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The Power of the Cross: 172nd Edition, March 14, 2021


Mike Cleveland
 

The Power of the Cross: 172nd Edition, March 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.

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Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 171

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Teaching

What is it that will bring about a radical change in our lives? How can we find lasting freedom from habitual and plaguing sin? Is it possible to live a life focused on God and serving others instead of living a self-centered life?

We'll seek to find the answer to these questions in this week's teaching from Galatians 2.

So far in our study, we've seen Paul recounting to the Galatians a time when he was teaching and living in freedom with the believers at Antioch. Then some false teachers came down from Judea (Acts 15) to spy on their freedom, and these false teachers were teaching the need for keeping the Law in addition to believing the gospel. These false teachers wanted to make the believers slaves to the Law and slaves to their flesh; those two always go together. That's why Paul said in Romans 6, "sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law but grace." 

So, Paul explains that he had gone to Jerusalem and presented the gospel to the church leaders, who saw that God was at work in his ministry to the Gentiles just like He was at work in Peter's ministry to the Jews. (We can tell who God is working through because they preach the gospel.) And when they heard Paul preach the gospel, they added nothing to his message. 

This week we come to verse 10: "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along" (Galatians 2:10). Christianity is not only theological, it's practical and includes meeting the needs of the poor. God loves His people and desires to meet their needs; it is a blessing and a privilege when we get to participate in providing for others.

It's also essential because meeting the needs of the poor is an illustration of the gospel. We were born impoverished in our sin. Sin had stripped everything from us; it had taken our reputation, our character, our self-esteem. We were poor beggars in our sin, having nothing to offer God, clothed in filthy rags, bankrupt of any righteousness whatsoever, empty of all that is good.

Maybe you can think of ways in which sin impoverished you, stole from you, decimated your life. We can all think of how we were made poor by our own sin.

But Jesus came to preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1). "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). He was rich in heaven, had it all, and then He came down and hung on a cross and gave it all. 

Look at Jesus there on the cross. He is bankrupt. He has poured out His blood, breathed out His last breath, given up His Spirit, and become poor. To what end? For what purpose? To enrich you!

Jesus took your sin, your spiritual poverty, and gave you His righteousness - His spiritual wealth. Jesus received no mercy on the cross that God might lavish mercy and grace on you eternally. Jesus was thirsty to quench your thirst forever. Jesus entered into utter darkness that you might walk in the light. Look at how His hands are nailed open, and His heart is speared open! He opened and emptied Himself completely, giving you His all - His heart, His blood, His Spirit, His righteousness, even His home in heaven.

Jesus became poor to make us poor folk rich; we've gone from rags to riches, and now would we dare shut our hearts or our hands to the poor? We dare not because to do so would destroy the picture of the gospel, and that is what the Jerusalem leaders did not want to happen. And Paul affirms that he was eager to remember the poor. Because when we open our hearts and our hands to the poor, we illustrate the gospel.

And here is where we see more evidence of the complete change of life and radical transformation from one person to another that Saul experienced through the cross of Christ. Saul had previously decimated the church; he had impoverished it and tried to bankrupt and destroy it. But now we see Paul seeking to build up and enrich the church. He was eager to look after the poor, the very people and church he had persecuted and impoverished previously.

What is it that will bring about a radical change in our lives? How can we find lasting freedom from habitual and plaguing sin? Is it possible to live a life focused on God and serving others instead of living a self-centered life?

The same thing that made this shocking heart change in Saul/Paul changes us too - the gospel of Jesus Christ. To see Jesus suffering on the cross for you is to break your heart and humble you. Then to see His love poured out for you, His complete forgiveness of your sins, and His promise to live in you will completely remake you, build you up, and strengthen you. 

The gospel is the message of transformation. Paul went from impoverishing the church to enriching it. You and I go from lives of self-focus and self-centeredness to God focus and others-centeredness. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings freedom and transformation!

Question:  What is it about the gospel of Jesus that inspires and enables you to look out, see others, and meet their needs?  

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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: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Va6HzPIPDxWU/4-scf-mens-group   

To join the female (only) group, click this link: https://onmarcopolo.com/groups/Zv8WlxPaMZuu/scf-womens-group-1  

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Testimonies

 

Katie writes, "I feel like I have encountered the cross in a new way having taken the A United Front course. I have embraced healing for myself through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I no longer see myself as a victim but see myself showing kindness to my husband along with the other qualities in Colossians 3:12-14. I have forgiven my husband of his sexual impurity.

 

My husband started the Purity Bootcamp course about a week after I began A United Front. He was not in a good place and wanted to go somewhere to find hope. Seeing the hope my husband has found in the cross of Christ has been encouraging to me as well. We have had great conversations about what we are learning, and God has been healing us both individually and together as one.

 

At the beginning of the course, I felt like I "knew" everything I should be doing. But as I was going through the lessons, it just hit me that I needed to view the cross in a whole new way. I knew it brought forgiveness, but I never embraced the fact that it could heal my heart wounds from my husband's sexual impurity. It made me ask myself, "Am I looking to the cross for absolutely everything in my life? Or am I looking for my husband or others to fill all of those empty places?" Once I started to fill the empty places in my heart with Christ, a new peace came over me. It was easier to forgive my husband and begin moving forward as one with him - a more united front. Thank you so much for this course."

 

EJ writes, "Because of God's grace and my willingness to lay my life down at the cross of Christ, I have experienced a life transformation since I started the Purity Bootcamp course. I was dead, and now I am alive. I used to think that my thoughts and my desires governed my life. No more. Christ bought me; He paid the price for my sins, and now I live for Him. The Gospel is so much clearer to me, and I am so thankful for His pursuit.

 

I am thankful that the course gave me a platform and a very practical approach to living out my calling as a Christ-follower. As I wash at the cross and remind myself of the wonderful sacrifice that Christ made, I will war against my flesh as the Holy Spirit leads.

 

By the power of God living in me, I lay my old life down in pursuit of the One who has called me. I rest in His peace, in His shadow. I continue to remind myself and the enemy that the battle is won. Enforcing that victory as I walk, I feel blessed beyond belief.

 

I recommend this course to anyone and everyone. This course is life-transforming and truly an experience I will never forget."

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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 consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. www.settingcaptivesfree.com/donate. Thank you in advance. 



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free