The Power of the Cross: 168th Edition, February 14, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 168th Edition, February 14, 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 167



We are happy to announce the completed translation of the Setting Captives Free - A United Front course into German: Eine Gemeinsame Front. This work of love was completed by volunteer translators Gaby Wolf and Ruth Quadflieg. The A United Front course is now available in English, German, and Dutch; we praise God for all the translation volunteers that He sends to help us bring the good news of freedom through the death and resurrection of Jesus to hurting hearts.



What is the difference between man’s method of freedom and God’s method of freedom? Between human-made religion and the gospel of Jesus Christ? Today we will see that man’s ways are doomed to failure resulting in ongoing slavery to sin, whereas the gospel of Jesus Christ sets us free and makes us free indeed!

If you’re new here, we are studying through the Book of Galatians; we’re intentionally going slowly, not desiring to just get through the book but rather to learn, grow and change along the way.

This week I want to consider one subject with you. Paul says in Galatians 1:11: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.”  Notice that the gospel did not originate with man; it’s God’s message. In contrast to the different religions developed by man, Paul’s message was a revelation from God.

The one thought from this verse is that man did not invent the gospel; God did. When man devises a religion, it is always about him working his way up to God, climbing a ladder to heaven, each good work he does is another step on his ladder that is getting him closer to God. In Genesis 11, we read about people that set about building an actual tower intending to reach heaven. Maybe that sounds crazy, but how many of us (perhaps unconsciously) have tried to reach God by climbing out of our sin, adding one brick of good works on top of another, thinking that we can make ourselves acceptable to God. 

But God’s gospel is about God coming down to us, stepping lower and lower in His humiliation, His love driving Him from the throne to a cross, from the highest heaven to a hole in the earth, each step lower driven on by His love for you and His desire to rescue you and raise you up. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

Man’s gospel would be no gospel at all because it would have us seeing our horrible spots and blemishes of sin and setting out to scrub them off, working tirelessly to be better so we can look good to God. God’s gospel is Jesus taking on our sin, becoming sin for us, looking hideous in appearance, unrecognizable as a man (Isaiah 52:14), that we might be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21), and beautiful to God (Colossians 1:22).

Man’s gospel would be us in poverty working hard to change our lives so that we could be rewarded with a few pennies from God for our efforts. But God’s gospel is Jesus becoming poor for us to deposit a million dollars of righteousness into our bank account (2 Corinthians 8:9): the full righteousness of Christ credited to us as a gift. 

Man’s gospel is us climbing the hill, hoping to become more righteous the higher we get. God’s gospel is Jesus climbing the hill of Calvary, our sins weighing Him down, as He made His way to the top in our place, reaching the pinnacle of the cross where He gave His life so that we could be forgiven, accepted, and set free. When He hung on the cross, He proclaimed victory in a loud voice, saying, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), then He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.

God’s gospel changes the lives of every person who embraces it.

Once there was a young man who tried so hard but could never please his father; he was never good enough, he never measured up. Every time he opened his mouth, his father condemned what he said; every time he tried to do something to please his father, it was never good enough. Finally, the young man learned to live in silence; he stopped trying as he believed his father would never love him because he could not be good enough. But the man finally found rest and peace through God’s gospel when he saw that Jesus removed his every sin so that God would see him good as Jesus, as righteous as God Himself. God’s gospel changed his life, and I got to share this good news that transformed my life with my Father in his remaining years and watch him be affected by the good news also.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin” (Galatians 1:11); it’s not from man, it’s from God. And God’s gospel comes with power to transform every person who believes it. 

Question for this week: Do you believe man’s gospel? That is, you feel you need to do something to be acceptable to God? Or do you believe God’s gospel, that Jesus did something to make you acceptable to God? How do you know?

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 


To join one of the men’s groups, click this link: 


To join the female (only) group, click this link: 



Patrick writes, "The principles of the Purity Bootcamp course are fundamental for staying free from impurity and the sins and corruptions of the flesh.


I have begun washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, and warring with my flesh in very real ways. There were and are many times in the past month which I have been very tempted. And I have fought with myself, and my mind slowly started to be cleansed and renewed. I found that I no longer wanted to act on or follow through on my flesh's sinful desires. I was able to pull myself away as I had never been able to before. I did not want to hurt or offend Jesus any more than I already have. I now want to lead a new life where I live in His mercy and freedom.


The course walked me through a slow and formational journey where I built my spiritual armor and learned how to use the necessary weapons to defeat impurity and pornography use. The ability to let God in and allow Him to fight for me was amazing. It has changed my life. Living in purity is not easy in this world, and the temptations will always come, but for the first time in my life, God is giving me victory."

Candace writes, "The principles I learned in the Purity Bootcamp course have changed my life. I feel like a new person. I used to crave sexual impurity, but now it disgusts me. 

Washing at the cross has destroyed the power of guilt and shame in my life and made my love for Christ more than my love for self-gratification. Walking by the Spirit has deepened my relationship with Christ and revealed to me my roots of rebellion that are now being destroyed by God's inescapable love. I now have a battle plan that works. I don't have to figure things out for myself or stumble in darkness. Warring against the flesh has been challenging. After years of sexual impurity, it seems so ingrained, but God has given me a new nature in Christ! I have been born again and made anew! Now I don't dabble with the thought of sexual impurity as I once did.


Before this course, I thought I would be sexually immoral forever. Coming from an abusive and broken background, I had never known innocence, even as a small child, and felt I was trapped in sin and shame without hope of escape. But one night, in desperation, God led me to this course. It took longer than 30 days for me to complete because of the intense warfare. But Jesus and His love for me won! 

As I went throughout this course, Jesus replaced my love for sexual impurity with love for Him. My doubts of whether God truly loved me were nailed to the cross as God drew me near. He revealed my rebellious Spirit, proud heart, bitterness, and fearful nature and destroyed them all on the cross. 

As the lessons in the course became more clear through the power of the Holy Spirit, I found myself trying to run from God's love, but He kept pursuing me, especially in my interactions with my dear mentor and friend Sara. 

I felt like I really understood the gospel for the first time as it applied to my sins. The shame that haunted me for decades suddenly had no hold on me! Praise Jesus! 

Before the course, I was bitter and fearful, but now I am joyful and free! God has even opened my heart to the possibility of marriage! I haven't engaged in sexual impurity for weeks! Which is a miracle. The desire isn't there anymore. I desire my King Jesus more than anything else. I still struggle with temptation, but God's love is more powerful and more beautiful to me. The cross of Christ is what draws me in now, not sexual impurity. 

If you are struggling with sexual impurity, no matter your background or how hopeless you feel, you must take this course! There is hope for everyone in Christ Jesus! For the first time in my life, I can finally say that I'm free!!! Thank you, Lord Jesus!"


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 consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. Thank you in advance. 


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free