes. She is more than happy to help me out.

 

This course has also shown me how important Jesus' death on the Cross and resurrection is. It has shown me the gospel in a completely new way. It has shown me parallels I haven't seen before. It has shown me verses I thought I knew in a completely new light and meaning, and made them way more precious. The whole Bible has become way more precious to me now. I love carrying it with me wherever I go now. Praying the Word back to God is a new thing to me, I have to work on practicing that.

 

It is a joy to say that I've been set free from the sin that previously ruled over me for 20 years. I have stumbled twice during the course, but the warring against my flesh tactics worked well, and I have not fallen. I know that if I'll continue to wash at the Cross, ask the Lord for help with the walking in the Spirit, and war against my flesh, that I will remain completely free.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for setting me free. Thank You for Your precious blood. Thank You for Your loving heart and for everything You've been doing in me. Please continue Your work in me and keep me free completely. Thank You, Lord, thank You. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Thank you, Setting Captives Free, you and Jesus have saved my life. I have already recommended this course to others and will continue doing that! Purity Boot Camp has changed my 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


The Power of the Cross: 129th Edition, May 3, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 129th Edition, May 3, 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

We have had an overwhelming response to our newest course, written by Joce Gordon, entitled Setting Captives Free - Freedom From Fear and Anxiety. People are already asking to have it in Spanish, as they have family and friends who speak and read Spanish who would benefit from it.

For this week’s check-in, we wanted to present a teaching from this course, so you can see the power and beauty of it, as well as help set you free from any fear and anxiety you might have. Here it is:

Setting Captives Free - Freedom From Fear and Anxiety, Day 15 

Do you long for protection? Are you afraid or panicked at the thought of sickness, uncertain of the future, and fearful of what might happen to you? In today's lesson, we will address these concerns as we abide together in the secure shelter of Jesus.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place - the Most High, who is my refuge - 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:1-16

As a child, perhaps you played Blind Man's Bluff - a game of being blindfolded and turned around and around and then told to find the people near you. Robbed of your sight, you would have groped around, hands stretched out in front of you, trying to find someone by the sounds they made. Your steps, which would usually be planned and purposeful, would have been hesitant and faltering in the fearful and unknown darkness you were experiencing. The game was good fun, but it isn't so fun when life feels like that game.

Psalm 91 is a wonderful passage of reassurance and rest for our hearts in the middle of times of uncertainty when we cannot see the way ahead. In this Psalm, we learn that whether we are faced with the fear of sickness or death, relationship turmoil, financial hardship, hurtful disapproval by others, or fear of failure, God always has His hand firmly on us. If we listen, we will hear and recognize His voice of truth and love in our hearts. "I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name." (Psalm 91:14). Through belief in the redeeming work of Christ Jesus, we are called by name, one by one, into His family as beloved children of God (Isaiah 43:1).

In times of extreme fearfulness, we hesitate to move forward, "lest you strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:13). We are tempted by Satan, the "fowler," also described in the Bible as a "lion and the adder" (Psalm 91:13), who uses snares to entrap us and lies to amplify our fears and fill our minds with the intensity of our struggles to the exclusion of faith-filled truth:

  • The imminence of death (“the deadly pestilence”…” the destruction that wastes” Psalm 91:3,6), 
  • fearing what we cannot see (“the terror of the night”…”the pestilence that stalks in darkness” Psalm 91:5,6),
  • not being in control of our circumstances even in the bright light of day (“the arrow that flies by day” Psalm 91:5), and
  • the seeming overpowering size of struggles (“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,” Psalm 91:7). 

We might respond to the crises of our lives by seeing only the negative details to the point of despair or retreating into ourselves. However, in the comforting words of Charles Spurgeon, we are reminded that: “The Lord has no emergencies. He is never at the end of His resources.”

God’s sovereignty over our lives never sleeps. His commitment to us is never weakened. Jesus’ work of rescue for us (Psalm 91:15) from the hands of Satan on the hill of Golgotha cannot be erased. 

Psalm 91 provides us with compelling visions, countering the lies of the evil one and reassuring that we are not hopeless victims in our situations but rather surrounded by the strength of God. We have a place to abide in a safe ‘refuge,’ a ‘fortress’ which is high, too high to be overrun by our enemies, the enveloping ‘wings’ of a bird to give love and warmth, and an intimate ‘dwelling place’ and ‘tent’ to tabernacle forever with God. Can you see these protective coverings over you, safeguarding and shielding you? 

 

In Christ, we “rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak” (Isaiah 40:31 GNT). Similarly, in Psalm 91, verse 4, we see the beautiful sheltering of God by His feathers in all the calamities of life:

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;” Psalm 91:4

Pinions are found at the far outer sections of a bird's wings which enable them to fly. It is these feathers that are especially mentioned in this verse that raise us up to soar high with God in His abiding grace. 

Some non-native birds undergo a process of pinioning to prevent them from escaping into the wild, and the pinion joint may be removed to prevent flight. Their natural ability to fly away from danger is thwarted and they are exposed and made vulnerable to predators on the ground. 

We know another, Jesus Christ, who was pinioned over 2000 years ago so that we would be free to soar with joy and not grow weary. Our Savior, so full of love and kindness, held out His arms on the cross and stretched them wide over us, suffering in love and sheltering us from all eternal harm. No matter what situation we find ourselves facing, God’s “wings” of spiritual protection hovers over us as we trust in His Son’s Calvary work. As we set our hearts and our minds on the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are empowered to run from our self-made fortresses of fear, worry, and anxiety into His invincible refuge of safety:

Jesus covered us with protection by being a substitute of punishment for our sin, guilt, shame and the curse of the Law.

“Twisting some thorns into a victor's crown, they placed it on his head and put a stick in his right hand. They knelt down in front of him and began making fun of him, saying, "Long live the king of the Jews!" Matthew 27:29 ISV

Jesus, as the innocent Lamb of God, was nailed through His hands and feet to the cross and condemned in our place. His body hung in the filthy mire of our shame and guilt, covered in every one of our sinful efforts to make ourselves holy. A crown of thorns pierced His head as Jesus heard mocking voices yelling: ‘Shame, shame on You’ so that we would hear these breathtaking words of freedom in our souls: ‘You are “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22 NIV) and you wear His crown of eternal life’ (James 1:12; Psalm 91:16).  

Jesus covered us with protection by absorbing the wrath and judgment of God into Himself.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;” Psalm 22:14 

Jesus’ joints were dislocated, in essence, His ‘wings’ were clipped. He hung pinioned and restrained for six hours, the sagging weight of His body pulled down by cruel gravity. He experienced in every cell of His body “the recompense of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:8). Jesus’ heart of love melted like wax before the flames of His Father’s wrath for the unholiness of our lives of rebellious betrayal against our Creator. It was a divine consuming fire that no one could stand against: “even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear” (2 Samuel 17:10). But Jesus rose victorious with our sin debt fully paid, so we in Christ will never suffer a moment of God’s righteous anger for our wrongdoings (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Jesus covered us with protection by suffering for our unrighteousness.

“And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there.” Matthew 27:35-36

Such humiliation faced Jesus: He was stripped and crucified naked, hung on the cross in utter shame and disgrace. His shed blood flowed from a vast number of wounds made poisonous by our sin embedded in them. Jesus received no comfort as He endured the abuse of crowds and the abandonment of His Father God, who had to look away from the sin that His Son became.

But Jesus rose in power, the tombstone of His grave rolled away, three days later; and we became gloriously clothed in the bright and clean wedding garments of Jesus’ perfect righteousness. When asked, “Who takes this one to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish?” Jesus said, “ I do.” The words of “until death do you part” would never be spoken over us in this eternal union.

“He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10. 

Jesus covered us with protection by facing the devil and death alone in our place.

“Like lions they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey.” Psalm 22:13 NLT

At the cross, Jesus walked as a decoy into the enemy’s hunting ground to divert the devil away from us and to attack Him in our stead. Jesus laid Himself bare and vulnerable to the terror of the night, the deadly arrows that fly by day, the pestilence that stalks in darkness, and the destruction that wastes in the hot noonday sun (Psalm 91:5-7). By Jesus’ death, death was swallowed up (Isaiah 25:8), and we are ransomed and set free by His shed blood from the power and fear of death (Hosea 13:14).

When fear in our hearts cries out; “I am not safe and what will happen to me?”, we pray for the grace not to cling to our life in fear, but to surrender and give up our life wholeheartedly to Jesus so we will find it (Matthew 10:39). We look to God’s hands of safety around us, abiding with Jesus in the protected shadow of the cross: 

“I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I [Jesus] will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. 16 You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!” Psalm 91:15-16 TPT [word in bracket added]

Applying the Gospel

In the words of the hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’, we read the wonderful words from Martin Luther:

“A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;…
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:”

When troubles come in our lives, we are relieved to remember that we have the Man of God’s own choosing, Jesus, by our side. God’s dear Son understands in a way that no other person does of the nature of our human suffering. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we share in the comfort that overflows in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). 

Each detail of our trials is known to God, and not one is unexpected to Him. In the light of eternity, we know that everything in our lives works in intricate ways that are woven together for good (Romans 8:28), and no situation comes to us but what the love of God allows. 

We respond to our anxieties in our words and actions, looking to the cross in a way that brings glory and honor to God, remembering His benefits. We stand firm in His words of truth about us moving forward, and not retreating in fear, into the battle of faith, knowing Jesus has won the outcome of this battle for us already.

Before our salvation, we were lost and weary, condemned and without hope, “finding no way to a city where they could settle.” (Psalm 107:4). Our Mediator, Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, covered us by His body at the cross, and now no fear can overcome us as we are more than conquerors in the power of Christ:

“So no weapon that is used against you will defeat you. You will show that those who speak against you are wrong. These are the good things my servants receive. Their victory comes from me,” says the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NCV

We are in perfect peace knowing that whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Paul directs our thoughts to the gain of what is coming for us in Christ with these words: "For to me, to live is Christ [He is my source of joy, my reason to live] and to die is gain [for I will be with Him in eternity]." (Philippians 1:21 AMP). We look in faith to Jesus and ask for grace to say “I desire every gain that is in You”.

Question 1: In Psalm 91, what area(s) of Jesus’s protection at Calvary means the most to you at this time?

Question 2: Could you please consider in what ways the truth of the cross proclaimed through these lessons has been touching, wounding, healing and changing your heart and share a prayer giving praise to God for what He has done and for grace to continue transforming your heart by the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We are protected from terror by taking refuge in Jesus.

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Testimonies

Mary writes: Taking the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course has brought a spiritual awaking in my conscious mind of what the Spirit has been telling me for years. Hope is emerging after years of abuse from the diet industry and even well-meaning though misguided church people caught in a performance-based approach to spiritual growth. My mentor shared a song that says, "When I look at the blood, all I see is love, love, love." This is where I want to live the rest of my life, extravagantly loved by Jesus, who bled and died for me. I want gratitude and joy for Jesus' death and resurrection to be my daily mantra.

 

Physically, I lost about 6 pounds with maybe 30 more to go to get to a healthy weight. Jesus is helping me every day to become softer and more pliable as the Holy Spirit ministers to the wounded parts of my heart. I will continue to seek Him, my friend Jesus, with this new understanding of the path. I am learning not to let food come between God and me. Thank you, Settings Captives Free, for your years of study and devotion to Christ Jesus and the people to whom you minister. And thank you to my mentor, Sarah, you are a blessing.

 

I highly recommend this course. The eating only when you are hungry concept is so simple but not easy if you are addicted to food like I was. However, the biblical principles and gospel truth taught in this study will set you free. Learning the why, how, and Who of not eating until you are hungry will give you the love and understanding you need to stop letting food control your life. Food is such a poor substitute for Christ.

 

This study is about life change as a result of learning to take in Christ as our nourishment, not a quick fix diet plan. Starting this study with the mindset of it being the beginning of the rest of your life will take the pressure off of trying to lose all the weight immediately. Your highest gain will be the portion of Jesus Christ you receive as you learn to decrease and see Christ increase."

Peter writes, "The principles in the Setting Captives Free Purity courses have helped me to fall in love with God in a way I've never experienced before. They have also allowed me to experience victory over my addiction to pornography, lust, and self-gratification. I am a new man with a new perspective, and I feel as if a huge stone has been lifted from me. I delight in each day that I spend before the cross! I now have confidence that when I apply the biblical principles taught in this course, I am ready to deflect any temptation that satan throws at me.

I must say my time in the Setting Captives Free studies has been nothing short of miraculous. I am a 69-year-old man who has been indulging in pornography, flirtations, and self-gratification for about 57 of those years. But now, I have finally found lasting freedom (6 months now) from the sins of lust and impurity. I have also gained greater insight into all that Jesus did for me on the cross. It is no longer only an amazing account of the Son of God being sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation to the Father. Jesus is now, for me, a living entity whose Spirit resides in my heart. Jesus has softened my heart and taken my focus off of me and placed it where it belonged all along. My focus is now on God, and I do not dare take my eyes off the cross, for I never want to be in bondage to sexual sin again.

I can finally say that I have found the key to unlocking the chains that have bound for as long as I remember and I rejoice in that freedom. All in all, I am extremely grateful, humbled, and so amazed by the immensity of God's grace.

I have shared about the effectiveness of this Bible study to many others. In fact, I am being trained to lead a purity group in my local church. If you are in bondage to sin, there is only one way to break free, and that is to look to Jesus on the cross. Jesus died to pay our ransom in full, to set us free me from certain eternal death, and reconcile us with the Father. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. How much more is He able to break us free from the entanglements of 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: 128th Edition, April 26, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 128th Edition, April 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.

 

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Teaching

Freedom From Sin

Today, we are going to look at our next verse, John 3:36:

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (NIV) 


When considering Jesus' declaration, "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed," we must ask a clarifying question: free from what? The previous verses answers:

Jesus answered, "I assure you and most solemnly say to you, everyone who practices sin habitually is a slave of sin. 35 Now the slave does not remain in a household forever; the son [of the master] does remain forever" (John 8:34-35 Amplified Bible - AMP)

What a vivid picture Jesus paints! Jesus taught that practicing sin results in slavery. So, we should understand then that when we indulge the lusts of our flesh, we become enslaved to indulging the desires of our flesh. When someone begins to overeat, a little here and a little there, they can quickly become enslaved to food. The same is true regarding the abuse of drugs, sex, religion, or anything else that is damaging to our lives. A life of slavery is forged with one wrong step repeated. And slaves have no freedom, no ability to choose to be free; their entire lives belong to their master. 

But the good news for us who believe is that Jesus Christ can set us free no matter what sin has taken root in our lives. And He doesn't just set us free; He makes us "free indeed!" so that we are not only free from the behavior but also the desire. 

We don't want to be like the little girl whose dad told her to sit down in her chair, and as she reluctantly obeyed, she looked at her dad and said, "I'm standing up on the inside." No, when Jesus makes us free, we are free indeed! Free from the behavior and free from plaguing thoughts and desire to sin, free in heart, free indeed!

But how does Jesus do this, and what sort of freedom does He give us? 

Free From the Penalty of Sin


First, Jesus frees us from the penalty of sin.For this reason Christ brings a new agreement from God to his people. Those who are called by God can now receive the blessings he has promised, blessings that will last forever. They can have those things because Christ died so that the people who lived under the first agreement could be set free from sin” (Hebrews 9:15).

The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and Jesus took our place on the cross and died our death, thereby freeing us from guilt and the penalty of sin.

