Date   

The Power of the Cross: 191st Edition, August 1, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 191st Edition, August 1, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Audio version of this newsletter here. 

 

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Teaching:

Today we will see that those who seek to be made right with God through obedience to the Law are severed from Christ and have fallen from grace. Indeed, many people remain in bondage to sin because they attempt to free themselves by their obedience to the Law. Is that you? If so, read on to discover how to avoid this trap.

Let's look at Galatians 5:2-4 today: 

"Take notice: I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Law. You who are trying to be justified by the Law have been severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

Under the Old Covenant to be a part of God's family, you had to be circumcised, whereas those who were "uncircumcised" were cut off and excluded. Genesis 17:14.

In Galatia, the false teachers taught the Christians that they needed to be circumcised to be right with and accepted by God. They taught, "Yes, believe in Jesus, but you also need to be like Jesus who was circumcised and who kept the Law so that you can grow and become perfect and please God."

So, why is that such a bad idea? Why does Paul say so aggressively, "if you let yourself be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all"? Paul's point is that if you can look at anything you do to be part of God's family, it ultimately diminishes what Jesus did, and He will come to mean less and less to you over time. Here's the mathematical equation: belief in Jesus plus something you do will subtract from what Jesus did, which equals no benefit from the cross for you. And if you look at anything you do, you better do everything in the Law and do it perfectly and continually. 

Focusing on your obedience is a trap of the devil. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law for you; you must put faith in the work He has done and not turn back to your performance!

Colossians 2:11 says, "Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature." What does this mean? It means when Jesus died on the cross; He cut off your old nature, your sinful self. The self that loved pornography or that loved to gratify your flesh with food, that was in bondage to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, shopping, etc., that lived in unforgiveness or bitterness, that always put self first; that person, the old you, was circumcised at the cross!

There is a powerful illustration of this truth in Joshua chapter 5. All the Israelites males God brought out of Egypt were circumcised, but none of those born in the wilderness on the journey to the Promised Land were circumcised. So, Joshua took them all to a place called "Gilgal." There he circumcised all the males, piling in a heap all their flesh. Verse 9 says, "Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.' So that place has been called Gilgal to this day."

At Gilgal, they had the shame of their pasts cut off and rolled away; they had their identity as slaves removed from them. They could look at that hill of cutoff flesh as their freedom from their former identity. The Hebrew word Gilgal means to roll away; the Greek counterpart is "Golgatha." The hill of the cross! This is the place where God cut away your sinful self; your identity as a slave was circumcised, cut off, and rolled away from you. Look now at that hill of flesh (the cross of Christ) and see your identity as a sin slave removed from you. You now have a new identity in Jesus!

As you look and believe in what Jesus has done for you, the Spirit of God makes your circumcision and new identity real in your heart. I urge you to say out loud, "Jesus circumcised me at the cross! My old life was cut off and discarded. I am free!" 

Our circumcision at the cross is why Paul wrote in Philippians 3:2-3, "Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort."

Question for this week: Can you say verbally, "I look to the cross and see that my old self was circumcised."? Can you speak out and say, "My sin and shame were cut off and discarded by Jesus. My old identity was removed, and I'm now a new creation in Christ with no eternal guilt or shame." Can you say that this week?

"Circumcision was the shadow of the substance which the Christian man already enjoys. The Law which prescribed it had already done its true work and was abolished in Christ. Why leave the great liberator for one of the most grievous shackles of their old tyranny." (H. W. Beecher.)

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Linda writes, "I have been a Christ-follower for over 28 years, but never in my life have I been taught the biblical truth I learned in the Weight Loss Bootcamp - or perhaps I just didn't listen. I have learned SO much.

 

I have seen firsthand the power of God's Word! I feel closer to Jesus, I have a battle plan, and I love this and the Word so much.

 

After taking this course, I have lost weight, my clothes fit better, my mind is clearer, and I have more energy. I recommend it, and I'm going to take it again."

Manuel writes, "Studying the lessons in the Purity Bootcamp course and the feedback from my mentor Gabriel every day became a cherished routine.

 

Whereas before I tried, again and again, to fight sinful temptations out of my own (lack of) willpower without lasting success, I now have the feeling that God actually changed me and my desires inwardly and sustainably, so that since the beginning of the course I no longer felt any desire for pornography.

 

I highly recommend this course. It has made me focus more deeply than ever before on Christ's finished work of the cross, rather than on myself and my own (deficient) works, which has changed me from the inside out."

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

 

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For wonderful, powerful, gospel-full writings, we recommend subscribing to http://theperfectoffering.com/

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 190th Edition, July 25, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 190th Edition, July 25, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Teaching:

To be under the Law as a covenant is to experience the power of sin. To be under the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to experience freedom from sin’s penalty and power.

Today we are considering Galatians 4:29 to 5:1. Verse 29 says, "At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now."

Some of you are being persecuted right now by people telling you that you must do this or do that to be right with God. Some of you remain trapped in sin because those guiding you have a "Do this, do that" law mindset.

And why do those under the Law persecute believers in Jesus? This passage tells us that putting yourself under Law cuts you off from Christ and His grace. As Galatians 5:4 says, "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been cut off from Christ, you have fallen away from grace." 

Do you remember some of the older horror movies? You know, where they showed headless people walking around? Paul says that's what it's like to be under the Law. Separated from the head, you fall from grace, and people who have no grace are persecutors of God's people.

The Pharisees of Jesus' day said that they were upholding the Law when they persecuted Jesus. And Paul says this same spirit is in all who seek to be justified by the Law, just like when Ishmael persecuted Isaac, when the Pharisees persecuted Jesus, and when Saul persecuted the early church. And some of you are today enduring this same opposition from those who think they are upholding the Law. 

Now, what is the temptation for those who are enduring persecution from legalists? Well, it's to give in and go back and submit and put themselves back under the burden and bondage and slavery of the Law.

That's why Paul writes chapter 5 verse 1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Paul calls us to remember that Jesus' body was nailed to a tree to free you from the curse and penalty of the Law and the power of sin. Jesus freed you from guilt under the Law, freed you from all condemnation. Look to the cross to see that Christ is the end of the Law for our righteousness (Romans 10:4). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 

You are free from judgment, free from condemnation, free from sin's power and penalty because Christ became sin for you and broke sin's power and took the punishment for it. You are free from guilt because Jesus assumed all your guilt and made it His own. You are free from striving to be accepted by measuring up to God's standard because Jesus met it for you, and you are accepted in Him. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 

So what is the conclusion? Don't let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Jesus calls us to live like gospel Christians, not Old Covenant Jews. Live in the freedom that Jesus died to give you. Do not allow others (no matter how well-intentioned) to put you back under the Law that Jesus fulfilled for you. Let's honor Christ and His cross and stand firm in the gospel!

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Rick writes, "One of the things I saw throughout the Fruit of the Spirit course is how the Fruit of the Spirit is connected to the cross of Christ. We belong to Christ, and our sins have been crucified with Christ on the cross. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

 

These lessons have helped me to continue coming to the cross, laying my sins at the foot of the cross, knowing that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

 

I recommend this study. It is an extensive course that goes into detail about the Fruit of the Spirit and how these were exhibited in our Lord Jesus while He lived here on earth the 33 years of His life and that they are the same fruits that we can display in our own lives to as we grow and walk by the Spirit."

Patti writes, "After taking the Weight Loss Bootcamp course, I have seen the following changes in my life:

 

When I started this course, I was only reading the Scripture in the study. However, I now see how important it is for me to open the Bible every day and feast on His Word. What Truth I am finding there! I have a renewed desire for God's Word.

I am more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and am hearing His leading when temptation comes. 
This course has helped me to see my bitterness and pray for God to take it from me. 

This course has uncovered idols and sins in my life that I hadn't seen before. Some "dots" have been connected, and I see how to escape from habitual sin in a new way.

In the past, I have doubted God's goodness, that He is for me. Through this course, I have been reminded of who He is and how He loves me. He wants me to be free more than I do! I have hope that, by walking free from habitual sin, my life will move forward from the suffering of these past three years. 

I have peace, and my focus has changed in regards to my appearance. I have begun to focus on my heart appearance rather than my physical appearance. I want a beautiful heart regardless of how I look on the outside. Jesus wasn't the perfect human specimen physically, but His heart was beautiful. I want to be more like Christ!

 

Physically, my clothes are feeling looser. I have more energy; my skin is clearer and more healthy-looking. Jesus has removed my guilt and shame, so I'm not grieving about it anymore.

 

I recommend this course! This world, our flesh, and the evil one lie to us. The ONLY way to counteract the lies is to experience the power of the cross and the truth of the gospel. This course is filled with the message of the cross!"

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

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For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

 

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For wonderful, powerful, gospel-full writings, we recommend subscribing to http://theperfectoffering.com/

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 189th Edition, July 18, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 189th Edition, July 18, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Announcement: The Freedom from Media Addiction course is now available in Dutch - Mediaverslaving.  Thank you, Petrus and Theo, for your translation ministry! 

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Teaching:

The passage we are looking at today tells us the message of freedom by the New Covenant gospel and the message of bondage through the Old Covenant Law. It communicates these truths by way of an illustration.

Notice the story Paul uses from the Book of Genesis:

Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. 24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:21-26).

Galatians 4:24 explains that the Law produces slaves. The Law tells us how we must live to please God but gives us no power to do so. We try to live rightly and fail, try harder and fail again, and Paul says, "that is slavery!" 

In our text today, let's notice two things. First, so that everyone will understand fully, Paul defines the "Law" that makes people slaves. If I were to ask you to explain what Law Paul refers to, what would you say? Is Paul referring to A) the moral Law of Ten Commandments or B) the ceremonial Law with all the sacrifices, or C) all the extra laws the Pharisees added to God's Law? The 613 additional rules, commandments, and laws that they added to God's Word. Which would you say? Which Law makes people slaves?

Well, anyone giving this passage an honest read would read verse 24, "One covenant is from Mt. Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves." and wonder, "What Law did God give at Mt. Sinai?" Exodus 19 and 20 explain that God gave the Ten commandments at Mt. Sinai. That's why Paul uses the term "Mt. Sinai" so there would be no doubt as to what Law he is referencing. If he just said "law," people, in their attempt to defend the ten commandments, would say, "Paul is talking about the ceremonial law" or "he's referring to all the laws the Jews added on to God's Law." But Paul is referring to God's Law, the ten commandments given at Mt. Sinai. 

Paul is saying, "If you want to be under God's Law, under the ten commandments, to follow and obey them as a covenant, you are Ishmael, a slave." Slave of the Law = slave of sin.

And what is Paul's point here? It's straightforward: the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant, represented by Hagar, was temporary. Look at Galatians 4:30: "But what does Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." In other words, get rid of the Old Covenant and live in the freedom Jesus died to purchase for you, live in the power of the Spirit Jesus died to give you. 

Secondly, we believers are not children of the bond-slave, Hagar, representing God's Ten Commandment Law. No! Our mother is Sarah, meaning the New Covenant gospel, where you and I are born again of a promise. The promise is to put faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you will not only live eternally but also be free from sin's penalty and power. 

Friend, Jesus took your penalty and bled out, Jesus paid your debt as He breathed His last breath, Jesus atoned for your wrongs through death, Jesus removed your sin by making it His own; and by believing this message, Jesus sets you free. And if Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed. Free from sin’s penalty and power. This message frees us and matures us.

Question this week: Are you living as a child of the slave woman (Hagar) or as a child of the free woman (Sarah), and how do you know?

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Norma writes, "I have cried many times throughout the Weight Loss Bootcamp study. I have humbled myself and asked the Lord for forgiveness and help to fight because I cannot do this alone. Having my sweet Jesus walk this journey with me is like He is holding my hand, saying to me, "Come, my child, I have you; don't be afraid." I wake up every morning to wash at the cross and get my plan for the day and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide me through the day and help me fight. I have learned so much about Jesus and His love for me. I am confident in Christ; this time, I know I will win this battle over gluttony because I have the Lord going before me to stomp out any temptations in front of me. He leads me and protects me, but most of all, He loves me.

 

I used to feel worthless and defeated. No more self put-downs; instead, I pick myself up with Scripture and healthy, gospel thoughts. My clothes are looser; what a great feeling! My blood pressure is stable now. For years, the stress of being overweight was heavy on me, but now it is on the bottom of my "things to do" list.

 

My stress levels are lower. Jesus is now the first thought every morning and the last at night, and so I sleep much better. I am free! I can now walk around my local park, which is almost a mile. I enjoy going to the park now because my self-esteem and confidence have grown.

 

I have started eating better, and my son has joined me. He doesn't need to lose weight, but he has joined me to support me. I started doing some cardio and strength training workouts I found on YouTube. Working out does not feel like punishment anymore. Instead, I am so grateful that I can work out.

 

My life has changed for the better physically, mentally, and emotionally, but best of all, the most significant change in me is my enjoyment in eating the Bread of Life instead of overindulging food.

 

I recommend this study because not only does it help you lose weight, but it gets to the root of the problem, that we need Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. I have learned so much about Christ in this course, and I am hungry for more."

