Peninsula Community Church
By Faith: A More Acceptable Sacrifice
September 18, 2016
Hebrews 11:4 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.
This morning we will begin a journey through the hall of fame of faith where we will stand before each exhibit displayed to see what we can learn about each of these who have been enshrined here. When you visit a museum or an art gallery you will find adjacent to each exhibit a placard. On each placard is a bit of information about the person, place, or thing that is on display. The purpose of the placard is to tell you something about that exhibit and to explain why it is being included. We have this in Hebrews 11. It is noteworthy that the whole history is not on the placard but only a brief synopsis is given to intrigue us enough to study more and to get more information.
Today, we will look at what is actually the second exhibit in the hall of fame of faith. The first exhibit was the creation which we mentioned last week. As we approach the glass and peer into the exhibit, we find a depiction of the story of Cain and Abel. Through the glass we see a series of dioramas or vignettes. The first is of Cain and Abel bringing their offerings to God. The second is an enraged Cain with drawn knife ready to take Abel’s life, which he does. The third vignette is one where we see Abel reaching across the generations of time to communicate a much needed lesson about our worship to God. As you look next to the glass enclosure you will find inscribed these words. 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.
As we read these words we find a couple of things that are important. First, by faith Abel offered a more acceptable offering to God. In contrast Cain offered an unacceptable offering to God. A second thing we see is that Abel’s offering was commended to him as righteous because God saw the righteousness of his heart. And finally, the passage tells us that Abel continues to speak a truth to us even today. So let’s look at the rest of the story. To do so we must go back in time to Genesis 4. It is here that we find the story of Cain and Abel.
As we read this story we find that Cain and Abel both brought their offering to God. They both were fulfilling their spiritual duty of the day. It was their expression of worship. In the modern vernacular they both attended the same church. They both gave in the offering. They both engaged in worship. They both sang the songs of the day. It is noteworthy that they both had a relationship with God. We see this in the fact that God communicated to Cain specifically and personally. But what made the difference? It is found in the fact that God knew their hearts. God knew the motivation of why they did what they did. We find that the focus of this passage is turned towards Cain whose heart was filled with anger, jealously, and pride. Rather than trying to change his heart he took knife in hand and killed his brother. He was not only mad at Abel but he was also mad at God. He took his anger of God and the current situation out on Abel.
To fully understand this we must understand why God accepted one offering and rejected the other. As you read the story in Genesis 4 Moses, who is the author, rolls back the curtain to reveal why Abel’s offering was acceptable and Cain’s was not. We find it in these words. 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 (Genesis 4:3-4). Notice a couple of things here. Cain in the course of time brought an offering. The idea that is presented in this passage is that God was not a priority. Cain brought the offering to God on his terms, not God’s. He waited to make sure that everything was going to be ok for him before he gave his offering.
Secondly, the passage states that Cain brought “an” offering to the Lord. The implication here is that Cain did not give God his best but he gave something in order to appease God and to let everyone know that he was giving his offering. His actions showed that he did not trust God for His provision but he in essence held back from God just in case. He held back and gave some of his harvest to God because he wanted to be sure he was taken care of first. This also speaks to a heart that did not trust God enough to give Him his best.
Now contrast Cain’s offering to that of Abel. We find that Abel gave the firstborn of his flock and he gave the fattest of the first born. This was a sign of respect and love. Notice that this was not a casual gift where he gave some but he gave his best. He carefully chose what he was going to give. Contrast this to Cain’s gift were he gave some of his harvest. This may not seem very significant to us but it was. In giving this offering Abel showed great faith. Abel’s life and sustenance was in his ability to raise live stock so that they could have clothes to wear and so he could sell his livestock to others around them for his living. By giving his first born there was no guarantee that he would have another birth that year and if he did he did not know how many he would have. That is why God let us into his heart by stating that by faith Abel gave his best. Abel gave what cost him the most. Abel gave his best because he trusted God with his future and he knew God would sustain him.
As we return the passage we read this morning the writer of Hebrews makes an astounding statement. He notes that although Abel is dead, he still speaks to us. He still has something to teach us and we have something to learn. His death serves to give us guidance, hope, and a new perspective. So what do we learn from all of this? Let me give you a couple of things this morning.
First, we must give God our best. We give Him our first fruits which is called a tithe. It is our first fruit of income. We give it first and we do not wait to see what is left over as Cain did. We give our first fruit, our best, because we trust God and do so by faith because we know that God will assist us and help us. He will prosper us and cause His blessing to shine upon us.
In the New Testament, we see into the heart of God on this matter of giving when Jesus tells his disciples the story of the woman with the two small copper coins which was worth about a penny. Listen to the words of Mark 12:41-44. And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
You see it is not the quantity of our gift to God it is the quality. As noted there were some who gave and they gave out of the abundance they had. Jesus said that her she gave all that she had. She exemplified a trust in God that was not seen in the lives of those who gave from their abundance. Now Jesus is not communicating that we should give everything we have to the church but He is communicating that we must consider the motivation of our hearts when we give. Are we giving some or we giving our best to God? And this heart motivation is not relegated to whether we are rich or we are poor. It effects us all.
This idea of giving our best not only relates to our giving of money but also the way we live our life. We must give God our best in everything we do. We must give Him our best on the job. We must give Him our best in our relationships. We must give Him our best in the way we treat others. We must give Him our best in the way we minster and use the gifts that God has given us. God wants our best and not our leftovers. The question here is are we giving God our best in everything we do. What about our time? What about our talents? What about our possessions? Are you giving your best?
Abel would also say that the way we give to God is often a barometer of where our heart is and how we will handle the other areas of our life. Because of Cain’s heart and mindset he gave some of his offering. He thought that he was doing all that he needed to do. The problem however is that he did not give God his best, he gave some. What God saw was a heart already in turmoil. The way he gave his gifts to God was simply an outworking of a heart that was in pain and was not in alignment with God’s will and purpose.
It is my opinion that the issue of the offering was not the first time that anger was raised against Abel. It is my guess that this was a culmination of years of jealously and hurt. His offering was only symbolic of the pain he felt and the spiritual condition of his heart. He gave some rather than his all. He was trying to appease God rather than worship God with a whole heart. Remember what Jesus stated. For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45). Out of Cain’s heart he reacted negatively to God’s acceptance of the gift Abel gave and it ended badly.
Fourth, Abel would say do not refuse God’s grace. Notice in the Genesis 4 account. God gave Cain a chance to come clean and admit that He needed help. God spoke to Cain and told him that sin was crouching at his door. In essence, God was saying to Cain that He saw His heart and was giving him an opportunity to repent and walk in forgiveness. God saw that his heart was motivated by jealously and anger. The sad part is that Cain did not receive God’s grace but instead he refused it. He refused to take the steps necessary to bring change to his heart and his life.
So the question for us today as we stand before the exhibit of Cain and Abel’s life. Which one best exemplifies your life? Do you give your best to God because you recognize that God gave His best to you or do you hold back? Do you give Him your first fruits or you couching your bet and holding on to some just in case? Do you trust God with everything or do you hold tightly to the purse strings fearful that if you give too much to God you will not have enough for yourself?Your answers to these questions will give you an insight into your own heart. It will make a difference between a heart of faith and a heart of doubt and fear.
You see the world needs a lot more Abels and a lot less Cains. Cain was a grumpy, condemning, self-righteous, person while Abel was a faithful, cheerful, giving person. God honors the Abel lifestyle and yet at the same time he offers the Cains of this world an amazing grace and an amazing opportunity for change. It is our choice. Will you live as Cain did or will you take the grace of God and live like Abel? Give Him your best, He deserves it. Make the decision today to live in faith and give Him your best no matter the cost. It is well worth it.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom