This past Sunday Mark spent the first several minutes discussing how we are figuratively covering ourselves in fig leaves. We want to cover our flaws and we don’t want to draw attention to them. We use social media to build our resumes. He powerfully reminded us that we are entertaining ourselves to death. We are almost afraid of being alone in silence, so we have constant distractions from iPhones, to iPads, to iPods, to movies, television and sports. We numb ourselves and distract ourselves with these things. Several years ago I listened to a series of sermons by John Piper on Romans chapter 2 and I went back and was reading through one of those and was convicted by these words from Pastor John Piper:
“I feel such a burden for us as a church to swim against the tide of almost every current in our culture. More and more and more, America is a nation given over to play. The industries of play are huge! Houses are built today with entertainment centers. Computers and videos and television and stereo all coordinate to give us ever more stimulating and captivating distractions from the realities of the world. When we need to be dreaming, for the glory of Christ, about how to spend our lives alleviating ignorance and sickness and misery and lostness, we are becoming more and more addicted to amusement.
Make a little test of evangelical vocabulary, and calculate, for example, the increasing frequency with which we use the world “fun” to describe almost everything we like. But when do we describe our good experiences as “meaningful” or “significant” or “enriching” or “ennobling” or “worthwhile” or “edifying” or “helpful” or “strengthening” or “encouraging” or “deepening” or “transforming” or “valuable” or “eye-opening” or “God-exalting”?
Examine yourself with this text (Romans 2): Whatever else it teaches, this is clear, it teaches that after death there is eternal life and glory and honor and peace, and there is eternal wrath and indignation and tribulation and distress. And in the twinkling of an eye, even before this service is over, you could be irreversibly in the one or the other. I am a watchman on the wall. And I have warned you as clearly as I know how. Get ready and stay ready.
Live in the light of eternity. And I do mean light, not shadow. When you have come to know your God, and love his Son so much that you can say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” then living in the light of eternity will replace your “fun” with deeper, higher, wider, longer, more unshakable, more varied, more satisfying, more durable, more solid pleasures than all the fun that entertainment could ever give. O come, and let us be a different breed of people for the few short years we have to live upon this earth! Dream some dream of making your life count for Christ and his Kingdom. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Enmity Between You And The Woman
We spent some time discussing Genesis 3:15 before getting to Genesis 4. Genesis 3:15 says:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
So, there is going to be enmity and friction between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. What does this mean? In John chapter 8 Jesus is talking to the Pharisee’s and this conversation helps us to answer what this text in Genesis means. John 8: 41-44 says:
“You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Mark told us that to be a son or daughter of means to reflect the character traits and habits of your father. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Jesus says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” John Piper helps us understand this passage when he says: “That is, show you are a child of God by acting the way your Father acts. If you are his, then his character is in you, and you will be inclined to do what he does. God loves his enemies—the evil and the unrighteous—in sending rain and sunshine on them instead of instant judgment.” He later says: “Jesus does not mean that loving our enemies earns us the right to be a child of God. You can’t earn the status of a child. You can be born into it. You can be adopted into it. You can’t work your way into it. Jesus means that loving our enemies shows that God has already become our Father, and that the only reason we are able to love our enemies is because he loves us and has met our needs first.”
What Genesis 3:15 is telling us is that for the rest of human history there is going to be conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan. So, the conflict and enmity will be between the people who reflect the character of Satan and those who reflect the character of the seed of the woman, who ultimately is Jesus. There will be friction between these two groups. We don’t have to wait very long before we see an example of this friction and enmity. Genesis 4 gives us an example of this.
The first seven verses of Genesis 4 are as follows:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 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.”
Mark told us that we should put our name’s here in place of Cain’s because sin is crouching at all of our doors. Tim Keller is helpful here on the crouching nature of sin. Keller says: “It’s a remarkable image. It’s the image of a leopard or a tiger, a predatory animal, crouching in the shadows, coiled and ready to spring and kill.
God says that’s sin. Sin is predatory. Sin has a deadly life of its own. How is that? Here right away we’re going to see why there is no other set of vocabulary words that we have that deal with the reality of what sin is. How so? First of all, when God uses this image, it’s telling us that sin has an abiding, growing presence in your life. If you commit sin, sin is not over. Sin is not simply an action. It’s a force. It’s a power.
When you do sin, it’s not now over, but it actually becomes a presence in your life. It takes shape, a shadow shape, and stays with you and begins to affect you. Eventually, it can just take you out. You say, “Well, how could that be?” Well, you can start with the psychological concept of habit. You can start there, but you can’t end there. You can start by noticing the things we do become easier to do again and easier to do again and easier to do again and harder to stop doing…Here’s the point. When you sin, the sin doesn’t just go away. The sin becomes a presence in your life. You start by doing sin, but then sin does you.
