Genesis 4 includes the story of Cain and Abel, the man who killed his brother. But there is a lot more going on in this passage than meets the eye. For starters, it is where we first start to really see the beginnings of faith in the human race.
Yes, Adam and Eve were supposed to have faith in God’s commands and goodness back in the garden. But they didn’t. We also saw a little of Adam’s faith in the previous chapter when he named his wife Eve, in response to the Promise of God [See: Where do we go from here?].
But in chapter 4, faith is beginning to spring up all over the place:
It is so encouraging to see that Adam and Eve were not “lost causes”. They had learnt, over time, to turn back to God. In fact, they raised their children to follow God, even though they themselves had disobeyed Him.
As Chapter 4 opens, and closes, the faith of Eve is very much on display in the birth of her sons.
“With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man…God has granted me another child in the place of Abel” (vv 1 & 25)
I believe that one of the reasons she thanks God for both Cain and Seth, is because she believes that through one of these children God will provide the Promised One (3:15).
There are many explanations for why Abel’s offering was accepted whilst Cain’s wasn’t. One of the most convincing ones is rooted in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel brought a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.”
His offering was accepted because of his faith. A faith that still speaks today! (Heb 11:4b)
Cain’s Lack of Faith
Another reason to explain why Cain’s offering was not accepted was because of his lack of faith. We assume this because of the despair that emerges when his offering isn’t accepted.
When we fall short of God’s standards, It is faith that moves us to turn back to God. If however, we don’t live by faith, falling short will result in despair. We will groan that we are not good enough and not valuable to God. (In fact we are not good enough). But faith allows us to put our trust in God and receive His righteousness.
Cain’s lack of faith is seen his response to having his sacrifice rejected. But it is also seen in what happens next. When God punishes him for murdering his brother, Cain again falls into despair. “My punishment is more than I can bear”.
Even despite this, God continues to lavish grace and protection on Cain.
Then later on, we see Cain trying to make a name for himself by building a city (v17). One commentator noted the continuous verb, “Cain was then building a city”. And said that this mirrors the life of someone trying to earn salvation, rather than receiving it by faith.
Faith passed on: Adam and Eve to Abel, to Seth, to society
And yet Adam and Eve continue to have faith in God. And once they give birth to Seth they teach him too to lean on God. And so chapter 4 ends with the hope-filled phrase: “At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD” (v26)
One of the mysterious things about faith is that we can pass it on. This is how commands like the Great Commission are possible. We can go and make disciples of all nations because of our example and teaching of faith.
This is why Paul urges Timothy, ‘do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example to all the believers in speech, conduct, faith, love and purity’.
Yes, God does distribute a measure of faith to each of us (Rom 12:3), but we can go and model and encourage others to walk in faith. This is what we see Adam and Eve doing, and later Seth.
May we too seek to model faith well.
A while back whilst I was studying Genesis chapter 2, I came across a little quote that put the story into practical terms for us today. I think it also applies to chapter 4:
“A story rooted within our space and time, but a story which catches us up into itself and confronts us with the truth about ourselves”
It’s important to remember that the story of Cain and Abel, however well known it is, and however distant it feels, is still a story which catches us – “up into itself”. We don’t have to look far to see ourselves in the characters and dilemmas which they face.
It is a story of jealousy, denying responsibility, lying, doubting our self-worth. It is a story of passion, hate and murder. (We might be inclined to think murder is far away from where we are, and then Jesus comes and broadly re-defines it as hate.)
The story of the man who killed his brother. Is a story of warning about the power of anger, jealousy and hate to destroy us.
In this post we’re going to examine Cain’s sin(s) and take lessons we can apply to our own struggle with sin.
1) Sin hi-jacks our Legacy
Again, this isn’t a foreign concept to us 21st century readers. How many church leaders have had their legacy re-defined as one characterised by their greatest moral failures? We are no longer surprised when politicians are accused of abusing women, or when priests are found to have manipulated children in horrible ways.
Sin has the potential to overwrite our entire life’s work. Especially the hidden sins. This is important to remember, especially in light of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:2-3 about hidden things being revealed.
It seems few people appreciate the city Cain built, or the accomplishments of his children also detailed in Chapter 4. Did you know that he also spent his life building a city? No, his sin caught up with him. It overwrites all his other accomplishments. His legacy is the man who killed his brother.
This is real, for me and for you. Let us fight to rule over sin.
