Friday, June 19, 2015

The Right Kind of Sacrifice

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding with him." -1 John 3:15 (ESV)

I’m sure that most (if not all) of you people reading this have heard of the story of Cain and Abel. Cain makes a sacrifice, Abel makes a sacrifice, and then Cain gets mad because Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God, while Cain’s was hardly adequate. But What is the significance of this story? How does this apply to us in our lives? How can this help us increase our faith?

When Cain saw that Abel was giving a righteous sacrifice, what was Cain’s immediate reaction? Was it, “What am I doing wrong?”, or maybe, “What can I do to improve?” Did he ask God, “God, I know that my sacrifices aren’t sufficient, so what can I do to change that?” Instead of thinking these things, he thought selfishly. He thought, “How can I make this easier for myself?” Instead of trying to better himself, he looked at his brother, and how he could beat him. And when we stop looking at God, and we start comparing ourselves to those around us, we lose sight of what our goal was to begin with: pleasing God.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” And I don’t think that there is a better verse that goes with this. Instead of looking at the outcome of the sacrifice, and deciding to do the same, Cain looked at Abel, and saw him as a competition. Christianity is not a competition; it is not about trying to be better than someone. Yes, we are supposed to attempt to “outdo” each other, and to build off of each other (Romans 12:10). But we aren’t to feel threatened by those that are doing things properly. It’s a bit backwards, isn’t it? When we get so caught up in trying to be better than others in their service to God, that we end up sinning in our jealousy. When we make singing about sounding better, than meaning more. When we make note taking about filling up more room, than hearing the message. When we try so hard to make ourselves look good, that we forget what the point of all this is: to please God. Cain could have bought a lamb from Abel. He could have kept a small flock for himself, and hired someone to look after them. But instead, he allowed his jealousy to dictate his actions, and ended up killing his brother. Now, of course, we don’t usually kill people when we are jealous. However, we can read in 1 John 3:15, that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Some may believe that God is a bit cruel when He enforces rules this much. I mean, we’re only human, right? What makes one sacrifice different than another if we put forth the exact same amount of effort? Well let’s look forward in time a bit to another time when someone offered the wrong kind of sacrifice. If you look in Leviticus 10, we read about the death of Nadab and Abihu. And if you’ve read this, then you know that things did not go well for these two. In the first verse, we see that they offered up a sacrifice. Everything seems good, right? Then we read the dreaded word, “unauthorized”. Now this was handled a little bit different than with Cain, but this is just more proof that God doesn’t command anything without genuinely meaning that it is the only way. When He says something, He means it. So how does this apply to us? Or to Cain, even?

What do you want for Christmas? It’s a bit far away, but you can never start thinking about Christmas too early, right? I know this sounds weird, but I really want some nice, fine, felt-tip pens. So let’s say that I ask for those pens. And I start asking this early in the year. I beg and plead with my parents, “PLEEEEAAAAASE GET ME THESE PENS!!!!!” And finally, at one point, they sit me down and tell me, “We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and we’re getting you those pens.” So then I get all excited. I’m getting the pens. This is amazing! What do you think my reaction would be if my parents decided to just go and get me some regular old $1 pens that stop working within the first sentence that you write with them? Now yes, I would be happy to have gotten something. My parents don’t owe me a anything for Christmas. But I would still be kind of upset that I didn't get those pens, right? I mean, I was promised pens! Imagine how much more upset God gets when we say, “God, I will follow you. I just don’t want to let go of ….” Or, “God, I will give you everything, but I’m not going to be happy about it.” What message does that send to God? Is that a proper sacrifice? God has saved us from so much pain and suffering, and the least we can do is to do what He says.

Today I would like to encourage you to look to yourself and ask, “Is what I’m giving to God sufficient?” And if the answer is no, then change something. Don’t get angry when you see someone thrive in an area, when you just can’t seem to . I’d like to encourage you to look to them as an example, and to learn from them. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we could all build each other up, instead of letting resentment grow and fester, getting worse and worse as the days go by. But look at them and think, “How can I take that and imitate it?” Maybe even talk to them about it, and ask them to encourage you. Maybe they struggled with it, as well! I’d like to encourage you to stop comparing yourself to others, but compare yourself to God, instead. And make sure you are measuring up to Him. Because that’s the important thing, right?