Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If 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.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NIV)
Today on Ash Wednesday, as we begin the Lenten journey to Easter, it is good to ponder our human frailty as it relates to sin. I remember hearing these words annually in the church of my youth. “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” But the good news is, Jesus has a plan for dust.
As sons and daughters of Adam, all of us like Cain, are subject to the temptations of sin. But unlike Cain we must learn to master it. God never commands us to do something without also giving us the wherewithal and strength to do it. The victory Jesus Christ won for us through His death, burial and resurrection defeated death, sin and their agent the devil. The devil may come to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came that we might have a victorious and abundant life. (John 10:10)
Temptation often happens as it did with Cain when we make ourselves vulnerable to it through wrong or selfish choices. As a result we put ourselves in a precarious situation where sin literally crouches at our door waiting to pounce. Cain cut corners with his offering by trying to pass off seconds to God while keeping the first fruits of his crops for himself. His half-hearted and hypocritical worship of God opened the door for jealousy and anger toward his brother, Abel. Abel had offered the best of the fruit of his labors to God, the firstborn from his flock. (Genesis 4:3-5)
In a loving intervention, God warns Cain that he must deal with the sin issues in his heart lest they open the door to its ravages. This warning is echoed in the New Testament writings of Peter. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
One of the greatest deterrents to sin is stopping to consider the death and destruction it wrecks upon both the sinner and others whom his/her sin affects. That is the essence of the appeal that God was making to Cain. He was saying to Cain, and also by the Holy Spirit is saying to all of us, “Stop a minute and get a grip on your self. Think about the unfolding consequences of this sinful attitude and action if it is allowed to play itself out! You are opening the door to death!”
The Bible makes it clear that the after affects of sin is death. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Sadly that was the aftermath of Cain’s sinful choices resulting in Abel’s death.
I can think of no greater deterrent to sin than imagining the effects of death that sin inflicts upon us. Here are eight ways sin and death rob us.Loss of Joy – because of guilt & shame Loss of Confidence – because of self-condemnation Loss of Freedom & Self-determination – because of addiction Loss of Healthy Relationships – because of estrangement Loss of Focus & Clarity of Mind – because of obsession Loss of Productivity – because of distraction Loss of Reputation – because of exposure Loss of Future Hope – because of fear of judgment
Of course God has answers both for how to avoid death’s sting and also how to be healed from it.
To stop the crouching lion at the door we are promised that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV) So when tempted, look for the escape hatch!
And if we have been experiencing the working of death in any of the eight areas listed above we are invited to secure our healing. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) So when you do fall prey to sin, extricate yourself through repentance and receive the cleansing forgiveness from Jesus.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus resurrects us from the dust and ashes of our sin?
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