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And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. (Genesis 4:1~5)
Genesis speaks of a world of the heart much deeper than the one we think of. But it is difficult to know the world of our heart without going through the mirror called Genesis. It will not be easy to describe, but I would like to talk about the world of the heart shown in Genesis.
It Was the Filthy and the Dirty that Were Blessed
In most cases people want to come before God through living a good spiritual life. People try to keep the law in order to be blessed and go to heaven. But when we read the Bible, we easily discover that no one in the Bible was blessed by God by doing what was right and being loyal. Especially in the New Testament, people such as the woman taken in adultery and the thief on the cross were people who committed various sins. There was no one who was blessed by doing what was right. I do not know how people read the Bible, but by perception, people automatically assume that to believe in Jesus is living as a good person. That is why people pray zealously, labor to commit less sin, and quit smoking and drinking to become good and to be blessed. But no matter where we look, from Genesis to Revelation, there was not one person who was blessed or who received grace through not committing sin, being good, or being diligent. However, contrary to our thoughts, it was rather the filthy people who had done evil who were blessed. But people labor to do good while they are stuck somewhere in between. Cain, in Genesis chapter 4, appears to be a good person, but he later crumbles down, more and more, into becoming a murderer who stands in opposition to God. People may think of this story only as the story of Cain, but it is a story about us. It seems that when we are young we are living as good people. But as we grow older, we sin more and more. We become more and more evil with age. Then later on, we say, “I cannot do it!” and reach the same point that Cain had, saying, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” We no longer have methods of our own at that point, and thus, we can only wait for God’s grace. If a good swimmer falls into water, he will not ask to be rescued, but will swim out himself. If one who does not know how to swim falls into the water, he will shout, “Now I am dying!” and will huff and puff, waiting for rescue. People fool themselves into thinking that they can do good. They think, “All I have to do is read the Bible. I just have to keep the Ten Commandments. I just have to stop sinning. I just have to be good.” There are so many people who foolishly think this. I, too, for a long time, lived thinking this. But it is not feasible, if attempted.
People Who Want God to Fulfill Their Desires
When the Israelites left Egypt, God led them through Moses. “I will send you to lead my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt into the land of Canaan.” Moses then told this to the children of Israel. At that moment, if the children of Israel would have accepted those words by faith, they would have said, “God is leading us out of Egypt into the land of Canaan that is flowing with milk and honey in order to bless us and bestow His grace upon us!” and they would have been joyful and thankful coming out of Egypt. They would have been joyful and thankful even if the circumstances were difficult, because they would have believed that God would ultimately lead them to a blessed place. However, the children of Israel did not receive the heart of God, but they received the words within their own thoughts. They were joyful and thankful simply because they were now being delivered from their torturous life of carrying dirt and baking bricks. And they were being delivered from the pain of having had to throw their male children into the Nile River. Their thankfulness was not from fully knowing the plan for leading them into the land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey. It was a temporary joy and thankfulness for being freed from the pain of hard labor and their male children having been killed. Soon afterwards, the Red Sea blocked the Israelites’ path and the Egyptian soldiers were chasing them. In this instance, the faith, “God is leading us to Canaan so God will open up our way even though the Red Sea is in front of us,” arises in the heart of a person who has received the heart of God. But the Israelites complained against Moses and cried out, “Why did God call us out of Egypt to have us die here in the wilderness? Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you are doing this?” A person who lives with the heart of God is completely different from a person who simply thanks and follows Him because He helps in times of difficulty. Most people do not want to live through the heart of God. They want a god who helps them with the difficulties in their lives. We long for a god who heals our diseases, makes us rich, and fulfills our desires. Such people complain against God and abandon their spiritual lives, even in the midst of believing in God, when they face difficulties. In Numbers chapter 21, the Israelites complained against God in the wilderness and fiery serpents came among them and bit them. Then they realized their wrong and said, “God, we have sinned. We have done wrong,” and asked, “God, take the fiery serpents away!” They did not truly realize their wrong, but because of the biting of the fiery serpents, they had no choice but to ask for forgiveness. They had not received the heart of God.
