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

Mike Cleveland

Greetings friends,

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


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

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

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

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



The Penalty of Sin and the Power of Sin

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Depression course

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

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


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

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


Mike Cleveland