I guess this is where the good news of Jesus’ gospel comes in. No matter our past, God completely forgives those who put their trust in Jesus. He is able to use the “worst of sinners” to accomplish His legacy (1 Tim 1:15).
2) Sin is a choice
What we see in Cain’s life are the multiple avenues and choices he makes in order to disobey God. Firstly, in temptation, God plainly explains to Cain: “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’ (verse 7). Cain is here given a choice, does he continue in despair and jealousy, or does he seek to do what is right.
As we know, Cain chooses murder.
But then, even after Cain has killed his brother, he is offered another choice. Either repent and confess his sin, or try to hide it and run away from God? We don’t know what would have happened, if Cain had turned to God and apologised for the murder of his brother.
But we do know, later on in the Bible, that King David would sleep with Bathsheba, kill her husband and get her pregnant. However, in his confession and repentance, God’s grace is shown to be powerful to pass over his sin.
Instead, Cain’s response is famously: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Inferring blame on God. He chooses to deny responsibility. And in so doing he refuses to accept God’s grace.
Sin is a choice. And our response to our failures is also a choice.
3) The Choice we face
The picture presented in Revelation 3:20 is a counter piece to the picture God gives Cain. In Genesis 4, Cain is told that Sin is crouching at His door. In Revelation, the Church is told that Jesus is standing at the door knocking.
Who do we open the door to?
Do we confess our sins, or do we hide them? Do we turn to Jesus to forgive us, or do we avoid responsibility, and tell ourselves its not that bad.
4) Our Sin affects others
We don’t know an exact reason why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted, whilst Abel’s was. Although there are several very convincing theories. However, we can see a parallel in Cain and Abel with that of the Pharisees.
Cain’s offering was rejected by God, he couldn’t enter God’s presence on that occasion. And so, in his jealousy, he prevented Abel from ever entering God’s presence.
In the same way, the Pharisees are accused by Jesus: “You have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52).
We need to be very wary, about the impact our lives have on the faith of other believers. This is one of the reasons Paul gives for abstaining from meat altogether, because of the consciences of other believers (1 Cor 8).
In an age, when the promotion of individual freedom is held as one of the highest values. The Bible asks us to limit our personal freedoms for the sake of others. This is love.
Along the way, studying these passages and writing these posts I came across the following image of Adam and Eve walking out the garden, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, shame covering their face. And I imagined, what it must have been like for the two of them to leave Eden. What regret they must have felt, what embarrassment and what despair.
This post is an attempt to explore those moments, what position they were in as they left the garden. Their feelings and the various opportunities afforded them by God’s grace.
How far we have fallen
Undoubtedly, Adam and Eve would have reflected on their fall. How far they had strayed from the original. They were supposed to rule over and subdue creation, including the wild animals. And now the very ground they walk groans beneath their feet.
They were supposed to carry their heads high, with dignity and proudly bearing the image and likeness of God to creation. Now they seek to hide themselves and cover it all.
What once was a relationship characterised by love, protection, honour and intimacy. [See Vision for marriage]. Is now one characterised by hiding, blame and fear of allowing the other to see. A relationship of domination, tyranny, and abuse.
Where once, they had walked with God in the cool of the breeze. They now hide from Him. They leave His presence. They are estranged! Estranged from God, for each other, from creation and from themselves.
And were their work before had Preistly connotations, tending, guarding, keeping the garden of God’s Temple. It is now a frustrated, broken, endeavour, filled with futility, disappointment and despair!
Oh how much there is to regret with sin. How far it reaches to devastate and destroy. How severe it’s consequences. May the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, move each of us to consider the cost of our sin. May we repent.
Opportunity to respond to Grace
And yet, all hope was not lost. We have seen that God’s response to their sin remembered mercy. And so Adam and Eve, although cast from God’s presence, exiled from the Garden, were still given the opportunity to respond to His grace.
Through confession rather than blaming. It is so tempting when we sin and fail to blame others, those nearby and those far off, society or families. The first step to receiving God’s grace is acknowledging and confessing our sin.
Then we must choose to receive God’s Grace. Both the spiritual blessings appointed to us, the promised blessing of the saviour to come, and the physical blessings of provision with food and clothes. May we not be too proud to receive God’s free grace, purchased for us by the Promised One.
