The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 6/24

Posted on | June 24, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 6/24

Scripture reading: Matthew 15:1–9

The Four Spiritual Flaws

The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain
and his offering he did not look with favor. (Genesis 4:4–5, NIV)

In Genesis 4, in the first worship service in human history, Cain and Abel come to an altar bringing gifts to seek God’s favor. At first, things go well as these brothers join in corporate worship. But then, tragedy! The first worship service becomes the occasion for the first murder! Everything about Cain’s murderous deed underscores the gravity of his evil action. This is no mere homicide. This is cold-blooded, premeditated fratricide committed in the context of worship! Sin shows its ugliest face when cloaked in religious piety.

If we are going to discover the kind of worship that is pleasing to God, this tragic example at the dawn of history is where God wants us to begin. Before we are taught how to worship God, he wants us to learn how not to. Cain’s actions introduce us to the four spiritual flaws of worship:

Flaw #1: God is satisfied with mediocrity. Though some scholars claim God was displeased with Cain’s sacrifice because it was a grain offering rather than a blood offering, the real reason seems to be elsewhere. The Mosaic Law clearly showed that offerings of grain and fruit were welcomed by God. The difference seems to be not so much in what they offered as in how they offered it. Abel brought to God the very best that he had (the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions) while Cain brought only some “fruit of the ground” (vv. 3–4). The first flaw of worship is the notion that God will be satisfied with the leftovers of our time, talents, and finances. David said it best: “I will not offer to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing” (II Samuel 24:24).

Flaw #2: How I relate to my brother has no connection with how I relate to God. Sibling rivalry was very real in this family. Cain was jealous of Abel and furious about the “preferential treatment” he felt God was showing to his younger brother. And yet Cain saw no reason why his hatred for his brother should affect his worship of his God. He would have been scandalized at the words of the apostle John who said, If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar . . . whoever loves God must also love his brother (I John 4:20–21).

Flaw #3: Worship is about external behaviors, not internal motivations. Cain believed that if his offering was right, then God would accept him. But the reality was that if Cain had been right, God would have accepted his offering! Cain felt that the goal in worship was to get all the actions right: the words, the music, the liturgy, the prayers, the feelings. But God was interested in Cain’s heart more than in Cain’s worship. Jesus said it well: Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’ (Matthew 9:13).

Flaw #4: It’s all about me. Cain’s worst mistake was that his worship was self-focused, self-absorbed and self-serving. He worshipped God for Cain’s sake, not God’s. What’s in it for me? How can I get God to give me the things I want? Think about your own worship and ask yourself if any of these spiritual flaws are evident in your life. If so, then meditate deeply on Cain’s worship and do just the opposite.

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the
holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth
of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty
of God, to open the heart to the love of God,
to devote the will to the purpose of God.
—William Temple

point to ponder • When our worship is wrong, everything is wrong.

prayer focus • Pray for the hearts of both worship leaders and worshippers in the pews.

 

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