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

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

No Comfort Without Trouble and Suffering

Dear friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

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

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

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

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 112th Edition, January 5, 2020

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Announcement: The Spanish volunteer translation team has now completed the Purity Bootcamp course in Spanish. The course is now live and available on the homepage of Setting Captives Free. We want to take a moment and acknowledge the tireless work done by Harold, Sylvia, and others to finish this work to the glory of God. 

Announcement: We are currently working on “Weight Loss Follow-Up” as our next course. It is a 60-Day course, carrying over the principles from the Weight Loss course and adding specific eating and exercising plans.

----------

Teaching:

The Bible teaches all throughout its pages, that purity and freedom are found at the cross. They are not found by human reason, man’s programs, or New Year’s resolutions, but rather the power to crucify our flesh and die with Christ, and rise to live differently is all found at the cross!

Notice one place this is taught:

Ezekiel 24:13 (NIV) "Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.” 

The nation of Israel was impure in their rebellion, and God sent His prophet Ezekiel to warn them of His coming wrath, and to turn them from their sin. But they refused to listen to either Ezekiel or God who sent him, and as a result God pronounced doom on them and warned them that they would remain impure until His wrath was fully exhausted, until His anger against sin had subsided. 

Think of this phrase: "you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided." What does this mean? What can we gain from this?

First, there would be a time coming when God's wrath would be exhausted. He would fully pour it out and it would fully subside.

Second, at that time, when God's wrath was subsided, the people would be clean. Their impurity would be removed and their sin would be absolved in the wrath of God, and they would be without spot or blemish, clean at last!

Friends, what a wonderful teaching about the power of the cross! For when Jesus came He went to the cross. God, Himself, took the punishment of sin that should have been poured out on the sinners. The cross for Him was a cross of wrath, but for us is the cross of love. On the cross Jesus removed the sin of all people and suffered under the wrath of a holy God. He was crushed and striped, bruised and plowed, pummeled and killed. All while enduring an eternity of God's wrath and anger against sin. 

As Jesus hung on the cross, the Father turned His face away, not able to bear the sight of His sinless Son hanging in shame, our sins upon His shoulders. Then, Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath, every last drop (Mark 10:38), and breathed His last. And what happened? A whole world of impure people were made clean. Not just the nation of Israel, but every believer who ever lived is declared to be "holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (Colossians 1:22), clean and pure. 

Yes, God's promise was fulfilled on the cross: "you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided." On the cross God's wrath was fully poured out, completely exhausted, and you are cleansed from all your sin, made holy, and declared to be without any blemish at all. Free and pure. Clean and new. That's the power of the cross!

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Testimonies:

Kelly writes: "The Looking to Jesus devotional is so encouraging, wonderful and needed. I love how it takes the stories of the Bible and shows how they are applicable to all the issues of life that we face. I m studying it with friends, and they are all saying I never knew the cross dealt with the issues of my life like this. I m sending all my students to this for a follow up study. Kelly” (Mentor and Mentor Coordinator with Setting Captives Free). Here is a link to the devotional. 

Willie writes, "I find the principles taught in the Purity Boot Camp course very helpful in my walk with Christ.  When I wash at the cross, Christ by His power through the Spirit enables me to fight against the flesh and win.  My walk with Christ would fall apart without any one of these principles.

Through this course, God has changed me to be more like Christ.  He has strengthened me to fight the fleshly urges of sexual immorality and win.  One of the other significant changes besides that is that I am free from bitterness; I didn't even know I had it until it was gone.  My prayers have changed too.  God is showing me that life isn't all about me.
I recommend this course.  No matter where a person is in on the spectrum of sin, Christ's power through the cross can transform them into new people.  These lessons point to Christ and His work.
"

Roland writes, "I was involved in sexual impurity (pornography and self-gratification) from an early age. These sinful behaviors increased through the years, and soon, I was in bondage to the lust of my flesh. I eventually became involved with homosexuality, which left me traumatized and disturbed.

Deep down, I knew I could never be happy with another man, but I didn't stop feeding my lust for years. My life was full of shame, and I even felt suicidal.

I wanted to believe that change is possible, but I couldn't. I started to communicate with Christians online because I always considered myself a Christian, even though I had a lot of doubt and insecurities in my faith. Someone recommended the Setting Captives Free Purity courses for me, and I started to complete the lessons. I didn't know what to expect, but these lessons began to change my heart.  I thought maybe there is hope for me, maybe God doesn't hate me, and perhaps finally I can be free from my sins.

Slowly, but surely, my perspective changed. I started to believe that my Lord Jesus truly loves me and gave Himself to me, a terrible sinner. He died for me on the Cross. I didn't get what I deserved, Jesus took the punishment, and if this is not enough for me to be free, I don't know what is.

This course taught me that my job is not to try to be free from sin alone. When I tried to get free on my own, I always failed. Jesus already washed away my sin, and I have to do is believe it, wash at the Cross, walk by the Spirit, and then I can war against my flesh. I am not perfect at this, but I already started this journey, with Jesus Christ on my side. Honestly, He is the most important person to me now.

I recommend this course to anyone who wants freedom from sexual impurity of any kind. I was in a hopeless place, depressed, full of insecurities and anxiety, plus deeply involved in sexual impurity. I believe that if Jesus could give me hope in my previous devilish mindset and set me free, He can give you hope and rescue you from the bondage of sin too.

I don't feel that terrible power of sin anymore, and I feel more hope and rest about my purity than I ever did in my life. Jesus is my Lord, and nothing is impossible for Him. He defeated every evil in my life when He died for me on the Cross. I praise the Name of Jesus, and I believe His Word.Here is a link to the Purity Bootcamp course.

Diana writes, "Being in ministry with my husband for the past 25+ years I have witnessed so many hurting people. People looking for help from all the wrong places. I myself have been through some terrible circumstances and have looked for help from the world or from Christians who told me just to pray more. None of these things have worked. When I started setting captives free for depression my whole world began to change. I have been a believer for a very long time and I have never experienced the cross and what was done there in such a way as you have shared it. I poured myself into the scriptures and my mentor was so helpful. I know so many that struggle and that Jesus is the only answer. I want to give to others what has been given to me; a life of peace, comfort and meaning.” (New mentor with Setting Captives Free). Here is a link to the Depression course. 

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 111th Edition, December 22, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Dear friends,



“Born to Die, That We Might Live"

Dear friends,

We know this is a very busy time of year for most of us, so we will resume publishing our newsletters on January 5, 2020.

We would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power of the Cross: 110th Edition, December 15, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

Gospel Freedom From Slavery Is Easy

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Being enslaved to sin is extremely hard. Just like the Israelites who were enslaved to the Egyptians, when we are enslaved to sin we are ruled over harshly by the demands of our flesh, the dictates of Satan and the desires for what this world offers. Just like the Egyptians gave very little rest to the Israelite slaves, lest they become strong and leave, even so our spiritual slavery to sin leaves us with no rest day or night. When we have a thought to indulge our flesh we must act on it. When the idea pops in to our head to sin in a certain way we must obey it. This is destabilizing, debilitating, and demoralizing. “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). 

By contrast, notice Jesus invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, which consists of three parts:

  1. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” This is an invitation to those who are tired of carrying sin’s heavy burden and tired of trying to stop and failing. It is also an invitation to those who are tired of trying hard to “recover”, tired of working the program, tired of taking one more step only to lose ground because of their weak flesh. 
  2. Take my yoke upon you…my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.” A yoke is a piece of wood that connected two animals together so they could both pull the load. When you get in Jesus’ yoke, you find a piece of wood connects you with Him. The cross He died on removed your sin burden, removed your guilt and removed your shame. Jesus has shouldered your load. But just as the animals that are yoked together are unable to go their own way individually, neither are we able to live life according to our terms. Being yoked with Jesus means keeping in step with the Spirit. If we want to rest, we must also surrender our own lives to Jesus and be yoked to the cross with Him.
  3. "Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart…” Part of being yoked with Jesus is to learn from Him, and where we learn the most is at the cross. There we see His humility, that He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing for us. There we see His grace, that He did not consider our sins reason to abandon us but rather He volunteered to be abandoned by God so that we could be accepted. There we see His love, that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to suffer crucifixion and death to pay for our sin and remove our burdens. Learn from Jesus at the cross and you will find sweet rest for your souls.
May you come to Jesus, be yoked together with Him at the cross, lose all your burdens, find sweet peace and rest, and walk with Him and learn from Him.

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Testimonies:

Diana writes, "The changes that the Lord has made in my life through the Setting Captives Free Depression course have been life-altering.
My husband wanted me to take this course for some time, but I was putting it off, thinking I had everything under control. Of course, I was wrong as I had been so often about my depression.

I was skeptical at first, but as I started going through the lessons, I noticed my heart changing. I was shedding tears daily as I learned how the cross and the Saviour could bring me joy, relief, and freedom from all I had been experiencing over the past 20 years.

I have not looked at the cross the same since beginning to see what Jesus did for me there. Jesus came to rescue the brokenhearted, set prisoners free from darkness, comfort those who mourn and give a garment of praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3 has been my daily remembrance and comfort. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me despite all my issues and the times I have not been faithful, and thank you, Setting Captives Free, for providing this course; it has changed my life!

In a Bible study, I attend, I was able to share with other women who have also been suffering from depression how looking to the cross and getting a clearer understanding of what was done for me there freed me from depression and allowed me to be at peace with God and myself. I can't share it enough!"

Terry writes, "Absolutely, the principles in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course have been helpful to me! The most significant change is that I am more in love with Jesus; I feel I've learned to appreciate the cross at a deeper level. I've become increasingly amazed by His Word, especially the Old Testament and the foreshadowing of Christ that I've missed over the years.

Through the three principles of the course (Savoring Christ, Suffering with Christ, and Walking by the Spirit), I've gained three real partners in this journey to change, not just my weight but my heart. I'm overcoming the obsession with food and weight, especially the worry over it. I'm finding out how to be led by the Spirit with my eating so that it does not hinder my desire to live for the Lord.

Yes, I recommend this course to others!!! It pains my heart to see others spend so much money and time on special diets. Most of the time, they don't seem productive, and even if people lose weight by them, they are not sustainable because there is no freedom. God's way is the only way - self-denial plus freedom! God's way deals with our hearts and changes us permanently. I hope that we can find more friends to come alongside us."

Eddie writes, "The Lord led me to the Purity Boot Camp course when I was desperate for change. The foundational principles I've learned here have allowed me to walk in freedom and to be guided by the Holy Spirit in my battle.

I've been a Christian for ten years but have always struggled with impurity. I know I'm saved because of the changes the Lord has made in my life, but for some reason, the struggle with impurity persisted.

When I first came to the course, I was skeptical about the effect it would have on my life, but through sincere prayer and the application of the principles of freedom, I have experienced the chains of bondage falling away.

