Working Past A Cain Mentality

If you’ve ever entertained the thought that Satan’s old tactics are ineffective in today’s contemporary society, then consider the affect of the “Cain mentality.” Cain, who was a son of Adam and Eve, was a farmer that took a great deal of pride in his ability to produce beautiful garden vegetables.

When God demanded a blood sacrifice to atone for personal sins, Cain brought an offering of his best garden vegetables instead of the required animal sacrifice. I am sure that Cain’s vegetables would have been a prize winner at any Home and Garden show. He probably had hundreds of hours invested in grooming and harvesting his vegetables. Adam probably mentored him, teaching him how he had kept the garden of Eden.

But there was one problem with Cain’s offering. God required a blood sacrifice, a lamb without blemish. God’s requirement was not personal sacrifice and self effort, but it was one of obedience and faith. The blood sacrifice was a foretaste of the Lord Jesus’ substitutional death. This was a picture of the Lamb of God without blemish who would die in our place for us, and as us.

When Cain brought vegetables as his sacrifice he was refusing to acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord. He was showing that his self-righteousness, demonstrated by his presentation of his vegetables, were good enough to earn him salvation. When God rejected Cain’s offering it revealed his rebellious heart.

As a true follower of Jesus we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our salvation. We call it salvation by grace through faith. But many believers forget that their everyday life is also to be one of faith and trust. They develop a Cain mentality by attempting to please God in their own strength. There are least two ways that we display a Cain mentality.

1. We develop a Cain mentality by refusing to cast our worry, our troubles and our fears on Christ. Like Cain, we develop a sense of self-righteousness that causes us to think that we can do this on our own. But the Scripture teaches that we are to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

2. We develop a Cain mentality when trusting God becomes an after-thought rather than our first thought.The Scripture teaches us, “Trust God with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Bottom Line

Living the Christian life and working past a Cain Mentality is not based on human logic or reasoning, but it’s about giving every element of our life to Him. God wants our walk with Him to be intimate. He wants our relationship to be one of transparency and trust. Faith is not just about believing, but it’s also about giving…giving our life, our burdens, our present and future to Him. Why is it all about faith and giving? Because when we trust Him with all of our life, He has promised that “God will do it all for you.”

Over twenty years ago, I heard Dr. Bill Gilliam give an acrostic that really nailed the point that “God will do it all for you”. Notice the emphasized word in each line. It goes something like this;

I will do it all for you.
I will
do it all for you.
I will do it all for you.
I will do it
all for you.
I will do it all for you.
I will do it all for
you.
I will do it all for you.

Will you be willing to let go of your life and let Him do it all for you? Besides, that
is the normal Christian life.

“Lord, if I don’t have the strength to give you everything, them draw me by the sweetness of Your love.” (Fenelon)

Doing Something for God

Doesn’t it seem natural for a follower of Jesus to live his/her life committed to “doing something for God”? Isn’t this what we are supposed to do, help God reach the world? Matter of fact, there have been numerous gospel songs written with that in mind. One song that comes to my mind contains a line like this, “If working and praying has any reward, then surely some morning I will meet my dear Lord…if anyone makes it all the way home, Lord surely I will.”

The implication of the song is that our self-effort and good works get us to heaven. Those of us who believe that “Jesus is the way, the truth and life…” would quickly condemn that belief system and say it smacks of salvation by works.

However, many of us live our Christian life promoting a similar belief system. We live as if our security and spiritual well-being is related to how much “we do for God”. We may believe that our salvation is “by grace through faith” but we live our Christian life driven by self-effort “attempting to do something for God.” Living in this manner is like an empty vessel trying to fill itself.

You can spot those who live with this belief system. They are constantly trying to measure up to some sort of spiritual performance but always feeling that they are falling short.

Or another example would be someone needing some sort of spiritual experience every Sunday, so that they can feel close to God. It’s as if drinking from the fountain that Jesus gives is not enough. Jesus said that if we drink from His fountain we would thirst no more because His fountain is a fountain springing from within, like an artesian well. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give them shall never thirst; but the water I give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The Christian life is not about “doing things for God”. Think about these questions: What does God need? Does He really need us? How much work for God is enough? How will you know when you have done enough? How do you know when you have measured up?

God never intended for us to “do things for Him” in order to measure up to His acceptance. That’s because He already accepts us. The moment we were placed in Christ at salvation, we were eternally accepted by God, all without an ounce of self-effort.

Bottom Line

Then how do we serve God? First we must come to the point that “apart from Him we can do nothing.” God is waiting for us to acknowledge that we can’t live the Christian life. When we accept that we can’t, God reveals that Christ can. God’s design is for us to stop striving and start resting.