Freedom From the Power of Sin


Second, Jesus frees us from the power of sin.For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin” (Romans 6:7 AMP). The most wonderful truth of the Bible is that when Jesus died on the cross, in God’s eyes, from His perspective, all believers died with Him! 

Wouldn’t it be horrible to be forgiven of sin but left under its power? That’s not what God has done, because in putting us to death with Jesus, we are set free from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. 

Freedom From the Presence of Sin


Third, Jesus frees us from the presence of sin.There will no longer exist anything that is cursed [because sin and illness and death are gone]; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve and worship Him [with great awe and joy and loving devotion]” (Revelation 22:3 AMP). 

While Jesus destroyed sin’s penalty and power, sin’s presence remains. We still have flesh, Satan still temps us, and the world continues to allure us. Yet this is all temporary. One day Jesus will return, and the results of His death and resurrection will be fully realized when He makes a new heaven and earth where no sin will ever be. “But in accordance with His promise we expectantly await new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). 

Freedom From Condemnation of the Law


Fourth, Jesus frees us from the condemnation of the Law.Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]” (John 3:18 AMP). 

The Law of God points out our sin, shows us we are deserving of judgment and reveals that we should rightly be condemned. But instead, God placed all of our sins on His Son. Jesus was judged in our place and condemned to death on a cross. In dying, Jesus took the condemnation of the Law, so that “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 AMP). 

Freedom From Satan’s Accusations


Fifth, Jesus frees us from the accusations of Satan.Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom (dominion, reign) of our God, and the authority of His Christ have come; for the accuser of our [believing] brothers and sisters has been thrown down [at last], he who accuses them and keeps bringing charges [of sinful behavior] against them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10 AMP).

In Revelation 12:10 (KJV), Satan is referenced as the “accuser of the brethren,” for spewing forth accusations against believers (Zechariah 3:1-4). But at the cross, Jesus took all those accusations and made them His own, as if He had done our sinning, and He died under the penalty of the sins with which Satan accuses us. Satan’s voice was stopped at the cross, his accusations silenced when Jesus took the fall for us.

Now we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11), meaning we take all Satan’s accusations against us to the cross. As we view Jesus dying in our place, our justification before God silences the accusations of Satan. 


Freedom From God’s Wrath



Sixth, Jesus frees us from God’s wrath.For they themselves report about us, telling what kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to [look forward and confidently] wait for [the coming of] His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who [personally] rescues us from the coming wrath [and draws us to Himself, granting us all the privileges and rewards of a new life with Him]” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). 

The continuous burning lake of fire awaits all who reject the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those who believe are rescued, delivered, saved from God’s wrath as they are sin-free in God’s eyes. Jesus took God’s wrath; believers get His love forever!

Freedom To Worship God


Seventh, Jesus frees us to worship God.Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared [with awe-filled reverence] above all gods.”

Oh, how exquisite and delightful it is to worship God! As you come to the cross and look up, taking in all the sights and sounds, hearing Jesus preach a message of love and forgiveness in seven sentences, your mouth might fall open in awe and wonder. As you see the Lamb of God who took your sin and guilt away from you, as you ponder the depth to which He sank to raise you so high, your heart might feel as though it will burst! And when you see the blood Jesus shed, and you hear Him breathe His last breath, having shouted with a loud voice, “It is finished!” you might just fall to your knees and with tears running down your face exclaim, “Worthy and deserving are You...for You were slain, sacrificed, and with Your blood You purchased me for God. Yes, worthy and deserving is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb (Christ), be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

Oh yes, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

Here is today’s biblical verse on freedom again, from several versions:

So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free” (John 8:36 Amplified Bible - AMP)

If then the son makes you free, you will be truly free” (John 8:36 BBE) 

Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free” (John 8:36 HCSB Free)


Testimonies

Eric writes, "The principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Purity courses are helpful. These lessons have shown me from God's Word the importance of daily coming to the cross. I used to think I was to go to God's Word only, and I'd be checking off a "to-do box." But the cross is more than salvation; it is the power of God for daily living. And when there, I receive a fresh helping of the Holy Spirit and walk more and more with Him.

 

I suppose the most significant change in my life was learning to love seeing the cross. When I first started these courses, I found myself getting sick of hearing about the cross in every lesson, but now I understand why. The flesh rebels against the message of the Good News, and my flesh had been running rampant, running my life for far too long. Today, I love to hear about the cross. It is exciting to see the cross in the many Old Testament stories (particularly those involving wood).

 

When I first became a believer, I was ashamed of the Gospel. I didn't want to tell anyone and kept my Christian world in a separate box from the rest of my other lives. Today, I am a pastor, but these lessons helped me realize and pray against an aversion to the cross of Christ."

Marylou writes, "The Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course taught me the gospel better than any other study or conversation I have ever had. I absolutely recommend it to anyone struggling with sin. I believe anyone struggling with any sin could the biblical principles taught in this course to their lives and glean freedom from it!

For me, this course taught me to embrace suffering with Christ and to, most incredibly, enjoy it. Because to suffer with Christ is to humble myself, and when I humble myself, His Spirit always brings to me the feet of my loving, gracious, compassionate Father, Jesus Christ.

Once I am there, the most amazing things happen! Suddenly, my love for self dies, my love for things of this world (a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything I see, and pride in my possessions and accomplishments 1 John 2:16 NLT) dies, and my love for Jesus grows. And through this love, I am able to keep in step with the Spirit leading my life, and as I do, I experience freedom! True freedom!!!

My mentor was Colleen. She was incredibly helpful. I appreciate her honesty, gentleness, her obvious LOVE of Jesus, her wisdom, and especially her thoughtful, heartfelt prayers. I have learned more than I ever thought possible.

If you are truly ready to give your life to God (in word and action), then all I can say to you is this: you are about to be set free, my friend! And I am so excited for you!! God is doing great things!"

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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: 127th Edition, April 19, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 127th Edition, April 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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Announcements 

We are happy to announce that our volunteer team of German translators have finished translating the “Purity Bootcamp” into German. We express heartfelt gratitude to this team for their dedication and faithfulness to this challenging work:

Jan - Team leader
Gaby
Pascal
Immanuel
Martin

Reinheits-Bootcamp is now live and can be accessed here.

Teaching

Freedom Through Feeding

One of the reasons for our bondage to the flesh is that we are, by nature, empty in our spirits and our hearts. Our inherent emptiness compels us to seek fullness. For this reason, detrimental overeating, overdrinking, overworking, overthinking, sexual impurity, excessive attachment to family or friends, etc. dominate humankind.

The good news is that there is a remedy, a way to satisfy our spirit and feed our souls that is beneficial and freeing. Notice how Jesus taught this:

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:29-33).

Believing Is Feasting


Jesus told His disciples that doing the work that God requires is believing in the Son whom He has sent. The Jews then asked Jesus for a sign, a miracle, so that they might believe in Him, reminding Jesus that Moses did a miracle by asking for and receiving manna in the wilderness. 

Their request for a sign evidenced their spiritual blindness, for Jesus had already changed water into wine, healed numerous people, fed a multitude with a few fish and some bread and walked on water.

Graciously, Jesus corrects the people, teaching it was not Moses who did the miracle but rather God in heaven. And then Jesus offers enlightenment by defining what it means to  “believe in the One He has sent.” Notice how Jesus teaches that to believe in Him means to come to Him and feed on Him - the Redemptive Manna whom God has sent:

“For the Bread of God is He who comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." 34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." 35 Jesus replied to them, "I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually]. 36 But as I told you, you have seen Me and still you do not believe.” John 6:33-36 (Amplified Bible - AMP)

And now we understand how to get free from bondage to our flesh. The message Jesus taught was 1) Come To Me, 2) Feed On Me, 3) Believe In Me. These truths teach us exactly how to feed our faith, fill ourselves full to overflowing with Christ so that we’re no longer empty and hungry. 

Let’s look at these together so that we might truly believe in Jesus, feast on Him, be filled to overflowing in Him, and no longer have to to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Let’s learn how to feed our faith:


First, Come to Me.The one who comes to Me will never be hungry” (John 6:35). In context, to come to Jesus means to acknowledge our spiritual hunger and go to Him for the eternal food we need. It means to turn away from all the other avenues we have been pursuing, which leave us empty, and to come to Jesus for filling. 

Have you come to Jesus? Are you broken? He can mend you. Are you hurting? He can comfort and heal you. Are you desperate for rescue? He is mighty to save. Are you always craving more? Jesus satisfies. Pause a moment, and watch this!

Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, His royalty, and the riches of heaven to come down to this earth as a babe in a manger. He emptied Himself further when He went to the cross, pouring out His life unto death and declaring with a loud voice, “It is finished!” He poured out every drop of blood, breathed His last breath and gave up His Spirit to save us. 

Yes, Jesus emptied Himself completely, the purpose of which was to fill you entirely. “and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God's presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]” (Ephesians 3:19 AMP). 

Jesus invites us to come to Him empty, and He will fill us.

Second, Feed on Me.Jesus replied to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually]’ (John 6:35 AMP).

Feeding on Jesus is what rescues us from feeding our flesh, gratifying our lusts. We learn to feed on Jesus through spending time in His Word. “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16). 

The key when spending time in God’s Word is to come to Jesus in each passage and to feed your soul on His marvelous work of redemption, salvation, and freedom.

As you read your Bible, look up to the cross and see Jesus offering you His body and blood. Hear Him saying to you from the cross, “I forgive you. I love you. I am for you. I am with you.” See His blood as your atonement, His death as your pardon, His resurrection as your power over sin. 

Third, believe in me. “...the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually]. 36 But as I told you, you have seen Me and still you do not believe.” John 6:35-36

Some people say “seeing is believing,” but Jesus made it clear that “believing is seeing” (John 11:40). If you put faith in Jesus and what He has accomplished for you on the cross, your spiritual eyesight will be opened to see amazing and glorious sights. And as you see them, your heart will be greatly encouraged, your soul will be wonderfully filled, and the result will be freedom from looking anywhere else to be satisfied. By faith, we feed on the cross, drink of the Spirit, and leave our tomb of sin to live a new life in Jesus!

Connect Your Faith With Jesus’ Wounds


A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:26-29).

Freedom from our flesh comes by feeding on Jesus, the Bread of Life. He came down from heaven to die on the cross, thereby giving life to all who believe. The way to believe is to connect your faith with Jesus' wounds. Believe that He was wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities, that the punishment that brings you peace was upon Him (Isaiah 53:5). Look to Jesus and hear Him say to you, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. See the depths that I sunk to for you, touch the epicenter of my pain for you, and experience the reality of my love for you. Stop doubting, believe, and be free!"

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Testimonies

Willie writes, "The principles of the Setting Captives Free purity courses are helpful to me in all areas of my walk with Christ.  Washing at the cross reminds me of what Christ has done for me out of love - taking the punishment that I deserved for my sin and giving me life with God, breaking the chains of sin that held me captive, and redeeming me to live for Him.  Walking by the Spirit, I can live a life pleasing to God, overcoming the habitual sins of lust and self-gratification that once held me captive. Even though I have been redeemed from captivity to sexual sin, temptations still come my way, but with the power of God through His Spirit, I war against my flesh by the power of the Spirit, and I am enabled to live in closeness to Christ.

 

As I studied these lessons, God opened my eyes to understand scripture better, and through the testimonies of others like myself who were set free from sexual sin, my faith was strengthened.  Along the way, I noticed several changes in my life. I had a lot of bitterness in my life that I didn't even realize I had until it was gone. Also, I noticed God taking away my appetite for sin and replacing it with a desire for Him.  In the past, I used to long for the opportunity to look at pornography; even if I did not act on that desire, it was always present. As I went through the lessons, I noticed that my desire for sin began to fade. God had not only given me the power to overcome the cravings of sin but has also taken away the persistent desire for it.  Temptations still come, but they are no longer with me day and night. One other big change has been the way I read scripture. These lessons taught me the importance of praying scripture back to God and also opened my eyes to the connectivity of all scripture to the central theme of the gospel, and so, I have been looking for the gospel more and more as I read the Bible.

 

I highly recommend Setting Captives Free to others because, through this ministry, God has changed my life.  These lessons have helped me understand Christ's work on the cross better, helped me walk closer to Christ, and helped me look to Christ to overcome the habitual sins of lusting through pornography and gratifying my flesh that were holding me in captivity."

Isabel writes, "I am thankful that the Setting Captives Free United Front course brought me back to the power of Jesus and the daily impact that He can have on my life. I now see that Jesus is the source of my security, peace, love, protection, and healing. 

Jesus gives me the motivation to keep persevering through the difficult times with my husband's sin struggle (and my own) and allows me to have grace and compassion toward my husband despite the hurt his sin causes me. 

I know it will continue to be a fight, and this prompts me to continue to rely on God for Him to protect my husband. There is no use to give in to worry and anxiety because I am not my husband's savior; Christ already took that spot a long time ago when He died on the cross and my husband believed in Him. My role is to continue to love my husband with Jesus' unconditional love and lean on God's understanding through it all. 

My husband and I have more genuine and intentional conversations now, and I'm grateful that he is willing to bring me along in his fight for purity. There is still SO MUCH for me to grow and learn, especially being a newlywed, but I believe that God is leading us to more victories. 

I recommend this course to anyone who wants to focus more on Jesus and to learn how to love and support their spouse with the gospel."

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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: 126th Edition, April 12, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 126th Edition, April 12, 2020

Greetings friends,

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. 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: 

New Course: We are excited to announce a new course: Setting Captives Free — Freedom From Fear and Anxiety. Written by Joce Gordon, this 30-day course was born out of her own struggle with fear and anxiety, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ, as applied by the Spirit of God, set her free. Especially important during this time of the Coronavirus, when fear and anxiety about life itself can dominate, this course  shows clearly the powerful remedy we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ! This course will also be published in book form shortly. Find out more here!

New Resource: Setting Captives Free has started a YouTube video channel. Watch short (5-10 minute) teaching sessions here. Be sure to subscribe, and click the “bell” icon to be notified of new content.

Teaching

Freedom Through Faith

It is inherent within human nature to try to earn our way, to work hard physically, mentally, and spiritually. We like to contribute, create, and engage. There is a deep desire within our natural selves not only to earn man's approval, but also to merit God's favor, to work our way to Him, to earn salvation, and pay off our sin debt. 

But this attitude of working hard, of trying to measure up, of earning our way to God and finding freedom from sin through self-effort can become a weighty burden. It can feel like we're trying to climb ever higher with an ever-increasing burden of sin, guilt, and shame. 

The world we live in appeals to the natural spirit within us by offering their solution to our sin problems - work the program! 12-step groups and recovery groups abound, all of which have us taking one step after another to be free, attempting to climb higher with each one. 

A Completely New Way to Freedom

Jesus Christ, in answering a question the Jews asked Him, told them about a completely new way to be right with God:

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29).

Ah, this method is entirely different than what our natural selves want to do, what the world and what religion teaches us. There’s no more doing, no more stepping, no more trying, only believing. And this pierces our hearts and transforms our lives!

How radical Jesus’ answer must have been to those religious people who thought being right with God meant keeping God’s Law, measuring up to His requirements, working to please God. Now, we do the works of God by believing in Jesus, and this must have been utterly shocking to them, as it is to us. 

But what is it that we are to believe about Jesus to do the work God requires? Muslims and Hindus believe Jesus was a prophet; many cults believe in the teachings of Jesus; most everyone today believes Jesus was a good person who loved children and did good deeds. Is it enough to believe in the teachings, good life, and the miracles of Jesus?

