Summary: This message is for the first week of Advent. Our church is doing the Advent Conspiracy and this week we look at Worshipping Fully.
Have you ever given any thought to the story of Cain and Abel?
Perhaps its the fact that today we were taking up a special offering - or maybe its because of our topic this morning, but I’ve had the story of Cain and Abel in my mind all week... This mornings topic is ‘Worship Fully’ - It’s the first in a series of topics to help us participate as a church in the advent conspiracy. The idea is pretty simple - rather than focusing on gifts this year, I’m hoping we as a church focus on each other - loving each other practically - focusing on loving God too - thats been getting missed at Christmas lately - and also focus on spending with a purpose ...in a couple of weeks, a friend of mine is going to tell us how we as a church can help a small village in Nigeria get a water well and clean drinking water...
Our story this morning is found in Genesis, right after Adam and Eve. It might seem like an odd place to talk about worship. For many of you, if you stop and think about offerings and worship, you would probably turn to one of the gospels and read about the wise men who came bearing gifts, right? I mean, that’s the perfect worship story ...they come to Jesus bearing gifts - expensive, valuable gifts - and they lay them at his feet to worship and adore him... Its a great story, and its a great piece of the Christmas narrative - but is it really the way we worship?
Is that really the way you worship? Do you give your all to God? Do you worship him ‘fully’?
Allow me to read this mornings text to you. I’m going to read it this morning from the Message Bible (read Genesis 4:1-16). It may be a little different than what you have in your hands, so you may just want to stop and listen...
Cain and Able - its the story of two brothers. They both bring offerings to God. Abel’s is deemed good by God - Cain’s is not. Cain grows angry with God and takes it out on his brother. He kills him and he’s punished by God... The punishment is really what got me thinking this week about worship, because I think all of us - like Cain - want to be accepted by God. We want to worship him...but if we are honest - we hold back. We don’t give him our all - and I think it causes us to walk where Cain walks...in ‘No-man’s’ land.
No-man’s land for Cain was East of Eden. I think for us no-man’s land is that place where many of us walk as followers of Christ. Its a place of compromise. Its a half-hearted faith kind of place. We know we should have peace, but we are full of anxiety. We know we are supposed to live in joy, but instead we are angry and sometimes bitter... It’s a place other than where God intended!
Lets look at some specifics of what got Cain there - and maybe in so doing, we can find some clues to get ourselves out... Let’s look at the sacrifices. Cain brought some of the produce from his farm. Abel brought some animals from his herd - but not just any animals right? It says he brought the first born, the choice cuts - the best...
Cain brought some - Abel brought his best. There’s a lesson here... if you want to give something to God, and you want it to please him - give your best. Give something that is a sacrifice. Give something that matters. Don’t just give...anyone can do that - but if you want God to smile, give from the best of your heart.
I think that’s what Jesus meant when he was teaching his disciples in Mark 12:41-44 “Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all."
Worship isn’t about what you do - what you give - how you act - worship is about your heart, and the only way to truly please God is to give your all. ...and there in lies the rub.
I like the way that God speaks to Cain. He says, “Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce, it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”