Avoiding Bitterness

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-5)

Unfortunately for Cain, the LORD did not have regard for his offering.   We can probably all appreciate to some extent how that must have felt. No one enjoys the feeling of not being good enough. No one likes to put sweat and tears into some effort only to come up short. We want to receive praise for our efforts and our accomplishments so that we can feel proud of what we have achieved. We want to feel good about ourselves. When things do not go our way, and our efforts come up short, it can be quite frustrating.

Of course, this is what happened with Cain:

“So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5)

When we get really upset, it is written all across our faces. This was apparently the case with Cain, and his disappointment at falling short and being revealed as insufficient turned to anger inside him. Is this not a temptation that we all face? When we do not get what we want, or when we do our best and no one takes notice, or when those around us seem to tell us by our actions that we are not good enough, are we not tempted to become bitter? When someone else’s life seems to be falling into place while ours seems to be floundering, are we not tempted to become jealous?

In this context, God responds to Cain:

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Discouragement, Cynicism, Anger, Bitterness, and Jealousy were no the only options Cain had in response to his personal failures and disappointments. And we all have personal failures and disappointments. When they arise, we can respond in a destructive way that hands the reins over to our negative feelings, or we can take the alternative that God offers. We can rise up in the strength God offers and be master over the sin. We can take the high road. We can resist the bitterness and instead start where we are and resolve to do our best moving forward.

“Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Genesis 4:8)

Something to consider about Cain’s actions is that they certainly did not make his life better. Yes, he was angry. Yes, he may have been jealous of Abel. Maybe he thought that if he could not be happy, he was not going to allow Abel to be happy either. And maybe for a brief moment Cain felt some kind of personal power or satisfaction is lashing out and doing things his own way. But ultimately, the outcome was worse, not better, that what Cain could have expected if he had simply picked himself up and dedicated himself to bringing an acceptable offering to God in the future.

Some have said that my generation was never taught how to deal with disappointment. I think to some extent they may be right. And to some extent this is a problem that all generations face. Things will not go our way. We will be shown to be inadequate when we most want to feel sufficient. Our natural human reaction will be cynicism and bitterness and endless blame. But what we can do, if we accept God’s offer, is pick ourselves up and keep following Him in a way that can make things better, not worse.

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Scriptures and Thoughts on Propitiation

What does propitiation mean?

Hilasmos – the appeasement of an offended or wrathful party

Is God truly angry at people when they sin?

(John 3:36) “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

(Ephesians 5:3-10) 3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

(Colossians 3:5-11) 5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

(Romans 1:18-23) 18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Should we fear God when we sin?

(1 John 1:5-10) This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

(1 John 3:7-10) 7Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

(Hebrews 10:26-27) 26For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

(Luke 18:9-14) 9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Romans 8:1) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

How should the concept of propitiation effect our interactions with others?

(1 Peter 2:19-25) 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Story of Ravi Zacharias and founder of Hamas.

See 1 John 4:7-11 in question below.

How is Christian propitiation similar to concepts of sacrifice present in other religions? How is it different?

(Genesis 9:6) “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.”

(Genesis 22:8) Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

(1 John 4:7-11) 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

How does it make sense that Christ can suffer to pay for something that we did?

(Leviticus 16:20-22) 20“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

How can the concept of propitiation teach us to feel gratitude?

(Genesis 22:1-14) Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

How can we share the power Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice with the world?

(1 John 2:2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

 

The Choice is Yours

In Genesis chapter four, we are told that Cain and Abel both brought a sacrifice to God. But apparently, Cain did not bring God the best that he had to offer:

“The Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”

No one likes to fail, especially when we know we have disappointed God. But God gives Cain an opportunity to make things right. Instead of getting mad about the situation, he can decide to do well in the future rather than continuing to be selfish.

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”

One thing that really stands out from God’s words to Cain is the emphasis on the fact that Cain has a choice. He can do well and be accepted, or he can be overtaken by sin, but he has a choice in this matter. He has no reason to be angry precisely because he is the one who has chosen to sin in the first place, and he is the one who can choose to pursue a different course in the future.

Many in our day would not have written Genesis this way. Instead, they might have written, “If I cause you to do well, will not you countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, and it will destroy you unless I arbitrarily choose to cause you to beat it.”

This is because many in our world deny the concept that human beings have any say in their own actions. On one hand, they teach, we are forced to do wrong by an inherently wicked human nature. On the other hand, God may override this nature and force us to do well, but we have no choice in this matter, either.

Ironically, this teaching is in many ways very similar to the doctrine of contemporary atheistic materialists. These men teach that human beings are simply a product of our genetics and our physical environments. If we do right, we had no choice in the matter. If we do wrong, we had no choice in the matter. Free will is an illusion and we are all just “dancing to our DNA.”

