Ever since the second generation of man with Cain and Abel, man tried to serve God; Abel offered sacrifices by faith according to God’s revelation in response to His word and according to His way, while Cain served God from himself according to his own will and opinion.
Man was created by God in His image and according to His likeness so that man would be filled with God as life to express Him and represent Him.
However, man fell, so God came in as Jesus Christ to redeem man and bring man back to God’s original intention; now whoever believes into Christ receives God’s life and is a child of God. It is the Lord’s mercy that we have believed into Him and have His life in us.
Now that we love the Lord, believe into Him, and have Him as our life, our desire is to serve God. However, all our work and service for God must be initiated by God and must be according to His desire, otherwise we may offend God’s holiness and glory.
God doesn’t need man to serve Him and do things for Him; He wants man to be one with Him and express Him, allowing His life in man to grow, develop, be manifested, and flow out. The overflow of the divine life in us is our work, that is, when the Lord in us initiates something, that is the real work for God.
Throughout the Bible there are many examples of people who loved God and wanted to do things for God, but they did it out of their own initiation and desire.
Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, brought strange fire to God; they may not have had an evil intention, but God didn’t command them to bring this fire, so they perished by fire.
Anything that is initiated or started by man, regardless of how much it is “for God”, it is a religious activity devoid of the presence of Christ. Unless Christ in us initiates our work for Him and unless we are one with the Lord to do something in Him for His heart’s desire, we merely perform some religious activities.
Christianity is filled with “work in the name of God” and “praising God through the things we do for Him”, and so much of it is mere religious activity, with no value before God.
The way it should be is like this: God comes to man, touches man, prompts man, and reveals Himself to man, giving man a command and a leading; then man receives something from God and can’t help but take action to do something for God – an action that comes from God.
Abel Offered Sacrifices by Faith According to God’s Revelation in Response to His Word
Abel and Cain, the two sons of Adam and Eve, brought a sacrifice to God. Abel was a tender of sheep (in those days men didn’t eat meat, so most likely he tended sheep for God), while Cain was a farmer, toiling on the ground.
Cain first brought God something from what he laboured on – he brought God some of the produce of the land, the result of his toiling on the ground; Abel, however, brought God a lamb, a sacrifice with the shedding of the blood. God was pleased with Abel’s offering but He rejected Cain’s (Gen. 3:21; 4:1-5).
Without having the divine revelation on this matter, we would not see the difference between these two sacrifices, but when the Lord shines on us, we realize the principle of the divine service and the work that is disproved by Him.
Both Cain and Abel served God, but God rejected Cain’s service while He was pleased with Abel’s. Abel offered God by faith a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4). Faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes from the speaking of the word of God (Rom. 10:17).
It must have been that Adam and Eve preached the gospel to their sons, telling them how God punished them for disobeying Him, and how He sacrificed some lambs to give them coats of skin before leaving the garden of Eden.
Abel realize that God’s way is through the shedding of the blood for redemption; his offering of a sacrifice came in response to God’s word and according to God’s revelation. Abel heard the word of God, believed in the gospel, received revelation, and by faith offered a sacrifice to God.
God’s way of redemption is through the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice; this way was initiated and instructed by God, preached by Adam and Eve, and practiced by Abel.
Abel’s offering was not of himself but of God; it was in the way revealed, commended, and ordained by God. Therefore, it was accepted by God.
However, Cain’s offering was not according to God’s revelation but of himself; he must have thought that, if he offers the best of the his toiling on the ground, God must be pleased with him.
Cain’s offering was entirely a religious activity; he ignored the gospel and invented his own way of worshipping God, thinking that he’s serving God in sincerity with zeal, yet it was not according to God’s way. Cain’s way of doing things according to his opinion.
We should not think that, if we have something to offer and we can do something for God, God will automatically accept it.
God has a clear way for us to serve Him, and if we serve Him not according to His way but according to our own thought and opinion, our service is rejected by Him – no matter how sincere, good, and upright it is.
Lord Jesus, save us from trying to serve You or do things for You according to our own concepts and opinions. We want to take Your way and serve You in the way You have ordained for us. Lord, save us from being the Cain’s of today; save us from religiously serving You in a way that You have not ordained. Keep us open to You, Lord, to receive the word of the gospel, be infused with God’s revelation, know God’s desire, and serve God in His way according to His ordination. Lord Jesus, make us the Abel’s of today!
We need to Serve God according to His Revelation by Faith in Response to His Word
How can we, twenty-first century believers, serve God in a way that is pleasing to Him? If we love the Lord, seek Him, and pursue Him both personally and corporately, our inward desire is to serve God and do things for Him.
But what is the way revealed by God in the Bible for us, His people, to serve Him? In Abel’s case, the way ordained by God was through the sacrifices with the shedding of the blood; in our case, the only way we can serve God is according to God’s revelation, by faith, in response to His word.
First of all, the way we receive salvation is not by our works: we don’t work hard to earn salvation; we simply receive salvation, for Jesus Christ has died on the cross on our behalf, and by believing in Him we are saved.
The beginning of our Christian life is by faith, and our whole Christian life and service should also be by faith.
Now that we are saved, we may want to do things for God, and many times in the church life there are some zealous young saints who do many things for Him. We may think that it is good to have such zealous ones, but we need to realize that, in God’s eyes, this zeal may be of man and not of God.
According to our natural understanding, we may think that God will be pleased with us as long as we work for Him, do things in His name, preach the gospel to save sinners, and bring these sinners to present them to God. All this sounds very good.
But God is actually more concerned whether we are doing all these according to our own opinion or according to God’s revelation, in His way. This should cause us to have a healthy fear before God in our service, for many times our service is like that of Cain, a religious activity, and not like that of Abel.
A religious activity is any service and worship that doesn’t originate from God’s revelation, command, and leading but with man’s good intention, zeal, and opinions. Doing things for God out of our own zeal and according to our view and opinions results in our service being rejected by God.
From Adam in the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament, the activities of the ones who serve God must originate absolutely from God and not from man.
The manifested problem is the human opinion; we are inclined to do something in a religious way, and God rejects this.
It seems logical and good to our human mind to do this or that for God, work hard, and bring it to God – for His glory; but unless we do this according to His revelation, by faith, in response to His word, God rejects this.
We may say that we do things for the Lord, but we need to be careful: is God’s commandment and initiation there? Is there the genuine leading of the Spirit in what we do? Or is it just something out of our opinions?
We need to spend much time with the Lord in His word, receive His revelation, be infused with His desire, and live and work by faith in response to God’s word. God is the only One who can initiate, His way is the way to be taken when we serve Him, and He is the One who should get all the glory.
Lord Jesus, we want to be those who serve You according to God’s revelation by faith. Keep us in Your word, praying to open to You and be infused with Your heart’s desire so that we may simply respond to Your word and serve You according to Your ordained way. Oh Lord, save us from repeating the pitiful history in Christianity by doing many religious things for You yet without Your presence, not in Your way, and devoid of Your blessing! We want to seek You to get the genuine leading of the Spirit and serve You according to Your revelation in faith!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by Minoru Chen for this week, and portions from, Knowing Life and the Church, ch. 16 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Knowing Life and the Church, msg. 3 (week 3), The Need for All Our Service to Be Initiated by God.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Lord, we would be as Abel, fully contacting You; / Not by knowledge or concept, but by life fresh and new…. / Oh, we’ll stay on God’s life line, never turning aside. / We don’t care for vain knowledge, which will cause us to die. / Lord, we’ll touch You by calling on Your name each day; / Living in Your appearing, in Your presence we’ll stay. (Hymns #1194)
# ’Tis not a movement borne of man, / But by His power moving; / ’Tis not the deeds done outwardly, / But inward action proving. / ’Tis not the work of enterprise, / But ‘tis His life confessing; / ’Tis not to toil for our success, / But ‘tis Himself expressing. (Hymns #910)
# Live Thou within us, Lord; / Thy mind and will be ours; / Be Thou beloved, adored, / And served with all our powers; / That so our lives may teach / Thy children what Thou art, / And plead, by more than speech, / For Thee with every heart. (Hymns #902)
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