Date   

The Power of the Cross: 197th Edition, September 12, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 197th Edition, September 12, 2021

Greetings friends,

 

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

----------

Announcement: Mike Cleveland is going live on Facebook today, Sunday, at 10:30 AM Pacific (West Coast) time: https://www.facebook.com/scfggm/live_videos/ He will be teaching on “Darkness and the Light of the Gospel” from John 1:6-13.

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

 

----------

 

Announcement: The Setting Captives Free podcast is growing! Listen in on Sundays for the newsletter, join us on “Testimony Tuesday” and “Worship Song Wednesday” (where we discuss worship music, make recommendations, and give cautions). Thursdays are now our regular podcast days.

----------

Setting Captives Free’s blog page. Check out all our authors (volunteers with Setting Captives Free) who are writing for our gospel blog. It will be a feast for your soul!

----------

Teaching:

In the course of our study in the book of Galatians, we have seen that the Galatians experienced a struggle common to believers: having believed in the gospel, they were struggling with their flesh, doing things they didn’t want to do. Paul encapsulated this experience well when he wrote Romans 7:18-19, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

So is there a solution for us who struggle so much with our flesh? The Galatian false teachers would answer, “yes, there is! We know you’ve come to faith in Christ, but now you need to begin obeying God’s ten commandment Law to overcome your flesh. Obeying the Law is what you are missing. God knew of your flesh and gave you the Law to keep you from obeying your flesh. Either you obey your flesh, or you obey the Law.” 

But Paul responded to the false teachers of legalism by reminding the Galatians of the power of the cross and showing that the Law is the power of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56) and does not produce the righteous life they desire. In Galatians 5:16, he writes:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Here we learn that to experience victory over life-dominating sins, we must experience true spiritual power. The Israelites tried to obey the Law without success. Sadly, many professing Christians are still trying to mature in their faith by focusing on external behaviors  - they work their steps and set accountability boundaries around their flesh, hoping to make it behave, all to no avail. External solutions are ineffective, and God's Law only binds us to our sin and condemns us (2 Corinthians 3:7-9). 

God tells us in Galatians that if we want to experience lasting freedom from the wrong desires of our flesh, we must learn to walk by the Spirit because then we will not gratify our flesh. The Spirit leads us powerfully away from sin. Think of the angels that took Lot by the hands and led him out of Sodom (Genesis 19:16) or Moses leading the people out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12-14) - this is how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers. He guides us away from sin so that when we are walking by the Spirit, we are not gratifying the lusts of our flesh. There's the answer - walking by the Spirit!

Perhaps you are hearing this message and asking, "Yes, but how? I don't know how to walk by the Spirit. He's invisible, so how can I 'keep in step with the Spirit' and 'walk by the Spirit'?" 

God gives us the answer we need in His Word. He calls us to come to the cross and wash; come and experience forgiveness as you did the first time. Come and behold the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, splayed out on the altar, blood running out of Him, life draining out of Him, to fill you with His Spirit so that you can live. Come and view your God hung up on a cursed tree for your sins (Galatians 3:13) to bless you with the Spirit (Galatians 3:14) and free you from sin’s domination (Galatians 5:16). Read the Scriptures and see the cross of Christ, and you’ll learn to walk by the Spirit. 

Let’s quickly look at one example in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5: “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5), “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (verse 9). 

The Thessalonians turned to God from idols; why? Because God commanded it? No, they turned from idols because the gospel came to them by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel and the Spirit, the gospel and power are always together (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Experiencing Holy Spirit power sets us free from bondage, turns us from idols, and enables us to serve the living and true God.

Question: why do you think God has connected the message of the cross and the power of the Spirit together? 

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

Dawn writes, "It is with great joy and immeasurable peace that I share what God has done in my life over the last month.

 

First, let me say that I do not have it all figured out, but I do finally understand where to run to face any problem. I get to run to Jesus over and over again and again. I am free from the demands and expectations of my flesh. I'm no longer living by a manufactured checklist or the demands of the world. I have been set free from my burdens of guilt and shame. I am being restored daily at the foot of the Cross by the blood of Jesus shed for me!!! HALLELUJAH and Amen!

 

My marriage is the most significant change I've seen since taking the A United Front course! What is the change, you ask? TRANSFORMATION of our hearts.

 

My husband was a pastor of a beautiful church for the past seven years, and we thought we were preparing for overseas mission work. So what change did we need? I mean, we were feeding a flock. Right? Wrong! We were teaching about religion. Yes, in our efforts, we tried to love others. We wanted our community saved, but we lacked the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before A United Front, I didn't regularly see or consider Jesus or His death for my sins. Even worse, I lacked empathy and compassion and didn't want to think that Jesus' death paid for my husband's sins or anyone else's. But now, I delight in seeing the love of Jesus come to life through His Holy Word.

 

I am overjoyed that in my brokenness, I am completely totally 100% gracefully forgiven. And now I get to see my husband with new eyes through the love of Jesus. I get to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all around me by the righteousness of Christ given to me.

 

I AM a child of God! Jesus has taken all my sins past, present, and future and forgiven me of them all! Praise You, Lord Jesus, my King!

 

Hallelujah, we are all set free by the tremendous love of Jesus, for God does so LOVE the world that He GAVE us His only Son Jesus to stand in our place day after day to be forgiven.

 

Maybe you’re thinking that you are doing pretty good, you've got your life under control, and you are happy for the most part, and it is your husband who is the problem. Or maybe you are feeling desperate, scared, afraid of failing, unsure that an online course can help. Let me encourage you that when we come to Jesus, it's not about us and what we do or don't do!!! Instead, it's all about what Jesus has already done and continues to do for us every day. Stop fighting yourself or anything else and enroll in the Setting Captives Free course you need and experience the POWER of Jesus dying on the Cross for your sins as more than enough to set you free and restore you.

 

I know I have finally fully turned to Jesus, and I never want to return to my old life or my old self. I am a new forgiven child of God who is fully forgiven by the blood of Jesus shed for me. Jesus has transformed my heart and healed my marriage for His glory; I'm so thankful.

----------

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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 196th Edition, September 5, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 196th Edition, September 5, 2021

Greetings friends,

 

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

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

 

----------

 

Announcement: The Setting Captives Free podcast is growing! Listen in on Sundays for the newsletter, join us on “Testimony Tuesday” and “Worship Song Wednesday” (where we analyze worship music, make recommendations and warnings). Thursdays are normal podcast days.

----------

Setting Captives Free’s blog page. Check out all our authors (volunteers with Setting Captives Free) who are writing for our gospel blog. It will be a feast for your soul!

----------

Teaching:

What is Christian freedom? If we say, “it’s freedom from the Old Covenant Law, and freedom from habitual sin,” that’s true, but it’s only partially true. What is the whole truth? That Jesus’ death’ on the cross also freed us to love and humbly serve each other! That’s total Christian freedom. Let’s see this in our text for today:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15).

 

When we first read these verses in Galatians, we might remember Jesus' answer to the question about which is the greatest commandment in Mark 12:30-31, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Considering Jesus’ words, we might wonder if Paul is teaching that we are free from some of the Old Covenant Law (the part about loving God) but still obligated to the part about loving our neighbor as ourselves. However, if we consider the context of Galatians 3:13-15, we find that Paul does not point us back to the Old Covenant but points us to the New Covenant that Jesus instituted through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

Remember, before Jesus died, He instructed His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). And later, John reiterates this truth when he writes in 1 John 3:23, "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."

 

In this way, we understand that when Paul speaks of fulfilling the law by loving our neighbor, it is not an old covenant command to which Paul is referring but a new covenant one.   

 

In the Old Covenant, the Law was an external list of rules to guide God's people to sort of "fence in" their behavior, but it could not change their hearts which is the Law from which Jesus freed us!

  

Yes, Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death, but we aren't to use our freedom as a license to live in a selfish, self-serving way. Instead, we are to look to the cross of Christ and remember Jesus' love for us. 

And what do we see when we look there? 

Look at the cross and see Jesus humbling Himself. He humbled Himself from God to man, from man to servant, from servant to a criminal's cross. He humbled Himself to the pouring out of His blood, to the breathing out of His Spirit. Why? To humbly serve you in love, forgiving you of every sin, canceling your debt, freeing you from all guilt. And once we receive that? Out of the overflow of the love of God that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts, we can then humbly serve one another in love.  Galatians 5:14 says that we fulfill the "law" of the new covenant when we do, and by contrast, we destroy each other when we don't.

 

Do you see how remembering the gospel and not being distracted from it is essential to our life in Christ and a healthy church?  Keeping the gospel of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-6), keeping our eyes on Jesus, and remembering His death and resurrection for us empowers us in our day-to-day living. Focusing on the cross enables us to keep the mind of Christ that humbly led Him there to save His enemies (Philippians 2:5-11) and to serve His people. 