David writes, "Wow, before the Purity Bootcamp course, I was coming to a point in my struggle against sexual impurity (lust and porn) that I was finally admitting, "God, I don't know what to do. Please help me be free." My friend suggested I start this course, and from the first lesson about looking at the cross and God's forgiveness as we trust Jesus, I caught a whiff of the joy of salvation I remembered from when I first began walking with Christ 13 years ago. 

 

So what has changed? Well, I am bursting with joy in Christ most of the time now and telling almost everyone I meet about the hope of the gospel of how Jesus bore all our sins on the cross. 

 

I used to pray, "God, help me love you, love others, and walk free from lust," and as genuinely as I desired those things, the reason I wanted them was so that I could have some assurance that I was in Christ. But as I worked attentively, prayerfully, honestly, and desperately through this course, my eyes have been fixed repeatedly on our "Bronze Serpent," seeing that "The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." 

 

Fixing my eyes in trust on the cross has led to freedom from sin that I confidently know I have through simple trust in Christ, not through trust in how many days or weeks I've gone without sinning. 

 

Trusting God's forgiveness from all condemnation because Jesus was condemned with my punishment has also caused temptation to roll right off my back! When I'm tempted now, I message my trusted brothers in Christ, asking for prayer, but even before they respond, I've been finding that simply thinking about the cross and God's forgiveness for the sake of Christ's blood takes ALL the allure right out of sin. 

 

I used to look within at my own heart toward God and backward at my track record of good actions and avoidance of bad actions to evaluate whether I was in Christ. Back then, my trust was in my faith rather than in Christ, but now I look at the cross. I ask God to help me remember and believe and be freed through faith, and He does! 

 

I still have A LOT of growing to do. A few ways God has been showing me I need to grow are in delighting in His will and dying to self, craving His word and taking it in, and walking in intimacy with God by faith.

 

But even with these areas, I am not going to turn to the law to try to change me; "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age..." Titus 2:11-12 So, I know God's grace will train me for this. 

 

Praise God for His grace and faithfulness and for redeeming me (and all of us) with His precious blood!"

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here

 

----------

 

For wonderful, powerful, gospel-full writings, we recommend subscribing to http://theperfectoffering.com/


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 188th Edition, July 4, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 188th Edition, July 4, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Announcement: The newest course from Setting Captives Free is now live.  The Freedom from Substance Abuse course is designed to help men and women to freedom from substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.).  

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Teaching:

This week we want to consider what forms Christ in us and what frees us from sin traps and enables us to serve the Lord with zeal?

Many would point us to God's Law, saying that if we are obedient to God's Law, we are following in the steps of Christ so that our obedience is that which forms Christ in us.

And yet, there is a strange phenomenon that happens when people focus on obedience to God's Law (keeping the ten commandments - loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves). Do you know what happens?

Well, Paul tells us in today's passage in Galatians:

"Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!" (Galatians 4:17-20).

Here, Paul talks about the false teachers who were pressing the Old Covenant down on the Galatian believers. They were saying, "the gospel is good, but you need to go on to maturity, which comes through circumcision, the keeping of Old Covenant special days like the Sabbath; obedience to God's Law is what matures you."

Paul says, "I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." because focusing on our obedience does not give us a new birth and does not produce Christ in us. No! People focused on the Law actually perplex other believers. 

Consider an illustration: when I get up in the morning, I look in the mirror and say, "Wow, what a mess!” So I use a comb to comb what's left of my hair, use a toothbrush to brush my teeth, use a razor on my face, etc. in an effort to make myself look clean and presentable. But what would you guys think if I broke off a bit of the mirror and tried to use it to comb my hair, brush my teeth, or shave? That would perplex you, right? The mirror only serves to show me what's wrong with me; it isn't designed to fix me.

Similarly, the Law of God was designed for one purpose: to reveal our sin, to show us the areas we do not look like Jesus. It was not given to fix us through our attempts to obey it. No, the Law is glorious because we look into it and say, "Wow, what a mess!" And so, we come to Jesus the Fixer, the Rescuer, the One who took our sin on Himself and suffered our punishment to forgive every sin, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and give us His Spirit who bears the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in our lives. In other words, through believing the gospel, Christ is formed in us; so finally, we begin to look like Jesus. 

Question: have you ever tried to use the mirror of the Law to fix the problems in your life? If so, how would the gospel bring about a different result? Please share with us.

 

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

 

Richsonia writes, "In the Purity Bootcamp course, I learned that washing at the cross is essential for salvation but also sanctification. The cross is something I need to remember every daily. Washing at the cross has helped me remember Jesus and what He endured on the cross for me, which helps me when I sin, when I am discouraged, feel shame or guilt, or struggle to forgive/walk in love. Remembering the cross has helped so much. It also brings a sense of gratefulness.

 

I also learned how to walk by the Spirit.  Walking by the Spirit means denying my flesh and obeying God, which is something I can't do apart from the Spirit of God. Praying, staying in the word of God, and fellowshipping with other believers is how I walk by the Spirit.

 

I learned that I am in a spiritual war, and this means I have to fight. Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death so I can fight this war against my flesh from a place of victory. Jesus has already defeated sin and death for me; now, I deny myself and follow Him.

 

I have seen many changes in my heart and life over the past thirty days. When I first started the boot camp, my heart wasn't 100% in it, but I asked God to help me be engaged in the lessons, and He did. I am so thankful for the purity boot camp.

 

The main thing I learned is about the cross of Christ. I learned that the cross is sufficient for salvation and sanctification. Looking to the cross and remembering what Jesus has done on the cross has made a big impact on my walk with Christ.

 

I struggled with so much shame and guilt over my past sexual impurity. By remembering the cross, I've come to realize that when Christ died on the cross for my sins, He took all my shame and guilt. So because of Christ, I am free from shame and guilt (Romans 8:1-4).

 

I have grown in my dependence on God. God is helping me change how I view myself and how I view others. Before the boot camp, I viewed men in an ungodly way. After praying and asking God for help to view men in a way that pleases Him, He is answering this prayer. I've also seen a change in how I see myself. Because of my past sexual sins, I used to view myself as nasty, gross, and unworthy. Now, I am starting to see myself as Christ does. He says I am forgiven, loved, clean, His child, etc.

 

I recommend this course to others because it points to Christ and the cross. The cross is more than enough. The cross is what saved me, and it is what will keep me. The cross is sufficient. I am so thankful for the cross."

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 187th Edition, June 27, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 187th Edition, June 27, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Announcement: The newest course from Setting Captives Free is now live.  The Freedom from Substance Abuse course is designed to help men and women to freedom from substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.).  

 

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Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 186

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Teaching:

The effects of believing the gospel are powerful and evident in people’s lives. And so are the effects of being under the Old Covenant Law. In today’s study, we get to see both.

Paul writes to the Galatians: “I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:12-16).

Paul preached a pure and vivid gospel to the Galatians, and believers of the gospel genuinely love those who preach it to them. The gospel message stirs their hearts with love; it helps them know their forgiveness and right standing with God; it makes Jesus very precious to them. For all these reasons and more, believers appreciate those who preach the message of the cross to them.

Notice the effects of the Galatians believing the gospel when Paul preached it to them.

  1. They welcomed Paul as if he were Jesus Christ (vs. 14).
  2. They blessed him (vs. 15).
  3. They would have plucked out their eyes and given them to Paul (vs. 15). 

These results are striking:

  1. The Galatians heard from Paul that because Jesus was rejected and died on the cross, they were fully accepted and welcomed into God’s presence. The effects of believing this message were that they received others, opening their lives, in this case to Paul.

  1. Secondly, they heard that Jesus took their curse when He died in their place so that they could receive the true blessing (Galatians 3:13-14), and in return, they blessed Paul for helping them understand this life-giving news.

  1. Finally, they heard that God loved them so much that He plucked out His own heart, plucked out His beloved Son from heaven, and sent Him to earth to live and die in their place, and out of overflowing gratitude, they would gladly respond in the same way. They would have plucked out their eyes and given them to Paul if it could have helped heal his illness.  

Seeing the cross of Christ in such vivid color powerfully works in the hearts of people, setting them free from sin and the Old Covenant Law. Appreciation for those who preach it to them wells up in their hearts, making them welcoming, causing them to bless those who preach it, and putting a desire in their hearts to give of anything precious to them since they saw God giving His beloved Son for them. 

Setting Captives Free mentor and supervisor, Kelly said it well the other day on our Discord channel: "What a costly price that He paid and such gut-wrenching pain that He would endure seeing the treasure of His heart ripped from the arms of His love to become a curse for us." Amen.

But now let's notice what happened when the Galatians began turning back to Old Covenant Law: "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16). What? Were they treating Paul like an enemy now? What happened to their welcoming and blessing him and being willing to pluck out their eyes for him? Paul asked the Galatians to consider the Law's effects on them, consider the change that happened to put them at odds with him who brought such good news to them. 

Behold the effects of both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Old Covenant Law!  Living under law brings division and difficulty but the gospel gives life and produces love in the heart of the believer.

Question of the week: As you reflect upon your own life: are you experiencing the benefits of the gospel or the burden of the law? How can you tell?

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Veronica writes, "In the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss courses, I learned to wash at the cross, to walk by the Spirit, and to war against my flesh. God gave me a battle plan that I was able to implement. 

I didn't weigh myself much during the course as this was another area where it could become an unhealthy focus, but even more importantly, the changes in my thinking have been more remarkable. By walking, washing, and warring daily, my focus was on more than the number on the scales.

 

Physically, I have more energy! I have lost weight - about 10 kilos. I am consistently exercising; I even participated in a trail running event of 11 km! My clothes are fitting better. I recently had my doctor do a check-up, and all my lab levels are in the normal range. I physically feel better than I have for a long time. 

I appreciate the freedom I now feel at not having to look at ads for weight loss. I can now dismiss them as irrelevant. I no longer have to experience the anxiety and the sense of failure I would feel after trying a diet and not sticking with it. I no longer feel like a failure. Daily washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit & warring against my flesh are lifelong keys to my freedom."

Helena writes, "I took the A United Front course, and my husband took the purity course, and these last 30 days were a time of becoming a united front.

 

In this course, I formed new habits. I laid down shock, fear, pain at the foot of the cross and took up forgiveness, peace, faith, hope, and love through the gospel. As a result, I am learning to listen to my husband from a place of thankfulness - refreshed and filled up by remembering what Jesus did for me at the cross.

I now desire to fight the good fight for my marriage, speak lovingly to my husband and remember that there is power in my tongue to bring life and love or death.

My husband and I are no longer taking each other for granted and are checking in with each other nearly every day when traveling separately. We are nurturing, watching out for, and seeking to protect each other, praying and worshipping Jesus together, and growing and hungering for the Word. Taking communion has become very powerful for us.

 

The Setting Captives Free courses reminded us about Jesus, our first love! The lessons are powerful and full of Holy Spirit wisdom. We have been refreshed, refined, and revived through these studies. We are so thankful."

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here
For a wonderful sermon showing how the Law of God is to be used under the New Covenant, click here.

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 186th Edition, June 20, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 186th Edition, June 20, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Announcement: The newest course from Setting Captives Free is now live.  The Freedom from Substance Abuse course is designed to help men and women to freedom from substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.).  

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 185

----------

Teaching:

The human condition, believe it or not, craves slavery. While there are undoubtedly uncomfortable parts of slavery, there is a familiarity, a comfortableness that can develop with it that makes us not want to leave, or suggests that we return to it once freed from it. 

To illustrate this truth, watch this short video clip of a sheep rescued from a pit, only to return. 

Keeping that video in mind, let's read our passage for this week in Galatians 4:9, which says: "But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"

We learn some significant truths from this text: 

First, through believing the gospel, the Galatians had a relationship with God. Paul says, "now that you know God, or rather are known by God." Remember, the Galatians saw (with their eyes of faith) Jesus on the cross dying to take away their sin, they believed, and so by faith, they came to know God

We've just discovered from God's Word how to know God! We know Him through the forgiveness of our sins by placing faith in the dying Lamb of God who removed our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12) when He died on the cross. 

This relationship with God is part of the new covenant promise where God says, "they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." That's how we come to know God, through forgiveness of our sins" (Hebrews 8:11-12). 

Second, through believing the message of the cross, the Galatians were set free. When Paul asks them, "do you wish to be enslaved all over again?" it's implied that they were once slaves of sin but that through the message of the cross they were set free.

The Galatians weren't set free through their obedience to the Law, their good behavior, or by following any program of man. No, the Galatians' freedom from the penalty and the power of sin came through seeing Jesus die and bleed out for them, seeing Him buried, and seeing Him risen from the dead in power. We've just discovered from God's Word how to be free!

But third, we learn something else here, and that is, people who experience freedom at the cross can be tempted to return, to go back to what's familiar; back to law-slavery. Paul writes, "how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"

Why can we be tempted to return to law slavery? Well, when we find freedom at the cross, we no longer live a life based on rules and laws; we begin walking by the Spirit, living by faith. And that can be uncomfortable.

