In The Beginning – “The Story of Grace”

Sunday

Our series, “Since the Beginning,” has focused on who we were as God’s “image bearers” before the Fall – before we became self-aware and self-focused – selfish, anxious and addicted. Like the trendy “How it started…How it’s going” memes, the early chapters of Genesis paint a picture of “started beautifully…going terribly.” But if we look closely, we find the beautiful story of grace – in Genesis, and throughout the entire story of the Bible. Even where we expect – and deserve – justice in its place.

1.  Being Bad (Genesis 4:6-10a) 

  • The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 is a dark one. Cain was Adam and Eve’s firstborn, and he and his younger brother Cain had settled into their vocations: Cain was a farmer, and Abel a herdsman who raised livestock. Each brought on offering to God from their work, but for some reason God accepted Abel’s offering (an animal) and rejected Cain’s offering (produce). Which made Cain angry…
  • Seeing Cain’s anger, God warns him that “sin is crouching at your door, eager to control you.” Sadly, Cain ignores the warning, gives in to his anger, and kills his brother. The descent of the world into darkness and injustice that began with Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God now continues and accelerates, with brother killing brother – and spreads to all of God’s “image bearers.”
  • The “sin nature” that Cain and Able inherited from Adam and Eve – and that every human has inherited since – has caused God’s beautifully created world to spiral into darkness and injustice. Brokenness is all around us, and within us – because “sin is crouching at [our] door.” And, as a rule, we don’t treat sin like a lion at our door waiting to attack us – instead, we invite it into our house like a stray kitten, thinking we can domesticate and control it. Until it takes control of us, and it’s too late.

2.  Justice Cries Out (Genesis 4:10-14) 

  • Like the blood of Abel that “cried out to God,” we all have a deep longing for justice – for wrong and unfair things to be made right. Like sin, this too is a human universal: when we see injustice, something inside of us craves that it be made right. Unless, of course, it’s US who deserve justice…
  • Cain’s punishment by God wasn’t what we might have expected. Instead of death (“a life for a life”), Cain was sentenced to exile – like his parents, banished from his home to be a “homeless wanderer,” separated even further from the presence of God. The pathway he was created to walk had now been “twisted” by his sin. And Cain immediately felt the weight of that – and cried out to God for mercy.

3.  Finding Beauty (Genesis 4:15-16; Hebrews 12:24) 

  •  God responded to Cain’s cry for mercy with grace: even though Cain had killed his brother and deserved death as justice for doing so, God not only allows him to live, he promises to protect him as he “wanders” so that no one else will take his life. Deserving death, he received life instead.
  • In place of well-deserved justice for our sin, the story of the Bible includes example after example of God’s grace and mercy toward his image-bearers. Throughout the Old Testament, he holds up the ideal of what is best and beautiful for his people to pursue, then gives grace and forgiveness when they (repeatedly) fall short. And then we get to Jesus – the permanent giver of grace.
  • “Abel’s blood” still cries out for justice for our sin – but Jesus knows we can’t bear justice. So he answered the call for justice with his own blood – the blood of forgiveness and mercy and (beautiful) grace.  Grace points to God’s best for our lives, while loving (and saving) us right where we are.

ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURE

These passages may provide additional insights related to the subject of this week’s message. All verses are NLT unless otherwise noted.

Proverbs 21:15; Micah 6:8; Romans 3:20-24; Romans 6:12-18; Ephesians 2:1-6; Titus 2:11-14

Video of the Week: Justice by the Bible Project

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. What comes to mind when you hear the word “justice”?    

  1. The Old Testament is full of verses about justice, and about how God deeply desires it among his people.  Why do you think justice is such a big deal to God?  

  1. Why do you think that we (humans) are so prone to ignoring God’s warning that “sin is crouching at our door, waiting to control us” – instead, treating it like it’s something we can control? 

  1. Read Hebrews 12:24 again. The “old covenant” (i.e., the Old Testament) was justice-based; God’s promise to his people was that things would go well for them if they stayed close to him and obeyed his commands.  By your understanding, how is the “new covenant” mentioned here different?

  1. If the old covenant was based on justice, does that mean that God is no longer worried about justice under the new covenant with his people (those who have accepted the gift of his grace)?  Explain your answer.

  1. As Jesus’ followers – those who have been given grace (not justice) because of his sacrifice – how should we respond to the sin and injustice that’s all around us in the world?

Sunday
February 18, 2024
“Purposeful Faith”

We’re called by Scripture to have a “childlike faith” – a complete dependence on a good and loving God, our Heavenly Father. And with that dependence comes a sense of purpose – a trust that, if God created us, he created us with a purpose in mind; we were created “on purpose, FOR a purpose.”

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Sunday
February 11, 2024
In The Beginning – “The Day of Rest” 

We wrap up the “Since the Beginning” series this week, and we’ve looked at some heavy stuff – confession, sexuality, murder. It’s a lot to consider; if you’re needing a break, perhaps that’s the way the series – and God’s plan for our lives – was meant to play out: with rest and celebration at the end of our striving and work. The idea of real rest sounds pretty good today, doesn’t it? 

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Sunday
January 28, 2024
In The Beginning – “Sexuality, Marriage and Friendship”

The topic of sexuality and marriage is a personal and sensitive one, but one that must by addressed by the church. It’s probably not a surprise that Cape Cod Church holds a traditional, New Testament view of sex, sexuality and marriage; what may be a surprise, though, is the posture we choose to take as we seek to live that out as a church. As we consider the topic, as well as our posture, there’s no better place to start than in the first two chapters of Genesis – “In the Beginning.”

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