Yes, at the cross, Jesus humbly served us, in love, so that we can serve one another in love, and so we can avoid destroying the body of believers that Christ died to save.   

Question: How does looking at the cross of Christ free you to serve others humbly in love?

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

Scott writes, "I was deeply impacted by how looking to Jesus relates to so many weighty issues in life. It seems so obvious from the surface. However, as I did the Looking to Jesus devotional, I realized how I wasn't looking to Jesus in these circumstances. So this devotional helped to show me that the gospel affects every part of life.

 

I recommend this study. It is a great way to soak in the power of the gospel."        

Elizalde writes, "The Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course has been of tremendous blessing to me. When I first started, I thought it would be just an overview of all the things I already knew and that I already had control of my sin, but I was wrong.

 

"I" (on my own) am not able to free myself from sin. Since I was fourteen, I struggled with pornography and had tried to free myself from it repeatedly but failed every single time. After praying and asking for freedom from Jesus for many years, I came to the point where I just gave up and thought that I would be enslaved to impurity for the rest of my life. But God's timing is perfect, and now that I'm married and have two beautiful boys, Jesus has finally answered my prayers. He has set me free and has given me a new life, a life with a new meaning and purpose. I praise and rejoice in the Lord because He has set me free. I look forward with excitement for the future and have shared my testimony with friends around me. I'm especially thankful because when the time comes, and my two boys face the struggle that I did for so many years, I will share my testimony with them and give all praise to Jesus, so they know that they will find freedom in Him.

 

My relationship with my wife is the best it's ever been, and this has brought both of us closer to God. All the praise and glory be to Jesus, I can't thank Him enough for His beautiful sacrifice at the cross.

 

My mentor, Ken, is my pastor at church, and he took me through this course. I pray that God will bless this great man of God! He has been a blessing to my family and me since we first met him.

 

The Purity Bootcamp course is Christ-centered, backed by His Word, and teaches you that Jesus is the only One that can set you free.

----------

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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 195th Edition, August 29, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 195th Edition, August 29, 2021

Greetings friends,

 

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

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

----------

Setting Captives Free’s Blog. Check out all our authors (mentors with Setting Captives Free) who are writing gospel blogs. It will be a feast for your soul!

----------

Teaching:

Today we come to a thought-provoking portion of Galatians that explains the reason for 12-step groups, psychiatry, and why Christians often have no power in their daily lives or in the world around them. Let's look at it:

Galatians 5:11-12 (NIV) "Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"

If Paul had preached a message of circumcision (or Sabbath-keeping, obedience to the Old Covenant Law, or anything else that human beings could do), he would not have been persecuted as he was. Such teaching abolishes the offense of the cross. Paul is saying that the message of the cross is offensive.

The flesh gladly embraces a list of rules - special diets, exercises, group meetings, pills, boundaries, filters, or behavior modifications of any kind. Such things seem wise and reasonable, and because we avoid the offense of the cross, people don't speak out against us or persecute us. It's a win-win. And yet, it's entirely powerless. None of those "wise" and "reasonable" things can change a single human heart, none of them has the power to crucify the sinful nature, or raise the dead.

The teaching that we are addicts in recovery is palatable because it avoids the offensiveness of the cross. And believing that we only need to "come to terms" with the reason why we seek the pleasure of our "drug" of choice and then make a conscious decision "to refocus and put up proper boundaries," we avoid the offense of the cross entirely. And such counsel is altogether powerless! 

But why is the message of the cross offensive? Have you ever wondered why the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection to save us from our sins is such an offense, and therefore is left out of much Christian teaching? Here are six reasons, and maybe you can come up with even more:

First, the teaching of atonement offends our pride. Someone else had to make atonement for my sins? To say that I can do nothing to right my own wrongs is offensive; it hurts my pride.

Second, the message of the cross is simple teaching that offends man's wisdom. Our flesh wants to learn about neurons and brain receptors, synapsis, and to understand "why." The flesh is comfortable studying "food-ology" and learning how the body responds chemically to substances. Such "scientific" information gives us a sense of knowledge and security, but "Jesus died for my sin" is too simple. Nothing to see here. Let's move on to more profound and intriguing things!

