The Challenge Of Raising CainErwin W. Lutzer | January 9, 2005
Selected highlights from this sermon
Sin is crouching at the door. It’s ready to destroy you. But imagine getting a one-on-one counseling session with God. Who could give you better advice?
Well, Cain allowed his anger, envy and jealousy to override the counsel given to him, personally, by God—and killed his brother Abel.
Sin can be that powerful. We block out advice—the best of advice—and go wherever sin leads us until it is fully our master. But in this message, Pastor Lutzer will show us how sin can be devoured by blood: the blood of the sinless Son of God.
Adam and Eve were not the first parents who raised Cain. They were the first I should say who raised Cain, but they were not the last. Cain represents those who are destroyers; the kind of person who can leave you bleeding along the road and then walk away and feel sorry for himself.
A destroyer is the kind of person for whom appearances are everything. And he will manipulate and he will work against you, and he will lie and he will chisel, and he will do whatever is necessary to diminish you. Because one thing is sure: a destroyer does not want anyone to make him or her look bad.
A destroyer is the kind of person who can hurt you deeply and feels no hurt for you whatever… none! Incapable actually of feeling hurt for somebody else. But, feels deeply and keenly the hurts that they themselves bear.
Stories of these kinds of people are legion. I think of a man who left his wife and two year old daughter and walked away for twenty years. And, twenty years later waltzes back into the family and expected to give his daughter away at her wedding. And when she said “No, dad… You’ve been gone for twenty years. You didn’t pay child support.”
Well, he’s kind of sorry for what happened. But deeply hurt when she wrote him a letter and said, “No, I don’t want you to give me away at the wedding.” Deeply hurt and cannot figure out why she would do something so mean. He doesn’t think about the fact that for twenty years he neglected her, had no contact with her. That doesn’t enter into his mind.
Well, the fact is that this message is intended to change people’s lives. What I want to do in the next twenty minutes is to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a brand new sensitivity toward God and toward others. And also of course the intent of this series is to bring about healing, and hope, and forgiveness, and whenever possible reconciliation. Sometimes reconciliation can’t be achieved, but that’s the goal to which we work. That’s why this session is entitled “Suffering Wrong.”
Today - the challenge of raising Cain. The story is in the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis. If you have your Bibles as I am sure you do, would you turn to Genesis chapter four, where we have the story of our first parents. It says in chapter four, verse one, “Now Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain saying, ‘I have gotten a man with help from the Lord.’”
That word “Cain” comes from a root word which means “to acquire.” There’s no doubt that when this took place Eve and Adam were probably excited about the birth of their baby. The thought that he would follow the Lord, thought that he would be a credit to them. Mercifully, the future was hidden from them.
I’ve often thought about the excitement of a new born baby. Mercifully, the future is hidden from parents and grandparents because sometimes the future of that child does not end in the way in which we would have hoped, and the way in which we had prayed.
And then we go on in the text, picking it up at verse three. It says, “Now Able was the keeper of the sheep, and Cain a worker on the ground. In the course of time, Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Able also brought the first born of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Able and his offering; but for Cain and his offering, He had no regard. So Cain was very angry and his face fell.”
Why this anger on the part of Cain? Rejection - rejection by God. I can already imagine it because we meet people like this every time who say, “Well I’m just as good as my brother. Who are you to judge me?” Notice the similarity between these two brothers. They had the same parents, respectable occupations, both brought an offering, and both sacrificed when they brought it. And, one was accepted and the other was rejected.
Some people think the reason is because Able brought of the flocks and therefore he shed blood and Cain didn’t. He brought the fruit of the ground. Maybe that’s there. We’re not sure because we don’t know how much God revealed to them. But probably more important than what they brought was the attitude with which they brought it.
Clearly, Able went to great lengths. It says that “He killed some members of his flock and then he brought the fat portions, the very best, and he gave it to God because his heart was with God. Cain just did his duty and said “If God doesn’t like it, I don’t care!” It was their attitude maybe that determined whether one was accepted and the other was rejected. But, Cain’s countenance falls and he is very angry.
Most of the feuds that happen in families are feuds because one child is the favorite. Now, we don’t know whether Able was the favorite to Adam and Eve. We do know that God favored Able and his offering and God rejected Cain. So, now you have the roots of jealousy, envy, and anger. And let me tell you something about jealousy. It is a sin we can see with clarity in the lives of others. It is almost impossible to see it in our own lives. And so Cain is very, very angry. Able does nothing wrong, but Cain is angry.
What we’d like to do in the next few moments is to give you the characteristics of someone who can hurt somebody else and feel no remorse, without conscience. We could even speak about sociopaths, but that’s another story.
Notice that Cain has these characteristics. First of all, he refuses counsel. Notice in verse six it says, “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. You want acceptance? It’s available to you, Cain.’”
Notice God says to him, “Why is your face fallen?”
You know, there are some people who cannot hide their emotions. I used to work with a man like that. When he was angry, no matter how well he tried to keep it, you looked at his face and you knew that the rest of the day was walking on eggshells. You just knew it; he didn’t have to say a word. And so here’s Cain, and you don’t have to say much when you’re very, very angry.
And so God says, “You know sin is personified like an animal.” It says, “Sin is crouching at the door.” That expression, “crouching at the door” is related to an Acadian word which means “demon.” And that’s why Jewish translation has it “Sin is the demon at the door. Now Cain, you had better master it. Because if not, it will pounce on you, and it will destroy you Cain.” So, God gives Cain some good advice.
We have people who call the church because they want counsel. And sometimes they say, “We want to counsel with Pastor Lutzer.” I always try to say “No, no, no. I think you really mean Pastor Milco.” I think I used to be able to say, “I think you mean Pastor Worley,” because they are better counselors than I am. I think I have good insight into human nature. I can talk to people, but I am not really a counselor.
When I was a young Pastor in another church, I met with a couple who was going through some problems every Saturday morning for four or five Saturdays. When I was finished, they got a divorce. (Laughter)
I don’t know if this is repeat or not, but I have to tell you another story more recent. Three weeks ago a woman whom I do not know well, but she attended here once, called me. She told me about her husband who was leaving her and a little baby, for a defiled bed I should say. And because this husband had had some acquaintance with me, I called him. And, for twenty minutes to a half hour gave him all the reasons why he should not do what he was doing.
I called her this past week to see what had happened. She said “He admitted that you called him. But, he also called me a few days ago and told me to expect some divorce papers on my step.” That’s what happens when you get counseled by me. (Laughter)
But, I don’t feel too badly because imagine somebody being able to sign up not for Pastor Lutzer, not for Pastor Milco, but they can sign up because they have a counseling session with God. Wow! Wouldn’t that be great! Cain has it. God’s talking to Cain. “Cain, if you do well you can be accepted, too. If not, sin is going to destroy you. It’s a demon at the door.” And as soon as God was finished giving him this advice, he goes out and meets Able, and in his anger kills him. So much for counseling!
First characteristic of a person who has the Cain nature is that they refuse counsel. You can argue with them, you can give them reasons, and when you are all done they will do what they want to do. And, they won’t listen to you or to God.
Well, there’s a second characteristic. You’ll notice that the Lord continues to talk. It says in verse nine, “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Able, your brother?’” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Some of you will remember that it was the monkey who said at the zoo, “Am I my keeper’s brother?” (Laughter) But, in this instance it is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I know I have to go more slowly. He said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done?”
But notice this that when the Lord says to him, “Where is Able, your brother?” Cain lies and says “I do not know.” It is a characteristic of a person who can destroy others and not feel bad by it, but deeply affected by his own hurts. He will lie, he will twist, he will distort. He’s like a blotter: he will soak it all up but then he will give it to you backwards. That’s the way he is.
