We were blessed with a new addition to our teaching team this week! This lesson was taught by Lyndsey M.
I must admit I can be a very selfish person. Ever since I was little I have been a saver. I would save my money, candy, stuffed animals, everything. That still applies today. I still have a hard time getting rid of things and spending much money. Yes, it is good to be able to save and be wise with what you have, but my natural tendency is often to take that to the extreme. I want to keep it all for myself. I often do not want to share what God has given me with others or with him for that matter. Unfortunately, too often my number one concern is myself. I often think that I deserve what I have instead of seeing what I have as a gracious gift from God. I often struggle when it comes to worshiping the Lord through giving, especially money. So, as I am sure you can imagine, I felt very convicted as I prepared for this lesson on Cain and Abel. The application questions that kept coming to my mind were pointed directly at my areas of weakness and my sinful nature. In the last few years I have been learning that everything we have is Godʼs and therefore we should willingly use what he has given us for his glory. And to take it even further, God is worthy of our all and much more. Not just what he has given us. The main point I will focus on from this passage is … through grace, a follower of Christ has a heart after the Lord and delights in offering his or her best to the Lord. We will further examine this statement by thinking through 3 questions. The questions are first “How do we come before God?,” second “How do we respond to sin and temptation?” and third “How do we repent?”
- How do we come before God?
Letʼs ask ourselves that first question ʻHow do we come before God?ʼ To be clear, when I use the phrase ʻcome before Godʼ I am referring to coming to God in the form of worship and adoration. Worship is not just the singing we do during a church service, it is how we love and adore God with our whole lives. Just like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” With that in mind, do you worship God with your whole life or do you just give him what is left over? Do you come to God in faith or simply as a ritual?
By the grace of God, Abel desired to give God his best. He willingly gave God the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. As we learned from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God desired the first animal or first fruit and all the fat from the animal when offerings or sacrifices were made. According to one commentator, “firstborn is indicative of the recognition that all the productivity of the flock is from the Lord and of itʼs belonging to him.” Abel understood that all of his flock was from the Lord and therefore willingly gave God the firstborn of his flock. God allowed for Abel to desire to give his best back to God. Cain, on the other hand, did not find delight in God and did not desire to give God his best. He still went through the motions of offering God an offering, but he did not offer the first fruits.
Take a look at Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous” The offering that Cain and Abel gave was an offering of worship. Based on Godʼs acceptance of their worship offerings, it seems as though worship is not just about the act, but about the heart behind it. Not only did Abel offer God his best, but he also came to God in faith. Since Cain was written about in contrast to Abel, we gather that Cain did not come before God in faith. Not only did Cain not give God his best, but he simply went through the motions.
Through grace, a follower of Christ has a heart after God and delights in offering his or her best to God. Is that statement true of your life? When you come before God do you desire whole heartedly to offer him your best? When it is time for offering on Sunday morning do you begrudgingly give money out of obligation? Do you feel entitled to your money because you worked hard for it? Or do you understand that your money is Godʼs money and that you should use it for his glory? When it comes to your time do you just spend a few quick moments in prayer or in Godʼs word before doing another activity that you would rather be doing? Or do you truly love to spend time with God and therefore highly prioritize your time with Him in your daily life? Lastly, in what other ways do we worship God and is it offered to him with this spirit of first fruits and thankfulness?” Its likely that for all of us there are areas we don’t whole heartedly offer God our utmost. I think it would be helpful to discuss these areas in our group afterwards so that we can confess and pray together.
2. How do we respond to sin and temptation?
Not worshiping God with his first fruits was Cain’s first sin, in this story, which led to another sin. With that in mind let’s look at the next question. “How do we respond to sin and temptation?” In this story of Cain and Abel, Cain became very angry when God showed regard for Abel and his offering, yet did not show regard for him and his offering. At this point God warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door and told him to rule over it. Unfortunately, in this story, Cain was unable to rule over his sin. Instead his anger and hatred towards Godʼs disregard of him and his offering caused him to hate his brother Abel to the point of killing him. Cain was accountable for his actions. God warned him, but he did not heed Godʼs warning. Godʼs warning here is a great example as to why the Gospel is key for believers; those who have already been saved from their sin. If the Gospel truth is not on the forefront of our minds then how can we properly handle temptation?
