Overcoming Sin in the Power of Christ
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.Genesis 4:7
Have you ever puzzled over the wording of this text? "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
This is God speaking to Cain when he was upset with Abel his brother, whose offering was accepted by the LORD while his own was not. God tells Cain that sin is lying at the door of his heart and wishes to enter his heart, but Cain is called to overcome this test. In the New Testament we find a similar statement in James 1:12,
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
In Cain's case, the LORD instructs him that he has to do what is right. That is to say, he must overcome sin, at which time he will be approved and his offering will be accepted by God. This is before God had instituted his covenant of grace with the rite of circumcision. Yet Cain was the son of Adam and Eve. To them God had promised that from the seed of the woman one would come who would crush the head of the destroyer of the peace which they had with God their Creator before the fall. Therefore their son Cain, too, was promised the strength of God to rule over sin and to persevere in trial.
With the instruction given in James 1:12, we are in the new dispensation. The covenant of grace has been firmly established in the Son of God, and it is proclaimed to the church. But God is unchangeable, and what he asked first of Adam and again asked of Cain, he also asks of us. He calls us to obey him, and to rule over the sin which lies at the door of our hearts. We find other words of God where this same principle is presented to his people. Like in James 4:7, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." And a similar thought is found in 2 Peter 1:5-6, "Make every effort to add ... to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance."
God can demand of his people that we rule over sin, because he has provided the means by which this can be achieved. We find it in Hebrews 5:8-9, speaking of Jesus Christ,
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Christ not only died for our sin, but he also gave us his example to follow, to learn obedience and to overcome temptation. It is in him that we are provided with the ability to rule over sin.
Too often we who have received the inheritance of Christ's work are dull of hearing and do not diligently fight our daily battle against sin. Paul saw this already in the Christian congregations that had been established; he saw spiritual immaturity. So look at your daily talk and walk: Do you fall short? Or are you fighting until you are bloodied in your fight against your own sinful inclinations?
Our Lord Jesus commanded us to be perfect as God in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48). Certainly our Lord would not ask this of us if it were impossible. Therefore as children of the LORD Almighty, we must not have feeble knees or just sit down in despondency. Instead, we may look toward our Father in heaven, and he will provide us with the strength to rule over sin. No, not only in the life to come, but already in the here and now. Strive for this with all your God-given ability, and persevere by putting on his spiritual armor.
The result will be an inner peace, a confidence in God's great love for you, and a communion with him in your daily walk of life. This is what Adam and Eve experienced in Paradise before they became disobedient and lost this wonderful privilege. Yet we know that Christ restores it to his people through his perfect work. So persevere under trial, because when you have stood the test, you will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!