I recommend this course to anyone wanting to experience true freedom from the bondage of sexual impurity. The cross-centered principles laid out in this course, when applied, will begin to transform you in a way that only seeing Jesus' death and resurrection for you can. If you or someone you know are struggling with sexual impurity, I challenge you to try the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course.

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 109th Edition, December 8, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching and Testimony:

Every now and then we see a testimony that we want to share with everyone. Such is the case with one of our dear brothers, Lennart, who is a mentor with Setting Captives Free. So this week we are doing something different. Instead of me teaching through a passage of Scripture and then sharing testimonies that have come in, we are going to let the following video be both the teaching and testimony. 

Lennart has found such joy and peace in believing the message of the Lamb of God taking away His sins, and he shares from his heart, even erupting into tears right before our eyes. His teaching is powerful: the Spirit of God uses the cross of Jesus Christ to set us free from sin.

Feel free to reply to this email with any comments. If you have thoughts to share with Lennart, I will be sure to pass them on to him.

Here is the video: If that does not open the video, you can copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://vimeo.com/374005276 

The above video comes from our Setting Captives Free Men’s Marco Polo group. If you’d like join, here is the link to open on your smartphone: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/xWlQziuK5rgN  

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

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 108th Edition, December 1, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Announcement:

Setting Captives Free is happy to release our first devotional book “Looking to Jesus: A 30-Day Devotional for Transformation.” It is available in print and Ebook here: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1733760954/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_KdD4DbWE0NX9N.

This devotional is designed to show how the message of the cross helps us with every issue we encounter in this life. The book addresses discouragement, bitterness, rejection, anger, loneliness, emptiness, weariness, being overwhelmed, even facing death, all from the message of the cross/resurrection of Jesus. Each day has an introduction, an illustration, and an application. 

Our publisher worked with us to finish this book in time for the holidays, as you may want to consider reading it and giving it as a Christmas present to family or friends.

Teaching:

For this week, the teaching is from one of our mentors in Russia, and the testimony is from a dear brother in Germany - both translated below into English. Please take a moment and pray for the spread of the gospel far and wide, to every country and nation on earth, to reach the hearts of people in their native tongue. 

Below is Yuri’s teaching, which was posted on our leadership communication channel, Flock. I do want to point out that Yuri not only wrote the below, but also translated it himself. Yuri is active on our Setting Captives Free men’s Marco Polo group where he likewise writes out what he wants to say, translates it to English, then speaks it the best he can. His heart is so enlarged by the message of the cross, and he is continually ministering to us. 

Here is Yuri’s teaching:

Greetings, my dear and beloved brothers and sisters!

We know that there are those among the believers who cannot overcome sin in their lives, who feel that they are spiritually weakened. Words are addressed to all of us in support and teaching:

Jesus, the Example Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews12:1-3)

How to overthrow the encumbrance of sin and gain endurance through difficulties? How will not to grow weary and lose heart? In these verses the answer is given: “FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. FOR CONSIDER HIM who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself”.

“ FIXING OUR EYES ” – so, to look at the Crucified Christ, to look at His Cross, at His suffering, and “FOR CONSIDER” – it is to think of the Crucified Christ, to look at His Cross, at His sufferings.

We know that Christ's Sacrifice important to gain eternal life by faith through accepting salvation in Christ. But is the salvation completed in this? Did God give us eternal life and leave us to struggle, to achieve something, to somehow wallow in the raging sea of life's difficulties? Of course not!

The angel spoke to Joseph about the Birth of Jesus from Mary: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS. ”(Matthew 1:21) WILL SAVE FROM SINS! We just have to surrender to God, and He will make your deliverance from sin! Not only will forgive former sins, but also will deliver from a sin!

Is it that simple? YES! You just have to look at the Cross, and you will not sin, you need thinking about the Sacrifice of Christ – and you will not lose patience, wear out and weaken.“ And "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1Peter 2:24). Our sins almost 2000 years ago were ascended the Cross, and we got rid of sins, can live righteously, were healed!

Is not enough sometimes to remember the death of Christ. We must constantly look at the Cross of Christ! Do it always, as often as possible, and thinking deeply about what it means to you, how it works NOW in your life, TODAY, and not just at the moment of the first repentance!
ALWAYS carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2Corinthians 4:10). The Apostle Paul wrote this about the believers of his time, but today we have the same faith! Carry the deadness of Jesus in you, and then the life of Jesus will be manifested in you!

The Gospel is intended primarily for believers, the Gospel is written about: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but TO US WHO ARE BEING SAVED IT IS THE POWER OF GOD.” (1Corinthians 1:18) Here it constitute - the power of God where! In the Word of the Cross!

We partake of the sacrament, sharing bread and wine in remembrance of Christ's Sacrifice, His Body and Blood. When Jesus gave this Commandment to His Disciples, He uttered these words: “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS. ” (Matthew 26:28)

The Blood of Christ has sprinkled and fixed God's New Covenant with you! And not only for this it was shed but also for the liberation of sins! That is why it is so important to constantly look at the Cross, to think about the Crucified Christ! In this verse the word “forgiveness” in Antion Greek in the original “afesin” means in different situations “letting go, throwing, casting, release, taking out, collapsing, dropping, spilling, falling, shedding, leaving, dropdown, weakening, ceasing, sending away, rejecting, banishing, terminating, deportation, disbanding, demobilizing, releasing, justifying, forgiving, ignoring, neglecting, not using”. The Blood of Christ made it is all with our sins! Complete absolution, liberation, independence, freedom of sins!

Can't you see it yet? Go to Calvary, look at the Cross, look at Jesus Crucified, His Body, His wounds, His Blood, His pain, His groans, His suffering, His death! Is it all in vain? God does nothing in vain! This is real today and now works in millions of believers! Just start and don't stop looking at Christ's Sacrifice and thinking about it! In aid you the entire New Testament – read and witnessed, that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED.” (Matthew 5:6).

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Testimonies:

Jen writes, "The principles in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course describe entirely the way I want to live in all areas of my life not just in the way I want to eat! Spiritually I am a different person since I started this course several months ago. I can genuinely say I am closer to the Lord than I have ever been in my life.

I have been a Christian for many years, but I don't think I ever truly comprehended all Christ did for me on the cross and, more importantly, how His finished work on the cross should affect my DAILY life, not just secure my eternal life.

Physically I am different too. I feel like the hold that food had on me has finally been broken. I don't desire to eat the way I used to. It has finally become merely a way to fuel my body or a brief enjoyment but not the reason for my existence any longer! Jesus has replaced that in my life, and I pray I will continue to live like this for the rest of my life!

I recommend this course- this course is life-changing. You may think it's all about losing weight, but it is SO MUCH more about gaining Christ!
"

Sherry writes, "The principles of the Weight Loss course at Setting Captives Free have helped me so much in the past several months.
Most importantly, I now connect with God more and go to the Cross more than I did before. The whole point of it all was Christ and what He did for me, for us all.  Because of this, I have lost more weight physically, so my clothes fit better, and I'm thinking more before I choose to eat something,

I'm not perfect, but there's been a lot of progress. I think I also lost weight spiritually, too, because there's less baggage that I've held on to with my emotions and life.

I recommend this weight loss course! Every day is a new day. If you're not perfect, don't give up or doubt the power of the Cross. Each time you fail and get back up that is growth until one day you realize you're doing it! It's a marathon, not a sprint. Also, having an accountability partner really helps because you're not alone, and having someone fighting the same battle with you helps you not to give up."

Ortwin writes: "The gospel-centered principles in the Purity Boot Camp course make it clear where the battle line is - the heart. My freedom is not in setting up filters or blocking programs but in a change of my heart.

During the course, I learned more and more to look to Jesus, to give up my guilt under the cross of Jesus and then to walk in the Spirit. I learned to remind myself of His work and to be changed by studying the Bible, communion with other Christians and prayer.

I found that filters and accountability programs, like Covenant Eyes, are helpful, but only the changed heart really changes my behavior.
I wholeheartedly recommend this course to anyone who has a problem with impurity, pornography, and self-gratification. 

This course tackles the problem at the root -in the heart and mind."  (Translated from German to English.)

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 107th Edition, November 24, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

Let the thoughts of a crucified Christ be never out of your mind, let them be food and drink unto you, let them be . . .
  your sweetness and consolation,
  your honey and your desire,
  your reading and your meditation.

Ah! remember this: 
  His wounds were deep,
  His burden weighty,
  His cup bitter,
  His suffering painful,
  His agony and torment above conception, beyond expression.

That blessed head of His—was crowned with thorns. 

Those eyes of His, which were purer than the sun—were put out by the darkness of death. 

Those ears of His which now hear nothing but hallelujahs—were filled with the blasphemies of the multitude. 

That blessed beautiful face of His, which was fairer than the sons of men—was spit on by beastly filthy wretches. 

That gracious mouth and tongue, which spoke as never any man spoke—was slandered and accused of blasphemy. 

Those hands of His, which healed the sick, which gave out pardons, which swayed a scepter in Heaven—were nailed to the cross. 

Those feet, which brought the glad tidings of peace and salvation into the world—were also nailed to the cross. 

All these great and sad things, did Jesus Christ suffer for His people! Oh! The more vile Christ made Himself for us—the more dear He ought to be unto us.

Thomas Books

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Testimonies:


Cheryle writes, "The journey I have been through with my husband's freedom from impurity has been the hardest battle of my life. But Jesus has, and He will continue to heal my heart. I am so grateful to Jesus for holding me tight when I thought I could not go on, and keeping me still in Him as my husband has grown in the Lord. 


I know I have so much more to learn in Christ, and that my daily walk needs to draw nearer and nearer to Him. I need to move as the Holy Spirit calls me. BUT I can rest in Jesus to accomplish all that as I yield to Him. 


The A United Front course reminded that the ultimate answer to all life's questions and our sufferings is THE GOSPEL (Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection three days later)!  The gospel is what I need, and I am so grateful for Setting Captives Free that reinforces that lovingly and encouragingly."


Shawn writes, "At the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I learned biblical principles for freedom from impurity.

Washing at the cross is me coming to Christ openly with true and pure repentance and receiving forgiveness. Walking by the spirit allows me to stay free because Christ is fighting my battles and temptations.

My desires are now  Christ-focused. I have a closer and more intimate relationship with Christ and my wife. The temptations to lust are there, but I am not a slave to them. Christ fights for me so I can keep walking true and pure. Now my desires are directed towards Christ and my wife. I have become a better spiritual leader for my family.
I recommend this course; it was eye-opening and transforming.


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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

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

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet there is a warning here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Testimonies:

Weight Loss course:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Purity Bootcamp

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 105th Edition, November 10, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

To be free from any sin struggle requires us to hear and embrace the good news of Jesus’ finished work and ongoing intercession. If freedom were merely as easy as taking certain steps, doing a certain diet or working some program, then Jesus did not need to die. But He did die, because when we sin, we become slaves to sin (John 8:34), and a slave can only be set free when purchased. Jesus’ death on the cross was the purchase price for our freedom.

