We are all curious about the realm of spirituality. So curious, in fact, that one of our greatest forms of entertainment is highly dedicated to producing ghostly video images that cause us to jump each time the camera angle changes. Regardless of what we think about what is popularly referred to as the spiritual world, we must admit that strange and irrational things happen. At least some people perceive them as happening.
I remember recently reading the story of a non-superstitious woman named Vayla. She was an engineer in a large city and claimed to be very analytical. As she walked to get her car out of its place in the garage, she came across a homeless man whom she did not recognize. Due to their apparent territories, she claimed to have been familiar with the homeless people she usually passed. This particular homeless man asked Vayla for any loose change. After realizing that she only had large bills with her, Vayla decided to just walk by, pretending that she did not hear the man. As she walked, the homeless man implored again, this time calling Vayla by name. Vayla turned toward him, astonished that someone she had never met actually knew her name. As others passed by, the homeless man stopped asking for money. He seemed to only want to talk with Vayla. In her story, Vayla described the man’s eyes as deep, black and hypnotic. She stated that his stare was unearthy and vexing. It was not evil, she claimed, but it was powerful and sent chills running up and down her spine.
You may hear this story and think to yourself that it is simply an active imagination at work or even a clever conjuration. It very well may be. Despite what you think of this story, I would like to ask you a question. Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you believe in ghosts, angels or demons?
I have mentioned before that the spiritual world must be closely related to the physical world. What we do affects the spiritual world, and what is done in the spiritual world affects this physical world. Keep in mind that this may not look the way that Hollywood chooses to portray it, but I would argue that spiritual evils exist all around us. Because spiritual evil does exist, it is necessary for us to explore the implications it could have as we live out our lives.
Now Adam Knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 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, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 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, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:1-7 ESV).
Adam and Eve conceived two children. Over the course of time (we don’t actually know how much time), both children presented a sacrifice to God. Cain presented some fruit, and Abel presented the firstborn of his flock along with some fat portions. Why is it that God looked with favor on Abel’s offering and not Cain’s?
I remember hearing this story over and over again as a child. The object of the lesson seemed to always beg the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Furthermore, I also learned, as a child, that God accepted Abel’s offering because it was an animal as opposed to fruit. It is easy for each of use to passively listen to the story of Cain and Abel without considering what is being taught because most of us have grown up hearing it over and over again. My first challenge, then, is for us to glean something new from this portion of scripture.
First of all, we must realize that it is unlikely that God looked with favor on Abel’s offering simply because it consisted of the meat and fat of an animal. In fact, God had not yet commanded animal sacrifice, and as of this point in the Biblical story, God was the only on who had reportedly sacrificed any type of animal: that was in order to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. So, at this point mankind had not been commanded at all to give a sacrificial offering to God, at least that we know of. This means that both Cain and Abel were giving out of the love they had in an already existing relationship with God. They were giving because they wanted to.
Suppose we meet together for worship. As we come together in song, we fail to give God everything we have: we fail to give God our absolute best. Instead, we half-heartedly sing and focus on what the person standing next to us thinks rather than giving our worship solely to God. Suppose we are living out our daily routine and we get so caught up with our performance in the different arenas of life that we forget altogether about living our lives to serve God’s glory. This is exactly the trap Cain finds himself in and exactly the spiritual evil that faces us everyday. While Abel gave his absolute best to God (the FIRSTBORN of his flock), Cain just gave some of his fruit. I just have one question: how many times are we content with just praying before meals or just attending church or just being nice to others or just putting a couple dollars in the offering plate for God to use?
So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 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, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:5b-7 ESV)
So, even though Cain gave out of his love for God, he did not give his absolute best, and God was displeased with it. One of the most essential aspects of the Christian life that we can grasp is this: God wants our everything, and anything else is insufficient. Go hard or go home.
Just like Cain, when we live just giving God some of ourselves, we will quickly grow discontent with the Christian life and with our relationship in Christ. We begin to look harshly on our brothers and sisters because God seems to look with favor on them. We become jealous of their spirituality and call them hypocrites and spiritual over-achievers. It was Cain’s own fault that he was angry. It is our own fault when we grow discontent with our relationship in Christ.
If we do well, we will be accepted. By now we know that doing well consist of giving God our everything: not just labeling ourselves a Christian, but being completely sold out for Jesus Christ. By the way, this is only possible when we live according to the relationship we have with God: the relationship that was made possible through Christ’s sacrifice here on Earth. Anything less than our all, displeases God.
If we do not give God our best, sin is crouching at our door. Its desire is for us, but we must rule over it. Sin desires to have us. This is the imminent spiritual evil facing ever human on the face of the planet. The good news is this: we can rule over it by 1) repenting of our sins and searching after God, 2) according to Romans 10:9 confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, and 3) living according to the relationship we have with God.
If you do not have that relationship with God, no time is better than now to start it. God is waiting with open arms. Talk to Him now. He will hear you. Tell Him you’ve messed up. Ask for His forgiveness. Declare Him the Lord of your life today. If you do have that relationship, start living like it. God gave all of Himself for us. It’s time to start giving Him all of ourselves today. Cain’s story ended as he killed his brother Abel. How will your story end?