The Power of the Cross: 169th Edition, February 21, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 169th Edition, February 21, 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 168


Book Recommendation

Instead of including testimonies, as we usually do in each newsletter, we have a book recommendation for you at the end of the teaching section this week. 



Galatians 1:13-24

Have you ever wanted something that would smash through your present experience of life and turn you in a completely different direction? Ever wanted something to wreck your current life and rebuild it completely different, on a better foundation that will produce different results?

In Galatians 1:13-24, we can see that this is what happened to the Apostle Paul. In these verses, Paul illustrates the point he makes in Galatians 1:11-12. Remember he said that the gospel he preached is not of human origin; Paul did not receive the gospel from men; he received it from Jesus.

Paul uses his own life as an illustration. In verse 13, he says that he intensely persecuted the church in his former life with the intent to destroy it. As Saul, he was intensely persecuting the church; some versions say “violently” or “beyond measure,” trying to destroy it, waste it, ravage it, annihilate it, and pillage it. As Saul, he aggressively hated the church. We might picture a dog with rabies chasing after a cat, wide-eyed, frothing at the mouth, intent on ripping it to shreds. Well, Saul acted like a man with rabies as he vented out his hatred on the church.

Galatians 1:13-14 tell us that Saul was advancing in Judaism, works-religion, and self-righteousness, which tells us why he hated the message of the cross and why he wanted to destroy the people who believed in Jesus as their Savior. In Judaism, Saul was trying to earn God’s favor, working for his righteousness, and hating those people who claimed to have God’s acceptance, not based on works of righteousness that they had done but because of God’s mercy.

Saul ravenously and violently persecuted the church. But then we read in Galatians 1:15-16 that something dramatic happened to Saul: God who set Him apart from birth was pleased to reveal His Son in him, and in time Saul, the persecutor, became Paul, the preacher. 

Remember, Paul is illustrating his point that the gospel is not of man; it's from God. His point is that Saul did not develop this gospel, did not study his way into it, did not invent it; instead, God revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ to him supernaturally. The proof is that he went from being Saul, who aggressively persecuted the church, to Paul, who preached the gospel and laid down his life for the church. Saul's life completely changed direction, his old life was entirely wrecked, and all things became new for him - even his name.

Paul is also showing another point, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The message of the cross took a man running in one direction as fast as he could go and turned him 180 degrees and sent him running in the opposite direction - this is salvation. This radical transformation is the "rescue" that Paul wrote about in Galatians 1:4. This persecutor of the church became a preacher of the gospel; the terrorist became an evangelist. Hallelujah! "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile" (Romans 1:16).

When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he learned that by persecuting the church, Saul had been violently persecuting Christ (Acts 9:4), and this changed everything. Now, Saul looked at the cross and saw Jesus whom he had ravaged and wasted, and pillaged and violently persecuted. He saw Jesus torn to pieces, hanging on a torture instrument, but God taught Saul that Jesus went to the cross to save him. Jesus purposefully climbed the hill of Calvary, wore a crown of thorns, received nails in His hands and feet, and shed His blood to pay for Saul's sin. He learned that Jesus' death and resurrection justified Saul before God the Father, and all that because Jesus loved Saul in a life-transforming way! Paul, the apostle, would later write about Jesus that He "loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). 

This good news first broke Saul's heart and then healed it. It wrecked him, and then it remade him. It saved him from pride and rescued him from self-righteousness and works-religion. It made him a debtor to grace, a happy captive of Jesus. This one who was working so hard to earn salvation would later write, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In a recent conversation with my dear brother Lennart from Estonia, he shared his religious background and what he was formerly taught to believe was "the best teaching ever." But when God revealed the cross to him, the love of Jesus that took Jesus from heaven to earth for Lennart, Lennart said these words: "the cross has wrecked me." And he said it with joy in his heart and tears in his eyes. "The cross wrecked me." The gospel of Jesus destroyed Lennart's past life, and through the love of a dying Savior and the complete forgiveness of his sins, Lennart's life became new. Praise God!

Many of us can say that I, too, was running the wrong way as fast as I could go. I was caught in the sin trap of abusing food, alcohol, pornography, and sexual impurity, living a life of deception and spiritual bondage. But one day, I saw a Man hanging in agony and shame, like some Hamaan impaled on a pole under the wrath of the King, and then God revealed to me that Jesus was hanging for my forgiveness and redemption. He was hanging under God's judgment that I might stand as righteous at the final judgment. Jesus took my condemnation that I might go free. And that message wrecked me and healed me. It ruined me and restored me. It was the power of God to me, and it works in my life every day to free me and keep me. I'm now running the right way - Jesus!

Question: What has the gospel of Jesus Christ done for you?

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Book Recommendation


Want more of Jesus? Read this new book!

When the anonymous author of Regarding Jesus asked me to review this book, I agreed to do so and took it with me on a short vacation.

Jody and I went out to the southern coast of Washington for a little get-away, but it had started raining so I decided to sit down and begin reading. Little did I know that I would not be able to put the manuscript down, but would read the entire book in one sitting! My immediate reply to the author was an emphatic, “I love this book!”

Regarding Jesus was written to answer the simple question: Who does the Bible reveal Jesus to be?

This question is possibly the most important one of all time. And when you stop and think about it, everything we know about Jesus—EVERYTHING—comes from a single source, the Bible. And even then, every Scripture about Him needs to be considered in context.

That’s the first reason I love this book so much. It contains over 1,000 Bible citations, tracing the Son of God from before the Dawn of Time through to His eternal reign. And it covers all the major highlights in-between. The writer took great care to make Regarding Jesus theologically sound.

The second reason I love this book is that it’s highly readable without being dumbed-down or fluffy. The 177 pages of text unfold in bite-sized, 2-page chapters. And while you could read the book can be read from cover to cover in under three hours, I recommend you drink it in slowly, savoring the amazing and diverse views it provides of our wondrous, majestic, intimately-present Savior.

Third, reading this book can be transformative. The Bible tells us that when it comes to Jesus, ‘beholding is becoming.’

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.                                                                                                     -2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

From the context, we know ‘the Lord’ spoken of here is the Lord Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). Seeing Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible—with the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word of God—will change you at the core of your being. It is a powerful way He uses to free us from our idols, including sinful bondage to anything.

By now, you’re probably wondering why Regarding Jesus was written anonymously. It’s because the author has written several other books, which ‘pigeonhole’ him into a particular segment of Christianity—one of which I highly approve. But Regarding Jesus was intended for EVERYONE. It was designed to ring true with all denominations and with those who consider themselves Non-Denominational. If you’re wondering how this was accomplished, see the website’s FAQ tab. And while highly-devoted believers will love every page, the book also seeks to inform skeptics, the irreligious, and those of other religions who want to know who the Bible says Jesus is.

Lastly, Regarding Jesus is affordable. It’s available at in Limited Edition Hardcover, and as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle Store (but don’t buy the hardback edition on Amazon since it’s $20 there).


Limited First Edition 
Featuring a white hardcover
with red foil stamping


Single Copies: $8.99

Cases of 12: $90












Kindle Edition 
Digital download exclusively available


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