Sunday 22nd September 2019
Origins Series: The Origin of Religion
Audio / Teaching

Origins Series: The Origin of Religion

Adrian Holloway on May 2, 2010 with 0 Comments

Genesis 4:1-16 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

We’re going through the book of Genesis, and today we come to Chapter 4:

SLIDE 1:
1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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 master it.”

SLIDE 2:
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

SLIDE 3:
13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:1-16)

OK, so let’s go back to verse 1

SLIDE 4:
POINT 1: THE SUBTLETY OF SIN
1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. (Genesis 4:1-5)

Cain brings the fruit of the soil as his offering, Abel brings the fat portions from some of his flock. And the lord looks with favour on Abel and his offering and he doesn’t look on favour at Cain and his offering, and no reason is given as to why. No explanation. God favours one brother over and against the other. Our first reaction on looking at this, is that it’s unfair! God seems to be acting in an unjust and arbitrary way.

Let me ask you straight away, has something unfair happened to you? God seems to bless someone else and not you, for no apparent reason. “It’s not fair, Lord!” Have you ever said that? Out loud? I know I have!

Cain and Abel. It’s the most famous sibling rivalry of all time. Have you envied your brother or your sister? I know I have. Come on be honest? I’m not asking have you murdered your brother or sister! I have no brothers, but I have one sister, and she never did anything wrong. Don’t worry, I didn’t murder her, this is only a partial illustration of the story of Cain and Abel. She’s alive and well and living in Surrey with her husband and kids, and we love each other and everything is fine. Our children even play together. But growing up, she never did anything wrong.

So a vase is smashed at home, my parents would go through this pretend investigation. “Was it you, or was it you? Oh my, how complicated. We don’t know.” But they knew it must have been me that smashed it. It cannot have been her because she never did anything wrong. By a process of elimination, it must have been me . . . and it was!

I got good marks in my exams, but she got perfect marks in her exams. I went to a good university, but she went to the best university. Have you ever lived with a perfect person? It’s really annoying!

And if only she had been proud and arrogant, if she had boasted of her success, I could have secretly felt superior, I could have thought, “yes you have all this success, but you’re far too pleased with yourself and you’ll get your come-uppance in the end. Ha, ha, ha.” But she was so humble about it, so self-effacing. She would never even mention her success. It meant nothing to her. She constantly talked down her achievements, and it wasn’t even false humility, it was genuine humility, and that was even more annoying.

Now I know that none of you can relate to this, and that even now you are quietly praying for me, but for the one person here who can. Here’s my question, you’ve been in Christ Church, all this time, serving faithfully away on the rota for this or that, and then finally Christ Church launches this ministry that you’ve been desperate for Christ Church to launch, but someone else is asked to lead it. Some brother or sister in Christ. Someone else is asked to lead the Life Group, or speak at the such and such an event.

And you think, Lord, I have been serving in this church for 140 years. Have you not seen the set up rota? Can you not read excel spreadsheets? Do you not know how early I arrive at the theatre before church? Have you not seen how much time I’ve put in? Did you not hear all those prayers? Did you not notice that I completed my bible in a year, 31 days ahead of schedule? Have you ever thought: “Lord, what about me?”

No, you are far too Christ like, you never think like that about church. Let’s try work instead. Someone else gets the promotion at work, and the only reason they got the promotion is because they did the things that you wouldn’t do because you’re a Christian. You’re trying to be godly, but still you get overlooked. What’s going on Lord?

And that apparent injustice is here in Genesis 4. So we try to make sense of it. Cain and Abel both bring an offering. Abel’s accepted, Cain isn’t. Cain’s not a drug dealer. Cain’s worshipping God. He’s bringing an offering to God, but he’s rejected. Why? And then we think . . . hang on a minute, doesn’t the Bible say that ‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.’