Under the Law, we just followed the rules - Bible reading, check, prayed for an hour, check, didn't commit murder, check. But living by faith in a crucified/risen Savior and being led by an invisible Spirit is new and might leave us feeling untethered. And when we are feeling uncertain, we might want to go back to laws and rules, to the familiar, to trying to live right and be good, just as the Galatians did.

People set free by believing the gospel can be tempted to go back to legalism, back to rules and steps and laws, back to powerless religion that enslaves people. How about you? Ever tempted to go back?

The Israelites were set free from slavery through the death of the Passover Lamb, but then they remembered the delicious food in Egypt and wanted to return. They were not content to have the same Manna (a picture of the gospel) every day. So, they said they wanted to go back to slavery. Similarly, Lot's wife "looked back" to her old life and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Also, Orpah (Ruth's sister-in-law) set out on the path of freedom from idolatry but then went back "to her people and her gods" (Ruth 1:15). Proverbs says, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly" (Proverbs 26:11).

 

Paul asks the Galatians, "how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?" He's referring to living under the Old Covenant as weak because the Law has no power to transform; it can't give you a new heart, it can't make you a new creation in Christ, it can't set you free from condemnation nor liberate you from sin's power. The Old Covenant is weak and powerless; the word can mean "sick, lame, unimpressive, powerless." Such is the case with laws, rules, and steps.

Whereas the gospel of Jesus Christ? The message of the cross? Well, that's "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16) and "power for us who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:18)! The message of the cross not only frees us but also tethers us, grounds us, anchors us, stabilizes us, and keeps us because it comes with the Holy Spirit who leads us!

Question for this week: have you ever wanted to go back? If so, to what? Please share any thoughts you have about that.

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

----------

Testimonies

Helena writes, "I took the A United Front course, and my husband took the purity course, and these last 30 days were a time of becoming a united front.

 

In this course, I formed new habits. I laid down shock, fear, pain at the foot of the cross and took up forgiveness, peace, faith, hope, and love through the gospel. As a result, I am learning to listen to my husband from a place of thankfulness - refreshed and filled up by remembering what Jesus did for me at the cross.

I now desire to fight the good fight for my marriage, speak lovingly to my husband and remember that there is power in my tongue to bring life and love or death.

My husband and I are no longer taking each other for granted and are checking in with each other nearly every day when traveling separately. We are nurturing, watching out for, and seeking to protect each other, praying and worshipping Jesus together, and growing and hungering for the Word. Taking communion has become very powerful for us.

 

The Setting Captives Free courses reminded us about Jesus, our first love! The lessons are powerful and full of Holy Spirit wisdom. We have been refreshed, refined, and revived through these studies. We are so thankful."

Jim writes,The teachings in the Purity Bootcamp course are very helpful.  Knowing that with genuine repentance, I can receive forgiveness of sin, by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.  Knowing that the Holy Spirit is present to help and to guide and bring conviction of sin.  Knowing how to war effectively against the flesh. 

This course gave me a new perspective with the focus being on God's grace, and what Jesus Christ has already done for me, by way of the cross.  With God's help, I am able to put plans into action and gain success over the war with the flesh.  I give all glory to God. 

I definitely would recommend this course to others.  It has been a refreshing experience, to read through the lessons, look up scriptures, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in my heart, and now, live it out daily.  Most of all, I thank Jesus Christ for setting this captive free, and allowing me to experience the liberty that only He can provide."

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 185th Edition, June 13, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 185th Edition, June 13, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Announcement: The newest course from Setting Captives Free is now live.  The Freedom from Substance Abuse course is designed to help men and women to freedom from substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.).  

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 184

----------

Teaching:

As we consider this week's teaching, let's ask ourselves this question: what does it take to go from being enslaved in sin to being free indeed?

The answer to this question is vital because everyone wants freedom. Religion, self-help books, and new-age gurus all claim to provide freedom through their particular method, but our text today tells us the honest answer to our question.

Paul uses a simple illustration in Galatians 4:1-7 to answer this question. He talks about an underage child who is subject to guardians and trustees, meaning this underage child has no personal freedom as if he were a slave himself. And then Paul makes this amazing statement in vs. 3, "So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world."

Maybe you recall, as I can, a time of enslavement—enslaved to our base self, to our flesh, a time when something mastered us (food or alcohol, sexual impurity or drugs, or religion or self-help philosophies). These are the elemental spiritual forces of the world, and we are born enslaved to them. Paul describes this condition, in verse 5, as being "under the law."  

Application: Do you want to know how to make yourself a slave? Just put yourself under the Law, to do it, to keep it, or to try to mature yourself by obeying it. After all, "the law is the power of sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56), so when we attempt to use the Law for personal development, maturity in faith, or any other reason, we end up slaves to sin.

Husbands and fathers, do you want to know how to make slaves of your families? Put them under the Law, require that they measure up for you to love them, hold them to a very high standard and watch your family lose all their joy as they try hard to measure up and live right. 

Pastors, do you want to know how to make slaves of your church? Teach them the Old Covenant (summarized by "love God and love people"), and tell them that God requires their obedience to that covenant today. What ends up happening is that you push the Law down on them to keep them living right, but sin breaks out the sides. Galatians 4 makes this phenomenon very clear when Paul says in 4:24, "One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves."

If not the Law, then what?

So, if we can't experience freedom through obedience to the Law, how do we get free? 

Well, it takes two things, according to our passage: 

Galatians 4:4-5 say: "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." That's the work of the Son for you.

Verses 6 says, "Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." That's the work of the Spirit in you. 

What is it that frees us? God brought freedom to us by sending His Son and His Spirit. True and lasting freedom comes through the work of the Son for us and the work of the Spirit in us. So let's quickly look at those two:

First, God sent His Son to redeem those under the Law. Jesus redeemed us when He died on the cross for our sins. "In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding" (Ephesians 1:7-8).

Illustrations: When the Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians, God redeemed them through the blood of the Passover Lamb, setting them free! The Egyptians no longer enslaved the Israelites! This account is a picture of how God has redeemed us, as "Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7), and now we are free from sin's penalty and domination in our lives.

In the Book of Hosea, when Gomer was living in immorality, God told Hosea to redeem her, so he bought back his unfaithful wife through the payment of silver and barley (Hosea 3:1-3). When you and I were enslaved to sin, under the Law of sin and death, Jesus was nailed to a cross by Roman soldiers. And as He hung there in open shame and condemnation for our sins, He was joyfully paying the price to redeem us and free us. Not with silver and gold, but with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18). He took your guilt and wore it proudly; He became your sin and removed it from you with joy (Hebrews 12:2).

This work of the Son for you is the first truth to experience when desiring freedom! You must see Jesus suffering in your place, purchasing your pardon, dying your death, redeeming you from bondage to your flesh, redeeming you from being “under law” (Galatians 4:5).

Second, as you hear that good news, and you believe it, God sends His Spirit into your heart, and He begins working in you to free you. He begins to show you that the God of the universe, the Judge of all the earth, is your Father and that He has loved you and sent His Son to rescue you. He has adopted you into His family and made you His child. 

Just as the blood of the Passover Lamb had to be applied to the doorposts, so the Holy Spirit is given to apply the cross to the doorposts of our hearts and to reveal to us the intimacy we have with the Father. God sent His Son to redeem you; God sends His Spirit to liberate you.

These two truths, according to Galatians 4:1-7, are what is needed to truly free us from slavery to the basic principles of the world, our flesh, and the Law. 

Question for this week: how are you experiencing by faith the work of the Son for you and the work of the Spirit in you this week?

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

----------

Testimonies

Geniene writes, "The Weight Loss follow-up course has been exceptionally valuable in deepening my faith, trust in Christ, and learning to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. One huge revelation came when I realized that the cross of Christ is for salvation AND sanctification! Victory comes by the work of the Holy Spirit in me, not self-effort.

 

God is calling me into much deeper healing from childhood sexual abuse, which is painful and very necessary if I am to be the person God wants me to be. This is new territory to walk with the Spirit at this depth; I have to trust God to give me the courage to face these obstacles and overcome them once and for all. I so appreciate how Setting Captives Free offers additional courses of study to assist in this transformation process.

 

God has answered many prayers, and for this, I am so grateful. He has shown me, through these courses, how to wash at the cross, keep in step with the Spirit, and war against the flesh and the enemy. God is revealing many idols of my heart so I can confess and forsake them. The Holy Spirit is teaching me how to be a more proficient warrior. All of this and much patience and grace. 

 

Through these courses, the Lord has been stripping away 50 years of rigid self-effort attempts to control the flesh. His Word is demolishing every last program, 'expert,' doctor, diet & fitness protocol, etc., and replacing these lies with the truth that I can do nothing apart from Christ.  Physically, I am learning to cease the rigid self-effort and abuse to lose weight. The weight is coming off slowly and I am learning to be patient with this process.

 

God's Word, through these courses, has given me the boldness to speak the truth in love very plainly. I recently left my church because they were quickly drifting away from God and embracing the popular philosophies of man. It broke my heart to do that; it was the right thing. The power is in the gospel, not in gimmicky programs or popular books. What a breath of fresh air Setting Captives Free has been to me!"

Kevin writes, “I am connecting how impactful these principles of the Purity Bootcamp course, washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, warring against the flesh. are in my walk. For so long I became apathetic to daily washing in the word at the foot of the cross, reminding myself of the joy found alone in Him and through walking in proper fellowship with His Spirit. I know now that the battle is real and that in Christ I have all the weapons of victory. In fact, as my General, I need to be asking him for the specific path to victory just like the Israelites. Praise God.

The biggest change for me has been in the area of washing at the cross and walking by the Spirit. I am much quicker to return from my sin and bow down again at the foot of the cross reminding myself of Christ’s forgiveness and desire to have restored fellowship. I find myself praying in the morning asking the Spirit’s help for the day ahead to flee sin and pursue righteousness.

I would recommend the Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course. It is a foundational course for discipleship and can be applied to all areas of life, not just impurity. The joy found in the course was, washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, warring against the flesh. The 3 steps outlined are incredible!

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 184th Edition, June 6, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 184th Edition, June 6, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Announcement: The newest course from Setting Captives Free is now live.  The Freedom from Substance Abuse course is designed to help men and women to freedom from substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.).  

----------

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 183

----------

Teaching:

It can be very discouraging when believers in Christ discover that they still have flesh and still sin. Sin in the life of a believer, especially habitual sin, can cause us to:

1) Question our spiritual status. We might begin to wonder, "Am I even saved? Am I even in the family of God?" Sin brings feelings of insecurity.

2) Feel naked and exposed to God's judgment. We might believe God is angry with us and that He will punish us, so we withdraw from Him.

3) Experience disunity. Sin makes us combative and defensive; we get at odds with other people very easily.

We can see all three of these struggles in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. They had previously walked with God confidently because they were His children, created in His image, but they hid from God after they sinned. 

Possibly Adam and Eve thought, "Maybe we are no longer His children since we have marred His image so much through our sin." Sin revealed their nakedness; they felt exposed to God's wrath. In fear, they set about to work to cover themselves with fig leaves. 

And finally, there was no longer unity between Adam and Eve. Adam accused Eve and blamed her for his fall. He used to say his wife was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23), and now she's "this woman" (Genesis 3:12). What happened to the love, unity, and oneness they shared? Sin was a barrier in their relationship.

These struggles are all part of the disheartening reality that believers face when they sin. 

The Galatians knew this experience of ongoing sin, and some false teachers came along and taught them that obedience to the Law would perfect them and reassure them of their standing as children of God. If they kept God's Law, they would no longer feel naked and unclothed, exposed to God's hatred of sin, and they would have fellowship with all other people who were likewise obeying God.

But notice what Paul says in Galatians 3:26-29: 

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

First, let's notice how we should find our assurance that we are in the family of God. Galatians 3:26 tells us we  "are all children of God through faith." Jesus was treated as if He no longer belonged to the family, abandoned by God on the cross so that God would bring us into the family when we believe the gospel. We are children of God through faith in Christ's sacrifice, not through our efforts at obedience.

Second, Galatians 3:27 states that we "have clothed ourselves with Christ" when we believed and were baptized. Previously, we were naked in our sin. There was in us this horrible blindness, ignorance, contempt, and hatred of God; uncleanness, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, etc. This corrupt and sinful nature we received from Adam and is called "the old man." 

But look at the cross with me and see Jesus suffering in our place. Having become sin for us, He was naked in our sin, exposed to all the wrath of God for us (Romans 5:9) so that we would be clothed with Christ, robed in righteousness (Revelation 19:8), wearing the garments of salvation (Isaiah 61:10). 

Third, Galatians 3:28 declares, "you are all one in Christ Jesus." All who believe are of the same family. In John 17, we read Jesus' prayer: "that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity." He prayed for our unity, and then He died to make us one. In God's kingdom, there are no denominations, nothing that separates us one from another, only one big family of God, "brought to complete unity."

Ongoing sin is dealt with in the same way that we dealt with it at the very beginning of our Christian life: through faith in the Son of God, His death and resurrection in our place. The cross transforms our discouragement with our weak flesh into hope and victory in Jesus.

