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The Power of the Cross: 117th Edition, February 9th, 2020


Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 117th Edition, February 9th, 2020


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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Teaching:

This week, we have the great privilege of sharing with you a lesson from a new devotional course that will be added to Setting Captives Free later this year, Lord willing. It is a course to help with anxiety and fear, written by one of our mentors, Joce Gordon. This is a powerful writing, and we know you will be greatly encouraged and challenged by reading and studying through it.


Jesus was Denied at the Cross to Bring Us Restoration

“Then seizing him [Jesus] they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” …  “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 “saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke 22: 54-62; 24:32-34 [word in bracket added]

In the Gospels of the Bible, we follow the journey of Jesus’ self-confident, senior disciple, Simon Peter, as his fearful heart became established by the grace of God (Hebrews 13:9).

With the time of His crucifixion approaching, Jesus called on Peter to support Him in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:26-35; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1-11). Numerous times, Jesus found Peter soundly asleep in this time of vigil, unable to maintain watchfulness over His Lord nor over himself. Jesus exhorted him:

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Not long after this exchange, Judas Iscariot led chief priests, officers of the temple guard, and elders to the garden and handed Jesus into their hands (Luke 22:47-53). After being arrested, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas to be tried, while Peter followed from a safe distance (Luke 22:54).

In a few short minutes, the foundation of Peter’s life appeared to have fallen out from beneath him, as he stumbled in shock along the road after His Lord. He could not comprehend the actions of Judas, a former friend, and disciple, silently pronouncing that Jesus was a criminal, enemy, and threat to society, and then His gracious and loving Lord stepping forward in submission to His captors to be bound by ropes and chains.

Fear and the words of previous conversations with Jesus would have certainly swirled together in his confused mind. There was his faithful claim of “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16), along with his presumptuous boast of: “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” (Luke 22:33). Before meeting in the garden, Jesus had even warned Peter that he would soon be sifted and tested by Satan (Luke 22:31) and that he would make repeated denials about Christ (Luke 22:34).

We surely have also experienced similar times of upheaval where nothing in our circumstances seemed to make sense and our hearts became vulnerable to fearful temptations with poor decision-making. Anxious uncertainty about our ‘seen’ circumstances then fuelled explosions of fear in our minds. We learn from scripture and from the story of Peter, that every detail of our lives, whether good or evil, are already known and held in the hands of our sovereign and loving God, each one working together for our good and God’s glory (Proverbs 16:19; Romans 8:28).

With his eyes drawn to the details of the spectacle of Jesus’ apparent downfall, an unsteady Peter sat down and warmed his hands before a communal fire in the courtyard of Annas’ house while Jesus was cruelly interrogated. He spent time listening to the words of unbelievers and accusers (Luke 22:55), his fear being kindled by their unbelief and discontent.

Then “looking closely at him” (Luke 22:56), Peter was questioned by three people nearby (Luke 22:56-60) as to the truth of his relationship with Christ, being intimidated even by an inquiry from a young servant girl. Fear of man rose in Peter’s heart overturning his reverential fear of God. He denied His Lord repeatedly and forgot the hope of safety in believing the work of Christ:

“The Lord of hosts - "regard Him as holy and honor His holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety], and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread [lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him].” Isaiah 8:13 AMPC

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said:
“I do not know him [Jesus].” (Luke 22:57) [word added in brackets], disowning Him as the Son of God and abandoning dependence on Jesus.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are restored by God’s truth:
“This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. 10 This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins.”1 John 4:9-10 NCV

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said: “I am not.” (Luke 22:59), denying his identity of being a disciple of Jesus and losing his way.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are strengthened by God’s truth:
“I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore—it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me.” Galatians 2:20 NCV

Hiding in a refuge of fear, Peter said: “I do not know what you are talking about.” (Luke 22:60), distancing himself from others, and lacking in love and grace.

Abiding in Christ’s refuge, we are enlightened by God’s truth:
“Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds. 25 You were like sheep that wandered away, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25 NCV

Peter fell into weeping despair and was cut to his heart when he heard the rooster crow. Jesus, even from His position of captivity and suffering, remembered Peter and looked over to his beloved disciple. A look that did not disregard Peter’s sin but forgave, a look that grieved with him but loved, a look that understood his crippling sorrow of guilt and raised him up from a pit of shame:

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62

“He[Jesus]  was despised and rejected by mankind,…Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem… yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted…. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?” (Isaiah 53:33,34,38) [word added in brackets].

