Whom Do You Serve...Your Sin or Your Savior?
O Lord God, my dear heavenly Father, I pray that You would set my heart free from sin. Cause me to enter Your presence with a repentant heart, a willing mind, and a sincere desire to grow in my faith. As I live my life, may I do so with a firm commitment to be faithful to You and to honor You with both my words and deeds. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Are we slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness? One might be tempted to suggest that we are neither, but that is not the case. The reality is that either we serve sin or our Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no third choice! Serving sin leads to certain death, while serving our Savior leads to eternal life!
Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus says that those with childlike humility and faith are the greatest! He then goes on to point out how dangerous sin is and what an offense it is to lead children astray. Let us recognize and rejoice in God’s desire to see each one of us in heaven!
Text: Genesis 4:1-16
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.
In Christ Jesus, Who came to set the captives free (cf. Is. 61:1), dear fellow redeemed:
This past week we celebrated America’s Independence Day. This past week also marked the 150th Anniversaries of the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg—two decisive Union victories in the American Civil War. That war was fought in large part to end legal slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, slavery has not ended in the United States or elsewhere in our world. It has been documented that there are more slaves in our world today—an estimated 27 million—than at any time in human history. Most of these exploited people are young girls and women, who are bought and sold in an ever growing sex trade.
While such slavery is a horrendous evil and a travesty of justice that we and others in our world ought address, it is not the topic of our sermon today. I want to talk to you about a deeper and more personal form of slavery that is much more prevalent than that of the sex trade. In fact, it is a slavery that affects all six billion people who inhabit the earth. I am talking about spiritual slavery. St. Paul addressed it in our Epistle Lesson today, stating that we are either “slaves of sin leading to death” or “slaves of righteousness for holiness” leading to life (cf. Rom. 6:16-19). Now we might not like either of those alternatives, because we may resent and want to dismiss the thought that we are slaves, but those two alternatives do reflect our spiritual reality. Either we serve our sin or we serve our Savior. Every human being is born into spiritual slavery to sin and remains so enslaved unless and until he or she is liberated by faith in Jesus Christ. When we are brought to faith we are freed from our sin, which leads to death, and enabled to serve our Savior, which leads to everlasting life. Consequently, the question I would ask each of you is: WHOM DO YOU SERVE…YOUR SIN OR YOUR SAVIOR? As we shall see from our text, your answer is of the greatest importance to you, for your sin seeks to dissatisfy, to dominate, and to divide, while your Savior seeks to direct, to deliver, and to defend!
The historical account in our text is familiar. Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s children, born, the Bible tells us, in the sinful image of their parents (cf. Gen. 5:3; Ps. 51:5). They grew up and experienced the effects of sin, just as do we. Adam and Eve no doubt shared with them the tragic story of their own rebellion and disobedience. They no doubt fervently warned their children to be on their guard against Satan—that great deceiver. They also no doubt sought to inspire them with God’s promise of a Savior, whose heel would be bruised by Satan, but who then would crush Satan’s head and ultimately gain the victory for Himself and all humankind (cf. Gen. 3:15). Yes, Adam and Eve brought their sons to the LORD, and their influence is seen by the fact that when Cain and Abel were adults, leading their own lives—one as a farmer and the other as a shepherd—they brought their offerings to the LORD. But that was when sin took hold of Cain’s heart!
We are told that “Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” We are not told here why God respected Abel’s offering, but did not respect Cain’s. In the New Testament, however, we are told: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous” (Heb. 11:4). Cain’s offering was not brought as a fruit of his faith, but rather as a mere obligation. Notice, however, the effect of his sin—he became angry and that anger was written all over his face. Why did he become angry? He was dissatisfied with God’s response to the two offerings. He was upset that God did not receive his and jealous that God had received his brother’s. Sin seeks to dissatisfy!
It is interesting to note that Cain’s dissatisfaction arose in connection with the two most important relationships anyone can have in life—with God and with family. Satan knows that if he can cause dissatisfaction to arise within our hearts in these two areas, he will very likely be able to enslave us to our sin! If you think about this, it is very understandable. Our highest expectations for peace, love, joy, help, and acceptance are found at church and in the home. It only stands to reason, then, that if Satan can cause the sins of others to dash our expectations, dissatisfaction will arise. We can then become so easily disillusioned and prone to further sin, for sin also seeks to dominate our hearts, minds, and lives!
