Genesis 4:6-7. 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.”
Ruling over sin. For most of us, this is what much of life has been reduced to. Controlling our behavior, sin management, self-mastery. “I’ve got to eat less, read more, get up earlier, stop worrying so much, quit porn, stop gossiping, work harder.” Or if you’re Cain, “I’ve got to stop being so angry.”
Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could just get our sin under control? Of course the answer is yes. But the problem is that none of us can control the power of sin that crouches at our door. We can make promise after promise to ourselves, and commitment after commitment to God, but it’s always just a matter of time before we run right back to sin’s allure.
Why? Because, as Genesis 4 reveals, sin is a powerful force. It is not unlike a wild animal or a demon that waits on our doorstep ready to pounce. Sin’s desire is contrary to us. Sin has a desire? Yes. To destroy us. How? By seizing our desires. By making us long for the very self-control that we think will destroy sin. But it’s all just a clever trick. The more you try to control your sinning, the more you are sinning.
Stranger Things: Billy captured by the Mind Flayer is not unlike sin’s desire to capture us. (Warning: language)
God’s words to Cain are haunting. He puts the choice in front of him: rule over sin or be ruled by sin. But is this even possible? Can we rule over our own sin? What the life of Cain (and the death of Abel) reveals is that sin can never be mastered without proper worship. And proper worship always means going to God for his gracious life. Living life in front of him as his servant. Admitting our dependence upon him. That is what Abel did. And it is what God is inviting Cain to do – if you do well. If Cain worships well, he will be accepted (literally lifted up or made happy).
But how? How do we use worship to defeat sin? First, by trusting that sin is already defeated by the cross of Christ. All your sins are forgiven and, even greater, the power of sin is broken. Sin can no longer condemn you to death for death has died. Second, by trusting that you are loved and accepted by God in spite of any sin you commit today. Even the ones you commit over and over and over. And finally, by embracing your new desire for Christ and making the cross your rule for life, rather than your vain attempts to control your own behavior.
Here’s how Paul himself experienced it:
Romans 7:21-25. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Billy’s sacrificial death defeats the Mind Flayer. (Warning: intense and a bit violent)
“To live is Christ” means embracing that we are that same wretched man. That victory comes through defeat. That living is found in dying. Dying to the notion that you can make yourself stop sinning, and instead placing yourself firmly in the grip of God’s grace.
In what ways have you been trying to rule over your own sin?
You in Christ
How can knowing that the power of sin is already broken and that you are loved by Christ allow you to overcome your desire to control your own life?
Christ in you
How can you rule over sin by simply pursuing your desire for Christ today?