23 March 2014

A Matter of Life and Death


PATTERNS OF THOUGHT
Do you have patterns in your thoughts that just seem to build on one another? Thoughts in which every lesson you learn seems to connect back to that theme or those themes? I have several on which my life seems to build.

This morning, my pastor continued his series in Genesis, this time looking at Cain and the familiar story of the first murder. Cain's example seems the best launching place for what I'd like to analyse with you. As always, I would so love to read your comments below if you agree, disagree, or wish to add additional thoughts.


TEMPTATION TO ANGER OR JEALOUSY
Cain, in the attitude of his heart (seen or unseen by anyone but God), displeased God and his offering was rejected. Further revealing his wrong focus, Cain's anger rose. In a rare moment many of us don't experience so clearly, God spoke to him and warned him of where his anger would lead.
“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
After God's direct confrontation, Cain did not "rule over" his sin, but instead was gripped by it and in anger killed his brother.

In theory, Cain had the choice to repent after his brother's murder. In reality, he had made his choice to choose sin, and it was as if his conscience died after that.

"Sin crouching at your door" makes one picture a lion crouching in wait of a lamb (or other prey), does it not? Does the lamb survive when the lion springs? Rarely. The time to call for the Shepherd to attack would have been when the lion still crouched.

I think the picture parallels well with sin. As we were reminded today in the message, to be tempted with a sin is not defeat. Defeat is when you embrace or allow that temptation to spring into control. Even then, repentance surrenders what's left of your carcass to the Creator to revive. If we're tempted, however, victory is only possible in crying out in humility to the Shepherd.

How might the life of Cain been different if he would have responded to God's warning with a cry for help? "I'm so angry and jealous, God. Please free me from these feelings, so that I may please You."
How loving of God to desire to stop Cain from his own sinfulness. If Cain had only received God's love, he would have been freed to love.

TEMPTATION TO GRUMBLE OR QUIT
A good example of lives to compare and contrast appears many times in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Many people get hung up on the grumbling of the Israelites as they journey in the desert "towards" the Promised Land. I have a hard time blaming them though. I would be surprised if any of you would not have grumbled. I know I sure would.

The journey dragged, the heat and thirst were real threats, and from morning till night no one could tell you how long you would stay in one location. Add to that a limited variety of food and walking and walking and walking. Oh, you must be an angel to not think you'd want to quit and regain some sense of familiarity and comfort (even if your memory failed you so that you longed again for Egypt).

Yet it seems God didn't understand their "right" to complain. If you've read through both books, you know several times God destroyed groups of the people in anger. I propose that God did understand their frustrations. He just had other plans for how they should deal with their feelings.

If it's true, which I strongly feel, that we are DEPENDENT beings that truly cannot survive on our own, and God—even after we chose sin and "independence" instead of Him—reaches out to us again and again with His great compassion, then there is only ONE solution to whatever we feel. Moses shines as an example of the best way, the one solution, and the rest of the wandering Israelites, the way most of us choose.

In contrast to what we've already reviewed of the grumblers who displeased God, Moses complained TO God. And what was God's reaction? He gave a miraculous solution.
5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” ~Exodus 17
Over and over, Moses goes directly into the presence of the Lord with all his complaints, burdens, and confusion. God provided again and again.
  • Numbers 11:2 ... When the people cried to Moses, he prayed to the LORD
  • Numbers 12:13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "Please, God, heal her!"
  • Numbers 16:22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, "O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly
  • Numbers 20:6 ...And Moses and Aaron leaving the multitude, went into the tabernacle of the covenant,and fell flat upon the ground, and cried to the Lord
No burdens or grumbling of our hearts is a taboo topic to bring to God. Instead, God invites us to "caste all our cares upon Him, because He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7). 

The Psalms give us words that often make me cringe at their violent descriptions of desired vengeance asked of God to carry out. Interestingly, many of these were written by King David, the "man after God's own heart," who is one of our next examples.

