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And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:1~5)
Faith Is Becoming One Heart with God
Whenever I’m reading the Bible, I often feel that I should throw my thoughts and perceptions away. I often feel there is nothing wrong with the thoughts I have in general, but I strongly feel that my thoughts are very different from God’s when I enter the Bible and search the heart of God. Likewise, spiritual life is discovering that your heart is different from the heart of God, and uniting your heart with His, little by little. Once your heart becomes one with the heart of God, there remains nothing for you to do.
I preached the gospel in the city of Kimcheon, Korea a long time ago. We had planned to hold a children’s retreat, but we didn’t have a place, money, or anyone to help us. We only had a vague idea that we should have a retreat, but there was nothing actually prepared with which to hold a retreat. We began to pray. At the time, all the brothers had hard manual labor jobs, so they would fall asleep when they attended the evening prayer meetings after work. However, we continued to pray because we had no other way to accomplish our goal besides prayer.
We prayed for one week, two weeks, three weeks, one month, and all the while, not one thing had changed circumstantially. But our hearts had changed a little. We used to think when we began the prayer meetings, “This will never work,” but we met God through prayer, and the heart of God, which was different from our own, flowed into us and we became strengthened more and more.
“That’s right. This is not our work to accomplish, but it is God’s work to accomplish. God is pleased with this retreat! God will help us!”
There was no change in the circumstances, but after one month of praying, our prayers had changed.
“God, we believe that you will help this retreat. We believe that you will send many children to the retreat. We believe that you will give us the place and the funds we need.”
Faith entered our hearts and we were no longer saying, “God, please answer us,” but we were praying, “God, thank you. We believe that you will provide everything for this retreat.” Hope arose in our hearts, and we were filled with peace and joy. At that moment, I felt, “This is what faith is!”
From then on, whenever I faced difficulties in my spiritual life, I had the heart, “The problem is that my heart is different from the heart of God. What could be a problem if my heart is the same as the heart of God?” That is why I began to not question whether something was possible or impossible through human effort. I proceeded to only do work with which God assured me He was pleased. God worked every time I did so.
Why Did God not Receive Cain’s Offering?
Why did God not receive Cain’s offering in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4? Why did He accept Abel’s offering? Many people think, “Cain did not have enough sincerity. Cain gave of the fruit of the ground, but he probably didn’t offer the good crops, but crops like shriveled ears of corn. And Abel probably gave his offering with all his sincerity.” Sure, sincerity is important. But even more important is where that sincerity came from. Did your sincerity come from the heart of God or did it come from your own heart? Because God has said that everything that proceeds from man is dirty, wicked, and filthy, our sincerity is meaningless no matter how much of it we display. Although it may appear to not be much in our eyes, the important thing is that the sincerity must come from the heart of God.
Cain may have sincerely given the fruits of the ground as an offering before God, but one thing is clear, Cain did not receive the heart of God. We cannot know every detail of Cain and Abel, but there are things we can understand by simply thinking a little bit.
The name Cain means, “to gain.” Adam and Even were so happy after having Cain. They had named their son with much hope. “We have gotten a man from the Lord,” who was Cain (to gain). He was strong and healthy. Therefore, he was able to farm. It must have been difficult to farm during that time!
But Abel was not this way. Abel means “vanity.” Just as your breath vanishes into thin air, his name means to disappear in vain. Why did Adam give his son, Abel, this name? It’s not that he wanted to name him this way, but Adam constantly wondered, “Why is this child so vain? Will he ever become a man? How disappointing.” Therefore, the child was named Abel (vanity). Abel could not till the ground like Cain because he was not healthy. He most likely took sheep to sunny pastures, dozed off, and then brought them back home after sunset.
The important thing is that Cain had the heart to trust in himself because he was better than Abel in every aspect. Abel could have faith because he lacked in every aspect. That is why Cain thought to himself, “If I offer desirable crops and fruits to God, He will be pleased,” and followed that thought to give his offering. On the contrary, Abel was not good at anything and inquired of God, received the heart of God, killed a lamb, shedding its blood, and offered that blood and oil to God.
