Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the Beginning, Pt. IV Genesis 4

Children's Minute:  What is worship?  To adore, idolize, revere, give glory, time or money to.  What part of worship do you like best?  How old do you have to be to participate in worship?  Coloring pages.

What about the rest of you?  When I say "worship", what do you think about?  Why do you worship?  Is it something you feel the need to do or do you do it because you enjoy it or both?

People ask me all the time how the church is doing and lately my honest response is, "We're just having a good time!"  And I don't mean that we are playing games or being silly.  I mean peoples' lives are being changed.  People are inviting other people.  Our reputation in the neighborhood is improving and all of that is fun to be a part of!  When I worship with this family, it is my favorite time of the week.

This morning we are going to look at a passage in Genesis chapter 4 where Cain and Abel participate in what is the first recorded act of worship.  And those of you that remember the story know that there was a slight problem afterward.

How many of you know the feeling of leaving the church after a wonderful time of worship with your wonderful church family and you are feeling wonderful and filled and holy and then you get in the car with your biological family and everything just falls apart?  One minute you are telling people you love them and you're praying for them and the next you wind up in a big argument.  I'll give you one guess who is behind that.  No, Judy.  It's not Jerry.  It's Satan.

Satan can't stand this church and he can't stand when you worship and so the next best thing he can do is to distract you from it and make you think of something else and get you to act differently as soon as possible.  And that's basically what happens in our passage this morning.  I mean, who hasn't had a good day worshiping and then the next minute you kill your brother? I'm probably the only one.   Don't you just hate it when you kill your brother?  It's a bad day.

Well, so that that doesn't happen to us, let's turn to Genesis chapter 4.  We'll read 1-16.

How many of you have found yourselves a little bit frustrated as we have gone through the first few chapters of Genesis feeling like you don't know the whole story?  We've talked about this several times, about how Genesis is not a novel.  It doesn't give us all the details or explain why some things happen.  Sometimes that is frustrating to some of us with that Greek or Roman world-view.

I wish I could tell you that this chapter was going to be better in that regard but actually it is going to be even worse.  I have so many questions about this passage and yet the narrative does not explain a lot of the who's, why's and when's.  One of the things I have learned about the Bible, though, is that there are at least two reasons why the Bible doesn't go into more detail about some things.

The first reason is that we just wouldn't understand it.  For example, I love to think about what Heaven is going to be like.  What we are going to do, what will we look like, which way to the Mexican food buffet?  But, while the Bible talks about Heaven quite a bit, it doesn't answer all of my questions and I believe it is because we just don't have the mental capacity to understand what God has planned for us as long as we live in the physical.

Isaiah 55:9 says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

The other reason I can think of is that if we had more detail, we would focus on the wrong thing.  Let's use the first 4 words of the book as an example again.  I told you there was a lot of controversy over these first 4 words.  The reason there is so much controversy is because so many people are focused on the wrong part of that phrase.

When it says, "In the beginning God...", on what is the focus supposed to be?  God.  But everybody tries to figure out when this happened.  When was "in the beginning"?  God didn't give us any more detail so that we would focus on who He is and His character and what he expects from us.  Quit thinking about Genesis (especially the first 11 chapters) as a book of history and think of it more as an autobiography of God and you will be better off.

When you say that Genesis is not answering your questions, it's because you are asking the wrong ones.  Do you really want to stand up in front of God and say this book isn't good enough?  I would be real careful on that road.  When I read a passage, I want to know why it was written.  What am I supposed to learn from this?  You can take this passage a hundred different ways but I want to know what God wants me to realize through this certain passage.

You have probably heard lots of different sermons preached from this passage.  Sometimes a guy will preach on how to overcome anger, or the sin of murder, or how to be a good mother or father.  And all of those are worthwhile topics but it's just not the point here.

I have two points to make this morning.  Two things I want us to see from this passagae and while these two points are just my points and no greater than anybody else's, I do believe that these points attach themselves to the reason this passage is in the Bible. 

My two points are simple:  We were created for worship.  Worship involves sacrifice.

Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living."  I would be willing to bet that there has been sometime, somewhere, maybe in the middle of the night or the middle of the country that you have wondered, "Why am I here?"  You have probably come to realize that there is more to life than going to work, coming home, watching the tube and going to bed.

Just a few days ago this world lost what almost everyone would consider to be a great man.  He is called the greatest CEO, the most influential entrepreneur, the most inspiring creator and it was said that he will never be equaled and yet as fulfilling as his work was to him and life-changing to the rest of the world, Steve Jobs was not put here to invent the iPad, iPod, iPhone, ieverything else.  He was put here, like us, to worship God.

I don't have any idea of Job's relationship with the Lord.  I certainly don't use him as a bad example here.  In fact, just the opposite.  I use him as an example of someone whose job was fulfilling and yet that's not why we are here.

Men, let me ask you a question.  Has there ever been a time when you looked deep into the beautiful hazel eyes of your adoring wife, and in a moment of love and devotion said something like, "You...complete me!"?  Well if you did, don't tell anybody but just because your spouse gives you great joy and fulfillment doesn't mean that you were created for your family.

God is very generous and he has given us work and family and hobbies and things to keep us fulfilled and enjoying life but that's not why we are here.  Let me read Colossians 1:16.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Have you ever thought about that?  You were created by God for God and we see this in Cain and Abel.  In verse 3 we see that they both brought offerings to God.  Now how do you think they knew to bring offerings to God?  Do you think they read Colossians?  Had they been going to a Baptist church there on the outskirts of Eden and learned to tithe from the pastor there?

We don't know.  Genesis doesn't tell us.  Imagine that.  But, in another place in God's word it says that "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."   Romans 1:20

Since the creation of the world, men have had a God-given instinct or urge or knowledge that there is a God and if there is a God he should be worshiped.

We don't know much about this story.  It doesn't say that they brought the offerings at the same time.  We don't even know that they knew the other one was doing it.  It just says that in the course of time they both brought offerings.

The one thing we do know about Abel's offering is found in Hebrews chapter 11, the Faith Chapter.  Verse 4 says that Abel gave God a better offering than Cain did because of his faith.  Abel's offering was from his heart in faith.  Cain's offering was just going through the motions.  Abel's offering was worship.  Cain's offering was not.  There wasn't anything any better about Abel's offering in and of itself.  The difference was the attitude.

And that leads us to the second point.  Worship involves sacrifice.

I remember an old Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis was walking out of church holding his mother's hand.  They get to the back door where the preacher was standing and Dennis said,  "Thanks, Preach.  Not a bad show for a nickel."

Aw, pastor, don't compare me to Dennis the Menace.  I give a lot more than a nickel.

Let me read something to you.  It is something a friend of mine wrote many years ago.  This guy knew something about worship.  My friend David  says in Psalm 51 verse 16, "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings

Why would David say this?  Why would I read it after I just said that worship involves sacrifice?  I mean David still gave sacrifices after he said this.  He still gave blood offerings and grain offerings.  Why would he say that God didn't want them?  The key is what he says next in verse 17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart.  Oh God, you will not despise.

In our worship here today, God still expects sacrifice.  Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we no longer have to sacrifice bulls and lambs and grain or vegetables but there is still sacrifices to be made. 

Just showing up is a sacrifice.  Just coming to church and being supportive of your church family is a sacrifice.  Tithing is a sacrifice.  We give sacrifices of praise, prayer, time, fellowship, support and love.It's all part of our worship.  It's all part of what we do here every Sunday morning but just as Ron says all the time, God is loaded.  He doesn't need any of it.  We're not here to stroke God's ego.  We're not giving our money because God needs it.  He requires it though to show that our hearts  are broken and contrite.  To show Him that we are repentant and remorseful. 

We all have regrets in this life.  Sometimes I try to convince myself that I have the market cornered on regret but I know some of you have done things you wish you had not.  How many times in your life have you looked back in regret and said something that started with "If only..."  If only I had done this or not done that.  If only...

There is a passage in Isaiah that looks like it could have been written just for Cain.  In Isaiah 48:17-18 it says, "17 This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Did you catch the fact in Genesis 4:6 God warns Cain specifically that sin was crouching at his door?  He tried to encourage Cain to think about what was in his heart and to not kill his brother but when he did kill him and was punished Cain regretted it.  I'm sure Cain said, "If only..."  for years after that.  If only he had listened.

This morning, I'm sure that some of you here realize that this passage could also be written to you.  You know realize that we are here to worship and that worship involves the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.  Without that, we are just going through the motions.-

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