The book of Genesis continues to give us great and practical teaching on resisting sin and temptation as we move into chapter four. This time it comes from a conversation God has with Cain shortly after Cain’s offering isn’t accepted by God. The moment is almost a forgotten one in the saga of Cain and Abel. When the story is told in church you hear that they both bring an offering to God, Abel brings the best of what he has and Cain brought less than his best, God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, Cain is angry and jealous, and Cain murders Abel. But, I feel like we do a disservice to God when we leave out the fact that after the offerings, seeing that Cain was upset, God actually went and spoke with him. He spent a little time trying to cheer up and instruct Cain. Telling him the following.
Genesis 4:6-7 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
I’ve heard the story of Cain and Abel many times, but it wasn’t until I studied the word for myself that I discovered this moment. It’s a beautiful moment of loving correction from God to one of His kids. It’s proof that God doesn’t hate us or turn away from us when we mess up, He’s right there to pick us back up and to give us the wisdom and instruction we need to avoid the mess up next time. I just love this little glimpse into the heart and character of God, and wanted to take a moment to highlight it.
But my main focus today is on the instruction that God gives about how to defeat sin and temptation. Let’s look at this again.
Genesis 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Immediately when I read this verse a very vivid scenario played out in my head. It was late and dark and I was arriving home to my house. As I came inside, unknown to me there was a man crouched behind the door and he leaped out and started to try to wrestle me to the ground. It’s a scary scenario, but that’s how God is describing sin. It lies in ambush, waiting to attack us.
Now that we know our enemy and his tactic, it’s important to turn our attention to how to respond. I find it very telling that God doesn’t just say we must win the fight with sin or survive the ambush. Victory is found only when you subdue the sin and become its master. When you apply this back to my initial illustration of someone waiting in your house to attack you, this means that it’s not enough just to win the fight, we have to win it in such an overwhelming manner that the attacker ends up subdued and under our control. Such a fight would be violent, exhausting, and it would take a lot of strength to win.
One mistake I think we make as Christians is we look at temptation as something we just have to narrowly avoid. Almost said hateful things to that person at work but just barely shut my mouth and walked away at the last second instead. Almost took things too far with our significant other but at the last second cooler heads prevailed and I left. Almost took part in some substances that I know are wrong and dangerous at that party but decided not to at the last second. We call these victories and on a certain level they are, but they’re not the complete victory that God wants us to have. All those examples accomplished was that we slipped away from our attacker for a moment. But since he’s not been subdued, he’s still in the house, and he’s still coming after us. We need to stop letting escape take the place of victory. Victory comes when the sin lies completely subdued on the floor, powerless to attack us again.
This leaves us with one big question, and that is how do we subdue sin? I think the most important step we can take is being ready for it to strike. Jesus says this to his disciples in the book of Luke.
Luke 22:40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”
And Peter gives us this important piece of wisdom in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
What would happen if when you got home, you were aware that the man was waiting behind the door to attack you? Instead of him having the advantage in the fight, you would. You’d be ready to defend, you’d be able to land the opening blows, and you’d position yourself to be victorious. The same is true when we go through life putting the above verses into practice. Pray against temptation, and also watch out for temptation. We know it’s out there, so we need to move through life expecting the attacks. When we do that, we put ourselves in a prime position to carry out God’s words and subdue the sin and become its master.
One thing you see a lot in ministry is people who fall victim to the same sin and temptation over and over again. That’s sin being the master. God is calling on all of us, from Cain all the way to me and you in modern day, to reverse that cycle and become sin’s master. To be the conqueror instead of the victim, and His word lays out the blueprint on how to do that. Get angry at sin, decide that you’ve been defeated by it enough, and commit yourself to the fight. Fights can be hard and they can get ugly, but we fight with God on our side, which means the only thing that can defeat us is ourselves.
I love all of you. I apologize for posting a day later than usual, I was feeling sick yesterday so I wasn’t able to get this completed. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!
If you have any prayer requests or just need someone to talk to you are always welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org