In 1 John 3:15 it says “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” Most likely none of us will actually murder anyone in our lifetime, but according to this verse hating a brother makes you a murderer. This verse shows us the severity of hating our brother or sister. I often like to think of myself as being more like Abel in this story, but if Iʼm honest with myself I often give into sin and temptation just as easily as Cain did. When I am hurt or offended it is easy for me to start thinking horrible thoughts about my offender which could easily lead to hatred if my wicked thoughts are not quickly put to death. I can also struggle with comparing myself to others. Therefore when people regard someone else more than they regard me I can have the same internal reaction as Cain. I begin to dislike the person who is thought more highly of than myself. The fact that Cain did not desire to give God his best reveals to us that Cain was primarily concerned with himself. Cain wanted to make sure that he got what was best. He wanted not only the best of his earnings, but the best from God. Since his focus was on himself he was unable to resist the temptation to do the wicked that his heart desired.
Are you able to give your temptation to God? When he sent his son Jesus to live on earth he was able to resist temptation for 40 days and nights as he was constantly tempted by the devil. We must turn to God with our temptations. He is the author and creator of life. Sin is the path to death, therefore sin is our enemy. So of course we need to turn to God with our temptations! According to 1 Corinthians 10:13 “God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Do you truly believe that verse? Do you believe that God will provide a way out in the midst of any temptation? I believe the key to overcoming temptation is believing that God does provide a way out and going to him with our struggles and temptations. Especially before they get the best of us. If we desire to give God our best, then we will have a strong desire to give our temptations to the Lord so he can help us overcome them.
3. How do we repent?
Now letʼs look at our last question. How do we repent when we have sinned? In the story of Cain and Abel when Cain was given an opportunity to repent of killing his brother, instead of telling the truth he lied. When God asked him where his brother was he said. “I do not know.” After initially giving into temptation which caused him to hate God and Abel in his heart, he then killed his own brother and then lied to God. The sins kept coming as his heart continued to harden. Not only did he lie to God, but he went on to respond to Godʼs question with a question of his own, “Am I my brotherʼs keeper?” God gave Cain the opportunity to repent and tell what he did to his brother. Yet, instead of repenting he responded to God with disrespect and indifference towards his brother. His actions give us a clear picture into the state of his heart. He had no love for Abel or for God. He did not respond to God as his Lord and creator. Cain did not show any remorse until God told him his punishment. Yet his response shows no repentance for purposefully killing his brother. He only felt remorse when he heard the severity of his punishment. Cain did not feel shame for killing Abel. He was only concerned about himself and his own comfort and safety.
How do you feel about your sin? Does your heart break over the sins you have committed? Are you broken over your constant fight with certain recurring sins in your life? Or are you most upset by the punishment you receive for you sin? As a Christian, we must be broken over our sin because we delight to live our life in a way that honors God and gives him our best. When we sin , we are not living our lives as an offering for him.
Abelʼs pure heart for God and his desire to give God his best gives us a taste of Jesus. As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was able to withstand temptation for 40 days and nights in the desert. He was able to live his entire life as a perfect sacrifice to the Lord so that he could die in our place. As you have a chance at your tables to think through the different questions I asked throughout my lesson allow yourself to truly be thankful for what God did for us in sending his son to live the sacrificial life that we could not. Allow yourself to understand Godʼs incredible love through his actions. That alone should give you the desire to worship God with everything you have and gladly give him your best, your first fruits! Jesus is most worthy of our praise. He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the holy holy holy King above all and our perfect savior. Therefore he not only demands our everything but deserves and delights in our everything. Let us rejoice in that fact that we can put our hope in him.