Third, the cross as a remedy for man's ruin offends our supposed ability to help ourselves. Humanity loves self-help, and should we appear to succeed in helping ourselves, we are celebrated by those who applaud "the resilience of the human spirit." But the cross says we are dead in sins and trespasses, totally incapable of helping ourselves, so Jesus came and rescued me through His death. That's offensive!

Fourth, the message of the cross addresses everyone equally as sinners, which offends our natural propensity to excuse our wrong behavior. Oh, if only the truth were that we are addicts because it is in our genes. Now that’s acceptable because it means that our sin struggle is beyond our control. We were born this way—our struggles with food, alcohol, drugs, anger, etc., are not our fault. And while it is true that we are all born sinful, the cross declares we are without excuse. We are sinners facing the wrath of a holy God, doomed to eternal punishment, but Jesus made a way of escape for us. He stepped in and was punished in our place to free us from sin's power through His death and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, the message of the cross comes to a person with power only as a revelation from God, not through our ability to discover. Paul wrote, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). We can't come up with a way of freedom on our own; God has to reveal it to us. This truth is offensive to people who prize human wisdom, "scientific study," and modern thought.

Finally, the cross' purifying power offends the flesh's love of sin. The message of the cross means that my old nature, which loved to sin, has been put to death. To embrace the gospel means that we must die daily and put to death the deeds of the flesh. The cross is a massive offense to those who want to manage their sin or merely control their behavior.

Question: have you experienced any of these six ways of offense, or can you think of any other ways that the cross offends?

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

Devin writes, "I struggled with self-gratification and pornography for a long time. Eventually, I decided I didn't want to be hindering my relationship with God like that anymore. I wanted out of my lust. As I tried to free myself, I found that whatever short temporary freedom I won would end in a relapse where I would dive even deeper into sin than I was before. I became worried that my life would always be a series of relapses in sexual impurity. It was at this point that I found Setting Captives Free and the Purity Bootcamp course.

 

God has used this course and my mentor to bring me closer to Jesus and the Cross than I have ever been. My mind has been blown by what I've learned. There have been times in my spiritual journey where God has taken me to the next big level in my faith, and this was one of those times.

 

I have been washed and freed from my impurity. I learned that when I'm tempted, I go to the Cross, and my flesh's power becomes like trying to light a match underwater. Now at the end of the course, I don't just go to the Cross when I'm tempted, but I've begun going to the Cross regularly all the time because I truly like being there. It is an intimacy and joy unlike anything else.

 

Taking this course has grown my spiritual life in all aspects. I go the Cross with all my sins now. My pride and my shame are gone. Jesus took them, died with them, and buried them. I'm free from my chains. I'm a new man, and I'm pure and holy before God. My relationships have been affected too. I'm no longer bitter and snappy at my loved ones, and I've enjoyed new opportunities to share the Gospel with my close friends.

 

I encourage everyone to take this course. If you struggle with pornography and self-gratification, God will use this course to set you free. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, I recommend Setting Captives Free to bring you closer to the Cross. Glory to God! Everyone needs to hear and understand the Gospel, and this website does an excellent job of teaching it."

Christine writes, "Since taking the Setting Captives Free Freedom from Fear and Anxiety course, I feel freedom in Christ alone. There is no way for me to be free from fear and anxiety without seeing Jesus on the cross. He did it all for me.

 

I am learning to be content in all circumstances regardless of what the world is throwing at me.  And to lay all my burdens at Jesus' feet and, above all else, wash daily at the cross so that I can bask in His love and see Jesus Christ as my saving grace. He is my Redeemer and complete support. Without Him, I am ill-equipped to survive.

 

Jesus is the only way; He will feed and sustain me. Focusing and centering on Jesus and walking in humility with Him is the key! Praise God; He is for me!"

----------

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

----------
 

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 194th Edition, August 22, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 194th Edition, August 22, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

**You are invited to a Bible study today, Sunday the 22nd at 4:00 PM Pacific time, on Zoom. Feel free to join early to test audio/video if you would like. Here is the link to join: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/86137567786.**

----------

 

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

 

----------

Setting Captives Free’s Blog. Check out all our authors (mentors with Setting Captives Free) who are writing gospel blogs. It will be a feast for your soul!

 

----------

Teaching:

This week we will see that embracing the message of the cross keeps us from believing false teaching and frees us from bondage. 

Galatians 5:7-10 (NLT) 7 You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? 8 It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. 9 This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! 10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

Here Paul highlights the results of believing false teaching. To what false teaching is Paul referring? It is that the Old Covenant is still in effect and necessary for godliness. We have seen this repeatedly through the letter to the Galatians. To teach that believers are under Law is false because the truth of the gospel is that Jesus obeyed, fulfilled, and ended the Law. “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness” (Romans 10:4) 

Ephesians 2:14-15 (NLT) 14 Jesus “united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of Law with its commandments and regulations.”

When Jesus died on the cross, the whole system of Law and commandments ended, meaning that the 10-commandment Law has been "nullified, abolished, or destroyed." Teaching people the need to obey the Law is to deny the work of Christ on the cross, and THAT is what makes it false teaching. 

And what are the effects of believing this false teaching? Paul tells us that it is enslaving and confusing. Paul asked, "Who has held you back from following the truth? 8 It certainly isn't God, for he is the one who called you to freedom." God in the gospel calls us to freedom, but the Galatians were going back to the Law, which equals going back to slavery. So the effect of believing false teaching about the Law is that it is enslaving. 

It is also confusing. Galatians 5:10 says, "I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you."

How is false teaching about the Law confusing? The gospel teaches that Jesus died to make believers right with God, but the Law teachers said, "you must obey the Ten Commandments to be right with God." Paul taught the Galatians that Jesus' death on the cross opened the way for all believers to be in God's family, but the Law teachers said circumcision was necessary to be part of God's family. False teaching minimizes the work of the cross, and that's why Law-teaching is false teaching and why Paul asked, "who has kept you from obeying the truth?"

What can we learn from our passage today? We learn that the good news message for believers is about the perfect life of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the Law for every believer! It is about a crucified Lamb who bled to atone for our sins, whose death makes us righteous, whose blood frees us from the burden of the Law and from bondage to habitual sin, and that by believing this message, we, like Abraham, are counted righteous.  

Question: How does believing the message of the cross keep you, personally, from believing false teaching?

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

When I started this course, I was only reading the Scripture in the study. 

However, I now see how important it is for me to open the Bible every day and feast on His Word. What Truth I am finding there! I have a renewed desire for God's Word.

I am more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and am hearing His leading when temptation comes. 

This course has helped me to see my bitterness and pray for God to take it from me. 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

 

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

----------

Here is a wonderful gospel sermon for your encouragement today: https://www.sermonaudio.com/solo/agc/sermons/73121552394890/ 

----------


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 193rd Edition, August 15, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 193rd Edition, August 15, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Requesting Help to improve Setting Captives Free. Please take this short survey!
----------

 

 

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

 

----------

Setting Captives Free’s Blog. Check out all our authors (mentors with Setting Captives Free) who are writing gospel blogs. It will be a feast for your soul!

 

----------

 

Teaching:

One biblical way to view Christianity is as a race. How well are you running the Christian race?

Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." As you know, Paul said at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)". 

When thinking of our lives as a race, we want to run "light" (stripped down, unhindered), not carrying around heavy bags of sin, and we want to run with endurance, because this is a marathon; it's for the rest of our lives.

We not only run light, and run with endurance, but we must run focused, so Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame."

To run well, we need two healthy and strong legs. In the Christian life, our two "legs" are 1) faith and 2) a good conscience. We need to keep believing the good news of Jesus' death to remove our sins and wash at the cross often to keep a good conscience. Paul told Timothy:

"Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked" (1 Timothy 1:19). 

This "running a race" analogy brings us to our passage in Galatians for this week, chapter 5 verse 7, "You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from obeying the truth?" And I want to note two points:

First, Paul says they "were running the race so well." As long as they were hearing and seeing, and believing the message of the cross, they were running well! 

Oh, behold the power of the cross! 

When we see Jesus as the Lamb of God taking away our sin (John 1:29), we are encouraged in our faith! When we see Jesus as our Scapegoat bearing our sins into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22), we feel lighter because He has released us from the power of the sins that hinder us. As we see Jesus our Substitute suffering under God's wrath that we deserve, bleeding to atone for our wickedness, dying to remove our guilt, we are empowered to move forward! As we see our old selves hanging on the cross dead to sin (Romans 6:7) and our new selves rising from the dead with Jesus, we run! We run and don't grow weary (Isaiah 40:31); we run in the path of God's commands (Psalm 119:32), happily obeying Him out of a loved-filled heart. 

Last week in our Setting Captives Free Marco Polo group four, David said these very words: 

“This God who made Himself a servant, this God who became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, though righteous and blameless, gave it all up for me. Man, where’s my neighbor, let me go serve them. Jesus, I don’t care if they kick my teeth in, I just want to wash their feet to show them what you’ve done for us. I just want to grab the next person on the street and say, “do you know that Jesus died for ALL your sins?” 

Now, this is running. It’s running well. It’s what happens when someone focuses squarely on the cross/resurrection of Jesus. When you look at the cross with eyes of faith, you want to build a hospital, start a church, make a non-profit, feed orphans and care for widows, give your life away in sacrifice and service to others. That’s running. Paul says to the Galatians, while they were looking at the cross he painted for them (Galatians 3:1), “you were running well.” Behold the power of the cross!

Secondly, When you turn to the Law, you become disobedient. What? That sounds wrong, but notice how Paul says, "who has held you back from obeying the truth?" When the Galatians were looking at the cross, they were running so well; but when they turned to the Law to perfect themselves, they became disobedient to the gospel, disobedient to the faith, disobedient to God's revealed plan and will. How ironic is that: to turn to the Law is to disobey the truth. Wow!

Question for you to consider this week: according to Galatians 5:7, how do you run the Christian life well, and how do you become disobedient? 

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

Amy writes, "Since taking the Weight Loss Bootcamp course, I have started looking to Jesus and have grown in my understanding of His grace and mercy.

 

I have lost 12 inches, and my cholesterol has improved. I am not getting on the scale to weigh myself, which is awesome. But I know I have lost weight because I am wearing clothes that were previously too tight.

 

I recommend this course because it is totally different in that it is life-changing, not just weight changing.”

Solly writes, "Taking this journey came at the opportune time when I needed it the most. My wife had tested positive for COVID-19, and we were isolating from each other for two weeks. Being alone most of the time, I knew I was vulnerable. Starting the Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course was like finding water in a desert.

 

Learning about the cross helped me focus on and appreciate what Jesus has done for me on the cross.   The Bible says that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus; this was practical and real for me.

 

The cross helps to remind me of where I come from, what Jesus has done for me, and the price he paid. I need the Spirit in my life to walk side by side with me, daily transform me and get me back to the path when I veer off by the temptation to gratify the flesh.

 

The lesson that impacted me the most is praying God's word back to Him. That was powerful and has stayed with me. The battle plan helped me to review and refine my boundaries. I feel very much alive (spiritually) and looking forward to the Purity follow-up course.

 

I've encouraged others to take the course; they have all found it valuable. Purity Bootcamp is a life-changing course as it helps us reflect on who we are, where we are, and centers us on Christ daily.

----------

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Please help to improve Setting Captives Free by taking this short survey!


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



The Power of the Cross: 192nd Edition, August 8, 2021

Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 192nd Edition, August 8, 2021

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

Requesting Help to improve Setting Captives Free. Please take this short survey!
----------

 

 

----------

The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.

 

----------

Setting Captives Free’s Blog. Check out all our authors (mentors with Setting Captives Free) who are writing gospel blogs. It will be a feast for your soul!

 

----------

 

Teaching:

Having believed in Jesus, what do we do when we discover we still have sin living in us? When we find that having come to faith in Christ, we lack total righteousness? Meaning we still fall short. We might struggle with overeating and laziness, greed and envy, porn and impurity, drunkenness and drugs, unforgiveness and bitterness, etc. The Bible calls this ongoing sin "the flesh," and our question is, what do we do about our flesh?

The false teachers in Galatia made it simple; they taught: to be perfected in righteousness, we must obey the Law. "Yes, you have faith in Jesus, but you still sin, so turn to God's Law and obey it to deal with the remaining corruption within you - to be fully righteous."

But notice our passage today to see what believers do:
Galatians 5:5-6 (NLT) But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

What do believers, who walk by the Spirit, do about this lack of total righteousness? We “eagerly wait to receive it.” We know God has promised us complete righteousness when we are in heaven (new bodies, no flesh), and not until then, so we don’t turn to the Law to make up what is lacking; we wait. Eagerly so.

We could word it like this: “don’t just do something; stand there.” Like Moses said when the armies of Pharaoh were pursuing the Israelites: “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13-14).

What do we do when our old sins pursue us, or the old slave master comes calling? Stand still and look at the cross where the Lord rescued you and where He drowned your sins in the Red Sea of Jesus’ blood. Eagerly wait to receive His promised righteousness, look forward to the day when you will have a new body and be free from your flesh, but don’t try to pursue it through the Law. 

We will be like Jesus one day because we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). For now, if you are being led by God’s Spirit, you will have the fruit of patience in your life (Galatians 5:22-23), you will eagerly await the promised righteousness. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t fight our flesh; of course, we war against our flesh (Ephesians 6:10-20). But we do so by learning how to walk by the Spirit, not by turning to the Law. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised; in other words, no benefit in turning to the Law to make us completely righteous.

And then Paul summarizes what is essential in life: “What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (Ephesians 5:6). He is saying that faith is the key to it all. Believe in the cross, and the Spirit will pour love in your heart. 

As you look at the cross, believe it was for you, and let it ruin you with love (Matthew 21:44), that one so holy would stoop so far as to become your sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), to rescue you from sin (Galatians 1:13). Jesus was unrecognizable as a human being while wearing your sin (Isaiah 52:14) so that you would be made righteous by faith. His body was bound and drenched in tears and torn to pieces to forgive you and free you. Let it come crashing down on you and explode your heart open with love. And let the love the Holy Spirit pours into you overflow to those around you. Just gush it out on them. You’ll be fully righteous one day; in the meantime, eagerly wait for it.

Question for this week: How does looking at the cross fill your heart with love, personally? Please share!

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Here are wonderful song lyrics to consider this week:

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet
My Saviour on that cursed tree

His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph's tomb
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone

O praise the Name of the Lord our God
O praise His Name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

Then on the third at break of dawn
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King

O praise the Name of the Lord our God
O praise His Name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

He shall return in robes of white
The blazing sun shall pierce the night
And I will rise among the saints
My gaze transfixed on Jesus' face

O praise the Name of the Lord our God
O praise His Name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

O praise the Name of the Lord our God
O praise His Name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

----------

Testimonies

Scott writes, "I am amazed at what has occurred over the last 30 days in the Purity Bootcamp course. I first thought that I would just be taking another course and gain more "knowledge" about my sin struggle with sexual impurity; God had other plans. The three principles assisted me so much; washing at the cross daily, walking with the Spirit, and warring with the flesh. I have a battle plan in place now and have a more open and intimate relationship with my wife.

 

I still have a long way to go, but now, instead of being trapped in a dark dungeon, I see the prison doors opened. I wish to run out of that place into the light and stay far away from that prison. I have battled this sin struggle since I was 13 years old - 42 years of battle. I wrongly believed I could have both marriage and self-gratification; sadly, I was so wrong.

 

One lesson that stood out to me was the Garden Of Eden example. Adam and Eve messed up and then tried to take care of "it" on their own. They realized they were naked, and they tried desperately to cover themselves. They sewed fig leaves together and thought this would "cover" everything! God then sacrificed a lamb and used this to cover them completely. Adam and Eve learned that what they could not do for themselves, God would do for them through the sacrifice. For them to be covered, an innocent lamb died. For me to be covered, an innocent lamb (Jesus) had to die. I tried for years to "cover" things on my own and made things worse. I now am learning to listen to the Holy Spirit woo me back toward Jesus and away from my fleshly desires.

 

Brothers and sisters, I pray you will receive as much out of this course as I did, if not more! I highly recommend this course to anyone struggling with sexual impurity of any kind."

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

Requesting Help to improve Setting Captives Free. Please take this short survey!



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

 

----------

Audio version of this newsletter here. 

 

----------

Teaching:

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

Let's look at Galatians 5:2-4 today: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

 

----------

 

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

 

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

 

----------

 

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

 

 

----------

Teaching:

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

Notice the story Paul uses from the Book of Genesis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here

 

----------

 

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

----------

 

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

These results are striking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

We learn some significant truths from this text: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If not the Law, then what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

----------

For the audio version of this newsletter, click here. 


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

But notice Galatians 3:23-25:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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









Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

Testimonies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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


Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free



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

Mike Cleveland
 

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

 

Greetings friends,

 

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

 

----------

 

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

----------

Teaching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Remember where all the supernatural power of God is - at the cross.Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5). Paul is saying, “that man over there who was in bondage to alcohol, the Spirit worked miracles in him and set him free at the cross. The lady in bondage to food came to the cross where the Spirit worked a miracle in her life and set her free. That couple on the brink of divorce came to the cross where the Holy Spirit poured the love of God into their hearts and brought them together. Miracles happen at the cross!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------

 

Testimonies

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

----------

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

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free


1 - 20 of 242