Question for this week: how does faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ provide everything needed to perfect us?

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

----------

Testimonies

Gail writes, "Through the principles taught in the Weight Loss Follow-Up course at Setting Captives Free, I now have a closer and more intimate walk with my Savior daily. My focus is back on Christ. Daily I wash at the cross, am strengthened by the Spirit's power, and can better fight sin in my life. I feel God's love deep in my soul, and my love for Him has grown and blossomed. I am at peace with many areas of my life that I surrendered to Him during the two Weight Loss courses. What Great Love the Father has shown to me through Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I walk now by the strength of the Spirit in me and not by my flesh.

 

During these two courses (Weight Loss Bootcamp and Follow-Up), my daily devotions have been so rich. My focus is on my Savior and His great work of love He did on the cross. Daily I run to the foot of the cross to be washed clean of my sins. I let His blood flow over me. He's forgiven my sins, broken the chains that held me, and now my soul flies free. I rely on the Spirit in me to give me the strength to fight temptations daily. Each day I ask for my plan. God has shown me that to lose weight, I must eat much less at each meal than I was eating before.

 

I have lost a few pounds and have maintained that loss. My clothes are looser, my blood glucose numbers have been better, and I feel so much better when I eat according to my plan each day. Now God is teaching me that accepting what I weigh now is where I need to focus and not on if I lose anymore. I now know how to prepare myself each day to keep my eyes on Jesus in this lifelong journey and not turn back to worldly ways of losing weight. I am free from the scale, tracking, and counting every little thing I eat.

 

The two main things I have gained from these two classes are freedom from making food an idol in my life and, most important, a deeper and closer walk with Jesus.

 

I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to base their weight loss on Biblical principles. That desire is what led me to this course. I found so much more than just weight loss in this program. I found out how to fly free from the world's hold on my life. I learned that God's great love extends to all parts of my life. I found the way I want to live for the rest of my life - in the love of my Lord Jesus Christ."


Dominic writes,Up until December 31, 2020, I had been in an adulterous affair, I had been viewing pornography, I had been pursuing women to satisfy an emptiness inside. I was a Christian for over 20 years, involved in my local church, and married, but I had never conquered sexual temptation.

 

By the end of 2020, things had come to a head with my wife filing for divorce; I was ready to walk away from Christ forever until a friend recommended this amazing course.  So, on New Year's Eve, with God's help, I repented. I stopped the adulterous affair and signed up for the Purity Bootcamp course because I wanted to start the new year of 2021 free!

 

What makes this course different, effective, and supernatural is it is Christ-centered. It will point you back to the cross of Jesus, where you can obtain real victory.

 

It's day 30, and I have been free from sexual sin for the first time in a long time. Praise God!  I had days where it felt effortless and days where it felt all of hell was against me. But if God is for us, who can be against us! This course taught me how to draw close to God and use the right weapons to ensure victory.

 

No matter how bad your situation is or how long you've been bound, God has a purpose for you still and can totally turn your life all around. This course is incredible because it brings us back to the prison breaker - King Jesus! It put the spotlight on spiritual truths I had glossed over previously.

 

If you have not been experiencing real freedom in Christ, this course is for you. If you have hit rock bottom like I had because of the shame of your sins, there is help in this study. This course is different! Jesus is at the center. "Who the Son sets free is free indeed!" If this is not a reality in your life, get on this course now!”

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

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For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 183rd Edition, May 30, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 183rd Edition, May 30, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 182

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Teaching:

This week, we will answer the question: how do we mature in our spiritual life? That is, how do we go from being people who live in bondage to our flesh, comfort ourselves in sinful ways, and live self-centered lives to being people who resemble Christ?

We've been studying through the book of Galatians, and there we find that the false teachers in Galatia taught that maturity and perfection come through obedience to God's Law. 

But notice Galatians 3:23-25:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

In these verses, Paul describes being under the Law as being a minor, an underaged child with a guardian, whereas when faith in Christ comes, maturity also comes.

This truth makes sense; little children need rules and supervision for their safety and well-being. For example, we tell a child to hold an adult's hand when crossing the street, brush their teeth, go to bed, etc. But when a child grows into a mature adult, they govern themselves. 

And Paul is saying that the entire life of the Jewish nation (life under the Law) can be described as infancy and childhood until Jesus came and lived and died and rose again. And when God gave faith to believe in Jesus, maturity and adulthood came. 

Paul's point is that when faith in Christ's death and resurrection to take away their sins comes to an individual, that person no longer needs a law guardian. As long as we focus on the Law (rules, steps), we remain childish, but faith in Christ matures us, grows us in the Lord. 

Think of it this way: putting faith in the gospel enables us to lose our sinful pacifiers, comfort blankies, milk bottles, and diapers. Placing faith in Jesus' finished work grows us into mature people, enabling us to walk by the Spirit where we do not gratify the lusts of our flesh (Galatians 5:16). 

Ephesians 4 also speaks about the growth and maturity that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Starting in verse 8:

“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Ephesians 4:8-10).

This passage invites you to look at Jesus descending from heaven to earth for you. Jesus came down to live as a man in your place so that God would count Christ's perfect living as yours. Then Jesus went lower to a criminal's cross where He suffered for your sin and died to remove not only your sins but also your guilt and shame. Finally, Jesus descended into the grave to bury your sin and your old identity. God calls you to see and believe this message so that you can grow up in Christ and experience the new life He purchased for you with His blood.

Then Ephesians 4:11-12 speak of God giving the gift of His Spirit who grows the church through each one using their gift. And notice in verses 13-14 how the result of this gospel and the work of the Spirit is maturity and stability:

“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”

Do you see how the message of the cross, accompanied by the work of the Spirit, stabilizes and matures us? It keeps us from believing wrong doctrines, and it grows us into spiritually mature adults. Putting faith in the gospel message does what the Law could not do; it brings maturity and stability. 

Question for this week: How can you know that you are being matured by putting faith in the gospel? What evidence do you see that you are growing?

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Kresten writes, "The Purity Bootcamp course Very helpful! It's a life-changer! This course was the best resource I have ever used. Having been a Christian for almost 20 years, the battle with my flesh lead me to read several books about overcoming sexual impurity. And though those other materials gave me some good mechanisms, this course has radically changed my mindset way beyond anything else.

 

From the beginning with talking about a heart change, the course gave me curiosity and motivation to move toward the cross and deeper into intimacy with Christ.  I have big dreams of joy and adventure for my life on earth, but I don't want to waste it giving into rebelliousness against Jesus and feeling unnecessary guilt.

I have long grown tired of the dark, confused, and bitter heart in me. Experiencing the new heart and new life that  Jesus purchased for me with His blood became the leading motivator and kick-off for my freedom.

 

The lessons helped me understand that true healing is not just about learning new habits or mechanisms but understanding myself through the cross -  who am I in the eyes of Jesus, and what did he do for me? Knowing that Jesus took not only my sin but also my guilt and shame was really helpful to gain the freedom and power inside to get restored and become truly happy.

 

Secondly (about understanding myself), I have always been scared of giving in entirely to becoming a new person. What about the things in my past which are good? The places I've lived, people I've known, and adventures I had which made me who I am?  The course helped me understand that I am becoming a new self - my TRUE self - when I unite with Jesus. For me, that meant getting restored to the innocent, enthusiastic, and adventurous youngster inside that loved life and wanted to explore the world but didn't live in sexual immorality.  I had to learn how to take the best with me and leave my sinful behaviors behind. I am becoming my true self, the one I was meant to be - without my dirty and selfish mind, but instead with a new path of following Jesus and fixing my mind and heart on Him.  I want to be the tool in His hand that He created me to become!

 

I'm starting to understand that instead of focusing on my sin and what to avoid, I can live in my new freedom and fill my mind with the good, pure, true, and powerful message of the cross. This course presented a crucial perspective on a change in my mindset. Worldly terms like addictions and recovery have been replaced with biblical terms like bondage and walking with the spirit.  We're not addicts for life; we're in bondage and CAN break free - but only by walking with Jesus, fixing our eyes on the cross.

 

I'm deeply grateful for this course and what it has done for me and my faith! It has changed my life, and I hope it will help many others to a new life of true freedom! Of all the tools I have worked with becoming pure, this one has been the best. It puts Jesus in the center, directs your eyes on his cross and the amazing life you can have with him, provides healthy and helpful biblical knowledge, and changes your overall mindset for the much better. But most of all, it gives you solid and spiritual motivation to stay pure and experience true freedom!"

Daniel writes, "I grew up in the church and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at a young age, but throughout my high school and university years, I struggled immensely with anxiety and depression. As a result, I turned to all kinds of things to cope: over-sleeping and not sleeping, over-eating and not eating, over-working, meditation, immense exercise, gratitude journaling, pornography, excessive alcohol, serving in church, praying, studying the Bible, praise & worship, and the list goes on. Nothing really worked because even with the things that I turned to that were considered good, I was not coming from the right mindset and heart.

 

But after finding the Depression course on Setting Captives Free, I began learning about the gospel of Jesus' finished work on the cross and how I am saved through grace - through His work and not mine. And after going through this course, I can say with gratitude and joy that my depression has completely lifted because of the revelation of Christ's love for me. I will admit that I still struggle with anxiety and worry, but I'm learning to give it all to God daily and to turn to the cross continually.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me, and thank you, Setting Captives Free, for pointing me in the right direction."

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









Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 182nd Edition, May 23, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 182nd Edition, May 23, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 181

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Teaching:

 

To start this week, I have two questions for you to consider: 1) What is our worst problem from birth? 2) What is the only solution?

Some people might think the greatest problem is violence, drugs, alcohol, abortion, obesity, immorality, lying, greed, etc. But these are all just various expressions of our worst problem.

Today we come to a verse that explains our worst problem, and at the same time, gives us the only solution; consider with me Galatians 3:22:

Galatians 3:22 (NIV) "But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."

It's clear from the text that Scripture has locked up everything and everyone under the control of sin. Or as 1 John 5:19 says, "the whole world is under the power of the evil one."  Since birth, our worst problem is that we were imprisoned in sin. We were born under the control and power of sin, which explains why we did things we knew were wrong, why temptation could overpower us, and why we felt helpless to change. Consequently, we have an innate sense of failure; we feel condemnation and guilt as if we do not measure up and God is displeased with us. 

So what is the only solution? The false teachers were teaching the Galatians that the answer is to obey God's Law - keep the commandments, that's the way to be free! "Do this and live!" (Luke 10:28). "Love God and love your neighbor" (Luke 10:27). But that's like telling a prisoner behind bars, "leave that jail cell immediately!" You're telling him to do something he is unable to do! The prisoner would say, "I would if I could, but I can't. I'm locked up, and every time I try to get free, I fail. Or concerning obeying God's law: every time I try to obey God's Law, I'm overpowered by the guards (my flesh, the devil, sin's power) and thrown back into sin."

Notice the Bible's solution: "so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe." So the only solution is "faith in Jesus Christ." What this means is that you actively believe that Jesus came to rescue you, that Jesus came with a key to your jail cell, and that key is the cross, and He set you free with it. You actually believe that through His death, Jesus defeated your worst problem (sin), your worst enemy (Satan), and your final enemy (death).

Sometimes it helps to see truths illustrated. Do you remember the story of Samson? If so, you might recall that when Samson was about to die, he stretched out his hands, putting them on two pillars of the house, pushed with all his might, and brought the house down on his enemies who were partying on the roof. Samson died with his enemies (the Philistines), and the Bible says he killed more of his enemies in his death than he did in his life (Judges 16:30). In dying, with his arms stretched out, he destroyed the enemy for his people.

Similarly, when Jesus stretched out His hands on the cross, He destroyed our enemy and won the victory for us. Hebrews 2 speaks of Jesus saying that by dying, he would "destroy the one who has the power of death--the devil--15 and free those who were like slaves all their lives." God wants you to see this solution and believe it. He says the promise was given "through faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe." As we believe, we experience the freedom Jesus won at the cross for us.

It's incredible that when you and I put faith in the rescue of the cross, our prison cell is unlocked; we are no longer dominated by sin, no longer mastered by sin. And finally, we escape that whole mindset of "I'm not good enough, I don't measure up, I don't meet the standard. I can't clear the bar." Now our eyes are on Jesus, who cleared the bar by a mile. In Christ, you and I won the battle at the cross; we were set free from sins' prison at the cross. We believe, and faith is the victory! "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5).

Question for this week: do you believe today that Jesus' purpose for dying was not only to forgive you of every sin but also to free you from the prison of sin?

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Alex writes, "Through the Purity Boot Camp course, the Lord has helped me turn away from all sexually immoral content. I've moved into a deeper relationship with God and begun to enjoy reading His Word and meditating on His way. God has been transforming my mind and heart to love others, especially my wife. God enabled me to be honest with my wife and others. I am finally out of hiding and moving towards true freedom. God is redeeming every part of my being and making me a man of integrity and selfless love. 

 

The foundational principles taught in this course highlight the Christian way to live in holiness. I need to be reminded of these principles often as I am prone to forget, just like Israel. I love these principles because they take the focus off of me and my strength. My willpower is useless against my enemies. God desires me to run to Him for freedom, not escape to my own strength; moreover, Christ is my freedom. He tells me who I am now.

 

There are times when I still struggle with lusting, yet the Holy Spirit calls me to run back to Christ. I don't want lust to be an option anymore. I want to dwell in the house of the Lord and worship Christ consistently. He must increase while I decrease.

 

Purity Bootcamp is a challenging course that points towards the freedom Christ offers. It incorporates the Holy Scriptures with personal testimonies to illustrate the power of God. The law provides no freedom in countering sin struggles. Instead, the Word of God proclaims the majesty, might, and freedom of God. God's touch alone can shatter our chains. Trust me; I've tried for 16 years in my own strength to break the bonds of sin. The best strength of my youth cannot free me. Liberation from sin comes through God alone. 

 

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Submit to Christ, and He will guide you to safety."

Desiree writes, "After taking the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss courses, I now have an understanding of HOW to wash at the cross, walk with the Lord, and war against the flesh. Previously, these were just words I knew by rote but never made it past that, no understanding or application.

 

I prayed to be closer to God, and now I understand and know Him better; this course has shown me the path to that, and my walk is more meaningful, and I have a closer relationship with my Lord and Savior!

 

I can now distinguish true hunger or if some other need isn't being met. I rarely experienced true hunger before (I never went that long without eating SOMETHING), but now I can spiritually discern what's really going on with me when I feel restless or "hungry."

 

I have lost several pounds, but now that isn't my main goal, but it is a pleasant side effect of following God's leading in my life.

 

I have recommended this course to a few Christian friends because the benefits are eternal and far greater than weight loss."

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 181st Edition, May 16, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 181st Edition, May 16, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 180

----------

Teaching:

Have you been trying to obey God but find another principle within you that prevents your ongoing obedience? Paul said:

"For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing". “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:21-23).

In Romans 7, Paul shares that he is desiring and striving to do good but discovering that he keeps doing evil - he keeps on sinning. The good news is that there is a solution to this difficulty; we find it in Romans 7:25 and again throughout the book of Galatians. Let's see the answer from Galatians 3:15-21:

Galatians 3:15-21 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

What we see here is an example of the truth that you and I become righteous in God's eyes when we believe that Jesus died in our place and rose from the dead for us. This righteousness through believing in Christ is contrary to the false teachers in Galatia who taught that while we need the gospel for salvation, we also need to obey the Law if we want to grow in freedom and perfection. But since the Bible tells us that "Law is the power of sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56), we know that this form of teaching (obedience to the Law) leads to slavery to sin, not freedom or perfection.

To help the Galatians understand, Paul provides a powerful example. He says that when Abraham believed and was credited with righteousness, there was no law to obey! The Law didn't even come into existence until 400 years later. There is no way that Abraham could be righteous through obedience to God's Old Covenant Law because 1) he was already righteous through his faith in the foretold gospel (Galatians 3:8), and 2) there was no Old Covenant law to obey. That's Paul's point!

So it's imperative to understand that the Old Covenant Law was temporary. The Law is not God's character engraved on stone and therefore "permanent"; instead, it had a "shelf life." Notice in verse 19 it says, the Law "was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come." Notice the words "added" and "until." So the Law was added at Mt. Sinai and in place only until Jesus died on the cross, at which time the Old Covenant expired, and a New Covenant was instituted. I like Charles Spurgeon's comments that the Law engraved on stone tablets was "ground to powder" at the cross. The Old Covenant Law is no longer the power of sin for us because we are not under that covenant; it can no longer condemn us because it condemned Jesus in our place, and when Jesus died, it died, and we are free!

I was raised as a Seventh-Day-Adventist, believing very firmly in keeping God's Old Covenant Law. I was taught that the Old Covenant Law was God's character revealed to us; it was God's desire for us. And so I believed and taught others the need to be obedient to God in everything. I taught that all ten commandments (Exodus 20) were valid and in force today and were God's revealed will for His people. 

But God brought me out of Adventism into the joy of the Gospel life when I read in 2 Corinthians 3 that God, Himself calls the Old Covenant a "ministry that brought death" in verse 7 and a "ministry that brought condemnation" in verse 9. My life verified the truth of 2 Corinthians 3:7-9 because as long as I was focused on the Law, as long as I tried to live up to God's standards, I felt this intense weight of condemnation on me. I experienced death in my spiritual relationship to God, in my marriage, and in other relationships as I tried to point out how they were not living up to God’s standard. 

Paul explains in Galatians 3 that the Old Covenant Law was temporary: it was "added" at Mt. Sinai and was in place "until" Jesus came and made a New Covenant. The Old Covenant said, "Obey God perfectly and continually, and you will live forever," but because we could not do it, Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant for us and put that covenant to death at the cross. "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear" (Hebrews 8:13, the sacrificial part of the Old Covenant disappeared in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple). 

The New Covenant that Jesus instituted through His death on the cross says, "Jesus lived in your place perfectly and continually, and died to remove all your sin forever. And if you believe that message, you are righteous, you are holy, you are perfect forever, and you are free!" "For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Hebrews 9:15). 

At Jesus' death, He initiated a New and better Covenant built on new and better promises. "But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6).

The effects of believing this message are to escape the curse, be free from all condemnation, be lifted out of death, set free from sin and receive new life. 

As Phillip Bliss wrote in his hymn "Once for All":

Free from the Law, O happy condition, 
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission; 
Cursed by the Law and bruised by the fall, 
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.--

Question: are you trying your best to obey a covenant that doesn't exist, or are you living in the freedom purchased for you at the cross?

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Nick writes, "I started the Purity Bootcamp course broken and at a new low. My wife was crushed by my lies and secrets and unsure if we would stay together. I first started when my pastor told me about it. Day one hit me hard; I cried and gave it all to God.

 

I grew up in church but never had the cross explained to me as it was in this course. I know Jesus died for my sins, and I was saved through His life, death, and resurrection, but I never realized that Jesus also bore all of the guilt, shame, labels, and pain I had too! Once I realized that, then true healing and freedom began.

 

Walking in the Spirit made the chains of impurity melt away. O, I love the walk! It is so amazing; day by day, my love for Jesus grows as the Spirit keeps telling me more and more about Him! The freedom and joy are overwhelming and starting to overflow from my soul.

 

Warring against the flesh is possible now. When temptations come, or the sins of my past haunt me, I look to Jesus, and He leads me to kill it all and not look back on it in shame or pity. Praise, honor, and glory to the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit! They have set me free and showed me new levels of love, mercy, and grace that I never knew existed.

 

I know the fight will go on the rest of my life, but if I wash at the cross often, walk in the Spirit, and war against my flesh, I know God is faithful and will see me through till He calls me home. My wife and I are in a better place now; we are working on our relationship day by day and keeping Jesus the center of it all. The road may be long and hard, but it will more than worth it at the end to see Christ glorified and captives set free.

 

I recommend this course! My advice to students: stay humble, be honest, and keep looking to Jesus and the cross."

Gail writes, "The biblical principles in the Weight Loss Bootcamp course continually pointed me back to having my focus on my Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross and rose again so I might be set free from sin, have the Holy Spirit in me to guide me, and be able to war against the flesh and win because He has already won the battle over sin and death on the cross.

 

I feel I stand at the cross so much more now than I ever did before. I have and am dealing with defeating the sin in my life that has kept me trapped in a cell. I can give more and more of it over to my Savior, who continually forgives me. I walk more by the Spirit than I have done so in the past. I have learned how to fight against my flesh in the Spirit's power. I have been set free from a dungeon that I didn't even know I was in.

 

Physically, I have lowered my blood glucose numbers which means my diabetes is better under control. I have learned through God's discipline that I feel sick when I overeat or eat the wrong foods. I am better able to say no to those foods now. I know I have lost a few pounds because I was weighed at the doctor's office recently.

 

I recommend this course because it is so much more than just a Christ-centered weight loss program. It is a reclaiming of my focus on my Lord and Savior. I gained so much more from that than I would have ever thought. Refocusing on Jesus is what was life-changing for me."

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



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 180th Edition, May 9, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 180th Edition, May 9, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 179

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Teaching:

Did you know that there is no way to live in freedom from sinful bondage if you're trying to live under God's Law? It is true, but the good news is that there is a way to be free; it is unlike anything this world offers. Let's see what it is.

We are looking into the Book of Galatians, and this week we are faced with the terrible news that you and I are under a curse. Galatians 3:10 quotes Deuteronomy 27:26, which says, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 

In other words, the Law requires PERFECT obedience — "everything written in the Book of the Law," and it requires PERPETUAL obedience — we must "continue" to do it. Perfect, perpetual obedience, or a curse.

Now I don't know about you, but that makes me feel condemned. I feel unworthy because I know I don't measure up to God's perfect standard. I remember living for decades in the lusts of my flesh, thinking I was cursed by God because of my sin. It was a horrible, terrifying time.

To be under a curse means eternal banishment from God's presence and complete destruction. Zechariah 5:3-4 says, "This is the curse that is going out over the whole land...every thief will be banished, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. 4 The LORD Almighty declares, 'I will send it (the curse) out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely...'" So you and I are born under a curse because of sin, which means, barring any intervention, we will be banished from God's presence and completely destroyed. Think about it!

This consequence is why the Law has such appeal to our old nature because if we could just obey the Law, we could escape the curse. In other words, our flesh thinks if we're cursed for our disobedience, well, let's just change that and start obeying God, and we'll be free from the curse. 

So there we are, trying to obey God and escape the curse. Then we get more bad news in Galatians 3:11-12, "Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith." 12 The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, "The person who does these things will live by them." And it dawns on us, we have not "done these things" perfectly, we can't cover over our mistakes through our attempts at obedience. Our covering of "righteous living" and "good works" is full of holes. 

Like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed together as a covering in the Garden of Eden, our efforts towards righteousness are flimsy and can't withstand the storm of God's wrath. 

So, here we are, knowing we're under God's curse because of our sin, covered in the withering leaves of our attempts at obedience. What is the solution? Is there any way out at all? The very next verse presents it to us clearly:

"Christ took away the curse the Law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse. It is written in the Scriptures, "Anyone whose body is displayed on a tree is cursed" (Galatians 3:13 NCV). 

Notice the word "displayed." When you walk by a store, you might see a "display" that they set up; that's because they want you to look. Well, Jesus was displayed on a tree when He died for our sins, and we are to look. We are to see Him wearing a crown of thorns, meaning He is wearing your curse even as He is bearing your sins in His own body on the tree. And why is He removing the curse from you? The next verse tells us:

"Christ did this so that God's blessing promised to Abraham might come through Jesus Christ to those who are not Jews. Jesus died so that by our believing we could receive the Spirit that God promised" (Galatians 3:14). 

Ah, all nations on earth were blessed through Abraham when Jesus died! He died to remove the curse and bless us with His Spirit. Jesus' death on the cross eradicated your curse and gave you an eternal blessing - God's presence through His Spirit living in you. And with His Spirit comes freedom! "The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17). 

Question: have you been living as if you could be right with God by obeying Him, or are you fully relying on the cross to do that for you?

----------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Gail writes, "The biblical principles in the Weight Loss Bootcamp course continually pointed me back to having my focus on my Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross and rose again so I might be set free from sin, have the Holy Spirit in me to guide me, and be able to war against the flesh and win because He has already won the battle over sin and death on the cross.

 

I feel I stand at the cross so much more now than I ever did before. I have and am dealing with defeating the sin in my life that has kept me trapped in a cell. I can give more and more of it over to my Savior, who continually forgives me. I walk more by the Spirit than I have done so in the past. I have learned how to fight against my flesh in the Spirit's power. I have been set free from a dungeon that I didn't even know I was in.

 

Physically, I have lowered my blood glucose numbers which means my diabetes is better under control. I have learned through God's discipline that I feel sick when I overeat or eat the wrong foods. I am better able to say no to those foods now. I know I have lost a few pounds because I was weighed at the doctor's office recently.

 

I recommend this course because it is so much more than just a Christ-centered weight loss program. It is a reclaiming of my focus on my Lord and Savior. I gained so much more from that than I would have ever thought. Refocusing on Jesus is what was life-changing for me."

Clare writes, In the Purity Bootcamp course, I’ve learned to stop looking at my sin and failures and myself.

 

Before this study, I always felt condemned because my eyes were in the wrong place. Now my eyes are on the perfect One, Jesus. I’m focused on who He is and what He has done for me through His death on the cross for my sins and His glorious resurrection and the new person He has made me. I died and rose with Him. The focus is Jesus, not Clare. I have been crucified; it is no longer I who lives, but it’s Christ who lives in me.

 

If you want to have your life transformed, take this course. The inner change in my life was huge because it’s gospel-centered.

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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 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: 179th Edition, May 2, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

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Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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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 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: 178th Edition, April 25, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 178th Edition, April 25, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 177

----------

Teaching:

Question: why do Christians have wrong understandings of the Bible? And secondly, why do Christians get involved in habitual sin? Sins such as pornography and sexual impurity, drunkenness and drugs, food-related sins, unforgiveness, gossip, bitterness, or other habitual sins. The answer to both questions is the same: because they look away from the cross. 