It is important to note God’s description of sin in His conversation with Cain. He told Cain, “Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you.” God describes sin as a fierce beast of prey—a lion ready to pounce and seeking to destroy (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). That is the nature of sin. Sin is not content merely to dirty your clothes. Sin wants to see you in an orange jumpsuit with chains around your legs. Sin wants to drag you into the depth of perversion so that it can ultimately destroy your soul. Look at Cain! We are told in our text that his angry thoughts, turned into angry words, and finally into an angry deed—this world’s first murder as he “rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” If you think that sin is child’s play, it is not! It seeks to infiltrate our minds with the goal of taking up residence in our hearts. Our ill thoughts towards God and one another are nurtured by Satan with the intent that they will grow and produce angry outbursts leading to violence of one sort or another—perhaps not leading to outward murder, but certainly to any of a number of devastating consequences. Do not be deceived—sin seeks to dominate!
Sin also seeks to divide! Satan loves to see division within the church and the family—congregational members pitted against each other and family members tearing each other apart. As in the case of Cain, however, sin’s greatest goal is to divide us from our Savior! The final words of our text reveal sin as Cain’s ultimate master: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.” Not that Cain or we could ever go someplace where God is not. The Psalmist correctly asks, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) The answer, of course, is “Nowhere!”But we can, as Cain, turn away from our Savior Godand so separate ourselves from Him, rejecting His council and avoiding meaningful contact. This leaves us as slaves of sin destined to die eternally!
WHOM then DO YOU SERVE…YOUR SIN OR YOUR SAVIOR? While your sin seeks to dissatisfy, to dominate, and to divide, your Savior seeks to direct, to deliver, and to defend! Note that the LORD came to Cain in the midst of his anger and dissatisfaction and sought to direct him: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Our Savior’s desire for us is always good! That is why He consistently seeks to direct us to Himself. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). While sin seeks to dissatisfy, our Savior seeks to satisfy our deepest needs. Consider the delightful promise of the Psalmist: “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).
Our Savior comes to us in the midst of all of our sins with this purpose in mind—He seeks to deliver! This is what He attempted to do for Cain, warning him of sin and urging him to rule over his passions. This past Friday evening in my Bible Study at the Blue Earth County Jail we considered Jesus’ humiliation. The final section of Scripture discussed was Jesus’ passion as described by Luke. Through His passion Jesus delivered us all from our sins, but we also see Him seeking to help individuals. He greeted Judas’ kiss of betrayal with a question intended to prick his conscience and so deliver him from ultimate destruction (cf. Luke 22:48). He healed the ear of the high priest’s servant, identified elsewhere as Malchus, and thereby delivered him from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light (cf. Luke 22:51). Jesus cast a compassionate look of sorrow upon Peter after his third denial, causing him to repent and weep bitterly (cf. Luke 22:61-62). Jesus assured the penitent thief on the cross that he would indeed that very day be with Him in paradise (cf. 23:43).
Our Savior has a deep and abiding love for each and every one of us human beings. He would have “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). He consequently seeks to defend us even when we seem determined to separate ourselves from him. When the LORD confronted Cain with his sin of murder, Cain did not respond as God or we might hope. First, Cain lied when the LORD asked him where his brother was, saying he did not know and then asking callously, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Then when forced to admit the truth, he did not repent or reveal any sorrow for his actions, but seemed only concerned about the punishment he was about to endure: “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” Just as had his parents, Cain ultimately blamed God for his sad predicament. But the LORD did not avenge the insult, but rather placed His protective mark upon Cain, lest anyone try to kill him. Sadly, Cain walked away from his loving LORD and Savior!
My dear friends, WHOM DO YOU SERVE…YOUR SIN OR YOUR SAVIOR? Your sin is a cruel master who seeks to dissatisfy, to dominate, and to divide you from everything that is good in your life. Your Savior, on the other hand, seeks to direct, to deliver, and to defend you against all danger, so as to bring you into His kingdom to enjoy life and peace forever! Let us not be as foolish Cain who walked away, but rather by faith embrace the love of Jesus! Amen.
--Pastor Paul D. Nolting