Cain must have been extremely irritated watching Abel work. “Abel, what are you doing right now? Why are you shedding this disgusting blood when you are giving an offering to God? You only need to offer these wonderful crops. I’ll give some of them to you, so take them and offer them to God!” Cain might have said this, but God accepted Abel’s offering, but He did not receive Cain’s.
There is a fine line throughout the 66 books of the Bible. That line is that God accepts nothing that belongs to the flesh. In other words, God can never accept things that proceed from the thoughts of man. Even if you pray, read the Bible, or witness, God cannot accept any of these things if they came from the will of man. This is the true will of God.
Cain offering God the fruits of the ground is offering the things of man. The fruits of the ground: the things from his own thoughts and methods were given to God. But no matter with what sincerity we offer them to God, He does not accept the things that come from man. Because Abel knew that he was useless and unacceptable, he earnestly sought the things of God. “God, I am truly lacking. I am good at nothing. What offering should I give you that would please you?” Then he received the heart of God and offered what pleased God.
This story may seem meaningless but people today, like Cain, try to go before God with the things that come from their own zeal, their own goodness, and their own efforts. What they say is, “If I pray a little harder, God will be pleased. He will accept me.”
God Let Cain Kill Abel Because
Cain became wroth when God did not accept his offering. Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell. (Gen 4:5) Then God said to Cain, “Why are you wroth? And why has your countenance fallen? If you did well, why couldn’t you lift up your face? Rule over sin.” True good is not helping the poor, caring for the sick, or offering money. True good must be able to overcome sin. God told Cain, “Do good, if you have any good.” He was indeed saying, “Fight against sin. Rule over sin. Can you rule over sin? You can’t rule over sin. You cannot do good. That is why you must deny yourself.” But Cain could not understand these words.
One day, Cain killed his brother Abel. God let Cain to kill Abel. In the Bible, when Abraham tried to kill his son Isaac with a knife on Mt. Moriah to give him up as a burnt offering, God shouted, “Abraham, Abraham!” and appeared to him quickly to stop him. If God had said, “Cain! What are you doing?” when Cain was killing Abel, Cain would have been so surprised that he could not have killed him. But God let him to do it. Why did He do that?
The Cain who was seen in the eyes of God was different from the Cain who was seen in his own eyes. In the eyes of God, Cain was wicked and there was no good that could come from him. But in the eyes of man, it seems that there was some good in him. Man thinks that he can do good, and thinks that everything will be fine if he puts forth a little more effort. That is why God told man to try to do good and to try to keep the law. But no one was able to do good, and no one was able to keep the law. God lets man commit sin because only then does man realize, “Ah, I truly am a wicked human!”
Killing his brother was in Cain’s heart even when he was giving his offering to God. However, that heart was hidden and only his good heart of giving an offering had shown itself. That seemed good to Cain and to other people, but God saw the evil heart that was able to kill his brother hidden underneath. God could not accept this offering that had been given with such a heart. Cain did not know of this so he thought to himself, “I must be good.” That is why God allowed Cain’s wickedness to be revealed. Cain ultimately killed his brother.
Cain hid after killing Abel. God asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” What did Cain say right then? “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He not only said that he did not know, but he was even back talking God. God was showing him that even this kind of a heart shows itself. Afterwards, God cursed Cain.
What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; (Gen. 4:10~11)
Cain lived a spiritual life in which he tried to be blessed by God through doing good by himself, thanking God, and giving offerings. God crumbled all of that down. Cain ended up killing his brother Abel, going against God, and was cursed by God. Right then Cain’s heart completely collapsed. “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” His will to do good to come before God completely collapsed.