Certainly, those are good and true things to believe about Jesus, but they are entirely insufficient to either make us right with God or to free us from the power of sin. 

The Message That Makes Us Right With God


What we must believe about Jesus is that He is God and that as God He left heaven for earth, was born of a virgin, grew up to manhood, lived a sinless life in the place of all believers, died on a cross for our sin and was buried, and rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). 

This message is simple, but if believed in the heart, it puts us to death with Jesus, and raises us to new life with Jesus, gives us a new heart, new passions, and new power. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Putting faith in the message of Christ crucified and risen saves us from God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We no longer fear punishment and eternal separation from God, for Jesus’ death saved us from God’s wrath. So, now, our eternity will be spent in heaven, enjoying “eternal pleasures at God’s right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Believing this message removes all guilt from our lives, showing us that Jesus was condemned in our place so we can never be (Romans 8:1). This removal of guilt lifts our spirits, puts a smile on our face, and enables us to walk free from shame. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13).

This gospel message, when believed, makes us right with God, no matter how wrong we’ve lived in our past. “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). On Him, the Father has set His seal of approval, and when we believe in Jesus and His gospel, we are approved as well (Ephesians 1:6).

The Message That Breaks the Power of Sin


Believing this good news of Jesus’ finished work on the cross not only makes us right with God, saves us from God’s wrath, justifies us before God, removes our guilt and condemnation, it also breaks the power of canceled sin and sets the captives free! “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). 

How does the gospel do all this? 

Believing this message fills us with God’s Spirit, enabling us to walk by the Spirit so that we do not gratify the lusts of our flesh (Galatians 5:16). Paul asks the Galatians a rhetorical question to show that they received the Spirit by believing the good news: “So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5).

The Spirit of God enables us to overcome sin where once we gave up trying. He provides divine power that lifts us out of the pit of sin, fills our hearts with love from God (Romans 5:5), teaches us a new way of living, and empowers us to do so!

Summary

Truly believing in Jesus, the message that He came from heaven to make atonement for your sin by His own blood, that He died and rose again for you, is the “work” that God requires. Believing this message makes you right with God, saves you from God’s upcoming wrath, removes your guilt and shame, AND sets you free from sin’s prison and power. 

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Testimonies

Bob writes, "The biblical principles of freedom taught in the purity courses at Setting Captives Free have been helpful to me. While developing the habits is taking time, I find great power to avoid sin, particularly by washing at the cross. I also feel my heart changing toward lust and self-gratification and not giving in to those temptations.

 

The most important change for me has been the freedom that I have never felt before.  I used to think it's useless; I'm always going to be like this, and I might as well enjoy the sin since I can't change. But I was wrong. The sweetness of the cross and the love Jesus has for ME has been made new to me in this course. Knowing Jesus already won the battle and that He continues to fight for me has brought me to tears, and I no longer feel like I'm fighting alone. Washing at the cross of Jesus is changing me.

 

I often used to blame God as though it was His fault I couldn't change. The beauty of the gospel is I can't do anything apart from Jesus, and this understanding has helped me not to be so resentful of who I am and to be more thankful for who He is. I have a new love for Jesus and am walking in freedom like never before. I recognize the weakness of my flesh and don't expect never to sin, but when I do, I will look to the cross and wash at the cross, not hide. I want to continue to grow in my study and prayer life so that I continue to learn and will be better able to war against my flesh through scripture and walking by the Spirit. 

 

This course will change your view of what the gospel means and guide you into the amazing freedom that comes from faith in Christ."

Meli writes, "Through this course at Setting Captives Free I have been able to put my faith and trust in the gospel and in what Jesus did on the cross for me. I was very self-centered, focused on my past, shortcomings, adverse circumstances and my feelings rather than the treasure of Jesus Christ himself. 

Even though I knew the gospel I was not applying it to my life. I wanted practical solutions to my current problems, and I did not know how to get them. I was living under constant frustration and bitterness. Then I realized I was not really trusting God and believing in what He had done for me. My eyes were fixed on people and the world rather than the truth of God.

As I continued taking the course, I learned the most important thing was not to solve my problems or get rid of the challenges in life that were weighing me down so heavily. The most important thing was for me to learn and *believe* who God is, what Jesus did for me, and who I am in Him. 

Because of the cross I have eternal salvation, justification, love and reconciliation and an eternal inheritance. I learned I live by faith in the work of Christ and his promises. Walking by faith means I have to go to the cross everyday, meditate in the gospel and wash myself there, run and pray to Jesus to take my cares and trust Him.

I don't have everything figured out in my life yet. And I am still tempted to despair and  drown in sadness when things go wrong. But the Holy Spirit worked in me through this time and this course to embrace the gospel and Jesus even more, so now I find strength in Jesus to continue walking and fighting in this life while rejoicing in Him. 

A month ago I did not even want to get up from bed, and then I would feel so miserable for failing to do my tasks. But now, even if I struggle in the mornings, my hope is lifted up in the fact that Jesus took all my struggles and sins, and, even when it is too good to be true, I am forgiven and loved. I can get back up on my feet time and time again without the fear of condemnation. The more I believe and embrace the love of God for me because of Jesus, the more I am free of depression and fear. My feeble heart has been warmed by Jesus' kindness and grace like never before, and I thank God because nothing can ever separate me from His love."
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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: 125th Edition, April 5, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 125th Edition, April 5, 2020

Greetings friends,

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.
----------
Announcement: During this time of the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic, many people have questions about salvation. How can I escape judgment and punishment for my sins? How can I be right with God? And how can putting faith in Jesus - His death on the cross and resurrection - remove my fear during this pandemic? We have recorded a podcast addressing these questions; you can access it here: https://settingcaptivesfree.com/salvation.

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Teaching

A Supernatural Rescue

Have you ever longed for a supernatural rescue? This article explains what it is, where to get it, and how it happens.

There are times in our lives when we feel that we are in darkness, unable to see what's coming, we don't know what to do, we think that the winds of providence are against us, and our efforts aren't producing results. 

Sometimes we create these dark and desperate times through our choices. We stop walking by the Spirit and yield to the lusts of our flesh. We become trapped in a sin storm, darkness surrounds us, we're unable to break free, and we feel a real lack of God's presence.

And there are times when, by no fault of our own, a storm in life overtakes us. We find ourselves in dire circumstances, and we feel a great sense of doom. The Coronavirus pandemic is this type of situation for most of the world today. Indeed, there is no guarantee that any of us will see tomorrow, and many feel the storm of this virus might capsize the world as we knew it.  Many are asking, where is God in all of this chaos?

If you’ve identified with any of the above, this message is for you!

A Terrible Storm


“When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.” John 6:16-18 (NIV) 

Notice the wording here:

  1. They went down to the lake (John 6:16). The lake mentioned here is also called the Sea of Galilee. It is nearly 700 feet below sea level, so they definitely went down.
  2. It was dark (John 6:17). The sun had set, night had overtaken them, and it was dark.
  3. It was dangerous (John 6:18). A strong wind was blowing, and the waters grew rough, it was a challenging time in this storm.
  4. They might have felt deserted (John 6:17) as “Jesus had not yet joined them.” They had just witnessed Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitude, now here they were in a dangerous storm without Jesus.

Maybe you've experienced life like this before. You've gone down, descended into something that feels like a hole. You've been overtaken by darkness, either physical or spiritual, and you can't see your way out. 

Then a storm arises, your circumstances are rough, they threaten to capsize you, and the threatening events of your life feel all-consuming. You wonder where Jesus is. He promised never to leave you nor forsake you, yet you feel very alone, isolated like He doesn't see you.

A Supernatural Rescue


“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened.” John 6:19 (NIV) 

Jesus was walking on top of that, which caused His disciples much distress. And as they watched Jesus treading on the waves of the sea, it should have told them exactly who was walking toward them because the Old Testament writer Job reveals that God, alone, can walk on water:

“He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. 8 He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” Job 9:7-8 (NIV) 

But instead of being comforted by the presence of God in the Person of Jesus, the disciples were frightened. Notice what Jesus says to his fearful disciples: “‘It is I; don't be afraid.’” (John 6:20).

A more accurate translation of the Greek is, “Don’t be afraid, the I AM is here.” Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples as God, the only One who can walk on water. But by announcing Himself as the “I Am,” it would remind the disciples of the first time God revealed Himself as the “I Am” to Moses. God revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush, and Moses asked who He was, God said: “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). 

And what was the purpose that God came to Moses? To accomplish a rescue! Exodus 3:7-8 is a powerful passage:

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3:7-8 (NIV) 

Yes, God saw and heard and was concerned about His people, so He came down to rescue them, to bring them up to a spacious land. The Great “I Am” came down to bring them up.

And in the story of the disciples in the storm, once again, the “I Am” came down to rescue His disciples.

“Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:21 (NIV) 

Another Supernatural Rescue


The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that God has seen your misery in sin, He has heard your cries for deliverance from bondage, He cares deeply about you, so He came down to earth in a human body, went to a cross to remove your sin and guilt, to bring you up out of sin, clear to heaven. His death on the cross breaks our chains by freeing us from guilt and the power of sin and putting us (our old sinful selves) to death with Jesus. “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

Jesus then rose from the dead, victorious over sin that held us in bondage, over death that kept us in fear, over everything that terrifies us. Jesus rose victorious, having supernaturally rescued us from darkness and purchased our freedom and forgiveness through His death on the cross. “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). 

Application:

Turn and look at the cross, and see Jesus, the Great I Am, coming down to rescue you and bring you up out of sin. His suffering is your healing, His punishment your peace, His death your life. And this rescue at the cross gives us tremendous confidence that He will rescue us from all troubles and perils of this life:

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us!” 2 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV) 

And what is your role and my role? John 6:21 tells us:

“Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:21 (NIV) 

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Testimonies:

The joy I have in ministering with Setting Captives Free is that nearly every day we get to see lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is one such example of a couple who has learned to come to the cross together:

Kwabena writes: 

I was involved in sexual impurity at an early age before age 7 and then picked up from softcore movies on TV, and then when I had access to the internet, I started to immerse myself in pornography which had a hook on my life for over 20 years.

I had no hope of breaking free. Pornography had a hook and an intense one of persistence. I went deeper and deeper into it and didn't know what to do. I tried filters, accountability partners (but I was not totally honest with them) and then even tried exorcism from pastors to be free from this sin. I could only go for a month without self-gratification or pornography. I was so hopeless and thought I should just give in and live with this sin as part of my being as a flaw of my life.

I found Setting Captives Free 1.0 and started taking it. But I was not finding freedom with the Radical amputation, because my heart was still not right. I installed filters on people's computers, yet I would find ways to go around them when my slave master, porn, came calling. The progression was taking me down the wrong path, and I knew that this was going to be my life.  I knew that eventually, there would be a scandal due to this secret sin.

But Setting Captives Free 2.0 came around, and I started to take it, I was shocked that it was talking about grace and the cross. I was like, "please skip this cross stuff and tell me what I need to DO to be free." But it kept talking about the cross and what has been done for me. I had to pray that this "gospel" (Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection) and the cross will be "internalized/penetrated" in my heart. I found freedom but then started to drift from the cross; hence, I started living in bondage again.

My mentor encouraged me to retake the course which I did, and God has really ministered to my heart. I used to count the days of freedom, but now I've stopped because I want to know Christ, who has ransomed me, and it is now changing my heart. First, I used to feel like "I had to watch porn" or "It's Friday, so go and watch porn." But now God through the cross has broken this stronghold and set me free.

Brethren, if you knew who I was, how far into sexual sin, I went. I was contemplating sleeping with animals at a point. By God's grace, I didn't get there. Now pornography and sexual sin have lost its hold on me because Jesus has healed and will continue to heal my heart.

I don't know where you might be, I was at the bottom of the pit with no hope, but Jesus stretched his hands and reached out to me.

I know the devil will come at an opportune time to tempt me and enslave me. But with me standing in the power of the might of God at the cross, I shall prevail. Even if I should fall, I know I'm not a slave to sin anymore.

Glory be to God for what He's done in my life. My fiance wanted to break up with me because of this sin, but God granted her grace, and she took the Setting Captives Free course A United Front. We are now married. Find below my wife's testimony.”

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Nana writes, It’s been a month since Kwabena and I got married. It’s been a time of loving, learning and growing. Before we were married I saw evidence of Kwabena’s heart changes and rejoiced with him. After getting married and seeing him everyday, I thank God for the man he is and the one he is becoming. His love for God and commitment to Him is very evident. His dependence on God for purity, growth, love, financial blessing, etc. is really encouraging to me.

I learn from him everyday. I have my own struggles and weaknesses and I am grateful that I have a husband who teaches me (with his life) to go to God with EVERYTHING and to truly trust Him to come through.

I used to live in fear everyday, thinking “what will I do if he falls?” “Where’s my hope?” And although I prayed for my husband (then fiancé), sometimes the fear was greater than the hope and trust in God. Seeing God work so mightily and powerfully in Kwabena’s life and therefore in my life, has given me greater hope for the future. I know that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

Somewhere last year, God showed me in His word that if a brother sins in a way that doesn’t lead to death and we pray for that person that God would give him life (1 John 5:16). Through what we went through, God has shown me His faithfulness to do what He says He will do. I know for a fact that God can restore our relationships with Him; He has the power to change even the most “hopeless” situations.

I am not perfect and I know I need my husband’s love and forgiveness every day.

I pray that my husband and I both learn to pray for and love each other, so that God will continue cleansing us and giving us life.

I rejoice with my beloved husband for this new life he is living in Christ and I trust God to keep us both in faith, hope, love and purity.


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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: 124th Edition, March 29, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 124th Edition, March 29, 2020

Greetings friends,


Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. 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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Freedom From Fearing and Fretting

It is March of 2020, and the entire world is facing the pandemic of the Coronavirus, which has many people fretting about provisions. People are making runs on stores, stockpiling and hoarding toilet paper and food, shelves are becoming empty, and panic is erupting in many countries. 


But as believers who have received eternal provisions purchased at the cross by Jesus, we can be immune to this widespread fear and fretting about provisions. "Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?" (Romans 8:32)

To encourage our hearts toward courage and resting in Christ, let's look to God's Word and consider another situation where the need was high, but the resources seemed meager and what God did about it:

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” John 6:5-7 (NLT) 

It is clear that there is a real lack of provision for this “huge crowd of people.” Phillip’s resounding “we wouldn’t have enough” is the desperate feeling of many people in our world today. The fear of running out of necessities is real, and many are becoming frantic in their effort to store up enough provision to last.

“Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9 (NLT) 

We understand Andrew's lament. He saw the great crowd of people and the available meal for one and thought the situation hopeless.  And when we see the great need in our world, we might find ourselves doubting as well.

But Jesus had a plan. Notice Jesus' first instruction to His disciples as it is highly instructive for us as we seek to serve the needy crowds today:

“Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.” John 6:10 (ESV) 

Sit Down


The word Jesus used, translated here as “sit down,” can also mean to recline, to lay back, even as Jesus sat down and was “reclining at the table” (Matthew 26:20) in the upper room. In other words, Jesus told the disciples (and us) to be still, be calm, sit down, and rest. From this, we can understand that position precedes provision

When needing provision from Jesus, the first thing to do is to sit down and rest (Matthew 11:28-30), but it is harder than it sounds. Hebrews even says that we must strive to enter the rest that Jesus purchased at the cross (Hebrews 4:1-11). So, we start by sitting down.

Now, did you notice what was said about where they were to sit down/lie down? “there was much grass in the place” (John 6:10 ESV). Why is this important? 