TEMPTATION TO PRIDE AND PASSION
The first two kings of Israel form another good contrast. Saul and David both began as humble men, but both had defining moments where they were confronted with their sin. The choices they made in that moment, determined their legacy forever.

Saul went in obedience to attack the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). However, he did not destroy everything, as the Lord commanded him. When confronted by Samuel, he admitted he sinned, but... 1) he feared the men, so he didn't obey, 2) he admitted it, but wanted Samuel to return with him to "worship the Lord." When Samuel refused, Saul's heart was fully uncovered. 

Samuel turned to go, but Saul grabbed his robe, which caused it to tear. Samuel told him this was a prophetic picture that his kingdom would be torn away from him.
30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.”
Saul's concern stemmed from pride. To be honoured before the leaders meant more to him than God's rejection of him as King of Israel. From this point on, his life completely unraveled until he ends his life on his sword pursued by his enemies.

David sinned, as well. The most memorable to us is his adultery with Bathsheba and arranging the death of her husband. This sounds worse than Saul's not killing the animals or the king of a nation God swore to destroy, does it not?

Nathan the prophet came and told him a fictional story of a rich man stealing a pet lamb from a poor man in order to feed his company. This aroused David's anger. Then Nathan told him, "You are the man" (2 Samuel 12). What was David's reaction?
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of Your unfailing love.
Because of Your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins. 
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin. 
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night. 
4 Against You, and You alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your sight.... 
5For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. 
6But You desire honesty from the womb,b
teaching me wisdom even there. 
7Purify me from my sins,c and I will be clean;wash me, and I will be whiter than snow....Psalm 51
Not the severity of the sin, but the honesty of the repentance saved David and not Saul.

Saul wanted to keep up appearances to be honoured among men. David considered only his offense against God and cried out for cleansing.

TEMPTATION TO FEAR OR GREED
The final example, though many more could be expounded on, are of Judas Iscariot and Peter. Both
men betrayed Jesus, the Messiah of God. One could possibly argue that this is an ultimate sin.

Judas, the Gospel writers tell us, lived for money, so I tend to believe his betrayal flowed from his greed and Peter's from fear. Both chose something else as greater than their Lord, whom they had followed for three years acknowledging to His face that He was the promised One.

Both Judas and Peter seemed to acknowledge their traitorous actions as sin. Judas takes his life in despair (Acts 1:18), but Peter repents with tears (Matthew 26:75). After Jesus' resurrection, he receives restoration by the Lord to become a leader of the Church (John 21:15-19).

CONCLUSION
These examples, to me, show the incredible mercy of God. Every inclination of our hearts is to "do it on our own," to be "independent" of God. Yet, God knows that independence, for us who are created dependent, means death. Over and over He steps in to persuade us to surrender, to reveal Himself to gain our trust, to express His love to remove our burdens.

Can you get a small glimpse then at what sin is?

Sin pushes God's hand away and says, "me first!" Sin spits on God's love and cries, "I don't trust you!" Sin turns its back on God's compassion and says, "I'll be worthy on my own."

If you have read this far, I congratulate you. The post is lengthy, but so is the promise.

This is a burden to my heart for me and for you—that we understand God's love and compassion enough to receive it and give it to others; that we throw our worries, grumblings, discouragements, and discontent to Him without glossing over them; that we turn to Him in our temptation and find the door from which to flee; that we acknowledge the horror of our sin to Him and humble ourselves, not to gain applause, but to please One who loved us so much that He died in our place.

He wants our honesty and our complete dependence on Him.

I don't understand it completely. I only know, we need to come to Him about everything, because He cares about you and He cares about me.

_________________
We all have the capacity to sin like Cain, but through Jesus we can be freed by grace. ~Dr. Richard Liverance

For further meditation, please read Romans 6:12-23.


2 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Katy! Thank you. I can relate with every sin tendency you describe. It's nice to be reminded that we can give them all to God and be forgiven, healed, strengthened, delivered, restored and renewed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brad! It's been something on my heart (and I can also relate to the struggle with all). I was hoping others could relate, so thank you so much for your comment!

      Delete