The Power of the Cross: 195th Edition, August 29, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 195th Edition, August 29, 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.


The audio version of this newsletter can be found here.


Setting Captives Free’s Blog. Check out all our authors (mentors with Setting Captives Free) who are writing gospel blogs. It will be a feast for your soul!



Today we come to a thought-provoking portion of Galatians that explains the reason for 12-step groups, psychiatry, and why Christians often have no power in their daily lives or in the world around them. Let's look at it:

Galatians 5:11-12 (NIV) "Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"

If Paul had preached a message of circumcision (or Sabbath-keeping, obedience to the Old Covenant Law, or anything else that human beings could do), he would not have been persecuted as he was. Such teaching abolishes the offense of the cross. Paul is saying that the message of the cross is offensive.

The flesh gladly embraces a list of rules - special diets, exercises, group meetings, pills, boundaries, filters, or behavior modifications of any kind. Such things seem wise and reasonable, and because we avoid the offense of the cross, people don't speak out against us or persecute us. It's a win-win. And yet, it's entirely powerless. None of those "wise" and "reasonable" things can change a single human heart, none of them has the power to crucify the sinful nature, or raise the dead.

The teaching that we are addicts in recovery is palatable because it avoids the offensiveness of the cross. And believing that we only need to "come to terms" with the reason why we seek the pleasure of our "drug" of choice and then make a conscious decision "to refocus and put up proper boundaries," we avoid the offense of the cross entirely. And such counsel is altogether powerless! 

But why is the message of the cross offensive? Have you ever wondered why the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection to save us from our sins is such an offense, and therefore is left out of much Christian teaching? Here are six reasons, and maybe you can come up with even more:

First, the teaching of atonement offends our pride. Someone else had to make atonement for my sins? To say that I can do nothing to right my own wrongs is offensive; it hurts my pride.

Second, the message of the cross is simple teaching that offends man's wisdom. Our flesh wants to learn about neurons and brain receptors, synapsis, and to understand "why." The flesh is comfortable studying "food-ology" and learning how the body responds chemically to substances. Such "scientific" information gives us a sense of knowledge and security, but "Jesus died for my sin" is too simple. Nothing to see here. Let's move on to more profound and intriguing things!

Third, the cross as a remedy for man's ruin offends our supposed ability to help ourselves. Humanity loves self-help, and should we appear to succeed in helping ourselves, we are celebrated by those who applaud "the resilience of the human spirit." But the cross says we are dead in sins and trespasses, totally incapable of helping ourselves, so Jesus came and rescued me through His death. That's offensive!

Fourth, the message of the cross addresses everyone equally as sinners, which offends our natural propensity to excuse our wrong behavior. Oh, if only the truth were that we are addicts because it is in our genes. Now that’s acceptable because it means that our sin struggle is beyond our control. We were born this way—our struggles with food, alcohol, drugs, anger, etc., are not our fault. And while it is true that we are all born sinful, the cross declares we are without excuse. We are sinners facing the wrath of a holy God, doomed to eternal punishment, but Jesus made a way of escape for us. He stepped in and was punished in our place to free us from sin's power through His death and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, the message of the cross comes to a person with power only as a revelation from God, not through our ability to discover. Paul wrote, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). We can't come up with a way of freedom on our own; God has to reveal it to us. This truth is offensive to people who prize human wisdom, "scientific study," and modern thought.

Finally, the cross' purifying power offends the flesh's love of sin. The message of the cross means that my old nature, which loved to sin, has been put to death. To embrace the gospel means that we must die daily and put to death the deeds of the flesh. The cross is a massive offense to those who want to manage their sin or merely control their behavior.

Question: have you experienced any of these six ways of offense, or can you think of any other ways that the cross offends?



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:  



Devin writes, "I struggled with self-gratification and pornography for a long time. Eventually, I decided I didn't want to be hindering my relationship with God like that anymore. I wanted out of my lust. As I tried to free myself, I found that whatever short temporary freedom I won would end in a relapse where I would dive even deeper into sin than I was before. I became worried that my life would always be a series of relapses in sexual impurity. It was at this point that I found Setting Captives Free and the Purity Bootcamp course.


God has used this course and my mentor to bring me closer to Jesus and the Cross than I have ever been. My mind has been blown by what I've learned. There have been times in my spiritual journey where God has taken me to the next big level in my faith, and this was one of those times.


I have been washed and freed from my impurity. I learned that when I'm tempted, I go to the Cross, and my flesh's power becomes like trying to light a match underwater. Now at the end of the course, I don't just go to the Cross when I'm tempted, but I've begun going to the Cross regularly all the time because I truly like being there. It is an intimacy and joy unlike anything else.


Taking this course has grown my spiritual life in all aspects. I go the Cross with all my sins now. My pride and my shame are gone. Jesus took them, died with them, and buried them. I'm free from my chains. I'm a new man, and I'm pure and holy before God. My relationships have been affected too. I'm no longer bitter and snappy at my loved ones, and I've enjoyed new opportunities to share the Gospel with my close friends.


I encourage everyone to take this course. If you struggle with pornography and self-gratification, God will use this course to set you free. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, I recommend Setting Captives Free to bring you closer to the Cross. Glory to God! Everyone needs to hear and understand the Gospel, and this website does an excellent job of teaching it."

Christine writes, "Since taking the Setting Captives Free Freedom from Fear and Anxiety course, I feel freedom in Christ alone. There is no way for me to be free from fear and anxiety without seeing Jesus on the cross. He did it all for me.


I am learning to be content in all circumstances regardless of what the world is throwing at me.  And to lay all my burdens at Jesus' feet and, above all else, wash daily at the cross so that I can bask in His love and see Jesus Christ as my saving grace. He is my Redeemer and complete support. Without Him, I am ill-equipped to survive.


Jesus is the only way; He will feed and sustain me. Focusing and centering on Jesus and walking in humility with Him is the key! Praise God; He is for me!"


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. 


For wonderful, powerful, gospel-full writings, we recommend subscribing to


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free