‘Perhaps, animals and not vegetables, were the proper sacrifice for sins,’ and we like that interpretation, because as Christians it points us towards the Lamb of God, Jesus, who was slain on the cross. So we think, maybe Cain’s blunder was that he was providing a sample of his own, horticultural achievement, you know like a proud gardener with his prize marrow, asking God to accept him on the basis of what he, Cain, had done. While Abel, on the other hand, offered a substitute life in the place of his own, acknowledging his guilt and inability to save himself. And that would explain why God favoured Abel and not Cain.

Only problem is, that’s not what the Bible says. Imagine you’d never ever read any of the Bible before, and you started reading at Genesis 1:1. When you get to chapter 4, there’s been nothing up to this point to make us think that God would accept meat but not corn. Nothing has yet been said about God asking for animal sacrifices. Besides, later in the Old Testament, we find that God does accept cereal offerings, the fruit of the ground, vegetables, as an acceptable offering from people.

And here’s the clincher, when you look at the Hebrew words, it turns out it wasn’t a sin offering anyway. There’s a number of different Hebrew words for offering, and the Hebrew word for offering that is used here ‘Minha’ is a dedication offering. Now a dedication offering is not the same as a sin offering. Cain and Abel were not going to God for forgiveness, for atonement for sin. A dedication offering is a symbol that you are giving your whole self to God. It’s like a wedding ring. That’s a dedication offering to your wife or husband, but this is to God.

So Abel did not hit the religious jackpot just because he was into meat and his brother Cain was into crops. It wasn’t even a sin offering, so the blood versus carrots debate sort of misses the point.

No, here’s the truth . . .

God didn’t have to accept either Cain or Abel. God cannot be manipulated, bribed or controlled, by religious technique or moral performance. We believe he can, so we read back into that passage that there must have been something right about Abel and wrong about Cain, because at the end of the day it must have been them who was in the driving seat. One of them by his goodness getting accepted and one of them by his badness not getting accepted. But the passage simply doesn’t say that. None of us have any hold over God; he cannot be manipulated by us.

SLIDE 5:
The Origin of Religion

Cain and Abel don’t represent a bad man and a good man relating to God. Instead, they represent two different religious attitudes.

And this is the origin of religion.

And we see it in the New Testament commentary on Genesis 4 . . . Hebrews 11, which says:

SLIDE 6:
4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)

So both brothers brought offerings to God, but Abel brought his, by faith, whereas Cain had a different motivation. It’s like two brothers, sitting next to each other in the theatre today, as the offering basket goes by. Each brother puts £10 in the bucket, but one does so out of gratitude, by faith, the other is trying to earn God’s approval. Do you see it’s Abel’s faith that is the distinguishing factor. Faith listens to what God has said and acts on it. Now if Abel was acting in faith, he must have been acting on something God had said.

By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain. So it’s not a technique; it is the recognition that there are no techniques to relating to God. I cannot persuade him to accept me, I can only throw myself on his mercy, hear his word and trust myself to it.

Cain and Abel represent two different religious attitudes. One is faith, and the other is works. One is responding to God by faith, where you’re not trying to get anything. The other is doing religious works to try to get God on your side. Those are the two types of religion in the world today. It’s a religious split you can trace back to Genesis 4. You see this split all over the world today. It’s Jesus verses the Pharisees, it’s Paul verses the Judaizers. And the origin of that massive split in religion is seen here in Genesis 4.

And we see Cain’s lack of faith, not in his offering, but in his response when he gets rejected . . .

