The Power of the Cross: 43rd Edition, August 5th, 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 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. 

This week’s teaching is the fifth lesson of our new group study, which will hopefully be available within the next year. The following is designed to be done over the course of one week, in preparation for meeting with your group to discuss and pray together. 

We have made each lesson contain 7 questions, so the study is done answering 1 question per day.

Setting Captives Free - Lesson 5: The Problem of Guilt, the Solution of the Gospel

Greetings again, friend and welcome back to the course.

There is an aspect of finding freedom that must be discussed or there can be no real freedom: it is the subject of guilt. Guilt keeps us in bondage.

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

"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

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.

When I lived in bondage to overeating and laziness, impurity and drunkenness, etc. I was literally 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 out the voice of conscience, 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, “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).

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, 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 continually 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. “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 by 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.

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!

"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

Question 3. What contrast is presented in verses 8 and 9 above?

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: “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

Please take a moment and watch the following video; think about the message in the song: (if you are doing this course in book form, please watch when able).

Question 4. Please share your thoughts about this worship song. What were your thoughts and feelings as you listened to the message of the song?

Friend it’s very important, right at the first part of this course, that you understand something: if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have absolutely no guilt. Jesus took it. Jesus died under its penalty. You are forgiven entirely, and owe nothing, and are free!

Further, you, from this point on, should not even have any awareness of sin. This is precisely what Hebrews 10:2, that we read earlier, teaches us: “Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.

Do you see it? “Would no longer have felt guilty for their sins!” My friend, as a believer in Jesus you have absolutely no guilt, and you should have absolutely no guilt feelings. Not even any awareness of sin.

Think of the worst thing you’ve done. That very thing is forgiven and paid for! Jesus took your sin and assumed your guilt and paid it off for you. It’s gone!

Think of any sinful bondage you’ve been involved in. It’s all paid for friend. It’s all taken off of you and put on Jesus, He suffered under the weight of it and freed you from it.   

I don’t know about you, but right about now I want to take 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 5. 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?

Christina writes, "Words can't ever describe what Jesus really did for me. The pain and suffering the shame and guilt, all that sin that he took was imaginable, but it was mine and I thank and praise God for Jesus, thank you Jesus thank you ,I pray that I never lose this moment of realization of what you truly did for me and how much you love me!"

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.

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. “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 delightful to consider that our guilt is really, truly gone! How thrilling 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:

"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  

Peter said: “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)

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 6. Do you want to say something to Jesus Christ right now? If so, feel free to do so here.

Lesson 5 Testimony: Erin

Erin writes, "I started the A United Front course at Setting Captives Free just days after my husband confessed his sexual impurity sins to me. I was completely crushed with more pain than I could bear and couldn't even imagine what the future would hold.

This course helped me take things one day at a time. A United Front helped me focus on Jesus, on His promises and on what Jesus had already done for me. This course helped me see my husband the way Jesus sees him. We both have experienced individual healing (he has been taking the Purity course at Setting Captives Free) as well as healing together in our marriage.

Setting Captives Free has enabled us to take our marriage to new heights. I am so thankful to God for this ministry and for the mentors who devoted themselves to walking with us through this difficult season of our lives.”

Question 7. What are your thoughts on the above testimony?


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free