The Power of the Cross: 189th Edition, July 18, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 189th Edition, July 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.




Announcement: The Freedom from Media Addiction course is now available in Dutch - Mediaverslaving.  Thank you, Petrus and Theo, for your translation ministry! 






The passage we are looking at today tells us the message of freedom by the New Covenant gospel and the message of bondage through the Old Covenant Law. It communicates these truths by way of an illustration.

Notice the story Paul uses from the Book of Genesis:

Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. 24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:21-26).

Galatians 4:24 explains that the Law produces slaves. The Law tells us how we must live to please God but gives us no power to do so. We try to live rightly and fail, try harder and fail again, and Paul says, "that is slavery!" 

In our text today, let's notice two things. First, so that everyone will understand fully, Paul defines the "Law" that makes people slaves. If I were to ask you to explain what Law Paul refers to, what would you say? Is Paul referring to A) the moral Law of Ten Commandments or B) the ceremonial Law with all the sacrifices, or C) all the extra laws the Pharisees added to God's Law? The 613 additional rules, commandments, and laws that they added to God's Word. Which would you say? Which Law makes people slaves?

Well, anyone giving this passage an honest read would read verse 24, "One covenant is from Mt. Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves." and wonder, "What Law did God give at Mt. Sinai?" Exodus 19 and 20 explain that God gave the Ten commandments at Mt. Sinai. That's why Paul uses the term "Mt. Sinai" so there would be no doubt as to what Law he is referencing. If he just said "law," people, in their attempt to defend the ten commandments, would say, "Paul is talking about the ceremonial law" or "he's referring to all the laws the Jews added on to God's Law." But Paul is referring to God's Law, the ten commandments given at Mt. Sinai. 

Paul is saying, "If you want to be under God's Law, under the ten commandments, to follow and obey them as a covenant, you are Ishmael, a slave." Slave of the Law = slave of sin.

And what is Paul's point here? It's straightforward: the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant, represented by Hagar, was temporary. Look at Galatians 4:30: "But what does Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." In other words, get rid of the Old Covenant and live in the freedom Jesus died to purchase for you, live in the power of the Spirit Jesus died to give you. 

Secondly, we believers are not children of the bond-slave, Hagar, representing God's Ten Commandment Law. No! Our mother is Sarah, meaning the New Covenant gospel, where you and I are born again of a promise. The promise is to put faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you will not only live eternally but also be free from sin's penalty and power. 

Friend, Jesus took your penalty and bled out, Jesus paid your debt as He breathed His last breath, Jesus atoned for your wrongs through death, Jesus removed your sin by making it His own; and by believing this message, Jesus sets you free. And if Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed. Free from sin’s penalty and power. This message frees us and matures us.

Question this week: Are you living as a child of the slave woman (Hagar) or as a child of the free woman (Sarah), and 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: 

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Norma writes, "I have cried many times throughout the Weight Loss Bootcamp study. I have humbled myself and asked the Lord for forgiveness and help to fight because I cannot do this alone. Having my sweet Jesus walk this journey with me is like He is holding my hand, saying to me, "Come, my child, I have you; don't be afraid." I wake up every morning to wash at the cross and get my plan for the day and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide me through the day and help me fight. I have learned so much about Jesus and His love for me. I am confident in Christ; this time, I know I will win this battle over gluttony because I have the Lord going before me to stomp out any temptations in front of me. He leads me and protects me, but most of all, He loves me.


I used to feel worthless and defeated. No more self put-downs; instead, I pick myself up with Scripture and healthy, gospel thoughts. My clothes are looser; what a great feeling! My blood pressure is stable now. For years, the stress of being overweight was heavy on me, but now it is on the bottom of my "things to do" list.


My stress levels are lower. Jesus is now the first thought every morning and the last at night, and so I sleep much better. I am free! I can now walk around my local park, which is almost a mile. I enjoy going to the park now because my self-esteem and confidence have grown.


I have started eating better, and my son has joined me. He doesn't need to lose weight, but he has joined me to support me. I started doing some cardio and strength training workouts I found on YouTube. Working out does not feel like punishment anymore. Instead, I am so grateful that I can work out.


My life has changed for the better physically, mentally, and emotionally, but best of all, the most significant change in me is my enjoyment in eating the Bread of Life instead of overindulging food.


I recommend this study because not only does it help you lose weight, but it gets to the root of the problem, that we need Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. I have learned so much about Christ in this course, and I am hungry for more."

David writes, "Wow, before the Purity Bootcamp course, I was coming to a point in my struggle against sexual impurity (lust and porn) that I was finally admitting, "God, I don't know what to do. Please help me be free." My friend suggested I start this course, and from the first lesson about looking at the cross and God's forgiveness as we trust Jesus, I caught a whiff of the joy of salvation I remembered from when I first began walking with Christ 13 years ago. 


So what has changed? Well, I am bursting with joy in Christ most of the time now and telling almost everyone I meet about the hope of the gospel of how Jesus bore all our sins on the cross. 


I used to pray, "God, help me love you, love others, and walk free from lust," and as genuinely as I desired those things, the reason I wanted them was so that I could have some assurance that I was in Christ. But as I worked attentively, prayerfully, honestly, and desperately through this course, my eyes have been fixed repeatedly on our "Bronze Serpent," seeing that "The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." 


Fixing my eyes in trust on the cross has led to freedom from sin that I confidently know I have through simple trust in Christ, not through trust in how many days or weeks I've gone without sinning. 


Trusting God's forgiveness from all condemnation because Jesus was condemned with my punishment has also caused temptation to roll right off my back! When I'm tempted now, I message my trusted brothers in Christ, asking for prayer, but even before they respond, I've been finding that simply thinking about the cross and God's forgiveness for the sake of Christ's blood takes ALL the allure right out of sin. 


I used to look within at my own heart toward God and backward at my track record of good actions and avoidance of bad actions to evaluate whether I was in Christ. Back then, my trust was in my faith rather than in Christ, but now I look at the cross. I ask God to help me remember and believe and be freed through faith, and He does! 


I still have A LOT of growing to do. A few ways God has been showing me I need to grow are in delighting in His will and dying to self, craving His word and taking it in, and walking in intimacy with God by faith.


But even with these areas, I am not going to turn to the law to try to change me; "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age..." Titus 2:11-12 So, I know God's grace will train me for this. 


Praise God for His grace and faithfulness and for redeeming me (and all of us) with His precious blood!"


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


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Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free