The Power of the Cross: 177th Edition, April 18, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 177th Edition, April 18, 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 176



We all desire freedom! But if we’ve come to understand that we’re in bondage to sin, that we can’t seem to get free, then we might wonder what is keeping us from the freedom that Jesus promised when He said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36).

Consider today whether there is anything in your life that you are trusting in to make you right with God, other than the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Are you trusting in your ability to obey God’s Law? Your working of some program, doing steps, or keeping rules? If so, you are nullifying God’s grace in your life and this is why freedom eludes you.

Examine our passage of study for this week:

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Do you see what this is saying? It's telling me that if I try to gain right standing with God by my efforts at obedience to the Law, I'm setting aside the grace of God. If I'm trying to do something, earn my way somehow, I'm setting aside the grace of God or making it of no effect. In other words, I'm saying, "Thanks for your death Jesus, but I'll pass; I'm focused on obeying God myself, I'm going do it this time, and I'm going to get it right." That's setting aside the grace of God, that's making God's grace of no effect.

But it's God's grace that "teaches us to say no to ungodliness" (Titus 2:12), so if we are "nullifying the grace of God," then we are canceling our own freedom. 

And did you notice how the grace of God is always joined together with the message of the cross? Frequently people talk about God's grace, seldom about the cross, but Scripture always connects the grace of God and the cross of Christ.

So why does Paul continue to hammer this teaching about grace and the cross? I mean, why is it so important for Paul to bring the grace of God and the death of Jesus into practically every sentence?

Well, it’s because, in our natural selves, we have a bent toward works righteousness. We all lean toward doing something to gain God’s favor, working to earn our way. The natural world operates this way. If you have a job, when your employer gives you a paycheck, he isn’t giving you grace; he’s giving you what you earned. 

But when it comes to God’s kingdom, it works exactly the opposite of nature. You sin and do what is wrong, rebel against God and hurt other people, and God puts your sin on Jesus who dies for you, and you get off scot-free! That makes absolutely no sense to us by nature or to the world around us, and it is a laughing stock to all other religions that are working hard to gain God’s favor. 

And this is why Paul continuously focuses on God's grace and the death of Jesus as it is so opposed to everything within us by nature. 

And here in Galatians, Paul states very clearly that if we could gain righteousness through the law, Christ died for nothing. If we could gain righteousness by our own merits, through Bible study, through Scripture memory, witnessing, going to church, or anything else, then Christ died for nothing. 

Imagine for a minute that YOU are the thief on the cross next to Jesus. What can you do to earn righteousness? You can do nothing to make yourself right with God; you are dying because of your sins. It's not your decision to change your life, your commitment to obey God, your desire to live right from now on, etc., that will have any bearing on your standing before God. You have no hope whatsoever in anything you can do from here on out. 

So, you look over at Jesus, and what you see hanging on that cross sparks a new hope in you. As you're looking, maybe you think to yourself, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." Maybe, just maybe, His horrible, agonizing suffering and death means something for you! You start to see Jesus hanging on the cross as a flowing fountain of grace for you. You remember that when you were young, you read, 

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. 2 “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land” (Zechariah 13:1-2).

You now look at Jesus and wave after wave of love and grace flow to you. You see His suffering as your healing, His death as your pardon and forgiveness, your righteousness, and your way to God. 

So you cry out to Him, calling Him Lord and asking for grace, that He might remember you in His kingdom, and you are assured of a rich welcome into Paradise!

"The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away."

This washing at the cross is how to be righteous; it's how to receive grace; it's how to be free. And isn’t that what we all want? Freedom from life-dominating, recurring sins? Receiving grace flowing from the cross is exactly what we need to be free.

Question for this week: share your thoughts about Galatians 2:21?


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:  




Angela writes, "I find the biblical principles in the Weight Loss Bootcamp to be the essential way to live my life if I want to live in victory and close relationship with Jesus. I know these last 30 days have shown me my sins, the great price Jesus paid for me to be free and have a relationship with him, and how to have victory daily when I stay close to Him.


I have made it a habit to start my day reading the Bible and looking for a daily application to my life from its words. I ask God to reveal His plan for me for the day in eating and exercise. I'm way less bitter towards my family and memories of past abuse and know complete healing will happen. I put the scale away because it no longer has power over my emotions.


I know I've lost weight because my pants are loose now and my shirts are fitting better. I'm sleeping through the night, getting about 8 hrs a night. I have fewer aches and pains in my joints and love my daily walks. I have been able to do some 24 hr fasts when God asks me to, and I no longer think about the macros or amount of protein I might be needing and instead eat my meals with joy. I believe God wants me to do the 16/8 eating times unless He prompts a longer fast, and I have been able to give up snacking between meals altogether. When hunger or cravings begin, God helps me war against them and remember Jesus' suffering at the cross. I've been sharing Setting Captives free with people when I feel it could help them or when it seems God is prompting me. I want this way of life to be permanent until I meet Jesus face to face!


This course is not a typical weight loss course. There are no eating plans, weekly weigh-ins, or calorie/macro counting. Instead, it teaches us to go to the heart of our obsession with weight and food and see it for what it really is - worshiping the idols of food, appearance, etc., that we identify as we progress through the course. The Bible has become alive to me in its entirety. The cross and Jesus' suffering for me and all people are so meaningful now. My focus has shifted to loving Jesus, living for Him, and wanting to serve others as He has asked us to do. Thank you, Mike and Jody, for using your own experience to teach us how to live in victory rather than constant defeat!"

Luke writes, "The Looking to Jesus devotional was wonderful for my heart. I entered this study feeling worn out and stuck. Looking to Jesus every day along with journeying with friends in accountability was amazing.


I love how every day of the study, you are looking to Jesus for what you need. I feel this has been a large part of my journey to freedom from fear and unbelief." 


On our Setting Captives Free Discord server we have a mentor’s section where we discuss many different issues. This week we discussed what confession and forgiveness mean. Some of our mentors made the discussion into a Google document. Click here if you would like to read it. 


Finally, here are two wonderful, cross-focused messages if you would like to feed your soul on the gospel this week:

Good Friday by J Michael Cleveland: 


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