The Power of the Cross: 27th Edition, March 25, 2018

Mike Cleveland

Hello friend,


Welcome to the new subscribers just joining our newsletter. We publish once per week on Sunday. The newsletter alternates a short gospel teaching on one week with testimonies from Setting Captives Free students on the following week. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.


We are working hard on the group study, our expectation is to have it complete by August of this year. Here is the next lesson in the study. Again, like last time, feel free to hit reply, answer the questions below, and send them to us. We’ll respond if able.

Lies=Slavery but Truth=Freedom, Practical Application


In the last lesson, we studied through John chapter 8 where Jesus made a very clear point: lies=slavery but truth=freedom.


In this lesson, we want to look specifically at some lies our culture teaches that, if believed, will keep us enslaved to sin. With each lie, we will see how the gospel of Jesus Christ refutes the lie and calls us to believe something different instead, something that sets us free.


By way of introduction, let us examine the way to know if a particular teaching leads to captivity or freedom:


Colossians 2:8 (ESV) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.


Question 1. According to Colossians 2:8, how can we determine whether a particular teaching leads to captivity or freedom?


Colossians 2:8 tells us that there is a philosophy that is deceptive, and the deception “takes you captive.” Lies=slavery. It tells us the way to determine if it is “empty deceit” which “takes you captive” is that the teaching is “not according to Christ.” Meaning it does not come from Christ, is not according to the teaching of Christ, is not rooted in the gospel of Christ.


So now we have a very clear way to examine all spiritual teaching and determine if it is going to “take us captive” or set us free. We ask ourselves: is it centered in Christ? “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36). And more specifically, is it in accordance with the gospel?


Let’s look now at some deceptive teachings that, while popular in our world, have led to numerous people remaining captive, and as we do so we will examine the truth that sets us free by way of comparison:


Lie number 1: Once an addict always an addict


This lie has several variations, such as: “I was born this way” and “I can’t change.”


The idea here is that once I develop a harmful habit such as drug or alcohol abuse, eating too much food, smoking cigarettes, viewing pornography, etc., I have become “addicted.” And this addiction persists even if I am able to stop doing the behavior for an extended period time.


The experts claim that addiction is due to an overproduction of so-called “pleasure chemicals” in the brain which are caused by the abuse of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. so that when I stop my harmful behavior, I will experience cravings which will eventually push me back to my harmful habit.


Question 2. What has been your experience with cravings when you try to stop your habitual sin?


The world teaches the concept because they think it helps people stay vigilant in avoiding their harmful habits, and yet when we test this teaching we find that it is empty and deceptive, as it does not recognize the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not state “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” and then stop; no, He went on to say, “but if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36). Likewise, we should learn to finish our sentences. “Once an set free by Jesus!”


Answer from the cross:


“Romans 6:6 (NCV) We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin.”


Question 3. How does the truth of Romans 6:6 contradict the lie of “once an addict always an addict?”


Here is the power of the cross. Notice what this passage says:


  1. Our old life died with Christ on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross the addict died! Your entire past, with its bondage and slavery to sin was crucified on a cross and buried in a tomb.


2.                 So that our sinful selves would have no power over us. The cross not only removes guilt and shame, it also breaks the power of sin. When you believe the message of the cross you understand that your “sinful self” that lived to gratify itself died, and it can no longer dominate you. Whenever you experience the “craving” for your particular sin, you look to the cross and see your old addict-self suffering, bleeding, gasping for air and breathing its last. There’s the power of sin--dead!


3.                 So that we would not be slaves to sin. Remember from a previous study, “anyone who has died is made free from sin's control” (Romans 6:7). This is how the Son sets you free: He died for you, you died in Him. He did this for you so that you “would not be a slave to sin”. Now you are “free from sin’s control”!


“Once an addict always an addict?” False, for those whom the Son sets free!


This truth also nullifies the worldly concept of “I can’t change”. Of course, we can change. When a person dies there’s a big change. He or she stops doing sinful things, the power of sin is broken in their lives (Ephesians 4:20-24).


The cross also negates the idea that “I was born this way”, the implication being, “it’s who I am” and “I can’t change who I am from birth.”


No, but you can die! To be clear, I’m not referring to physically dying, I’m referring to placing faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and so being spiritually put to death with Jesus and rising to new life in Him. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer lives…” (Galatians 2:20).


Most people who have embraced a certain lifestyle can remember having those thoughts and desires clear back into their childhood. This makes sense because we are all born sinful with wrong thoughts and desires, with temptations that come at us from birth. I can remember thinking certain sinful thoughts when I was 5 years old, thoughts that would begin to dominate me in my teen years, and then consume my life in my 20’s and 30’s.


But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ, when I stopped what I was doing long enough to turn and look at the cross, I saw the same truth the Apostle Paul saw: “I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore--it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me” (Galatians 2:20 NCV).


To say, “it’s who I am, and I must accept who I am” is teaching that is “not according to Christ” and therefore “empty deception” which “takes you captive” (Colossians 2:8). “It’s who I am” is only true until you die. Then it’s not who you are any more.


Notice the powerful change that happened to these people:


1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NCV) Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God's kingdom. Do not be fooled. Those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob--these people will not inherit God's kingdom. 11 In the past, some of you were like that, but you were washed clean. You were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.


Question 4. How does 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 show that people can and do change through the cross and the Spirit of God?


1 Corinthians 6:9-11 show the “dynamite” power of God (Romans 1:16-17) to entirely transform a life, making drastic changes at the heart level that show up in the actions and behaviors.


Notice the following from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:


  1. At the cross people are “washed clean.” Sin makes us dirty, defiled, unclean. At the cross Jesus washed believers with His own blood, making us clean in God’s sight. “It was not because of good deeds we did to be right with him. He saved us through the washing that made us new people through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).


2.                 At the cross people are set free.In the past, some of you were like that.” He is referring to the fact that these people had been sexually impure in all kinds of ways, they were habitual thieves and liars, drunks and idol worshippers. They were slaves to sin. But they were set free, washed clean, made new. Yes, people can indeed change.


3.                 At the cross people are made right with God. “You were made holy, you were made right with God.” Sometimes people try all their lives to be right with God, trying to do good works or be religious or stop doing certain behaviors. It’s important to know that Jesus made all believers right with God when He died on the cross.


Once an addict always an addict? The cross of Jesus Christ proves this to be false! May I encourage you to never refer to yourself as an addict, or “an addict in recovery” again? It’s simply not true. Begin to think in terms of your new identity: a captive set free!


Here are some worldly words and the truth we should replace them with:


  • Addiction: “Slavery” (John 8:32).
  • Acting out or Misbehaving: “Sinning” (John 8:32). Jesus Christ didn’t die for our “acting out”, we should not minimize the sin that cost Jesus His life.
  • Triggered: “Tempted” (if “triggered” we can blame others...she “triggered” me, and I have no recourse but to “act out.”). The truth is we are not “triggered” but rather “tempted” and we do not have to sin. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).
  • Sober: “free indeed” (John 8:36). “Sobriety” only means the behavior has changed, whereas Jesus changes our hearts, causing us to begin to detest our previous sin and love Him. This changes our behavior and makes us free, free indeed!
  • Relapse: “stumble”, “fall into a trap.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
  • Recovery: “freedom” (John 8:36). Christian, you are not “in recovery”, you are “free indeed.” This is a huge difference. Temptations will come so we must remain vigilant and careful, but we’re not “in recovery.”


Lie Number 2: My situation is worse than other people’s.


Or, my situation/circumstances are special. I’m not like everybody else. My sin is much deeper than others, my problems go way back, and my addictions are more severe, etc.


1 Peter 5:8-9 (NCV) Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat.  Refuse to give in to him, by standing strong in your faith. You know that your Christian family all over the world is having the same kinds of suffering.


Question 5. How does 1 Peter 5:8-9 show that all temptations from the devil are common to all believers?


It’s important to realize that if you believe your problems with temptation are more severe or deeper than others, you will remain a captive. You are believing a lie. Notice the two truths that 1 Peter 5:8-9 teach:


  1. You have a strong enemy. His strength, as we have previously seen, is in deception. He is so strong in presenting lies that he is compared to a roaring lion. And he wants to devour you, tear you to pieces and eat you up. In other words, he wants to destroy your life like a lion would maul a lamb and eat it for lunch.


2.                 The devil’s temptations are common to everyone. Your Christian family all over the world suffers the same way you do. The same temptation you have to ___________ (fill in the blank) is the same temptation a believer who lives in Taiwan is presently experiencing, which is the same temptation a believer who lives in Russia or the UK, Scotland, India and Myanmar are all experiencing.


1 Corinthians 10:13 (NCV) The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.


Answer from the cross:


2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NCV) All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him. 19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace.


Question 6. How does 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 show the power and extent of the cross?


Look at the cross just now: see Jesus taking on Himself sexual impurity of all kinds, sinful use of drugs and alcohol, gluttony and greed, lust and lying, abuse of all kinds. Like a low pressure storm that sucks in everything in its path, Jesus is drawing in all the evil of the world, every sin imaginable, from everyone who believes, all of it cascading in and slamming down right on Him.


  • At the cross, God in essence declared war on His own Son, that He might be at peace with you. He held Jesus guilty for your sins that there would be no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1).


  • And it’s not just your sins and my sins, God justified the whole world of believers at the cross. No sin too great, no deception too severe, no captivity too long, Jesus removed it all and died for it all!


“The Bible says Jesus death was a once-for-all-time sacrifice for sin that has made perfect forever those who are being made Holy (Hebrews 10:12-14). ‘Once-for-all-time’ means His death covered every sin from the beginning of time until the end. ‘Made perfect forever’ means every sin of our lifetime was paid for with His blood. ‘Made holy’ means we are sanctified, set apart from profane things and dedicated to God. Colossians 2:13-14 confirms this.”


Below are some additional lies with a short starter comment on how the truth replaces the lie.


Question 7. Pick one (or more) below and show how the cross of Jesus Christ replaces the lie that enslaves with the truth that frees. Please use Scripture and be thorough in describing the cross.


1.        God wants me to be happy. Yes, He does; this is why He sent Jesus to remove the guilt of your sin and break the power of your sin and set you free. Whoever heard of someone who is enslaved, who is in bondage, a trapped captive being happy? Through believing in Jesus and turning from sin we become free and happy.


2.        God doesn’t want me to suffer. “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).


3.        Every person does this—self gratification is normal. On the cross Jesus didn’t gratify His flesh, rather He crucified it.


4.        My sin doesn’t hurt anyone. Jesus was beaten and bloodied and bruised and pierced, He was crucified and killed...because of our sin. David’s sin of numbering his troops caused the death of 70,000 men (2 Samuel 24). Is it possible you mean, instead, that “It doesn’t bother me that my sin hurts others”?


5.        The path to freedom is in opening up and talking about the issue. Here the light of “awareness” is attempting to replace the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).


6.        I’ve been in recovery for x amount of years. Jesus died to set you free.


7.        I have triggers that make me sin. You have temptations to which you do not need to succumb, for Jesus’ death destroyed your “old self.”


8.        God doesn’t love me or God’s love for me is demonstrated in my circumstances. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).


9.        I need pills to be a Christian. I need food to keep me from being mean. I need a beer to relax.


10.      Write out your own lie or one you’ve heard others use and the truth that brings freedom.


Question 8. Please make a summary of what you have learned or been reminded of in this lesson:


Question 9. How will you know whether teaching you hear in the future is “empty and deceptive” or is truth that sets us free?




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Mike Cleveland

Volunteer for Setting Captives Free