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

Mike Cleveland
 

Greetings friends,

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

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

Teaching:

The Pitfall of Partial Crucifixion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t fall for the pitfall of partial crucifixion.

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Testimonies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland