Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

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Now that we have learned a little something about the principles of Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Two Trees that were planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, it is time for us to take a look at the part these elements played in the Cain and Abel story which was recently acted out for us in Vignette #4.  Keeping in mind the principles that we have learned since then—which were, that for any seed sown…

  • More would be reaped than was initially planted;
  • The harvest for that seed, though delayed, would always come once the fruit had fully matured; and,
  • The fruit produced as a result of it would always bear the image of the original seed…

…it should be easy for us to see how the seed sown by Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, reproduced itself in the lives of their children and grandchildren; bringing forth a harvest more bitter and deadly than anything they could ever have imagined.

Their Births

Although we aren’t told a lot about Cain and Abel, either in Genesis 4 or in the few related passages that speak of them, we are told enough to know that these two brothers were as different as different could be—with the first difference being seen in the way in which they came into the world.  Although they weren’t born into the same paradisaical situation that their parents had first experienced, still, the world which greeted them both must have a very beautiful one.  Cain was born into it first and, because of this, his birth elicited a far more ecstatic reaction on the part of their mother.

Adam and Eve with Sons

Adam and Eve with Sons

As you may recall, back in Genesis 3:15, when God provided animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve’s sin, He promised that one day the “seed of the woman” would come and crush the head of the Serpent—an act of redemption and deliverance which would free Man forever from his bondage to sin and death.  We can well imagine that from Eve’s joy when a male child was born to her, and from the naming of him as Cain (meaning “gotten,” as in “I have gotten a man from the Lord”), both she and Adam looked upon this child as the “Promised One”—or, as the One who would someday deliver them from the curse brought about by their sin.

Abel’s birth, on the other hand, didn’t create quite the same stir.  There was no obvious excitement when he was born and, in giving him a name meaning “vapor, vanity, or breath,” it would seem that not too much was expected of him by his parents—that, maybe, in their eyes, he would never be able to measure up to stature of his older brother.

But, with both boys being raised in a generally pleasant environment by the same parents and, with them living in a world…

  • without any grandparents, aunts, or uncles to butt in (or to muddy up the family gene pool);
  • without any known sicknesses or diseases to afflict them;
  • without any governmental or police authorities to have to answer to;
  • without any schools, peer pressure, media or other cultural influences to lead them astray; and,
  • without any church or temple, bosses, or co-workers to be concerned about…

…it would be reasonable to expect that both of these young men would turn out to be equally fine specimens of humanity, wouldn’t it?

Their Vocations

The second noticeable difference between Cain and Abel was readily seen in their choice of vocations, with Cain, either willingly or out of necessity, choosing to become a farmer, and with Abel choosing the life of a shepherd. These were two completely different but equally demanding occupations, with the former requiring hard work to produce food from ground previously cursed by God; and, the latter demanding a twenty-four hour a day commitment to the raising of the animals which could be used for both sacrifices and clothing.  Although different, it would seem that these two livelihoods would prove to be mutually beneficial:  Cain could exchange some of his produce for the sheep he needed for sacrifice and for clothing, while Abel could use the produce he received to provide food for himself and his family.

Their Relationships

Of course, the major difference between these two brothers was in their opposing attitudes toward and relationships with God.  For, although both boys had been born into the same family, and were of the same spiritual stock—that is, in their original spiritual states, they were both products of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Cain, at the time of our story, was still proving himself to be fruit from that Tree of rebellion, while Abel, through his actions, was demonstrating that he had found his way to the spiritual Tree of Life, and had become part of its fruit.  For evidence of this, we need to look no further than at the offerings these young men brought to God.

The Offerings

We first learn of these offerings in Genesis 4:3-4a, where we are told that…

Cain and Abel at the Altar

Cain and Abel at the Altar

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.

At first glance, nothing seems to be amiss in this situation; Cain, from all outward appearances, is bringing God some of the fruits of his labor, while Abel is doing the same.  But, then, things take a decidedly different turn as we read in verses 4b and 5 that…

…the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Hmmm…here we have two brothers with two offerings, both being made at the altar and both at the appointed or designated time for sacrifice—what could possibly have been wrong with this picture?  What was it that set these offerings apart, making one but not the other acceptable to God?  Was it because of the differences in the offerings themselves, or was it something that went deeper than that?

Different Offerings?

I have heard a considerable bit of discussion about this over the years, with some people advancing the theory that, because there was no specific written instruction as to what the offering should be, the one which Cain brought should have been okay; with those holding to this opinion frequently citing the provision of grain offerings in the Mosaic Law to support their position.  However, the grain offerings included in the Law were Peace and Thanksgiving offerings that were to be made once a sin or a burnt offering (offerings specifically calling for animal sacrifices) had been made and accepted by God.  While we have no indication that any type of grain offering had been sanctioned by God or instituted as part of the worship ritual in Cain and Abel’s day, we can find scriptural justification to support the belief that the animal sacrifice brought by Abel was the type that had been mandated by God.

In Leviticus 17:14, it says that “…the life of every creature is its blood:  its blood is its life;” and, in Romans 6:23 that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Since, in these passages, God declared that the life of a person is in his or her blood, and that the wages of his or her sin is death, then it would follow that the person who sinned would be required to die and offer up his or her life’s blood to atone for that sin.  Although this was, and still is, the demand of God’s holy law, God has added something of a proviso to it; and that is, as an act of His grace, God stipulated that another’s life—and blood—could be substituted for that of the sinner, on condition that the life and blood of the substitute be sinless, so that it could satisfy the righteous demands of the law.  This law of substitution is what made the sacrifice of innocent animals necessary, and is why this type of offering became the precedent for all those that would be made in the future.

With this precedent having been established in the Garden, and with parents who no doubt told their sons all about it, why would Cain have dared to bring any other kind of offering to God?  Although we are not told so here, fallen human nature being what it is, there are some things that we can surmise which might help to explain his actions:

  • If Cain had grown up believing that he was the Promised Deliverer, he may have adopted the attitude that he could do no wrong, and that no matter what he did, it would be okay with God.
  • If this was the case, he would have had an ego the size of all Eden, accompanied by an attitude of superiority, which would have made going to his younger brother for anything, especially a sacrificial lamb, simply intolerable.
  • Certainly, the fact that Abel was a prophet (something not mentioned here but revealed later on by Jesus in Matthew 23:34-35 and in Luke 11:50-51) wouldn’t have helped to improve the situation in any way. If, in times past, when acting as a prophet, Abel had confronted Cain about his arrogant attitude and preached repentance to him, it surely wouldn’t have endeared him to someone with Cain’s exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Cain may have also been harboring resentment toward God; possibly for having kicked his parents out of Paradise for such an “insignificant” offense as eating from the forbidden Tree, and thus denying him the privilege of growing up there. He could have resented having to work so hard to get the earth, cursed as it was by God, to yield its increase—especially when a life of relative ease was waiting to be had, if only he lived in the Garden.

…Or, Different Hearts?

Whatever else may have been going on behind the scenes, one thing we can know for sure is that the real issue between these two men was neither physical nor emotional but spiritual in nature, and reflective of the two very different heart attitudes of the brothers.  For proof of this, we need only to go to  Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between their two offerings was faith, for…

“By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.”

And why was faith the deciding factor here?  As it is explained so simply in Hebrews 11:6 and in 1 Samuel 16:7, respectively…

“…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for however would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

“For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”

If a heart of faith was what was required to please God, then how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  Since “…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17),” Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had received, most likely from his parents, which said something to the effect that “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—and then acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Abel Slain by Cain

Abel Slain by Cain

Cain, on the other hand, in his rejection of the same Word, and in his willful determination to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching God in the manner which had previously been ordained.  Such arrogant actions on Cain’s part resulted in God’s rejection of his offering, which provoked Cain to anger and to the subsequent murder of his brother, which led to a further curse being placed on his farming, and which, when he refused to repent, led to Cain’s separation from the presence of God, leading ultimately to a life of fearful wandering.  As for the true nature of Cain’s heart and actions, they were best described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers in 1 John 3:12:  ““We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Now, as we recall what we previously learned about the nature of the two trees—which was…

  • That the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil was rooted in the in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God, that it produced the SAP of Selfishness and Pride, and that its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory…
  • …while the Tree of Life was rooted in the same desires to do God’s will that characterized Jesus, its SAP being Submission and Praise, while its Fruit for God and His Glory

…then it should be plain enough for us to see that Cain, in his prideful reliance upon his own works at achieving righteousness, was the first and most perfect piece of fruit to fall from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—becoming, if you will, a regular “poster child” for all those who would come after him, seeking to come to God on their own merits.  Abel, on the other hand, with the placement of his faith in the gracious provision of God—that is, in the one allowing for the substitutionary death of an innocent lamb to provide a covering for his sins—was the first and a most fitting example of the fruit to be produced by the Tree of Life.  The offerings that they brought to God, then, were merely outward demonstrations of these inner beliefs.

Of course, both of these trees will continue to bear fruit in each of the generations to come but our inspection of that fruit will have to wait until next time; the time when we will also complete our assessment of the story of Cain and Abel by looking for…

  • the Life Lessons that we can take away from their experiences;
  • the Contributions that their story makes to the One Big Story taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • any new Revelations about God contained within their story.

Until then, though, let’s join with Kutless and reflect on just…“What Faith Can Do.”

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All Aboard…For Salvation!

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Train conductor2

All Aboard!

Woo-hoo!  The time has finally come for us to embark upon our rocking and rolling trip through the Word of God.  So far, we have gone over our travel tips and have gotten our itinerary all worked out.  Now, here with our bags packed and our tickets in hand, it is time for us to board the Truth Train and depart for the first stop on our journey, the Salvation Station.