Well, Cain says to him, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” You know what the answer to that question is? Yes, I’m sorry, you are! We are the keeper of those who are in our family. We do have responsibility. And then notice what the Lord says to him. He says, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Wow! That should take our breath away!
A Hebrew scholar by the name of Westerman says “This is one of the most momental statements in the whole Bible. It needs no explanation. It retains its validity throughout all centuries. And the most important phrase is but one word in Hebrew, ‘Ali.’ The voice of your brother’s blood cries ali, to me.”
God says “Cain there’s no way you can hide what you’ve done. You can’t get out of it because I am the One to whom the blood is responding.” In fact, the author goes on to say, “The blood of the victim cries out and there is someone to whom it cries.” Cain cannot hide his sin.
And, may I say today that the blood of innocent people cries up “Ali” to God. Even in our abortion clinics. Now those of you who have had abortions you know of course that there is forgiveness and cleansing of the conscience, and of the heart. It’s not my intention to lay a guilt trip on you. But, when nationally we are involved in the killing of tens of thousands of pre-born infants, their blood cries up “Ali” to God. There is someone to whom their blood cries.
And then the Lord goes on and He says, “Cain, from now on you will notice that the ground has been cursed, and now you are going to be cursed. When you work the ground,” verse twelve, “it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” And so what the Lord says is, “You are going to be judged for what you do.” The soil was cursed, now Cain is cursed. Second characteristic: he avoids responsibility. “Where’s your brother?” “I don’t know. Am I his keeper?”
Third characteristic is he is self-absorbed. You’ll notice what Cain says now, and let’s all take out our handkerchiefs and weep for him. He said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Paranoia, they’re out to get me! I am always the one who gets the bad end of the deal. Then the Lord protects him and gives him a mark. We have no idea what that mark is. But God is saying, “I don’t want these blood feuds to go along.”
But now let’s just think for a moment about what he’s saying. Not one iota of remorse! He is not saying, “I’m really sorry I killed my brother.” Or, “I regret the evil that I have done,” nothing like that. Instead he has a persecution complex. He says, “You know, things are so bad that if someone sees me they are going to kill me!”
Well, let’s think about that for a moment. If somebody killed him there would be a good reason to. Later on God says that “If you shed blood, you are going to be the one whose blood is going to be shed.” I mean, they would have a good reason to kill somebody.
But, he feels sorry for himself. Because remember this that these kind of people always play by a different set of rules. And they find within themselves this feeling of sorry for them, but there is no sorrow for the blood of his brother which lies spilled on the ground. In fact, killing his brother probably felt good.
You remember that man in Minnesota who was asked to get away from a particular house that had been built, the deer house built for hunters. And what did he do? He shot five of the hunters. “You’re not going to tell me where I can sit and where I can be. If not, I’ll blow you away. And you know what? After you’re dead you’ll never tell me again where I can or cannot be.” It probably felt good to shoot them and then walk away without a twinge of conscience.
A police officer here in Chicago told me one time that one of the things that just amazed him were kids who could kill somebody else, and then go out for dinner as if nothing happened. Able to feel their own hurts and feeling keenly what has been done against them, but incapable (that’s a good word,) of feeling the hurts of others.
Now let’s think a little bit, all right? I hope you have been thinking up until now, but we are going to continue to. What do you think about those who have the mark of being able to hurt others and yet not feel the hurt of others, but feel only hurt for themselves? What do you think they are thinking when I am preaching this message? You see because in life there are probably about an even number of people who have been hurt and those who have done the hurting.
This message is to the sanctuary and it’s also beyond that to the internet and eventually radio. Many people are going to be listening to this. Do you think the people who have that characteristic are saying to themselves, “Boy, that’s one thing about Pastor Lutzer. He really had my number! Oh, that’s just me to a tee! I’ve never been able to really submit to advice and to take counsel, and to submit to God. Furthermore, I’m always blaming other people for what happened and never taking responsibility myself.”