But Genesis paints a different picture. “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Notice, God does not say “you must master sin with no help from me.” He does not even say “you must muster some strength of your own and I will help you with the rest.” God does not tell Cain that he has to beat sin by a power that originates in his own human self. But He does suggest that Cain has a choice in the matter. That choice is the choice to turn it all over to God. To put Him in the highest place. To count any cost as worth it in order to be His.

Will you make the decision to submit yourself to God? If you know what He asks of you, will you do it? The choice is yours. Which means the responsibility is yours. If you do not choose well, you will not have a good excuse to become angry.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Wrath”

Why is God so wrathful about sin, especially when He knows we are only human?
Psalm 30:5 – 10 – “His anger is for a moment”
Romans 1:18-20 – 11- “Wrath of God… those who suppress… they are without excuse.”
Romans 2:14-16 – 12 – gentiles by instinct keep the law
Proverbs 24:12 – 13 – It is fair for him to render according to our deeds
Romans 2:6 – 14 – we are repaid according to our deeds
Galatians 6:7 – 15 – we reap what we sow
Psalm 51:4 – 16 – God is blameless in His judgments
Romans 6:23 – 17 – the wages of sin is death

Does God create people in order to be wrathful towards them?
Romans 9:17-25 – 18 – seems to sound that way
Exodus 4:21; 7:3, 13-14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4-5, 8, 17 – starts at slide 19 – the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart… can both be true?  What does this mean?
2 Peter 3:9 – 23 – God wants all to come to repentance

 What is wrath? – 24
Hebrew
‘ap – anger
hēmâ, qāsap – hot displeasure, indignation

Greek
Orgē – strong indignation directed at wrongdoing, with focus on retribution
Thumos – a state of intense displeasure, anger, wrath, rage, indignation

Psalm 7:11 – 34 – God feels indignation every day

 Did God direct His wrath at Jesus on the cross?
2 Corinthians 5:21 – 25 – He was made to be sin on our behalf
Romans 5:9 – 26 – We are saved from God’s wrath by Him
Romans 3:25 – 27 – Displayed as a public propitiation
Matthew 27:46 – 28 – was Jesus really forsaken by God?
Isaiah 53 – 29  – He took our punishment
These verses speak a lot of Jesus suffering, or even of bearing our punishments, but not of God being angry with Him in the sense that we tend to think of anger…

 Does punishment for sins arise out of God’s wrath?  If so, is it appropriate for parents to punish in wrath?
Nahum 1:2-6 – 30 – God’s punishments for sin is certainly sometimes associated with His wrath
Revelation 16 – refers to seven bowls full of God’s wrath being poured out in punishment.
Romans 12:19 – 31 – God tells us not to take vengeance, but to leave that to Him, indicating that certain actions are appropriate to arise from His wrath, but not from ours
Ephesians 6:4 – 32 – Do not provoke children to wrath through discipline
Colossians 3:21 – 33 – whatever the emotional state of the parent, exasperating the child is NOT a positive outcome

 Do we see God’s wrath on display today?  If so, how?
Romans 1:18 – 11 – God’s wrath is revealed, even now, it would seem, from the verb tense
Romans 1 – 35 – much of this chapter shows God giving people over to a situation in which their sins become their punishers and their slave drivers.

 Is hell the eternal experience of God’s wrath?
Hebrews 10:26-31 – 41 – God will punish His adversaries with fury
2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 – 42 – flaming fire and retribution

 It is ever a sin simply to be angry?
James 1:20 – 7 – what does this verse mean?
Ephesians 4:26-27 – 36 – Be angry and do NOT sin
Matthew 5:22 – 37 – why does KJV say “without a cause?”
Ephesians 4:31 – 38 – put aside wrath anger and clamor
Colossians 3:8 – put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech

 When does anger become sinful/produce sin?
Romans 12:19 – 31 – when we take unauthorized vengeance
Ephesians 4:31 – 38 – when it results in clamor
Colossians 3:8 – 39 – when it results in malice, slander, abusive speech
When we become angry quickly – James 1:19 – 40

Was Jesus angry when he cleansed the temple?  If so, is it appropriate for us to imitate His example?
John 2:13-17 – 43 – it may depend on how we define anger.  It appears that Jesus was “consumed with zeal,” but did He have ill will for these money-changers, or did He ultimately hope for their reform?
Ephesians 4:26-27 – 36 – If there is a kind of anger that in not automatically sin, then actions motivated by it might not be either, provided they are not malicious but aimed at reform.