The Power of the Cross: 53rd Edition, October 14, 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. 


We just released a new course called Set Free by Love: Stories of Transformed Lives. These are testimonies of Setting Captives Free mentors and others showing that the gospel of Jesus Christ can set anyone free from anything. You can view the course here:


We have released our next course called “Set Free”, which is recordings of the live, interactive teaching sessions we held over the past month or so. You can see the course here:

Thanks to many of you who participated in this class, as we all looked at how the gospel sets us free, using Romans chapters 5 and 6 as our study.


This week’s teaching is the tenth 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 10: Rescued from Satan’s Power at the Cross

Colossians 2:15 (NIV) And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Recently my wife and I watched an episode of “I Survived”. One of the stories was that of a young lady telling about how she survived being molested, raped, and eventually abducted by a neighbor. Her abuse started and the age of 9 and culminated in her abduction at the age of 13. Her abductor forced her to view pornography and act as his sex slave. He used her, beat her and no doubt would have killed her if it had suited his purposes. Obviously, this was heart rending to watch, and made us both angry and sad at the same time.

Finally, after 105 days of captivity, FBI agents broke into the hotel room where this girl was being held, subdued her captor and rescued this young lady. We were relieved and elated as we saw actual video footage of this young 13 year old girl, still under the protection of the FBI being returned to her mother, reunited after 3 and half long months of torture.

Think about something for a moment: could this young lady have simply decided to break out on her own and go free? Made a decision to leave her abductor’s hotel room? Could she have overpowered her abductor and escaped? Obviously, not! Her captor was much too strong, and she was just a child.

And now consider the parallels between this girl’s story and ours. You and I have been taken captive by the evil one, the god of this world, from birth. We’re in his kingdom, under his power, heavily guarded so that there is no possibility of escape on our own. This is exactly what the Bible teaches:

Satan, whose name means adversary, is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). He “leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9), and “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). By birth we are in “the trap of the devil” as he had “taken us captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Think what this means: the whole world is entirely unprotected from Satan, they simply have no defense against his lies and seduction. They are a ready target for him, and they easily succumb to his temptations and then must endure his accusations.

The devil was active in seducing me for the purpose of putting me into spiritual bondage, for trapping me and taking me captive, for enveloping me in a dark cloud of depression, etc. His purpose was my physical and eternal death, as he comes to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10).

Question 1. What is the purpose of Satan in taking people captive?

Could you and I, having been taken captive to Satan the god of this world, simply have decided to be free? Could we overpower our abductor and escape? Exercise our “free will” and leave? I think you would agree, there is absolutely nothing we, or any other human being could do to set ourselves free from a spiritual prison.

Luke 11:21-22 (ESV) When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.

Jesus Christ did something about our captivity to Satan. Jesus Christ is the “one stronger than he”, and at the cross, Jesus Christ “attacked and overcame him”, that is He “stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless” (Colossians 2:15 NCV). With His cross Jesus defeated the enemy, overcame the strongman, and publicly displayed that Satan was now powerless! The cross was Satan’s defeat and our victory!

And why did Jesus do this? What was the purpose of Jesus defeating Satan on the cross? Colossians 1:13 tells us:

Colossians 1:13 (NIV) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

Jesus defeated the devil for the purpose of rescuing us, just like the FBI agents subdued the young girl’s captor so they could rescue her.

Question 2. According to the teaching today, what all did Jesus do in order to rescue us on the cross?

When we watched that “I survived” episode it was truly amazing to see the sheer force and strength of the FBI. You should have seen the SWAT team breaking in, subduing the young girl’s captor and rescuing her from his hell hole. It was thrilling to watch and my wife and I were cheering for her rescue. And when she was reunited with her mom it made us cry tears of joy and thankfulness for her rescue.

Question 3. What does it mean to you personally that Jesus rescued you from Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of darkness, and that He set you free from it?

Let’s think of what this means for us today:

Application: Satan is the Tempter. He is subtle and crafty, knows exactly what to hold up in front of our eyes to get us to forsake everything important to us and run after his enticements. When we were in his kingdom we were under his power and control, so any temptation he dangled in front of us we would give in to, having no power to resist. And we did so to our own detriment, and that of our friends and family or anyone close to us.

But now we have been rescued at the cross, and through our faith in Christ. On the cross Jesus entered the darkness, subdued the strongman (Satan), rendered him powerless and stole all his goods (us), completely depopulating his kingdom. Jesus defeated the devil and strung him up on the cross to display his powerlessness, and now we are no longer “under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Since we are no longer in his kingdom nor following him, we do not need to submit to his suggestions, accept his propositions, or give in to his temptations.