Friends, do you see this same look from Jesus hanging at the cross for you? Look up now and behold the demonstration of His heart-breaking and heart-restoring love for you.

Jesus, who had “done nothing to deserve death” (Luke 23:15), was disowned and repudiated, being condemned to death by crucifixion. The body of the holy Son of God was strung up to a wooden pole and nailed through His limbs. Jesus was denied fresh water at the cross but in its place, He thirsted for us in love to give us eternal fountains of living water to quench our spiritual cravings: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14).

He was denied His clothing and hung exposed so that we would receive His covering of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was denied food during His captivity and crucifixion but Jesus willingly offered His broken body as a sacrifice to fill us with deep spiritual satisfaction: “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26). He was denied health through atrocious beatings and piercings from long thorns and rusty nails, each open wound given up for our healing (Isaiah 53:5). He was denied a word of companionship but kept loving us and the crucified criminal beside Him with these words; "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."(Luke 23:43).

He was denied peace at Calvary so He could take on our slave master, Satan, and trade His life for the death that Satan craved above all else ( 2 Timothy 1:10). Jesus was denied the love of His precious Father and disowned by His heavenly family so the wrath of the Father for our unholy sin would be spent on Him alone and we would become God’s adopted sons and daughters (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Jesus was denied every drop of His own life-giving blood so that we may worship Him in thanksgiving: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28).

Peter was wholly restored and became the Rock of the Christian Church, as we read of the disciples’ shouts of joy: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke 24:34. Friends, see that Jesus was turned away at the cross so that, by His loving-kindness, we are turned back to Him with new hearts, spilling over in His forgiving and courageous love.

“I am the Lord your God; I strengthen you and tell you, ‘Do not be afraid; I will help you.’”14 The Lord says, “Small and weak as you are, Israel, don't be afraid; I will help you. I, the holy God of Israel, am the one who saves you.” Isaiah 41:13-14 GNT

Applying the Gospel
As we turn away from our fear and in faith view the cross, we see and believe what Jesus accomplished there is for us, as was seen in the look that Peter received from Jesus. A look that promised all the New Covenant blessings of the cross.

When we are stumbling in fear into our retreats of self-protection which are built on the shifting sands of our flesh, we may be tempted to ‘warm our hands’, as Peter did in the courtyard, in particular, places or with certain people or in specific self-conversations that increase the desires of our flesh to hold onto fear. Can you identify these, distancing yourself from these temptations, looking to Jesus’ obedience?

Instead, rely on Jesus’ unshakable protection, and see Him holding the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith in front of us, defending us from harm from all sides in His refuge that is lined with His powerful cleansing blood He died to give you.

Question 1: “For the desires of the flesh [taking refuge in fear] are against the Spirit [taking refuge in Christ], and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” [Galatians 5:17) [words in brackets added]. Applying this verse to your own life, how has fear affected your spiritual life?

Question 2: At the cross, Jesus was disowned so we could be restored. What does this holy exchange mean to you personally today?


Testimony:

Samuel writes,
"The principles in the Purity Boot Camp course are extremely helpful to me and my walk with Christ. I wake up every morning and thank God for Washing me at the cross today. I try to keep my sights set on Jesus and walk by the Spirit so I can fight my flesh when I am tempted knowing that I don't have to rely on my strength but have God's strength. Jesus has already won the battle for me!

There has been a complete softening of my heart after completing these lessons. I'm grieved for those I have hurt by my sin and moved to tears to know that God loves me and wants a relationship with me. Jesus bore my sins in His body on the cross; He paid my sin debt. His love overwhelms me.

I have learned wash at the cross, walk by the spirit and war against my flesh. It has that been a humbling experience to reinforce how weak I am without God that I need to stay connected to Him.

God has given me a battle plan that I have implemented. Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," and so I start and end my day with Jesus. I stay connected to Him through prayer and reading His word. I stay focused on what Jesus has done for me; all I have to offer God is a broken spirit and a life that I want him to mold for His glory.

Since taking this course, I now understand how much I need to rely on God and His strength and power. The more I'm getting to know God, the deeper I want to love Him and be more like His son Jesus. This course has been life-changing. I thank God for opening my eyes and don't want them closed again
.”

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Friend, if you find you are in agreement 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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland