The Power of the Cross: 165th Edition, January 24, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 165th Edition, January 24, 2021

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 of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 164, 17 de enero de 2021


Freedom Through the Real Gospel

When it comes to finding freedom from habitual sin, it is imperative that we learn, study, embrace the real gospel. In the Book of Galatians, Paul gives us three ways to identify a false gospel. Let's look at them:

First, a false gospel is troubling. Vs. 7 says, "there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel." That word "trouble" means to throw you into confusion, to disquiet you, to strike your spirit with fear and dread. 

Remember the story of Zacharias, ministering in the temple, when all of a sudden an angel appeared? Luke 1:12 says Zacharias saw him, and he was "troubled, and fear fell upon Him." That's the same word translated as “troubled” that Paul is using in Galatians. The false teachers were giving a message that troubled the spirits of the Galatians, adding burdens on them. The false gospel of works (equivalent to law-keeping and step-following) made them anxious and troubled. 

Compare that to the real gospel. Look just now at the cross and see that "the punishment that brings us peace was upon Him" (Isaiah 53:5). Listen to Jesus as He is hanging from the cross, drenched in His blood, and He says, "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing" (Luke 23:34). The real gospel brings you peace and forgiveness; you are loved and accepted, free from guilt and condemnation. 

Oh, and look there! What do you see at the cross? Your old self that was enslaved to sin is now dead, hanging limp on a cross (Galatians 2:20). That means you're free from your past! Free from bondage! Free from slavery! This is all good news and has a settling effect, bringing peace and comfort, and freedom. See the difference in gospels? A false gospel troubles its hearers, but the real gospel brings peace.

Second, a false gospel is no gospel at all (6-7). It's like looking at an airplane and saying, "you know that thing would go so much faster if you just removed its wings." Well, yes, but now it's no airplane at all. Likewise, if you remove the message of the cross, you have no gospel at all. 

Or how about we made an airplane safer! You know, a ship is safer in storms because it has an anchor. Let's add an anchor to that plane. Except now, it won't fly. It's no airplane at all! Likewise, if you add anything to salvation by grace, and now it's not good news at all. The real gospel is Jesus giving Himself for your sins to rescue you (Galatians 1:4). It's good news. False gospels are not good news at all.

Third, a false gospel brings condemnation and a curse. Verses 8-9 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse!

The word for "curse" is "anathema." It means to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire! But compare that to the real gospel: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree" (Galatians 3:13-14). Jesus rescued you from the curse and brought you into a state of perpetual blessing. By believing the real gospel, nobody can bring any charge against you; it is God who has justified you (Romans 8:33).

Question 1. Please give an example of a false gospel and tell us why it is false.

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After completing the Weight Loss Follow-Up course Wende writes, "Wow, thank you, Mike, for reminding me in this video of God's words, which are, of course, exactly what I need to hear right now: "Jesus loves me to the end!" I was feeling a bit sad as I sat down this morning to begin this lesson; I don't want the study to be over!

My heart is overflowing with tears of gratitude.  I have been praying Romans 5:5 and asking God to pour out His love into my heart by His Holy Spirit. Needing to lose weight is how God got my attention, but my real journey was experiencing the love of Christ more deeply. God is ready to pour out His love into my heart, but that cannot happen when my heart is cluttered and full of other things (gratifying the flesh, obsessing over food.)

I have not weighed myself because weighing has been an unhealthy obsession in the past, but I can say this: my tight clothes have become comfortable again!

Initially, I understood the concepts of washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, and warring against my flesh but did not have consistent practices necessary to experience the power of them.

I have been a faithful follower of Christ for 37 years, reading the Word and praying daily, but it has been a while since I have been impacted as I have been in these past 30 days. Going to the cross daily (multiple times!) to wash, connect with the Spirit, and then to continue warring against my flesh is so powerful.

Washing at the cross: I know to do this, but in the past only practiced coming to the cross in my need, on occasion, but it is now the daily focus of my study/prayer times.

Walking by the Spirit:  What a joy! The things that have been frustratingly elusive (self-control, letting go of the idol of food, saying no to sinful desires) are now my mode of operation. The Spirit gives me clear victories as I keep in step with Him and teaches me practical lessons when I don't!

Warring against the flesh: The Spirit is redefining for me what it means to war against my flesh.  Saying no, sometimes out loud so I can hear myself, is becoming my practice.

My God-given battle plan has been the trickiest part for me. Learning to hear and trust what I hear has been a challenge because I need to un-hear all the worldly food knowledge I have pumped into my brain for so many years. I have prayed and waited and gotten frustrated, trying to "hear" the perfect plan. Surprise! Surprise! It did not come with lightning bolts and fireworks! I finally decided to jot down what occurred to me, tell it to God, and then do it. That is when things started to click for me as I chose to trust God's still, small voice. My general battle plan consists of intermittent fasting from after dinner until truly hungry. Then I have a smaller to medium-sized meal (late breakfast/early lunch.) Then dinner with family on most nights.  I have also been fasting as God prompts me, usually about once per week,  and breaking when I hear a clear growl. Those fasts have been between 24 and 46 hours. The beauty of it all is that when washing at the cross, walking in the Spirit, and warring against my flesh, none of this is legalistic but rather the worship of my heart. It is not an overstatement to say that this is miraculous!

Weight loss: Yes. How much? I don't know and don't care. (Another miracle!) I now have the resources to live in self-control with no desire or need for the world's methods."



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. Thank you in advance. 


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free