Tag Archives: worship

Evidence of Rebellion

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.  (Psalm 5:9 ESV)

Jesus stands in God’s courtroom, presenting the evidence of rebellion to the eternal Judge. God is righteous and just. Jesus prayed for God’s attention, then announces God’s character for all to hear. God does not tolerate those who lie, especially about Him to those who are His. Jesus enters God’s house, His Temple, the eternal courtroom of God’s presence, seeking to follow the absolute will of God in all ways. Those who revile God, who mutiny against Him, who lead others in their rebellion, face God’s judgment. They are the defendants in God’s courtroom, representing themselves against the Prosecutor, who wants to cover them with grace and mercy but cannot because of their continual obstinate and unlawful behavior.

Who they are, the defendants standing in God’s courtroom, is shown from their innermost selves, the evidence of their vile words. Their intent dictates their actions. They will do that which they think and feel. God already proclaimed “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”  (Genesis 6:5 ESV). Man’s spiritual condition has not changed since the time of Noah, or from the first act of rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. God destroyed all but eight in the time of Noah. He will not do that again until the end of time. Then He will judge each according to their sin.

“For there is no truth in their mouth.” Truth  means fixed, established, securely enduring direction, referring to the contemptible words that spew from their mouths. The word nomeans nothing, without, lacking. Nothing that comes from their mouths is fixed or provides direction. Their words and standards for living are arbitrary, changing at a whim, the exact opposite of God’s words. Their hearts, the inmost self is destruction, which is evil desires, a chasm of calamity. Everything about the thinking of their hearts, made known through their words and actions, is not true by any standard of truth. There is only one standard. He, who created all things and set laws in place, reveals truth for all to know and follow. 

Jesus presents the evidence and then drives it home by repeating that evidence. Not only is there no truth in their mouths, when they open their mouths all that is contained and spills out is deadness. Their throats are an open grave, a tomb or sepulcher, which contains dead and decaying bodies.  With their tongues they flatter, which means to divide, plunder, impart and share, smooth and slippery. Their words tickle the ears of their hearers, enticing them to follow and embrace that which is not true. They are false witnesses, declaring they speak for God to those who would see God, but intentionally leading them away from Him whom they seek.

Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, during the Passover week before His crucifixion, He again entered the Temple and drove out those who desecrated God’s house. “And he entered the Temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45-46 ESV). Those with the responsibility to lead the people to God, who were in charge of the Temple, hated Jesus for challenging their authority. They hated Him but the people they lead loved Jesus and listened intently to His teaching. “And he was teaching daily in the Temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words” (Luke 19:47-48 ESV).

What follows Jesus actions and teaching in the Temple is a series of challenges by those religious leaders. They challenge His authority, try to trap Him in His words, look for anything they could to condemn Him. They ask about the baptism of John (Luke 20:1-8). They ask if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:19-26). They ask about marriage and what will happen in heaven (Luke 20:27-40).

Jesus then tells the people to beware of the teaching of the Scribes and those who claim spiritual authority.

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47 ESV)

Matthew 23 is a litany of woes and declarations against the Scribes and Pharisees. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “’The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice’”    (Matthew 23:1-3 ESV). Jesus presents the evidence that those who are tasked with leading people toward God actually lead them away from God.

God will not tolerate those who change His words and turn worshipping Him into idolatry. Their leading and teaching bring death not life. They have turned the truth into a lie and speak the lies to a people eager to hear them and believe anything but truth.

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Entering God’s House

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy Temple in the fear of you. (Psalm 5:7 ESV)

We enter God’s house only because He draws us to Himself.

God built a house, a Temple and a place where His people would worship Him, in Jerusalem, the City of David. Solomon spent seven years building the Temple (see 2 Kings 6:38). Jesus went to a Temple built by Herod the Great, still under construction after 46 years (John 2:20). Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC and its contents carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. God used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people because of their sin, as He continuously warned them He would do. In AD 70, Herod’s Temple was destroyed by Titus, who attacked Jerusalem because of the rebellion of the Jewish nation against Rome. 

God is not contained in a physical place. He does not live in a physical house. Solomon knew this as he dedicated the Temple he built to God.“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). God created the heavens and the earth. He transcends heaven, filling the earth with Himself, holding the universe in His hand.“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD”(Jeremiah 23:24 ESV). We build places of worship for ourselves. Our purpose is to know God intimately, the reason He created us in His image. God wants us to worship and know Him.