You can decide, “I’m not going to forgive my mother, I’m not going to forgive my father, for what he or she has done.” Okay, you’ve done it, but then it will do you, because that will poison your relationships with other people, certain people in all kinds of ways you don’t even see. It will harden you.”
I have to keep quoting Keller here because this is good stuff:
“When you sin, that sin becomes a presence in your life. It takes shape in and around you, and it will take you out. Therefore, you should avoid sin like the plague, because it is a plague. Somebody says to you, “You know, you have a cancerous tumor growing in this part of your body.” You say, “Well, one of these years I’ll get to it.” You don’t do that. For somebody to come along and say, “You have an abrasive spirit,” or, “You can’t control yourself in this area,” or, “You have this,” or, “You have that character flaw,” you don’t say, “Well, yeah.”
Don’t you dare, because that’s the second aspect of potency we see in this image. The idea of sin crouching at the door not only tells us it’s coiled to spring (it’s a presence in your life that when you sin, you create a presence in your life that then can take you out), but also the image gets across the fact that sin hides.
See, the lion, the tiger, the leopard is crouching. That means down away out of your sight. Why? Because if you see a crouching tiger, you have a chance. You can get a couple of steps on it, but if you don’t see a crouching tiger, you’re dead. If you don’t see it well or you don’t know quite where it’s located … The less aware you are of the location or the reality of the crouching animal, the more vulnerable you are, and the more likely you are to die.
What that means is the worst things in your life, the character flaws and the sins in your life that are most going to ruin you or are ruining you or are going to make the people around you miserable are the things, the character flaws, you least will admit. They’re the ones you’re in denial about, you rationalize, and you minimize. Whatever the consequences happen to you, when somebody brings them up, you rationalize them.
By definition, those are the crouching sins in your life (the ones that are going to take you out). As long as you look at workaholism as conscientiousness, as long as you look at your grudge as moral outrage, as long as you look at materialism as ambition or arrogance as healthy self-assertion, as long as you look at your obsession with looks as good grooming, you’re vulnerable. You’re in denial.
Do you know what your sins are? Do you know what your besetting sins are? Do you know what your crouching sins are? If you don’t even have a list, then you’ve been mastered. So see the potency of sin. See how deadly it is. See why it’s nothing to take lightly. It’s nothing to be trifled with.”
As Mark said this past Sunday that we in the church have the tendency to point our fingers at people outside the church and say they are the real sinners and they commit truly heinous sin. Whereas, we in the church don’t really struggle with sin. Jerry Bridges wrote a fantastic book called Respectable Sins. In this book he says: “Sin is sin. Even those sins that I call “the acceptable sins of the saints”―those sins that we tolerate in our lives―are serious in God’s eyes. Our religious pride, our critical attitudes, our unkind speech about others, our impatience and anger, even our anxiety (see Philippians 4:6); all of these are serious in the sight of God.”
He goes on: “the fact still remains that the seemingly minor sins we tolerate in our lives do indeed deserve the curse of God. Yes, the whole idea of sin may have disappeared from our culture. It may have been softened in many of our churches so as not to make the audiences uncomfortable. And, sad to say, the concept of sin among many conservative Christians has been essentially redefined to cover only the obviously gross sins of our society. The result, then, is that for many morally upright believers, the awareness of personal sin has effectively disappeared from their consciences. But it has not disappeared from the sight of God…the point is, all of our sin, wherever we may be on the spectrum of personal awareness of it in our lives, is reprehensible in the sight of God and deserving of His judgment.” He gives us two examples of the acceptable sins of the saints when he says: “So when I gossip, I am rebelling against God. When I harbor resentful thoughts toward someone instead of forgiving him or her in my heart, I am rebelling against God.”
Re-listening to Mark’s sermon and reading through what Jerry Bridges wrote and what Tim Keller said, I am once again convicted of my own sin, and I am once again reminded that I don’t want to be cavalier towards my own sin. I don’t want to entertain myself to death. I want to be like John Piper and hate all sin especially my own sin. I want to put to death the sins in my life like the Apostle Paul says: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” I want to encourage others and I hope we as a church will excel at what Hebrews 3:13 calls us to do: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Genesis 4:8-16 tell us:
“Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”
This is a prime example of the enmity and friction that is going on between Cain the seed of the serpent and Abel the seed of the woman. We spent a lot of time looking at the blood of Abel, and the fact that his blood cry’s out to God. Charles Spurgeon tells us what this blood spoke to God:
“Now what did Abel’s blood say to God? Standing by the place where Abel fell, and marking the ground all crimson with clotted gore, what would the blood seem to you to say? What would you conceive that the blood said to God? It said just this, “God, your creature has been destroyed without cause. No just reason of provocation has been given, no offence has been committed which could deserve so terrible a stroke; but one of your feeble creatures who has a claim upon your kind protection has been needlessly slain: his blood appeals to you! The first thing the blood said was, “I am an innocent victim won’t you do something? I’m made in your image, and you have promised to protect that which is made in your image and I have been needlessly and unjustly slain. Won’t you here?”