The Son of God came to make atonement for our sins, and this He did by sacrificing Himself for us on a cross. This was almighty God becoming man to die as a sacrifice, because of His love for us. Can you imagine the intensity of this love, for Jesus to have purposely come to earth to be ridiculed and shamed, to be wounded and pierced, to be hung up on the cross to die for the ones He loves? Do you see Him hanging there for you? Blood flowing from His wounds and love flowing from His heart? This is the love of Jesus, the paying of the price to release you from slavery.

Having thus died for our sins, He rose from the dead, and now He ever lives to intercede for us. "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Again, imagine the love of someone who ever lives for someone else. Jesus ever lives for you. His prayers and intercessions for you are based on the work He accomplished through His death. Oh such love! Oh such power!

This concept, of Jesus' interceding for us based on His finished cross-work is captured wonderfully in the hymn, “Arise My Soul, Arise” by Charles Wesley:

  1. Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
    The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears:
    Before the throne my surety stands,
    Before the throne my surety stands,
    My name is written on His hands.
  2. He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
    His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead:
    His blood atoned for all our race,
    His blood atoned for all our race,
    And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
  3. Five bleeding wounds He bears, received on Calvary;
    They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
    “Forgive him, oh, forgive,” they cry,
    “Forgive him, oh, forgive,” they cry,
    “Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

This teaching, that Jesus made a blood atonement for us, and now pleads His precious blood as the reason for the Father to forgive us, is taught clearly by way of an illustration in the Old Testament. You can see it in Exodus 30:1-10.

In Exodus 30:1-9, God gave instructions for constructing the Altar of Incense, which represented the intercessory work of Jesus Christ. As the incense in the Holy Place wafted into the Most Holy Place, where God promised to meet with man, it became a sweet smelling aroma to God.

Exodus 30:6 (NIV) Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you.

This teaches us that the prayers of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, are as incense to the Father. Jesus' sacrifice, and His ongoing intercession are a sweet smelling savor to God. Are they to you? Do you see this precious work Jesus did, and is doing, for you? Do you know it is because of His love for you?

In the same passage in Exodus 30, we are told that the High Priest was to make atonement, once a year, on the horns of this Altar of Incense:

Exodus 30:10 (NIV) Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.”

What is this teaching? Why this elaborate ritual of placing blood on the horns of the Altar of Incense?

Horns are a symbol of power in Scripture (Daniel 8:5, Daniel 8:9, 1 Samuel 2:1, 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:13, 1 Kings 1:39, 22:11, Joshua 6:4-5, Psalms 75:5, Psalms 75:10, 132:17, Luke 1:69, etc.), and by placing the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar, God was showing us there is power in the blood that Jesus shed, power in the death that Jesus died. In the blood that Jesus Christ, our Atoning Sacrifice (Romans 3:25) shed on the cross, there is true spiritual power: power to forgive your every sin, power to atone for your wrongs, power to break the power of sin, power to destroy the work of Satan in your life, power to rescue you from darkness, power to lift you up from the pit of sin, power to break your iron chains, power to open your prison door, power to set captives free.

Oh friend, look at the cross just now. See your Atoning Sacrifice shedding His blood for your pardon and freedom. See Him nailed to the cross to make an end of sin in your life, to atone for wickedness, and to bring in everlasting righteousness for you (Daniel 9:24). Jesus’ love moved Him to come from heaven to earth (John 13:1), to take up a cross and carry it up Golgotha’s hill, there to suffer the wrath of God and the scorn of men, to bleed and to die like a sacrificial lamb. Oh friend, such amazing love of Jesus, such amazing grace to us.

Then, see Jesus rise from the dead, having purchased your pardon and freedom, and watch as He is raised to heaven and exalted in the sight of all to become Lord and King. He now is our Mediator and Intercessor, the One who pleads His blood and prays His death as the means of securing our ongoing forgiveness and acceptance with God. These prayers of Jesus, His ongoing work of intercession, are a sweet smelling aroma to the Father. The importance of a sacrifice’s aroma is not the smell but what the smell represents—the substitutionary atonement for sin.

What’s even more amazing is that Jesus not only died for us, but we died in Him (Romans 6:7-10). When we believe this message, we enter in to the experience of death to our old self, death to our cravings, death to sin’s power. In rising with Jesus from the dead we are now alive to God with a new heart and a new life and a new power! Holy Spirit power! Resurrection power!

Do you believe this good news? It takes hearing and believing it over and over to win our hearts, and as we hear it over and over, we begin to walk out of sin’s prison and into the light of freedom. May it be so for you today, friend.

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Testimonies:

Rick writes,
"When I was a young married man, pornography and self-gratification were a regular part of my life. But just like anything sinful, it never satisfied.  After 20 yrs of marriage, I finally crossed the line and started an adulterous affair. As the years went on, the impure sexual lifestyle was never enough.  After 12 years of unfaithfulness, I divorced my wife of 32 years and married the woman with whom I had been having an affair.  My impure behavior continued. After 10 yrs of marriage to my second wife, she passed away from cancer. The last three months of her life, my wife wanted me out of her house, her daughter moved in to care for her, and I was never able to see her again before she died.

In desperation, I shared all this with my pastor, who recommended I go through the old course from Setting Captives Free - The Way of Purity. I did, and within the first few days, I started to see a change in my way of thing.  I learned to start my day in prayer, drinking from the Living Waters.  I completed that sixty lesson course a changed man.  Then I came to the new Setting Captives Free website and completed the Mentorship Course, but due to the distress in my family over the second wife's death, I decided to take the new Purity Boot Camp course. Wow, what a course!  The study kept me in the Word of God. It showed me to start the day with Washing at the cross, confession of my sins, Walking in the Spirit, learning to listen to the Holy Spirit talk to me through the Scriptures. It gave me a whole new love for God's Word and equipped me to War against my flesh.

God's Word, with the teaching and insight from ____________ (course authors) plus the love, friendship, and insight from my Mentor, Rob has helped me with arming myself against Satan and letting God, fight my battles.  None of this would have been possible without the sacrifice God made by sending His own Son Jesus to die on the cross.  Washing at the cross each morning makes me focus upon the love that it took for Jesus to joyfully go to the cross, and suffer the death that I deserved.

Purity Boot Camp has opened my eyes to the battle that is before each of us. It teaches us in the strategies that we need to win the battles against Satan's evil armies.

The battle belongs to God, and it starts at the cross and the death and the glorious resurrection of our King, our Commander, Christ Jesus, my Lord, and my Savior.


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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power of the Cross: 104th Edition, November 3, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Announcement:

We are happy to announce that the Setting Captives Free: A United Front course is now available in print. You can find it on Amazon here, or on our website here.  

Judy writes, "The A United Front course taught me that the gospel message is a way of life not just the way to salvation.  I had never thought of it that way. I have also learned to think more of others and not myself, to let go of bad feelings towards others, and to forgive. I have learned how to stand with my husband and encourage him more.”

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Teaching:

Every week on Saturday, one of the board members of Setting Captives Free writes a “check-in” email for all the mentors that minister their time with us. I wanted to share last week's check-ins with you, as it ministered deeply to my heart and I hope it does to yours as well. Here it is:

Erick Hurt: Check-in 10-26-2019

Greetings brothers and sisters! 

It is my pleasure to bring you this weeks check-in. I wanted to share something that’s on my heart with you.

Before the cross our hearts were very hard and sick (Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 17:9), but one day we were wounded, healed and transformed by hearing the message of the cross and the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death, and that He was raised to life on the third day. 

Think for a moment how we used to talk and write, “I accepted Christ and then I made sure that I got up early so I could spend time with the Lord so I could read my daily devotion.” You get the point. Rather than a crucified life, we talked about what we have done or what we do. But when we were crucified, buried, raised to life forgiven and freed, everything changed, including the way we speak and write.

Galatians 1:1 ESV Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-

Paul had many “human achievements” he could have pointed to, but he was laser focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection and wanted his readers to know that “man” or “human achievements” had nothing to do with who he was; “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ”.

Philippians 3:4-7 NIV though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

We do not focus on a list of human achievements which is “confidence in the flesh,” but rather the work Christ has done in our hearts. And this is what we seek for our own lives as well as for the lives of our students. We want them to “see” Jesus lifted up. We want them to “see” the salvation of the Lord. We want them to “see” that ALL OF THEM has been crucified with Christ and “I” NO LONGER LIVE! And the only reason that “I” live—is that Christ lives in me! 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NCV You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ sent through us. This letter is not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. It is not written on stone tablets but on human hearts.

Our lives are no longer under the written code instituted by the finger of God and written on tablets of stone, but a New Covenant through “nail pierced hands” by the shed blood of the Son of God, “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20 ESV). “You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel” (Hebrew 12:24 NLT).

Dear friends, please take a moment and look to the cross and listen to the blood that speaks to you; I so love you! I have forgiven you! I was rejected so I could accept you! I was clothed in your sin so I could clothe you and wash you in My blood with white garments of My righteousness! I was stained with sin so your stains could be removed! I was filled with wounds so you could be spotless! Can you hear the nails being driven into your sin and being poured out of the Son and being put to death on the cross for you? 

Please share your heart and thoughts with us of the “blood that speaks forgiveness,” that we may all celebrate the feast of Jesus together—our Passover Lamb.

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Testimonies:

Erik writes, "Setting Captives Free has completely changed my life. I began the Purity Boot Camp course because my sexual impurity had become such a stronghold in my life that I lost who I was.

My entire life, I have been very involved in my church, but I have also always struggled with pornography and sexual impurity. Because of pride and selfishness, I decided to keep my sin struggles to myself, thinking I would try and defeat my flesh using my own power, but, of course, I just failed at this repeatedly. It got to the point where all of the sins I had hidden for so many years were exposed to everyone I love; the outcome was devastating.

I started this course in an effort to mend the relationship with my wife, family, and friends, and so that I can truly walk with Christ and have a passionate relationship with Him where I am not holding anything back. I longed for so long to give my entire life to Christ, but my lusting sin kept me from doing it.

This course has been the tool I've needed to change everything. Now, I daily wash at the cross, and I walk in the Spirit. My entire outlook on life and how I live has changed because God has given me a new heart. I have a very specific battle plan to war against the flesh because I never want to go back to where I was.

I have seen God move in my life so much over the past 30 days, and I am so excited to continue to apply these foundational truths to my life every day. The blinders were taken off of my eyes, and God clearly revealed to me that Jesus on the cross not only took away my sin, but He also took away the guilt and shame that sin held on me.

I am a new creation that looks forward to all the blessings God has for me, not looking back at how I've let the Devil manipulate my life. God is so good, and I can honestly say that I was a captive in bondage to pornography and sexual impurity, but He has set me free! His word and this course have been central in my walk with Him over the past 30 days, and I will be eternally grateful. To God, be the glory; He deserves all the praise!!