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”(Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)

Abundance means multitude and greatness. Steadfast love means goodness, kindness and faithfulness. Fear is not terror caused by an eminently dangerous circumstance but the greatest respect, reverence and piety brought on by the awesome and terrifying presence of God. To bow down is to worship and prostrate oneself before God. God draws the worshipper into His presence because of His eternal love for the person created in His image. In response, the individual offers true worship to the God of the universe with an intimate understanding and knowledge of Him who is above all.

Jesus entered the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and violently drove away those who desecrated the House of God. He challenged those given the responsibility to lead God’s people in truthful worship. He knew the Temple would be destroyed. Herod’s Temple was a magnificent structure, which impressed all who saw and entered. 

“Jesus left the Temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”(Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

 God’s Temple is the body of Christ, which Jesus said they would destroy and He would raise again in three days.“He was speaking about the Temple of his body”(John 2:21 ESV). He is the eternal Temple of God built with the living stones of those who belong to Him. 

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”(1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

God’s house is in eternity. Jesus did not come to preserve a sinful world, to fix it or make it better. He came to draw to Himself, into His presence for eternity, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ESV), who have abandoned themselves to Him.“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV).

We are surrounded in the world by God’s enemies. We are separated from the world for Him who created the world, while still living in the world. We are here as a witness to them of the love God has for them, shown through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. Also, He is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our place is both as a witness in a courtroom and a student in a classroom.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.(1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV)

The Person of God, the Father

“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV).

Focus your attention on God, not on the word “foreknowledge.”  God’s eternal attributes and characteristics are revealed in both Scripture and in nature. We could know little about God without Him telling us. We can assume great things about God through an honest examination of nature, which is the evidence of His work. But to know Him, either intellectually or intimately, demands He reveal Himself to us in a way we understand. There are two ways He has done this. As mentioned, He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. He has also given us His image so that we might know Him intimately. For this study in First Peter we will focus on some of God’s essential characteristics and eternal attributes to understand what is meant by His foreknowledge.

God’s unique essence is features of His eternal nature He shares with no created being. The words “essence” and “substance” are reasonably interchangeable when used to describe God.  As God reveals Himself, we discover the evidence of His eternal self, upon which His attributes have their foundation. His essential character is similar to His attributes. However, we could say those created in His image have similar attributes, mirrored in the image given, with a likeness to His essence, limited but given so we might intimately know Him. 

God is spiritual and has no physical substance, unlike the physical universe He created. Scripture is filled with anthropomorphic descriptions of God, describing Him as having human characteristics, given as a means for people to grasp particular aspects of His being. God is also described as having a characteristic of a bird. He has “wings” (see Psalm 17:8; Ruth 2:12). God is described as a fire, speaking to Moses from a burning bush. “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Exodus 3:4 ESV). As an eternal being, God does not have physical characteristics.

Jesus, when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, describes God as spirit. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 ESV). Since God is a spirit, those who are created in His image must worship Him in both spiritand in truth.  Spirit means the vital principle that animates those created in the image of God. Truth is reality, whether in the physical or eternal realm.  People cannot makeup ways to worship God Worship originally came from their natural inclinations, uncorrupted by sin, according to the image of God in them. Worship is the natural outcome of an intimate relationship with God, not simply ritualistic observances. Sin and rebellion corrupts the vessel containing the image but the image of God in people is not corrupted. Jesus added these two words, spiritand truth because of the corruption of sin that has caused the inability of the sinful person to comprehend the spiritual or that which is true.

