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The Power of the Cross: 31st Edition, April 22, 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. 

Do you struggle with guilt? If you still feel as though you are guilty for your sins that will keep you in bondage to them. This week’s study is designed to help you look at the cross and see that you not only have no sin but you also have no guilt, all because of what Jesus accomplished for you through His death and resurrection.

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Greetings again, friend and welcome back to the course.

Yesterday we looked at the solution of the gospel to give “hope…riches, and power” to all who repent and believe. This really is good news isn’t it? We who lived in the darkness of depression and despair gain hope through the gospel. We who had lost much and become impoverished through sin gain riches through the gospel. And we who were so very weak in sin, in fact, “powerless” (Romans 5:6), gain resurrection power through the gospel.

But there is an aspect of finding freedom from anxiety, depression and fear that must be discussed or there can be no real freedom: it is the subject of guilt. Guilt is something that keeps many people in the chains of darkness and despair, anxiety and fear. If you remain captive to habitual sin, guilt could be the reason, so let’s discuss this subject today.

Please read through the following passage of Scripture and provide your thoughts and answers below:

1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV)

Question 1. According to Hebrews 10 verse 1 quoted above, what could the Law, with all of its sacrifices not do?

It’s clear from the above passage that the reason the Old Testament sacrifices had to be repeated year after year is because they could never remove sin and make the worshipper perfect. If they could, they would not have had to be repeated over and over, year after year.

Question 2. According to Hebrews 10 verse 2 above, what remained on the consciences of people in the Old Testament?

Within the consciences of the Old Testament people there remained the awareness of sin; that is, remaining guilt. They were not ever free from guilt, as the blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse them from sin nor make them perfect (verse 4).

And this is a really horrible place to be; maybe you have experienced this remaining guilt before, I sure have. I’m not as much talking about guilt feelings, because feelings can deceive us. Some people don’t feel guilty even when they are. Others have false guilt feelings, where they feel guilty but in reality are not. Feelings are not a good measurement of whether a person is guilty or not. No, I’m not talking as much about guilt feelings as I am about actual guilt.

There was a time after I had sinned greatly that I was absolutely wracked with real guilt. My emotions were all over the place, up one day and down the next; I was entirely unstable. I turned to the bottle to try to drown it all out, to food to try to relieve the emptiness caused by guilt, to impurity and gambling as diversions. Of course nothing I turned to ever worked, and just like the people in the Old Testament, my guilt remained. And truth be told, numerous people today are on doctor-prescribed psychotropic drugs, because these mind-altering drugs often numb the effects of guilt.

Considering the truth that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34) it’s very important to understand that we all are born slaves of sin and under guilt. Paul says, “22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22—emphasis mine).

Question 3. What is your personal experience with guilt? Do you acknowledge that sin and guilt are inseparably connected? Have you ever, or do you now experience guilt feelings? If so, what have you done to try to alleviate them? Please share your thoughts on your own personal guilt here:

You know, the truth is that guilt drags us down and can, at times, absolutely overwhelm us. Guilt brings with it hot pangs of conscience, vicious reminders of our past and our failures and our sins. If we wanted to use an illustration we could say that guilt is like an undertow, which overwhelms us and drags us out into the ocean of sin. How many drunkards are merely trying to drown their guilt and stop past memories from flooding them? How many overeaters are merely trying to assuage their guilt? How many people who are taking very dangerous, mind-altering drugs are merely hoping for a quieting of their conscience, and to be done with the insidious voice of guilt once and for all?

And it is said that if all the people who are in an insane asylum or “mental health clinic” could find some way to get rid of their guilt they would become normal, healthy, productive members of society.

See the problem with guilt is that it brings with it condemnation and the fear of judgment. “26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27—ESV—emphasis mine). We know we’ve done wrong, we know our attitudes and actions have been sinful, and we are now guilty; therefore we stand before God condemned and ready to be judged. This is the real condition of all human beings by birth, regardless of whether they feel guilty or not.

And people under guilt try all kinds of things to escape it; they might become very religious, thinking they can remove their guilt by doing good works or ministering to others. Or they might go the other way and turn to all kinds of sinful diversions, hoping just to forget about their past and their pain for one moment. Often, as mentioned above, psychotropic drugs are used as “numbing agents” to try to quiet the voice of conscience (yet these dangerous drugs can open the door to demonic influences and so make things much worse, which we will see in a later lesson).

So what can be done about this problem? Is there any way for people who are indeed guilty to be set free? Because if there is, then the “undertow” would stop and we would no longer be dragged out into the ocean of habitual sin any longer. Our emotions would stop raging, our spirits would become calm and our lives would become stable.

The reality is that God has already done something about our guilt. We began this day with Hebrews 10:1-4 that left off with this statement “4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Now, notice the huge contrast between what bulls and goats could not do, and what Jesus did!

5 That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God— as is written about me in the Scriptures.’” 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:5-10 (NLT)

Question 4. What contrast is presented in verse 5 above?

Question 5. What contrast is presented in verses 8 and 9 above?

Question 6. Please write out verse 10 from above right here:

Wow, how amazing is that! Because the sacrifices of bulls and goats could never truly satisfy God, nor clear people of guilt, God gave Jesus Christ, His only Son, a body. A human body. The purpose of which was for Him to offer that body as a sacrifice for our sin, to remove our guilt. And through His sacrifice God set aside the Old Covenant of ongoing yearly animal sacrifices and established a New Covenant with His people, based on the completed work of the cross (see Matthew 26:28).

And so let us consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for a moment. Let us think of His body, His human body, that was prepared for Him to offer as a sacrifice. God prepared the human body of Jesus to have hands, not just for breaking bread to feed multitudes, not just for touching unclean lepers and healing them, not just for washing His disciples’ dirty feet, but for the purpose of them being nailed to the cross to remove our guilt and make us holy!

And the body of Jesus had legs and feet, not just for walking on water to show His divinity, not merely so Mary Magdalene had something on which to pour out her tears and her sweet perfume, but for the purpose of having nails driven into them on a cross, in order to remove our guilt and make us holy. Oh “how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of Him Who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings good tidings…” (Isaiah 52:7).

And the body of Jesus had a heart, a normal human heart, not just to keep Him alive as He went around doing good to all people, but for the purpose of having a Roman soldier stab it through with a sword, so as to prove His death on the cross, as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this in order to remove our guilt and make us holy.

The way that guilt is removed from us is to confess our sins: “8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)

Question 7. Would you like to confess your sins right now? Of course this can be a personal thing, and can be done just between you and God, but if you would like to write out your confession here we will pray for you:

I don’t know about you, but right about now I want to take that body of Jesus Christ into my arms and hold Him tight, and experience His embrace forever. I want to see His nail-pierced hands and feet, to touch the hole in His side like Thomas got to do, to just be in awe of One Who would purposefully suffer and die for me to remove my guilt and make me holy. And then I want to fall on my face and worship Him forever, like the elders do in Revelation 5:8.

Question 8. As you have considered the body of Jesus Christ offered as a sacrifice to remove your guilt and make you holy, what thoughts have you had about Jesus? Can you share them here?

Course member Donna writes: “Understanding how huge a sacrifice it was for him to take on human form and offer it up to be mistreated, mocked, and treated so savagely so my sin could be canceled and I could live in peace is mind-blowing. Who, but someone who loves me so much, would give themselves up like that? I mock him by not walking in the truth of having been set free from the guilt, shame and condemnation of my sin. The fact that I am made holy because of this is wild because I sure never thought of myself as holy...EVER.” 

Course member Michael writes: “I actually am speechless. His love is obviously immeasurable. Because he was willing to come down to earth and heal us when he obviously didn't have to - I want to worship him forever.”