Yet the blood of Abel said more than this; it said, “Oh God, the blood shed here was shed for you.” “If it were not for love for you this blood would not have been shed! If these drops had not been consecrated by devotion, if this blood had not flowed in the veins of this man who loved God it would not have been poured out upon the ground. Oh God,” cries every drop, “I fell upon the ground for you—will you endure this? What force there is in such a voice!”
“…for the stroke which came from Cain’s hand was not aimed merely at Abel, it was in spirit aimed at God, for if Cain could have done the same to God as he did to his brother, Abel, he doubtlessly would have done it. Cain defies you. He has struck the first blow at yourself,… Will you look on in quiet? Will you take no vengeance? Oh God, will you not interpose?” Surely this is a heaven piercing cry,”
God then does respond in judgement as he curses the ground on which Cain walks. We all deserve the judgement of God to fall on us. We all deserve the wrath of God. We need to understand the weight of our sin and what it deserves. Our sin ultimately and primarily is against God Almighty! He is the most offended party when we sin.
The last passage that we looked at was found in Hebrews 12 which says we: “have come…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
So, the blood of Abel spoke to God, but the blood of Jesus also speaks to God and it speaks a far better word than the blood of Abel. Here is Charles Spurgeon once again on this blood:
“Can you stand at Calvary now and view the flowing of the Saviour’s blood from hands, and feet, and side? What are your own reflections concerning what that blood says to God? Think now at the foot of the cross. That blood cries with a loud voice to God, and what does it say? Does it not say this? “Oh God, this time it is not merely a creature which bleeds, but though the body that hangs upon the cross is…your own Son who now pours out his soul to death.
Observe that the blood of Abel spoke to God long before Cain spoke. Cain was deaf to the voice of his brother’s blood, but God heard it. Sinner, long before you hear the blood of Jesus, God hears it, and spares your guilty soul. Long before that blood comes into your soul to melt you to repentance, it pleads for you with God. It was not the voice of Cain that brought down vengeance, but the voice of Abel’s blood; and it is not the cry of the sinner seeking mercy that is the cause of mercy, it is the cry of that blood of Jesus. The blood does not need your voice to increase its power with God; he will hear your voice, but it is because he hears the blood of Jesus first of all. It is a mercy for us that…Jesus’ blood does not plead for the innocent, if such there are,…Jesus’ blood pleads for the rebellious that the Lord God may dwell among them; for you who have broken his laws, and despised his love, and fought against his power; the blood of Jesus pleads for such as you, for he came into the world to save sinners. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save those who were lost.”
I know your sins speak very loudly—ah! well they may; I hope you will hear their voice and hate them in the future—but they cannot speak as loudly as the blood of Jesus does.”
God said to Cain, “What have you done?” Now that is what Christ’s blood says to you: “What have you done?” My dear hearer, do you not know that your sins killed the Saviour? If we have been playing with sin, and imagined it to be a very little thing, a trifle to play with and laugh at, let us correct the mistake. Our Saviour hangs on the cross, and was nailed there by those sins of ours; shall we think little of them?…Let me speak personally to everyone. Make an inventory now of your sins. Go over the black list from your childhood until now. What have you done? Ah! Lord, I have done enough to make me weep for ever if it were not that you have wept for me. Drops of grief can never repay the debt which is due to your blood. Alas! I have done evil, Lord, but you have been good to me. “What have you done? What have you done?” was a dreadful accusation to Cain, it might have gone through him like a dart; but to you and to me it is the soft enquiring voice of a Father’s love bringing us to repentance. May it bring us now!
I ask you, dear Christian friends, to come nearer to the blood of Jesus this morning…Think over the great truth of substitution. Portray to yourselves the sufferings of the Saviour. Dwell in his sight, sit at the foot of Calvary, abide in the presence of his cross, and never turn away from that great spectacle of mercy and of misery. Come to it; do not be afraid…you sinner, who have never trusted Jesus, look here and live! May you come to him now!
Indeed, do not run away from the wounds which you have made, but find shelter in them; do not forget the sufferings of Christ, but rest in them! Your only hope lies in trusting in Jesus, resting wholly upon him.”
Picture from here