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Jonathan's Testimony      

The Cross, Finding Life in Jesus' Death ®

There has come a very destructive teaching into the church in the past century, a teaching that basically says this: "the gospel is 'the salvation message.' It is for unbelievers to 'get saved, and then we move on to deeper teachings.'" As if to say that the gospel is just some spiritual kindergarten through which we pass, tipping our hats to the cross, on our way to the deeper teachings of the Bible. This is destructive because it implies that once we know the gospel, we're good to go, we can move beyond that now, we're saved.

But you see this is a half-truth. It is true that the gospel is a salvation message, it is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). But it is also a sanctification message, in other words, that which sets believers apart from our sins. In Galatians 3 Paul is talking to believers who were trying to set themselves apart from sin by their own efforts at keeping the Law, and what he says to them in verse 1 is amazing. He says, "you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified." In other words, the cross is the message that will separate us from our sins. The cross is not merely a salvation message, it is also a sanctification message. It's for believers.

But, it is not only a salvation message, it is not only a sanctification message, it is also a stabilization message. You know, an airplane has what's called a "horizontal stabilizer", it's on the back of the plane, its basically the tail of the airplane. Now what would happen if that stabilizer was gone? Well let's just say you wouldn't want to be in the airplane. Just so, what would happen if the gospel was gone from the church? Let's just say, you wouldn't want to be in it.

25 Now to him who is able to establish you (strengthen, confirm, stabilize you) by my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, Romans 16:25

Want to know how to become stabilized in life, how to have a firm foundation, how to become rooted and grounded, how to be constant and steady and firmly planted, unshakeable? Paul says it is "by my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ."

And I have not even mentioned the most important part of the cross. It is not only a salvation, sanctification, stabilization message, it is also a glorification message. This is the most important part. After Paul explains the gospel in all its fullness to the Romans in chapter 15 he tells them why, "9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name." The message of the cross is that which glorifies God, indeed, brings out praise and rejoicing to God. It exalts God to be Christ-centered and to love the gospel.

This study was written as a follow-up course to all courses currently available at Setting Captives Free as well as for anyone who wishes to take a look at the many aspects of the cross of Jesus Christ as it applies not only to salvation, but also to our daily walk. It seeks to not be a shallow portrayal of the unfathomable riches of Christ, but rather to dig deep into the meaning, and reveal the divine power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

It was also written for those who do not believe, or for any who wish to understand the distinctive difference between Christianity and every other religion. Say to a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, "Fear God, hate sin, repent" and he will agree with you. Only the Christian religion tells of a Substitute who died in our place to save us from our sins. Only the Christian religion declares that we gain heaven not by our own works but by the death of Another, Jesus Christ, Who purchased our eternal life when He died in our place. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord and Master, but would like to examine the evidence and consider the distinctive teaching within Christianity, we invite you to enroll in this free course.

This study was written by Mike Cleveland, founder and president of Setting Captives Free

The gospel begins, not in Matthew 1:1, but in Genesis 3:15. Let us never forget that, and so let us go to our Old Testament and look for the gospel. You will find it there almost everywhere in a most astounding manner, and it is our business, as well as our privilege, to seek it and to rejoice in it as we find it there.

...the Bible teaches very clearly that there is only one gospel; the gospel is the same in the Old Testament as it is in the New. Again, I am surprised when a preacher does not see it in the Old Testament, for if a man does not see it there, I doubt if he understands the gospel in the New Testament. Take the gospel that was preached by God in the Garden of Eden and also the promise made to Abraham; that is the essence of the gospel. Look at all the types and shadows, look at the various offerings described in Leviticus and elsewhere. Look even at the very furniture of the tabernacle. All these things preach the gospel; they are the types of the gospel and its message. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones[1]

Here are comments from a few of our course members:

"This study came at a time in my life when I have been going through some very deep struggles, both personally and in the lives of my grown children. The course has been so relevant to my life. Each day through the lessons, God provided just the encouragement and support I needed and gave me just the right things to share with family members who needed insight and encouragement. My mentor has been such a source of strength and support and I appreciate the thoughts she has shared with me and her prayers, especially one that she wrote out for me. I've been a believer for over thirty years, but this course has brought me closer to Christ than I have ever been. I wish every believer would take it; I truly believe that it would have a major impact on the church to examine the cross of Christ in such depth. And I wish every non-believer would take it - how could they then not give their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ?" Debbie

"When I first thought about spending 60 days studying the cross, I wondered how that was possible. It seemed like a long time on only one subject. This course has caused me to want to spend the next 60 years studying, meditating on, and rejoicing in all that Jesus accomplished there. I love Jesus more than I ever have, and God has really re-kindled my desire to tell others about him." Jerry