Now, because of Jesus rescuing you out of darkness, out of Satan’s kingdom, you actually have power and authority over Satan rather than him having power and authority over you! “Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you” (Luke 10:19). This verse is not referring to actual “snake handling”, but rather to the spiritual power and authority a believer has over the enemy: our victory is over “...the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world” (Ephesians 6:12).

As Satan approaches you with the familiar suggestion to take his bait and run into the nearest grave to sin with it, you are no longer obligated to obey. Satan is no longer your master, he has no power to dominate you and force you to submit. Jesus entered the darkness for you, wrestled the evil one to the ground, subdued him and defeated him, rescued you out of his kingdom and gave you authority over him.

My friend, stop letting the evil one trample you. Learn to look at the cross and instead trample the “snake”! Ask God to help you experience the “power that is greater than the enemy has” that you might walk right out of his temptation lair, even if you’ve lived in it for many years.

Illustration: as you know every teaching in the New Testament is illustrated with an Old Testament story. Let’s look at one today.

The story we will read is about a group of kings from long ago that came and ransacked the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, taking a man by the name of Lot and his family captive, and about the events that followed. Please read the following passage and then answer the questions below:

Genesis 14:11-16 NIV  The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away.  (12)  They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.  (13)  A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram.  (14)  When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  (15)  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.  (16)  He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

Question 4. According to Genesis 14:11-12, what happened to Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and all that he owned?

In the above passage, Lot was taken captive by enemy kings and carried off as plunder. He was no longer a free man but rather a captive, under the authority of the enemy kings, living in enemy territory.

We, like Lot in the Genesis 14 story, were taken captive by the enemy, had lost all our freedom and were under the influence and power of the enemy of our souls. This showed up in our captivity to pride, envy, alcohol, drugs, impurity, cigarettes, shopping, anger, bitterness, food, religion, and all other kinds of captivity.

Notice, it was “at night” that Abraham came to Lot’s rescue. He defeated the enemy, rendered them powerless and rescued Lot. Clearly, Abraham loved his nephew Lot, to assemble an army and go in to retrieve him under the cover of darkness, at the risk of his own life. Because of Abraham, Lot was a captive set free!

Abraham acted much like Jesus who entered the darkness on our behalf when, at the cross, He “defeated the powers and authorities” and “rescued us from the dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). He did this out of a heart full of love for you, a desire to rescue you and take you to be with Him, loving and preferring you over His own life.

Question 5. According to Genesis 14:16, how thorough was the rescue that Abraham performed?

This particular aspect of Abraham’s rescue of Lot is very important, showing the complete and entire recovery of not only Lot but also his family, all his possessions, and all other people. It was a thorough rescue, a deliverance that was complete and included everyone and everything that had been taken.

Dear friend, I want to invite you to turn your eyes to the events surrounding the cross of Jesus Christ, and as we look together, we will see Jesus doing exactly what Abraham did.

We’ve seen that Jesus was stripped naked, then beaten and bruised, had His beard plucked out, His back torn to shreds, and His face pummeled, all while wearing a crown of thorns.

Then they put a cross on His back and He carried it out the city gates of Jerusalem, up the dusty hill called Mt. Calvary. This mountain is a trash heap where trash continually burns and where criminals are crucified. I say this with all respect, but at the cross Jesus had our sin on Him and God was taking out the trash. He is taking your sins to a hill where they will be crucified and burned up. #SincineratedForever!

There they laid Him on that cross and pounded nails into His hands and feet. “The hand squeezing the handle of the hammer was not truly a Roman centurion. The force behind the hammer was not truly an angry mob. The verdict behind the death was not truly decided by jealous religious leaders or a confused Pilate.  Jesus chose the nails! As Max Lucado puts it, ‘...had the soldiers hesitated, Jesus himself would have swung the hammer. He knew how, he was no stranger to nails.’” Listen to Jesus’ amazing statement: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).

Then they lifted Him up in full view of all people, who mocked and insulted Him, spit on Him and shamed Him. Treated Him like trash. This is the exact way they treated the “Scapegoat” in Leviticus 16: when the High Priest symbolically placed the sins of the people on the goat, the people mocked it, kicked dust at it, spit at it, called it names as it was symbolically bearing their sin away into the desert. (Thank you, Jesus, for being our Scapegoat!).

And then something amazing and shocking happened. As Jesus’ life was drawing to a close it became pitch black at noon, the darkness covering the whole land for 3 full hours. This is exactly what God said would happen to someone who was under His curse: “ shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness…” (Deuteronomy 28:29). Oh, isn’t it too awful for words to see Jesus in pitch darkness at noon, especially to consider that He is taking your curse so that you might have His blessing (Galatians 3:13-14)?

You couldn’t have seen your hand in front of your face, it was so dark that day on the trash heap. But Jesus was not only in physical darkness, sin is always connected with spiritual darkness. God had put our sins on His Son and then God had forsaken His Son, turned His face away from Jesus, abandoned Him to the darkness, turned His back on Him, and the light of the sun went out even as the life and light of Jesus Christ were being extinguished.

Our Savior at that moment had entered the darkness, our world full of sin and rebellion and unbelief, our world of sickness and sorrows, our world of bondage and loneliness and isolation. He did this not only to obey His Father but because He truly loved you (Revelation 1:5). Paul said, Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) and you can say the same thing. Yes, Jesus loved you and gave Himself for you, to defeat the power of darkness in your life and to rescue you out of Satan’s kingdom.

Do you see Him, friend? Do you see your Savior coming for you? He’s carrying a cross up a trash hill, being treated like garbage Himself. He’s your Scapegoat, bearing your sins away from you. Do you see Him entering right into your darkness, taking on your sin, becoming captive to a criminal’s cross so that you might be set free? He’s being cursed by God that you might be blessed by God.

Do you see Him coming right into your loneliness, right into your captivity and isolation and fears and emptiness? Do you see Him hanging on a cross between earth and heaven, being rejected by both that you might be accepted by God? He came for you! He rescued you! He said He would do this: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1 NIV), and then He did it!

Question 6. As you consider the lengths Jesus went in order to rescue you, the love He displayed by entering the darkness to die for you, what thoughts do you have? Please share them here:

This rescue was entire, thorough and complete. All sin was placed on Christ when He died on the cross, all sorrows and all sickness, all unbelief and rebellion, all darkness and sadness, loneliness and emptiness, death itself. Everything wrong in this world and in our hearts was placed on Jesus when He died on the cross. And everyone that the Father gave to Jesus He rescued and delivered, He saved and set free (John 6:37-40). Oh, praise You, Lord Jesus!

Let’s end this lesson by returning to the passage we have been studying:

Colossians 2:15 (NIV) And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

We are now moving on from our study of Colossians 2:9-15. I hope you’ve enjoyed this study and that God is working in your heart as we look at the cross together. We now move on to one of the most important aspects of finding freedom, which we will look at in the next lesson.

Lesson 10 Testimony: Bill

Bill writes, “May 25, 1969 is my spiritual birthday.  I was 20 years old getting ready to go on active duty in the US Navy. That Sunday morning, I became a Christian by putting my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I was "on fire" and in love with Jesus and wanted to do whatever God wanted me to do.  For the next thirty years I was involved with ministry, with The Navigators, later I went to seminary and reentered the Navy as a Chaplain, then after 7 years, became a pastor of a small church in Kansas. Then my life fell apart, my wife of 20 years divorced me for another man, I was asked to step down from pastoring, and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer all within 6 weeks.  I always sensed the Lord's presence during all this and continued to be faithful to Him. But something was missing. There were besetting sins and the joy of the Lord was gone. I still believed, I was still faithful at church, but the joy was gone.

During the next 13 years, I got remarried to a wonderful Christian lady, began working two full time jobs for ten years and continued to attend church weekly.  My testimony could have read: "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; (3) and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. (4) 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Revelation 2:2-4 NASB) Along the way, I had left my first love.

When I retired from one of my jobs four years ago, I was directed to Setting Captives Free, I did several courses because something began to happen in my heart.  I began to revisit what I believed concerning the Cross and all that happened there. It was like learning the Gospel all over again. I stopped to look at Jesus, I began to see the twisted crown of thorns on His head, the bloody beaten face and body that was torn by whips, and there on the Cross, seeing His hands and feet pierced, hanging in pain. Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing." Then darkness fell over the land for 3 hours, all my sins were placed upon Jesus, there I was also crucified with Him.  He cried out, "My God, my God why have you forsaken Me?" I saw Jesus die and the soldier speared Him in the heart where water and blood flowed out. As friends, took Jesus down and buried Him in a tomb, I saw the sadness, but Sunday was coming. On that third day, He arose from the grave. A Victor over death and sin. My sins were left there in the tomb, paid in full, no longer to weigh me down.

The more I considered this Gospel, the fact that God loved me before I even believed, I spent more time looking at Jesus on the Cross. There was a joy returning to my heart.  I was returning to my first love. I saw myself crucified with Jesus, the old man was dead concerning sin, I had a new heart full of new love for Jesus. I wanted to do things that would be lasting for the Kingdom, I wanted to invest in the lives of people by pointing them to Jesus and the Cross. My life had purpose again, I was focused on Jesus and wanting to share this renewed love with others.  Yes, I still struggle with sin, I am not perfect, but my hope, my joy, my love for the Lord has become my focus. Learning to sit at the foot of the Cross and find my love growing for Him.”--Bill, Board Member of Setting Captives Free

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


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free