“In fact, I am always self-absorbed, concerned about my own hurts but having no concern about the hurts of others. I mean this is just like me!” (Laughter) I can assure you no, no, no, no. They are not thinking that. They’re thinking, “I know somebody to whom this message applies. (Laughter) He is describing somebody I know.”
May I speak plainly today? Those relatives that treat you like dirt, they think that you have it coming to you! They are absolutely convinced about the rightness of their actions. And, these kinds of people who can hurt others and not feel the pain of the people that they hurt are absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are right in what they do! They would be offended if you told them, “You know you really hurt me!” They’d say, “What do you mean I hurt you? I am the kindest person on the block.”
Let me summarize this by an application. There was a pastor who kept a clock in his office. And, the clock never kept accurate time. Sometimes it was too fast and sometimes it was too slow. And he put a notation under the clock and said, “Don’t blame the hands, the trouble is deeper.” The trouble is always deeper, isn’t it?
So, I give you two transforming lessons. Both for you, if you are the victim of somebody’s insensitivity as well as if you are the insensitive person, but you don’t know it yet. First of all, either we will master sin or sin will master us. Remember that! Sin is crouching at the door. You disregard God’s counsel and the demon is at the door.
Let’s look at a New Testament commentary on Cain. “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should ‘love one another.’ We should not be like Cain who was of that evil one and murdered his brother.” And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous. All that he needed was a fit of jealousy to destroy his brother. Don’t be like that because he was of the evil one. To speak plainly, the devil got him. Sin was crouching at the door and pounced!
My dear friend, today I want you to know that unless our lives are open to the blessed Holy Spirit who can point out our sin and can show us how sometimes we hurt other people, maybe intentionally or maybe unintentionally. But, unless we are open to the Holy Spirit we will not master sin. Sin will master us and it will destroy us.
Because the truth is I have been preaching about Cain, but in reality I’ve been preaching about myself and I’ve been preaching about you, because there is a little bit of Cain in us all. And, only the Holy Spirit of God can show us how we can be insensitive and how we can hurt other people. And so this is a time to say, “Oh Lord, please show us.” And this is why sometimes it is so unfortunate that always in preaching we are so rushed. Because, now would be a good time to take out time in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God and to say, “Lord, is it I?”
Second, let us be united by the blood that forgives. The Bible says in the book of Hebrews chapter twelve, verse twenty-four that “There is blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Able.” And that is the blood of Christ. And it is there at the foot of the cross all of us are united. At the foot of the cross we come together.
And, it is there we unite our hearts and it is there that families can be reconciled as each confesses his sin. As each discusses with the others how these hurts have come about and to bring about a family sense of unity. Because I am not just speaking to the Cain’s who hurt people. I am also speaking to those who have been hurt. I’m speaking to the Abel’s. Able of course died, but you may well be alive but feeling the pain of someone else.
And if people come to us and say, “You know you really hurt me,” let us be open and let us receive their counsel and not be defensive. Because there may be ways in which we have and we have just either rationalized it or we are not aware of it. Because what God wants to do is to bring about a sense of unity within families and within a church. When you and I have total forgiveness (and we are going to be talking about that,) and if you didn’t receive last week’s message it is critical that you do because it has to do with the characteristics of those who will not give up their offenses.
But what happens is if we are open to God and willing to lay down all bitterness, willing to let the Holy Spirit of God search us, what we will find is an open invitation of the Holy Spirit to give us peace, and leadership, and direction, and love, and supernatural ability. It is all there if we are willing to say, “Yes Lord, it is I.”
Let’s pray. “Our Father, today we ask that you will help us to see that sin is at the door. Either we will give up our bitterness’s or bitterness will overtake us. And we may not physically kill someone, but we will feel like it. And in that oh God, we will become like Cain. Father, show us how much we have been forgiven so that we can forgive others. Help us to see, Father, that the light of the Holy Spirit shining in our hearts can point out things that we never knew were there. May we take out all the time in your presence that is needed for us to say, “Lord show me. And then give me the ability to do what I know I have to.” Grant that, oh God we pray. In Jesus name, amen.