The Power of the Cross: 171st Edition, March 7, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 171st Edition, March 7, 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 170



Do you feel or have you ever thought that the gospel is great but that you need something else, something more to find freedom from sin? As in, "Jesus died for my sin, yes, but what am I missing to be free from sin's power?"

This desire to add something to the gospel is not unique or new; it is what the devil wants us to believe. This week we will see how this very problem was dealt with by the Apostle Paul.

In Galatians chapter two, Paul is recounting his experience of dealing with false teachers who want to add to the message of the gospel. The false teachers were saying, "Yes, the gospel, plus circumcision. The gospel plus law-keeping. The gospel plus personal effort to be holy." 

So Paul had gone to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the church to address this issue. He preached the gospel to those leaders and notice in Galatians 2:6 that the leaders added nothing to his message. They affirmed that salvation is by grace alone. They agreed, Jesus "gave Himself for our sins to rescue us…" (Galatians 1:4) and "added nothing to my message." Not grace plus works, not the cross plus our efforts at obedience.

I want to illustrate this point this week by taking us back to Exodus 12. When God rescued the Israelites from slavery, He told them to kill a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts, and when the destroying angel saw the blood, he would pass over that house, and the firstborn would live (Exodus 12:12-13). But not only that, they were to eat the Lamb with their sandals on and their staff in their hand; in other words, they were to be ready to go because when the Lamb died they would leave slavery (Exodus 12:11). So, the blood of the Lamb would save the lives of the firstborn and set them all free from slavery.

Now imagine if someone came along and said, "Did you hear that the destroying angel is going to come along at night? You can't see blood at night, so what you need to do is take this red paint, this neon, glow-in-the-dark, red paint, go to your roof and paint every square inch red. That will guarantee the destroying angel will see it and pass over you."

Some would surely go out and start climbing the ladder, rung by rung, carrying the paint to the roof, and they would start painting. It could be the heat of the day, but they would work hard, putting blood-red paint on that roof as if their lives depended on it. They might say, “I’m working hard because I want God to see how serious I am about this.”

But what they would really be doing is distracting from the blood of the sacrifice! They would be minimizing the blood of the lamb. Because whatever we add to the message of the cross subtracts from it. 

If the Israelites wanted to be sure that they would be saved, if they wanted to know for sure if they would leave slavery and be set free, they needed to only look at the blood of the sacrifice for reassurance. As they looked at the blood, they might say, “Ah yes, it’s there. The destroying angel will see that blood and know that death has already happened here so that he can pass over this house. I look at the blood, and I see I will live because the lamb died. I am saved and set free through the death of the lamb.” And they would go skipping out of Egypt, leaving bondage and slavery behind because of the power of God, the love of God, and the blood of the lamb that was shed for them. 

The same is true for us too.  When we put faith in the blood of Jesus to take away our sins, we are saved from the wages of sin and set free from slavery to sin, and God gets the credit for our freedom because “Christ, our Passover Lamb has been slain” (1 Corinthians 5:7). And we need not add anything to that message.

Maybe you’ve been one who believed you needed more than the message of the cross, or maybe you’ve limited the work of the cross to that which only frees you from the penalty of sin, from God’s wrath, from hell. But now you see that believing the message of the crucified Lamb and feeding on Him both saves us from wrath and sets us free from sin’s power. 

As you read the song below, written by William Cowper, pay careful attention to verse 3, and see how this teaching might help you as it has me:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away:
Wash all my sins away,
Wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed ones of God
Be saved, to sin no more:
Be saved, to sin no more,
Be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed ones of God,
Be saved to sin no more.

If you are believing the gospel of Jesus Christ but not finding freedom from sin’s power, ask God to give you an expanded view of the “dear dying Lamb,” to see His suffering on the cross to include being saved from sin’s power as well as sin’s penalty. Ask Him for faith to believe what you see, for faith to believe that your sin died on the cross and was buried, so you are free from its power. 

Finally, put yourself around those proclaiming the gospel message. A gospel-preaching church is essential to help you believe the good news and see how it applies to your daily life.

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:16-17). 

Question for this week: Are you looking to the blood of Jesus to save you, and to set you free? If so, share how you are doing it.

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: 

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Linda writes, "In the A United Front course, I've learned to lean into God more, share Him with others, and to trust that God will restore and heal me, my husband, and my marriage. Being able to give my negative thoughts to God and forgive my husband has been a real blessing.


My husband and I are now praying together daily, have started to do fun things together, look forward to renewing long-lost feelings and creating new memories and a new marriage built on God's foundation.


I recommend this course; it will strengthen you with God's Word and give you a biblical perspective on managing the hurt and betrayal of sexual impurity. This new perspective will lead to healing, peace, and a deeper relationship with God personally and possibly as a couple with a restored relationship."

Kelly writes, "Over the last 30 lessons of the Weight Loss Bootcamp, I have sensed God calming my heart and mind enough to really listen and take in each biblical principle in a fresh way. Instead of rushing through the study looking for the 'magic' formula to lose weight God's way (like a diet), I have found myself applying the foundational principles to my heart problem and not focusing so much on my weight. I'm more concerned about my heart and mind; the weight will take care of itself. I'm getting along with my family better as well! I'm more at peace and not so anxious about life or circumstances.  

I have seen some progress in my physical strength and endurance. I see incremental changes in my overall physical appearance, like seeing lost muscle return. I really let myself go and lost many of the benefits of exercise in my middle age. I thought I had to succumb. Mike's testimony gave me hope that I CAN do this too! These lessons gave me a new reason to not just lay down and take on sedentary life. God has given me strategies to recover and keep going. He really is FOR me!  I have been recommending this course to everyone! I'm hoping my small group Bible study will do it together."

Jake writes,The principles in the Setting Captives Free ‘Purity Bootcamp’ course washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, warring against the flesh are extremely helpful, and most of all, gospel-centered. I have walked and attempted too many strategies that were grounded in self-improvement and sheer willpower. These principles keep me squarely focused on who delivered me from my sin and what that means for the rest of my life.

For about four weeks, temptation either did not visit me or was swiftly defeated by reciting back verses of scripture or imagining the power of grace given to me by Jesus on the cross and remembering what His victory means for me right when temptation hits. I'm able to trust that God's commandments truly do bring life, that I am actually being deceived by these temptations, and that God found my life so precious that he gave his only son to have me cleaned. This trust, most of the time, is enough for me to "break out" of “temptation's spell” and implement my battle plan, which usually involves turning my phone off and getting on with my night.

I already have men in my life that I plan on recommending this course to. I'd say to them squarely that this course works - I experienced miraculous purity, starting from utter disgust in myself and my behaviors, to be able to battle temptation every week since. This course painted the way to knowing Jesus personally and tying together a connection that I've longed for since becoming a Christian - understanding myself in the sacrifice of Jesus. This power found at the cross works, and this course explains it well.”


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