Furthermore, the opportunities to continue sinning have not ended with the forbidden fruit. In fact they have multiplied. Adam and Eve can now, with the knowledge of good and evil, lie, steal, cheat, hurt and even kill one another. They can choose God’s way or become subject to sin which still lies crouching at the door (See Gen 4)!
Adam and Eve along with their family now to come have the opportunity to respond with faith to the Promise. In the midst of God’s curse, He also proclaimed the gospel. That someone would come, descended from the woman, would suffer and would conquer sin.
Fortunately, we see glimpses of the faith of mankind in it’s early stages in this chapter. Does Adam not name his wife, after the Promise? By naming her Eve, he demonstrates faith that she will produce a seed – eventually the promised Seed. Does Eve not in Chapter 4, demonstrate her faith in the promise by praising God for the birth of her three sons! Does Abel not continue with the family decision towards faith by offering God a pleasing sacrifice? Do a portion of the children not demonstrate faith when they start calling on the name of the Lord? (But all this to come!)
In short they, like us, have the opportunity to receive God’s grace through faith in the Promise.
Finally, as Christians, and inheritors of the Promised One! We have the choice to meet again with God in the cool of the day, with worship, with rejoicing, and intimacy!!!
May we Worship
Praise be to Jesus! For when I hear God walking – I don’t have to hide, but I can plead God’s mercy, earned by Christ and know that I am forgiven and restored. That the fruit of the tree of life is available to me! The Cherubim’s flaming swords has been lowered and I may enter the garden again!
This is the gospel! Such good news!
The curse is reversed, death is defeated and the garden is open to those who receive the Promised One
On Monday we looked at the punishment given to man following his crime against God. In today’s post we will examine the other elements of the curse, and how even in the midst of God’s wrath we can see and celebrate His Mercy.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head
And you will strike His heel
After God has cursed the snake, He goes on to issue a promise. Some commentators called this the proto evangelium as in, the first proclamation of the Gospel. For it tells us about Jesus:
- His Incarnation – this promise tells us He will descend from Eve,
- His Suffering – this promise tells us He will be wounded in the process
- His Victory – over evil and sin, He will crush the serpent!
In light of the curse given to the snake we can see the God’s mercy in the midst of wrath, embedded in the sentence given to the woman:
I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
With painful labour you will give birth to children
Yes, this is a severe punishment and consequence to Eve’s sin. And yet, it is not without mercy. For firstly, she will bear children. This means that the promise above (in verse 15) will continue. God will remain faithful even when we are faithless – He will fulfill His purposes.
Secondly, after the pain of childbirth there will be joy! (John 16:21)
In addition to the mercy shown through God’s words. We also see further mercy, in God’s provision of clothes for the couple.
As an history graduate, God’s provision of clothes is very significant. In Andrews Marrs book, History of the World, he pinpoints the invention of the needle (for the purposes of making clothes) as one of the defining inventions that set man apart from other species. Obviously, this passage does not say that God invented the needle. However, the blessing of clothes provides protection, warmth and even comfort to the humans.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable, that God has rebuked us. He has stripped us of the garden, of our pathetic leaf outfit, moved us away from His presence and the tree of life.
And yet, in this shame there is grace. God has shamed us that we might seek Him (Psalm 83:16). As Augustine said: He has rubbed salt on our lips that we might thirst for Him.
We see this in the story of the prodigal son, who realises how good it was in his Father’s house, when he is reduced to pig food!
What difference does this make to our faith? What difference does God’s insistence on Mercy, towards Adam and Eve, make to our walk with God today?
- We worship a God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. People often assume the God of the Old Testament is not merciful. Yet this story tells us clearly it is there.
- God’s plan for rescuing us, is not a fad, it is not a fickle ambition. Rather it has been planned from the beginning.
- We serve a God who is able to turn our worst failings, into means to accomplish His glory and our good (Gen 50:20, Rom 8:28).
Because mankind rebelled against God, and betrayed a Just God, there must be punishment. We see from verse 14 onwards, God’s punishment: first to the snake, then to woman, and finally towards man. However, our God is not only a Just God, He is also a Loving God full of mercy and grace. Therefore, even in the midst of the great curse of Genesis 3, we can see God’s wrath mixed with mercy.
We’ve already considered the anatomy of temptation and the character of the snake. Today we turn our attention to our Righteous and Graceful God. We will explore His response to sin and evil and remind ourselves that God hates sin, but He longs to rescue sinners. In this passage we can see a microcosm of the Gospel.