"These have been the most helpful 60 days I have ever experienced. I have not only gained useful and insightful knowledge, but my relationship with Jesus has grown better, and I feel I am better able to worship Him and live the life that He wants me to live, now that I have seen the great lengths that He went through to save me from eternal damnation. I can see much better the gift He gave to mankind. Jesus' death on the cross is typically treated as a kind of "Christianity 101;" once one has learned of it, they move on to more "important" things but, as the Cross study has shown me, Jesus' death and resurrection is the epicenter of our faith; it is the beginning and the end of all things." William

"For many years, I was held captive by the devil and, over time, he dragged me deeper and deeper into worse sin and self-abuse. I eventually gave up my business and my friends, and became a hermit. When my wife left, I knew I was dying inside; I was miserable all the time, and wanted to be left alone with my sin. The day came when I thought about taking my own life, and I decided to seek help from God. My spouse had sent me an e-mail about a program called Setting Captives Free. I thought that it would be just a dumb class but, by the end of the sixty days, I was free of my sin and God had taken me under his wing. He taught me how to fight and supplied the arsenal of weapons to fight with. I needed to know more, so here I am in this second course, the Cross study. I am totally overwhelmed by this course. I never knew the many reasons why Jesus was sacrificed by his Father for us. I am happy to say that my spouse and I are again best friends, attend Sunday services, and pray together. We also speak at great length about getting back as one again. Thank you, Jesus and your Father, the Almighty God." Robert

"I have completed the first 30 days of the Cross study and find myself incredibly blessed and enlightened every day. I can also attest that it has strengthened my faith and walk with Christ. In some respects, I wish that Setting Captives Free leadership would require this course for all mentors. But aside from that, I am recommending it to men in a variety of circumstances. I am even thinking about how to do the course with men at my church. It is THAT good and THAT valuable. I think it helps us have a better understanding of the awesome gift that God has given us in and through His son Jesus Christ." - Glenn Greenway, Setting Captives Free Mentor

Claudette shares - This course has been life changing for me. I came to it confused and bewildered. It helped me to focus on dear, dear Jesus and His cross. He is so glorified through this study. I have learned the most important lesson of my Christian life - never take my eyes off the cross of Christ. I would have liked to have had a mentor, but I know that there is nothing you can do about that unless people are willing. However, even without the mentor, the study was still life-changing. It has truly shown me how to "take my thoughts captive" by focusing on our Lord and His sacrifice. Hallelujah and all glory to the Lamb of God!!

"This has been a wonderful journey through gaining a deeper and clearer understanding of exactly what the cross means to me. In addition, I have learned that God truly does have an eternal plan for man. From the beginning in Genesis to the end in Revelation, is one continuing story that all points to the cross. I have been freed from trying to keep the law for my justification, and have fallen more in love with Christ through this study. I am the closest I have ever been to becoming a Son slave, not because I have to, but because I want to." Scott

Sandeep wrote, "I have just come from reading a critique of Christianity on an Islamic apologetics website, which pointed out "contradictions" and unresolved issues of the Bible. One of the things that stood out was that they said Christ was substituted on the cross, and so escaped. Since this was in direct opposition to the truth I learn here, I meditated on what might happen if this really did happen. I saw no future for me or for my soul, nor for any reason to love or cherish those things which I hold dear. I saw no personal relationship with God. I only saw the demanding quite unmerciful face of Allah, to whom compromise is a luxury that he bestows on his faithful who lie and kill in his name. I saw a long blackness in which neither is hope nor peace. Needless to say, I thanked and praised God for reconciling me to him with the cross, and in particular to the love that I can have now from Him with a pure heart, the very heart of worship to God."

A pastor had this to say about the cross study, after completing one of the lessons:

"Now that was deep. I found myself in the school of thought that once we are saved, then we move on to the deeper things of God - understanding His characteristics, debating premillenialism, researching apologetics, and understanding all 10 doctrines of the Bible. But at the very core of all of it is that there is a God that, if nothing else, wants us to glorify Him in all that we do. And the only way to do that is to understand the cross. How the cross doesn't just save individuals, but that it keeps saving us. It continues to sanctify us until the return of Christ. The cross gives us the power to go on in our lives. Everything will fall into place as long as we bow at the foot of the cross, daily crucifying our flesh."

To read an article entitled "Hermeneutics 101" by Mike Cleveland, click here

To read an article entitled "The Gospel as a Mystery" by Mike Cleveland, click here

To read an article entitled Important Theology on the Cross, United with Christ by George Smeaton, click here

To view the lesson titles and summaries, click here

Purchase the study guide for personal or group study.

The Cross: Finding Life in Jesus' Death [Ebook]
  [1] God the Father, God the Son by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pages 234 and 236, respectively. Published by Crossway Books, 2003.