The Power of the Cross: 191st Edition, August 1, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 191st Edition, August 1, 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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Today we will see that those who seek to be made right with God through obedience to the Law are severed from Christ and have fallen from grace. Indeed, many people remain in bondage to sin because they attempt to free themselves by their obedience to the Law. Is that you? If so, read on to discover how to avoid this trap.

Let's look at Galatians 5:2-4 today: 

"Take notice: I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Law. You who are trying to be justified by the Law have been severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

Under the Old Covenant to be a part of God's family, you had to be circumcised, whereas those who were "uncircumcised" were cut off and excluded. Genesis 17:14.

In Galatia, the false teachers taught the Christians that they needed to be circumcised to be right with and accepted by God. They taught, "Yes, believe in Jesus, but you also need to be like Jesus who was circumcised and who kept the Law so that you can grow and become perfect and please God."

So, why is that such a bad idea? Why does Paul say so aggressively, "if you let yourself be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all"? Paul's point is that if you can look at anything you do to be part of God's family, it ultimately diminishes what Jesus did, and He will come to mean less and less to you over time. Here's the mathematical equation: belief in Jesus plus something you do will subtract from what Jesus did, which equals no benefit from the cross for you. And if you look at anything you do, you better do everything in the Law and do it perfectly and continually. 

Focusing on your obedience is a trap of the devil. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law for you; you must put faith in the work He has done and not turn back to your performance!

Colossians 2:11 says, "Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature." What does this mean? It means when Jesus died on the cross; He cut off your old nature, your sinful self. The self that loved pornography or that loved to gratify your flesh with food, that was in bondage to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, shopping, etc., that lived in unforgiveness or bitterness, that always put self first; that person, the old you, was circumcised at the cross!

There is a powerful illustration of this truth in Joshua chapter 5. All the Israelites males God brought out of Egypt were circumcised, but none of those born in the wilderness on the journey to the Promised Land were circumcised. So, Joshua took them all to a place called "Gilgal." There he circumcised all the males, piling in a heap all their flesh. Verse 9 says, "Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.' So that place has been called Gilgal to this day."

At Gilgal, they had the shame of their pasts cut off and rolled away; they had their identity as slaves removed from them. They could look at that hill of cutoff flesh as their freedom from their former identity. The Hebrew word Gilgal means to roll away; the Greek counterpart is "Golgatha." The hill of the cross! This is the place where God cut away your sinful self; your identity as a slave was circumcised, cut off, and rolled away from you. Look now at that hill of flesh (the cross of Christ) and see your identity as a sin slave removed from you. You now have a new identity in Jesus!

As you look and believe in what Jesus has done for you, the Spirit of God makes your circumcision and new identity real in your heart. I urge you to say out loud, "Jesus circumcised me at the cross! My old life was cut off and discarded. I am free!" 

Our circumcision at the cross is why Paul wrote in Philippians 3:2-3, "Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort."

Question for this week: Can you say verbally, "I look to the cross and see that my old self was circumcised."? Can you speak out and say, "My sin and shame were cut off and discarded by Jesus. My old identity was removed, and I'm now a new creation in Christ with no eternal guilt or shame." Can you say that this week?

"Circumcision was the shadow of the substance which the Christian man already enjoys. The Law which prescribed it had already done its true work and was abolished in Christ. Why leave the great liberator for one of the most grievous shackles of their old tyranny." (H. W. Beecher.)



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Whereas before I tried, again and again, to fight sinful temptations out of my own (lack of) willpower without lasting success, I now have the feeling that God actually changed me and my desires inwardly and sustainably, so that since the beginning of the course I no longer felt any desire for pornography.


I highly recommend this course. It has made me focus more deeply than ever before on Christ's finished work of the cross, rather than on myself and my own (deficient) works, which has changed me from the inside out."


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Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free