As a young Christian I could never understand why God did not accept Cain's offering. I had the same attitude as I see many have in the church today. Cain gave the first and best of what he had toiled over and grown. I can just imagine the spread he must have laid before the Lord. To have it rejected would have been very disappointing and frustrating. After all, isn't that what God had given him to do? He tended the crops and Abel tended the sheep. Why wouldn't God be satisfied with the best that he had to offer? Why wasn't his sacrifice enough cover what he owed?
I soon came to understand that in Christianity, there has to be the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin because "the wages of sin is death." Cain knew this. I'm sure Adam and Eve had told them the story many times of how they had sinned and tried to cover themselves with fig leaves but God came and shed innocent blood and covered them with the skin of the sacrifice. They obviously had been schooled in the bringing of sacrifices before the Lord in remembrance of what God had done to cover their sin and in anticipation of the promised perfect sacrifice that would come and "bruise the head" of the deceiver that had led them there.
In the last couple of years, God has been revealing to me the greatness of my salvation. Too many times we see the Cross as the starting point to God, which it is but then we have the tendency to relegate it to the starting point as we move deeper into spiritual understanding of the working of the Spirit. The most spiritually effective people I have known in my lifetime have managed to maintain their fascination, adoration, and appreciation of the Christ of the Cross. I realized that I did not have the understanding that they had, therefore I was not as spiritually effective. I figured out that I was missing something, so I began to pray about it asking the Holy Spirit to help me and teach me.
In the last year I have come to learn that the finished work of the Cross is as important and effective in my life for my sanctification as it was for my salvation. When Christians struggle with fleshly sins, addictions, and character flaws, when they are praying for healing and it doesn't come, it doesn't mean they don't love God. It doesn't mean that they don't have faith. It doesn't mean they are not saved. Salvation means that we have placed our faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. It has nothing to do with what we experience here on earth. Faith in the cross is the only thing that saves us.
Where things go awry is in their attempts to correct their behavior through the desperate efforts of denying themselves, going to counselors, participating in 12 step programs, spending increased time in prayer, confession and other spiritual activities. They soon find that these things may provide temporary victory, but no lasting effect. They grow frustrated with themselves and suspicious of God and His Word and they wonder why it's not working for them. Eventually they form wrong ideas about God or they walk away from the faith altogether. I've seen it time and time again. I'm not saying that any of those afore mentioned things are wrong or bad. I've tried most of them myself and I know they are not effective.
In thinking about Cain and Abel, God made this so clear to me. The reason that Cain's offering was rejected was because he put his faith in what HE brought, in what HE had to offer. He thought God would accept what HE had toiled to produce by the sweat of his brow. The object of his faith was in something he had labored to produce.
On the other hand, Abel's faith was in the sacrifice. He knew that it was the blood that impressed God. It was the sacrifice of the spotless innocent lamb, the toil of the lamb in giving his life that made it acceptable to God. Nothing of humanity was part of the sacrifice. The object of Abel's faith was the work that the lamb did, not his own work. And God accepted it.
How often we do this. After being saved by nothing more than putting our faith in what someone else did for us, we then rush on to the doing and object of our faith quietly shifts. There is doing in faith but those things are the result of where we have put our faith. If what Christ did on the cross is not the object of our faith, our faith will fail. We must always go back to what Christ did, because it is through His work, His sacrifice, His offering Himself for us that we receive salvation and all the promises of victory and the fruit of the Spirit. Everything we receive after salvation comes through the same means that our salvation came-the finished work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus has to be the object of our faith, the center of our joy, the foundation of our hope in order to have victory in life. "He causes us always to triumph THROUGH Christ Jesus!"
It seems a subtle thing, but if our faith is in our prayers, our confession, our efforts, our obedience, it will surely fail because there is nothing in us or about us that could possibly equal what Christ accomplished for us on the Cross. HIS accomplishments are why we have anything. Everything we are promised is what He deserved, but in the divine great exchange, Christ opened the door for us to have His blessings. So everything we need in this life, in our sanctification, comes through Jesus Christ. When the Spirit sees our faith is in Christ, He then has opportunity to work in us to change us and to answer our prayers. You see, it is His job to reveal and glorify Christ always and only.
I wish it hadn't taken me this long to learn it, but I'm so thankful that I did. The peace, the joy, and the victory it has brought into my life has been revolutionary. I no longer manage things in my life that Jesus died to destroy. I look to what He already purchased for me when I'm tempted and find strength to overcome. I'm still growing in this knowledge but I'm not the same as I was. I don't want one drop of that precious blood to be wasted in my life. I want all He died to give me both in this life and the next.
"Thank you Jesus for the blood applied
Thank you Jesus, you have washed me white
Thank you Jesus, you have saved my life
Brought me from the darkness into glorious light."