In reverse order:
‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken; for dust you are,
and to dust you will return’ (vv 17-19)
The punishment is severe. The work that Adam once had to do before, is now frustrated, complicated and filled with futility. Tim Keller put’s it like this: “In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us…in all our work, we will be able to envision far more that we can accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us. The experience of work will include, pain, conflict, envy and fatigue…’ (Every Good Endeavour, 89-90). He goes on to explain that this curse also demonstrates that work will become: pointless, selfish and will reveal our idols.
In this curse we see the context of work (ground), the fruit of work (eat the plants) and frustration of work (thorns and thistles) all subjected to punishment.
We also see promised punishment of death – that Adam would return to the ground as dust.
So where is grace?
We see grace in the fact that the man is not cursed himself. It is the ground. A quick look at the snake’s punishment reveals that the serpant was cursed! We are merely ‘put under the curse’. The full wrath of God is withheld against us, and directed instead to the ground. (Hence Romans 8 speaks of creation groaning!) We are punished indirectly.
We also see mercy in that Adam will be able to eat. His work will not be entirely futile. It will provide food for them, in this way we see God’s ongoing provision of man. God could have punished Adam by making him work for fruit that others would eat! This is in fact a blessing elsewhere in the Bible (Psalm 128:2)
One commentator went so far as to say that the promised death, was also a demonstration of God’s grace. Otherwise, man would have to continue living forever in a state of separation from God, from life, from blessing. Instead, God allows death, so that through faith in the Promised One they might be saved and return to the Garden. (More on that in the next post).
In this way we can see wrath mixed with mercy. In Wednesday’s post we will examine the concoction of mercy and wrath served by the rest of the curse.
It is a cause of worship that we come to the same God who in His wrath remembers mercy.
‘I am deeply grateful,’ said Frodo; ‘but I wish you would tell me plainly what the Black Riders are…’
‘Is it not enough to know that they are servants of the Enemy?’ Answered Gildor. ‘Flee them! Speak no words to them! They are deadly.’
– The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkein
One of the questions that kept coming up in the various commentaries I was using was ‘where did the snake come from?’. In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that everything was good, so who invited the evil serpent?
However, this question was not answered. Not by the commentators and not by Genesis 3. We know, when looking at this passage with New Testament eyes, that the serpent does represent the devil (Revelation 20:9, 12:9). But knowing where evil came from, is not the point of the story here. It is one of the mysteries of the Bible. That is why I have included the quote from Lord of the Rings above. Is it not enough to know, that the snake was a servant of the enemy, and the proper response was to flee, fight, resist and subdue it.
However, there are a few things we can learn about the snake from Genesis – it is not a complete mystery. And that is the subject of this post:
The Snake is not Eternal
We know that the snake/evil is not eternal, because it was not there in the beginning. In fact, in the beginning God declared all His work as very good (Gen 1:31).
The Snake is not (entirely) to blame
Interestingly, despite Adam and Eve’s attempt to blame the snake, the failure was on them. “The snake does not feature in this story as the cause of human failure, but as that which faces human beings with the reality of their trust in God.” (Atkinson) In other words, the snake provides an opportunity for mankind’s faith in the goodness of God to be tested.
See a previous post of mine to review the anatomy of temptation (as found in Genesis 3).
Nevertheless, the fact that the snake is cursed, does imply that it was guilty, hence: ‘because you have done this…’ (v14)
The Snake is not our friend
In the beginning of this chapter, Eve and the snake are talking like friends. Back and forth. Forming an alliance, a conspiracy.
But no matter how fine an allegiance against God (and His ways) may seem, the message of Genesis 3 is that: those who unite in wickedness will not be united for long. We see this as Eve quickly seeks to blame the snake for her “mistake”. We see this as God places enmity between the snake and Eve’s offspring.
We also see parallels in the Psalms, why do ‘the rulers band together against the LORD?…The One enthroned in heave laughs; the Lord scoffs at them’ (2:2&4).
Therefore we should be wary about sinning with others, thinking it will join us closer. I find that gossip is very sneaky like this. We engage in gossip, because deep-down we think it will “unite” us with someone we admire (or who’s approval we seek). However, gossip quickly turns against us and causes division. A wise saying is: ‘there is no honour among thieves’.
The Snake was supposed to be ‘ruled over’
In Genesis 1, God decides to make mankind ‘so that they may rule over…all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (1:26). Notice how Genesis 3 begins, ‘now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made’ (3:1).
There is no moral judgement in the word ‘crafty’, it is neither good nor bad, it is simply what the snake is like. However, by calling the snake a ‘wild animal’, the author of Genesis is hinting that this was one of the creatures that Mankind was supposed to rule over.
But this is not what happens. Instead of taking charge of the animal, and handling it with authority, Adam and Eve kowtow to the wishes of this crafty animal. They give it permission and space to question God’s goodness.
May we, as Christians, as co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8) as people invited to sit on God’s throne (Rev 3:21), not abdicate our authority anymore! If the snake, if the tempter must sit at the party or crouch at the door, may it be as our enemy – not our friend.
May we declare to God, like the Psalmist – ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ (Psalm 23). But let us not invite the snake to take charge.
On Monday we looked at the role isolation can play in our battles with sin. We also explored how God has provided Church as a means to counter this. In today’s post we’re going to consider the other elements at work in mankind’s battle with temptation.
Temptation is complicated, as is most human behaviour. There are often many factors at work, many reasons behind the things that we do. Motivations both good and ugly. Physiologists Freud and Jung would probably blame our parents, Sociologists would blame our communities, the Left blaming the Right and the Right blaming the Left. Adam blames Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and both of them blamed God.
So how does temptation work, how does it get us to a point where we willingly conspire against God, seeking to disobey His law, to hurting each other and ourselves? Genesis 3 has some answers:
(I understand this is a longer post than usual, hopefully the sub-headings will allow quick transit between ideas.)
Temptation Twists Truth
The first thing the snake asks is, ‘did God really say, “you must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ (V1). In fact, God had said they could eat from any tree, except one! Temptation twists truth. It adds from God’s words, takes from them and can even distort them. We see Satan follow this pattern when he attempts to trip Jesus in Matthew 4.
Since temptation twists truth, holding onto truth, knowing it and believing it is essential for the Christian. Perhaps this is why Jesus promises to his disciples, those who listen to his teaching, would know the truth and the truth would set them free (John 8:31-32)
Temptation Begins with Trivia
How can it be that so great a fall can begin with so small an incident: eating fruit? Surely the whole world will not fall apart for such a trivial thing? Yet, this is where the snake goes on… ‘surely, you will not certainly die’ (V4). We must surrender to God everything in our lives even the most seemingly trivial. One commentator put it like this:
“Some habit, some possession, some secret sin, some bitter resentment – in the context of our whole life, it seems so small, and yet it is at that one point that our trust in God is tested. If we will not let God be God at this one small, trivial, yet so crucial a point then we really do not trust him where it matters at all.” – David Atkinson (The Message of Genesis 1-11).
Since temptation starts with trivia, it is so important that we ‘nip it in the bud’. Perhaps this is why the Lord’s Prayer includes ‘lead us not into temptation’. Let us not play with fire.
Temptation Drives a Wedge Between Faith and Reason
Temptation oozes into the crevices between faith and reason, it erodes their oneness. The snake attempts to cause Eve to doubt the goodness of God’s word. Where God had said ‘don’t eat’, the snake implies ‘why would God say that?’. And so Eve begins to doubt her reason for believing God’s words.
Reasoning faith acknowledges that in the space between heaven and earth, there are secret things which belong to the Lord. Reasoning faith causes gratitude, rather than doubt. Reasoning faith knows God by trusting Him, by experiencing His loving-faithfulness. Reasoning faith can say: ‘This is a trustworthy saying…if we are faithless, He remains faithful’ (2 Tim 2:11&13).
Temptation seeks to come between reason and faith.
Temptation Suggests Benefits to Us
Once the snake has disarmed/trivialised the cost of disobedience, (‘surely you won’t die’) he promises benefits. It is important to note that the Hebrew word for ‘die’ in verse 4 is ‘Muwth’ and according to one count it appears in the OT 835 times. ‘Surely you won’t die’, surely?
Obviously, we are tempted because we think we will gain through sin. In this passage the snake promises that they will be like God, their eyes will be opened, they will gain knowledge about good and evil (V5). After lying about the cost (‘surely you won’t die!’) the snake seeks to promise blessings for disobedience.
