The Power of the Cross: 196th Edition, September 5, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 196th Edition, September 5, 2021

Greetings friends,


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What is Christian freedom? If we say, “it’s freedom from the Old Covenant Law, and freedom from habitual sin,” that’s true, but it’s only partially true. What is the whole truth? That Jesus’ death’ on the cross also freed us to love and humbly serve each other! That’s total Christian freedom. Let’s see this in our text for today:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15).


When we first read these verses in Galatians, we might remember Jesus' answer to the question about which is the greatest commandment in Mark 12:30-31, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.


Considering Jesus’ words, we might wonder if Paul is teaching that we are free from some of the Old Covenant Law (the part about loving God) but still obligated to the part about loving our neighbor as ourselves. However, if we consider the context of Galatians 3:13-15, we find that Paul does not point us back to the Old Covenant but points us to the New Covenant that Jesus instituted through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

Remember, before Jesus died, He instructed His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). And later, John reiterates this truth when he writes in 1 John 3:23, "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."


In this way, we understand that when Paul speaks of fulfilling the law by loving our neighbor, it is not an old covenant command to which Paul is referring but a new covenant one.   


In the Old Covenant, the Law was an external list of rules to guide God's people to sort of "fence in" their behavior, but it could not change their hearts which is the Law from which Jesus freed us!


Yes, Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death, but we aren't to use our freedom as a license to live in a selfish, self-serving way. Instead, we are to look to the cross of Christ and remember Jesus' love for us. 

And what do we see when we look there? 

Look at the cross and see Jesus humbling Himself. He humbled Himself from God to man, from man to servant, from servant to a criminal's cross. He humbled Himself to the pouring out of His blood, to the breathing out of His Spirit. Why? To humbly serve you in love, forgiving you of every sin, canceling your debt, freeing you from all guilt. And once we receive that? Out of the overflow of the love of God that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts, we can then humbly serve one another in love.  Galatians 5:14 says that we fulfill the "law" of the new covenant when we do, and by contrast, we destroy each other when we don't.


Do you see how remembering the gospel and not being distracted from it is essential to our life in Christ and a healthy church?  Keeping the gospel of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-6), keeping our eyes on Jesus, and remembering His death and resurrection for us empowers us in our day-to-day living. Focusing on the cross enables us to keep the mind of Christ that humbly led Him there to save His enemies (Philippians 2:5-11) and to serve His people. 

Yes, at the cross, Jesus humbly served us, in love, so that we can serve one another in love, and so we can avoid destroying the body of believers that Christ died to save.   

Question: How does looking at the cross of Christ free you to serve others humbly in love?



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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Scott writes, "I was deeply impacted by how looking to Jesus relates to so many weighty issues in life. It seems so obvious from the surface. However, as I did the Looking to Jesus devotional, I realized how I wasn't looking to Jesus in these circumstances. So this devotional helped to show me that the gospel affects every part of life.


I recommend this study. It is a great way to soak in the power of the gospel."        

Elizalde writes, "The Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course has been of tremendous blessing to me. When I first started, I thought it would be just an overview of all the things I already knew and that I already had control of my sin, but I was wrong.


"I" (on my own) am not able to free myself from sin. Since I was fourteen, I struggled with pornography and had tried to free myself from it repeatedly but failed every single time. After praying and asking for freedom from Jesus for many years, I came to the point where I just gave up and thought that I would be enslaved to impurity for the rest of my life. But God's timing is perfect, and now that I'm married and have two beautiful boys, Jesus has finally answered my prayers. He has set me free and has given me a new life, a life with a new meaning and purpose. I praise and rejoice in the Lord because He has set me free. I look forward with excitement for the future and have shared my testimony with friends around me. I'm especially thankful because when the time comes, and my two boys face the struggle that I did for so many years, I will share my testimony with them and give all praise to Jesus, so they know that they will find freedom in Him.


My relationship with my wife is the best it's ever been, and this has brought both of us closer to God. All the praise and glory be to Jesus, I can't thank Him enough for His beautiful sacrifice at the cross.


My mentor, Ken, is my pastor at church, and he took me through this course. I pray that God will bless this great man of God! He has been a blessing to my family and me since we first met him.


The Purity Bootcamp course is Christ-centered, backed by His Word, and teaches you that Jesus is the only One that can set you free.


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