Often, when Scripture includes details like this, it is to prompt us to make connections with other verses. In this case, we are reminded of Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…” Psalms 23:1-2 (NIV)

This most famous psalm is a psalm of provision! We learn that when the Lord is our Shepherd, we lack nothing because He provides everything we need. And the first thing He provides is rest: "He makes me lie down in green pastures.

God provides physical rest to be sure, but the real rest for us as believers is found at the cross of Jesus Christ, where Jesus worked hard for three hours to purchase our rest, and then said, "It is finished!

On the cross, Jesus bled for you, paid for your sin, broke the power of sin, and purchased your eternal life. Now, to honor and receive the benefits of Christ's work, you must come, look up to the cross and enter into complete rest. "Now we who have believed (the good news of Christ crucified and risen) enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:3, added comments mine). Put your trust fully in Jesus and what He has done for you on the cross as trusting Him for your eternal life will enable you to trust Him increasingly in your daily life.

For sheep, green pastures mean food! The Shepherd brought the sheep to the pasture and made them lie down in a great abundance of provision. Grass everywhere! 

God provides abundantly for our every need. Where the grocery store's shelves may be empty, God's storehouse is completely full. "There was much grass in that place" (John 6:10). While the world is frantically trying to secure basic necessities, believers are at rest in abundant provision. "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

Plenty For All


"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward, he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, "Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted." John 6:11-12 (NLT) 

This passage tells us three things about the abundant provision of Jesus during this miracle of feeding the multitude:

  1. Jesus gave them plenty.They all ate as much as they wanted. There was food and abundant provision for all.
  2. Jesus filled them full. Everyone was full.” Jesus is no miser, He doesn’t ration His gifts. His death on the cross guarantees He will provide for you, meet your every need, fill you up. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:9-10).
  3. Jesus provided miraculously. There were many leftovers.” In fact, there were more leftovers than there was food at the start. Obviously, Jesus performed a miracle.

If you have been frantic and fretting over issues surrounding the Coronavirus, Jesus invites you to sit down and take a breath. Relax and be calm. Put faith in Jesus’ promise to provide and believe that He can miraculously meet your every need.

Some Practical Instruction

“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” John 6:26-27 (NLT) 

In a world that is clamoring after basic necessities, Jesus sets the correct priorities. “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food” but rather “spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.” 

Here we see Jesus pivot; He moves from the physical to the spiritual, from providing bread and fish to providing His body and blood. 

Every Story Points to the Cross


Jesus instructed His disciples not to be as interested in their physical necessities, but instead to spend their energy seeking eternal realities. Jesus calls us as well to search until we find the spiritual bread - food and drink that lasts. We want to learn how to be nourished spiritually by Christ.

And where do we find this spiritual and eternal food? This is the subject of Jesus’ final teaching:

“So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” John 6:53-55 (NLT) 

The cross of Jesus Christ is a feast for the soul, for there we feed on forgiveness, we satisfy our hearts in being reconciled to the Father, we become full on our freedom from sin purchased by Jesus' blood and death. Yes, at the cross, we receive a new heart, get new hope, and find a new life, and this is called "abundance." "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 ESV). 

Finally, notice an amazing contrast: the beginning portion of John 6 shows a multitude that had come to Jesus, but toward the end of John 6, we read, “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” John 6:66 (NLT) 

As long as Jesus was doing miracles, feeding multitudes, providing for physical needs, multitudes were following Him. But when He pointed to the cross, the people became offended and left. As if they said to Him, "Just give us the food, Jesus. Stop this talk about the cross!" (See Galatians 5:11 to understand the "offense of the cross.")

This shows the proclivity of human beings toward the physical, natural, and carnal. We are born this way - focused on gratifying the lusts of our flesh, living in the physical and natural. It is this base way of living that leads to habitual sin and bondage to sin.

But there is a way to be free! You must push past the natural aversion of your flesh and go to the cross! You must see the blood Jesus shed for you, watch His agony, see His bleeding wounds and His tears, hear His loud cries, and His anguished prayers. And believe that Jesus did it all for you, to free you, cleanse you, forgive you and heal you. "...To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood" (Revelation 1:5).

Yes, at the cross, you will see your sin very clearly, as you watch Jesus enduring your punishment. It might make you sick as you consider your previous way of life, and you might want to leave, like the disciples in Jesus' day did. 

But if you stay at the cross long enough, you will find that your heart, which was broken at the sight of Christ's sufferings, is mended. You will see Jesus' dying love, you will experience His embrace of forgiveness for your every sin, and you will find new hope, new life, and a new purpose. You will feel loved completely. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

"And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed." Isaiah 53:4-5 (NLT) 

Yes, those who experience the miracle of Jesus' feeding with His body and blood will find freedom from habitual sin and healing for their wounded hearts. 

Additionally, having all our needs met through the sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus, we begin to see many opportunities ahead.

Opportunities Abound


“You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 (NLT) 

God is using the Coronavirus to till up the soil of human hearts, to break the crusty ground that was hardened by prosperity and ease, by false gods and comfort. 

Right now, believers have an opportunity of a lifetime. It is time to “show and tell” by showing our love to our neighbors, giving where they lack, providing needs they cannot meet. And we must take the seed of the cross and plant it like never before. We must learn to ask questions, engage people around us, see what their needs are, ask if we can pray for them, and then pray the gospel! “Live the gospel and give the gospel” can be our theme during this time!

Summary:

Believers are not fretting and frantic about our need for provisions. We know to go to God and pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and we see the cross as God’s promise to provide our every need.

Instead of panic, we pray! Instead of fretting, we exercise faith in the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us. We spend our time seeking eternal things rather than temporary, and we view this worldwide crisis as the greatest opportunity of our lifetime. Hearts are being tilled up and made ready for the seed of the cross; we have an unprecedented opportunity to show them Jesus’ love and tell them about the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

Testimonies

Kathy writes, First, I want to thank Joce (Setting Captives Free mentor) for her encouragement and the beautiful prayers, words, and songs she shared with me while I took the A United Front course.

Being a believer for years and going through trials in life and marriage can take a toll on a person.  This course brought me back to the foot of the cross and His cost for me and my husband. And it was a real shake and awake to me; I thought, "Hey! Look in the mirror. You're mad at his sin, but what about your own." I love it when God shows me mercy, and this reminded me that God wants my husband to receive that same mercy!

This course gave me a renewed vision of the love of God, and this made me understand that all those horrible self-righteous ways I had needed to go. Previously, I focused on my husband's sin and minimized my shortcomings; it was quite sobering and good for me to change in this area.

Forgiveness, the language Jesus speaks to me and my husband, is the language of love and mercy. Lord, thank You for calling me to come up higher to the mercy zone! Julie True sings a song called Mercy Triumphs over Judgment, but singing it doesn't mean anything until you apply the truth to your life! I believe I've come up higher to the mercy zone.

I highly recommend this course. It confronts your heart and reminds us of the mercy, love, and forgiveness that you have received through the death and resurrection of Jesus and encourages us to give that out. Jesus wants us to be like Him. The course lays it out but also explains how to walk it out in our marriages. The cool thing is that we can use the principals in this program in all areas of our life.

Thank you so much! A United Front is an amazing study. It really confronts the heart and pushes you forward in genuine forgiveness and a deeper renewed reality of Jesus and His sacrifice."

Eric writes, "I find the teachings in Purity Bootcamp are simple enough to grasp, powerful enough to be effective, and practical enough to be a help. I thoroughly appreciate how God has used His Word in these lessons to show us how to live in freedom. Setting Captives Free has taken the principles of Scripture and appropriately applied them to our specific situation to teach us God's way to fight to win. In hindsight, it is amazing how much God has to say about sexual holiness in His word. It just takes a gifted exegete to bring it out for the rest of us.

I have so appreciated learning how to fight God's way through the Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course. Each lesson built upon itself and kept me centered on the cross of Christ, the power of the Spirit available to me there, and the specific strategy God has for me to be victorious over my habitual sinning.

I remember the time during one of my pastor's sermons when he shared about going to visit a man who was on his deathbed. My pastor asked the man (who was very old) if there was anything that man needed to confess to God, because, he soon would be standing before God, and the man replied, "I've never been freed from my sexual bondage to lust." I remember hearing that back in 2003 and thinking, "Is that going to be me on my deathbed?"
And my life was headed in that direction, but when I arrived at Lesson 20 of this course, I felt I found the key to my life of sexual holiness. I earmarked my journal page about this lesson because this is what purity all comes down to personal desperation + Jesus' sacrifice + prayer = freedom.

The principles of freedom (Washing at the Cross, Walking by the Spirit, Warring against the flesh) are foundational pillars to our understanding of what we must do and how this all works (along with our battle plan), but wrestling with God through prayer, desperately demanding over and over again…that is heavenly. This has to be cultivated in the child of God, for in this grappling with our Lord, His grace is dispensed.

What is clear is that God's people are trapped in slavery by a power that refuses to recognize His sovereignty, and they are set free only through God's saving action. Halleluiah, I am free as long as I have the heart attitude of desperation + recognizing Jesus' all-encompassing sacrifice for me + demanding of God (like Jacob) in prayer = I am truly free forever! What amazing truths! What a blessed joy! I come to You, my Savior, God, I come! Please, won't you join me!

Wasseem, my Setting Captives Free mentor, was very helpful.  When I first enrolled, there were no mentors available. But then a fellow student (Josef) posted on the Purity forum a request to get a mentor because he didn't have one either. He asked and received a mentor, so I followed his lead because I was desperate), and Wasseem took me on as a student. I felt God smiling on me when Wasseem agreed to mentor me. He has been such a blessing to my lessons. He gives such lengthy replies because he saturates his responses with numerous Scriptures. I must say the Setting Captives Free staff trains mentors well. Because of the high volume of students, I know it must be challenging to have enough mentors available, but they are helpful. Purity Bootcamp is spreading like wildfire, so we must pray for more people to take their freedom from sexual sin seriously and go on to become mentors.

I highly recommend this course. I have learned how to fight in this course because these lessons are Gospel-centered. I am not ashamed to thoroughly recommend this course. I've even partnered my church to the website because I believe in it so much." - pastor

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power of the Cross: 123rd Edition, March 22, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 123rd Edition, March 22, 2020


Greetings friends,


Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. 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:

In these trying and troubling times, Setting Captives Free provides daily preaching and teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through many people in our Marco Polo groups. We have groups for men and women. Come and have your faith built up, find courage and boldness in times when others are fearing and fretting. Simply join one of the following groups below with your smartphone:

Men’s Marco Polo Group

Women’s Marco Polo Group

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We also did a special podcast called “The Cross and the Coronavirus” on Friday, which you can find here: https://soundcloud.com/mike-cleveland-583085544/the-cross-and-the-coronavirus

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Freedom From Wrath, and Facing the CoronaVirus

God’s Word provides believers with much instruction, support, and encouragement, which strengthens the faith of all who believe and leads us to the cross of Jesus, where we find both freedom and courage for facing all kinds of trials.

Right now, nearing the end of March 2020, we are experiencing a worldwide pandemic, the CoronaVirus. Every life on this planet will be affected by it, in one way or another.

What to Expect In the CoronaVirus

CoronaVirus

This week, I want to share a passage of Scripture with you that will hopefully give you much encouragement, support as well as instruction on how to face the Coronavirus with faith instead of fear. It shows us how Jesus delivered all believers from God’s wrath and how our union with Christ makes us able to bravely face every fiery trial that comes.


Daniel chapter 3 tells us of three young Hebrews who refused to bow down and worship a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar and faced death in a fiery furnace because of it.


This story is not merely telling us to be strong in the light of persecution, holding fast to our belief in God. No, there is a mystery here to investigate and a secret to reveal.


The Bible tells us that this message of good news, the forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus and His resurrection, is hidden in story form in the Old Testament. It is a secret for discovery and a mystery for revealing.


“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.” Romans 16:25 (NIV)

Another Bible translation says it this way:


“Glory to God who can make you strong in faith by the Good News that I tell people and by the message about Jesus Christ. The message about Christ is the secret that was hidden for long ages past but is now made known.” Romans 16:25 (NCV)


So, let us look into this mystery, to understand this secret that is “now made known.”

Something shocking happens in Daniel 3 after the soldiers cast the three Hebrew young men into the fire: the king looks in and sees not three men, but four, and the fourth one has an amazing appearance:

“And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Daniel 3:23-25 (NKJV)

Imagine the king’s shock when he looked into the furnace and saw a fourth man had joined the other three, and that this new man looked like “the Son of God.” Notice what Nebuchadnezzar did next:

“Then Nebuchadnezzar went to the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out! Servants of the Most High God, come here!" Daniel 3:26 (NCV)

Here we find the clues to understand the "secret." Immediately, we see that right at the worst moment of these three believers' lives, the Son of God, Jesus Himself, came to be with them in the fire and rescue them from it.

The secret of this story is that it points us to the main work of Jesus Christ, that which is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus Christ came to this world to enter the fire of God's wrath for you, taking all your sin with Him to the cross and the grave, to rescue you from both.

CrossofFire

Pause now and look to the cross of Christ. See Jesus enter the fire that you and I deserve. See Him remain in and be consumed in the fire (even as “the Son of God” isn’t shown to have left the fiery furnace of Daniel 3), rescuing you out of it by dying in your place. “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)! Jesus suffered alone in the darkness that fateful day on Golgotha’s hill. He died under the judgment we deserved to rescue us out of the fire of God’s wrath and keep us safe forever.


And yet there is more, and here is where we learn how to face the Coronavirus fearlessly and courageously. Here is how to comfort and encourage children, family members, and any others who may be terrified of the Coronavirus and who desperately need anchoring to the truth of God’s Word.


You see, not only did the Son of God enter the fire of God’s wrath to rescue us at the cross, but He also promises to be with us in every fire we go through now. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us, to be with us in very real and tangible ways when we suffer, and by His presence to prevent our destruction:


“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

The Christian will survive every fiery trial because of the indestructible Son of God, who is with us and in us! Every Christian needs to have their faith bolstered with this powerful promise. Though we must receive a new body through physical death, believers never see death. We will forever be alive with the Lord, for Jesus secured our eternal life through His death and resurrection. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

The believer can be confident in times like this, knowing that during fiery trials, like the Coronavirus we are all facing right now, we can comfort each other with stories like the three Hebrew young men who were rescued by Jesus. We can encourage our hearts by this truth, fully assured that we have absolutely nothing to fear, for Jesus is with us. Jesus once entered the fire of God’s wrath to rescue us, and He now enters our every fire to be with us, strengthen and comfort us:

“who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

The believer has confidence in the Lord and fears nothing, and is able to smile at the future (Proverbs 31:25). He or she looks for opportunities to bless the lives of others, to help and assist where needed, to give even when it hurts. And we can look at the cross and know that we have been rescued from sin’s penalty and power and we will be rescued from all harm, as we dwell at the foot of the cross:

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.” Psalms 91:1-3 (NLT)

At the cross, Jesus saved us from the fiery wrath of God, and even now, He rescues us from sin trap, shields us from deadly diseases, and is with us through every fiery trial. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and raised us with Him out of sin and despair.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms 40:2-3 (NLT)

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, expect to meet Him in the Coronavirus fire, and in many other unexpected places. This is the confidence and assurance that we have. He died for us, He rose for us, He intercedes for us, He is with us in our present trials, and He will soon return for us.