SLIDE 7:
So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:5)

Cain was very angry when his offering was not accepted. I think that shows us that it cannot be a case of Cain offering something cheap and slipshod and lackadaisical while Abel offered something costly and careful and sacrificial. If so, Cain might have seen it coming. He might not have been surprised. If Abel had given something very costly and he (Cain) had brought just a few mouldy pomegranates, Cain might have half expected God’s reaction! But Cain’s anger suggests that he had taken a lot of trouble over his offering; perhaps it was more costly, more sacrificial than Abel’s. It had cost Cain time and money and energy. You see Cain is the religious person who had taken great trouble to approach God, but on his own terms. And this is why I’ve called our first point, the subtlety of sin. Because Cain’s not a pagan. Cain takes God very seriously, and he gets very angry when God doesn’t respond as he thinks he should. Cain would do certain things for God, and then God would do certain things for Cain. That’s the deal! And when it turns out that God doesn’t play by our man-made rules, Cain is indignant. “God, it’s not fair!” The Cains of this world are very angry to discover that God insists on being God. God will not be controlled or manipulated by us. So Cain was very angry and his face fell.

Now according to Tim Keller, the word ‘Cain’ means ‘productive, fruitful, and successful’. The word ‘Abel’ means ‘worthless, and a nobody’. Why in the world were these two brothers given names like that? Presumably because Eve knew what the names meant and chose them deliberately. You can almost see it in verse 1 when Eve is so proud that she’s given birth to Cain, but Abel, of course he’s the second child, so not so many baby photos. No celebration, no fanfare for Abel. Nothing in the Bible about your mum being excited about your birth. It seems that Cain was the winner in this family. Cain was the person who was successful. Cain was the apple of his parents’ eye. Cain was the one who was prosperous and Abel was the one who was always a failure. He was always behind, he was always slower, Abel was always unsuccessful. So why would Cain go ballistic when God blesses Abel, the loser? Because Cain’s whole self-worth was based on the fact that he was superior to his little brother. In Cain’s brain, Cain was great because he was better than Abel. So when God favoured Abel, Cain went crazy.

The heart of sin is to build an identity outside of God. The essence of sin is to say ‘what makes me a player, what makes me OK, what makes me significant is, I am living up to what my parents say, and I am a successful farmer, I am this, I am that. And that means that I am a somebody while my brother Abel is a nobody’. And when God shows that he has a completely different value system, Cain goes berserk.

And this will happen to you; if you build your identity on anything except God, all kinds of things will make you go berserk. People don’t show appreciation for how hard you’ve been working. People don’t acknowledge your efforts. You go beserk! Not in public of course. This is the South East of England after all. But inside, in your mind, you’re furious!

Why? Because your identity is based on some aspect of your performance. You identity is based on something besides God. And when God turns up and begins to show that he’s a God of grace, that he doesn’t share your value system . . . Cain goes ballistic!

If you build your identity on anything other than God then there will be some bits of your life that you will do anything to hold on to. You’ll keep the illusions that you are somebody. In other words, Cain had defined himself all his life as being the better brother. But if Abel is the better brother, in any way at all, then who am I then? I don’t even know who I am! And this is where everybody’s identity based on something outside of God is very fragile. Because only God’s love, only God’s grace is totally reliable. Only God’s love, only God’s grace is utterly trustworthy. And nothing else is. All other ground is sinking sand.

But look now at the kindness of God, who warns Cain. Look at the mercy of God here!

SLIDE 8:
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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 master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

God not only intervenes early but he intervenes tenderly. He does not show up and say “Cain, how dare you question my decisions, who made the universe Cain, eh? Cain Get on your knees and humiliate yourself before me until I am in a good mood!” No, God comes in with questions. God says “why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” God so carefully and so intelligently tries to help Cain. God says: “Cain I want you to get underneath and look at the reasons why you’re angry and why you’re downcast.” Can you see, folks, what God is up to here? God’s a counsellor. God comes to Cain as a tender counsellor. Now don’t get me wrong, God does say “do the right thing” but he doesn’t just say ‘do the right thing’ he says ‘I want you to first understand what is making your heart tick, I want you to understand what’s going on.’

God is there to say ‘Cain, do you realise why you weren’t happy for your brother? After all, your brother has been second best for the past 20 years and the one time he wins, why don’t you say ‘hey great little brother?’ Why? because Cain, you’ve based your identity on being the better kid. And of course you say ‘No, you’re wrong, I haven’t done that,’ but you have, you’ve based your identity on something other than God. And every one of us has done that, including me.