In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul writes, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (verse 1). The word translated as “clearly portrayed” should be understood like the display of a billboard, so Paul is saying, “I displayed the cross like a billboard, you saw it clearly in every detail, and that’s how you began as a Christian. But you looked away because somebody held up a hypnotic pendulum and swung it in front of your eyes, and you got all mesmerized and bewitched by the teaching. Why is that? Because you looked away from the cross.”

False teachers were teaching the Galatians that while the gospel was necessary for salvation embracing God's Law was required for perfection - the gospel plus what you do. The Galatians, bewitched by this false teaching, looked away from the cross and began trying to earn their perfection by obedience. They were in error; they were sinning. The same thing happens to us! Forgetting our Savior's cross is the first step in our backsliding. 

“Here then was the beginning of their folly. The Galatians forgot their Saviour's cross. This was the first step in their backsliding. Had their eyes continued to be fixed on Calvary, the Legalists would have argued and cajoled in vain. Let the cross of Christ once lose its spell for us...and we are at the mercy of every wind of doctrine. We are like sailors in a dark night on a perilous coast, who have lost sight of the lighthouse beacon. Our Christianity will go to pieces. If Christ crucified should cease to be our attraction, from that moment the Church is doomed.” - The Expositor’s Bible

Yes, had these Galatians had their eyes fixed on Christ and His cross, this false teaching would have bounced right off of them, and they would not have become involved in habitual sin. They would have known that the fruits of love do not grow on the stump of the Law, but rather on the tree of Calvary!

Galatians 3:1-5 gives us three solutions for our sin problem; let’s look at them:

  1. Remember the cross. And by remember, I mean look at it.Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1b). See your King wearing a crown of thorns to remove the curse of sin from you, see His arms and feet nailed to the tree for your freedom, see Him breathing out His last breath to breathe new life into you, see Him pierced in His side where blood and water came out to forgive and cleanse you from all sin. But don’t just see His physical suffering, see Him bearing your sin to remove it from you, see Him shot through with the arrows of God’s wrath because God hates sin, see Him bleeding out and dying out of love for you to redeem and forgive you. And finally, see yourself in Him, in whom you now have redemption, the forgiveness of your sins (Colossians 1:13-14). Remember the cross and wash at it daily, and you won’t believe doctrinal error, and you’ll be free from sin’s bondage.

  1. Remember how you got the Holy Spirit.  “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2). When you heard the good news, that Christ died for your sin to rescue you, and believed that message, you received the Holy Spirit. This happened over and over in the Book of Acts: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44). And again, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). It is as if Paul is saying, “do you want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit again today? Then come back to where you got Him, come to the cross and look up, hear the good news and believe again today.”

  1. Remember where all the supernatural power of God is - at the cross.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). Paul is saying, “that man over there who was in bondage to alcohol, the Spirit worked miracles in him and set him free at the cross. The lady in bondage to food came to the cross where the Spirit worked a miracle in her life and set her free. That couple on the brink of divorce came to the cross where the Holy Spirit poured the love of God into their hearts and brought them together. Miracles happen at the cross!”

The solution for our sin problem today is stated clearly in this passage: “Remember the cross, remember how you got the Spirit, remember the miracles!” 

Question for this week: How does believing the message of the cross keep you from error?

-----------------

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Joel writes, "The biblical principles in Purity Bootcamp are like tools that dig or do surgery on my soul and show me the deeper hurts and sins I hold in my heart that I then bring to the Lord during Cross Washing. It's a repetitive UPWARD cycle of deliverance and healing versus a repetitive downward spiral of defeat and hopelessness.

 

The course was fantastic. I was excited to see the truths laid out so flawlessly and orderly. The lessons were brief but packed with facts I had never seen before, nor would I ever have discovered on my own. I had many successes Cross Washing in overcoming temptation and suffering and surrendering to Christ. 

The changes in my life have mostly been internal, but they have opened up a whole new way of engaging with Christianity and making it real for me. So many connections to truth in Scripture and practical applications came through this course - too many to count. I am excited to use these tools more and more and grow in my faith walk. For me, this is the birth of being a Christian.

You have to see this course! And do it. It is so well put together."

Kathy writes, "The principles of the Weight Loss Bootcamp course are absolutely vital in my walk with Him. Without Christ and going to Him in need, I will stumble and fall. Plus, I go to Him, rejoicing and praising Him for what He has done and is doing.

 

I came to this course because my blood pressure and blood sugar were both too high. I was heavier than I have ever been, and my girlfriend suggested I get my weight back to normal. I needed help. When I heard about intermittent fasting, I didn't think I could do it. We had a trip planned to Disney World, and although I cut my portions down and ate carefully, I did not fast. But when we came home, on day 15 of the course, I asked God about an eating plan. He told me to breakfast at 8 AM and have dinner at noon, and fasting after.  Who would have thought I could go without snacks (which I used to eat all the time) and an evening meal. Since then, when I have eaten when God didn't tell me, I have been uncomfortable, and I have gone to the cross and humbled myself. God has been there for me, not condemning me but lifting me back up.

 

Since I get up at 5 AM, the 8 AM breakfast was challenging. God helped me adjust to a 7:30 AM breakfast and a 12:30 Dinner (lunch). And when there is something on the schedule, like taking my granddaughter shopping at night with supper out or Easter brunch at church and dinner at my son's, God has given me a plan to handle those special events. I have never skipped breakfast before a brunch, but I am excited to do it this Sunday.  God has been right with me all along, and I so appreciate Him and love Him all the more.

 

I have lost 9 pounds since starting this course. My jeans were so baggy; I was pleased to go into the closet and find three pairs that fit. I do feel healthier. I can bend over more easily, and my balance is improved. I have more energy, plus I am stronger.  It has been so freeing.  I am so encouraged to continue walking with God in this."

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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 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: 177th Edition, April 18, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 177th Edition, April 18, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 176

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Teaching:

We all desire freedom! But if we’ve come to understand that we’re in bondage to sin, that we can’t seem to get free, then we might wonder what is keeping us from the freedom that Jesus promised when He said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36).

Consider today whether there is anything in your life that you are trusting in to make you right with God, other than the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Are you trusting in your ability to obey God’s Law? Your working of some program, doing steps, or keeping rules? If so, you are nullifying God’s grace in your life and this is why freedom eludes you.

Examine our passage of study for this week:

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Do you see what this is saying? It's telling me that if I try to gain right standing with God by my efforts at obedience to the Law, I'm setting aside the grace of God. If I'm trying to do something, earn my way somehow, I'm setting aside the grace of God or making it of no effect. In other words, I'm saying, "Thanks for your death Jesus, but I'll pass; I'm focused on obeying God myself, I'm going do it this time, and I'm going to get it right." That's setting aside the grace of God, that's making God's grace of no effect.

But it's God's grace that "teaches us to say no to ungodliness" (Titus 2:12), so if we are "nullifying the grace of God," then we are canceling our own freedom. 

And did you notice how the grace of God is always joined together with the message of the cross? Frequently people talk about God's grace, seldom about the cross, but Scripture always connects the grace of God and the cross of Christ.

So why does Paul continue to hammer this teaching about grace and the cross? I mean, why is it so important for Paul to bring the grace of God and the death of Jesus into practically every sentence?

Well, it’s because, in our natural selves, we have a bent toward works righteousness. We all lean toward doing something to gain God’s favor, working to earn our way. The natural world operates this way. If you have a job, when your employer gives you a paycheck, he isn’t giving you grace; he’s giving you what you earned. 

But when it comes to God’s kingdom, it works exactly the opposite of nature. You sin and do what is wrong, rebel against God and hurt other people, and God puts your sin on Jesus who dies for you, and you get off scot-free! That makes absolutely no sense to us by nature or to the world around us, and it is a laughing stock to all other religions that are working hard to gain God’s favor. 

And this is why Paul continuously focuses on God's grace and the death of Jesus as it is so opposed to everything within us by nature. 

And here in Galatians, Paul states very clearly that if we could gain righteousness through the law, Christ died for nothing. If we could gain righteousness by our own merits, through Bible study, through Scripture memory, witnessing, going to church, or anything else, then Christ died for nothing. 

Imagine for a minute that YOU are the thief on the cross next to Jesus. What can you do to earn righteousness? You can do nothing to make yourself right with God; you are dying because of your sins. It's not your decision to change your life, your commitment to obey God, your desire to live right from now on, etc., that will have any bearing on your standing before God. You have no hope whatsoever in anything you can do from here on out. 

So, you look over at Jesus, and what you see hanging on that cross sparks a new hope in you. As you're looking, maybe you think to yourself, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." Maybe, just maybe, His horrible, agonizing suffering and death means something for you! You start to see Jesus hanging on the cross as a flowing fountain of grace for you. You remember that when you were young, you read, 

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. 2 “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land” (Zechariah 13:1-2).

You now look at Jesus and wave after wave of love and grace flow to you. You see His suffering as your healing, His death as your pardon and forgiveness, your righteousness, and your way to God. 

So you cry out to Him, calling Him Lord and asking for grace, that He might remember you in His kingdom, and you are assured of a rich welcome into Paradise!

"The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away."

This washing at the cross is how to be righteous; it's how to receive grace; it's how to be free. And isn’t that what we all want? Freedom from life-dominating, recurring sins? Receiving grace flowing from the cross is exactly what we need to be free.

Question for this week: share your thoughts about Galatians 2:21?

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Angela writes, "I find the biblical principles in the Weight Loss Bootcamp to be the essential way to live my life if I want to live in victory and close relationship with Jesus. I know these last 30 days have shown me my sins, the great price Jesus paid for me to be free and have a relationship with him, and how to have victory daily when I stay close to Him.

 

I have made it a habit to start my day reading the Bible and looking for a daily application to my life from its words. I ask God to reveal His plan for me for the day in eating and exercise. I'm way less bitter towards my family and memories of past abuse and know complete healing will happen. I put the scale away because it no longer has power over my emotions.

 

I know I've lost weight because my pants are loose now and my shirts are fitting better. I'm sleeping through the night, getting about 8 hrs a night. I have fewer aches and pains in my joints and love my daily walks. I have been able to do some 24 hr fasts when God asks me to, and I no longer think about the macros or amount of protein I might be needing and instead eat my meals with joy. I believe God wants me to do the 16/8 eating times unless He prompts a longer fast, and I have been able to give up snacking between meals altogether. When hunger or cravings begin, God helps me war against them and remember Jesus' suffering at the cross. I've been sharing Setting Captives free with people when I feel it could help them or when it seems God is prompting me. I want this way of life to be permanent until I meet Jesus face to face!

 

This course is not a typical weight loss course. There are no eating plans, weekly weigh-ins, or calorie/macro counting. Instead, it teaches us to go to the heart of our obsession with weight and food and see it for what it really is - worshiping the idols of food, appearance, etc., that we identify as we progress through the course. The Bible has become alive to me in its entirety. The cross and Jesus' suffering for me and all people are so meaningful now. My focus has shifted to loving Jesus, living for Him, and wanting to serve others as He has asked us to do. Thank you, Mike and Jody, for using your own experience to teach us how to live in victory rather than constant defeat!"

Luke writes, "The Looking to Jesus devotional was wonderful for my heart. I entered this study feeling worn out and stuck. Looking to Jesus every day along with journeying with friends in accountability was amazing.

 

I love how every day of the study, you are looking to Jesus for what you need. I feel this has been a large part of my journey to freedom from fear and unbelief." 

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On our Setting Captives Free Discord server we have a mentor’s section where we discuss many different issues. This week we discussed what confession and forgiveness mean. Some of our mentors made the discussion into a Google document. Click here if you would like to read it. 

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Finally, here are two wonderful, cross-focused messages if you would like to feed your soul on the gospel this week:

Good Friday by J Michael Cleveland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F70Jerp6Q-0&t=1331s 

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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 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: 176th Edition, April 11, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 176th Edition, April 11, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 175

Teaching:

This week we have a special teaching by a dear friend and brother of mine, and I know you’ll be greatly blessed by it as I was:

The Transforming Power of Regarding Jesus
by ‘Anonymous Bob’

 

Regarding Jesus is the title of a book I wrote anonymously. I’ll tell you about it in a moment, but first, let me share a related personal discovery that is changing my life. It is grounded in this verse:

 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
                                                                     —2 Corinthians 3:18

 

This verse applies to everyone whose ‘face’ is ‘unveiled.’ When this supernatural work occurs, we ‘behold the glory of the Lord.’ But who exactly is this Lord? In context (see 4:4, 6), we see that He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Seeing the glory of Christ is both the end and the means of the Christian life. And those who behold Him through the eyes of faith undergo a process of TRANSFORMATION! And not just any kind of transformation! We are transformed—changed—into the image of Christ. We become like Jesus!