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Testimonies:

Sarah writes, "The Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course has been such an eye-opener for me and my relationship with food and Jesus. I found myself agreeing with everything that was said each day. I'd read a passage and think, "yeah, that's me!" It was as if you knew me and my habits for the last 40 years. I now daily follow the three main principles taught. It has revolutionized my way of thinking, not just about food but my whole life.

I always knew Jesus loved me, but how you have shared the gospel and its relevance to my daily walk with the Spirit has been amazing. I can truly feast on God's word and fill my soul, denying my flesh and lose weight. The simplicity of suffering with Christ by denying the cravings of my flesh is empowering.

I started from a place of desperation, years of trying to follow numerous different paid diets, losing some weight only within a few weeks to have put it all back on. I was full of guilt and shame about my secretive eating and wasteful use of money both in the diet plans and the extra food I bought and ate. I have felt for years that I was in such a cycle of weight gain, guilt, and depression, that there was no way out for me.

I used to blame my past, my emotions, my hormones, my family, and friends, any excuse to justify my overeating. So, to read that overeating was gluttony (sin) horrified me. I initially felt overwhelming guilt and shame until I read that Jesus has set me free from condemnation through his death on the cross. What an amazing release!

Jesus' love for me and His suffering for me has enabled me to lose 10 pounds during the course. I have a long way to go, but my relationship with food has changed radically, my relationship with my husband has dramatically improved, and I am so grateful that my relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit is on a new level. I cannot thank you enough for all your Godly wisdom and support.

This course has been the most life-changing 30 days ever. I definitely recommend it to anyone who, like me, feels trapped in the guilt and shame of overeating."

Steve writes, "Since taking the Purity courses at Setting Captives Free, I have noticed my "desire" to sin is not nearly as strong as it was before. The days and weeks seem to fly by quickly when I'm living in victory. My stress and anxiety levels are WAY down because I'm not worrying all the time about being found out or hiding my sin. It's a freeing feeling when habitual sin is not in the picture.

I do have moments where I feel the "pull" to let it all go and return "like a dog to its vomit," but the Lord has been gracious to me and has given me mercy and strength to sustain my urges and keep my focus on the cross where He bled out for the sin I'm tempted to commit.

My relationship with my wife and children has gotten stronger, and I feel like I love them MORE than I did a year ago! My relationships with others seem to have a new dynamic than previously and are more important to me now.

I've still got a long way to go, but "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Praise God, I've been saved by the blood of the crucified One!!!!"

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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: 122nd Edition, March 15, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 122nd Edition, March 15, 2020


How to experience freedom from sin.


Mark 8:31-35 contains specific instructions that, if anyone will follow, they will be free. Let’s look at the passage together:


“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31 (NIV)


“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)


A leader is not one who points his followers somewhere and says, “go do that,” instead, a leader is one who goes and does something and then makes a case for others to follow.


Like the prophets of old, Jesus’ message was about His upcoming suffering, His rejection, and His death. This message is the central message of Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-6), and it is the message of freedom, love, and power, a shocking, life-changing message to all who believe.


When Jesus spoke about His upcoming rejection, suffering, and death in Mark 8, those listening did not fully understand, but we now know:


  • Jesus suffered by taking on all our sins. He suffered to pardon and forgive us, to purchase us out of sin’s grip and to remove us from the devil’s kingdom.

  • Jesus was rejected at the hands of sinful men, that our Holy God might accept us. Heaven was temporarily closed to Jesus that we might live there forever.

  • Jesus died on the cross, not only to make us right with God and save us from God’s righteous anger at sin but also to break sin’s power in our lives and set us free.


Jesus goes on to rock the world of the disciples even more. Having taught them that He was going to go to the cross, He says three specific things:


“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35 (NIV) 



First, Jesus’ disciple says "no" to self. "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves..." The word "deny" here is to disown or renounce. We are to disown our selves that were in bondage to sin and renounce all involvement with sin. We must lose all identity with sin, and state clearly to all, "That's not me!"  We do this by looking to the terrible, wonderful cross, where Jesus renounced His rights to heaven and died in our place. Seeing Jesus' love for us displayed on the cross, empowers us to renounce our former sinful way of life and follow Him!  


This same word, to “deny” or renounce is the exact same word used when Peter denied Jesus three times in a row (Luke 22:56-60). And so, we understand that we are either denying our own selves or denying Jesus. 


Second, Jesus’ disciple says “yes” to sacrifice. “...and take up their cross...” When we look intently at Jesus bearing His cross, suffering for our wrongs, being beaten and crushed, scourged, and crucified, it affects us deeply. When we know that it was for our sins, and out of love for us that Jesus endured the cross, we gladly grab our cross and carry it. This means that yes, we are now willing to die with Jesus. Can you say it that plainly? Are you ready to die with Jesus? 


Stated another way, are you willing to die to sin? If you look at the cross long enough, you will be! Your heart will be so cut and torn, so healed and made whole that you will gladly, and with passion, lie down on the cross with Jesus and die! You will die to lust in all its forms, to overeating and laziness, to drugs and alcohol, to your pride and arrogance, to self-centered living and demanding your “rights.”


The Christian does not “recover,” He dies and then rises again. Not recovery, but resurrection.


We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). 


Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). 


Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).


Third, Jesus’ disciple says “wherever” to service. “...and follow me.” 



Jesus was speaking here about following Him to the cross, dying there with Him to our entire past life, and rising with Him from the grave in new life. This is the way to be free! 


And when you are free from sinful bondage, through dying and rising again with Jesus, you have all kinds of freedom. Freedom to think entirely different thoughts, freedom from the previous time requirement spent on idols, freedom to develop thoughts of ministry, and freedom actually to minister. Wherever Jesus calls you to go, you are ready to go and serve. You are free, free, indeed!


“Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). 


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Testimonies


Carol writes:  “The principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course are greatly beneficial to my growth as a Christian, and I am desiring Jesus more than ever before and wanting to be changed into His likeness to glorify God now!  Praise Jesus!


I need Jesus daily to help me feast on His Bread that nourishes my soul with everlasting nourishment. Reading the Scriptures daily, I am led by the Holy Spirit to look at Jesus on the cross, dying in my stead, crucified in His sinless flesh for my sins. No longer am I under condemnation for any sins but am now seen as holy and righteous before God the Father as He sees Jesus now in me as I belong to Jesus!  Jesus paid my penalty to set me free from the bondage to my flesh. I am learning through feeding on Jesus to join in His suffering as I deny my flesh and its lusts for food (or anything of this world) to find joy in suffering with Jesus as I await true hunger pangs to eat. When I wait til hungry to eat, I can enjoy whatever God provides for me, giving Him thanks and praise and all of the glory!


I am being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me to see the price that Jesus paid to purchase me for His own and how greatly He loves me, desiring me to be with Him for eternity!  He is preparing me for our wedding feast, and I am finding more hope and peace in Jesus, more rest for my weary soul and strength in Christ to overcome the temptations of my flesh and seeing more and more victories each day!


Food is not consuming my every thought as it used to do, and now Jesus is who I desire to feast upon, learn from, and draw nearer to each day!  I awaken with great joy to read the Word of God and to delight in His everlasting feast prepared for me. As I read each Scripture, I see everything is pointing to Jesus, to the cross, and I am humbled and led to repentance at times by the Holy Spirit.  I am being changed each day as I see my sins crucified with Jesus on the cross and want to please God now, to live to God and no longer as I used to be when I lived to my flesh!


Spiritually, I see a significant change in myself and am finding that food is no longer consuming or controlling my thoughts.  Now, I wait for actual hunger pangs and eat whatever God leads me to eat, which is helpful to me as I am diabetic and overweight.  I thoroughly enjoy what I eat and know that all things are permissible for me to eat, but not all things are helpful to me. The Holy Spirit of God is leading me, and my desire is to please God in all I do.  I am feeding on God's Word daily and looking to Jesus, seeing the cross and feeling the impact of what He did on the cross deeply in my heart, and my love for Jesus has grown tremendously throughout this course.


I find that I awaken and am joyful to get to the lesson of the day, to read the Scriptures, and truly absorb what Jesus did on the cross because of His love for me and the world!  Jesus bore my sins, every one of them in His own sinless body, and was crucified along with every single sin to set me free now from the bondage to my flesh. Jesus has given me a new life to live to God, who now sees me as holy and righteous because He sees Jesus in me!  I am no longer under condemnation for my sins; I can never be accused again or tried for any sin because Jesus Christ bore my sins and suffered greatly in my stead. I now belong to Jesus, and have a new life, set free from sin's bondage and with hope for eternal life to come!


I am humbled by how greatly Jesus loves me and how He gave Himself on the cross for me to have this new life now!  I am overwhelmed with love for Jesus. I am learning to be joyful in my suffering as I deny my flesh daily, waiting for hunger pangs to eat and looking to Jesus for strength to overcome the cravings of my flesh when they occur. I am learning to be victorious over my fleshly lusts and rejoicing in Jesus who loves me so!


I also have lost weight by walking in the Spirit, Who leads me to look to Jesus and to feast on Him instead of feeding those cravings of my flesh as I used to do!  I am being changed day by day into the likeness of Christ and not desiring to please my flesh when it lusts for something as I once did. I don't want to go back to being a slave of my sinful flesh with food or anything else as I learned that these are temporary pleasures and are not going to give me more than momentary satisfaction.  I now know that even if I do fall to a temptation of the flesh, Jesus is there to pick me up; He loves me unconditionally! I want to please God now and not to indulge my flesh as I used to do! Jesus is more than enough for me! He provides strength, rest for my soul, everlasting nourishment, and comfort like no one or nothing else. He supplies my every need, and I am delighting in His Bread daily and feeling fulfilled as never before!  This spiritual journey has been incredible and will continue for the rest of my life on this earth until Jesus comes again to bring me home for eternity!


I have lost about 16 lbs during this course!  Thanks be to God! It is to His glory! I feel more energetic and am seeking greater change within me to turn from any hidden sins as revealed by the Holy Spirit that I may be an example for others.  I want others to see His light in me and desire to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and to receive the gift of salvation and freedom from sin's bondage as we have been blessed by God's grace to receive!


Oh, we have hope for eternal life to come and I am praising Jesus daily and will seek more knowledge of God's truths each day as I continue to read the Word of God and look to the cross and Jesus and let His truths be embedded deeper into my heart and soul for eternity!  Praise God!


I also pray to be used as God so desires according to His perfect will for me and to please Him in what I say and do, not to be a hearer of the word only but a doer to the glory of God!  Thank You for this course and for sharing God's Word, His truth with me, and all who are blessed to journey through these lessons towards Jesus, who loves us so very much! Praise Jesus!


To anyone contemplating taking this course, I would say that it is highly beneficial to not only weight loss guidance but also to spiritual growth. Jesus Christ loves us and died for us to be set free from the bondage to our flesh, with food or any other so-called promised pleasures of the world.  Food for our physical body is a temporary satisfaction. Jesus is eternal satisfaction for our very souls! This course helps you grow closer to Jesus, and as a result of reading the Scriptures, we have weight loss and with great joy! Praise Jesus! Thank You, Lord, for this course and for drawing me closer to You, who loves me as I am. You are working in me to change me more and more into the likeness of Jesus!  This course is life-changing!”


Douglas writes, "Through doing the Purity Boot Camp course, I have come closer to the suffering Christ and come to understand what He went through to set me free from my sins. I have developed a habit of kneeling before the cross daily and being washed by the blood that Jesus shed for me.


I am living in the Spirit daily and find myself turning to Him often during my day asking for direction when I am not sure of what to do. Through doing this course, I have overcome temptations toward sexual immorality, something that I could never do before. It is great to know that Jesus has given me the power to say no to sin and yes to walking in the Spirit.


Doing this course has been a life-changing experience for me. The purity Bootcamp course was exactly what I needed. I have gone to the cross daily, I walk with the Spirit and am so excited about the relationship with Him that is growing daily.


On the occasions that I have been tempted in the past month, I have turned to Jesus on the cross and have overcome the temptation. I am so excited to continue on this journey. Thank you for this wonderful course that has set me free and changed my life.


I recommend the course because it is life-changing. I have recommended it to five other people who have started the 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: 121st Edition, March 8, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 121st Edition, March 8, 2020


Greetings friends,


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


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Announcement: Yuri from Russia has now completed the full translation of the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course into Russian. Yuri has lost more than 35 pounds applying the Biblical principles taught in the course and we thank him for making this course available to all Russian speaking and reading people. You can see the course here: https://settingcaptivesfree.com/course/CB 


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Teaching:


This week, we have a wonderful teaching video for you from one of Setting Captives Free’s mentors, Lennart. He is responding to our men’s Marco Polo weekly teaching, sent every Monday. Here is the teaching: https://vimeo.com/396232954.


If you are a male and would like to join the Setting Captives Free Men’s Marco Polo group where Lennart shares weekly, simply go to this link from your smartphone: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/KbWmNaRtHIh4/3-scf-mens-group


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Testimonies:


Maria writes, "I found the A United Front course at a difficult time in my marriage. About six months before beginning it, I found out my husband was viewing pornography regularly and battling with lust. The first few days and weeks were volatile and awful as a wide range of emotions swept over us. Slowly, as we looked to the Lord together, we both began a journey of hope and healing. However, about five months in, my husband had what would be considered a "relapse," and I fell into deep despair. I felt just numb like I didn't even care anymore. Soon after, I began this course.


This course was so helpful for me because, in my time of crying out to God and feeling so alone, these lessons helped me turn my eyes to Jesus. Over and over again, this course pointed me toward Jesus and the cross. I was reminded that Jesus is enough, the cross is all-sufficient, and that Jesus is interceding for me and loving me. This course also encouraged me to continue in prayer for my husband and to fight alongside him. I'm learning what a joy and privilege it is to be a United Front alongside my husband.


The A United Front course is incredible at pointing spouses to Jesus and the cross and giving them tools to fight alongside their spouse. It is an excellent tool to guide your devotional time and keep you looking at Jesus instead of your problems."


Marylou writes, "The Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course taught me the gospel better than any other study or conversation I have ever had. I absolutely recommend it to anyone struggling with sin. I believe anyone struggling with any sin could the biblical principles taught in this course to their lives and glean freedom from it!


For me, this course taught me to embrace suffering with Christ and to, most incredibly, enjoy it. Because to suffer with Christ is to humble myself, and when I humble myself, His Spirit always brings to me the feet of my loving, gracious, compassionate Father, Jesus Christ.


Once I am there, the most amazing things happen! Suddenly, my love for self dies, my love for things of this world (a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything I see, and pride in my possessions and accomplishments 1 John 2:16 NLT) dies, and my love for Jesus grows. And through this love, I am able to keep in step with the Spirit leading my life, and as I do, I experience freedom! True freedom!!!


My mentor was Colleen. She was incredibly helpful. I appreciate her honesty, gentleness, her obvious LOVE of Jesus, her wisdom, and especially her thoughtful, heartfelt prayers. I have learned more than I ever thought possible.


If you are truly ready to give your life to God (in word and action), then all I can say to you is this: you are about to be set free, my friend! And I am so excited for you!! God is doing great things!"


Aaron writes, "I had taken the Setting Captives Free 1.0 courses in the past, but like so many others, I found out that radical amputation and abstaining built up my pride. And my pride led to a fall back into sexual sin. I came back to the new Setting Captives Free 2.0 last year.


The most significant discovery to me in the new course was the revelation of how I was not cherishing Jesus Christ. I thought I was, but after going through the Purity courses, I found out I was not.


I intentionally took my time going through each lesson because I wanted to hear from God and have Him transform my heart from selfish, prideful, and arrogant to one that reflects His love. So, the most significant change I have seen in my life since taking this course is an ever-growing dependence upon God's grace to keep me away from sin and in the love of Christ.


