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The Power of the Cross: 159th Edition, November 29th, 2020


Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 159th Edition, November 29th, 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.
 
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Announcement
 
As we announced last week, a new course, Fruit of the Spirit, written by Setting Captives Free Board Member Bill Miller is now available online at https://settingcaptivesfree.com/course/fos. This course is rich and full of the gospel, and comes complete with videos of Bill teaching the material in his local church. We highly recommend this course if you are looking for a gospel-saturated study of the fruit of the Spirit! 
 
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Spanish Version
 
El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 158, 22 de noviembre de 2020
 
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Teaching

No one ever equated a life of slavery with relief or rest, and slavery to sin is the hardest of work! It knows no boundaries - anyone anywhere (rich, poor, educated or not, old or young, biblically knowledgeable or ignorant) can become a slave to sin. And slavery to sin comes with a harsh taskmaster who works us ruthlessly, continually throwing temptations at us and demanding we yield to them. These relentless assaults and our obedience to them weaken and wear us down; they can even lead us to death (Romans 6:16).

But there is rest available, and this rest is an internal rest for the soul, a happy and full rest providing freedom from the slavery that worked us so hard.

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his" (Hebrews 4:9-10). 

When the above passage speaks of a "Sabbath-rest," it does not refer to resting on a day of the week, a literal Sabbath. We know this because verse 7 and 8 says, "God again set a certain day, calling it "Today." This he did when a long time later, he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day."

Under the Old Covenant, God set aside a day, the seventh-day Sabbath, for people to rest their bodies. Under the New Covenant, God again set aside a "certain day," calling it "Today." Today, we can find spiritual and eternal rest, not for our bodies but our souls, our inner person. Today, we can hear the gospel message, put faith in it, stop all our working to be free from sin, and rest!

"for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his."

This approach to freedom from slavery is the opposite of what the world teaches. The world says, "Do you want to find freedom from "addiction"? Then "work the program." Do you want to enter into "recovery"? Then do the twelve steps." Sadly, the Church has followed the world by creating "Christianized" versions of the 12-step programs.

Worldly wisdom does not bring rest; instead, it adds work to the already overwhelmed sin slave, resulting in us being worked ruthlessly by our sin and worked even more by our efforts trying to "recover." 

Oh, how glorious it is to leave the "addiction/recovery" method of the world behind and instead find freedom through the death and resurrection of Jesus. "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now, a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34-36). "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Oh, how joyful it is when we "rest from our own works" because we have looked at the cross, and we have heard Jesus shout, "It is finished!" We have gazed long enough at the cross to see that His work is sufficient to save us from sin's penalty and set us free from sin's power. And we rest. Finally! 

This "resting from our own works" can only happen as we see Jesus working in our place: suffering for our sin, bleeding to pay the penalty that we owe, dying in our place, and rising from the dead. You can turn and look today and see it happening! See His love poured out for you. See His blood covering your sin. See His death making you right with God. No matter how severely enslaved to sin they have been, anyone anywhere can turn right now and look at the cross, believe what they are seeing, and enter into rest by faith. And that rest is sweet and thorough because it puts an end to sin's power over us and to our work of trying to save ourselves through programs and self-effort!

Recently, I was scheduled to fly from Guam to Singapore, layover for two and a half hours, then fly back to Guam. It was slated to be a very long workday, but it was made even longer by the presence of Typhoon Vamco, which was sitting over the Philippines directly in our path. The typhoon was producing very strong winds and intense thunderstorms, requiring us to deviate and pick our way around storms, adding at least an hour to our flight. Of course, we had to do this extra work both on the way to Singapore and then on our return flight to Guam. It was a very long and intense day for our entire crew.

I remember falling into bed at the hotel in Guam, so exhausted it felt like my body had shut down. I slept for nearly 12 hours straight, and it was fully restorative rest, the kind where you feel like a completely new person when you wake up.

We can work so hard to be free from sin, trying our hardest to deviate around it, and yet we find that the power of darkness is stronger than our desire to be free. We find ourselves suddenly giving in to the thrill of instant gratification. "With persuasive words, she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life" (Proverbs 7:21-23). This giving in is followed by more slavery to sin, followed by overwhelming discouragement, only to do it all again as soon as the next tempting thought hits us.

When our sin beats us down enough, when worldly solutions fail, when we are thoroughly exhausted and hopeless, then we will be ready to find rest God's way. Powerless to fight any more, we hear the message that Jesus suffered and died to forgive and free us. Like when the Israelites who were bitten by snakes turned and looked at the uplifted pole and were healed (Numbers 21:4-9), so we who have the venom of sin running through us turn and look at the cross and are forgiven and set free!

This freedom comes from seeing Jesus paying the price for our sin and seeing ourselves lifted up on the cross with Him. There we experience the pounding of the nails, the gasping for air, the pain of the thorns, and the ripping of the sword. We enter into the experience of the cross where we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), our old self dies with Christ, and is placed in a tomb. And there we rest because Jesus has finished the work; we were in Him through it all.

And wow, do we ever experience rest! True rest! The kind of restorative rest that makes us feel like a brand new person! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Yes, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his" (Hebrews 4:9-10). 

