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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - A Murder after Church

Skip Heitzig - A Murder after Church

Skip Heitzig - A Murder after Church
Skip Heitzig - A Murder after Church
TOPICS: Crash and Burn, Cain and Abel

Would you turn in your bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 4. Genesis, the fourth chapter in our Crash and Burn series. The Bible is filled with comparisons where two people are compared. Two men or two women. For example, there are two men evaluating a birthright in Genesis 25, Jacob and Esau. Two men who build a house Jesus talked about in Matthew 7. One on a solid foundation, the other on sand. Two men who are at the judgment in Luke chapter 17. Two women grinding at the mill in the same chapter. Jesus spoke about two men went up to the temple to pray. One a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. There were two men crucified next to Jesus. And Jesus spoke about two men who died and met God, Lazarus and a beggar. That's Luke chapter 16.

Genesis chapter 4 is a story of two worshippers who happen to be brothers, Cain and Abel. And one's sacrifice, or offering, was accepted by God. But the other one crashed and burned. And that is Cain. Now Cain and Abel were similar, we discover. There were certain things that were identical in their lives. They both had the same parents. They both had the same opportunities. They both had the same access to God. They both came to worship God. But that's where their similarity ends and the differences begin.

I'm calling this message A Murder After Church. A Murder After Church. Because think about this. The first murderer was a worshipper. The first murderer in history was a religious person. Cain killed his brother Abel after a worship service. Last week in New York City, on a Friday night, two men went into a church, a Methodist Church in New York, for a service of some kind. While they were in that service together, a fight broke out between them. A fist fight. One of them left. The other one stayed.

When the service was done, the man who had left was waiting outside. And he attacked the man, the other man, with a machete in the streets of New York after church. When I read that news article, I thought about Jesse James. I've told you about him before. Jesse James was a baptized member of the Kearney County Baptist Church in Kearney, Missouri. Jesse James, the notorious outlaw, loved to sing in the choir. Loved to sing the old hymns. Loved to teach the hymns to younger members of the choir. He taught him singing. And he talked about how much he loved to go to church. The problem is, Sundays were a conflict to him. Because Sundays were his days to kill people and rob trains, so he couldn't always make church.

We have a similar story here in the book of Genesis, chapter 4. As we begin the chapter, we see now the effects of what happened in the previous chapter, the choice that Adam make. In chapter 3, then, is the root of sin. Chapter 4 is the fruit of sin. It grows now. And I want to remind you of how Paul summed up this episode in history. In his book, Romans chapter 5, he said, through one man, sin entered the world. And death through sin, so that death spread to all men. For sin and death reigned from Adam to Moses.

We're seeing that here. We're seeing now death reigning and death spreading as we get into the fourth chapter. And one other thing we discover. We discover many things, but there's a lot of firsts in Genesis chapter 4. The first pregnancy ever. The first birth ever. The first family. The first dysfunctional family. The first crime ever committed. The first death.

So Cain is the first baby ever born on the Earth. Now, just indulge me for a second. I read something that I thought was fascinating. Inside every cell is what's called DNA. And DNA is the coded information that instructs, The set of instructions that tells every cell how to act, from birth to death. 95% of DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell. But on the outside of the nucleus are little energy producing components known as mitochondria. Bear with me.

In the mitochondria, there are circular strands of that DNA material, genetic material, call mitochondrial DNA. The mitochondrial DNA is all maternal. That is, it is derived from the mother only. We know that you have 23 sets of chromosomes. Half from mom, half from dad. But all of the ones in the mitochondria come back from the mother.

And I'm bringing that up because in 1987, University of California Berkeley did a research test of 147 people in the world. 147 people from five different geographical locations on the Earth. And they made the discovery that all 147 all had the same female ancestor. Whom they called, get this, mitochondrial Eve. And they have referred to her as that, whoever this one ancestor is. We don't know, they say. And some believe that she came from Africa. Others believe she came from Asia. Others believe she came from Europe.