You see the wonderful thing about the cross of Jesus Christ is that He took our sin and judgment and condemnation, thereby ridding us of all guilt. With our sin on Him, Jesus stood before His Father condemned, that we might stand before God justified. Romans 8:1 says “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” and the reason why there is no condemnation for us is because Jesus was condemned in our place. He took your punishment. He died your death. And all this so that we would “be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10).

So in our passage for today (Hebrews 10:1-10) we have seen several contrasts. We’ve seen the contrast of bulls and goats with the body of Christ. And we’ve also seen the contrast of the ongoing, yearly sacrifices with the “once for all time” sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.

Question 9. If the ongoing sacrifices of animals left the awareness of sin and guilt, what is the “once for all time” sacrifice of Christ supposed to convey to us? What contrast should we see here?

Course Member Vicky writes: “The continual sacrifices of animals were inadequate and so they left us with consciousness of sin, knowing that the whole, horrible bloody ritual would have to be repeated again and and again and still would not make us right with God. It was like making payments on a horrible loan where the most you could do was pay the interest, but never touch the principal owed. Even if the "interest" was paid by regular sacrifices, nothing was touching the principal debt of sin. That is, until Jesus came! He paid off the ENTIRE debt and took away the fear and guilt and daily torment of having the unpaid debt hanging over us.”

If the worshipers of the Old Testament still had their guilt, still had a conscious awareness of their sin because the sacrifice of animals could not remove that, we are just the opposite! We who have believed in Christ and repented of our sin should be aware of our cleansing in His blood, should be conscious of the complete forgiveness of our sin, should be mindful of the removal of our guilt through Jesus’ sacrifice. “13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (ESV)

Wow! How amazing to consider that our guilt is really, truly gone! How awesome to not have to look ahead to any judgment or condemnation, but rather to rejoice in our freedom from sin and guilt. What an amazing God we have Who removed our sin and guilt through the sacrifice of His One and Only Son! The Old Testament prophet Micah says it like this:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. Micah 7:18 (ESV)

Question 10. Please re-write Micah 7:18 above, placing your name in the verse wherever it might fit.

Course member Dale writes, “Who is a God like you, pardoning Dale's iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of my inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love for Dale. I woke this morning being bombarded by thoughts leading to depression and anxiety. I got up around five AM and went to my email inbox. A daily devotion by David Wilkerson was there (They are still releasing Wilkerson's devotions). This devotion was titled ‘FORGIVEN. He referenced Micah and other scriptures that describe the wonderful forgiveness that we have received and how God ‘will remember our sins no more’. I think God planned the timing of this devotion just for me.

Peter said: “38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39 ESV)

Question 11. Please re-write Acts 13:38-39 above, placing your name in the passage wherever it might fit.

Truly God “breaks the power of cancelled sin, and sets the captives free.” Jesus, thank You for your sacrifice on my behalf. Jesus, thank you for taking my place, suffering my death, removing my sin and ridding me of all my guilt. Jesus I cannot wait to see You, to have You in my arms, for then the longing will be over and we will be together forever, the Lover and the loved! Oh my Jesus!

Question 12. Do you want to say something to Jesus Christ right now? If so, feel free to do so here, and we will worship right along with you.

Course member Michael writes, “Jesus, thank you for what you've done for me! Thank you for setting me free, and thank you for offering yourself to your father so that we don't have to die the death that we deserve. I love you now and forever, and I don't know how to thank you other than to dedicate my life to worshiping you and glorifying you.”

Course member Donna writes, “Thank you, God, that I do not have to relive and reprocess all the sins I have committed over and over. Lord, I am so grateful that you replaced the yearly sacrificing of animals with the one-time sacrifice of your perfect and blameless son Jesus. The joy at knowing that you came to earth knowing what was ahead of you so I could be saved is unspeakable. You went to the cross in my place, took my darkness and sin on the cross with you and suffered and died for me. My sin is canceled with your death because I believe. Praise God, I don't have to carry the burden of sin because you already took it from me. Make me truly grateful thanking and worshiping you for the rest of my life and make me never again try to take back that guilt and shame that was buried in the tomb because that would be mocking the whole work that was done.”

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Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free