Where are you in this process? Are you enslaved and being worked ruthlessly by temptation's power? Are you working hard to free yourself but not finding freedom? Or are you looking at the cross and resurrection of Jesus, entering into the experience yourself, and resting from your works?

If you'd like to, hit reply and tell us. We'll pray for you or rejoice with you, whichever is fitting to your situation. 

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Testimonies
 
Sarah writes, "The biblical truth taught in the Weight Loss Bootcamp course has been helpful in my life. Each foundation truth leads to the other, which leads to the other. The more I washed at the cross and became broken over my sin, the more I was empowered to walk by the Spirit. As I learned to walk by the Spirit, I saw how necessary it was and received power to wage war against the flesh.
 
I'm still learning to eat when hungry and determine the difference between real hunger and cravings (my flesh). Being passionate about the Word of God isn't just about having the head knowledge; it's about a heart transformation and being changed by the Word. That's something new I hadn't experienced before. And it wasn't just about food either. It trickled into other areas of my life where I have struggled with sin. There is real freedom in not having to gratify the desires of the flesh!
 
I do have a battle plan from God. I have moved to a whole food plant-based diet. I'm doing this because I feel better when I eat this way. Different foods affect individuals differently. Some things others can eat, I can't, and vice versa. I don't have to watch my salt or fat intake, but these might be detrimental for others. And like the verse Mike mentioned, "all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial," God has led me to eat in a way that is beneficial for me. And I feel empowered by the Holy Spirit to eat this way. (Bonus: my food bill has gone down!)
 
Things haven't been all perfect all the time, but I'm at a good starting point for this journey that will continue for the rest of my life.
 
I recommend this course! It may not be an overnight change, and don't get discouraged if it isn't. Understand that this is a battle between the Spirit and your flesh, so you may have to make changes that you don't necessarily want. Follow the Spirit and crucify the desires of the flesh. Keep your eyes focused on Christ and see what He gave up for you. See His suffering that He endured covering your sin. What we give up is such a small thing in comparison!"
 
https://settingcaptivesfree.com/course/wlbc
 
Arina writes, "I came to Setting Captives Free after spending two years of membership in a different purity group that never did much to help free me from the captivity of the flesh and its passions. I had been in a vicious cycle trying to free myself using my will power and, subsequently, resorting to fasting and praying that never succeeded beyond temporal reprieve, followed by overindulgence in illicit relationships to feed my lust. I got worse each time I fell. My mind was a cesspool of impure thoughts, and I felt suffocated to the point of being suicidal. I was in this dark cycle for close to 33 years, having been first exposed to pornography before I was 10.
 
My sin struggle left me frustrated and angry. Every moment I slipped back into sexual sin, I was left drained and overwhelmed with condemnation. I never thought at any moment that I was worthy of God's love even though I was a church boy whose grounding is Christianity through and through. To try to atone for my sexual sin, I put in the works, tried evangelism, founded a Christian magazine whose circulation shot through the roof. I thought these acts of service would win God's approval despite Jesus having accomplished all that for me at the cross of Calvary. What I did not know was that the same cross of Christ was the same power of God that frees us from slavery to sexual impurity and lust. This sin had become my master, and being its slave that I was, I dutifully obeyed it to the point of going the extra mile to meet its demands. Flesh and its passions had become a god that I did everything to obey.
 
At the start of the course, I treated it with the same skepticism I had had, given how many previous programs had failed me. The exception with this study - which didn't make sense at first but turned out to be so refreshing - was that it focused on the cross. The initial change was subliminal. The power of the cross got hold of me, the more I focused on Christ, what He went through and did out of love for me. As someone who never knew love that tangibly, this understanding at such an intimate level blew my mind and melted my heart to the point of repentance. The same cross that I preached has never been more relatable until now.
 
The understanding that my sins were nailed to the cross with Christ, and therefore, there is no condemnation for me, has taken on new meaning. Because I'm in Christ, old things have passed away, and I'm new in Christ. Christ has freed me from perennial guilt and condemnation that made me feel unworthy. Now I understand that not only was my sin nailed to the cross, but my old self was buried with Jesus. The fact that He suffered such humiliation, facing the wrath of God, and saving me from it, making me a true beneficiary of salvation through my Lord Jesus Christ, is liberating to my soul. Now I know that God loves me, for He sent Christ to die so that I would be justified by His blood shed on the cross. I still sin, and I'm far from perfect, but the sin I commit doesn't define me.
 
My identity is in Christ now. I'm free. Gone are the days when the desires of my flesh enslaved me. The yoke has been lifted off my neck, and I feel lighter, for I now bear Christ's. The heart that once went ablaze at the sight of a woman is now inflamed by the love of God and His Word. My prayer life has been revolutionized, and the cross has become alive in and to me. My passion for sharing Christ with others is driven by the love of Him, who first loved me.
 
My mentor, Chuck Fidroeff, has been excellent. He was a God-send. He's the best I could get, and I'm so very grateful to and for him. God used him to guide me in the most excellent way.
 
As a former skeptic who thought all hope of freedom from sexual impurity was lost and seeing how far I've come through this course, being set free by the truth of the gospel, I strongly recommend the Setting Captives Free courses for everyone."
 
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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 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