And is this not the case with our temptation and sin? We lie because we think it will be easier than telling the truth. We steal because we will get what we want without working for it. We lust and covet because we think we will be satisfied or empowered. We are tempted by the apparent gains we hope to make.
Temptation (seeks to) Insult God and Us
Perhaps most significant is that temptation attempts to insult, and offend! It seeks to reproach God’s goodness, by questioning whether a good God would really deny us eye-opening, knowledge-giving fruit. “Surely God cannot be good if He is denying you these things”.
We see that the snake drops the intimate name of ‘LORD God’ (aka: Jehovah) and Eve follows suits, referring to God as ‘God’. But notice how many times, after this conversation, that Genesis 3 refers to the ‘LORD God’ – over and over again! It becomes so obvious that the tempter is seeking to insult God’s relational-goodness.
But it’s not just God who is insulted by temptation, it is also us! You see when God first made human beings, He made them in His image and likeness (1:26,27). When the snake tempts Eve and promises that by eating the fruit she will become like God, he is saying “look, you’re not like God enough, you are not significant enough etc”.
Perhaps this is one reason why we sin, because we want to fight back against this insult. We want to prove we are strong, powerful, able to make ourselves god-like and hence we rebel against God. Perhaps we need to turn to the promises and truth that God offers about our value and importance. That we are made in His image, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that He has got good plans for us, that we are His workmanship created in Christ for good works. That He does already take great delight in us. That we are His beloved Children. That He died for us, because He loved us. That we are new creations, kings, priests and prophets of a Kingdom about to come!
And whilst this isn’t exactly the message of Genesis 3, it is related. What we learn about temptation in this chapter of Genesis, and what is later reinforced throughout scripture, is that temptation often occurs in the midst of isolation. When we are alone.
There was a little disagreement in the commentaries about whether Adam was there & present in the moment Eve was talking to the snake (see v6) or if he was at a distance hence the dialogue between two not three. Either way, it is clear the enemy is talking his lies to Eve alone. It is a 2 “person” conversation.
A common theme of temptation is isolation.
Perhaps this is why: Cain, Moses, Saul, David and Peter all experienced significant moral failures when they were on their own! Even Jesus was tempted severely when He was in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
We’ve all been there, it is easier to sin when no one is watching. And it is easier to opt for righteousness when others are around. (Maybe Tom Hanks had a point?!)
So, what is the solution?
Is the solution, then, to always be around people?! Or as Emma Watson decides, to have 24/7 surveillance present in our lives? Do we need 100% accountability with everyone we meet? No. Obviously not.
Whilst isolation is often the battle ground for temptation, it is also the crucible in which God develops and grows us. It is the place that He meets us. This is why Jesus withdrew to quiet places, this is why Joshua would stay behind in the tent of meeting when Moses had finished with God, and this is where David learned to trust God’s hand to deliver him as a youth. In the secret, hidden, quiet and lonely places. The Psalmist encourages us to ‘be still and know’ that He is God.
So, what is the solution?
Introducing: the Church. The body of Christ. Regularly meeting, to consider ways in which spur one another on to love and good deeds. To encourage one another, support one another, comforting, rejoicing and mourning with one another. To model a pursuit after God’s heart, declaring to each other ‘follow me as I follow Christ’.
Over and over again the New Testament invites us to live out our faith in the context of community. To fight our temptations together and to strive to obey God’s commands together.
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” – Ephesians 5:18-20.
If we want to see significant breakthrough in our addictions, ongoing battles with private sin, let us disarm the enemy early and bring others alongside us.
Do not let the enemy isolate you further with lies that you are alone. See how 1 John 1:7 connects walking in the light, fellowship with other Christians and being purified from all sin.
Caveat: Church Community does not make you immune to Sin
It is obvious from history, that just because we are in a collective does not make us immune to sin. The letters to the Churches, in Revelation, remind us of this. Sometimes we can be collectively “lukewarm”. Oftentimes, it is because everyone else is sinning, that we feel justified. “It’s okay, everyone else does it”, is not a good enough excuse to disobey God.
Finally, on Discipleship
The Greek nerds among us, will know that when Jesus delivers the Great Commission in Matthew 28 He is speaking to a group of disciples. When He promises that ‘I will be with you’ , He is using ‘you’ in a plural form.
If we want to be able to resist temptation it helps to be part of community. Likewise, if we want to obey Jesus’ commands, (specifically, to make disciples of all nations) we should likewise go as a Church together.