Summary: The true meaning of worshipping in Spirit and Truth as shown in the story of Cain and Abel
I think we’ve all done it at least one. We get up just a short while before the Sunday morning service, rush to get our clothes on, and zoom out the door we go. Many of you with children know how time consuming just getting the children ready to head out the door can be. I can note many times when I left from my house near Anadarko, Oklahoma with just 15 minutes to spare to make it to the church. I would make it just in time to sit down before the organist began to play the first hymn. I barely had time to dress back then much less read the scripture for the sermon or the day’s lesson. I came assuming that through the service I would grow deeper and have a better worship experience.
“Lowell Ogden tells the story of a little boy who lived out in the country. He had never seen a traveling circus, and one was coming to his town on Saturday. With his Saturday chores finished, the little boy asked his father for some money to go to the circus. His dad reached down in his overalls and pulled out a dollar bill, the most money the boy had ever seen at one time. Off the little wide-eyed fellow went. As he approached the town, he saw people lining the streets. Peering through the line at one point, he got his first glimpse of the parade. There were animals in cages and marching bands. Finally, a clown was seen bringing up the rear of the parade. The little boy was so excited that when the clown passed, he reached in his pocket and handed him the precious dollar bill. Thinking he had seen the circus when he had only seen the parade, the little boy turned around and went home.”
Just like the little boy, I came to church looking for worship and instead found a parade of “hymns, prayers, and preaching.” As I look back now, the problem wasn’t the worship service. It was my heart. I thought I was worshipping because I was in God’s house. I missed the entire point of coming to church; to whole-heartedly give thanks and praise to our Almighty God. I missed so many blessing and so much growth because my focus was on myself and not on God. My heart was not prepared to give him praise.
This brings us to the text today and the story of Cain and Abel. Turn in your Bibles to Genesis 4:1-7. Here we read about the very first worship service ever recorded in the Bible. Eve’s two boys have grown up and it is about time they go to “church” so to speak. (READ SCRIPTURE). Wow, not only did God reject Cain’s offering but he also rejected Cain himself. However, according to Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” From the very beginning, it was the heart that mattered. Abel brought the right sacrifice with proper motives. His heart was prepared to worship God. He gave his very best in sacrifice and of his own life to God. Maybe we can take a hint from God’s acceptance of Abel and rejection of Cain. We also must give our very best when we worship God. In John 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that God will require those under the new covenant to worship in spirit and truth because God is spirit. But how, how can we be prepared for worshipping God in spirit and in truth? Let’s examine closely what it means to worship in spirit and truth.
Spiritual – “What you bring?” –
Romans 12:1 says that “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” A good way of thinking about the spiritual part of worship is by asking the question, what are you bringing to offer God? Paul tells the people of Rome that they must bring their pure unadulterated lives and give them to God. However, since the men and women of the Old Testament did not have Jesus Christ as their sacrifice, they had to bring something else. Cain did give an offering of the crops he had planted. Isn’t that good enough? Apparently God doesn’t think so!
The God who knows the hearts of men knew Cain wasn’t bringing the proper offering. Throughout the entire Bible, God has expected men to shed blood to cover their sins. We don’t know what rules God had laid down for the earliest people but we do know that he has required blood to cover sins from the moment he had someone write the rules down. There seems to be a qualitative difference between the offerings of Cain and Abel. Cain may have even given the best carrots he had but Abel sacrificed the life of an animal. A common joke on the matter comes in the form of a conversation between a chicken and a pig. The chicken sees a sign for donations for a ham and eggs breakfast. When she sees the pig she says that they should go and donate. The pig replies candidly, “That’s just a donation for you, for me it’s a sacrifice.”