Another big thing I learned is love. Previously I had not taken the time to focus on the gospel every day. The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is about His love for sinners like me. When I take the time to not rush through this part of my day, it is a chain-breaking experience.


For me, a lot of my Christian life and experience was all about obedience and growing, but I was failing in both, and now I know why. I never drank deeply at the cross. We need to receive the revelation that Jesus loves us to the uttermost every day. When I bask in all the details of Jesus’ love and sacrifice, then all my temptations melt away. I need to grow more in this area, but I know the Lord will help me.


I recommend this course to others because it is the only course where you will find out how to use the gospel to get free from the grip of sin and leave it behind."


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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: 120th Edition, March 1, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 120th Edition, March 1, 2020


Greetings friends,


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


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Teaching:


This week we have the privilege of hearing from one of Setting Captives Free mentors, who has translated our courses into Russian. Yuri is a great recipient of the power, freedom and love that the cross of Jesus Christ provides, and it shows in everything he says and does.


Here is a teaching that Yuri gave to the Setting Captives Free mentors on our Flock group:


“Greetings, my beloved and precious brothers and sisters!


We are not pioneers in the faith of Christ, so it is written to us: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ {is} the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.” (Hebrews 13:7-9)


Previous generations of Christians, thanks to the firmness of their faith, were able to convey to us the true Teachings of Jesus Christ. It was they who laid down their lives for Holiness, for faith, for the gospel. Thanks to them, we now have the Holy Scripture, and we have it in our own or at least in languages that we understand.


If earlier Satan deprived people of the opportunity to have the Bible in a language they understand, today in countries that are safe for Christians, Satan simply distorts the Bible. If earlier everyone could not interpret the Scripture, then today even those who have not read the entire Bible once, and even those who are not related to the Church, including the enemies of the Church and Christ, take up this task.


The freedom to interpret Scripture is a great privilege of modern Christians, but it requires learning: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude1:3,4)


Satan is well aware that learned Christians are the guides of Truth to this world: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. {We are} destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and {we are} taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Preaching the gospel in word and deed turns people's thinking, and the kingdom of darkness in their minds and hearts cannot stand. But all that Satan has built up in the minds and hearts of people, all this is broken by the power of the gospel!


The focus of the gospel is not talking about the good, about the Church, about the existence of God, about the Bible and other Christian and near-Christian topics, but the focus and Foundation of the gospel is the Cross of Jesus Christ, where our salvation was accomplished. There was sacrificed “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). When we come to the Cross of Christ and look at the Crucified Christ, there is no desire to pervert His Teaching, to seek advantage, and to turn the grace of God into an excuse for debauchery. At the cross, the madness of this world ceases, wanting to use our flesh against God: “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.{Act} as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but {use it} as bondslaves of God.” (1 Peter 2:15,16)


Do not go on about errors, do not believe the deception of Satan one iota, do not compromise the principles of Holiness and loyalty to God.“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16). The world attacks us with an abundance of information and teachings, even in the Church, but “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.” (1 John 5:4). Faith in Jesus Christ, “11 For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”(Romans 10:11)”


Testimonies:


Patrick writes, "Before taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I knew that Jesus had forgiven my sins, but I didn't feel as a forgiven person should. I had shame and despair. I was set free, but I needed to walk out of the jail cell.


When I was in bondage to sin, I kept on thinking "What did I do that caused this sin?" thinking that maybe getting to bed at the wrong time or other unrelated reasons were the cause. I now know that my shame and bitterness were holding me back.


In this course, I learned that I needed to replace my old sinful lifestyle with a new one where I deny myself. One of the mistakes I used to make was thinking that if I surrendered once, I had lost completely and might as well give up again. But now I know that Christ has already won the battle. In the past, I was surrendering to the losing side, but not anymore.


With the help of God and Setting Captives Free, I have been set free. I encourage others to take this course and have their heart changed and be set free from the shame of their past.


Halle writes, "Since taking the Purity Boot Camp course, I haven't been acting on my sinful thoughts or feelings. I am learning to see myself as Jesus sees me and not how I see myself. I'm not so quick to be negative all the time or hard on myself.


I've also learned to discipline myself in certain areas that I never did before. I've learned how to rely on Jesus's strength instead of my own. I've learned to turn to Jesus instead of trying to figure things out on my own.


I've learned that with Jesus, I can have the victory! I've learned how to wash at the cross and the importance of continuing to do it. I am cleansed and purified because of washing at the cross. I been warring against my flesh more and not giving in to it. I have been walking in the Spirit more and implementing my battle plan, which is helping me to win the war against my flesh.


I pray and talk to Jesus a lot more now. I've been working on not rejecting or pushing people away but instead learning how I can trust and let people who care about me love me.


I've learned that my identity is in Jesus, and my sin isn't who I am. My past doesn't define me; Jesus does. I've learned how to humble myself and let people help me and be there for me instead of doing everything and going through and dealing with things on my own.


If you are struggling with impurity, I recommend that you take this course. When I started the course, I did think it was going to help or that I would learn anything, but after doing this course and just taking it one day at a time, it really helped me to make progress and experience significant changes in my life. If it can help me, then it will help you too. This course taught me so much, and I learned more than what I thought I ever could or would."


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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: 119th Edition, February 23, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 119th Edition, February 23, 2020


Greetings friends,


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


----------


Teaching:


At Setting Captives Free, we proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only method of true freedom from sinful bondage. The Bible contains serious warnings about error and tells us how Satan wants to invade the church with it. Our enemy does this sometimes through blatant false teaching and other times by twisting the Word of God slightly. Our enemy is devious. We must guard our hearts and minds against his methods, or we will remain in bondage to sin.


Notice how Paul pulls the curtain back on Satan, exposing what our enemy is trying to do to us:


"For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed." 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 (NLT)


Paul's heart burned when he wrote this passage, for he saw people who had been espoused to Christ now listening to the serpent. The Corinthians "put up with" whatever anyone told them. They listened to the Bible but also the devil, to God but also false teachers, etc.


In this passage, I see four main things that Satan wants to do in the church.


  1. Cause us to be spiritual adulterers. "I promised you as a pure bride to one Husband." We are pledged to Christ, engaged to Him, and devoted to Him, but Satan wants us to look for another husband and commit adultery with the world through its' teaching.

  2. Corrupt and divide our pure devotion to Christ. "But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted…" People are devoted to whoever changes their lives, transforms them, save their marriages, gets them sober, etc. One thing you find within 12-step groups is devotion to the group and/or organization.

  3. Deceive us. "... just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent." The devil transforms himself into an angel of light, a worker of good, a herald of truth that helps people get sober, lose weight, and be in recovery. One of the ways he carries out this deception is through the dividing of justification and sanctification. He is perfectly fine if people limit the message of the cross to only that which removes the vertical alienation, as long as they put their trust elsewhere to be free from unwanted behaviors.

  4. Proclaim a different gospel and a different spirit. "You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed."


Oh, friend, we must categorically reject any teaching not centered on the message of the cross, instruction that does not give us resurrection power to be free from sin. We must turn from all counsel that leaves us "in recovery" for years or the rest of our lives, and instead, embrace the resurrection power of Jesus Christ that transforms our hearts and every area of our lives. Freedom comes as we view the cross and our hearts are cut, crushed and comforted, and we are raised up from sin in resurrection power. The world and its teachings have none of this.


"I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come." Ephesians 1:19-21 (NLT) 


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Andy writes, "Of all the principles taught in the Purity Boot Camp course, washing at the cross stands out the most for me. Previously, I had not considered the necessity of coming and washing (looking at the cross) to be reminded of Christ's sacrifice for me. The result is that I will have a greater love for Christ and will lead to walking in the Spirit and warring against my flesh. Very helpful!


Sometimes on this walk, we can get dusty on this journey, and we need to be reminded that there is a place to wash and be renewed. It is at the foot of the cross, seeing Jesus.


This course has been a great encouragement to my walk with Christ. I needed refreshment in Him.


I encourage everyone to take this course, to sit long at the foot of the cross until they feel His precious blood flowing over them, cleansing them from their sin. This inside out way of the cross truly works! First, our heart is cleansed, and then the wonderful freedom of Christ flows out to the rest of our lives!"


Aaron writes, "I had taken the Setting Captives Free 1.0 courses in the past, but like so many others, I found out that radical amputation and abstaining built up my pride. And my pride led to a fall back into sexual sin. I came back to the new Setting Captives Free 2.0 last year.


The most significant discovery to me in the new course was the revelation of how I was not cherishing Jesus Christ. I thought I was, but after going through the Purity courses, I found out I was not.


I intentionally took my time going through each lesson because I wanted to hear from God and have Him transform my heart from selfish, prideful, and arrogant to one that reflects His love. So, the most significant change I have seen in my life since taking this course is an ever-growing dependence upon God's grace to keep me away from sin and in the love of Christ.


Another big thing I learned is love. Previously I had not taken the time to focus on the gospel every day. The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is about His love for sinners like me. When I take the time to not rush through this part of my day, it is a chain-breaking experience.


For me, a lot of my Christian life and experience was all about obedience and growing, but I was failing in both, and now I know why. I never drank deeply at the cross. We need to receive the revelation that Jesus loves us to the uttermost every day. When I bask in all the details of Jesus’ love and sacrifice, then all my temptations melt away. I need to grow more in this area, but I know the Lord will help me.


I recommend this course to others because it is the only course where you will find out how to use the gospel to get free from the grip of sin and leave it behind."


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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: 118th Edition, February 16th, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 118th Edition, February 16th, 2020



Greetings friends,


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


----------


Teaching:


The cross of Jesus Christ sets us free from sin, both the penalty of it and the power of it. In previous newsletters, we've considered Luke 24 and saw that the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' dead body were "looking for the living among the dead" (Luke 24:5), and the reason was that they had forgotten the gospel. They forgot what Jesus said, that He would be handed over to sinful men, crucified, and then raised on the third day.


We saw that we, too, can find ourselves looking for life among dead things (overeating food, involved with sexual impurity, drunkenness, drugs, or any kind of fleshly living) when we forget the gospel. To live in freedom, we must remember that Jesus suffered for our sins, died our death, and rose in victory. It's of first importance:


"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)


Today, we want to finish our study of Luke 24, seeing that there is a method of interpreting the Bible, which would have prevented the disciples of Jesus from becoming discouraged, overwhelmed, and confused. Likewise, this method of interpreting the Bible keeps us from sinful bondage, overwhelming discouragement, and confusion about things that happen in our lives.


Let's see it together:


In Luke 24, two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus, and Jesus comes up to walk alongside them. But they don't recognize Him, in fact, "their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).


Jesus asks what they are discussing, and they explain their confusion and discouragement about Jesus, who they thought was going to redeem Israel, but was instead, crucified on a cross. In response, Jesus refers them back to the Scriptures, asks an important question, and then teaches them how to study their Bibles:


"Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:26-27 (ESV)


Had these two disciples understood the gospel, that Jesus “had to suffer these things" (the cross) and "then enter His glory" (resurrection and ascension), they would not have been confused and discouraged. They would have understood that Jesus, through death, was indeed redeeming them - purchasing their freedom from sin, and then rising to conquer death and the grave for them.


Now notice what had to happen for these two disciples to understand Scripture correctly.


"When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight." Luke 24:30-31 (ESV)


For us, or anyone, to understand the Bible rightly, we must have our eyes opened to recognize Jesus in all of Scripture, and specifically, His sufferings and glories (His death and resurrection).


To help them (and us) understand, Jesus gave them an object lesson. They were walking along, looking right at Jesus, but they didn't recognize Him. This was a picture of how they had been reading their Bibles. They were looking right at the pages of Scripture, but not seeing Jesus in all their reading, not recognizing the message of most importance: the death of Jesus for sins, His resurrection in power. And consequently, they were discouraged, overwhelmed, and confused.


Oh friend, let's learn the lesson! Let's ask God to open our minds to understand the Scriptures rightly, that is, to see Jesus and His suffering on our behalf, to see Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, and to rejoice in that message so much that our hearts burn with love for Him.


"They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 24:32 (ESV)


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Testimonies:


Annette writes, "The principles in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course are useful in ALL areas of my life, not just weight loss. This course has been a great blessing to me. I have lost 12 pounds so far, and I know that the rest of my excessive weight will eventually melt away. I don't think that I will ever see food the same way again. Now, I desire to listen to my body. My hunger pangs will help me determine when to eat. I will NO longer be enslaved to food. What a great feeling! Thank you, Jesus!"


Ann writes, "I started the Purity courses at Setting Captives Free because they were recommended to me for a family member that is bound by pornography and because I work with the youth in my church. I thought I was going through the courses for others, instead of myself, but praise God, He had a different plan, a plan to show me again the complete forgiveness I have in Him.


I have been married and divorced twice. My first marriage ended because I was living for myself and looking for happiness in others instead of Jesus. I expected my husband to fulfill me, and when he didn't, I sought another. The second marriage was worse than the first; I lived with the consequences of my sin for 20 years until that marriage too ended in divorce.


I trusted Jesus when I was a child, and I am convinced that even in my sins and failures, He never abandoned me, but I was stuck in the shame and regret of my past - my unfaithfulness not only to my first husband but also to my Lord Jesus. I knew I was forgiven but felt like a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God because of my failures.


Washing at the cross and seeing the completeness of Christ's death and burial, which covers and takes away all my sin has been transformational for me. His Resurrection power to give me a new life in Him has been sealed in my heart as I continue to walk daily by His Spirit. The joy of my salvation has been restored, and I long to share Jesus with others. I now look for opportunities to tell others about Him instead of shrinking back because of my own 'stained" testimony.


Praise God for this Bible study and God's mighty redemptive plan. I realized the unfathomable grace of Christ Jesus in saving me at seven years old, and His faithful love that kept me all through my years of rebellion and hypocrisy. His overwhelming love fills my heart and continues to work change in my heart, my mind. I still struggle and fall short, but this I now know - forgetting what lies behind I press on toward the prize of the upward call of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is my Rock, my Deliverer, my Redeemer, my best Friend. He provides all my needs according to His riches in glory, and He makes me whole. What a Savior! Hallelujah! I know what I deserved, but Jesus paid the price for me, and I now am Free Indeed!!!


The principles of washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit and warring against the flesh are something that every person lost or saved needs to hear. Jesus is the Way of freedom through His shed blood on the cross. His death took away all our sins, and His Resurrection power gives us the new life, the power to overcome sin moving forward in Him. These principles are precious and powerful for all people.


Stay the course! If you want freedom from your old way of life, come see Jesus for who He is through this teaching through His word and be set Free!"


----------


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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 117th Edition, February 9th, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 117th Edition, February 9th, 2020


Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

This week, we have the great privilege of sharing with you a lesson from a new devotional course that will be added to Setting Captives Free later this year, Lord willing. It is a course to help with anxiety and fear, written by one of our mentors, Joce Gordon. This is a powerful writing, and we know you will be greatly encouraged and challenged by reading and studying through it.


Jesus was Denied at the Cross to Bring Us Restoration

“Then seizing him [Jesus] they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” …  “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 “saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke 22: 54-62; 24:32-34 [word in bracket added]

In the Gospels of the Bible, we follow the journey of Jesus’ self-confident, senior disciple, Simon Peter, as his fearful heart became established by the grace of God (Hebrews 13:9).