For the religious person, sin is using God to get what you want. God is the means. Your own joy and happiness is the end. And at the core of that half-heartedness, is a demanding-ness. A sense of warrant, that God owes you, that life owes you, and you’ll see it play out in your office, or even at church as you start to trample on people. You’ll feel like you’ve got a right to be hacked off. And the first time that a Cain spirit comes to the surface in your life is when life doesn’t go your way. When you’ve done all the things a good Christian is supposed to do, but instead of everything working out the way you want it to, you get the opposite results. Your life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. And you’re indignant. There’s a demanding-ness. And then later on there’s an incredible self-pity, you know, when Cain says “Woe is me! The first person who finds me is bound to kill me.” No they won’t Cain, you are so self-absorbed! Actually Cain, God is going to protect you with some weird mark or tattoo on your head, which will stop anyone messing with you.

But first, Cains get angry. Cains say: ‘I deserve to have my life turn out well. The world owes me, Abel owes me, God owes me!’

Story of not getting in to City University. But Lord, that’s in Wales!

My reaction was to get angry with God!

Let’s be honest in the theatre this afternoon, so many of us have envied our brother or sister in Christ, that we even get angry with God. It’s so ordinary. It’s what I’ve called the subtlety of sin. It’s so commonplace. It’s so understandable that, even as Christians, we excuse ourselves. “My brother Abel, he gets all the good breaks, I don’t. God says: “Adrian, watch out, sin is crouching at your door.”

And God is so kind. He’s saying: ‘Cain, do you not see that your real enemy is not Abel. It’s sin! Your real problem is not what I’ve done to you, or what Abel has done to you, you’re miserable because of what is in you. Don’t you see Cain? All is not lost! I am on your side! We can fix this! There’s hope! There’s something you can do about it Cain!’ Because right now it’s your anger Cain, it’s your self-pity, it’s your bitterness, or it’s your refusal to forgive, or it’s your pride, or it’s your hurt feelings Cain – that is the problem. But Cain, it’s not too late. Cain, your problem is your sin, and the good news is, you can repent and we can sort this, BUT Cain . . . if you really think that Abel is your problem, then Cain . . . you might just murder him. So watch out Cain, sin is crouching at your door!

But Cain doesn’t listen.

SLIDE 9:
POINT 2: THE POWER OF INNOCENT BLOOD
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8-9)

He kills his brother, and then, Cain says the most horrible thing. You can tell that the sin has devoured him; you can tell the sin has eaten him, because Cain says to God, with a stone cold heart, ‘Am I Abel’s babysitter? Am I the designated driver?’

SLIDE 10:
10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

And what does God say? ‘The blood of your brother cries out from the ground.

Why is the blood of Abel crying out from the ground? I’ll tell you why. Because human beings are valuable! God cannot pass over sin. For him to not hear the cry of the pool of blood on the ground would be to treat human beings as if they were rubbish, as if they were nothing. And because Cain won’t repent, God takes him to Abel’s blood.

Now hold that ghastly picture of Abel’s blood crying out from the ground, because here’s a huge moment in this talk. This is the grandstand finish . . . . it’s in Hebrews 12:24 which says

SLIDE 11:
“You have come to God . . . 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:23-24)

Jesus is like Abel. Jesus shed blood lying on the ground at the foot of the cross, speaks even more graciously than the shed blood of innocent Abel, which also lay on the ground, crying out to God for justice.

Let me try and illustrate this Hebrews 12:24 thing from my own life. I will try and be as personal as I can possibly be. When I became a Christian, for the first two years, I was flying, I was seeing massive change, levels of joy were off the scale. And then years 3,4, and 5, I was still seeing bits of me getting sanctified, I could see I was still becoming more like Jesus, but 5 years in – when the pressures of life kicked in, and being a Christian wasn’t new anymore, I thought: “Oh no, is this it? I am 5 years in to this thing, and although in respect to A, B and C, I have changed, in respect to X,Y and Z, I am still the same old sinful Adrian Holloway and not only can I see that I haven’t changed, everyone else can too.