God, who knew this heart of theirs, did not rid them of the fiery serpents, but told Moses, “Make a brass serpent, set it upon a pole, and everyone who looks upon it, shall live.” There were 600,000 grown Israelite males plus women and children in the wilderness, and only one brass serpent was made. It must not have been easy traveling long distances to look upon the brass serpent. But if one has faith that he will be healed by looking upon the brass serpent, he will go whether the distance is 2 miles or 4 miles. But people without faith would say, “Cut the nonsense! You get bitten by a fiery serpent, and you are saved if you look upon a brass serpent? Nonsense!” and believe in their own thoughts. They cannot look upon the brass serpent for healing.
Throwing Your Thoughts Away for They Are Evil
We are truly dirty and wicked people. Satan has continually placed lustful, deceitful, and wicked hearts inside of man after Adam and Eve sinned. Thus, such hearts continually spring forth in us. People who go to church without the heart of God think, “Never leave during the service,” and they comfort themselves for having such hearts. Then they say, “Holy God, I have come before you to have service. Receive the service I give before you!” Therefore, although they appear holy during church services, they revert back to their pitiful, wicked hearts as soon as the services are over. They then repent again during the next Sunday service, saying, “Lord, forgive me,” and continue living this life. There is something God wants to teach us. It is that our hearts are filled with wickedness, and therefore must be thrown away as a whole. Your thoughts must be thrown away. Your thoughts are connected with Satan’s thoughts and through those thoughts, Satan continually inserts evil. As a result, we wind up only committing evil regardless of our own will. We can only have dirty and filthy thoughts. However, God leads us to throw our thoughts away, but we are unable to throw them away.
Who Seeks Grace?
The Korean War occurred when I was young. Many people starved after the war. Once, when we were having breakfast at our home, we heard a strange sound outside the gate. I thought, “What is that sound?” and went outside, but there was nothing there. As we were eating again, we heard another strange sound. Later, I saw that a friend of mine from my class had come to get some food. He was so hungry he came over to receive some food, but he felt so ashamed that he could not say a word. He could only make, “ugh,” noises. He would then hide when we went out. Later, my friend told me that in the beginning, he felt so ashamed that he could not ask for food. But after a day or two, he said that he was able to. It was difficult back then because there was no food. Who enjoys begging? Who would leave food at home to go out to beg? People beg when they are hungry because they have starved for days. No one begs because they enjoy begging. You go to heaven by begging. You cannot go to heaven through doing something well yourself, but only through the merit of what God has accomplished without cost. But people who can do well by themselves try to go to heaven through their own righteousness: they never seek the grace of God. Even though they seek, they have the heart, “I only need to do well,” and people with such a heart can never receive the grace of God. Cain failed while he was trying to do his best. His goodness and his righteousness ran out. It was revealed that he was an evil sinner. Such people go to Jesus to seek grace like one begging for food because it has become impossible for them to become holy through their own methods. This is the way it was with the thief on the cross, the woman taken in adultery, and with Matthew, the publican. The people who received grace in the Bible received it in this manner.
I’ve Had It!
Trying to go to heaven through your own good deeds results in a spiritual life that is completely different from your failing and entering heaven solely through the grace of Jesus. There is a tremendous difference between what you do and what Jesus does. Once, I was preaching at a conference and there was a lady sitting in the back. People were going home after the conference ended, but this woman remained, sitting in her chair wearily. I approached her and said, “Hello?” and she was startled. I asked, “Are you satisfied with your spiritual life?” and she said, “Pastor, I’m exhausted! I’ve had it! I’ve reached my limit!” This lady was exhausted and had reached her limit because she had tried to do everything by herself. Would she have reached her limit if God was doing everything? It is easy to have your sins washed away when God washes them away. It is very easy to become clean and pure if God does it. That is so with the Bible. It does not work for the prodigal son no matter how hard he tries to live a clean life in the pigpen. He could not have accomplished it no matter how hard he tried, but it was accomplished very easily when the father did everything, even though the son was doing nothing. “Heat the bath water and bathe him. Take off his dirty rags and put the best clothes on him. Put shoes on his feet. Kill the fatted calf.” The son changed each time his father said something. It was not through his own effort and labor that he became clean, but it was through his father’s. Becoming clean through your own zeal is completely different from God cleansing you. What you do appears as if it will go well, but it ultimately fails, and leaves you exhausted, tired, and full of pain. And the results always end in filth. On the other hand, it is very easy and peaceful when God works.
I Am Righteous!
I say, “All of my sins have been washed as white as snow. I am justified and sanctified!” People are amazed when they hear this. Some people argue and ask me, “You don’t sin?” This is what I tell them. “I was truly an evil, dirty sinner. But the Lord has washed my sins away. I have no doubt that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to this earth and He has washed me white as snow. That is what the Bible says. I have memories of committing sins, doing evil, and living a filthy and dirty life. But the loving Lord has abundantly paid for those sins that I remember. In Isaiah, it says that the Lord has paid double for all the sins I have committed. I have become holy through the grace of the Lord because the Lord has received double the punishment for the sins I have committed. I am justified.” Some people say to me, “How arrogant! Who’s righteous? The Bible said that there is no righteous, no not one!” There is no one who is righteous to begin with. All are sinners, but those cleansed by Jesus are righteous. The Bible often speaks of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous (Ps. 1:6) The just shall live by faith. (Rom. 1:17) The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Jas. 5:16) There is no one that does not sin. But Jesus has received the wages for our sins and washed us spotlessly clean of our sins, making us righteous. We become clean if Jesus cleanses us. Would Jesus wash sins halfheartedly? Housewives may do dishes halfheartedly and leave some stains, but Jesus has completely washed our sins whiter than snow. My sins have been washed through the blood of the cross. This is not something we have done. We have nothing of which to boast. The Lord bestowed His grace upon us, but people who think that they can do well cannot receive grace. Many people are too busy and lost trying to do good themselves, but filthy people who cannot do good deeds can look to the cross of the Lord.
The Passover Is Upon Us as Well
Cain realized precisely that all of his actions were useless, and that there was nothing more he could do. He saw himself and he could only be destroyed. He gave up on himself and called out to God. “I have many sins, and my punishment is greater than I can bear!” That is when God worked. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. (Gen. 4:13~15) God gave Cain a clear mark that would not allow anyone to kill him. There was a mark on house after house in Exodus chapter 12. Death did not come upon the houses that had the mark. But that night, an angel visited every house in Egypt and killed all the firstborn males in the houses without the mark. But the angel did not enter the houses that had blood on the two side-posts and the upper post of the door. It was because death had already come upon that house. I have done wickedness and am a filthy person. That is why the angel of death comes looking for me with a sword to put me to death. But I have a mark. The blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross! “I have already been killed. I have already been punished for sin. The punishment for my sin has been paid. My sins had already been taken care of when Jesus was crucified.” The blood of Jesus, who died for my sins on the cross, is upon the door posts of my heart. I have many memories of hitting my friends, stealing, lying, and committing many other sins. But the Lord was punished for every single one of those many sins and He has purified me. It is not that I have done anything good, but all of my sins have become as white as snow through the Lord’s grace. I have become clean and holy. I cannot put into words how thankful I am. God gave Cain a mark! God did not give the mark only to Cain, but also to my heart. Jesus shed His blood on the cross! That blood has become the mark that says all of my sins have been punished, and judgment can no longer come upon me. The destruction that I was to receive, the curse that I was to receive, everything that I was to go through, the Lord has already received on the cross. That is why I cannot be cursed and destroyed. I have accepted, by faith, the work Jesus has accomplished within my heart. Curse and death can no longer come upon me now. It is because the punishment for all of my sins is over with. The angel went from house to house the day the Israelites escaped from Egypt and killed the firstborn males, but passed by the houses with blood on them. “Judgment has already come upon this house. Destruction has already visited this house.” This Passover is upon us as well. “I have committed many sins, but those sins have already been punished. Jesus received all the punishment for my sins on the cross. I may sin, but it is no longer punishable because the punishment has already been received. Sin has lost its power.” We can go to God by faith. God gave us the mark of salvation so that we may escape death just as He gave a mark to Cain. I hope you all will receive the mark, not by your own goodness but through believing in the grace of the Lord.