The Power of the Cross: 97th Edition, September 15, 2019

Mike Cleveland

Greetings friends,

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining us. We publish once per week on Sunday. The newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging.



Bitterness! It is an insidious freedom-stealer!

Bitterness keeps us in bondage to sin because when we are bitter our hearts are poisoned, even as water that is bitter is poisoned water. It affects our thinking, makes us negative people, and defiles many others around us.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15

We have all tasted the bitter waters of life in some way. Violations, injustice, false accusations, abuse, and a myriad of other offenses wound us and produce pain in our lives. No one escapes betrayal.

Some respond to the betrayals of life by hiding their pain, pretending they are immune to it. They bury their pain deep down, not realizing that eventually, it will erupt out of them in a bitter, destructive, and defiling way. Others broadcast their betrayal; they talk about it to anyone who will listen. These are at high risk for bitterness because they are always thinking about and reliving their injury. A few will immediately respond in bitterness by seeking revenge, desiring to inflict as much pain as they have felt on their offender, and more if possible.

Bitterness is what happens when we remember the offenses against us but forget the gospel that is for us. As believers in Jesus, God has given us a way to process our pain and anger without sinning. We have a heavenly hospital to which we can come, have our pain addressed, and receive healing. This place is the cross of Christ.

It is true. The place of Christ’s ultimate betrayal is where we find our complete healing. When we experience the pain of betrayal, we can find relief through the cross of Christ. We look to Jesus and His cross and see that God is a God of justice. He does not ignore sin. He crucified it. He sent His Son to endure the agony of affliction, the full weight of every sin and offense, so that not only would we be justified before Him but also that we would be assured of justice for ourselves. Jesus’ death pays not only for your sinful offenses but also the offenses of others against you. He died on the cross and rose to bring healing, reconciliation, and restoration to our lives.


As the Israelites traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, they went through many barren places. At one point in their journey, after three days without finding any water, they came to an area with water only to discover that the water was bitter. “When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter” (Exodus 15:23).

By this time, the people were very thirsty and distressed, and when they found the bitter water, they reacted badly. They grumbled to Moses, who then cried out to the Lord for help. God answered with an unusual solution:

“Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink” (Exodus 15:25).

Isn’t that a unique solution? Boiling and filtering the water sounds more logical than chucking a piece of wood into it, but God’s ways are not like ours. His peculiar solution was intentional and for our benefit.

Every story in the Bible, in some way, points forward to the main story of the Bible - that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise again to save His people from their sins, and to transform us into His image. We, humans, are in a desperate situation because of our sin, but God loved us, so He gave us Jesus who died on the cross to save us, rescue us, heal us and deliver us, and in this case, transform our bitterness into sweetness.

Just as God came to the aid of the Israelites, transforming their bitter water into sweet with a piece of wood, so God came to our rescue by sending His beloved Son to die on a piece of wood. But unlike the Israelites who experienced the transformation of bitter waters only once through the wood, Jesus’ cross would be the means of life transformation for people from every tribe and nation eternally. The cross is the Solution for the bitterness of your life.


Are you struggling with feelings of sorrow for a deep betrayal? Are you disillusioned or disheartened by the circumstances of life? Have you been maligned or mistreated? Come to the cross and behold your Lord, experiencing your betrayal, enduring the agony of defeat for you. Now see Him reaching out to you in eternal love, offering to make an exchange with you. Your sorrow, for His joy. The death of your dream, for the resurrection power of the living Christ.

Are you living in bitterness? Trapped by the pain of old and new offenses, and weary of the burden they are to you? Come to the cross of Christ and receive Jesus’ sacrificial love and healing into the bitter waters of your heart. Look to Jesus and see that He bore your sorrow and the offense against you on the cross. The debt has been paid.

You can release your offender, even if they are not sorry for what they have done or you think they don’t deserve forgiveness, because you aren’t extending forgiveness based on the worthiness of your offender, but based upon the worthiness of your Savior. Further, justice has been served at the cross, or God will bring it at the proper time. You can, like Jesus, entrust yourself to the One that judges justly (1 Peter 2:23) and experience the sweetness of freedom that flows from Christ’s death and resurrection.