I highly recommend this course because it trains you to realize that on your own, you will never be able to overcome sin; but through the power of the cross, God has already seen the victory! This course continually studies Scripture, clearly laying out the plan God has for us and how we can be set free. If you want your life to be forever changed, then I would look nowhere else but Setting Captives Free.”

Editor’s note: Erick went on to the mentorship course, and is now actively mentoring with Setting Captives Free.

Lenora writes,I came to the A United Front course with a lot of burdens. Having been a Christian most of my life, the things that I learned here were all things that I had already known, but somehow along the way, I had allowed sinful thought patterns to cloud my view to a point where these truths were known, but not always deeply experienced, or lived out. I came to this course with a lot of bondage to thought strongholds and patterns of thinking, which were not glorifying God's truth. I had started looking too much at people (myself and others) and needed the clarity focusing on the Gospel brought me.

One of the most challenging things in my life was that I had fallen prey to the devil's lies to look inside myself for righteousness. When I saw my sin, I didn't know how to cope with it, and I believe I held on to it, not wanting God to have to bear the burden of all the sin that was piling up in me - His child - who 'should' be more righteous than that! This thinking magnified my sin and made me more sinful in the process! I needed to realize again that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to purity and righteousness, and that the only way He can offer me that is by taking my sin for me - ALL my sin. I needed to allow Him to take it away from me, to realize the costly, precious blood that had to flow to bring me life with Him. I had to look upon my Saviour, becoming the curse for me.

I have thought lately of the snake that was lifted for the Israelites in the wilderness; they had to look upon that which had struck them and was killing them, and that very look at the source of their death was what brought them life! I had to recognize Jesus becoming the curse for all sin, taking the ugliness of sin, even the ugliness of the sin that I see in my own heart, and accept a God who had to become dirty to make me righteous.

The Pharisees and the religious want to find a better, 'cleaner' way to righteousness, and they work so hard to attain it, but all their 'righteousness' is as filthy rags to a perfectly pure and truly righteous God. "God made Him sin who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Perfect Jesus' love-saturated gift is my only way! I need to accept God's way, and when I do, such gratitude flows from my heart! I need to see Him able to shake sin and gain victory over it by resurrecting from the death that sin brought Him. "Oh death, where is your sting?" Christ OVERCAME!

I experienced anew the grace that my Saviour has for me, both to accept me and call me to be His child, and then to continually offer me the daily washing I need. As I still stumble and fall sometimes, it reminds me of the uniqueness of God alone being perfectly sinless, and I am thankful that He is so pure and so great! I realize that my 'humanity' is no surprise to my Saviour, and take comfort that He died to redeem me from all sin, even the sins that may still overtake and surprise me. The thought that there is nothing good inside of ME, but that which He puts inside of me by His Spirit, gives me rest from myself by looking unto God, His Son, Jesus - my only Righteousness. Hebrews 7:23-28 and 10 have been precious to me because they show me the Son - holy, blameless, and pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. The Son - who can save completely those who come to God through Him. The Son - made perfect forever, and "He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" - that's me, and everyone willing to come to Him, as He calls out with such love "Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give You rest" (Matthew 11:28) That was me. I needed to be reminded to find my all in Jesus, and in His Word, which reveals His heart. This course ALWAYS pointed me to that.

This course showed me how to look at my husband and to see God's greater plan for our marriage to be a model that reflects His love for His people. This course encouraged me that when I look to Jesus for everything, it will end up influencing my human relationships and interactions in a way that they end up becoming much more of a blessing and bring a deeper satisfaction too.

I highly recommend the A United Front course! In this course, you will learn to see beyond the circumstances that are hurting you and learn to identify with Christ. You will see that Jesus suffered for all your sins and realize that you are not alone in knowing the pain of rejection. You will see the attributes of Christ that keep Him faithfully loving His own, and have the opportunity to learn to follow His example, to draw strength from Him so that you can respond in a Christlike way to offer hope to your husband (and others), and not condemnation or separation, but restoration!

This course speaks life to a hurting heart, and teaches us to learn to speak life as well, all of which is possible through what was accomplished by Jesus on the cross! I really like that this course teaches facing one's deep problems, and overcoming them in Christ when so many would rather bury the hurt and the pain, but probably don't realize how much that holds back their spiritual life and progress. The end result is having faith in Christ to be bigger than the problem as you face it head-on, and He WILL prove Himself faithful!

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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 103rd Edition, October 27, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Announcement: Setting Captives Free has released a new course in a devotional format. It is called “Looking to Jesus: A 30-Day Devotional for Transformation.” The purpose is to apply the message of the cross to the various struggles of life. This course can be used as a follow-up to any of our courses, or as a stand-alone study. It will also be available in print shortly. To access the course online, at no cost, go to https://settingcaptivesfree.com/course/looktoJesus

Teaching:

Freedom to Live Differently


What does it take to change the way we live? To be free from habitual sin? To live rightly?

We get an understanding of the answer to these questions when we examine a parable Jesus told in Matthew chapter 25. The parable is about ten virgins, all of whom were invited to a wedding banquet. In the middle Eastern culture it was common to have a “welcoming party” who met the groom as he came to the wedding banquet, to provide for his needs as he officiated at the ceremony and welcomed all the guests.

All ten virgins were invited to the wedding banquet, all ten went out to meet the bridegroom, all ten brought lamps with which to light the path for the bridegroom to enter the banquet. But only five of the ten brought additional oil in jars, in case the bridegroom was late to the banquet.

When the bridegroom was a long time in coming all ten virgins fell asleep until the announcement came, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Matthew 25:6). All ten virgins awoke and trimmed their lamps, but the five foolish virgins did not have enough oil, and had to leave to go and purchase more. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went in with him to the banquet, “and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10).

When the five foolish virgins returned, they discovered that they were unable to enter the banquet, for the door was shut. When they knocked on the door and asked to come in, the bridegroom said, “I don’t know you”.

What does this parable teach us? Why were five of the virgins foolish? Why did they not prepare properly and come with enough oil so that they could be part of the wedding banquet?

The answer to this question is given to us in the text:

Matthew 25:11-12 (NIV) 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

It’s clear that the virgins owned the bridegroom as their master, they called him “Lord” twice. But why were the virgins foolish? Why had they not prepared properly for the banquet? Why were they unable to enter? The answer from the text is, the bridegroom did not know them. They had no relationship with him and he would only let into the banquet those he knew.

The teaching is clear: people who are known by the Lord, who have a relationship with the Lord, live differently. It is the relationship with the Lord that makes the difference in knowing how to avoid sin, knowing how to be wise in the way we live, knowing how to spend our time today, and knowing how to prepare properly for the future. Knowing the Lord is what keeps our lamps burning brightly, as the Holy Spirit continually renews us in the Lord.

The implication of the parable is this: if we have a relationship with the Lord, He will direct our paths. Through seeking Him in prayer and His Word He will instruct us on how to live, He will teach us how to avoid sin traps, how to live so as to always be prepared to meet Him.

We also understand from this passage what it means to “keep watch”:

Matthew 25:13 (NIV) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

To “keep watch” means to keep our relationship with the Lord alive and healthy, so that we can hear Him, follow His instructions and avoid sin traps. To “keep watch” means to have a vibrant and growing relationship with Jesus so that we are learning from His Word and growing in wisdom, avoiding a foolish lifestyle and are always prepared for the future.

Dear friend, maybe from reading this today, you’ve come to understand that you have been like the foolish virgins, you have neglected a relationship with the Lord and you fear hearing the words from Jesus, the Bridegroom, “Truly, I tell you, I don’t know you.” Maybe you understand now that you are stuck in a sin trap due to neglect of God’s Word, having no prayer life, and by living in disobedience to God and His Word. Maybe you see that your lamp is not burning. Maybe now you are sensing the need to know the Lord and for Him to know you. How does this happen?

All people come to know God through the forgiveness of their sins, which happens at the cross:

Hebrews 8:11-12 (NIV) No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because 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.”

When Jesus died on the cross He took your sins on Himself, thereby removing them from you. He hung on the cross as if He were guilty of your sins and suffered the punishment of your sins, so that you could be free. As He hung there His blood poured out of Him from the wounds all over His body, and this blood makes atonement for your sins (Romans 3:25). As He hung there He felt separation from God, as if He were deserted by His own Father, as if He heard His Father say, “Truly I tell You, I don’t know You." All this for you, that you would know God through the forgiveness and removal of your every sin.

This forgiveness and freedom comes as you look at the cross and are cut in your heart over your sins, and you repent, and by faith receive the message of pardon and freedom. The Holy Spirit, who flows out of the cross of Jesus, now lives in you to actuate you and move you to holiness and a life of obedience. God knows you as one who, by faith, has received His free gift of pardon, complete forgiveness of every sin.  And while He now knows you, He does not know your sin, for He has chosen to remember them no more.

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

Now, having no sin on you, you are free to enjoy a relationship with the Lord. In this relationship God instructs you in His Word, and you have a heart to follow and obey. You listen carefully and follow closely. He teaches you and guides you:

Psalms 32:8 (NIV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Friend, there is a way to escape a life of foolishness and sin, a way to live wisely in the Lord. It is by knowing God through the forgiveness of your sin. It is by experiencing the pardon that Jesus died to give you. It is by looking at the cross so long that you are smitten in your heart in humility over Jesus’ love for you, and lifted up out of your sins in resurrection power. In so doing, the Holy Spirit leads you into all truth. Jesus rescued you from sin traps on the cross, the Holy Spirit guides you around them in the future.

Are you looking at the cross today and knowing God through forgiveness of your sins that was purchased at the cross?

*The mentors of Setting Captives Free are on a communication platform called “Flock”, and we always post this newsletter a day in advance on Flock. When one of our mentors, Kelly, read it, she wrote, "On the cross, the Father treated Jesus as the foolish virgins. He shut the door on Him, saying, "depart from me" because of the foolishness of all my sins. Now in Christ the Father says to me, "I know you, but I don't know your sins" Hallelujah!”*

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Testimonies:

Darrell writes:
"During my time in the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I have learned to seek the Lord's word daily in prayer and conversation with my spiritual partner, my wife of 32 years. I have re-learned the meaning of dying and being born again. I have humbled myself in accepting the responsibilities of sin I have committed throughout my life. I learned to be a student again, which at age 63, was a hard thing to do. Jesus has taken my sin burden from me; I am enjoying freedom.

To anyone suffering from any types of habitual sin in their life, please take this course and study it. It makes sense! You will be a new person after completing the course.


Lisa writes, "Life is a journey & sanctification a continual process throughout our lives. I have experienced this in my life over the past year, and I am so grateful to the Lord for it. I know HE led to me Setting Captives Free. The Purity Boot Camp course has taught me so much about how to APPLY the gospel to my life.