At this point, some of you may be wondering why a stop there is necessary at all.  For those of you traveling in Group #1—those who may have already experienced salvation, or who may have been involved in the life of a church for many years—you may be thinking that you already have a sufficient grasp on the subject and a stop there would be a colossal waste of your time.  While for those in Group #2—those traveling with us who may have come from unchurched or secular backgrounds, and who may have either made successes of life on their own or who may have been taught that, in life, there are no absolutes, truth is a subjective thing, and morality is something entirely relative to the situation at hand—you may be thinking to yourselves, “I’ve got it made, what do I need salvation from—or for?”  And, for those traveling in Group #3—those who may be coming from other cultural or religious backgrounds, which may believe that salvation is something that is only attainable upon death, when your works are measured, and the good ones outweigh the bad ones—you may also be considering a stop at this station to be completely unnecessary.

However, a stop here could…
For those in Group #1:  Make you aware that your present knowledge of salvation is limited; and reveal how that knowledge can be greatly expanded, both to your own advantage and to that of the Kingdom of God.
For those in Group #2:  Prove that what you’ve been taught about truth, morality, and the meaning of life is incorrect; and convince you that you are a sinner and one who is indeed in need of salvation.
For those in Group #3:  Help you see that your works, no matter how noble or altruistic they may have been, will never be good enough for you to earn your own salvation; and introduce you to the Person whose one work of atonement is the only one that has been deemed acceptable by God, thus making it the only one capable of securing the salvation that we all need. 

Now, in just the short amount of time that it took to say that we’ve already reached our first stop, a stop which will prove to be most essential because it is here that we will learn what salvation is, what it does for us, and why we need it.  As for finding out how we get it, that is something that we will discover when we reach the next stop on our tour—the New Birth Station.

Although those of you in Group #1 might prefer a complicated, detailed, or more theological definition of salvation, I think that it would be in the best interests of all who are traveling with us to start with the most basic one possible.  Personally, I like the one I found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary, for it defines salvation simply as a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.”  I like these definitions because “a saving” implies an act, “a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it is something that must come from a source outside of us.  Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about:

  • It is about the one-time act of faith that makes a person a child of God;
  • It is about the life-long process of spiritual growth which follows; the one that transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
  • It is about Jesus, the One outside of us who will be doing all of the saving.
Salvation

“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.”–Proverbs 8:33

As simple as all this may seem on the surface, please don’t let the simplicity of it keep you from the realization that SALVATION IS REALLY A BIG DEAL!  In fact, it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized plan and process by which a Holy God takes a Sinner—someone who was “…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3),” and not only adopts him or her into His family as His very own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His own Son, Jesus!  Wow! Just imagine, going from alienation to acceptance, from slavery to freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting!

Just how does He make this happen?  Through a three-stage process that we will come to know as:

  • Salvation, Part I—Which is our Redemption;
  • Salvation, Part II—Which is our Sanctification; and,
  • Salvation, Part III—Which is our Glorification.

About Redemption… 

Since our DOT for Redemption is—to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor—

Redemption, for us, is the act by which our sin debt is paid; an act making us righteous in the sight of God and setting us free from the penalty and power of sin so we can be legally adopted as His children. 

This act is a necessity for us because, while God is holy, because of the sin nature we all inherited from our first set of parents, Adam and Eve, we are not.  Therefore, before any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives, so that we can be reconciled to God and become holy like Him.

Before the Judge

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27)

While most of us are all too quick to deny that such a problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the day of our births to the day of our deaths, we are busy acquiring a “rap sheet” full of offenses against God–we, either through our thoughts, words, or deeds, are repeatedly violating the laws of God’s righteousness, violations which are all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.”  This means that we are all lawbreakers who are on the run from God, totally unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called upon to appear in His court for judgment.

Sadly, and all too often, either because we don’t realize or believe we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think it safe to put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths.  But this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the righteous Judge of the universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation whatsoever.  And once the charges against us have been read, and our appeals have been proven to be without merit, this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that it demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God
and all things holy.

But there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who is “… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)”—and because of that, He has made a way to provide an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, to plead the cases of all those who will come before Him and acknowledge the crimes of which they are guilty—if they will do so before they die!  This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He came to earth, lived a sinless life that met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross in order to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived.  Through the substitution of His death for their deaths, which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and to offer them a pardon, without so much as even a fine to pay!  Once pardoned, and with their sin records expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God, and then can be legally adopted as His spiritual children!

Salvation Offer

Take Advantage of This Offer While You Can

About Sanctification…

Since our Dot for Sanctification is—to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use—

Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God.

In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created.  It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new child, and He begins to teach him what it means to be a child of God.  He does this by:

  • Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
  • Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the fruit of the Spirit–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
  • Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various giftings for service imparted by the very same Spirit;
  • Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
  • Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.

This training is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; and which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.

About Glorification…

Since our Dot for Glorification is—to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly—

Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children. 

As the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ.  Plus, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first on earth and later in eternity.

WOW!  As you can see, SALVATION REALLY IS A BIG DEAL—in fact, it is the BIGGEST and the BEST DEAL ever to be offered!  So, how do we go about taking advantage of such a great deal?  Well, that is something we will find out about at our next stop, where we will learn all about the New Birth.  Until then, though, it is back on the train for everyone–so all aboard!

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Laura Story reminds us of “What A Savior” we have…