As a result, the will of God will be done through us. Instead of attempting to “do something for God”, we allow Christ to live His life through us, and then watch as God does “exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20)

Your Attitude Creates Your Altitude

Years ago I picked up a saying from my Air Force military training; “Your attitude determines you altitude.” This is one of those truths that stick with you throughout your life because you know that your attitude impacts every aspect of your life.

No matter what season of life you are in, your attitude is a key player in your level of contentment. Attitude is more important than wealth, education, good looks, popularity, relationships and almost anything else the world may consider important.

As a follower of Christ, your attitude is an indicator of your level of trust and devotion to God. Having a vast knowledge of Scripture will not necessarily make you a successful believer. Some of the most miserable people I have met are Christians. They weren’t miserable because their faith didn’t work, they were miserable because their attitude was rotten.

If you are a businessperson, your attitude will be a key element in determining your success, but it will also see you through a tough business climate. If you think you can’t succeed or make it through the tough times, then your attitude will be your downfall.

As a committed follower of Jesus, maintaining an attitude that reflects our dependence and trust in a sovereign God to guide and direct us is an important element in maintaining inner peace. Many times we can’t control our circumstances, or what others say about us or do to us, but we can control our attitude. A negative attitude is usually a result of your reaction to a given situation. We can choose to trust God, and believe He is in control, or we can choose to be fearful and hopeless.

When you live with a Christ-centered worldview, the normal response to any crisis is to let go and trust God to give you wisdom and peace. By trusting God in every situation, we develop an attitude of dependence. We have this inner peace that everything is going to turn out right, even though we can’t see the end result. Why? Because we know God is ultimately in control.

The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to use the word “Abba” when referring to God in Galatians. Abba is a term of intimate affection that denotes “Daddy”, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Our heavenly Father is not only our God but also our daddy/protector who loves and cares for every area of our life.

Bottom Line
Our attitude reflects our level of trust. God wants us to love and trust Him so completely that our life reflects contentment, regardless of our present circumstances. Because we are loved, cared for, and watched over by our loving God, we should rest in the fact that Christ is enough. Remember, your attitude determines your altitude.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

God Has Not Left Us Alone

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else, not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” ( Ephesians 1:19-23 NLT)

One of the challenges of living the Christian life is laying aside our self-effort mentality. Somehow along the way, most of us fail to connect “salvation by faith” and “living by faith”. We know that our salvation is vested in Christ alone but seem to have trouble connecting that living for Him is also vested in Christ alone.

God never intended for us to live our life in our own strength. Many believers live with the attitude that they will “do the best they can to live for God and then if they get in trouble they will ask for God’s help.” But God never intended for us to go it alone.

God Wants Us Dependent
Nothing pleases God more than for us to lean and depend on Him for every aspect of our life. Matter of fact, I believe that is what the Christian life is all about – turning every segment of our life over to his control. Why is that important? God can order and direct our life better than we can. He has a master plan that includes us. We were born for a specific purpose, during a specific time in history. (Psalm 139, 2 Timothy 1:7-9)

It’s clear from Scripture that God draws us to Himself so that He could empower us with “the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead …”. We have as our daily resource the power of God. This power was not given to us to better cope in this world, but it was given in order that we could live above this world. That’s because God is not only preparing a place for us, but He is also preparing us for a place.

The power of God sets us free from the entanglement of the world, but it also allows us to be content in this world knowing that we are here for a purpose. Wherever God plants us and whatever circumstances we find ourself in, God is there in that moment with the full power of heaven to help us see our way through with grace and purpose. Therefore, our end purpose in every situation is to glorify God.

Bottom Line
Are you drawing on the “…the incredible greatness of God’s power?” If not, it’s there for you; it’s found in the person of Christ who indwells you. God is poised and ready to carry you to the next level of maturity and trust. He wants you to live daily within the realm of His mighty power, trusting Him to do the miraculous.

Many years ago I heard a sermon by Evangelist John R. Rice. He was preaching about prayer and how God desires for us to live at a higher level of trust. I will never forget the illustration he gave to conclude his sermon. He said, “This is what I think will happen just after I get to heaven. After I pass through the pearly gates an angel will usher me to a huge warehouse. He will open the door to the warehouse and point to the vast array of blessings. Then he will say to me, “John, these are all the blessing you could have had if you had just asked. “

God wants us to live at a higher level of trust and dependence. He wants His children to trust Him for great things that only He can do. He wants to move us out of the “safe zone” to the “trust zone”. That will only come as we surrender our lives to His control and then begin to trust Him for the impossible.

