Friday, October 16, 2009

Where Faith Is Lacking, Sin Is Waiting (Part 1)

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you [to rule over you], but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:6, 7
If Cain did well, he would have been accepted by God. If he didn’t do well, he would be mastered by sin. Reading the rest of Genesis 4 after God presents Cain with these two options makes it clear whether or not he did well. He didn’t. How do we know? He was mastered by sin. Sin, as it were, absolutely ate his lunch. It made him into a murderer and a liar. Cain didn’t do well.

But what exactly does it mean that Cain didn’t do well? Or what would it have looked like for Cain to do well? What does God mean when He says to Cain, “If you do well….”? How do I do well for a holy God? How can anything I do make me acceptable to God?

The answer is found in the book of Hebrews where, in chapter 11, the author tells us that Abel’s gifts were accepted by God (Hebrews 11:4). Just like Cain, Abel would be accepted if he did well. And the text shows us that even though Cain wasn’t accepted, Abel was. Why? In the words of Genesis 4, Abel did well. Cain didn’t.

So what was the difference between Cain and Abel? How come Abel did well but Cain didn’t? In the words of Hebrews 11, the answer is that Abel had faith and Cain didn’t. To do well, in the sense that God is speaking of in Genesis 4, isn’t based primarily on the quality of an action like we’re used to thinking. To do well, in this sense, is to demonstrate faith. When we act in faith, even though it may be small faith or weak faith, we are doing well in the eyes of God and we are always acceptable to Him.

To not do well, on the other hand, is no small thing as seen in how the story of Cain plays out. Why? Because God says that if we don’t do well, sin is waiting to pounce on us and devour us.
And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you [to rule over you], but you must rule over it.
Genesis 4:7
As I’ve been meditating on this verse for the past day, this phrase keeps coming into my mind: Where faith is lacking, sin is waiting [to kill me].

That scares me. I read what happened to Cain. I don’t want that to happen to me. So this is an extremely important warning for me to heed. It makes temporary lapses of faith to become a bigger deal than I might usually consider them to be because it shows that even the smallest lapse of faith makes us vulnerable to the ruthless enemy of sin. If I fail to act out of faith, I’m basically walking into a room where sin is waiting to close the door and turn off the lights behind me, an arena where the outcome is certain and I will not emerge victorious.

So how do we keep from ending up in that arena where I will always be defeated? How do I heed this warning? God’s answer: I must rule over sin. Instead of passively walking into a place where sin will rule over me, I must actively seek to rule over sin, moment by moment, day by day.

How do I rule over sin? By faith. In the next post, we’ll get help from someone in the next chapter of Genesis who, I think, shows us how to rule over sin by faith.


Chris Kiagiri said...

Whoa! ... thank you for this meditation. Romans 14:23b bears mentioning here as a succinct summary of this truth: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."

Thank you for helping to unpack this verse, which at face value seems too absolute to be practical (right up there with "pray without ceasing" and "in everything give thanks"). Hey, there's a book idea for you! :)

Looking forward to part 2, brother. I love you and thank God for you.

pilgriminconflict said...

My thoughts exactly, as I was going to (and have now done so) post! =)

I love you and thank God for you too brother.