We greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord that we can meet in this way. Although we are still only a handful, it is better than it has been. We thank God for keeping us. There have been numerous challenges. This is a period of purification and pruning. The children of God are being pruned. It is clear who truly loves the Lord, is on fire for Him and is truly devoted to the Lord. As long as the Lord is present, it does not matter whether we are a few people or many. Some may feel as if they are like that log that burns on its own and cools down and it is fortunate if any burning coal is left. As Christians we should draw nigh to those whose love is waning and fan it into a flame. We should encourage one another to wake up and take note of what is happening. Encourage them and say, “Brother, sister, you are not alone. You do not have to be isolated.” There are those who want to be one and serve the Lord together with you. The Lord Jesus does not want that flame to die out. This is a period when we should be active, find those who are dying spiritually, stir them up and remind them that there is still hope. Realise that Satan is present, and he loves times like these. When Satan finds a person who is no longer on fire for the Lord, he sows his seeds of criticism and fault finding and suddenly nothing is good. All seems dark. This is how Satan spreads his influence.
We thank the Lord that we still have His word and that He speaks through it. A word from Genesis 4 has touched me deeply. It has been laid on my heart to speak today about bringing sacrifices to God.
Among the first people who lived on earth, an event took place which had a good outcome on the one hand but a bad outcome on the other. It had an impact on generations afterwards. The repercussions of that event reach to our own generation. Its impact is only growing. It is heart breaking when you realise that it took place in the very house of the Lord, where He was being worshipped. You may be in the house of the Lord to worship Him, but it is also possible that evil springs up right there. The origin of this event was something good and it was done out of their own free will but, you ask, why did it have such an evil outcome? The two men were brothers who had the same parents, but something terrible happened between them.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:1 – 8
It does not help to say that you are a child of the Lord, you are a believer, a Christian. Yes, it is very good to be a child of the Lord, to separate yourself from the world and to follow Him. But it is a very precarious position to find yourself in if you are so focused on being a child of the Lord that you do not take care that you are still walking close to the Lord, hearing His voice and obeying it. Are you still in the Lord? Many call themselves by the name of the Lord, but they do not obey. Many so-called children of the Lord are ruled by their own feelings and ideas and they do not hear the word of the Lord, nor do they follow Him.
Each of the two brothers had their own tasks or career path they were following. Neither should have been troubled about the other one. Each of them was doing what they were supposed to do. They were each given what they needed for their work. There was no need to be jealous of each other. One was working with crops and the other with livestock. Both these types of farming were needed. Each was dependant on the other. Each of them felt the necessity to bring an offering. Neither of them forced the other one to do it. The elder brother, Cain, was the first to bring an offering. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, like a priest that brings an offering to the Lord. Remember his name meant “I have gotten a man with the help of a Lord”. His parent had such hope for him. Your mother may have also rejoiced when you were born because she had also received a man with the help of the Lord. Cain’s mother rejoiced. She expected so much from him. You never know when you bring a child into the world what will eventually happen to it. Some people have such wonderful names which their parents gave them in the hope that they will emulate their name and very often they do follow the meaning of their name. Often amongst the Zulu people, a child fulfils the name he/she was given. For example, a child may have been named “fighter” and the person becomes a fighter. Wherever that person goes there is conflict.
Cain was given this wonderful name, but his life was opposite to the meaning of his name. He did what was expected, he did the work of a man, but when he brought an offering, things went wrong. He became an enemy of God and was filled with disobedience.
What went wrong? When Cain brought his offering, it was not accepted, but when Abel brought his it was accepted. Both did something good, something commendable. Both brought their first-fruit offerings. Why was one accepted, the other not? Both grasped this mystery of an offering of thanksgiving. One sacrifice was accepted and the other not. There is a great lesson to be learned here. Why was Cain’s offering not accepted? Was it the offering itself or was there something else behind it?
This was not a game they were playing. They brought an offering to God Himself. There is no hypocrisy with God. God sees through everything. He did not stop the offering. Many people bring an offering, thereby trying to cover up their sin. Some bring an offering to impress those to whom it is brought. They want to impress through the kind of offering and its size. God goes beyond that. He sees what is hidden. We only see the outcome and why God never accepted a person’s offering after the offering has been done. Did God only appreciate offerings of fat portions and not of plants? No, not at all. God created the different types of work and what they produced. God was happy with that. But whenever an offering is brought, God looks very carefully at that offering.
And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. Do you notice the wording: for Abel and His offering? God wants both, the person first and then the offering. God is not so keen on only the offering. God looks at me first, what kind of an offering am I before Him? When my offering is presented, does God say, “Oh my, the person bringing the offering has such a stench around him because of his sin. He must have a wash or that person has the odour of dung, the field and dirt?” I am speaking a spiritual language.
God looked at the heart of Cain and saw an evil heart. He said, “This child is evil.” God said that He would have no regard for Cain and his offering because of his evil. Where do we find that something was wrong in Cain’s life when he brought his offering? God spoke to him and warned him.