Clean if Leprosy Covers the Whole Body
Leviticus chapter 13 speaks about leprosy, and it contains information that is quite interesting. A person is unclean if he has a little bit of leprosy. He is still unclean if the leprosy is spreading throughout his body. But it says that he is clean if the leprosy completely covers his entire body. While reading these scriptures, I once thought that this must have been a translation error. “A person is unclean if he has a little bit of leprosy. How can he be clean if his entire body is covered in leprosy?” So I searched in many other Bibles, but they all said the same thing.
I quietly thought about this. If I had only a small amount of leprosy, I would try to quickly heal it. But if it has spread throughout my entire body, then there is no hope. This is teaching us the way of spiritual life. If we are only slightly evil, we would try to do good and keep the law to go before God. However, our chances of going before God by doing good completely collapses if we are completely evil. Likewise, when the path to God through doing good ourselves falls apart, we can change the path of our spiritual life into one that goes before God through the grace of Jesus. That is when true faith is formed. Just as we buy a new car instead of trying to fix a junked one, we will throw away our spiritual lives and look for a new path if we can see that it is impossible to repair our wicked selves.
But people are constantly trying to fix their junked car-like spiritual life to come before God. Cain was this way. That is why God crumbled down all of his ways so he could not come to God that way. Cain’s heart became filled with rage once his offering was not accepted, and he, while trying to do something good, killed Abel. On top of all of this, he back talked God and his true wicked nature was completely revealed. Now all of his ways of coming to God through his good deeds have been blocked. This is where true repentance came upon Cain. He said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” and his methods and heart crumbled. Cain moved his hope from his own effort or good to the position of seeking the grace of God.
“God, I can only be cursed because I am a dirty, wicked human. Have compassion on me. There is no way for me other than destruction if you do not bestow your mercy upon me.”
God began to work for Cain from that point on. To Cain who said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” God said, “Not so!” and placed a mark on him that allowed him to avoid death from anyone he would meet. God led him to receive salvation.
When We Crumble Down Like Cain
This story is not only about Cain thousands of years ago, but about us today. We, like Cain, give offerings, hold services, and do good deeds to come before God. God does not accept any of this if we try to come before Him through doing something on our own. Even those things that appear to be good are evil as well. A person with hepatitis has hepatitis in his blood no matter where that blood is drawn. Only evil can come from us, the sin-stained descendents of Adam, no matter what we do. “The blood from our feet may be dirty, but the blood from our face must be clean.” This is a misjudgment. This can never be.
We give up on ourselves when we realize the fact that there is no good in us. If you say, “It is impossible for me to stand before God through keeping the law and living properly!” and reach the point of giving up on yourself, you stand in the position of receiving the grace of God.
“God, now I am someone who can only be destroyed. Please have compassion on me!”
Such a person does not rely on his own works, but on the works of Jesus. He goes before God with what Jesus has accomplished. Then, through God’s leading, he can live a blessed and beautiful life. That is how it was always recorded in the Bible. In the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15, when it was he who worked, the prodigal son, in his dirty clothes, lived a pitiful life in a pig pen. We can see his dirty, filthy image of having fallen into sin just like Cain. When the father worked afterwards, the filthy prodigal son immediately became clean and glorious.
Loving folks, spiritual life is not trying to be good. Even though you may do good deeds, they are only good in your eyes. They are useless in the eyes of God. Spiritual life is realizing this fact and denying yourself.
“God, my actions are evil even if they appear to be good. Just like David’s confession, ‘I was shapen in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me,’ I am by nature a pile of sin. God, have compassion on me so that You may wash me and bestow grace upon me.”
Spiritual life is not relying on your own actions, but on Jesus Christ. Then the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross cleanses you of your sins. We become holy through having our sins covered by the blood of Jesus. We do not become holy by not committing sin or by doing good.
We are all filthy, and we have all done evil. We are humans who can only be destroyed and cursed. Cain killed his younger brother and went against God. Afterwards, he realized that he did not have a way of saving himself and looked to the grace of God. Right then, God bestowed His grace upon Cain and blessed him. We, like Cain, can receive the grace of God when our goodness and righteousness completely fall apart. I hope that such grace of God will overflow in you.