With the time of His crucifixion approaching, Jesus called on Peter to support Him in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:26-35; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1-11). Numerous times, Jesus found Peter soundly asleep in this time of vigil, unable to maintain watchfulness over His Lord nor over himself. Jesus exhorted him:

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Not long after this exchange, Judas Iscariot led chief priests, officers of the temple guard, and elders to the garden and handed Jesus into their hands (Luke 22:47-53). After being arrested, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas to be tried, while Peter followed from a safe distance (Luke 22:54).

In a few short minutes, the foundation of Peter’s life appeared to have fallen out from beneath him, as he stumbled in shock along the road after His Lord. He could not comprehend the actions of Judas, a former friend, and disciple, silently pronouncing that Jesus was a criminal, enemy, and threat to society, and then His gracious and loving Lord stepping forward in submission to His captors to be bound by ropes and chains.

Fear and the words of previous conversations with Jesus would have certainly swirled together in his confused mind. There was his faithful claim of “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16), along with his presumptuous boast of: “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” (Luke 22:33). Before meeting in the garden, Jesus had even warned Peter that he would soon be sifted and tested by Satan (Luke 22:31) and that he would make repeated denials about Christ (Luke 22:34).

We surely have also experienced similar times of upheaval where nothing in our circumstances seemed to make sense and our hearts became vulnerable to fearful temptations with poor decision-making. Anxious uncertainty about our ‘seen’ circumstances then fuelled explosions of fear in our minds. We learn from scripture and from the story of Peter, that every detail of our lives, whether good or evil, are already known and held in the hands of our sovereign and loving God, each one working together for our good and God’s glory (Proverbs 16:19; Romans 8:28).

With his eyes drawn to the details of the spectacle of Jesus’ apparent downfall, an unsteady Peter sat down and warmed his hands before a communal fire in the courtyard of Annas’ house while Jesus was cruelly interrogated. He spent time listening to the words of unbelievers and accusers (Luke 22:55), his fear being kindled by their unbelief and discontent.

Then “looking closely at him” (Luke 22:56), Peter was questioned by three people nearby (Luke 22:56-60) as to the truth of his relationship with Christ, being intimidated even by an inquiry from a young servant girl. Fear of man rose in Peter’s heart overturning his reverential fear of God. He denied His Lord repeatedly and forgot the hope of safety in believing the work of Christ:

“The Lord of hosts - "regard Him as holy and honor His holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety], and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread [lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him].” Isaiah 8:13 AMPC

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said:
“I do not know him [Jesus].” (Luke 22:57) [word added in brackets], disowning Him as the Son of God and abandoning dependence on Jesus.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are restored by God’s truth:
“This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. 10 This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins.”1 John 4:9-10 NCV

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said: “I am not.” (Luke 22:59), denying his identity of being a disciple of Jesus and losing his way.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are strengthened by God’s truth:
“I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore—it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me.” Galatians 2:20 NCV

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said: “I do not know what you are talking about.” (Luke 22:60), distancing himself from others, and lacking in love and grace.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are enlightened by God’s truth:
“Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds. 25 You were like sheep that wandered away, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25 NCV

Peter fell into weeping despair and was cut to his heart when he heard the rooster crow. Jesus, even from His position of captivity and suffering, remembered Peter and looked over to his beloved disciple. A look that did not disregard Peter’s sin but forgave, a look that grieved with him but loved, a look that understood his crippling sorrow of guilt and raised him up from a pit of shame:

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62

“He[Jesus]  was despised and rejected by mankind,…Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem… yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted…. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?” (Isaiah 53:33,34,38) [word added in brackets].

Friends, do you see this same look from Jesus hanging at the cross for you? Look up now and behold the demonstration of His heart-breaking and heart-restoring love for you.

Jesus, who had “done nothing to deserve death” (Luke 23:15), was disowned and repudiated, being condemned to death by crucifixion. The body of the holy Son of God was strung up to a wooden pole and nailed through His limbs. Jesus was denied fresh water at the cross but in its place, He thirsted for us in love to give us eternal fountains of living water to quench our spiritual cravings: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14).

He was denied His clothing and hung exposed so that we would receive His covering of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was denied food during His captivity and crucifixion but Jesus willingly offered His broken body as a sacrifice to fill us with deep spiritual satisfaction: “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26). He was denied health through atrocious beatings and piercings from long thorns and rusty nails, each open wound given up for our healing (Isaiah 53:5). He was denied a word of companionship but kept loving us and the crucified criminal beside Him with these words; "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."(Luke 23:43).

He was denied peace at Calvary so He could take on our slave master, Satan, and trade His life for the death that Satan craved above all else ( 2 Timothy 1:10). Jesus was denied the love of His precious Father and disowned by His heavenly family so the wrath of the Father for our unholy sin would be spent on Him alone and we would become God’s adopted sons and daughters (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Jesus was denied every drop of His own life-giving blood so that we may worship Him in thanksgiving: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28).

Peter was wholly restored and became the Rock of the Christian Church, as we read of the disciples’ shouts of joy: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke 24:34. Friends, see that Jesus was turned away at the cross so that, by His loving-kindness, we are turned back to Him with new hearts, spilling over in His forgiving and courageous love.

“I am the Lord your God; I strengthen you and tell you, ‘Do not be afraid; I will help you.’”14 The Lord says, “Small and weak as you are, Israel, don't be afraid; I will help you. I, the holy God of Israel, am the one who saves you.” Isaiah 41:13-14 GNT

Applying the Gospel
As we turn away from our fear and in faith view the cross, we see and believe what Jesus accomplished there is for us, as was seen in the look that Peter received from Jesus. A look that promised all the New Covenant blessings of the cross.

When we are stumbling in fear into our retreats of self-protection which are built on the shifting sands of our flesh, we may be tempted to ‘warm our hands’, as Peter did in the courtyard, in particular, places or with certain people or in specific self-conversations that increase the desires of our flesh to hold onto fear. Can you identify these, distancing yourself from these temptations, looking to Jesus’ obedience?

Instead, rely on Jesus’ unshakable protection, and see Him holding the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith in front of us, defending us from harm from all sides in His refuge that is lined with His powerful cleansing blood He died to give you.

Question 1: “For the desires of the flesh [taking refuge in fear] are against the Spirit [taking refuge in Christ], and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” [Galatians 5:17) [words in brackets added]. Applying this verse to your own life, how has fear affected your spiritual life?

Question 2: At the cross, Jesus was disowned so we could be restored. What does this holy exchange mean to you personally today?


Testimony:

Samuel writes,
"The principles in the Purity Boot Camp course are extremely helpful to me and my walk with Christ. I wake up every morning and thank God for Washing me at the cross today. I try to keep my sights set on Jesus and walk by the Spirit so I can fight my flesh when I am tempted knowing that I don't have to rely on my strength but have God's strength. Jesus has already won the battle for me!

There has been a complete softening of my heart after completing these lessons. I'm grieved for those I have hurt by my sin and moved to tears to know that God loves me and wants a relationship with me. Jesus bore my sins in His body on the cross; He paid my sin debt. His love overwhelms me.

I have learned wash at the cross, walk by the spirit and war against my flesh. It has that been a humbling experience to reinforce how weak I am without God that I need to stay connected to Him.

God has given me a battle plan that I have implemented. Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," and so I start and end my day with Jesus. I stay connected to Him through prayer and reading His word. I stay focused on what Jesus has done for me; all I have to offer God is a broken spirit and a life that I want him to mold for His glory.

Since taking this course, I now understand how much I need to rely on God and His strength and power. The more I'm getting to know God, the deeper I want to love Him and be more like His son Jesus. This course has been life-changing. I thank God for opening my eyes and don't want them closed again
.”

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 116th Edition, February 2nd, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 116th Edition, February 2nd, 2020


Greetings friends,

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

----------


Teaching: How To Live In Ongoing Freedom


To experience the power of God, and find lasting freedom from any and all habit patterns of sin, requires remembering and focusing on the cross and resurrection of Jesus.


In this week’s teaching, I want us to look at a story in the Bible that illustrates this point. Let’s read it together:


“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.” Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)


These women loved Jesus and were taking spices with them to His tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body. It was common practice in those days, the purpose of which was to minimize the stench of the dead body.


But as these women got to the tomb of Jesus, three surprising things happened. 1) The stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, 2) the body of Jesus was missing, and 3) two men (angels) suddenly appeared to the women.


Note: when you are looking for Jesus, expect there to be surprises waiting for you and occurrences you can’t explain. He meets you in unexpected ways.


These two angel-messengers of God ask the women a very important question, and then state an essential truth: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!


Pause and ponder the question that the angels asked the women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” And then consider this question: what does it have to do with our freedom?


The angel-messengers give us a clue why these women were looking for the living among the dead: “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.


These women went to the tomb because they had forgotten Jesus’ words to them. They had forgotten the message He told them, and so they were looking for the living among the dead. And what was the message that Jesus told them earlier?


It was the message of the entire Bible, the focal point of every Scripture: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.


These women had forgotten the gospel! They had forgotten that Jesus would die for their sin and rise again for their salvation. They had forgotten Jesus’ words that He would give them life through His death, provide freedom through the cross, and of His upcoming resurrection in power.


And so because they lost their focus and forgot this message, they were looking for the living among the dead.


Friend, consider this: when we get distracted, upset, anxious, bored, etc. and turn to food, alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, or anything else, we are trying to find more life! We want to be comforted, to be filled up, to experience a thrill, to get a rush - to find life! And yet in doing so, we are looking for life among dead things. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?


And why do we look for the living among the dead? We, like the women in this story, may not know the power of the gospel, or may have forgotten the gospel! We may have forgotten the message of the cross and resurrection of Jesus! “But whoever does not have them (the qualities of Christ) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins” (2 Peter 1:9).


Note: when we forget the cleansing power of the cross, we stop growing in Christlike qualities.


And so what is the antidote? What will keep us from looking for life among the dead? It is to remember the gospel again! “Then they remembered his words” (Luke 24:8).


Oh, friend, remember this good news today and focus on it! Remember that Jesus climbed the hill of Calvary with your sin on His back, that He was then pierced for your transgressions and crushed for your iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), as He took your place and your punishment. “...the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).


Look at the cross and see Jesus enduring separation from His Father (Matthew 27:46), being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13), being baptized in God’s wrath (Luke 12:50), so that you would be accepted by God, united to God, and blessed by God!


As you look there, once again, let it break your heart and cause you to mourn (see Amos 8:10). “Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:9-10).


Let the message of this One who gave up His last drop of blood and His last breath of air for you, pierce and wound you, hurt and humble you, even as it did Peter when he remembered the words Jesus spoke to Him: “Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).


But don’t stop there! Keep looking! Look long enough that your broken heart begins to mend! Look until your hurting heart becomes healed (Isaiah 61:1)! Let the dawning realization that Jesus’ death in your place was because of His overwhelming love for you! Let the knowledge that He loved you unto death raise you, encourage you, mend you, bless you, and satisfy you. Let the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day raise you as well. Let it lift you to heaven, where your new heart and new life will soar with Jesus! “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).


Keep looking, keep remembering! Look until you begin to rejoice that you are pardoned. “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Look at the cross and remember that Jesus’ death set you free: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).Look at the cross, and remember the message until you sing, worship, dance, shout, praise, and laugh. For you are accepted in Jesus (Ephesians 1:6), you are holy and righteous and pure and spotless because Jesus removed your sin, your guilt, and your shame (Hebrews 10:10-14).


Look at the cross, and remember the message until you sing, worship, dance, shout, praise, and laugh. For you are accepted in Jesus (Ephesians 1:6), you are holy and righteous and pure and spotless because Jesus removed your sin, your guilt, and your shame (Hebrews 10:10-14). Let this powerful message sink deeply into your heart, so that you see yourself now as right with God, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, spotless as the Lamb of God Himself with no blemish and free from all accusation (Colossians 1:22-23). Find your identity in Jesus, not in your past sin. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).


Friend, if you look at the cross and resurrection of Jesus often enough, if you remember the words of Jesus, the message of forgiveness and pardon and rescue and redemption, it will keep you from looking for the living among the dead, preventing you from looking for life among dead things.

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Testimony:


Anna writes, I found this course in February 2018. At that time, I was busy with a betrayal trauma support group, so I decided I didn't need this material. Fast forward to Dec. 2019, and in pain and anger, I said to my husband, "There is no way out of this for me. I will be trapped in this pain forever. You should have thought this through and thought about me before deciding to go down this path. There is no healing from this. I just have to learn to survive it and live the rest of my life in pain." That is where I was when I started A United Front 30 days ago. I was angry, bitter, and filled with hate. I was lost in my pain and was losing hope of it ever getting better.


I learned through this course that I was focusing on the wrong thing - my pain. My focus needed to be where true hope and healing are found - Jesus Christ. I started this course with a huge weight. Little by little, the beauty of Christ and His work on the cross was revealed to me. I was learning how I betrayed Christ, and how He loved me so much He rescued me. I was learning lessons on forgiveness, humility, patience, and taking my thoughts captive. There were so many practical and powerful lessons. At each stop on the way, I was able to drop a little bit of the pain I was feeling. Each day the weight was getting lighter and lighter as I was learning the truth of Jesus Christ and who I was in Him. I was able to see myself and my husband accurately. I was no longer the "good one," and he the "bad one." We were both sinners in a battle fighting together for our marriage. And I can clearly see my husband is not my enemy.


Thirty days ago, I started this course a bitter, angry woman being crushed under the weight of pain, but I'm leaving this course a kinder, more compassionate woman filled with the love and hope of Christ. My husband said it best the other day when he said, "it's so nice to see you smile and laugh again."


Yes, I recommend this course. If you are considering this course, please know that hope is not lost. This course will help. I had tried trauma groups, counseling, and was no better off, but the Gospel is powerful and life-changing. Who better to go to for help and healing than the One who created you."


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



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power of the Cross

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 115th Edition, January 26, 2020


Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:


How To Find Ongoing Freedom From Sin At The Cross


Many in the church today believe that the message of the cross is merely for salvation, and then once we’re saved, we should move on to “deeper teachings.” In limiting the message of the cross to only “the salvation message,” many are left in immaturity, struggling to overcome sin without the power or resources to do so.


The message of the cross is not merely the salvation message, it is also the sanctification message (Galatians 3:1-6) for us who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18), and the stabilization message (Romans 16:25).


So, how do we find ongoing freedom from sin at the cross? The same way we were initially saved - by seeing the cross and believing its message and turning from sin to Jesus, the Lord.


“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)


Let’s read the following passage, an exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus, and see the results of believing the message of the cross:


“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Matthew 21:42-44 (NIV)


It is clear from this passage that Jesus is telling the Pharisees that they would reject Him, which, of course, culminated in His death on the cross. He, Himself, was “the Stone the builders rejected” on the cross, and now He has become the Cornerstone, the foundation of the church.


Stop and think for a moment about the cross. Look up and see Jesus’ rejected so that you would be accepted. See Him taking your sin that He might give you His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) as a free gift (Romans 6:23). See Him being abandoned by God that you might be received by God. Indeed, see that the basis for all the good you have in life and throughout eternity is the rejection of the Stone, that is, the cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Is this not marvelous in your eyes? Amazing? Awe-inspiring?


But this is not all the message of the cross has to say to us. It is not merely the salvation message. Notice the effects of trusting in this message, of laying down our self-effort and relying on the finished work of Christ:


“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed” (Matthew 21:44).