 

Do you want to change? Then focus, no rivet your attention, your regard, onto the glory of Jesus Christ. He is revealed in the Word of God from cover to cover. So continuously open the Bible and seek to see Jesus. And diligently pray that the Holy Spirit will enable the process—for ‘this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’ In other words, we need the Spirit of God to illuminate the Word of God so that we can behold the glory of the Son of God and be transformed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another.

 

What a beautiful and simple principle for battling our sins—including our addictions! Instead of relying on our ever-failing white-knuckle willpower, we take our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus, and nowhere is this more powerful than when we behold Him at the cross. As we behold Jesus there, we become like Him—we die to sin. And when we become like Him in His death, we also become like Him in His resurrection—we are raised to newness of life!

 

And it doesn’t end there. Through God’s Word, we can behold the ascended Jesus where He is right now at the right hand of the Majesty on High—the most glorious position in the universe. There He continuously serves His people as their all-sufficient great high priest, advocate, mediator, and intercessor. He reigns as Lord and King. When we see Him there, everything else looks small by comparison—including our ‘stuff.’

 

Our beholding Jesus is a life-long process. And while it is simple, it does not come naturally. That’s why the Bible tells us to:

 

lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us,

 

LOOKING TO JESUS

 

the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
                                                                                 —Hebrews 12:1–3

 

+++++++

 

As I endeavored to write the book, Regarding Jesus, my research focused on scholarly writings like The Glory of Christ by 17th-century theologian John Owen. And the amazing Caledonian Creed from the 5th century. But my challenge was to write Regarding Jesus at a 9th-grade reading level.

 

In the end, after spending 4,000+ hours over five years, Regarding Jesus consisted of 177 pages of text on the Person of Jesus Christ covering a timeless timeline that ‘began’ before the Dawn of Time, unfolded throughout human history up to today, and advances into the future where it ‘ends’ with His Eternal Reign. I also went to great lengths to show the extent to which Jesus is personally present with us. When it all came together happily discovered that the Endnotes contained over 1,000 Scripture citations that were positioned to reveal the biblical Jesus.

 

As I buttoned up the digital manuscript, I became exhausted. And I began to notice something unexpected happening deep inside: I became acutely and painfully aware of sins that I had consistently tolerated. They were not the types of sins other people could detect. Instead, they were sins that went on inside my head, mostly consisting of fears and anxieties and lustful mental images in the middle of the night—leftovers from decades of porn addiction. These clearly were sins because they disregarded the glory of Christ and met the very definition of sin because they did not proceed from faith in Him (see Romans 14:23). I panicked—how could someone who could write this book be so sinful?

 

I knew the answer—in the light of His holy presence, I was seeing myself as I really am. But instead of beholding the glory of the Lord, I had begun looking down, turning my eyes away from Him, beholding my pathetic self instead. And I began to experience what people refer to as a depression.

 

Thankfully, through the help of some wise counselors, including Setting Captives Free’s Mike Cleveland, I was reminded to turn my focus away from myself and to steadfastly re-focus on our glorious Savior AT THE CROSS. Gradually the gloom lifted, and the joy of my blood-bought salvation returned. I once again basked in the righteousness of Christ (see Philippians 3:19), realizing that I will not become personally sinless until I see Jesus face-to-face in His resurrected, glorified body.

 

Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared;
but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is.
                                                                     —1 John 3:2

 

Make no mistake—this does not mean I dismiss my sins or take them lightly. Instead, it means that as I continue to regard Jesus, sin will continue to lose its grip on me, and I will sin less.
+++++++

 

I hope you will join me on this journey—keeping the glory of Christ ever in sight—finding Him to be awesome, sovereign, ultra-compelling, mind-boggling, incomparable, majestic, gentle, kind, absolutely delightful, supremely satisfying, and holy, holy, holy.

 

I suppose the book can help—you can find it at Regarding-Jesus.com

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 175th Edition, April 4, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 175th Edition, April 4, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

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Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 174

 

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Teaching

What happens to our lives of sin when we put faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ? What happens to my life of gluttony with food, or my life of over-drinking, viewing porn, or gratifying the flesh in other ways? 

The passage we are looking at this week in Galatians shows us that we are justified by God and that we destroy our entire past life when we put faith in the gospel. Let's look together at the next section of Galatians. Here is our passage for this week:

Galatians 2:17-18 (NIV) 17 "But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

Here Paul is continuing to recount to the Galatians his experiences in Jerusalem when he dealt with the issue of whether or not Christians are still under the requirements of the Law. 

So, we learn at least two things in these verses: First, believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ destroys our previous life of sin. Second, all who put faith in Jesus still sin. So let's talk about those.

First, we can see that putting faith in Jesus destroys your past life of sin because when you believe the gospel, you legally come out from under the Law, out from under condemnation, out from under guilt. You are legally removed from being "in Adam" and are now "in Christ." 

This transformation means that any sin you have committed or will commit has been assigned to Jesus, as if He committed your sin, so no sin is ever applied to you as it was all applied to Jesus. So, you are no longer under the curse or condemnation of the Law; you are officially and legally free, justified, acquitted of all sin for the rest of your life and throughout eternity.

Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Jesus was condemned in your place, and God does not condemn two people for the same sin) because through Christ Jesus the Law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the Law of sin and death.

When you hear the message of the cross, that God has condemned Jesus instead of you, that you are forgiven because He was forsaken, and you believe this message, your entire past life of sin is destroyed (Galatians 2:17-18). Your old nature has legally and officially died (Galatians 2:20), and you have been given a new life in Jesus (Colossians 3:1-3). You destroyed your past life when you put faith in Jesus. 

Now, why is Paul telling Peter this? Well, Peter had believed the gospel, he had destroyed his past life under the Law, but now he was siding with the Jews, moving back toward the Law and circumcision, and essentially beginning to rebuild his old life. Paul says, "when you do that, you're a lawbreaker." Isn't that interesting? When you turn back to the Law to be justified, you become a Lawbreaker!

Illustration: Imagine that you built a home a long time ago and lived in it for many decades, but you didn't keep it up - the roof started sagging, the walls began bending, the foundation is crumbling. And one day, the building department shows up, examines the house, and declares the house condemned; you must move out and destroy the house. And you watch as the wrecking crew comes in and destroys that house, leveling it to its foundation.

Then your neighbor comes along and suggests that instead of building a new house, you should rebuild your old home. You can salvage the wood and make it better this time. You'll repair the foundation and "recover" the house. It sounds good, but it isn't - physically or spiritually. 

Spiritually, if we turn back to the Law to be justified by God, that is, we try to earn His favor through our own efforts, God counts such an act as "breaking the Law." We destroyed that old house; now we rebuild on a new foundation, the gospel of grace, meaning we live a new life in Jesus, our Savior. This life is one of freedom from the Law, freedom from the power of sin, and freedom to love others as Jesus has loved us.

Question 1. You destroyed your past life of sin when you believed the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross to take away your sin and His victorious resurrection; how does that truth affect the way you live today? 

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

 

Jennifer writes, "In the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss Bootcamp course, I have had joy in realizing how set free I really am in Christ. To dwell upon His love on full display at the cross is just amazing; what a gift to be loved like that. 

 

I no longer condemn myself over the scale, what I ate, or my thoughts about myself. I feel set free from that condemnation which before only made me want to eat more and blow it because I felt bad. Now those feelings are gone, and I praise God for that!

 

I went to the doctor for a check-up recently, and I didn't worry at all about weighing on the scale because I knew I had not overindulged.

 

I have been fasting with a friend almost every Saturday. It has been challenging and revealing of how weak my flesh is and how strong Jesus is - He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and I just praise Him for how good and perfect He is!

 

This Bible study has brought to life many Old Testament accounts and related them to weight loss and pointed to Jesus. I want to repeat this study; it has been incredible, and I want to remember all the lessons and Scriptures!

 

I'm not comparing myself to other people, but instead, I feel inspired and know that God will continue to show me His battle plan for me. Even though I don't have the battle plan complete, I know He is with me, and I feel so patient with myself, which is because of the cross and Jesus' love. 

 

I'm catching myself and becoming aware of when I want to turn to food or coffee for comfort and try to run to Christ instead.

 

My clothes fit well, and I feel great. When people ask if I am losing weight, I share about Setting the Captives Free and how I'm washing at the cross, walking by His Spirit, and warring against my flesh. Mentally I am so much better - not constantly thinking about food, not mindlessly eating because I'm bored or stressed or in need of comfort. I am so thankful for this study, and all God has done in me, and I feel confident He will continue to work on me.

 

I recommend the course. It is the best study on focusing on the cross of Christ and how to apply the cross to your everyday, real struggles in your life."

 

Dominic writes, "Up until December 31, 2020, I had been in an adulterous affair, I had been viewing pornography, I had been pursuing women to satisfy an emptiness inside. I was a Christian for over 20 years, involved in my local church, and married, but I had never conquered sexual temptation.

 

By the end of 2020, things had come to a head with my wife filing for divorce; I was ready to walk away from Christ forever until a friend recommended this amazing course.  So, on New Year's Eve, with God's help, I repented. I stopped the adulterous affair and signed up for the Purity Bootcamp course because I wanted to start the new year of 2021 free!

 

What makes this course different, effective, and supernatural is it is Christ-centered. It will point you back to the cross of Jesus, where you can obtain real victory.

 

It's day 30, and I have been free from sexual sin for the first time in a long time. Praise God!  I had days where it felt effortless and days where it felt all of hell was against me. But if God is for us, who can be against us! This course taught me how to draw close to God and use the right weapons to ensure victory.

 

No matter how bad your situation is or how long you've been bound, God has a purpose for you still and can totally turn your life all around. This course is incredible because it brings us back to the prison breaker - King Jesus! It put the spotlight on spiritual truths I had glossed over previously.

 

If you have not been experiencing real freedom in Christ, this course is for you. If you have hit rock bottom like I had because of the shame of your sins, there is help in this study. This course is different! Jesus is at the center. "Who the Son sets free is free indeed!" If this is not a reality in your life, get on this course now!


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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 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: 174th Edition, March 28, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 174th Edition, March 28, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 173

 

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Teaching

 

Justification by Faith

How does a person become right with God? How does one deal with this problem of sin that we all have? Is it by our own efforts to be better? Is it by working programs and stepping steps? Is it by obedience to God’s Law? How?

The answers to these questions are found in this week’s study of Galatians 2:15-16:

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Paul taught the Galatians this truth because the false teachers were telling them they needed to keep the Law in addition to believing the gospel. This teaching is the doctrine of “justification by faith,” which started an entire reformation within the church in the 1500s. 

Now, this passage deals only with justification, or how to be right with God, whereas the next chapter deals with sanctification or how to be free from sin. So, Paul is dealing with the foundational doctrine in this chapter, and in the next, he will teach us how to build on the foundation of justification by faith.

The word “justification” is a legal term; its opposite is “condemnation.” In a courtroom setting, it’s either justification or condemnation for the accused. If you were to stand before a judge and receive condemnation, you would have been found guilty and have to pay the price that he, or the Law, would determine. Or, if you were to receive justification, it would mean that you would not be held liable for any charges against you and would be acquitted of those charges and released into freedom.

What are the charges brought against you and me in God’s heavenly courtroom? Well, our situation is more serious than bad behavior, or even of having a sinful heart; the charges against you and I are of complete alienation from God, the total depravity of heart and mind. The charges against us are revealed in the Law of God, and God attests to our guilt through our own conscience that condemns us and by the very lives that we have lived.

Innately everyone knows they've done wrong, so we all feel guilty. When we read God's Word, we understand more fully of this righteous decree against us, of the guilt on us. Many of us have tried various methods to free ourselves from our guilt and shame. We've tried to work our way out of the problem by doing good, reading the Bible day and night, attempting to keep God's Law, doing good works, etc. We have sought to be justified by our own efforts but quickly discovered we could never be good enough, and so we were never free from the plaguing undertow of guilt that would sweep us back out into the ocean of sin.

But then, one day, or over a period of time, we heard the message of good news. The message was that God made His Son to be our sin that we might go free! On the cross, Jesus was alienated from His own Father, that we might be joined together with God forever! Jesus was condemned instead of us and died to pay for our sins, that we might be justified before a holy God. His death for our life. His condemnation for our justification. 

And what is the only requirement on our part? It is to believe this glorious, exceedingly good message! We accepted and put our trust in Jesus' blood shed for us, and we were justified, exonerated of all charges, and set free from sin's penalty. "So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ" (Galatians 2:16). In other words, by faith in the good news, your rap sheet has been purged, wiped clean, and you have been found "Not Guilty" (Romans 8:1-2) before a most Holy God, all because of the sacrifice His Son made for you.

You who are reading these words today, have you seen the sacrifice Jesus made for you and put faith in it as your all-sufficient atonement for your sins, the complete payment for your wrongs? Or are you hoping that something you do might add to what He did? 

Illustration: Let’s close with a short illustration. 

In the year 640 AD in China, there was an area of land owned by rich people who had built luxurious homes; but right next to this section of wealthy homes, the poor lived in mud huts. 

In that year, the river Yangtze flooded. The rich believed their homes were a safe haven, so when the report came that the river was flooding, they all ran to the safety of their homes and went up on their roofs to wait it out. 

