The Power of the Cross


Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 202nd Edition, October 17, 2021

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

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The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.
 
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Teaching:

What is false teaching, and what is true biblical teaching? And what do both have to do with slavery to sin and freedom from bondage?

Well, we come now to the final section in our study of the book of Galatians, and in chapter 6, verses 11-18, Paul summarizes the false teachings that the Galatians received and compares it with the accurate and correct teaching of the gospel. Let’s see that together in Galatians 6:11-18.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:11-18).

Paul’s summary of false teaching is that it has to do with the flesh and boasting in the flesh, whereas true gospel teaching proclaims the cross of Christ and boasts in it. False teaching boasts in what we do, and gospel teaching boasts in what Jesus did for us.

One way we can recognize false teaching is to see that it centers and focuses on what we are to do, how we are to obey the Old Covenant Law, and it glories in the flesh. Someone blinded by false teaching might boast like this: “I was circumcised so I’m an Israelite, and I keep the Law of God, so my obedience makes me acceptable to God.”

This self-focused approach is the same philosophy that 12 step groups encourage. Someone deceived by the 12-step methodology might boast like this: “I’ve done all 12 steps numerous times and am currently working through them again. I’ve been sober for four years. I have not engaged in self-gratification in 6 months. I’ve been clean for 16 days. I’ve been in recovery for 15 years.” I, I, I... But look at what Paul says about such boasting in Philippians 3:

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:2-5).

Paul could boast in the flesh, in his Jewish heritage and his accomplishments, but instead, he writes, “But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” Philippians 3:7-9).

The believer boasts in nothing but the cross. As Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

When believers boast in Christ, it sounds something like this: “Jesus laid down His life for me. He shed His blood for me and paid a ransom price to free me from captivity. Like Samson of old who destroyed the Philistines at his death, Jesus destroyed my enemy through His death. In living and dying for me, Jesus made me right with God. In being rejected on the cross, He made me accepted in the Beloved. He healed me by His stripes.” Such is the language of the Christian, always boasting, bragging, glorying in the cross, never in what we do, always in what He did. 

As we close this series, here is a summary of Paul’s teaching in the Book of Galatians:

False teaching boasts in ourselves, our accomplishments, and what we’ve done in the flesh and focuses on obedience to the Law to perfect ourselves and mature ourselves in the flesh.

True teaching glories in the cross, rejoices, boasts, and exults in the death of Jesus that rescued us from sin, set us free from its penalty and power, and gave us eternal life.

False teaching is deceiving and enslaving as it focuses us on our self-efforts. 

True teaching is liberating, freeing us forever from the kingdom of darkness and rejoicing our hearts in our precious Lord Jesus, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

False teaching focuses on our old selves and attempts to make it comply with the law of God. 

True teaching continually focuses on the cross, which crucified our old selves and made us new creations in Christ. 

False teaching makes commitments to try harder, do better, strive for freedom through worldly methods, human accountability, and other false solutions.

True teaching encourages walking by the power of the Spirit of God, whom we receive by faith when we believe the good news about the cross.

In closing, I believe Paul could have written the following song written by Dottie Rambo, but can you sing it and mean it?

I boast not of works nor tell of good deeds
For not have I done to merit His grace
All glory and praise shall rest upon Him
So willing to die in my place

So I will glory in the cross, in the cross
Lest His suffering all be in vain
And I will weep no more for the cross that He bore
I will glory in the cross

My trophies and crowns, my robe stained with sin
Was all that I had to lay at His feet
Unworthy to eat at the table of life
Till love made provision for me

I will glory in the cross, in the cross
Lest His suffering all be in vain
I will weep no more for the cross that He bore
I will glory in the cross

In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever

Question for this week: What final comments do you have about our study in Galatians? Please reply to this newsletter to let us know.

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Testimonies:

Eric writes, “Television played a big part in my family growing up. From my youth, I was encouraged to ingest large quantities of television. For example, my family used to eat dinner together at the table, but then, for some reason, we started watching TV while we ate. To this day, I associate eating with watching TV. 

Because TV became so central in my family (I wanted my dad’s attention and coveted how he would laugh at characters on different shows), I piecemealed my personality from those characters. Unhappy with who I was, I would implement a catchphrase or how someone reacted to a situation or the outright personality of a character based on the reaction they received in the program or movie. That equates to building my life off of fantasy and unrealistic scripted situations.

And starting with TV, my bondage to media grew into new areas. My bondage to media kept me from reading my Bible and maturing in my faith. My attachment to the church grew cold, and I could excuse myself from attending to stay home and binge on media. Media became my daily medicine.

And what’s worse is how this bondage affected my attitude toward others. I snapped at those whom I spend the most time with, like my wife. I just wanted to be left alone so that I could escape from myself, God, and responsibilities. I was in bondage to media consumption, and the crazy thing is I didn’t want to admit it.  

Can you believe I enrolled in the Freedom from Media Addiction course, not really thinking I was in bondage to media? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Now I agree with God; I confess that I was in bondage to media.

I knew about Setting Captives Free because I have finished the “Purity courses” and the “Looking to Jesus” course a while ago. I saw the study on freedom from media addiction, and I believe the Holy Spirit’s promptings moved me to enroll.

This study (and all Setting Captives Free courses) teaches and reinforces that God created us to be filled by Christ Jesus and not just once, but every day we draw breath. We are invited to see Jesus by coming to the cross and experiencing the washing and renewal of life that only He can provide (Ephesians 5:25-27) through His death on the cross.

So, my journey in this course began like all my other visits with other Setting Captives Free studies; by holding up the mirror of Scripture (James 1:23-24) and asking, “Is this a problem area for me?” and “What can God do for me despite it?” Well, I am pleased to say, though my freedom from media is ongoing but growing, the lie that Jesus isn’t all-sufficient is dying and being eradicated from my heart and mind. Truly, the cross of Christ can help me with TV, which has held me in its grips for 30+ years. “JESUS IS ALL-SUFFICIENT!!”

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

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Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free