If we fall on this Stone, lay our lives of works-righteousness down and trust and rely on Jesus’ finished work, we will be broken to pieces. We look to the cross and see the Son of God wearing a crown of thorns and pouring out His blood to atone for our wrongs, His hands and feet nailed to a tree to make amends for our sin, to reconcile us to God through His death. It breaks our hearts and rightly so! It causes us to mourn (Zechariah 12:10) and to be deeply hurt and humbled, our hearts being cut and pierced by the sin that caused Jesus to suffer.


This cutting of our hearts is what it means to be broken to pieces, and it is this ongoing work of breaking our hearts, hurting and humbling us, that secures our ongoing freedom from habitual sin. For as often as we look at the cross, believing Jesus has taken our place so that we might have His, has received our punishment that we might be pardoned, has shed His blood that we might be forgiven and set free, we are once again heartbroken and cut to pieces.


Without this being "broken to pieces," our hearts are hard, and we still have a longing for sin. We might try to set fences around our behaviors (filters, accountability/support groups, etc.), but we won't find true freedom in them because if given the opportunity, we would sin. It's true because our actual problem is that we have not been "broken to pieces" over the sacrifice of God's Son for our sin.


The amazing thing is, we're not only hurt at the cross, but we're also healed! Not only broken to pieces but made whole again! Not only cut but sewn up and mended and made well. This happens when we see that our sin has been paid for, the work needed to secure our eternal redemption has been completed, and we are now fully accepted and completely loved!


Do you understand? We are not merely to look at the cross one time for salvation but also for ongoing freedom. And this freedom is maintained by the ongoing work of God's Spirit in breaking to pieces and then putting together, cutting and healing, wounding, and mending.


So don't fear to look at the cross, instead embrace it! Ask the Spirit to do His work of circumcising your heart, of cutting and healing it. For either, we fall on Jesus and are broken to pieces now, or He falls on us in judgment, and we are crushed on the last day.


"Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed" (Matthew 21:44).


In next week's newsletter, we will talk specifically about how to look at the cross and, by faith, experience this necessary brokenness and also see some biblical examples of it.


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Testimony:


Bill writes, "Without the understanding and application of the biblical principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, there is no victory!


I praise the Lord for the cross, where I know that I received my salvation through the washing of regeneration. Daily, I come to the cross for my cleansing through the washing of sanctification. And someday, because of the Cross, I will have the washing of glorification.


Studying through the cross-centered principles in this course was a great help; it strengthened me when I felt weak. I soon learned that if I wasn't fighting against my flesh, it was because I was not walking in the Spirit or washing at the cross. This course opened my eyes to the chain reaction that could take place in my life.


Washing at the cross taught me that I do not need to look to the world, nor accept the philosophy and terminology of the world. I am not an addict who is waiting to be triggered, but a saint who is sometimes tempted. I do not need to despair and feel unaccepted, eaten up by bitterness if I stumble in my walk because I can come to the cross. God is delighted to hear me pray in repentance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. At the cross, I am restored through love that cleanses to the uttermost.


God also opened my heart to know that I am accepted in the Beloved, and He delights to teach me daily His ways by His Word - the Bible - through His Spirit. He helps me to love the things He loves and avoid the things that hurt me and cause grief to God's heart. As I walk with the Holy Spirit, I bear fruit that honors and glorifies Him.


The strength He supplies to fight against my flesh stem from His power as I now fight from a different perspective knowing that I am assured of the victory through Him. I am on the winning side because He has already secured my victory!


I would encourage everyone to take this course as it will strengthen their faith in Christ and enables them to do greater things. It will help even those who are not struggling with sexual sin. How much more will others find deliverance through Christ, Wisdom through the Word, encouragement through the Spirit, help in prayer, guidance through mentoring, and strength in the fight for victory is sure!"



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 114th Edition, January 19, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

No Comfort Without Trouble and Suffering

Dear friend,

One thing we hear from students occasionally is this: "I WANT to feel close to Jesus, I WANT to have that intimacy back, but I'm just not seeming to find it."

And these students usually have one thing in common. Through further discussion, they admit that they are turning to false saviors and false comforts, idols really, to pamper and coddle their flesh. Now, we all lived that way at one time. "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts" (Ephesians 2:3). Indulging the flesh is simply the natural way of living, with our flesh in control, as we serve its lusts.

But we must understand that if there is no experience of the power of the cross in our lives, there will be no intimacy with Jesus. We cannot gratify our flesh and also fellowship with Christ in His sufferings at the same time. If we want intimacy with Jesus, we must embrace the cross of Christ.

We can see the necessary connection between troubles/sufferings and the comforts of Christ in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV):

 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."

Notice that we "share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ." As believers, we are privileged to share in the precious and intimate sufferings of Christ! This is how to know Christ in a real and intimate way, and this is why Paul wrote:

"I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."  Philippians 3:10 (NIV)

As we look at Jesus' suffering, we see that He denied His flesh and went purposefully and with great resolution to His death, as our Substitute. He chose us over His own life, over His own body. His love for us drew Him onward up Calvary's hill and laid Him out flat on the cross beams, and He laid there waiting for nails to be driven through His flesh, wearing thorns around His head that dug into His scalp, having already been beaten nearly to death. This is the kind of love Jesus exhibited for us, as He denied His own flesh and poured out His blood unto death for us. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).

Why don't we experience closeness and intimacy with Jesus? Most of the time, it is because we are coddling our flesh rather than crucifying it, pampering it rather than pummeling it (1 Corinthians 9:27). It is because we know so little of suffering that we know so little of Christ's comforting.

But that can all change TODAY! "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..." (Hebrews 3:15). Come to Calvary's mountain and look! See the Lamb of God taking away your sin, and let Him have it all! Don't hang on to your sin with both arms when Jesus' arms were nailed open for you. Open yours, too, and let your sin go to the cross. As you see Jesus' passion displayed in 3-D full color, turn from your sin, and die to it so that you might experience abundant life in Jesus! "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God" (Romans 6:10).

Yes, knowing Christ is connected with participating in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death. In other words, it is by denying our flesh rather than gratifying it that we come to know Christ and experience His comfort. It is in turning from false saviors and comforts to the real Savior and Comforter that we find closeness and intimacy with Him. As we shift from gratifying our flesh with food, sexual impurity, drunkenness, and lust, as we die to our flesh and run to God for comfort, then "our comfort abounds through Christ!"

Oh, friend, you'll have Spirit-imparted comfort, Christ-given comfort and intimacy if you die to your flesh rather than live for it. Yes, you'll share in the sufferings that the body of Christ experiences all throughout the world as they die to sin, but you'll also share in their comfort, which is so precious!

"And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."  2 Corinthians 1:7 (NIV)

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Testimonies:

Timothy writes, "I have taken a whole year to complete the lessons in the Purity Follow Up course at Setting Captives Free because I wanted to marinate on the concepts and make sure I understood them at a personal level.

The most significant change for me is the concept that the cross is always the answer to my sin and temptations. The cross exposes Satan for who he is and what his goal is - to destroy me. The cross gives me a safe and secure place to find refuge from the shame of my sin. At the cross, I see my Lord at his very best. He draws me to him by dying for me.

I ALWAYS recommend the Setting Captives Free Purity corses to others. I lead a worldwide ministry for people to overcome their sins, and I often speak of Setting Captives Free as the very best study I've found.


Felicia writes, "I needed the Purity Boot Camp course so much. I feel like I had come to a point in my life where the fires of my faith in Jesus needed refueling. Apart from the desperate need to be set free from sexual impurity, there was also, accompanying that, a need for a complete spiritual renewal. I feel that this course was a tremendous source of help for that.

Now, I feel drawn to making time to read the Bible and pray more. I also feel the urgings of the Holy Spirit, prompting me to behave differently towards others - with more love and less negativity. Most importantly, I feel I have the tools now to be free indeed from sexual impurity - it's all about Jesus Christ, my Lord, and my God - starting and finishing with Him.

This course has given me a new appreciation of my faith. As part of my faith, I wear a crucifix, and I make the sign of the Cross and see crucifixes in the churches so often, but this symbol has taken on a whole new meaning for me - I get it now - we are so Cross centered because the Cross represents freedom! By the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, by His Most Precious Blood shed on the Cross, by His choice to lay his life down and pay the price for my sins, I am set free indeed. Jesus is all I need.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen. Thanks be to God, and God bless you!”

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 113th Edition, January 12, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

Do You Believe the Facts, or Do You Live By Faith?

This past week in our Setting Captives Free men's Marco Polo groups, we discussed Romans 4:16-21, and found much joy in the truth of it. 

Romans 4:18-19 (NLT) Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

God came to Abraham and Sarah and said, “this time next year you will have a son” (Genesis 18:10). Abraham was then faced with a dilemma: do I believe the facts or do I put faith in what God said?

What were the facts in his case? 
  • Abraham was 100 years old
  • His body was as good as dead
  • Sarah’s womb was dead as well 
Those were the facts. So how can people who are past the age of child-bearing bear children? 

In spite of the facts, Abraham put faith in what God said, he hoped against hope, he believed by faith that God could raise the dead and give them a son, which is exactly what happened. "This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing" (Romans 4:17). 

Abraham knew the facts, that he and his wife had old bodies, they were past the age of child-bearing, Sarah’s womb was dead. But Abraham believed that God could raise the dead, and his faith did not weaken in light of the facts. 

And, as we all know, Abraham and Sarah had a son named Isaac. Faith changed the facts!

And how is it with you, friend? Are you looking at the facts or are you believing by faith? The world and the devil always want you to see the facts large in front of your eyes, that you might remain weak and enslaved.

God does not operate this way, instead He calls things that are not as though they were, as He said to Abraham, “I have made you the father of many nations”. As Abraham believed the truth of God’s Word, over the facts, he was not weak and enslaved, rather he “grew strong in faith” (Romans 4:20) and received the promise!

The facts are that by birth and by nature we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-4). But are we doomed to live and die in our sin? No, God raises the dead! Jesus died on the cross for your sins, then He took your old dead self to the grave with Him, and then He rose victorious over sin and death. And through His resurrection fro the dead, you rose in Him a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you look at the cross you see your old self dying, and if you look at Jesus’ rising from the dead, you see your new person alive and well! Do you believe that God can raise the dead?

Today, God says to us: “I have rescued you from power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13), set you free from the power of sin through the death of Jesus (Romans 6:7), given you a new heart and a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17), made you to be "more than a conqueror through Him who loves you" (Romans 8:37) and I will keep you firm to the end: "He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns” (1 Corinthians 1:8). 

So which do you believe? The facts? Or do you put faith in God’s Word? If you believe the facts, repeat them to yourself and others, live in the light of them, you will remain in bondage, always weak and fearful and defeated. Like Peter, looking at the “facts” (winds and waves) will make you sink! 

But if you exercise faith in God’s Word, repeat the truth to yourself and others, live in light of it, you will experience Holy-Spirit energy, and will begin to live in real and lasting freedom. Faith will change your facts!

So in reality it’s not whether we believe the facts or have faith, but rather, do we believe God’s facts or our own facts? Believing God’s facts, as centered in the cross of Jesus, is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18), but to us who are being saved the cross is the power of God.

An exercise that is very helpful to do, is to list out your facts as they currently are, and then find a Scripture to believe. For example:

Fact 1: I am an addict and “once an addict always an addict", and I just never measure up.

Faith: "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).

Fact 2: I am unclean and enslaved, impure and defiled. My sins and faults loom large before me.

Faith:  "Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22 NLT).

Fact 3: I am so alive to sin, I hear it’s temptations in my ear all day long and my body reacts and responds to Satan’s call to sin.

Faith: "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT). 

Fact 4: Sin has such power over me, I am a slave to it. I know that by faith in Christ I’m made right with God, but I’m talking about being so weak to sin’s power.

Faith:  "We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin” (Romans 6:6-7 NLT).

Fact 5: I am a captive to sin and defeated in every area of my life; my life just smells of death and defeat!

Faith: "But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume” (2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT).

This is powerful faith, and works with anything you are going through, even facing death itself:

Fact 6: I have terminal cancer, I’ve been given six weeks to live, I’m going to die!

Faith: "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV).

Now, how about if you add number seven to the above list? Just reply to this email, send me your “fact!” and then show me what God says and how you are putting “faith” in it!

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Testimonies:

Veronica writes, "I used to mentally browse our kitchen contents while I was eating to see what I would eat next. Now, I don't even think about food; mostly, I'm looking forward to my stomach growling! It's something I truly enjoy now! Then, when I do eat, I don't overeat like I used to. I eat till I'm satisfied and then I am done! I'm not perfect at it; I do occasionally eat before I'm hungry because I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom, so I am used to our schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a 3 pm snack. But for the most part, I stick with it! My daughter noticed what I was doing and said she wanted to start trying it, too!
 
This experience has caused me to draw closer to Christ, also! We just started fostering children, and it has been a lot tougher than I expected! But with these lessons, it has caused me to view it as Suffering with Christ and an opportunity to Walk in the Spirit rather than my flesh! When I began this journey of Setting Captives Free, I planned on the boys we have being the first and last children we take, but now, we plan to continue and draw into and trust God in the journey!
 
We just had Thanksgiving, and I used to be the first one in line for the meal, after grazing all day, but this time, I waited for everyone else to make their plates and for my stomach to growl before making my own!!!

I definitely recommend this course! I've done so many of the fad diets and always felt like it was the addiction to food that I couldn't break free from, but since that's not an addiction that our culture acknowledges, I felt hopeless. The only options out there were the "eat this, not that" or the "do this workout while drinking these shakes and eating only these foods" options. This program gets to the root of the problem, and the freedom is so exhilarating that I don't really care how fast or slow the weight comes off! I’M FREE!!!
"

Nicklas writes, "Since taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Follow Up course, what has changed in my walk with God is the insight that I need to wash at the cross every day. It all starts with me realizing that I have already won (Rom 8:35) and that nothing can change God's love for me (Rom 8:29-30). This insight has changed everything and helped with Warring at the flesh.

My relationship with God has changed dramatically and this course has a big part of that. Up til now, my picture of God was of someone that is very disappointed with me and only loves me because He has promised to do so. I have been struggling with me loving God for several years without realizing that love needs to be started with me feeling loved by God (1 John 4:19).

By turning to the cross and realizing that not only are my sins forgiven, but also I am no longer a slave of sin has created an intimate relationship between God and me. Another big difference is that I now long to study the Bible and pray each day. I am feeling much more secure in my faith compared to earlier when my faith could go up and down.

By the victory God has given me through me not being a slave to sin anymore, I feel loved by God, and I am no longer running away from" bad" feelings. I have been able to deal with the sorrow from my father's death and also the loss of a close friend of mine that committed suicide by focusing on the love of Jesus displayed for me on the cross. I have also grown in intimacy with my wife and children while taking this course.

I highly recommend this course; it is by far the best help I have had when it comes to understanding God, how much He loves me and what He has done for me. I have been struggling with impurity all my time as a Christian, but this course has really changed the game by helping me understand that God has set me free, and I am no longer a slave of sin. I have had the best period of my Christian life so far!”

Ron writes, "I find the principles taught at Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course helpful and not just for food addiction. I now have a different, more godly perspective on my relationship with food since I began. I learned that I can be free from calorie counting and other plans, which can weigh me down in legalism. At the same time, I learned that I can still enjoy food! God doesn't want me not to enjoy the foods that He made.

Physically, I've lost about 12 pounds, and I feel good! My arthritis doesn't bother me as much as it used to, and there are other benefits as well.
I would recommend the Setting Captives Free weight loss course and would encourage anyone taking it to stay the course for its entirety and beyond. It is SO worth it.
"

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland