The Power of the Cross: 51st Edition, September 30, 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. 


You are invited to join us this coming Monday (tomorrow), the 1st of October for a live, interactive learning course called “Set Free”. This is the third in a four-part live study series on how to be set free, and if you’d like to prepare please read Romans 6:7-10. To join simply click on
this link on Monday at 6:00 PM Pacific/9:00 PM Eastern. If your email does not take you to the correct link you can copy and paste this link into your browser: 

Or Telephone:
US: +1 408 638 0986
Meeting ID: 960 664 766


Also, we have recently started a prayer feed in order to keep you better updated on the prayer needs for our community. This tool will let us connect in prayer and efficiently communicate prayer needs to you, our prayer network!

Follow our prayer feed:

Use this link to follow our feed or to download the free Echo Prayer app. (If you are a new user on Echo, you'll need to come back to the link above after you've signed up in the app).

We are excited to see what God does as his people connect with Him through prayer!


This week’s teaching is the eighth 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 9: Forgiveness at the Cross of Jesus

Guilt is a common and long-standing human experience, as we previously studied in lesson 5 of this course. Because of the extreme importance of understanding guilt and how it is removed we’re going to look at a little different aspect of it in this lesson.

Guilt can be false or true, but it is always upsetting. It can cause tremendous distress to our whole person, causing loss of sleep, “pangs of conscience”, and feelings of remorse or fear. It can make our whole body tense, make our stomach clench, and even raise our heart rate and blood pressure. Guilt can, at times, be productive, but more often it acts like an undertow that drags us back out into the ocean of sin.

There are times when we feel guilty because simply put, we are guilty. There are other times when we feel no guilt, yet we are guilty and should feel it. As an example, the “adulterous woman” who, because she “offered her sacrifices” (Proverbs 7:14) felt no guilt, but she was, in fact, guilty of adultery. And there are times when we feel guilty, but it is false. Survivor guilt is a good example of this.

When contemplating guilt, it is important to note that guilt is not merely an emotion or a feeling, it is an actual, legal term. This is obvious when we are considering someone who has murdered, robbed, slandered, etc. someone else. The individual may be found legally guilty whether he feels guilt or not.

But it’s not just murderers and robbers who are legally guilty, the Scriptures tell us that we are all legally guilty before God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because we have all sinned, we are all guilty. We are guilty because of things we have done wrong, and we are guilty of not doing things we should have done. If taken before the Heavenly court on our own merits, each one of us would be shown a whole lifetime of sin and would hear the pronouncement of “Guilty!” as the Judge slams down the gavel. You know it, and I know it.

For the purposes of this lesson, we are addressing destructive guilt which acts like an undertow dragging us back out into the ocean of sin. For example, a person who has just eaten a huge fast food meal and knows they have “blown it”  will oftentimes want to eat an entire pizza to comfort themselves after their failure.

Or when a drunk person starts coming out of his stupor, he may want to immediately find more alcohol to numb the guilt feelings of getting drunk (Proverbs 23:35).

A person may have just committed sexual impurity, and  feel so entirely disgusted with themselves that they sit down and binge on porn to distract themselves from their feelings of guilt.

And on and on the list goes: whatever we feel guilty about we are doomed to repeat!

And, I’m sure you know this, it is impossible to get rid of guilt by our own efforts. Even if we tried to change our ways, to make amends, to turn over a new leaf and start doing better, to follow some rigid program of self-improvement, etc.; the reality is we are still guilty before God, and that is a fact that we are not able to change with any amount of self-effort. We live with plaguing guilt, it gnaws at us, it discourages us, it defeat us. Every one of us.

Question 1. What is your personal experience with guilt?

We have been studying through Colossians 2:9-15. We have previously seen how every problem of the human race is dealt with by the gospel. We’ve seen how the gospel deals with our emptiness, circumcises our “selfish me”, and how our old self was crucified with Christ, and we were raised with Him to a new life the moment we believed.

Now let’s notice how the gospel deals with one of the worst problems human beings have--guilt!

Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV) He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Because we are entirely unable to do anything about our guilt, God did something about it for us. God took all our sins off of us and put them on His own beloved Son, calling Him our “guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10), and then Jesus was nailed to a cross and put to death. Jesus paid the penalty of our sin to set us free. God has forgiven us of all sin and removed our guilt.

Question 2. According to Colossians 2:13-14, how did God cancel the charges against us, that is, our guilt and legal indebtedness?

Turn with me now and look at the events of the cross. Jesus had been declared innocent by both judges (Pilate and Herod) who examined him, but one of them, Pilate, gave into the angry Jewish mob who demanded His death. So even though Pilate had declared Jesus innocent, he sent Jesus away to be flogged; that is, to be beaten within an inch of his life. Then Pilate gave the order to crucify Jesus to pacify the demands of the blood-thirsty religious leaders.

The Roman soldiers twisted a crown of thorns together and smashed it down onto Jesus’ head, producing blood that ran down over Jesus’ face and shoulders. Then they beat Jesus, spit on Him, and plucked out His beard. These Roman soldiers went on to pound nails into Jesus’ hands and feet and ultimately pierce His side.

But according to Colossians 2:13-14 more was happening here than just the nailing of Jesus to the cross. God, Himself is actually nailing your record of wrongs to the cross of Jesus Christ. With each pound of the nail your “legal indebtedness” is literally being crucified. “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross!” (Colossians 2:14).

And watch now as they raise Jesus up and drop the cross into its holder. He is covered with blood. From the physical beatings and from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus He is no longer recognizable as a human being. If you were there you would be aghast as you looked up into Jesus’ face. You would say, “what is that? Is it a man? Is it a monster? What is it?” “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness!” (Isaiah 52;14).

But Colossians 2:13-14 says that what you should see when you look at the cross of Jesus is your entire list of wrongs, your “legal indebtedness”, the list that previously stood against you and condemned you with guilt, now being crucified, nailed to the cross with Jesus. That list is no longer recognizable or readable! Just think of it: the list that previously condemned you now condemned Jesus. That list is no longer yours! “He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross!

At the cross, God blotted out all your sins in Jesus’ blood, removed them from you and God promises to never bring them up again. He will remember your sins no more, and His legal pronouncement is “Not Guilty!”

Isaiah 43:25 (NIV) “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake,and remembers your sins no more.”

Now listen to what Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). And while this was said about those who were crucifying Him, it applies to you and I who likewise put Jesus to death by our sins. He was given our list of wrongs, each one of our sins, and He died with our guilt on Him; therefore you and I are completely forgiven. The list of our wrongs was removed from us. “He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross!

Jeremiah 33:8 (NIV) “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me.”

Yes, take it all in: sins of commission and sins of omission, sins done knowingly and sins committed in ignorance. Big sins, “little” sins, all sins. Yes, if you believe the gospel you are now entirely forgiven of each and every sin (past, present and future) and set free from them forever. “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).

Look at the cross again. Listen as the soldiers pound in the nails. The pounding of those nails is your list of wrongs being nailed to the cross: “murder, adultery, drunkenness, disobedience to parents, pride, greed, gluttony, idolatry, blasphemy, anger, profanity, witchcraft, negligent homicide, bestiality, theft, perverting justice, hatred, malice, foolishness, extortion, refusing to forgive.” This list “condemned us” but since they were placed on Jesus they condemned Him, the result being “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

And there it all hangs, all the sins of humanity on God’s holy Son who willingly assumed our guilt out of love, and was condemned in our place and died our death. All your indebtedness removed from you and nailed to the cross, nothing left to condemn you!

Hebrews 8:12 (NIV) “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Friend, please stop and consider what this means for you. Because of the cross, and your belief in it, you have no sin guilt on you. There is nothing to condemn you. You are set free. While “feelings” of guilt might remain for a time, you have no actual, legal guilt. “He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross!

All this means that you can live with literally no consciousness of sin. Complete freedom from guilt. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 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” (Hebrews 10:1-2).

Question 3. How do you see from Hebrews 10:1-2 that believers in Jesus can live with no consciousness of guilt?

While the Law, with its animal sacrifices, could never remove all feelings of guilt, the cross of Jesus Christ can and does. Yes, it’s possible, if we look at the cross, to “no longer feel guilty for our sins!

Finally, consider the implications of what happened at the cross. If guilt is the undertow that drags us back out into the ocean of sin, and the cross has removed all guilt, then there is nothing dragging us back out into sin. Do you see it? At the cross, Jesus Christ set all believers free! No sin, no guilt! Both sin’s penalty and sin’s power have been crucified.

This is one of the most amazing benefits Christians can ever experience--to understand that the removal of the guilt of sin also breaks the power of sin. For the believer there is simply no more “undertow” to drag us back out into the ocean of sin, as the entire ocean of sin was placed on Jesus!