Paul tells us God’s essence is revealed in the physical universe, which is the evidence of His work.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

This is not a contradiction to the words of John. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”(John 1:18 ESV). No one who is corrupted by sin can see God for He will not allow sin in His eternal presence. God can be known, both intellectually and intimately, by an honest examination of His creation and through an intimate relationship with the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God will do only what God can do. No created being can do that which only God can do. Therefore, the evidence of God is in the work done which only He can do. People can see and examine the obvious evidence of the physical universe, including their own bodies, and their understanding of the laws of the universe. Only God can create and only He can suspend the laws of the universe and perform miracles. God may use people as the instrument though which His miracles are performed, as when God used Moses to do miracles before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

As His people entered the Promised Land, Joshua told them how they could know that God was with them. “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you” (Joshua 3:10 ESV). You will know when the ark, carried by twelve men, enters the Jordan River while at flood stage, and the water is stopped so they can cross without injury. God’s miracles are more evidence of God. Peter and the disciples, and many of the people who followed and listened to Jesus, saw His works and the miracles He did. They saw Him with their eyes and witnessed His divinity, declaring Him the “Son of God” (see Matthew 14:33, 16:16; John 1:49, 6:69, 11:27, 20:31). They saw the evidence of creation, the miracles performed, and the Person of Jesus. We can read about the eyewitness accounts of the miracles of God and the Person of Jesus but can also examine the evidence of creation. As such, we can know God is both living and active in the physical universe and in the spiritual realm.

Offering Our Gift

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

I do not want to leave the impression that for the Christian all suffering is suffering for righteousness’ sake. More often we suffer because of our own sin or as a consequence of someone’s sin rather than because of our relationship with Christ. We may bring suffering upon ourselves. We may experience suffering because of our proximity to sin, as a result of historical sin or because of unrecognized sin.

Christian’s are redeemed and sanctified yet continue to live in the world, in their sinful flesh. Many, because of allowing sin to have a place in their lives continue to violate God’s will and sin against their “brother.” Sin’s effects may carry over generations of families, cross geographic boarders and span history. Adam’s sin is carried by all of mankind. David sinned and the entire nation suffered. God’s third statement declares those who worship idols will teach their children to worship idols. Children learn to sin from those around them and then teach others to sin.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. [Deuteronomy 5:8-10 ESV]

Sin is a reality in the fallen world. Though Christians are redeemed, Christians still sin. Sin stops worship. When we sin against another person we are sinning against two, against the other person and against God. This is not a matter of debate. All sin is first rebellion against God.

Jesus is explicit. If anyone has something against us because of our sin then we cannot worship God. He uses a word which means anything regardless of the size, intensity, relevancy or even knowledge. You, the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, are required to make your relationship with the offended person right. This does not include manufactured offenses based upon any person’s ungodly standard. This is sin violating God’s standards against a person created in the image of God.

Before this can happen there must be an acknowledgment of the wrong done, not by the party offended but by the offender. It is not the responsibility of the person who holds the offense to request reconciliation but the person who committed the sin. Admitting sin is almost impossible for any unless directed by the Holy Spirit and seen through the new eyes of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. When Christians sin they have to recognize the sin, that it has compromised their relationship with God and with the other person and then mourn of the consequences of sin. Damaged and broken relationships are one of the temporal consequences of sin. Separation from God is the eternal consequence of sin.

Owning sin is one of the characteristics of being poor in spirit and is the first step into the kingdom and the primary characteristic of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  Owning the sin is recognizing the truth. “Sin” is not a made-up offense, as when the intolerance of the world demands we acquiesce to ungodly expectations. Our offense is first against God and then against another. But Jesus uses the word “brother” which means brother, someone near and somehow related.  He uses the same word in the previous verses when He speaks to denigrating anyone in the kingdom.

Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are servants of the King of heaven and work toward knowing Him intimately and desiring to be and do His will. This includes offering spiritual worship and keeping clear and righteous relationships with other citizens. Our focus is upon fulfilling the image of God and the likeness of Christ which characterizes the citizen.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners (strangers) and exiles (aliens) to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)

We are strangers and aliens in this world. Aliens are citizens of heaven living as exiles, witnesses to the world until they are repatriated. Strangers are passing though the world being prepared by God for eternity.

Facing Suffering

I am faced with a dilemma. How am I to face suffering when my life and expectations are to not suffer?

Throughout our world Christians face persecution and suffering because of their relationship with Christ. We tend to view persecution as overt and physical suffering, such as a government condemning to death a Christian who converts from Islam to Christianity. We, sitting in our safe, comfortable homes, feel little conflict when a man 12,000 miles away stands firm in his faith even to the point of death. Our consciences have been so seared with the blatant lies of the world which surround us we feel nothing, or perhaps only a simple, easily ignored, minor discomfort, on hearing such a story. We have no experiences with which to relate to those facing daily the hatred of the world.

