Topics

The Power of the Cross: 156th Edition, November 8th, 2020


Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 156th Edition, November 8th, 2020


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.

 

----------

 

Spanish Version

 

 

----------

 

Announcement
An updated Accountability Partner feature is now available on the Setting Captives Free website. Now accountability partners can log into their account and see a new Accountability dashboard. Whenever a student submits a lesson, their accountability partner will still receive an email notification, but they can also log in and see the lesson available for review on their dashboard.  
----------

Teaching

Upheaval and unrest are common themes in our world today—emotional instability, financial insecurity, health scares, political division, turmoil, and fighting on every side, seemingly about anything and everything.

Amid these difficulties, social and religious groups can burden us as they teach us to follow a moral code, work a program, do the steps, and keep the commands. Rules and religion give us no rest but instead lead us to try to work our way out of our sins, gain favor with God and man, remove our guilt by living a good life through our own efforts.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ provides rest to weary souls. Only the gospel tells us of the hard work of Another on our behalf, of the steps He took to win our freedom, of His perfect obedience He credited to us, and of the sacrifice He made for our pardon, eternal acceptance, and rest.

Are you one who is agitated, whose soul feels full of angst, whose life is in turmoil, and whose sins seem to be getting the upper hand? Or do you know someone who suffers in this way? If so, I invite you to participate in a short study of Hebrews chapter 4 over the next few weeks. In this chapter, we will find rest for our souls and help, not only for us but also for our family, neighbors, and friends. My prayer is that you will hear Jesus calling you into His rest, saying, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

“God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it” (Hebrews 4:1). 

We are introduced to this subject of "rest" by the author of Hebrews, sharing a promise and a warning:

The promise: God offers rest for us. "God's promise of entering His rest still stands…" God made a promise of rest; the author tells us this promise applies to us, and we know that God keeps His promises. 

The warning: there is the possibility of failing to experience the rest promised by God. Those who continue to work and strive to earn their way into God's favor fall short of God's rest. "...so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it."  This warning is strong! We need to heed it and listen to what the author has to say next about entering into God's rest. 

Having the promise of God in one hand and the warning of God in the other, we approach the next section of Hebrews 4. Sufficient curiosity is stirred up within us to wonder, "How do we enter into God's promised rest?" and "How do we avoid falling short of this rest?" 

And more than this, we feel within our souls an intense longing for this rest. We are tired of our bondage to sin, tired of always striving and fighting; we hate the turmoil within us. Our souls have felt like a churning ocean enduring the constant slamming of dark, depressed, or anxious thoughts, ever fomenting up unrest, agitation, and disturbance within us. How do we find rest?

“For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:2-3). 

Hebrews 4:2-3 provides us with the understanding we need to enter into real rest for the soul. Let's explore the depths of it here by looking at the following three truths:

  1. Rest comes through the "good news."
  2. Rest comes through believing.
  3. Rest is forfeited through a lack of faith.

First, rest comes through "good news." For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them" (Hebrews 4:2).

This term "good news" is one word in Greek; it is the word "gospel." Here we see that the gospel is the way to access God's promised rest. Those born before Christ wanted to rest from their sin and struggles just as we do, and they received the good news through the prophetic Scriptures in the Old Testament. Their good news is our good news.

The "good news" is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, rose again on the third day, and that He was seen by many people - all according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). 

Let's consider how this good news brings rest:

  • To those weighed down by years of doing wrong, covered in shame and guilt, and striving to break free from sin traps, the good news tells us that God has removed our sins, shame, and associated guilt and placed it on His Son. As we see Jesus hanging under the weight of the sin of the whole world, sinking in condemnation, and bleeding out to atone for our wrongs, we can finally rest knowing that Jesus has rescued us. We have no sin to carry, no guilt to bear, no wrongs attributed to us anymore. 

  • To those working hard to pay off their debt of sin, working to be free from guilt, the good news tells us that Jesus paid it all. As we see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, beaten and nailed to a tree to free us from the curse of sin, as we see Him hanging on a cross, dead, we can fully enter into rest knowing that He has released us from guilt and condemnation. We can now rest in the freedom He purchased for us.

  • To those continually fighting the pull of the world, wrestling to not give in to its seductive messages, striving to avoid its constant allurement, the good news tells us to look to Jesus. As we look and see Jesus condemned and killed to give His murderers eternal life, as we see Him bathed in His own blood to cleanse those who crucified Him, as we see Him die to secure an eternal pardon for the thief hanging next to Him, suddenly we see how through the cross the world was crucified to us, and us to the world (Galatians 6:14). We rest easy in Jesus, knowing that the world and all its allurements and seductions are dead to us. 

  • To those incessantly at war with the devil, trying to ward off his fiery darts and continuously trying to dodge the next temptation, the good news tells us to look at Jesus. As we see Jesus attacked by Satan, we also see Jesus defeat Satan at the cross. As we look further at the cross, we see Jesus stomping on the head of the serpent. With each blow of the soldier’s hammer, with each heaving breath of our loving Savior, we see Jesus destroying the work of the devil (1 John 3:8). We can rest in Jesus’ victory over Satan, His triumph over all the powers of darkness.

  • To those working hard to change their habits, striving to master their sin, and struggling to overcome what seems to be their very self, the good news tells us to look to Jesus. As we look at the cross, we see that not only did Jesus die, but that we died with Him. As we look at the cross, we see ourselves there. We see our old nature hung up on a cross, fully removed from us and dying under the penalty of sin. Finally, we see that the power of sin was broken at the cross (Romans 6:7). We can now rest in our own death to sin that happened at the cross.