Let’s consider some practical applications of this important teaching. If you’re struggling with guilt or guilt feelings:

  1. Confess your sins to God. Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.  Happy is the person whom the LORD does not consider guilty and in whom there is nothing false.  When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long. Day and night you punished me. My strength was gone as in the summer heat. Selah  Then I confessed my sins to you and didn't hide my guilt. I said, "I will confess my sins to the LORD, and you forgave my guilt. Selah” (Psalm 32:1-5 NCV).

  1. Turn away from sin. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)?

Let the truth of the gospel sink deep down into your heart and make real changes in your life. “If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

When you see that God turned His face away from His Son on the cross (for God cannot even look at sin - Habakkuk 1:13), let it move you to turn your face away from sin too. When you see that your sin crucified your Savior, let it move you to crucify your sin. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Question 4. According to Romans 2:4, what is the kindness of God, as shown to us at the cross, designed to do in our lives? What would that look like in your own life? Please share a detailed response here:

  1. Put all past sins and failures behind you, refusing to dwell on them anymore. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Before his conversion, Paul had terrorized the church--those memories were a great sorrow to him, but God taught Paul what to do with those thoughts. Likewise, if you have a recurring thought of a particular failure, a thought that won’t seem to go away, God invites you to bring that troublesome thought to the cross of Jesus as often as it comes to your mind.

Remember your list of wrongs was nailed to the cross and your guilt died. Let this response become a deeply ingrained habit so that every time you get the thought of the sin you’ve done, you immediately run to the cross with it. Forget your sinful past, brother or sister, and run straight ahead looking at Jesus.

  1. Don’t listen to the lies of the Accuser. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (Revelation 12:10).

The devil is called “the Accuser of our brothers and sisters”, because he throws our sin in our face and accuses us of it. We must learn how to redirect those accusations to the cross. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:11). At the cross, the devil was thrown down, and so were all his accusations against us. We will talk more about this in the next lesson.

As we conclude this lesson, the main thing to remember is that at the cross, Jesus Christ set us free from sin and from guilt, thereby setting us free from sin’s power. Oh yes, we can and do still sin, but it’s power has been broken, we’re released from bondage to sin, we’re captives set free now.

Question 5. Please state how God dealt with guilt, and how you are to deal with it now:

Lesson 9 Testimony: Hal

Hal writes, I was ten years old when I came to Christ. I knew then that I was a sinner and that Christ had died on the cross for my sins.  There is no doubt in my mind that I was saved and forgiven that day.

However, I didn't know that the cross had continuing power in my life, that it was not only the place where I was saved but also the place I should go to be continually sanctified.  Growing up, I believed that Jesus saved me and it was my job to live the Christian life.

As a teenager, I was exposed to pornography, and Satan used that to grab a hold of my heart and hold me back from becoming the man God called me to be.  All through high school and college and much of my adult life, I was a leader in my youth group and in my church but was still continually held hostage by pornography and impurity.  I didn't once return to the cross for the power to overcome my sins because I didn't know I could. I did the best I could with my own power and strength, and it was never enough. Eventually, I always fell again.

Last year, some of my sins became public and almost cost me everything.  I lost my job as an educator and I almost lost my family. I had truly come to the end of myself and had no idea what to do.  I had trusted in Christ to save me and done my best to follow Him, but I had failed again. One of my pastors reminded me that Jesus knew all of these sins I would commit over my entire life and died for me anyway.  He didn't just forgive the sins I had committed up until age ten, but He forgave all of them, even the ones I haven't committed yet. The heaviness of that weighed on me, and for the first time in a long time, the weight of what Jesus did was on my heart.

My wife and I started seeing a marriage counselor, and she recommended I meet with a friend of hers who suggested I go through Setting Captives Free.  This was the first time I saw that I needed to keep returning to the cross, day after day and that God would change my heart to desire the things that He does.  I don't have to try to live a righteous life anymore. I just need to go back to the cross, remember what Jesus gave up for me, and ask Him to keep changing me into the man He has called me to be.  

The last few months I've been seeking His face in a way I never have before.  As a result, I am becoming a better husband and father than I ever could have been on my own.  There are still hard days and hard conversations that we have to have, but they are worth it. Every day I go back to the cross, and God gives me the grace and mercy and strength I need to get through that day, and He changes me little by little.  His desires are becoming my desires, and I'm not trying to live righteously with my own strength anymore.

Question 6. Please share your thoughts on Hal’s testimony. Do you identify with any parts of it? Please explain:


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free