I was raised in a Christian home and have always been taught the truth. I am amazed and horrified at how Satan works to destroy. Looking back, I see myself at a young, innocent age with no knowledge of sexual immorality, and yet Satan and my flesh cooperated to lead me into sin under the guise of curiosity about my body.

Sexual sin has been present in my life from the age of 8, at times, stronger and more prominent than others. Sometimes more of a struggle and other times not so much. It grieves me that I choose to sin, but I am very thankful for this course because it has taught me that the gospel is for ME; there IS power to overcome the world, my flesh, and the devil, and it lies at the heart of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

I AM victorious. I AM forgiven. I want to destroy sin in every area and form and live righteously before God. I want no hypocrisy in my life but to be pure before the Father. I give my life to the Lord and seek Him daily. I commit to meditating on His Word and using the biblical principles taught in the Purity Boot Camp course to view the cross, walk by the spirit, and to fight my flesh.

Glory be to God! I pray He seals me by His Spirit until the day of judgment where I will stand in Christ alone and be accepted by Him into eternal life.

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

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 102nd Edition, October 20, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Announcement: Several volunteers have come forward to transcribe the Setting Captives Free podcasts, and make them available in print. Thanks to their loving ministry, the first transcription is now available, which you can see here: https://settingcaptivesfree.com/podcast 

Teaching:

The Pitfall of Partial Crucifixion

Often times when we struggle with life-dominating sins we think that if we can just stop the troublesome behavior everything will be fine. We need to stop watching pornography, stop overeating, stop lying, stop wrong use of media, or stop being depressed, and on and on the list goes of things we struggle with and want to stop.

The world is full of solutions that give “proof” that we can do exactly that. People lose hundreds of pounds on this diet or that one. Filters on computers block access to porn, or meetings and sponsors enable sobriety, etc. “Success” stories like these abound.

But this kind of stopping one behavior is like the Romans of Jesus’ day attempting to put a criminal to death with partial crucifixion. If he committed a crime using his hands then they must be nailed to the cross. Or if he used his feet to go somewhere bad, his feet must be pierced through and nailed to the tree. He’s partially crucified. Not dead, but not free. 

In this condition, the person partially crucified is unable to get to his previous sin struggles, but he is not free because his heart is unchanged and his desires are the same. Given the opportunity, he would do the same things again. This is the pitfall of partial crucifixion.

What must happen to truly be free is we must truly die. Full crucifixion. This is because sin is pervasive. Depravity invades our entire mind, body, emotions, heart, will and desires. If sin and depravity were pictured physically, it would look like this: "Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil” (Isaiah 1:5-6). 

Because of the all pervasive nature of sin, because of its destructiveness and the death it brings, Jesus was crucified until He died. He willingly endured physical torture and extreme mental and spiritual anguish for you. Jesus was struck on the face with a rod (Micah 5:1), His back was striped and furrowed like a farmer’s field (Psalm 129:3), His head was crowned with thorns, His hands and feet were nailed to a tree, His heart was pierced. Even His soul, His inner self, was made an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). Our sin covered the Lord Jesus from head to toe. "From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores...” He was entirely disfigured: "Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). 

Never forget, friend, Jesus suffered all this to save you. He endured it all to set you free. Every wound, every blow, every stripe, every nail He received was because He had you in mind and His heart loved you (Revelation 1:5). He went to the cross, to the grave, to hell and back, because of His love for you, to pay the price for your sin, to rescue you from darkness, ransom you from sin’s power, release you from Satan’s kingdom. Never has anyone loved so much, suffered so much, or paid such a costly price, to take you to be with them, like Jesus did.

And when it comes to freedom, nothing apart from full crucifixion will suffice. Our minds were defiled, our hearts polluted, our wills in bondage to our flesh, our emotions tied to our sin. Therefore, our entire self needed to die. And so because God loves us, and because of His grace, God put us to death with Jesus, and in so doing, He set us free. "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). 

Romans 6:6-7 teaches us three things:
  1. Our sinful nature was fully put to death at the cross. "Our old self was crucified."
  2. We are no longer ruled by sin. "Our body ruled by sin was done away with."
  3. We are freed from sin’s mastery over us. "We are no longer slaves to sin."
As you look at the cross, what does it do for your heart and your experience in life? When you see Jesus’ love poured out, along with His blood, does it break your heart? Does it draw you close? Does it begin to change you? If you look at the cross long enough, and often enough, it will lead you to turn your back on the world, renounce your pride and self-sufficiency, count your greatest gain as loss, and embrace the cross with your whole heart: “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my greatest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride."

Friend, our condition is much worse than the world would tell us. It’s not merely that we need to lose weight or stop pornography or cease sexual impurity; we’re far worse than that. Partial crucifixion will never do. God knew that our sins deserved capital punishment, so in His great love for us He put us to death at the cross of Christ (Galatians 2:20). In putting us to death, He freed us from the law, put us under grace, and set us free from slavery to sin. "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). This is freedom by grace, freedom through love, freedom at the cross. And to see it all happen there at the cross can soften the hardest heart, indeed it will replace your stony heart with a soft heart of flesh (Romans 2:25-29).

On the third day Jesus rose from the dead, and we rose with Him. As people risen from the dead we have new hearts, new hopes, new desires. We now are spiritual people, taught to walk by the Spirit and live by faith, rather than living by sight and according to the flesh. Our resurrection with Jesus teaches us to have a new focus, looking to Jesus and setting our hearts and minds on Him. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1).

Now that’s how to be free! Full crucifixion and death! Full resurrection and new life! Oh sure it might make us feel better to listen to the world, that we’re not so bad, that we just need to get a handle on our weight issues or simply stop over-drinking, etc. And yet while it may feel better to think of ourselves this way, if we want to be free we must submit to the cross and die to sin, and rise to new life. All by looking at the cross and believing it’s good news.

Don’t fall for the pitfall of partial crucifixion.

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Testimonies:

Kevin writes,The principles I’ve learned in the weight loss course have helped me very much. I've learned so much over the last 30 days and will continue to learn and grow the rest of my life. I have experienced Jesus more intimately and have lost nearly 10 pounds so far and have more to go, but have gained so much insight in this course.

I share this with course with everyone, as it is a way of sharing the gospel which is what the world needs. This is more than just about weightloss. This is about my need for Jesus. This course can help with anything you are dealing with in life."

Robyn writes: "My husband found the Setting Captives Free site for me. He had been living in a prolonged pattern of pursuing lusts and had found help through the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, and he thought the A United Front course would help me.

The study was like an oasis in the middle of a desolate place. I found such peace as I came to the course and found lessons addressing a different attribute of Christ to reflect on or an area I needed to challenge my own heart.

It was an excellent exercise for me to daily start the morning with a lesson reminding me of what Christ has done FOR me, so I could allow Him to work THROUGH me. When I see how I ve been forgiven, it is impossible to keep that gratitude buried in the hard shell of bitterness and revenge. When Jesus transforms us, we become a new creation to be used for His amazing purpose.

This daily encouragement, coupled with local counsel, helped reinforce the process of reconciliation for our marriage. The course brought much hope and assurance. It was a real blessing to our union to spend a whole month actively working towards a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ because it showed us how He is making all things new.

Steven writes, "I've found the principles taught in the Purity Boot Camp course more than helpful; they have set me free. My life has totally changed since starting this course. I am free from sexual sin and much closer to Jesus. I now understand what Jesus did for me at the cross and am eternally grateful. 


I definitely recommend this course! I started it thinking, "here we go...another chance to try and fail, but I finished the course, thinking, "Thank you, Jesus, for everything.”


Cody writes, "The Purity Boot Camp course at Setting Captives Free taught me the foundational principles that I need for freedom in Christ. I learned how to fight from a place of victory at the cross, to rely on God's power, not my own, and to make war against my flesh every day.

These lessons have reminded me that my identity is not in my sin but Christ; I am dead to sin and alive to God because of all Jesus accomplished at the cross and through His resurrection. My victory is through the cross of Christ. I've also learned that I am weak and helpless on my own.  I need the Holy Spirit every second of every day.  His power is my only power.  When I am weak, He is strong.

I've learned that I will have to fight this battle all my life.  There are no days off.  As soon as I let my guard down, my flesh, the world, and the devil will conspire to feed me lies.  I must remain on guard, abiding in Christ, and stuffing myself full of His Word.

I recommend this course because it is more helpful than any other resource I've found.  I would commit to completing it no matter what you feel going through the course.


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

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 101st Edition, October 13, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

Transformation is by Free Grace, and Comes by Washing at the Cross

In 2 Kings chapter 5 we have the story of Naaman, a very important man from Aram, who had been used by the Lord to bring great victory to his country. But he had leprosy. His servant girl, from Israel, stated that if he went to Israel to see God’s prophet he could be healed of leprosy, so he loaded up with silver, gold and clothing to take to the prophet, and went to be healed. 

Naaman, not knowing any different, sought to purchase his healing with money and clothing. He did not understand that God will not be a debtor to any person, and that healing comes by free grace. It also comes through humility.

See Naaman was somebody, a wealthy and important man, and he thought his status and money would be sufficient to purchase his healing. But the prophet of God was dismissive of Naaman, didn’t even come out to meet him but instead sent a servant out to tell Naaman to go wash in the Jordan river seven times to be healed.

Naaman was incensed! He was enraged! He expected to be well-received, to be honored and to purchase his healing. And what did he discover? His status and his money would not merit his healing. He had to learn that all healing is by free grace, and includes us humbling ourselves.

See the Jordan river was known to be muddy, and Naaman objects to it and states he could just as easily have washed in the rivers of Damascus, which were known to be better than the Jordan. In stating this, Naaman misses the point. The point is that when we desire to be cleansed and healed, we do not get to dictate the terms, nor the means used in our healing. We must humble ourselves to receive free grace, and we must learn that to be clean there must be a washing.

Just as Naaman didn’t understand the value of washing in the Jordan, so today there are those who don’t understand the value of washing at the cross. That is, of coming to the cross as unclean, seeing Jesus shedding His blood to forgive and remove our sin, and receiving, by faith, our cleansing and healing at the cross. And doing this over and over, even as Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan.

Yet, this humbling ourselves at the fountain of the cross is exactly what is needed to cleanse us from sin and to free us from its power. 

"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. “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).

Oh friend, look at the cross of Jesus Christ just now and see it as a cleansing fountain that will wash you from both impurity and idolatry, and humble yourself to wash there. Let the cleansing fountain wash over you, seeing that Jesus has taken your sin and guilt off of you, that He has removed your shame and is dying your death. This is the fountain that is despised by the world but loved by believers, for there we are cleansed and healed of sin-sickness, and freed from sin’s shackles.

When Naaman accepted that he could not buy his healing, when he understood that he could not dictate the terms of his healing, and when he humbled himself to wash in the Jordan, he was transformed:

"So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (2 Kings 5:14). 

Friend, the cross is the place of salvation and transformation. It is the place of sanctification and growth. Come to it today, and experience its transforming power, and be cleansed and be free.

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Testimonies:

Brad writes, "I thought this was going to be another one of those self-help courses, but lesson one proved me wrong. The Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course has gotten me into some very good habits. I now seek Jesus daily. I feel a lot more freedom now. I no longer have anything to hide from my wife. I don't get worried when she asks to look through my phone. I have an excellent accountability system in place.

I feel like Peter after Jesus called him out of the boat to walk on water. When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he cried for help, and Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed Peter out of the water. I feel like Jesus has grabbed me out of my sin and darkness and is helping me back to the boat.

Daily washing at the cross keeps me walking in the Spirit. I have good days and bad days, but I can say that thanks to learning to wash at the cross and walk in the Spirit, I am pornography free for the last 30 days. The cross makes warring against the flesh so much easier once you're continually washing at it.

Jesus has set me free over these last 30 days. It has been an amazing and challenging experience. I still stumble, but I feel Jesus keeping me up. This course has brought me so much closer to Him.

I most definitely recommend this course to ANYBODY that is struggling with sexual sin. This course has walked me through how and why we wash at the cross, walk in the Spirit, and war against the flesh. To anyone that thinks they have messed this up so bad that it can't be fixed, I have wonderful news. Jesus can and will fix your situation with His grace and mercy. As Christians, we serve an amazing God.

If you're struggling, do not give up! Be aggressive with your prayers! Go big! If you pray, according to God's will, He will make it happen! Also, be vigilant. Satan lurks behind every corner. He will throw things at you to trip you up and try to make you fall. Gaining freedom requires discipline. You're going to have to make a lot of changes, but it is going to be worth it.”

Christina writes, "Praise the Lord Jesus! Before taking the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course, I didn't realize to what extent I had been in bondage to and obsessing over food. Sin is so deceitful.

I learned that eating when not hungry is gluttony, and it's ok to wait until belly pangs and hunger sets in to eat.

At the end of this course, I feel closer and more intimate with the Lord Jesus, and I enjoy the taste of food more. I got to goal weight, which I couldn't do when I was tracking my diet and exercise for more than a year before this course. My clothes feel great, and I no longer have a fear of food. The scales do not stress me, which is impressive because, in the past, seeing them brought about a defeated attitude.

I want to retake this course as I can't say I'm always in touch with the stomach pangs but would like to suffer more for Christ and grow even more in savoring Him and walking in the Spirit.

I highly recommend this course to everyone even if you're not overweight. Society pushes food as the answer to comfort and pleasure and finding satisfaction to the point of savoring food. This course teaches us to savor Christ and will completely change your mindset about food to where you have the freedom to enjoy food even more as you put it in its proper place and grow in a deeper intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ."

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 100th Edition, October 6, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Announcement: We are excited to announce that the Purity Bootcamp course is now live in the Hungarian language of Magyar. Thanks so much to our volunteer translator Tamás Varga for all his hard work in completing this course in Hungarian. He has worked tirelessly and consistently to offer this ministry to all who speak and write Magyar. 

Additionally, Purity Bootcamp is now finished in Dutch, and will be made live within 2 weeks, Lord willing. Thanks so much to Petrus Zijlstra and Theo van Son who have translated both the Purity Bootcamp and Purity Follow-Up into Dutch.

Purity Bootcamp is now available in English, Russian, Dutch and Hungarian language of Magyar. It is currently being translated into Spanish, German, Slovak, Chinese, and French. 

Colossians 1:6...In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world--just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God's grace.

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Teaching:


The Penalty of Sin and the Power of Sin


Jesus said, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). When desiring freedom from slavery to sin, there is one vital truth to understand, without which we cannot be free. To be free we must understand that our sin debt has been completely paid and therefore our guilt is entirely removed. In other words, to be free of sin’s power we must know and embrace that we are free of sin’s penalty. To be free from sin’s slavery, we must have our debt paid!


Illustration:


In 2 Kings 4, the widow of a prophet is left with nothing upon the death of her husband. Worse than nothing, he left her a debt to pay with nothing to pay the debt except for one jar of oil. Further, the creditor was coming to take this poor widow’s two sons captive, to be his slaves in exchange for her inability to pay the debt.


In desperation, the widow goes to the prophet, Elisha, and explains the situation, and Elisha tells her to go and get some empty jars, and get many of them. After she did so, he told her to go inside and shut the door, take the one bottle of oil that she had left and begin pouring it into the empty jars. She began filling those empty jars until she ran out of them, every single one being full of oil. God performed a miracle! Then she was told to sell those jars of oil to pay off the debt and keep her children out of slavery. Wow, what love God showed this widow!


We can learn from this that whatever you lack God will provide. When Jesus came He did a similar miracle in multiplying loaves and fishes to feed multitudes of people. God cares for His people and supplies what they need.


But is this story in the Bible to show that God cares about widows and provides for their needs? Certainly, that is part of it. Is it to show that God can perform miracles to provide for His children? Partially, yes. Is it to assure us that God has miraculous ways to provide for our needs for the rest of our lives? Yes, somewhat. We as believers have every confidence that “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).


But is that all the story is in the Bible for? To tell us to go to God when we have needs?


No, we must view every little story in the Bible in light of the one big story, just as Jesus taught us to do in His own Bible study with the disciples walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).


When studying the Bible we must always keep in mind the message of freedom through Jesus’ death, reconciliation by the cross, atonement provided by the sacrifice of Jesus, our debt paid off at the cross of Calvary. We do this so that we do not misinterpret the Bible by leaving out that which God says is “of first (primary) importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). Let us not be like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, blind to “the sufferings and glories of the Messiah!"


So in the story of God’s miracle of filling empty oil jars in order to pay off a debt, what are we to see?


First, wasn’t that a very strange way to pay off her debt and ward off slavery for her sons? When she was first told to gather empty jars, unbelief would have doubted any good thing could come out of it. “No, I don’t need empty jars, I need my debt paid off, and I doubt the creditor has much need for empty jars. No Elisha, I need you to ask God for money: shekels, silver, something!” The solution didn’t seem to match the need.


Isn’t that so with the payment of the debt that you and I have? We have been in bondage to sin, enslaved to sin, with all its resulting debt toward God and guilt for us. And we read that we are to come to a cross to see our debt being paid off? A cross is where criminals die, the lowest of the low, those covered in shame and exposed to public ridicule. A criminal paying off my debt? “No God, I need to know what to do to get myself out of this mess, how to live so as to be righteous before you! I need to clean up what I messed up.” The solution doesn’t seem to match the need.


Second, the jars had to be empty, not filled with something. What could the widow possible use empty jars for in the payment of the debt? If Elisha had told her to ask her neighbors for jars of gold pieces, or even jars of food, that would at least go a little way toward paying off the debt. But empty jars? They are not good for much.


Even so, on the cross Jesus emptied Himself to pay off our debt of sin: “...who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). An empty man on a cross? It doesn’t seem that he is good for much.


Finally, the empty jars were filled with oil and then used to pay off the debt. The filling of the jars was a miracle, done by God as He multiplied the oil in the one jar to fill all the jars. Jesus Christ was “anointed to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus was anointed with oil, filled with the Holy Spirit as He came to bind up our broken hearts and set captives free.


Application: in order to be free from sin’s slavery, our debt of sin must be paid off. Like this widow, you and I had absolutely nothing with which to pay off our debt, and the creditor was coming for us. Death is the wages of sin, and it is just around the corner for all of us.


But God devised a way to pay off your debt before you were born, a way that is absolutely miraculous. He took your sins off of you, He took your guilt off of you, put them on the empty Messiah and hung Him up on a tree for all to see. There He hung with your sins and guilt on Him, having emptied Himself to fill you, and dying your death to keep you out of debtors’ prison and set you free from slavery. And miracle of miracles, the cross made you to be righteous and holy, spotless and flawless before God (Colossians 1:22). The cross is God’s performing of the greatest miracle, meeting the greatest need, freeing the most number of people from slavery.


And good news: the oil of the Holy Spirit will never run out, as long as there is a guilty and empty sinner to fill. His power to transform us goes on and on, for the rest of our lives. For as many people come to the cross of Jesus we will watch Him remove their sin and fill them with His Spirit and use them in His kingdom. What a miracle!



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Testimonies:

Depression course

Susan writes, "I have found peace & Joy again. I turn to Christ quickly when my thoughts spiral down, I have hope again & all the glory is to God the father God the son and God the spirit!!! I see the cross before me the ultimate sacrifice!!! I share Jesus’s unconditional Love and desire to minister to those in need ❤️❤️❤️!

I have shared with many about the cross gospel and Setting Captives Free. I share the help prayers and encouragement as my faith has gown and how I have found joy again!!! I have found the peace and joy that I had lost I am now focused on turning to Christ right away when the trials begin."

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Connie writes, "I completed the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course. I lost approximately 11 pounds. My clothes are fitting looser. I have found much freedom!"

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Ron writes, "During the past 30 lessons of the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course,  I have seen real change in my life.  Several years ago, I was part of Setting Captives Free (1.0) both as a student and as a mentor, but then I allowed myself to become so busy with life that I stopped seeking God through Bible study and prayer like I once was.  As I drifted farther from God, I slowly but steadily headed back into my old ways of sin.  Eventually, my sexual immorality became big while God seemed small.
I found myself right back where I was before my Setting Captives Free years.  My heart had grown cold toward God, and my sinful sexual passion was burning hot. But God in His mercy showed me that I was in a dangerous place and invited me to return to my Father in Heaven and return from the far country where I had been living.  I had been living like the prodigal son that Jesus spoke of in Luke 15.  I knew I need to go back to where I had first found real help, and that was Setting Captives Free (now 2.0).
During the 30 lessons of Purity Boot Camp course, I was reminded once again of the need for washing at the cross, walking with the Spirit, and warring against the flesh.  I am not yet where I want to be, but I am also not where I was before doing this course.  I am now getting back into my Bible and going to God in prayer.  I am learning to make this the highest priority in my day.  I have also been reminded again of the need to walk with the Spirit by seeking God's grace to apply in my life what I learn from His word - walking in obedience to His Word by the power of the Spirit.
These are, once again, baby steps for me, but I am thankful for some real change in my life in this area!  I now see that warring against the flesh can be a painful and bloody battle against my desires and temptations, but it is part of what it means to take up my cross and follow Jesus.
Even my wife says she sees the changes in me.  I have been more at peace, and this had greatly improved the quality of our marriage.  My wife has more than once asked, "Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?"  Wow, that has been so amazing and encouraging to me. Our love and intimacy for each other are growing and growing.
I am once again seeking to make being part of my local church a high weekly priority.  I need to be part of my local body, serving in it, and fellowshipping with it.  Prayer, Bible study, and real fellowship with other believers are once again exciting to me.  I have even started to help co-lead a weekly Bible study group.  My whole mindset is shifting from being focused on the things and pleasures of this earth to be more focused on those things which are above where Christ is.  Praise His name!
If you want to find freedom from impurity and to enjoy intimacy with Christ, I recommend that you take this course."

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 99th Edition, September 29, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” — John 8:12

When I was in bondage to sin I walked in darkness. In fact, I was in the dominion, or kingdom of darkness and under the power of darkness. Spiritual darkness is a reality in the lives of many people. In darkness, we feel trapped and captive to the power of temptation, we feel powerless to overcome the cravings of our flesh, and darkness descends on us like a cloud threatening to choke out all hope.

The world is full today of people looking for a little light on their path. Some kind of insight that will give them a new way of thinking, a different way of viewing their circumstances, something that will inspire hope and show them a way out. They may turn to the world for insights on behavior or to a psychiatrist for drugs, anything to give them some light on their problems and rescue them from prison of hopelessness.

And all the while Jesus proclaims that He is the Light of the world, and promises all who follow Him will have so much light that they will never walk in darkness.

This is the same Jesus, the Light of the world, who, on the cross, entered the darkness for 3 hours. He was entering our world, assuming our sins, being swallowed up in the human condition of darkness. As He hung on the cross He literally became sin for us, and that darkness choked out His very life, just as it does ours.

But in Jesus’ entering the darkness that day 2,000 years ago, He rescued us out of it. "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

Now what is our identity as believers, and what are we to do about it?

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14-16.

God has made us the light of the world, because Jesus is living in us. We have been rescued from darkness to declare God’s praise and to rejoice in the mercy He purchased for us at the cross: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

You’ve been rescued at the cross. You’ve been brought from darkness to light at the cross, all by God’s mercy. Your mission now is the same that God gave to Paul: "I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).

Yes, we’ve been rescued to rescue others. How do we do that? We point them to the cross, invite them to come and look up at the spectacle before them, see the God-Man crucified, suffering for their healing, bleeding to atone for their wrongs, dying that they might live. Show them that Jesus was transformed into their sin that they might be transformed into the image of God. We call them to believe this message of a suffering Savior, the bleeding Lamb who took away the sin of the world, and in believing they find life in His Name (John 20:31).

Jesus is the Light that all people need. He is the Light of the world. He is the Wonderful Counselor, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). If you need some light on your path, to be rescued from darkness, made to be light yourself, come to Jesus and receive it.

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Testimonies:

Rita writes, "The biblical principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course are very helpful.  Remembering what Christ has done for me is most beneficial.  It helps me get to the next stomach growl.

Since I started this Bible study, I have lost 10 lbs just by waiting to eat until I am hungry.  I am so grateful for how these lessons showed me how God loves me and how Christ paid for my sin and teaching me how to respond to what He did on the cross for me.  I do not want to sin by making food or some diet an idol.
I love this life change; however, I am still struggling with the weekends, when everyone sits down at the table to have what looks like a wonderful meal, and I am not hungry.  In those moments, I have to remind myself why I am not eating.   I am hoping it will become much easier in the future.

I was at the market the other day and walked down an aisle where there was nothing but diet food, and I was so excited to pass this aisle all together.  It is so freeing.  I have so many friends that are dieting as it seems like a lifelong goal to lose ten more pounds, and when I mention Setting Captives Free, they look at me as if I am crazy.  My prayer is that God will enable me to continue walking in obedience to Him so that over time, my friends will see what the LORD can do regarding losing excess weight.

So, with a big Thank You, I look forward to continuing to study God's Word and apply it to my life.”


Anthony writes, "The principles in the Purity Boot Camp course are essential to fighting against the temptations of all sin, not just in the sexual arena.  Most of all, these are effective principles because they are rooted in the truth of the Scriptures.  By washing the cross, I was able to reconnect with my condition before God. Walking in the Spirit helped me to reestablish my walk with God.  My prayer life has taken a new shape. Lastly, it has been essential to me to establish some new patterns of behavior and thinking to create an effective battle plan of dealing with temptation when it comes.

When I started this course, the overwhelming feeling I got was that my relationship with God needed an overhaul, and this began to take place a few days into the study.  I was not changed right away.  God did, however, slowly began to shift my focus from me to Him.

At first, I did not make an effort to maintain daily contact with my mentor or complete the lessons.  However, when I began to be more consistent, I noticed little by little a transformation happening in my life.  I saw how coming to and staying at the foot of the cross is so necessary to remain close to God.  I needed daily reminders of my helpless condition in my sin. Pornography, self-gratification, and immoral fantasies had wreaked havoc on my walk with God.  These sinful activities prevented any intimacy with God and kept me from seeing God's amazing work in my life and the lives of others.

Then I began to wash at the cross, and  I began to see Jesus instead of myself.  I was reminded of the great sacrifice that Jesus made, and my heart began to soften toward the message of the cross.  I began to see the need to stay at the foot of the cross, to not think of myself more highly than I ought to, but consider Jesus and the great love He has for me so that I could turn from the sin that hindered me.

I spent so much time over the years in sin, 35 of them as a disciple of Jesus.  I had to realize that while I did not have the answers myself as to how to get free from sexual sin, God did.  God designed the nature of His relationship to us for reconciliation to Him through the cross.  He knew I would need it and offered help freely to come back to Him.

Over the past few weeks, I have been much more in tune with the Spirit's will for my life.  I have been reading and meditating more on the Scriptures than I have in the past.   My faith still needs a lot of work.  I still need to meditate more and more on the Word of God and live by the truth that it reveals to me.
For the past six months, I have not seen any porn.  I have not attempted to view it and have been open when the temptations to do so came.  This represents a significant shift in my behavior patterns.  I used to view pornography on my phone habitually during the day; I was so out of control that I would even watch it while driving.  It took me to some of the darkest places, but now, it is no longer a burning temptation in my heart and mind.

Of any of the changes that have occurred over the past couple of months, though, the most essential change is that my relationship with God has been renewed.  This has had the most impact on my life.  I wake up in the morning desiring time with God.  For a long time, my priority in the morning was to go to the gym at 4:45, then go straight to work.  I would lie to myself, telling myself that I would spend time later in the Scriptures and praying.  Of course, this would never happen.  I may be a little less fit physically than when I first started taking my spiritual life more seriously, but I am in a much better place spiritually.
I appreciated more than anything how deep-rooted the lessons were in scriptural truths.  The power of the Word of God to change the heart supersedes any program man can devise.”


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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power of the Cross: 98th Edition, September 22, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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Teaching:

To find freedom from the chains of sin, from the demands of our flesh, from the powerful dominion of Satan, we must get to the cross and stay there. Here is a wonderful article written by Pastor David Mathis on this subject: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/get-to-the-cross-and-never-leave

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Testimonies:

Wende writes, "I took the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss course to maintain my weight loss, which I did. But the most significant thing I experienced was growth in my relationship with Christ.

I can see that I am less defensive, consciously denying my flesh more, and experiencing much more peace in my life. Especially peace with food. One morning I was astounded to notice at 10 am that I hadn't eaten and had not even thought about food at all.

I recommend this course so much that I got the Leader's guide and started leading a small group.”

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Have you considered starting a Setting Captives Free weight loss course for your friends, neighbors or brothers and sisters at church? We have books and leader guides ready for you, which you can see here. 

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Michael writes, "The biggest change that has happened since starting the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course is that I am now able to war against my flesh. I can now say "No" to my body when it wants to sin, and I can resist and prevent sinful thought strongholds from lodging in my mind because I am now walking by the Spirit.

I've joined the purity ministry at my church and have been more open about purity than ever before.

There is an old hymn that says, "There's a fountain free,' tis for you and me: Let us haste, O haste to its brink;' Tis the fount of love from the source above, And He bids us all freely drink...There's a rock that's cleft, and no soul is left, That may not its pure waters share;' Tis for you and me, and its stream I see: Let us hasten joyfully there."

Brothers and sisters, there's a fountain free, free for us to come to, drink, and find life and satisfaction for our souls. Jesus is the water that flows out of this fountain, and He offers us all a chance to be free and to truly live. There is a way out! There can be an end! Come to Christ, let Him transform your heart and mind, and set you free from impurity.”

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Laura writes, "A lot of changes have taken place in my heart while taking the A United Front course. Almost nothing has changed in my situation, but I'm in a much better state of mind. I feel like my focus has been taken off of my circumstances, and put onto Jesus. My expectations of my husband have drastically decreased as I've looked to Jesus to meet my needs.  Being reminded regularly of who Jesus is, and what He did for me has transformed my mind and thinking. Fear doesn't have a hold on me because I know that in Jesus, I have nothing to fear. He's always faithful and true."

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Giles writes, "I am almost 60 and TV has been a part of my life since I was a little boy. It became my comforter and escape. When I came to Christ, I initially separated from it mainly because it was not accessible where I was living. But it slowly crept back into my life, and I used it as a substitute for relationships and avoiding God.

Television is the one idol or "high place" that has remained in my life all these years. I see a way out now, and by His grace, I'm taking it. Setting Captives Free's Media Addiction course has been the tool God is using. Thank You!”

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 97th Edition, September 15, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

----------

Teaching:

Bitterness! It is an insidious freedom-stealer!

Bitterness keeps us in bondage to sin because when we are bitter our hearts are poisoned, even as water that is bitter is poisoned water. It affects our thinking, makes us negative people, and defiles many others around us.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15

We have all tasted the bitter waters of life in some way. Violations, injustice, false accusations, abuse, and a myriad of other offenses wound us and produce pain in our lives. No one escapes betrayal.

Some respond to the betrayals of life by hiding their pain, pretending they are immune to it. They bury their pain deep down, not realizing that eventually, it will erupt out of them in a bitter, destructive, and defiling way. Others broadcast their betrayal; they talk about it to anyone who will listen. These are at high risk for bitterness because they are always thinking about and reliving their injury. A few will immediately respond in bitterness by seeking revenge, desiring to inflict as much pain as they have felt on their offender, and more if possible.

Bitterness is what happens when we remember the offenses against us but forget the gospel that is for us. As believers in Jesus, God has given us a way to process our pain and anger without sinning. We have a heavenly hospital to which we can come, have our pain addressed, and receive healing. This place is the cross of Christ.

It is true. The place of Christ’s ultimate betrayal is where we find our complete healing. When we experience the pain of betrayal, we can find relief through the cross of Christ. We look to Jesus and His cross and see that God is a God of justice. He does not ignore sin. He crucified it. He sent His Son to endure the agony of affliction, the full weight of every sin and offense, so that not only would we be justified before Him but also that we would be assured of justice for ourselves. Jesus’ death pays not only for your sinful offenses but also the offenses of others against you. He died on the cross and rose to bring healing, reconciliation, and restoration to our lives.

Illustration:

As the Israelites traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, they went through many barren places. At one point in their journey, after three days without finding any water, they came to an area with water only to discover that the water was bitter. “When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter” (Exodus 15:23).

By this time, the people were very thirsty and distressed, and when they found the bitter water, they reacted badly. They grumbled to Moses, who then cried out to the Lord for help. God answered with an unusual solution:

“Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink” (Exodus 15:25).

Isn’t that a unique solution? Boiling and filtering the water sounds more logical than chucking a piece of wood into it, but God’s ways are not like ours. His peculiar solution was intentional and for our benefit.

Every story in the Bible, in some way, points forward to the main story of the Bible - that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise again to save His people from their sins, and to transform us into His image. We, humans, are in a desperate situation because of our sin, but God loved us, so He gave us Jesus who died on the cross to save us, rescue us, heal us and deliver us, and in this case, transform our bitterness into sweetness.

Just as God came to the aid of the Israelites, transforming their bitter water into sweet with a piece of wood, so God came to our rescue by sending His beloved Son to die on a piece of wood. But unlike the Israelites who experienced the transformation of bitter waters only once through the wood, Jesus’ cross would be the means of life transformation for people from every tribe and nation eternally. The cross is the Solution for the bitterness of your life.

Application:

Are you struggling with feelings of sorrow for a deep betrayal? Are you disillusioned or disheartened by the circumstances of life? Have you been maligned or mistreated? Come to the cross and behold your Lord, experiencing your betrayal, enduring the agony of defeat for you. Now see Him reaching out to you in eternal love, offering to make an exchange with you. Your sorrow, for His joy. The death of your dream, for the resurrection power of the living Christ.

Are you living in bitterness? Trapped by the pain of old and new offenses, and weary of the burden they are to you? Come to the cross of Christ and receive Jesus’ sacrificial love and healing into the bitter waters of your heart. Look to Jesus and see that He bore your sorrow and the offense against you on the cross. The debt has been paid.

You can release your offender, even if they are not sorry for what they have done or you think they don’t deserve forgiveness, because you aren’t extending forgiveness based on the worthiness of your offender, but based upon the worthiness of your Savior. Further, justice has been served at the cross, or God will bring it at the proper time. You can, like Jesus, entrust yourself to the One that judges justly (1 Peter 2:23) and experience the sweetness of freedom that flows from Christ’s death and resurrection.

Are you grumbling to God about the bitter waters of your life? Angry about your sin struggles, bitter that you didn’t get what you wanted or thought you needed? Come to the cross of Christ and receive God’s Solution. Jesus alone can satisfy your thirst. He alone can set you free from sin traps and the defiling bitterness that they bring. Look to Jesus and receive the peace that His wounds speak to you. You have not been denied what you need; you have been blessed beyond measure in Christ. He has clothed you in His robes of righteousness. Look today to the cross of wood on which Jesus died to experience the transformation of your bitter, sin bound heart into a sweet, Spirit-filled one that is overflowing with His love.

How does remembering Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross transform your bitter thoughts into sweet ones?

Testimonies:

Deidre writes,When I came to the Setting Captives Free A United Front course, I was bitter, angry, and had zero desire to forgive or pray for my husband. I wanted my husband to suffer.

Through this course, I have come to know Jesus more deeply as my compassionate Savior. Even though Jesus was falsely accused and mistreated, His heart remained focused on doing the will of the Father.

Focusing on Christ, His death on the cross and His victorious resurrection has brought so much love and comfort to my heart.

And this experience of deeper intimacy with Jesus at the cross is spilling out towards my husband. I am now honestly and humbly able to love, forgive, and pray for my husband.

Now, when I am tempted to be bitter, instead, I take my thoughts captive and give them to Jesus. Jesus is helping me to pursue what He wants to me pursue for HIM and the unity of our marriage that is to reflect the ultimate covenant between Christ and His church.

I am thankful for Setting Captives Free, and the A United Front course. I pray that God will bless it.”


Adam writes: "Before taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I was consumed with sexual sin for about 35 years, even throughout 17 years as a born again Christian and 18 years of marriage.

The sin has caused much damage in my life - mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. It has attacked my marriage and threatened my children; it has threatened relationships with relatives and friends. It has impacted my schooling, social life, and work and even my finances. It has kept me on the first rung of the ladder when it comes to Christian maturity and growth. It has hardened my heart to the conviction of the Spirit; made me callous to the grievousness of sin; and robbed me of the ability to love. It blinded me to the Word of God and revealed my pride, hypocrisy, and depravity. This devastation is what sexual sin has done to me most of my life. I was in bondage, thinking there was no way out.

I tried everything I could think of to break free: will-power, psychological counseling, books, videos, internet blockers, filters, and accountability software. I even physically destroyed laptops and computers and cut off internet services. I also prayed and promised God that I would stop. I even went to a place to be 'exorcised' from the 'demon of porn. I confessed to everyone, privately and publicly in church. I even prayed that the LORD would kill me if I continued in the sin. I thank the LORD that He spared my life, but everything I did was futile.

I thank the LORD He did not leave me nor forsake me, but rather He led me to Setting Captives Free. At Setting Captives Free 1.0, I did not complete the course because when I fell into sin, I was so ashamed and tired of falling again, that I just stopped - regardless of some mentors that tried to encourage me. Then Setting Captives Free went offline for a time. I was sad, but last year the LORD prompted me to look again for the free Setting Captives Free materials, and I found Setting Captives Free 2.0. I immediately enrolled in the purity courses.

For the first time, I saw what the gospel is. For the first time, I saw Jesus and Him crucified, and that he did this to save me. For the first time, I understood what it means to be crucified with Christ, and that He died so I can live through the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. For the first time, I understood what it means to be in Him; buried with Him, and also resurrected with Him, translated from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of LIGHT, who is Jesus. For the first time, I understand what it means that Christ did it all on the cross, and I could not and did not do anything to save myself, except cry out, Lord Jesus, save me!

Jesus saved me, and He is saving me! Now, I am being consumed by the cross; being sensitive to the Spirit, and looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith and the Captain of my Soul, who put Satan to shame publicly by defeating death and sin, and who is now encouraging and strengthening me to make war against sin. My motivation is no longer freedom and happiness, but to do the will of Jesus because I love Him who loved me first. Thank you, Setting Captives Free and mentors, for being useful in the hands of our LORD, and pointing me to the cross.”

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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free

The Power Of The Cross: 96th Edition, September 8, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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SCF Men’s Group

We are starting a Setting Captives Free men’s group on the app Marco Polo. The idea is we can message the group when in need of encouragement, when tempted, or when we want to encourage others, etc.

The only request for joining the group is that we help keep each other focused on the gospel; that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how it applies in our lives as we desire to walk in freedom from habitual sin.

So if you would like to join, simply download the Marco Polo app on your phone (https://www.marcopolo.me/) then contact Mike Cleveland THROUGH THE APP to be added the group. Contact information is mike@... and phone 360-362-0268.

Please allow 24 hours to be added to the group.

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Teaching:

How to Experience Rest and Freedom!

All people experience unrest. They have no internal rest, no peace and quiet, and so they look for it in external things: emptying one’s mind, meditation, breathing exercises, calming music, etc.

And all people experience slavery. They can't control certain behaviors, they find themselves driven to do certain things, as if they had a slave master requiring them to do these things. Whether it's drugs and alcohol, lust and sexual impurity, food and laziness, or binge watching TV. Slavery is the natural condition of all mankind by birth (Job 51:5, John 8:34).

In the book of Job, Job has experienced many hardships all at once: loss of family, destruction of homes, flocks and herds, and total decimation of his livelihood. This is Satan's activity in his life.

And he longs for rest and freedom, wishing he had never been born so that he might be free of his circumstances. But notice what Job says about how to be free, as he cries out to God:

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

Did you notice that in death "the wicked cease from turmoil, the weary are at rest”, "captives no longer hear their slave driver's shout” and “slaves are freed from their owners”? 

Yes, death brings rest and freedom, the ceasing of turmoil and the silencing of the slave driver's shout. Through death, captives are set free! As Paul says in Romans 6:7, “...anyone who has died has been set free from sin."

Many people commit suicide because they long for rest and freedom. Oh, if only there was a way to experience these benefits of death while still living! Don't you find your heart crying out for rest and freedom? Job did! And so do we!

And here is where the good news of the gospel becomes great news for us today. The gospel tells us that not only did Jesus die for our sins, but we also died in Him. That not only was Jesus risen from the dead, but that we were risen in Him. And if we died, we are freed from sin, and if we have risen, we have a new life (Acts 5:20). 

Read these two passages slowly and see what they say to you about freedom:

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 6:1-4 (NIV) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.


Oh friend, rejoice today that when Jesus died, you died. The cross of Christ was your cross. His burial was your burial. His death your death. His resurrection your new life. Relish this truth that your old self that loved to sin, that obsessed over wrong things, that tried to make good things the ultimate thing, has died with Christ and was buried with Christ. And in death, captives are set free!

This means that right now, in your life as you live it today, you can experience rest and peace and freedom from slavery. After all, in death captives are set free. It is wonderfully good news to know that dead people cannot hear the slave driver's shout. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

We are not to commit suicide to experience these marvelous results, we are to believe the good news that we have already died and have risen with Christ! This faith in, and personal experience of the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection makes Jesus precious to us who believe (1 Peter 2:7). Oh how freeing and peaceful it is. We are at rest in Him and we are free in Him (John 8:36). 

Truly, what Job said later applies to us, too: "The blessing of a perishing man came upon me” (Job 29:13). Thank you Jesus that in your perishing on the cross you blessed us with sweet rest, and real freedom! Thank you for letting us experience this freedom not through our hard work, but through Your finished work! 

As you think about your previous slavery to sin, hear the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished!” When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). And so did you!

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Testimonies:

Ann writes, "Since taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I have realized in a fresh new way the extent of what Christ did for me on the cross. I have realized that Jesus has not only forgiven me but removed the stains of my past. From the Old Testament, all through to the New, the completeness of that forgiveness is seen and relevant for us today. "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed" has taken on a whole new meaning. 
 
This study is helping me look more closely at God's word and see how He has revealed from the beginning His wonderful plan of redemption and grace. Salvation happens the moment we trust Jesus to save us when we admit our sins and stop blaming anyone else. But how glorious is what He continues to do for us every day by His Spirit. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and being in His Word; we learn more every day about how great that is and how awesome He is! There is none like Jesus!!!

I have recommended this course to almost everyone I talk to because this course isn't just for those enslaved to pornography. These truths apply to everyone who needs a Savior, every believer that struggles with their past failures and freedom from their own flesh patterns now. I am grateful that God showed me what I needed to learn about His Amazing Grace.”

Michael writes, "I found the principles taught in the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course to be very profitable. I now make time every day to spend time with God and His word. I know I am hopeless, but with Jesus, I find hope and a Way out of temptations.  


I have not viewed pornography or even wanted to since I started this course.  I find my former sin distasteful and disgusting. I see how in the dark I was and do not want to go there again. I have experienced a change like never before. I never thought that an online course could have such an impact on my life, but it has. I highly recommend this course.”


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


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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland