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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 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 rule over it.” Genesis 4:5b-7
In the human struggle with sin, this is one of those verses that I keep coming back to.
Cain was offended that God didn’t accept his offering–as if behaving like a spoiled child would make God accept the unacceptable after all. He got angry and he pouted. So God talks to Cain and asks him the same pointed kind of questions that He asked his father in the Garden of Eden.
Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? But God already knew the answer to these, because God knew Cain’s heart [Psalm139:1; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Romans 8:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 2:23]. So again, God asked these questions so that Cain would consider the answers very seriously–why was he angry? Why was he pouting?
Had Cain thought it all the way through, he may have realized that it was because of the effects of sin in his life. He didn’t choose to be born with a sin nature, but the fallen nature was as much a part of him as it was the ground he worked and it was causing him to think, behave, react, and choose wrongfully toward God and his fellow man [aka his little brother Abel].
The third question is the sticker though, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” Think about it Cain. If you choose to do right–to learn from your honest mistake–then you won’t feel jealous of your brother because you’ll both be accepted by me, God. Then you won’t feel angry at me, because there won’t be a conflict between us. Then you won’t feel depressed or discouraged because when you do what is right you are accepted–and everyone, even Cain, wants to be accepted.
But the most important take away from these verses and this story is Genesis 4:7b, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door…” A crouching tiger, waiting to pounce on its prey. Sin has stalked you all the way to your house where you feel most safe and it’s lying in wait for you outside your own front door, the entrance to your home. And that sin that you think is no big deal? It is hungry to devour you.
But YOU must master IT.
Plain and simple. Despite being born with a sin nature and into a fallen world, it is our choice to recognize sin and flee from it or not. It is ours to master or to allow it to consume us.
Just like Cain, we have all been born with this sin nature, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us, convicting our hearts of that which would become sin to us, that which threatens to destroy our lives both physically and spiritually.
Do you believe that you can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, master the sin that threatens to devour you? Do you hear God’s voice? How is He leading you to overcome?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
If the two most important things that we do are: 1) to love God with everything about us, and 2) to love others like we love ourselves, then we must know what love is.
God’s definition? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 contains a well-known list of love’s attributes–patience, kindness, not jealous or boastful or proud, etc. Moreover, Jesus called us to love one another the way He–who is God, who is good, and who is love–loves us [1 John 15:13]. He went on to say that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.“
All summed up? Love is the active, self-deferent care for another. It’s the golden rule lived without exception–not out of obligation–but out of genuine concern for every other human being, even those who don’t love us back [Luke 6:31].
How is that even possible? Learn to see people with God’s eyes.
He made everyone, and He loves each of us all the same. There are no favorites with God. In fact, Jesus made it clear that, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” [Matthew 25:40]. So by loving our fellow human, we are loving God Himself.
As a Mom, this has become so clear to me through my children, but you may want to think about this as having two best friends or two pet dogs. In both cases, you love both equally. No favorites, because they are yours. Because you chose them.
But what if one dog turns and tears the other apart. Would you allow it? Would you ignore it? Or would it break your heart to have to punish one and to watch the other one suffer? And if one best friend hated your other best friend? Just think about the grief of having to time-split, and hearing one constantly tearing the other person apart. But you love them both the same.
God feels this constantly as He watches His creation act hatefully one to another–sometimes willfully and other times thoughtlessly. But love is the golden rule on Energizer batteries–it just keeps going and going. Willing even to give one’s own life up for someone else’s sake.
Is there a limit to your love for others? Ask God to bring it to light and then to remove it from your heart. Is there a limit to your love for God? Seek Him until it dissolves in the refining fire of His presence.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
The soul is that eternal part of us that can live in heaven with God one day. When we deny God’s existence, we deny that we have an eternal soul–though our lives regularly testify to its existence. Have you ever heard someone say that they feel like some decades old memory seems like just yesterday? Or that in their mind, they’re still 10, 16 or 21 years old? That’s our eternal soul-man pricking our earthly conscious to say, “Hey! I exist! You’re meant to live forever! Take care of me!”
John 12:24 equates our soul-man to a plant seed.
A seed has the beginning of a plant curled up inside and the food to start it growing. But it needs water and sunlight from the outside to grow–to break through the dirt and mature into its true plant form.
We are like this seed. Born with the start of our spiritual man curled up inside with childlike faith as the food needed to start our spiritual growth. But if we don’t care for this spirit-seed-man, it will shrivel up and dry out within us, even while our physical body seems perfectly healthy. Then, when our seed coat body falls off, there will be nothing left to go to heaven.
How do we tend to our soul-man? Love the Lord your God with all your soul [Mark 12:30]. Study His Word [Psalm 1:1-3]. Enter into a personal relationship with Him [John 15:9-10]. Continue meeting with other believers [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Worship and serve the Lord only [Luke 4:8].
Yet, while all of these will keep our soul-man healthy, these works cannot ultimately grant us access to heaven. It is by faith–absolute certainty in what we hope for, but cannot see–alone through grace alone [Ephesians 2:8].
Are you tending to your spirit-man? Do you love the Lord with all of your soul?