But the river flooded higher than ever before, and the rushing waters wiped out every home in the town. All of the rich people who trusted in the safety of the homes they had built were swept away in the floodwaters.

On the other hand, the poor knew that their mud huts would provide no protection, so upon hearing the news of the flood, they immediately ran to the hills, escaped the flood, and lived. 

Question: In your life, are you trusting in something you built, your efforts, your ministry, the life that you made? Or do you see your life, your righteousness is nothing but a mud hut that could never withstand the flood of God’s wrath, and so you have run to the hill of Calvary and put faith in what Jesus did there for you? Please share.

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Daniel writes, "I grew up in the church and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at a young age, but throughout my high school and university years, I struggled immensely with anxiety and depression. As a result, I turned to all kinds of things to cope: over-sleeping and not sleeping, over-eating and not eating, over-working, meditation, immense exercise, gratitude journaling, pornography, excessive alcohol, serving in church, praying, studying the Bible, praise & worship, and the list goes on. Nothing really worked because even with the things that I turned to that were considered good, I was not coming from the right mindset and heart.

 

But after finding the Depression course on Setting Captives Free, I began learning about the gospel of Jesus' finished work on the cross and how I am saved through grace - through His work and not mine. And after going through this course, I can say with gratitude and joy that my depression has completely lifted because of the revelation of Christ's love for me. I will admit that I still struggle with anxiety and worry, but I'm learning to give it all to God daily and to turn to the cross continually.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me, and thank you, Setting Captives Free, for pointing me in the right direction."

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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 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: 173rd Edition, March 21, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 173rd Edition, March 21, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 172

 

----------

 

Teaching

 

The Importance of the Gospel: A Message for the Marginalized

Have you ever been separated from, pushed aside, marginalized, or ignored for any reason? Here’s some good news!

This week we are looking at Galatians 2:11-14, and here we will see Paul stab Peter in the front, so to speak. Paul says, “when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11).

What is going on here? Paul got all up in the face of Peter. Why is he in Peter’s face? The answer is given in vs. 14: “when I saw that they were not acting in line with the gospel…” Paul is all about the gospel; he preaches it, lives it, and wants to display it to everyone. And Peter did too, but in this case, he’s not acting like it. What’s Peter doing that has Paul so riled up?

Well, it turns out, vs. 12 tells us, that Peter used to eat with Gentiles; meaning, he fellowshipped with them, sat with and included them, made them feel welcomed and accepted. 

But then some Jews came along, and Peter feared these Jews and what they would think about him eating with the "unclean," those "Gentile dogs," the "uncircumcised." So Peter withdrew, separated himself from the Gentiles, stopped eating with them. In other words, Peter left the gospel table and went over to eat at the law-keeping table, and he even led Barnabas to do the same thing. And Paul says, "you are not acting in line with the gospel."

Paul is pointing Peter to the cross and saying, "Look, Peter, you were once unclean in sin, but Jesus took your uncleanness on Himself so that you would be clean forever. Look at the cross Peter, Jesus is being shut out of God's presence to welcome you in, and God Himself will eat with you and fellowship with you. The cross shouts, "you are loved, welcomed, accepted, and included."

But Peter is ruining that picture: he's drawing back from those that God is drawing near; he is separating from those whom God has joined to the body of Christ. He is pushing out those whom God has brought in. And so Peter is not acting in line with the gospel, and that has Paul fired up. 

It's like if we were to say, "oh, you used to be a porn addict or immoral? Well, you can join our fellowship, but you need to sit over there by yourselves and be quiet. Oh, you were a drunk, drug user, or divorced and remarried? Well, there's a special table for your kind right over there."

Think of how Peter pulling away from the Gentiles would make them feel: "Oh, maybe God doesn't accept me, maybe I'm still unclean, maybe I really haven't changed. I guess I'll sit over here in the corner by myself." Or worse, "Jesus' blood can save me, but it doesn't make me acceptable. I must do more to be accepted by God and His people." And so, they have no welcome, no fellowship, no shared love, and they become confused. And that is not in line with the gospel.

Think of how Paul was like Christ here. He defended the outcast, interceded on behalf of the sidelined and marginalized; he spoke up for those who were pushed away. In his defense of the Gentiles, Paul illustrated what Jesus does for you today as He ever lives to intercede for you (Hebrews 7:25).

Now, let's consider why Paul told the Galatians this story. It's because the false teachers were teaching the Gentiles to leave the gospel table to join the Law-keeping table, to leave the message of the finished work of Christ, and consider how their efforts could add to their righteousness. And that is not acting in line with the gospel.

Question: In this story, who are you? Are you like the Gentiles? That is, the ones being avoided and rejected, being pushed away? If so, let us know so that we can pray for you this week. Or are you like Peter? You're avoiding people because of their past? Or because of their skin color or their political persuasion? Ask God to change your heart so that you can walk worthy of the gospel. Or are you like Paul, speaking up for those who are outcasts? Are you defending the gospel by defending those who are being pushed away? Praise God for the gospel that lives in and keeps you!

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

Kary writes, "The biblical principles of the Purity Bootcamp course are essential to growing in faith in Jesus and knowing victory over sin. Putting them into practice and maintaining them in daily living fosters a tender relationship with Jesus and encourages growth in faith and the knowledge of Him and the fruits of His Spirit.

 

Going through this study has been an outstanding experience. It was such a blessing to be lovingly encouraged to re-focus on and magnify the precious privilege of possessing faith in Jesus and the tremendous joy and fulfillment in walking with and knowing Him. God has used a variety of Christians, at different times and ways, to mentor me through my doubts and struggles, and failures by lovingly pointing me to Jesus, over and over, building me up in God's word so I could know Jesus and walk rightly with Him.

 

My spiritual growth is so encouraging and assures me that Setting Captives Free is a faithful ministry for the glory of God. 1 John 5:12 says, "He who has the Son has life," well, Setting Captives Free definitely has the Son. Thank you so much for making this course.  Glory to God! Amen."

Sheila writes, A lot has changed in my life since I started the A United front course! God has used this course to get me back in step with Him.

 

When I said yes to reconciling with my husband, it was not a full yes. It was a yes that was still accompanied by a hard and unforgiving heart. I was full of mistrust and hurt, which led me to plan with my mum against my husband. I was a United front with my mum against my husband.

 

Well, God allowed the plan we had to fall apart, and I lost so much money! However, that was my moment of surrender. I knew from the lessons in this course that God was calling me to surrender, and I did. God melted my hard heart with the gospel so that I fully forgave my husband. The result has been peace and joy unspeakable!! I now love spending time with my husband. Our intimacy has not returned, but I will patiently wait as I continue to love him.

 

Lastly, I had really been praying for God to bless the work of my husband's hands because his lack of work has also been a huge issue for us. Now that we're praying as a United front, we just got a big breakthrough in our business that he's running!! Now that we are a United Front, God is answering our prayers.

 

This course has blessed me so much, and I pray that intimacy would return in my marriage. I will continue to put what I've learned into practice. God has truly proved Himself faithful. I am thankful!

 

I recommend this course; it is Bible-centered and focuses on the power of the cross. I would recommend it to any wife who is trapped by a hard heart like I was."

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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 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: 172nd Edition, March 14, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 172nd Edition, March 14, 2021

Greetings friends,

 

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

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Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 171

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Teaching

What is it that will bring about a radical change in our lives? How can we find lasting freedom from habitual and plaguing sin? Is it possible to live a life focused on God and serving others instead of living a self-centered life?

We'll seek to find the answer to these questions in this week's teaching from Galatians 2.

So far in our study, we've seen Paul recounting to the Galatians a time when he was teaching and living in freedom with the believers at Antioch. Then some false teachers came down from Judea (Acts 15) to spy on their freedom, and these false teachers were teaching the need for keeping the Law in addition to believing the gospel. These false teachers wanted to make the believers slaves to the Law and slaves to their flesh; those two always go together. That's why Paul said in Romans 6, "sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law but grace." 

So, Paul explains that he had gone to Jerusalem and presented the gospel to the church leaders, who saw that God was at work in his ministry to the Gentiles just like He was at work in Peter's ministry to the Jews. (We can tell who God is working through because they preach the gospel.) And when they heard Paul preach the gospel, they added nothing to his message. 

This week we come to verse 10: "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along" (Galatians 2:10). Christianity is not only theological, it's practical and includes meeting the needs of the poor. God loves His people and desires to meet their needs; it is a blessing and a privilege when we get to participate in providing for others.

It's also essential because meeting the needs of the poor is an illustration of the gospel. We were born impoverished in our sin. Sin had stripped everything from us; it had taken our reputation, our character, our self-esteem. We were poor beggars in our sin, having nothing to offer God, clothed in filthy rags, bankrupt of any righteousness whatsoever, empty of all that is good.

Maybe you can think of ways in which sin impoverished you, stole from you, decimated your life. We can all think of how we were made poor by our own sin.

But Jesus came to preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1). "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). He was rich in heaven, had it all, and then He came down and hung on a cross and gave it all. 

Look at Jesus there on the cross. He is bankrupt. He has poured out His blood, breathed out His last breath, given up His Spirit, and become poor. To what end? For what purpose? To enrich you!

Jesus took your sin, your spiritual poverty, and gave you His righteousness - His spiritual wealth. Jesus received no mercy on the cross that God might lavish mercy and grace on you eternally. Jesus was thirsty to quench your thirst forever. Jesus entered into utter darkness that you might walk in the light. Look at how His hands are nailed open, and His heart is speared open! He opened and emptied Himself completely, giving you His all - His heart, His blood, His Spirit, His righteousness, even His home in heaven.

Jesus became poor to make us poor folk rich; we've gone from rags to riches, and now would we dare shut our hearts or our hands to the poor? We dare not because to do so would destroy the picture of the gospel, and that is what the Jerusalem leaders did not want to happen. And Paul affirms that he was eager to remember the poor. Because when we open our hearts and our hands to the poor, we illustrate the gospel.

And here is where we see more evidence of the complete change of life and radical transformation from one person to another that Saul experienced through the cross of Christ. Saul had previously decimated the church; he had impoverished it and tried to bankrupt and destroy it. But now we see Paul seeking to build up and enrich the church. He was eager to look after the poor, the very people and church he had persecuted and impoverished previously.

What is it that will bring about a radical change in our lives? How can we find lasting freedom from habitual and plaguing sin? Is it possible to live a life focused on God and serving others instead of living a self-centered life?

The same thing that made this shocking heart change in Saul/Paul changes us too - the gospel of Jesus Christ. To see Jesus suffering on the cross for you is to break your heart and humble you. Then to see His love poured out for you, His complete forgiveness of your sins, and His promise to live in you will completely remake you, build you up, and strengthen you. 

The gospel is the message of transformation. Paul went from impoverishing the church to enriching it. You and I go from lives of self-focus and self-centeredness to God focus and others-centeredness. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings freedom and transformation!

Question:  What is it about the gospel of Jesus that inspires and enables you to look out, see others, and meet their needs?  

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Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 

To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

 

Katie writes, "I feel like I have encountered the cross in a new way having taken the A United Front course. I have embraced healing for myself through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I no longer see myself as a victim but see myself showing kindness to my husband along with the other qualities in Colossians 3:12-14. I have forgiven my husband of his sexual impurity.

 

My husband started the Purity Bootcamp course about a week after I began A United Front. He was not in a good place and wanted to go somewhere to find hope. Seeing the hope my husband has found in the cross of Christ has been encouraging to me as well. We have had great conversations about what we are learning, and God has been healing us both individually and together as one.

 

At the beginning of the course, I felt like I "knew" everything I should be doing. But as I was going through the lessons, it just hit me that I needed to view the cross in a whole new way. I knew it brought forgiveness, but I never embraced the fact that it could heal my heart wounds from my husband's sexual impurity. It made me ask myself, "Am I looking to the cross for absolutely everything in my life? Or am I looking for my husband or others to fill all of those empty places?" Once I started to fill the empty places in my heart with Christ, a new peace came over me. It was easier to forgive my husband and begin moving forward as one with him - a more united front. Thank you so much for this course."

 

EJ writes, "Because of God's grace and my willingness to lay my life down at the cross of Christ, I have experienced a life transformation since I started the Purity Bootcamp course. I was dead, and now I am alive. I used to think that my thoughts and my desires governed my life. No more. Christ bought me; He paid the price for my sins, and now I live for Him. The Gospel is so much clearer to me, and I am so thankful for His pursuit.

 

I am thankful that the course gave me a platform and a very practical approach to living out my calling as a Christ-follower. As I wash at the cross and remind myself of the wonderful sacrifice that Christ made, I will war against my flesh as the Holy Spirit leads.

 

By the power of God living in me, I lay my old life down in pursuit of the One who has called me. I rest in His peace, in His shadow. I continue to remind myself and the enemy that the battle is won. Enforcing that victory as I walk, I feel blessed beyond belief.

 

I recommend this course to anyone and everyone. This course is life-transforming and truly an experience I will never forget."

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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 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


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