Topics

The Power of the Cross: 46th Edition, August 26, 2018


Mike Cleveland
 

Dear friends,

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. 

In last week’s newsletter I announced the dates for our upcoming live, interactive study. The dates were correct but the days were wrong. Here are the corrected days:

Tuesday September 4
Tuesday September 11
Monday October 1
Monday October 8

All times are at 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM Eastern


Here is the link to click on for the first one, Tuesday September 4th: https://zoom.us/j/850764105 

Before sharing a few testimonies this week I want to encourage you to listen to a sermon. If there was one sermon that explains exactly what is needed to experience both salvation and transformation this is it. Here is the sermon, click here! Or if your email program doesn’t recognize the link, copy and paste this: http://manzanitabaptist.org/sermons/cut-to-the-heart/

Though we have many courses of study at Setting Captives Free, and more coming online shortly, this week I want to focus on the issue of purity. The devil is snipe shooting at men and women today in the area of sexual impurity, and because our culture approves of much of it he is taking them out left and right. The battlefield is littered with people who used to profess faith in Christ but have now become captive to sexual impurity.

Well too bad for Satan, the gospel of Jesus Christ is more powerful than sexual impurity. The gospel is so powerful it can raise people up from the battlefield and put them back into the service of Jesus Christ. This happens as God gives grace to the fallen, forgives their sin and empowers them for walking upright and living holy lives. 

Here are two written testimonies, and an audio testimony that describe this very thing:

Ted writes, "I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian church that was very much about following the commandments and rules laid out in scripture. I knew the story of the gospel, prayed the prayer I don’t know how many times, and yet there wasn’t a true intimate relationship with God. I was about 11 or 12 when my curiosity about other guys started to find its way online. I didn’t fully understand what I was looking at yet I liked it and returned many times, allowing myself to live in the dark.

I went to youth group but continued looking at pornography in high school and sinning with self gratification. I did my best to avoid same sex pornography but the desire and lustful thoughts about other guys was still there along with envy. It was when I went to college that I saw Christians who didn’t live in the dark and whose lives so clearly revolved around the Lord it made me take a look at my own relationship with Christ. Through a mission trip and very intentional quiet time I finally experienced an intimate two-way relationship with the Lord. Scripture that always confused me, spoke to me. I desired John 14:15, not from a legalistic standpoint but because I loved the Lord and wanted to follow his instruction because I knew he loved me by dying on the cross. God didn’t have to make it that way but he designed it to demonstrate his great love by taking on such a painful payment for my sins. 

So I started to repent. I was baptized, I started to serve more in campus ministry eventually leading bible studies and evangelizing to strangers. God was using me in great ways and I went about a year free from pornography.  

Then I returned from a two month mission trip abroad and the accessibility of porn lodged its way into my mind and I struggled more than I had. Fortunately, I confessed to a Christian brother and we’ve kept for several years now daily accountability. However, I still couldn’t confess my struggle with same sex attraction. I was indulging in same sex pornography worse than ever and started leading a double life as I served at a new church after college. I led a youth group but secretly kept sinning. The intimacy I had with the Lord in college was lacking the more I indulged. My friend recommended Setting Captives Free 1.0 and I completed the course and went through periods of freedom but its focus was more on destroying outward stumbling blocks to sin and I would be back in lust soon enough.

Same sex pornography began to take over in my life and I walked away from serving in the church. After moving out of state I met a wonderful Christian woman I would eventually call my wife. Her love for the Lord encouraged me but even in dating I was absorbed in self gratification. Upon engagement I told myself no more same sex hard pornography and the Lord has delivered me from that for almost a year. I confessed to her a few months before marriage everything. 

Her compassion and grace reminded me of the Lord and in preparing for marriage I returned to find a new Setting Captives Free focused on the gospel of grace. Being repeatedly reminded that I was not alone in my situation and looking to the cross and price Jesus paid so I could be free has helped me walk through a period of greater worship and freedom. It’s still a process but walking in the light and remembering I’m forgiven have helped enormously. I thank the Lord for what he did on Calvary, for the hope I have for the future as I now walk the first few weeks of my marriage with my wife and the Lord.”

------

John writes, "I was raised in a Christian home and always remember going to church. I was active in the youth group, went on numerous summer camp trips, and even on a mission trip, but I still didn’t truly understand the Gospel or know without a shadow of a doubt if I was Heaven bound when I died.

It all began when I was about 8 years old looking for nude pictures of women, and my sin steadily escalated to seeking out pornographic movies in high school. I even stole my dad’s credit card one time just so I could call a sex chat line. I was in bondage to self-gratification. After I graduated high school, I joined the Air Force and left home where much backsliding and sin of all kinds would take place.

I ended up far from God, overseas, living in immorality with my girlfriend. But even in this deep valley of sin, God did not abandon me. I ended up marrying this girl, and she actually got saved a few years later and finally, I started to get convicted of my sins at this point. We were due to be leaving again for our next base and I was determined to make this situation right so I began looking for a church. Again, praise to God that He sent us to an awesome church that taught us the Bible and we grew in our faith. And now, my entire family was saved, but was I?

The church was great as we learned and got closer and closer to the Lord. Unfortunately, I still had a massive appetite for sexual sin. I still liked the movies and always ended up feeding my flesh to the point of more self-gratification. And at this time, I was a leader in the church and active in nearly every ministry, yet still loved sexual sin.

I understood the Gospel of how Jesus went to the cross and shed His precious blood for me, was beaten, murdered, and then buried. He did this because He loved me and because my sins had to be paid for. He covered all of my sins and removed every single one of them, past, present, and future, and as far as the east is from the west. And the great news is He arose, and He is now up in Heaven interceding for us on the right hand of God! And yet, something was wrong.

Sexual sin was still prevalent in my life, and it just made my life miserable. I was always trying so hard to get the victory and failing. But then I came across Setting Captives Free where I saw the cross in a completely different light. It is the cross where Christ's work was finished. It is the cross where He died for our sins. It is the cross that we can constantly go back to and get strength, power, and comfort. It is truly our Haven of Rest. I have learned to turn to the cross to find daily freedom from sexual sin.

While I am far from perfect and still have my struggles and failures from time to time, I now know where to get peace, forgiveness, and mercy – At the Cross! As the old hymn says, "At the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day."

I hope to be part of this ministry for a very long time, God willing. I never understood the importance of the cross until now, thanks to Setting Captives Free!


----------

Next, listen to Ryans amazing testimony of a life of Judaism, Buddhism, witchcraft, Reiki and impurity to freedom at the cross of Jesus Christ: https://soundcloud.com/mike-cleveland-583085544/ryans-testimony 

Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free