Or do we? Persecution is also subtle, as innocuous as a boss or friend demanding unethical behavior and compromise from a known Christian. We are faced with an even more subtle attitude of tolerant intolerance. We are lulled into complacency by embracing the desirable things of a world at complete odds with God. Each desire is filled with a temptation which then coerces us to compromise a known value, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit but never jammed down our throats. God asks for obedience then expects us to exercise our minds, emotions and wills to do what He wants, think as He thinks, recognize His moral truth as His standard and act in obedience. We don’t because we do not comprehend the value of suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Worldly attitudes devalue Christ’s sacrifice, the gift of suffering experienced by the persecuted and our own worth. Christ told us we were worth His deep, agonizing suffering. He told us that to follow Him we also would suffer. We grieve and mourn over sin and grieve and mourn when those who are part of the Body of Christ endure intellectual abuse, emotional oppression and physical trauma because of Christ. With Paul we can say “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” [1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV].

Do we not?

No one wants to face suffering but such suffering for righteousness’ sake is the fertile ground God uses to grow the Church. We are not prepared in this country, or many places, to face or stand against someone, anyone, who has something against us because we belong to God. Instead of correcting our thinking, challenging and changing the way we think, we accept the thinking of the world which encourages through a skewed philosophy biased actions and unjust decisions.

When we think and act like the world we show how insignificant is our relationship with God. He created us in His image so our thinking would conform to truth unaffected by sin and rebellion. When confronted by the philosophy of the world our spirit, counseled and directed by the Spirit who resides within, knows there is something wrong. We may not be able to articulate the wrong, or explain how it is wrong, but we know.

However, when anything we do is perceived by the world as wrong when we know it is God’s express will, bringing the world’s displeasure from our righteous actions and attitudes, do we then submit to the world and agree we are wrong? Are we not convinced of God’s will? If we do no wrong why do we allow the world to convince us otherwise?

All who are His are owned by Him. This is an unpopular position. Our words, actions and attitudes are to focus upon Him who strengthens us, directs us and who gives us grace and a peace. This confounds the world. Do we compromise His moral will and character in order to please the world? Or do we please God and face with peace and grace the hatred of the world?

Only those operating under the same standard of justice can be reconciled. We are reconciled to God because we come under His justice and righteousness not the worlds. Being judged by those in the world will bring God’s judgment upon those in the world. Those who hold to a standard bent away from God will never be able to comprehend the actions, attitudes and words of a Christian. They may be curious, though.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [1 Peter 3:14-16 ESV]

Live the gospel. All are called by God to obedience. And maybe those who persecute you will see Him.

Worship of the Heart

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

Jesus continues illustrating the characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven by stressing the thinking of the heart in right relationship with God. If we are right with God then we are right with those around us. They may not be right with God or us. Jesus tells us to focus on the thinking of our hearts and not theirs. If someone has something against us it is because of something we have done to offend them, not because our position before God in Christ as righteous offends them.

Do not read these verses thinking Jesus is speaking only about a touchable sacrifice on a solid altar. When Abel and Cain offered their sacrifices is was not the physical sacrifice God cared about but the thinking of their hearts. We know Cain was “angry” and his face was downcast or fallen. We know God did not accept his sacrifice. Sin had bent him toward anger and wanted to control his whole being. We know God warned him to not allow sin control. Death and separation followed Cain’s refusal to heed God’s warning and discipline. Cain’s thinking held murderous intent and contempt for both God and those created in the image of God.

Pride and covetousness stops any capacity to worship. If pride and covetousness does not immediately kill worship then it strangles it. Even a little pride, a little covetousness, completely robs love from any act declared worship.

We are given His Spirit so we might worship Him in spirit and truth. “God is sprit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” [John 4:24 ESV]. When we give to God our gift is an act of love because we give that which is most valuable to us just as He gave what was most valuable to Him to redeem us. Our gift must be nothing less than our selves. Our giving must be done with the thinking of our hearts devoted to the One who has redeemed us. We love our God “with heart and with all your soul and with all your might” [Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV].  We show our love for Him not only through sacrifice but through obedience which is sacrifice.

Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. [1 Samuel 15:22-23 ESV]

Our gifts or sacrifices are not prescribed by law but by the indwelling Spirit. Our altar is not made of stone but of living flesh. Our gift has eternal value and encompasses the whole self. Our attitude, the thinking of our hearts, our whole person, must show love for God for the gift of ourselves to be acceptable. Our worship is a spiritual gift. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” [Romans 12:1 ESV].

Knowing this further helps understand what Jesus is proclaiming in Matthew 5:22-23. His illustration pierces to the center of the thinking of my heart. I am undone.  According to Paul and my own experience my body is a slave to sin while my spirit is a slave to righteousness. If my gift to Him is pure and acceptable it is only because I have been enabled to give, to offer worship in spirit and truth, by the One receiving the gift.

I still sin. And I must continue baring responsibility for the immediate, temporal consequences of my sin. Though my relationship with God can never be severed it can be momentarily compromised. In addition, my sin frustrates and obstructs my relationship with my “brother.”

Though the eternal consequences of my sin the sentence of death and eternal separation from God has been lifted and placed on Christ, I still have a body of sin and I will still physically die. I still suffer the immediate and temporal consequences of my sin and the sin of the world. My sin affects the Body of Christ, the Church, and those around me.

Never does God say He will not accept my gift or sacrifice. However, He demands obedience. We love Him by obeying Him. We love Him by loving those created by Him.  When I sin my brother is affected and my person is compromised and my gift or sacrifice is not given in love.

God will not leave such sin unknown.

Who is in Control?

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:21-22 ESV]

From where does murderous intent come? Does not such intent begin with the imagining of unreasonable expectations which becomes a demand, a law the person requires of others? In the Hebrew Scripture the first sin recorded was not murder. In fact, God does not list all of the sins Adam and Eve committed before Cain was born. God never give a litany of a person’s sins. He reveals some but mostly He documents that they sinned.

After Cain, the first born, and Abel offer their sacrifice God comes to Cain and speaks with him and warns him about the battle raging within his heart. Cain wanted to worship God the way Cain wanted to worship, not the way God wanted. It was not the actual act of worship God spoke to Cain about but the intent of his heart. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” [Genesis 4:6 ESV]. Cain was angry. God had not met his expectations. This is because, even without knowing Cain’s exact expectations, we can suggest they were unreasonable.

Cain carried his emotion in an obvious way. However, no one else saw Cain’s struggle but God and He see everything. Perhaps, Cain had not yet learned to hide his emotions from himself. Before this would happen Cain had to train himself to allow his anger to control his expectations. He excused his sinful thoughts and unrealistic emotions which were contrary to what God had originally designed. He was made in the image of God but carried the bent to sin. God gave him his image. His parents gave him, and all who follow him, the bent toward sin. Sin is an unnatural inheritance. We all have this bent but we all struggle against it because of the natural godly image within our being. God wants control. So does sin. “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, but you must rule over it” [Genesis 4:7 ESV].

Cain chose to allow sin to control his life. Could he have chosen differently?

Here is a conundrum faced by all Christians. God holds us responsible for our sins even though we can identify sin as an unnatural inheritance, a controlling force in our lives, coming down from Adam and Eve to everyone who has ever lived. Except Christ. We have been taught we have no choice but to sin. We have been taught everything we do is sin. We have also been told Christ covered our sin with His righteousness so we are no longer under God’s judgment for sin. But we still sin while we have been taught God expects holiness and righteousness from us. It is impossible for us to reconcile the two positions. They are in conflict.

God told Cain he must control sin by ruling over it so it would not control him. Does He not tell us the same thing? Sin wants us. We must recognize the assault of sin and steadfastly fight to not allow sin control over us. We do not belong to sin but to God. Sin owned us but He bought us back with the eternal price of Christ’s blood. Our fight begins, not with sin but within ourselves. God never lost His fight with sin. We must be willing to allow God to show us what is truly happening within ourselves. We must honestly confront ourselves and the sin which assaults us, recognizing it as sin and not excusing it as natural and expected.

Sin began outside of us, has become an integral though unnatural part of us, and God has given us the tools, strength and grace to combat it. But first we must recognize our own powerlessness and His power in us. James addresses our conundrum.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for ought when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. [James 1:12-15 ESV]