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
God spoke to Cain and warned him. “Cain, watch out, there is something not quite right in your life, you have to deal with it. Cain, I can see it on your face. It is written on your face. There is something wrong.” The evil in a person’s heart overflows to the outside. If you allow that which is sour and bitter in your heart, the outcome will be bitter. God discerns a person’s offering and the person who brings that offering.
Some bring an offering to God that is crippled, blind and thin. They say they cannot use it anyway, so they will just bring it to God. What kind of offering do you bring to God? The thin, small and blind? Because you cannot use it, you give it as an offering. Do you take that which is the very best, precious - all you have and bring it as an offering to God?
When Abel brought his offering, he did not rush, he took his time. He selected the best as an offering fit for God. In this you see characters and attitudes revealed. One gave carelessly, the other gave carefully – the best. When we come into the presence of the Holy God, we need to understand in what way we are coming and to whom we are coming. Even if we are under conviction of sin and come to confess it, we need to realise to whom we are coming and with what type of heart we are bringing it. If you remain in the same spot spiritually and are not getting anywhere, ask yourself how you go about confessing your sin? Why do you always go back to the same sin? Did God really forgive? In what manner did you come to God and in what way did you confess your sin?
God had regard for Abel and his offering. Why? Abel was a righteous person who feared and loved God.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrew 11:4
God regarded Abel as a righteous person. As someone with a good testimony and who testifies even now, though he is dead. God commended him by accepting His gifts. But God saw that Cain’s heart was evil. Even when Cain was reprimanded and corrected, he did not accept it. Are there some who, when God tries to warn them, are stiff necked and deaf? Realise that though you bring your offering, it will not be accepted. You will not find favour with God unless you repent first.
It is not only your gift that is important, but how you bring your gift? In the church there are many hypocrites. Remember the two who went to the temple to pray. A Pharisee, who was known as very religious and a tax collector, who was known as a sinner and was unpopular. All this happened in the temple which is supposed to be a holy place. This happened in the very presence of the Lord, where someone was arrogant. The Pharisee boasted about the fact that he was not like the tax collector who stole money. He boasted about the number of times he prayed, about his tithes which are all acceptable for a religious person. The crux of the matter: in what state did they leave the temple? The one who did not say much besides “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” was the one who received help and grace. The one who realised his need for God’s grace and who cried for mercy, left the temple made righteous in the sight of God and cleansed. The other entered boasting, but he did not receive. The tax collector’s prayer was accepted by God, the Pharisee’s not. How does this happen? God looks at the heart of the one who approaches Him. The one boasted about himself and said how good he was. The other one said he was a sinner in need of grace.
Remember the widow who brought her offering in Luke 21. Others also brought their offerings, but Jesus said an amazing thing. As he saw her making the offering, he said that her offering exceeded all the other offerings. She only brought two small copper coins, but that was all that she had and what she lived off. Others brought more but hers was accepted. We will be surprised when we come before God one day and these things are revealed. Someone whom you despised may be given a high position and the one whom you felt should be honoured will be told to move away because they are in the wrong place. God sees with what kind of heart you do what you are doing.
Cain’s heart was evil. It was pitch black. When God spoke to him and warned him, he took no notice. God’s word tells us that we must master sin, it should not master us. We should be victorious over sin. You should never get to the place where you say, “I don’t know what to do anymore.” The Lamb of God was slain on the cross of Golgotha – how can you say that you do not know what to do anymore? When God speaks to you why do you not obey Him? Obey what He tells you and then see the outcome.
There are sins that we take lightly - that irritability, that bitterness. The bitterness which you seal up in your heart will not be sealed for very long. After a while it will burst into the open. You may be able to hide it for a while and close it up so that nobody sees it, but it will escape one day. It may be seething in your heart and when it explodes to the outside, it will hurt and defile many. If you had only gone to someone to pray with you and you had exposed it in counselling, it would not have become so known. That root of bitterness that troubles you – it may be a little bit of bitterness – but you do not have peace about it. Is there not even one person whom you can take into your confidence and share it with? Talk about the bitterness and get help. Is there not even one person whom you can trust and pour your heart out to so that you may receive help? Do you want to die with that bitterness? You are troubled and burdened by this. Everybody else can see that you are carrying a burden, but you do not bring it out and instead it will explode and defile many. Cain, you must rule over this sin. God sees that if you do not rule over it, this thing will hurt very much.
What does Cain do after that? Is he helped by these words? Are you helped by that which you hear regarding that which troubles you? Cain’s heart was hard. What does he say? He invites his brother to go for a walk into the field. Abel did not suspect anything because it was his brother who invited him. But out in the field that wicked heart of Cain makes him glance this way and that, making sure that nobody sees him and then he kills his brother. His sin brought death to his brother. His sin brought him to the level of a murderer, where he had blood on his hands. His sin caused people to flee from him like they would from a wild animal. Cain was a dangerous man.