So I had some areas of weakness where I just couldn’t seem to stop. So I would get down on my knees and say sorry to God.

And then I would quote this verse to myself:

SLIDE 12:
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

And then I would declare out loud ‘God, I will never do this sin again’ but guess what! A few days or weeks later, I’d done it again. So I’d get on my knees again, and repent. “I will never do that again” A few days or weeks later I’d done it again, I’d get down on my knees and every time I would say ‘please be merciful, please be merciful’ and there was something in the back of my mind that would say ‘you know Adrian, what if you’re still doing this sin twenty years from now? What if you’re still doing this sin when you’re 50 years old? At what point, will God lose patience? When will God finally say “You know Adrian, I don’t have to keep forgiving you, I’m only doing this forgiveness thing again and again because I am merciful!”

And so, the more I sinned the same sins, I would wonder “Is God really going to keep forgiving me? Surely he must be growing tired of this cycle of Holloway sins, Holloway repents, Holloway sins the same sin again, Holloway repents again. Surely he must question whether I am really being sincere in my repentance, and then one day I heard about this Hebrews 12 thing where it says that Jesus Christ’s blood is like Abel’s blood. And of course Abel’s blood, cries out for justice.

OK, so that was the first step towards my spiritual liberation, the thought that Jesus blood cries out for justice. But it only makes sense when you tie it to the second step . . .

The Second step is, I notice something that I’ve never seen before. It actually says: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just.” Just? Why’s that word in there? What’s justice got to do with it? I’ve messed up, I’m asking for mercy. I want mercy, not justice. Justice is the last thing I want from God. But God says, he’ll forgive me because he’s just.

So here’s my discovery. God can never condemn us. Why? Because that would be to get two payments for the same sin and that would be unjust! This was my eureka moment! And that’s the reason why 1 John 1:8-9 does not say ‘if you confess your sins, God is faithful and merciful to forgive our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness’ it says he is faithful and just!

It’s in a sense saying that Jesus Christ is standing before his father and saying this “Father, your law demands justice, and Adrian Holloway has sinned, and the wages of sin is death, but for him and for everyone at Christ Church, London, I have paid for it! There’s my blood! Crying out for justice! Justice demands that you never condemn my brothers and sisters”, because if you make Adrian pay for his sin then you’d be getting 2 payments for one sin, Adrian’s and mine and that would be unjust! And this triumph is what I’ve called in my second point: The power of innocent blood!

So, if Jesus Christ has shed his blood for you and you’ve asked God to forgive you because of Jesus Christ’s shed blood, God could never, ever, ever condemn you because that would be unjust. And therefore the justice of God now demands that there is no condemnation for you, and you will never perish.

Jesus Christ in a sense is not standing before God interceding for us by asking for mercy saying ‘Father, here’s Adrian Holloway, and he’s sinned again, so father, please give him one more chance, please be merciful one more time!” and Gods up there saying “well, alright. Jesus you’re so sweet, that I guess you’ve persuaded me again, you always seem to be able to talk me round, I don’t know how you do it Jesus, I’m so angry with Adrian, but you’re so persuasive, so I guess OK, you know, Jesus this is against my better judgement”. No! But now I realize what Jesus Christ essentially is doing, he is saying ‘Father, Adrian Holloway sinned again, but I’m not asking for mercy, I’m demanding justice. That sin Adrian’s done is already paid for by me. So embrace him Father, cleanse him.’ And so Jesus blood wins every time, because it would be unjust if it didn’t!

Yes the blood of Jesus Christ cries out for justice! But the justice is not against us any more; it’s for us! And if you really know that you’re that secure in his love. If that moves you to the core of your being, you’re not going to be a grumpy Cain anymore. You’re not going to be always comparing yourselves to the other girl, or to the bloke who got the promotion you deserved. You’re not going to be angry because somebody is getting ahead of you. Your identity is not based on your performance any more. Instead, there will be a security, there will be a steadfastness, and you’ll become a sweet, loving Abel rather than being a condemning, self-righteous Cain. Don’t you want that? The world needs you Abel! The Cain’s are all out there killing each other and exploiting each other, shoving each other to get on the tube, lying about each other, elbowing each other out and they’re as miserable as can be. Sin is mastering them. But this gospel of the grace of God deals a death-blow to the sin in our lives, in your life, and the blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all unrighteousness.

But Cain doesn’t get it. Unlike you, Cain’s still on a downward spiral.

SLIDE 13:
3. THE PROTECTION OF GRACE
13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:13-16)

Cain descends into a totally unrepentant self-pity. And we think: “God won’t have any sympathy for Cain’s self-pity. But he does. This is amazing grace. And if God is this merciful to Cain, who shows no repentance, if God doesn’t give up on Cain, if God is protecting Cain, we don’t know what that mark was. All we know is the mark of safe conduct. If he cares that much for Cain, he cares for you. No matter what you’ve done. If you’re here, even if you are a murderer like Cain, whatever you’ve done if you’re repentant, you’re way ahead of Cain. And yet God cared for Cain.

God put the mark of Cain on him, what does that mean?

The Bible doesn’t tell us. But of course the commentators can’t resist speculating on the silence. One commentary says that the mark of Cain was a dog. You know a really scary dog. So someone comes along and thinks, “I’m going to kill you Cain, but oh, hang on I don’t like the look of your dog, maybe I won’t.” Another commentator says the mark of Cain was his haircut. “I’m going to kill you Cain, but wooah, your haircut is so cool that I just can’t do it.” Another says the mark of Cain was a tattoo, like those bumper stickers you get in the Southern states of the US, which say: “Don’t mess with Texas”, this tattoo said: “Don’t mess with Cain.”

We don’t know what the mark of Cain was, but we do know what it means, God hasn’t given up on you, even if you’re an unrepentant murderer. And that’s why I’ve called my third and final point, “the protection of grace.”

God will to the end of your life, continue to care about you and preserve you and keep you from getting what your sins deserve until the very end. He cares that much about us. Go to him.

So let’s just re-cap . . .

How can you make sure that you’re not a grumpy, bitter Cain, looking down your nose at other people, needing to feel superior to them, angry at God – and lacking an inner sense of his assurance. How can you not be a Cain but be a sweet, joyful Abel? The answer is in Hebrews chapter 12, where we have this wonderful verse: “you have not come to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion and to the shed blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel’. In other words, there was a true Abel (Jesus) who came many years later. And who killed the true Abel? The prostitutes? The lepers? The blind, the deaf, the mute? The poor? The outcasts? No.

Who killed our Abel, who killed Jesus? The Cains, the good people, the elder brothers, the leaders, the kids that their parents were always so proud of. The Pharisees. The people who got A stars in RE A level. Those people. The religious people killed Jesus. Cain’s killed the true Abel. But our Abel (Jesus) is even better than that Abel. We like the Genesis 4 Abel, but I have a better Abel for you. If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins. Do you realise how secure you are in the acceptance and love of Christ? Do you realise how secure?

1. If you’ve envied your brother and sister – raise a hand! God is faithful and just
2. If you’ve envied another Xtian – raise a hand! God is faithful and just
3. If you’ve envied someone at work – AOB
4. Those of you who lack assurance

Our Abel, our Lord Jesus, was not a grumpy Cain, he was beautiful. He was gorgeous, he was loving. And the Cain’s couldn’t stand it so they killed him but he didn’t die only as a victim of injustice, he also died by design. He died in our place. And that means tonight you can be totally free.

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