Why is that fascinating? Because after Adam came a flood. When Noah settled, his three daughters-in-law raised their children around Mount Ararat, which happens to be the area that is the borderland for Asia and Africa and Europe. So here is Cain, the first baby ever born. Who becomes the first murderer. And we have five titles that I want to give you for Cain. Five designations that map out his life choices, his journey.

The first is worker. He was a worker. Genesis 4, verse 1. 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. And this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of the sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. That defines their work. So the chapter opens with joy. It opens with optimism. There has been a fall. There has been banishment from the garden. But now, a woman is pregnant. Eve is pregnant.

And I'm sure that Adam got all excited as that tummy began to grow. And he would feel the movement of that baby. And he probably even said something like, Eve, you're putting on a little weight and she wouldn't have cared about that, because there were no other women to compare to. Right? So she was, yeah, this is awesome. I want pickles and ice cream. I don't know what she's craving, but I can just imagine the familiar experience.

So a baby is born. And she names the baby Cain, which is a word that means to get or to acquire. Now, I'm guessing that what they meant by this Cain or acqiore, I've gotten somebody from the Lord, is they saw this baby as the fulfillment of a promise made in the previous chapter. Where God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. And they probably thought, this is it. I have gotten, I have acquired. This promised seed, this deliverer.

So while they thought they were holding the deliverer, they were actually holding a murderer. One who would grow up to not be what they thought. We're not given a lot of detail about the family life. We're not given a lot of detail about Cain and Abel's upbringing. There is just Adam and Eve out there raising Cain. That's all we know.

A little girl went to her mother and said, Mommy, where did the human race come from? And the mother said, sweetheart, there was a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. They had a child named Cain and then Abel. And the whole human race came from them. Well, a couple days later, she decided to ask her father the same question. He said, many years ago, there were monkeys. And we evolved from monkeys. So she's confused. Went back to her mother and said, Mom, I just don't get it. You said God created us. Dad said, we evolved from monkeys. Which is it? And the mother smiled and said, it's simple really, sweetheart. I told you about my side of the family. Your father was telling you about his side of the family. You can take and use that anywhere you'd like.

So they grew up. And Cain follows in his father's footsteps. He becomes a farmer. His brother becomes a rancher. Cain is a tiller of the ground, we are told. Now, both occupations were honorable occupations. Both were necessary occupations. Most people in those days lived off of a combination of tilling the ground for farm and raising animals as well. So one chose one and one the other. This was their work. This was their occupation.

Now, I'm highlighting this for this reason. Some people say, well, part of the curse that God put on mankind is to have us work. Work is part of the curse. Those are just people who don't like to do their work. So they say it's a curse from God. It's not a curse from God. It's a blessing from God. What was a curse was the painful toil that was the result of the curse put upon the Earth. But work itself was seen as a blessing. God put Adam in the Garden, the Bible says, to work the land. To work the land. So it was part of what God originally designed for people to do upon the Earth.

And Cain's work is tied to Cain's worship, we will see. That is his occupation, is the basis for his adoration. He brings to God what he grows from the ground. So he is a worker. Second, he is a worshipper. Verse 3. 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.

Now, it tells us that in the process of time, this happened. If your Bible has a marginal note like mine does, it will give you the literal translation of that. Which is, at the end of days. At the end of days. In other words, it's a precise period of time at the end of something. Perhaps the end of the agricultural year, when a sacrifice by God was in view. And this isn't necessarily the first time it happened. This could be something they regularly did. And it would seem as though God had some means of showing his approval or disapproval. Of receiving or not receiving. Accepting or not accepting the sacrifice.

For example, when Elijah is on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings chapter 18, fire comes down from heaven and consumes the sacrifice. It could be something like that. Now here's a question. Everybody asks it. Why does God say yes to one offering, accepting Abel's sacrifice, and no to the other offering? Not accepting Cain's sacrifice. Now, the easy answer, and it's not really the accurate answer, I don't think, is that well, one was an animal. The other was a plant. God accepted the animal and wanted the blood sacrifice. He didn't want the plant. I think that's a little too simplistic. In fact, it's not really a biblical answer.

So the biblical answer is this. There is two reasons God did not accept Cain's worship. And first of all, it's the quality of the offering. The quality of the offering. Notice in verse 4, there is a special note that Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. So there is a little note there that says, here's a guy who with intentionality wanted to bring the very best to God. The highest quality. All the rabbinical commentators say this shows that he is picking the very best. The first, and thus the very best, to the Lord. He is very careful about it.

Cain was indifferent. There is no mention at all about the quality of his sacrifice. Probably because he didn't care about it. So it's the quality. The second reason is the character of the offeror. One is the quality of the offering, second is the character of the offeror. Now, notice down in verse 7, I'm skipping ahead just a bit. God says to Cain, if you do well, or if you live right, will you not be accepted?

In other words, if you lived right, your offering would be acceptable to me. Why would God say that? Here's the principle. God does not see worship apart from the worshipper. To God it's not like, oh, that's such a wonderful sacrifice. He's looking over the person who gives the sacrifice. So if you're corrupt, so is your gift. Now, why was Cain corrupt? Here's the answer. He lacked faith. He lacked faith. That life-transforming faith, saving faith that would motivate him to righteous living. I want you to listen to Hebrews chapter 11, verse 4. It's a commentary on this section.

By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Notice it's by faith. Through which he, Abel, was commended as being righteous. God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. That was Abel. So with Cain, there was no real faith to produce righteous living. In other words, he was just going through the motions. What this means is if you think you can live any way you want to live Monday through Saturday, You can live as though God didn't exist. You can live just like the rest of the world, dominated by all of the stuff that goes on in the world. And think that I can take one hour on Sunday and plop my sacrifice down and God will say, that's awesome. It's not true. God never looks at the worship apart from the worshipper. They're one and the same.

Stephen Charnock, a Puritan author, said, without the heart, it is not worship. It is a stage play. It is acting a part without being that person, really. It is a hypocrite. We may truly be said to worship God, though we lack perfection. But we cannot be said to worship him if we lack sincerity. Worship is not about going through the motions. Raising the hand, reading a text, singing loudly, going to church. It's not about the motions. It's about the locomotion. It's about being moved forward in obedience to him.

So he's a worker, he's a worshipper. There's a third title for him. He's a waverer. Notice at the end of verse 5, Cain was very angry. And his countenance fell. That is, he frowned. He had the pouty face. He wore his heart on his sleeve. You knew he was bummed out, because he just pouted. Got really bummed out. And so, the Lord, verse 6, said to Cain, why art thou bummed out? 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, And he's given the reason why. It's because sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you. But you should rule over it.

Now, the real giveaway that Cain wasn't right with God was his response to God. He's mad. He's angry. He's angry at God. That's his response to God. He was mad when he should have been meek. He was angry when he should have been lowly. You know what the right response would have been if God didn't accept it? He should have just said, oh, Lord. I'm stopping in my tracks right now. I repent. I want to do it right. I humble myself before you. It would have been good. But he got mad. He was mad at God.

I meet people, as do you, who are mad at God. And the reason I know they're mad at God is because they discover, oh, you're a pastor. And they want to vent their anger at God at God's representative. I get it all the time. People are mad at God. And people are mad at God because God doesn't see things their way. They're mad that God doesn't accept people based on just sincerity or based on good behavior. They're mad about that. They're mad that God doesn't accept all religions as being equal, all religions being the same. They're mad that God would be so narrow and so restrictive as to say, its only through my son Jesus that anyone can get to heaven. They're mad at that.