We speak of Cain as a dangerous man, but that dangerous man could be in our midst. The sad thing is that you expect danger to come from another source not from your very own brother. Should my brother murder me? Could I expect such cruelty and pain from my very own brother or sister in the Lord? Is that possible? Your very own brother and sister would betray you and do such a wicked thing. Your very own flesh and blood? The heart of man is black and wicked. Do not be satisfied that he calls himself a Christian, such a person can do a terrible thing.
The Lord has taught us how to be reconciled if there is something between you and a fellow brother. If you do not know this, then listen. If my brother or my sister has harmed or hurt me in any way there is a Biblical way in which to sort it out. If you have something against your brother, go to him. (Listen, especially you younger ones.) Do not let the sun set on your anger. Go and make peace and be reconciled. If you go to your brother and are unable to reconcile, call someone else, the Bible says. Call that other person and tell them that you want to make peace, and ask him to please assist in the matter. If both of you fail, then take the matter to the elders and church leaders. The aim is to sort out the problem and resolve the conflict. To splash it out on social media, in the news or wherever will not resolve the issue. That is not the godly way to resolve the issue. You do that because it is not your purpose to bring about reconciliation, it is only to paint that other person as black as possible in the eyes of others. That is not God’s way. God’s church is not like that. God has His wonderful way of bringing reconciliation between people. It is the cross that brings about that peace and reconciliation. One of the beams on the cross is horizontal, which indicates that I should make peace with my fellow man.
Cain, you killed your very own brother! What a terrible sin Cain committed. Cain, what a terrible sin has been committed that cost Abel’s life! It was just an offering, an offering that Abel brought to God in righteousness and thankfulness to the Lord. It was an offering that was accepted by the Lord. Should Abel die for something like that?
I came to KSB in 1978. I was riddled with sin and carrying a heavy burden of sin. I did not know who could save me from the situation I was in. I had come out of jail. My heart was heavy and burdened. Who could help me? I did not even have to wait until the following day to get the answer to my question. That very same day God spoke to me. I thought my biggest problem was the sin for which I had been imprisoned and the thing that had brought me to the mission. I thought that was my biggest problem. I was reminded about my deed day and night. I had the blood of a man on my hands. (Today people speak and write about my past and say that I may not have repented thoroughly from that sin, but they can say what they want.) One thing I know is that the Lord Jesus forgave me. God gave me an indescribable peace in my heart which I would not want to lose for anything in this world. Do and say what you like but leave me with that peace the Lord gave me. I cannot walk the way I like. These are decisions I made before God. I made an agreement before the Lord and said, “Lord, I will serve you as long as I live. I surrender totally to you. My life now belongs to you.” I am reminded of this. If the Lord reminds you, pray for me that I will never lose sight of that. So, when I came the Lord revealed Himself to me and I saw not one corpse but many, I said, “Lord, I don’t know who these people are, I haven’t killed them, but I see a multitude of dead bodies before me.” God said to me, “You are guilty of the death of all of these people.” I thought I was only guilty of one person’s life. The Lord said, “You did not kill them with a knife or a bomb, but with your tongue.” It dawned on me. What had I been saying about people? What had I been saying as an unbeliever - not realising that I was killing people with my words?
How many have you killed already with your tongue? What have you said with your tongue? How many of your brothers have you killed with your tongue? How many of your friends have you dragged through the mud by what you have said about them? I came under such conviction of sin when the Lord showed me that I had killed all those people. I came to the Lord in repentance.
Cain, would you murder your brother just for the sake of an offering? Cain, is Abel so guilty for that offering that he should be put to death? Should he die because his offering was accepted and blessed by God? Quieten your heart before the Lord and ask the question: how are you before God? God is not so keen on how great your offering is, but He wants you to have a new heart. God wants us to be washed of our sin and to be truly united – not hypocritically, acting as if we are one, but truly – through the blood of the Lord Jesus. If you put people to death through your tongue, do not let the sun set before you make it right. Your sin will find you out. If your offering is not acceptable to God, sit down with the Lord and make things right. Be reconciled with God so that your offering will be accepted. God does not care about the offering, He cares about the new creation - when I bring the offering, I bring it with a clean, pure heart. You know what is in your heart. You know whether God hears your prayer. If God does not hear your prayer, do not look around you, the matter lies with you. Make right with God, be reconciled to Him and your fellow man.
It all went wrong in the temple, and it will all come right in the temple. The Lord be with you.
Conclusion Detlef Stegen
I don’t know about you, but I found myself in the presence of the Lord in this service. It is so good that we check our lives in God’s light, not by human judgements and evaluations but by what God says. That will bring life or death.
Last Sunday after a service a lady came forward and said that she had had a dream and could I explain to her the meaning of it. She saw people standing in a row, approaching a man dressed in white. He had a book which He glanced at or read. When each person came to him, He looked at their forehead and then He would point to the right or the left. This man dressed in white could read something that was written on the person’s forehead.
Has God been able to show you that which is hidden in your heart? He will bring it to the light, as we have heard. It will be terrible if it will only be on the last day when there is no choice left anymore, but when the One dressed in white has the verdict and says: you have not humbled yourself, you have not bowed the knee, you have not beat your own breast and acknowledged that you are a sinner.