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

Mike Cleveland

Greetings friends,

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


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


Freedom to Live Differently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 8:11-12 (NIV) No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Mike Cleveland