"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)
On a glorious day in the Garden of Eden, mankind fell into the deepest and darkest depths of disobedience to God’s Word. The man once in harmony with the will of God, once in continual fellowship with his Lord, and the joy and peace of personal relationship with the Creator of all, is now broken, and man became lost. The sin of Adam and Eve is inflicted upon the whole of the human race that death followed after. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
Sin then comes from within and is a battle that must be fought both within ourselves and our society. Sin is the result of the resident evil that we have at birth. As King David lamented, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5) The Prophet Jeremiah felt the burn from within his spirit and the confusion of heart from the effects of sin. "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Our sinful nature is a plaque that holds our lives in bondage to death as the wage of sin is death. With the entrance of sin into the Garden so also came the greatest enemy of man, death. We live doing that which we do not want to do and fail to live the lives that we desire to live. "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:19)
We are spiritual beings trapped in a fleshly tent as we travel through this word unto the next. The world holds a great attraction to the flesh, and if we succumb to it we will live a life bound for destruction. Sin’s derived from the desires of the flesh. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) Mankind requires the Holy Spirit in their lives. Man needs His power and guidance that we may know the way to go. We need not grieve the Spirit but obey His convicting speech that we may follow the path set before us. If we live in the flesh, then we are set for death, if we live filled by the Spirit of Truth, then we are bound for life. "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:6-8)
People can try to live the righteous life, they can work their good works and have a good outward appearance, but if they have the same sin nature their hearts will remain corrupt. Through the transforming power of Jesus we can receive a new nature. We can overcome as He overcame. We can live in the power of the Holy Spirit and have renewed minds. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)The work of the Spirit’s sanctification we can put off the old self and become a new creature. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus taught that what is in the heart of man is that which defiles him. "And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. ”For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man." (Mark 7:20-23)
Our text comes from the sacrifices that Cain and Able made to God. At this point in the Old Testament, sin had to be atoned for by death. God was willing to accept a substitute rather than the death of the sinner. "Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering." (Genesis 4:4) Able’s heart was in obedience to God’s Word. Cain brought on offering from his produce as a sacrifice unto the Lord. His sacrifice was not acceptable as there was no blood, which is life, and there was no death the wage of sin. God could have punished Cain with death but instead allowed him to repent before it was too late.
The gracious Lord asked Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?" (Genesis 4:6) God does not need to ask questions of men but does so to get men to thinking in rightness of the matter. God was saying that your anger and bad attitude should speak something of yourself. Often the relationship with God is that we have not done what He has told us to do. Instead, we take it upon our self to do it our way. We often let self-pride get in the way of doing what is right before God. If we struggle with anger we may find that it comes from a selfish attitude. Or our anger may be to cover another form of disobedience towards God. We may even think that our just God is not dealing with us justly. If we feel that God is dealing with us unfairly, then consider what we rightfully deserve in light of His righteousness. Our only approach to God is as an undeserving sinner seeking His grace.
God instructs Cain with our text. If we do well, if we do what is right before the Lord, then our countenance will be lifted. The guilt and jealousy will be removed, and we will be at peace with God. God also instructs Cain with this warning, "And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you." God has allowed Cain to repent and make things right between him and God and a warning for further trouble.
Sin crouching at the door to our heart is a terrible picture of a wild animal ready to pounce upon us. This wild animal has a desire for us and our blood, and it seeks to devour us. Couching at the door is also a picture of Satan who is a liar and thief who travels to and fro seeking to destroy us. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." (John 10:10)
Then God gives the advice that will keep one from the ever falling spiral into destruction, “we must master the sin.” James tells us that if we resist the Devil, he will flee from us. "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) If we would prove our faith and submit to the Word of God, then the Devil would flee from us. His Word is the way of our Lord overcame the wilderness temptations; He used the Word of God to defeat the Devil.
When tempted by the Devil, do not argue over the temptation. Do not ponder to rationalize an excuse. If you do you will give the Devil a foothold and will lose the fight. "And do not give the devil an opportunity." (Ephesians 4:27) Take faith in the Word of God and search the Scripture and you will find the lesson to aspire to higher ground. Believe in the promises of God, and He provides a way of escape. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Is there sin crouching at your door? I know there is at mine. Either we master the sin that comes upon us, or we let it master us. The Israelites, when they were freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, went into the wilderness. There they encountered difficulties and did not seek the Lord but murmured and complained to Moses. They thought it would have been better to remain in Egypt under the harsh rule of the Pharaoh than to trust God and travel to the Promised Land. Do we sit here and think that to be foolish of them? We have by the grace of God been brought out of the bondage to our own sin and yet if we allow it to remaster us, then we will fall back into slavery. Do we see that as also foolish? I think so. We must ever be on guard for the beast that crouches at the door, and we must master that beast, or he will devour us. Seek the Lord’s counsel and do well in His sight that our countenance will be lifted. Remain in repentance to Him and in the power that He will give you to slam the door shut on sin. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, March 10, 2016