And he was mad at God. But Cain was also mad at his brother, who brought an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. So his true colors are starting to show. And the seed of murder is growing in his heart. You know what the seed of murder is, right? It's anger. Anger is what produces murder. Jesus said, you have heard that it was said by those of old you shall not murder. But I say unto you, if you are angry at your brother without a cause, you're in line for the judgment. That's where it begins. Cain was a murderer in his heart long before he was a murderer with his hands.

And God knows this. God knows that Cain is struggling inside. He's wavering back and forth. He is torn between doing right or letting the anger that he has toward God and toward his brother be fully vented by a murderous act. So God, knowing this, engages him. God doesn't walk away from him. God doesn't say, I'm done with you if you're angry with me. God talks to him. He reasons with him. I love this about God. Isaiah, chapter 1. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet, I'll make them white as snow.

And did you notice what God said in verse 7? Did you notice that God personifies sin like a beast crouching at his door, ready to pounce on him? If you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you. But you should master or rule over it. Boy, if you know your Bible, a verse comes to mind about now. 1 Peter chapter 5, where Peter says, the devil is like a roaring lion prowling around, seeking whom he may devour. That's what sin is like. Satan is like that and sin is like that.

There was a book put out a few years back, called Death in The Long Grass. A movie was made based on this book. And Death in the Long Grass was written by a hunter, a big game hunter. And he was writing about lions who hunted men, who hunted human beings. That is, these lions get the taste of human blood and they sneak into a camp late at night in the Bush. They'll pounce on their prey and drag that person out, far away into the night, and devour him. And there was one lion, before it was caught and killed, that devoured 100 men.

And he called these lions charging lions. Because they'll go around the periphery and they'll prowl. And then late into the night, they'll charge into the camp at a high speed, covering 100 yards in three seconds. Satan is like that and sin is like that. And what Satan uses to destroy us, You know what he uses? He uses us. He uses our fallen nature. The fallen nature, the flesh that is in us, to devour us. To master us. And what the Lord is saying to Cain is, if you don't become a victor over your sin, you're going to become a victim of your sin. You need to master it. If you don't master the beast, the beast will steal the best of your life.

It's like what Martin Luther used to say. He said, you can't stop birds from flying over your head, but you can certainly stop them from building a nest in your hair. And if you don't have any hair, you can still stop them from building a nest. So there's that wavering that goes on. That struggle between the flash and the spirit. He went from worker to worshipper to waverer.

Fourth title for Cain is he was a wrongdoer. That takes us to the deed itself, verse 8. 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. And the Lord said to Cain, where is Abel your brother? He said, I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper? Hear how sarcastic that is? And he said, what have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. So the beast won. Sin has mastered Cain. Cain crashed and burned. This is not involuntary manslaughter, this is murder one.

He killed him. We don't know how he killed him. Maybe he got a stone. Maybe he took Abel's own sacrificial knife and killed him. Maybe he cut and bled him like an animal. Like he, in offering his animal to God, did. Maybe he used his own bare hands. We don't know. But I know this, it felt good. For a brief moment, he felt vindicated. He felt justified. He felt good. Revenge always feels good at first. It's, like, yeah. They deserved that. But it didn't last.

Because now we move to the fifth designation of this man, a wanderer. God meets up with him. In verse 11, God tells him, 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. I don't know. I don't feel sorry for him right now. Do you?

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 seven-fold. 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.

So he confronts Cain. God confronts him and consigns him to this. Now, he said, am I my brother's keeper? And God causes him now to wander from his family and from his homeland. Since you're not going to be your brother's keeper, no one's going to be your keeper. He becomes a fugitive. Notice in verse 11 He says, so you are now cursed from the Earth. Do you know this is the very first time where a human is cursed in the scripture by God? Up to this point, the only one cursed is who? The serpent. The serpent was cursed in Genesis 3.

But now, Cain joins this wretched distinction of a man cursed by God. And he's wandering. In this isn't just like a Bedouin wandering for grass for his sheep. Now all relationships are broken with his family. He's in lifelong exile. And he says to God in verse 13, my punishment is greater than I can bear. Oh, really? Because what did he deserve? He deserved to die. Genesis 9 will tell us, whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed.

So God now preserves him and protects him from death. This is an act of grace. I want you to think about this. This is grace upon grace upon grace. First of all, when Cain got angry, God didn't abandon him but engaged him in conversation to dialogue and talk this through. That was grace. Second, when Cain struggled within himself of what to do, good or evil, God encouraged him to withstand temptation. That's grace. And having succumbed to it and murdering his brother, God doesn't kill him. God protects him with a mark. That's grace.

Now, people ask me, what is the mark of Cain? My answer, so we can get it out there, I don't know. You know why I don't know? We're not told. That's why. You can guess. Some people think it was a tattoo. Other people mention it's some weird hairdo or something. The rabbinical commentators used to say it was a dog. That God gave him a dog to assure him of protection and to keep strangers away. We're not told. I think it's ridiculous.

So let me take you back to something else ridiculous. How many of you remember, And I want a show of hands, because I want to see your age. How many of you remember that television show The Incredible Hulk? Honest show of hands. OK. Very good. Others of you have honesty issues to deal with. So The Incredible Hulk was a television show that used to be a comic. Turned into a television show. Turned into a movie years later.

And the premise is there's a doctor. Dr. David Banner is the character. And David Banner was a very kind and sweet research scientist doctor. Except when he got angry. And when he got angry, because he had been exposed to gamma radiation, excessive amounts, his eyes turned green and he grew in size. And he became this horrible monster who could throw people around like they were a rag doll. And so, the whole premise of the show after show after show was Doctor Banner's desire to find a cure so this won't happen anymore.

So the moral of that television show was that if you don't learn to deal with your temper, it'll turn you into a monster. Now what can we do? What can we learn? What takeaway can we have from this so that we don't crash and burn like Cain? Let me give you a few quick takeaway things. Number one, the basic problem we have, our basic problem, is a worship problem. Our basic problem is a worship problem. Most people are worshippers of themself. It's about them. They are consumers only. What does this do for me? Our basic problem is a worship problem.

Cain didn't give his best. And sometimes people go, yeah, there's a beat up old thing. I don't use it anymore. Let's give it away to the church. Give God your best. Give God your best self, your best energy, your best time. The second takeaway is that don't let the root produce its fruit. Don't let the root, the root of sin, produce its fruit. The root from the fall is what he was struggling with within himself in this chapter. And he let the root produce the fruit, which was sinful anger turned into murder.

All of us have a wrestling match inside of us. All of us know what it's like to have the flesh warring against the spirit. And what God says to him and he says to us is, you must master it. And we have the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to do that. Don't let the root produce its fruit.

The third take away is sin always brings separation. It separated him from God, separated him from his family, separated him from fellowship. Sin always brings separation. And it creates lonely people, isolated people, who because there's a barrier erected of sin, or unforgiveness or undealt with anger, pushes people away. And it's the worst way to live. So the key is always back to worship. Letting the Lord take the first place in our lives.

You know those crazy little letters to God that kids write from time to time? I have a book of these, I told you over the years. I found one little letter to God from a kid named Larry who said, Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel wouldn't kill so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Signed, Larry. Well, Larry, that's a nice way of looking at things. But the problem isn't having room in your house, it's making room in your heart for the God of this universe to take over and be the King Supreme in your life and in mine.

Father, thank you for these clear insights from scripture into this prototypical murderer. The first one ever born in the human race became a killer of another human in that race. It shows the effect of sin unmastered, uncurtailed, given full blossom to exercise its passion. Lord, give us strength by your spirit to be spirit-controlled, spirit-mastered. Or as Paul said, the spirit wars against the flesh. And the flesh wars against the spirit. And you can't do the things that you want to do. Lord, give us new wants, new desires, a new heart. Lord, give us the kind of faith that is transforming into behavior that is pleasing. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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