  • To those fighting their flesh in their own strength and failing, powerless to overcome sin’s allurement and beauty, the good news tells us to look to Jesus. As we see Jesus rising from the dead on the third day, we see a supernatural power, a miraculous power that has overcome the grave. We look further and see Jesus breathing out His Spirit to His disciples, filling them with wonder-working power. We can now rest in this knowledge that we have resurrection power, we have God’s own Spirit, and we can fight in the power of the Spirit rather than our own strength (Ephesians 1:19-20). 

Second, rest comes through believing. "For only we who believe can enter his rest" (Hebrews 4:3). 

If we want to enter spiritual, emotional, and eternal rest and experience lasting change of heart and behavior, it is not enough to hear the gospel, for many have heard it but did not benefit from it. To enter God's rest, we must put faith in the good news - embrace, trust, and live by it. 

The good news is a blank check written to God's people; faith cashes the check. Faith is hearing the good news and believing it is actually for you, taking it to yourself, rejoicing in, and living in the benefits of it. Faith sees the cross of Jesus and enters into the experience of it - suffers, dies, and rises from the dead with Jesus to a new life. 

Ten spies saw the promised land and brought back a bad report about giants and fortified cities, and they discouraged all the people of Israel, but two spies put faith in God's Word and believed what God said over what they saw with their eyes. While the ten spies died, their bodies fell in the desert, those two believing spies entered into the promised land and rested from their journeys (Numbers 13 - 14).

Make it practical:  as you read about the power and effect of the good news, did you believe the good news was for you and receive the benefits of it? 

Here is your fight friend, to believe the good news, receive it and rest in it as a personal gift from God to you. Don't let doubt keep you away, don't let discouragement over your past or present sins keep you out, don't let pride convince you that you don't need it, only hear the good news and claim it as your own! If you do, you will rest!

If you are doubting or struggling to understand, go back and reread the benefits of the good news, this time praying and asking God to give you the faith to believe each one as your own so you can finally rest in Jesus' finished work!

Third, rest is forfeited through a lack of faith. "But it did them no good because they didn't share the faith of those who listened to God" (Hebrews 4:2). 

Forfeiture of our rest is what the warning was all about, for, by nature, we are weak and prone to remain in unbelief, doubts, and, consequently, sin. We are apt to minimize the good news, saying, "I already know the gospel," or to be offended at it (Galatians 5:11), thinking, "It's too bloody!" or "I've always loved God." Responding to the good news in these ways evidences a lack of faith, a refusal to interact with the gospel, and believe it for ourselves, which is offensive and displeasing to God.

"And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

----------

Summary

The good news brings rest for all who believe it. We can rest in Jesus' finished work, His payment for our sin, His bearing our guilt and condemnation, His securing of our pardon and forgiveness by shedding His blood, His setting us free from the power of sin by crucifying us with Him. 

All of this is good news, the best news ever, and is the God-made bed in which we can finally find rest from all our struggles, peace for our former striving, that we might finally exhale from a long battle with the world, the devil, and our flesh and rest. 

----------

Testimonies

Setting Captives Free now has a new Weight Loss Boot camp course and a new Weight Loss Follow-Up course; here is another testimony:

Molly writes, "The truth taught in the Setting Captives Free Weight Loss Bootcamp course is helpful, and not just in the area of overeating.

 

I have learned that daily reminding myself of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the key to not continuing in condemnation. Also, fixing my eyes on Jesus helps me stop continuing to make excuses for the sin that hinders me and enables me to remember God's attributes rather than focusing on myself. He has been merciful, kind, patient, and abounding in steadfast love toward us in Christ!

Walking in the spirit is no longer a foreign concept to me. I understand it more, and I can apply it in ways that I could not before entering the course. I was able to; I was just not as clear about what was happening. I am also becoming more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and listening and obeying.

Warring against my flesh has changed my outlook on my struggle with gluttony. I needed to remember that I'm in a battle; instead of being oblivious to what is happening. Now, I am waging war daily against the desires of my flesh, the temptations of the world, and the lies of the enemy.

 

I definitely recommend this course because it is not what the world teaches; it is a discipleship tool necessary to the Christian walk."

Bill writes, "I have found the biblical truths taught in the Setting Captives Free purity courses helpful. I have been encouraged to wash at the cross and walk in the Spirit so that I can war against my flesh.  I have learned to make battle plans in defeating future downfalls.

 

I was sexually molested repeatedly at a young age, and as I grew up, I battled with sexual impurity.  I was overwhelmed with guilt with each sexual encounter or involvement with pornography.  I swore each time that it was the last, but it didn't happen.  There was never any satisfaction other than at that very moment.  Guilt overwhelmed me, yet I keep returning for more.  I was a professing Christian, which made my guilt more painful.

 

After I met my future wife, I believed that my impure thoughts would stop. They didn't.  When the internet came out, I was always looking at porn. Finally, one day I gave in to sexual immorality, and when I did, things began to spin out of control.  I still loved my wife, but our closeness began to fade.  For a time, I found freedom for several years through Christ, but eventually, I fell back into sin, and the cycle started again. 

 

About four months ago, my wife found out about an inappropriate app on my phone.  I confessed my sins, and healing started real soon after that.  I began the Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course, then the Purity Follow-Up course.  God has worked in my heart and also in my wife's.  We are now closer than we have been in 20 years.  We praise God!  The Setting Captives Free Purity courses are wonderful.  I hope to share with others how God can give your freedom when you thought there was no way out.

 

I definitely recommend this course. I would say, "Don't give up. God can set you free."

----------

 

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 also consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance.

 

These Setting Captives Free groups are available (you can join all appropriate groups):

 



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free