“Satan is so much more in earnest than we are–he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.”
― Amy Carmichael

“Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:19 NAS)

Learning to Trust God

It was a glorious day when I made a decision to trust Jesus as my Savior. After the decision I had a deep settled peace. I knew that my eternal destiny was settled and that I was truly a child of God.

However, I soon realized the decision to follow Christ was creating a whole new paradigm for living. Before, my life was all about me, my needs and what I wanted. Now I was being called to let go of my life and trust God with all of my dreams, plans and goals.

Letting go of a self-centered life is not an easy thing. To be completely honest, I still struggle with giving God complete control. There is something about the flesh that wants to control and be in charge.

It’s an issue of trust. I think most believers struggle with this. We may give verbal agreement that we trust God, but when it comes down to crunch time, we had rather worry or take matters into our own hands than give God control.

Why do I choose at times not to trust God? He has never failed me nor allowed anything to come in my life that was eventually for my benefit. As I have pondered this question, I discovered a recurring pattern that keeps me from relinquishing control and fully trusting Him. It is called spiritual indifference.

Spiritual Indifference
Spiritual indifference is a gradual thing that happens, but left unattended it quickly becomes drifting. We wake up one day and realize that we have drifted away from God. One of the problems with spiritual drifting is you never drift upward, always downward. Spiritual indifference creates a downward spiral that sends you away from intimacy with the Father.
Spiritual indifference is a result of several factors, but I think its root cause can be traced to neglecting personal fellowship and worship.

Early in my Christian life I did the daily devotional thing because I was told it was something I ought to do. My goal was to get it done so I could check it off my list.
That was a big mistake. My indifference kept me from getting the spiritual nourishment I needed. I thought the Sunday sermon would be enough to carry me through the week. The only problem with that is I hardly ever remembered what the sermon was about on Monday. I found myself spiritually enemic.

Trust is only developed by spending quality time with someone. If that is true in building human trust, then its reasonable to assume it’s also true with getting to know and trust God.

When your devotional time becomes a priority rather than an obligation, you develop a longing to know God and develop spiritual intimacy. As you expectantly read through the scripture, you get to know the character of God. The more you know and understood His character the more you realize you can trust Him with your life. Surrender becomes a positive word in your life rather than something negative. Surrender no longer means you are going to lose or give up something, but it becomes the door to knowing and trusting God. Your spiritual indifference turns into a new level of trust.

Bottom Line
Spiritual indifference is the doorway to drifting away from God. Left unattended it can lead to indecision, doubt, worry and fear. But it’s an easy fix; it just takes courage and deciding to be intentional about regular fellowship with God. It’s making a decision to pursue God.

Remember, God loves you as His child. He accepts you and He desires to pour His love and His very life into you so that you will manifest the “sweet aroma of Him in every place..” ( 2 Cor. 2:14).

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

The Shepherd Knows Our Voice

“But He who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:2-3)

When the Lord approaches us for fellowship or to specifically speak to our heart, we must be tuned to His voice and ready to respond to His invitation of fellowship. The above verse in John lists three key elements of how the Lord approaches His children.

He comes in through the door of our heart

He does not sneak in the window nor slide down the chimney like a thief, He comes through the door. The doorkeeper of our heart is the Holy Spirit. As we focus on knowing God and hearing His voice we can be sure that His call will be clear, concise and unmistakable. If we can’t be sure of the voice at the door, it probably isn’t Him calling. If you are fearful, then this probably isn’t God speaking. Our relationship with God is one of trust and willful obedience. The sheep willingly follow because they are dependent upon the Shepherd and they know His voice.

He comes to lead, not to demand

If you know much about leadership, you know that a good leader does not drive his workers to do their job through intimidation. A good leader leads by example, and has an interest in their personal development and success. Jesus knows all about us and takes a personal interest in each one of us. “He calls His sheep by name and leads them out”. He never leads by intimidation and fear, but gently goes before us and prepares our way. He wants us to be victorious.

His Leadership has a personal touch

Notice how intimately the Father knows the son, Jesus says, “I know My sheep, as the Father knows me. And My sheep know Me, as I know the Father.” That’s how intimately He knows you. Jesus’ approach to you is always personal, based on His unlimited knowledge about every aspect of your life. He knows your needs, your doubts, your fears, as well as your dreams and plans.

Bottom Line

Three lessons we can learn from this.

First, He intimately knows us, and even knows our deepest longings and desires. Bring those desires to Him and learn to wait until He speaks before making a decision. What we view as an uncomfortable situation, God may see as a test of our level of trust. Will we be like King Saul and take things into our own hands, or will be wait till we hear from Him?