Are you grumbling to God about the bitter waters of your life? Angry about your sin struggles, bitter that you didn’t get what you wanted or thought you needed? Come to the cross of Christ and receive God’s Solution. Jesus alone can satisfy your thirst. He alone can set you free from sin traps and the defiling bitterness that they bring. Look to Jesus and receive the peace that His wounds speak to you. You have not been denied what you need; you have been blessed beyond measure in Christ. He has clothed you in His robes of righteousness. Look today to the cross of wood on which Jesus died to experience the transformation of your bitter, sin bound heart into a sweet, Spirit-filled one that is overflowing with His love.

How does remembering Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross transform your bitter thoughts into sweet ones?


Deidre writes,When I came to the Setting Captives Free A United Front course, I was bitter, angry, and had zero desire to forgive or pray for my husband. I wanted my husband to suffer.

Through this course, I have come to know Jesus more deeply as my compassionate Savior. Even though Jesus was falsely accused and mistreated, His heart remained focused on doing the will of the Father.

Focusing on Christ, His death on the cross and His victorious resurrection has brought so much love and comfort to my heart.

And this experience of deeper intimacy with Jesus at the cross is spilling out towards my husband. I am now honestly and humbly able to love, forgive, and pray for my husband.

Now, when I am tempted to be bitter, instead, I take my thoughts captive and give them to Jesus. Jesus is helping me to pursue what He wants to me pursue for HIM and the unity of our marriage that is to reflect the ultimate covenant between Christ and His church.

I am thankful for Setting Captives Free, and the A United Front course. I pray that God will bless it.”

Adam writes: "Before taking the Setting Captives Free Purity Boot Camp course, I was consumed with sexual sin for about 35 years, even throughout 17 years as a born again Christian and 18 years of marriage.

The sin has caused much damage in my life - mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. It has attacked my marriage and threatened my children; it has threatened relationships with relatives and friends. It has impacted my schooling, social life, and work and even my finances. It has kept me on the first rung of the ladder when it comes to Christian maturity and growth. It has hardened my heart to the conviction of the Spirit; made me callous to the grievousness of sin; and robbed me of the ability to love. It blinded me to the Word of God and revealed my pride, hypocrisy, and depravity. This devastation is what sexual sin has done to me most of my life. I was in bondage, thinking there was no way out.

I tried everything I could think of to break free: will-power, psychological counseling, books, videos, internet blockers, filters, and accountability software. I even physically destroyed laptops and computers and cut off internet services. I also prayed and promised God that I would stop. I even went to a place to be 'exorcised' from the 'demon of porn. I confessed to everyone, privately and publicly in church. I even prayed that the LORD would kill me if I continued in the sin. I thank the LORD that He spared my life, but everything I did was futile.

I thank the LORD He did not leave me nor forsake me, but rather He led me to Setting Captives Free. At Setting Captives Free 1.0, I did not complete the course because when I fell into sin, I was so ashamed and tired of falling again, that I just stopped - regardless of some mentors that tried to encourage me. Then Setting Captives Free went offline for a time. I was sad, but last year the LORD prompted me to look again for the free Setting Captives Free materials, and I found Setting Captives Free 2.0. I immediately enrolled in the purity courses.

For the first time, I saw what the gospel is. For the first time, I saw Jesus and Him crucified, and that he did this to save me. For the first time, I understood what it means to be crucified with Christ, and that He died so I can live through the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. For the first time, I understood what it means to be in Him; buried with Him, and also resurrected with Him, translated from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of LIGHT, who is Jesus. For the first time, I understand what it means that Christ did it all on the cross, and I could not and did not do anything to save myself, except cry out, Lord Jesus, save me!

Jesus saved me, and He is saving me! Now, I am being consumed by the cross; being sensitive to the Spirit, and looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith and the Captain of my Soul, who put Satan to shame publicly by defeating death and sin, and who is now encouraging and strengthening me to make war against sin. My motivation is no longer freedom and happiness, but to do the will of Jesus because I love Him who loved me first. Thank you, Setting Captives Free and mentors, for being useful in the hands of our LORD, and pointing me to the cross.”


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Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free