Secondly, Jesus is personally involved in our life and He knows what is best. Like the Shepherd who watches over the sheep to protect them from predators, our Shepherd is watching over us. His reluctance to act in our time frame is His way of reminding us to trust Him with the timing. Since He knows our most intimate needs, we can trust Him with our life,

Thirdly, Jesus is at our hearts door waiting on us to open up and let Him fellowship with us. In other words, it’s our move to continually pursue His presence by keeping the door open.

You have probably seen the old painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. The door is symbolic of our hearts door. If you look closely at the painting you will notice that there isn’t a door knob on the outside of the door. The door can only be opened from the inside. This is because when Jesus is knocking, only we can open the door and invite Him in for fellowship.

Jesus is knocking at our hearts door. His invitation to us is to trust Him so much that we lay all of our dreams, plans and aspirations at His feet. He wants us to not only trust Him with our life, but to trust Him with all that we are and ever hope to be.

Three Areas of Struggle

“For in Him (Christ) all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority. “ (Colossians 2:8-9)

You have been made complete” what a wonderful concept, to know that in and through Christ’s indwelling we have been made complete. God supplies all we need to become what He intended for us to be. It’s all wrapped up in the person of Christ in us, living His life through us. By resting and trusting in the living Christ we have abundant joy and peace.

What a great design for living. God, in His wisdom, removes all the “performance based acceptance” obstacles in our path to Him, and replaces it with His very life living within us. We don’t have to strive to measure up to some religious standard, we just live in obedience to the Spirit of Christ within us.

Even though this is to be the normal Christian life, many of us are guilty of living in and out of this joy, rather than abiding in Him. There are many distractions along the way that hinder this trust in Christ. I want to address three particular areas of struggle that most often rob us of our joy and peace.

Rebellion

Webster’s dictionary defines rebellion as: “the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention”.

The Scripture calls rebellion a sin because it is a deliberate refusal to do what you know is the will of God. It is a willful choice not to obey His authority. It is a choice to do what we want to do regardless of what we know God has said.

When the Holy Spirit prompts us to do something and we ignore His prompting, then that becomes rebellion. When we know the Scripture has clearly commanded us to do or be something and we willfully ignore it, then we are acting in rebellion.

King Saul acted in rebellion when he willfully disobeyed God by presenting a sacrifice on his own, rather than waiting on Samuel. When Samuel the prophet confronted him he told Saul that “behold to obey is better than sacrifice.” God’s obedience is always for our good and to help us live in the fullness of joy and peace.

Double-mindedness

A double-minded person is a fence sitter. They are like a politician who waits to see which way the political wind is blowing before he takes a stand. A double-minded person often wants to hear what God has to say, but wants to wait before he decides whether he will obey. James tells us that a double-minded person is “unstable in all of his ways.” (James 1:8).

As a committed follower of Christ our only option is to trust God completely. We are to completely give our life to Him without reservation, knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We must trust Him for whatever comes our way now and in the future. We must live like Joshua of old who said to the unbelieving crowd of Israelites, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Pretense

Pretense is an act of giving a false appearance or masquerading to be someone you are not. It is attempting to display qualities that you do not have. It is trying to be spiritual when indeed you are struggling with trying to measure up. It is being a hypocrite.

Jesus said, “These people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for Me consist of tradition learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13)

I think most believers who are pretentious do not intend on being that way, they are just attempting to measure up to a perceived standard for acceptance. To them, doing things for God is their way of attempting to please Him. Their thinking is if I do enough good works, then God will love me. Their concept of God is closely aligned with someone who felt they never measured up to their earthly father’s acceptance. So they carried over the “doing good things for dad so he will love me attitude.” They have yet to discover Christ as their very life.

Pretense is about attempting to mimic what God has already provided through Christ. Because of Christ in us, we no longer have to attempt to measure up, because we already measure up in Christ. Because of the resurrection we are one with Him and the Father (John 17). Our goal is not to try to measure up so we can get God’s favor, but our goal is to now rest. We are to rest in the promise that the Father accepts us because we are now in Christ.

Instead of doing so I can be, I now am being so that I can do. We don’t have to live a pretense but we can rest in the truth that Christ in me is enough. We now live to allow Christ to live His life through us, and as a result, we will do the will of the Father.

Bottom Line

Rebellion, double-mindedness and pretense will rob us of our spiritual birthright. God has provided all that we need in the person of Christ within us. Embrace the Cross by humbling yourself, and giving up on self-centeredness, and receive the gift of Christ’s life in you…as enough.

“Without him we can do nothing.” (John 15:5)