God is Particular - Part 1

Scripture: Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, Isaiah 8:20
Does it make a difference what we believe? Is God really particular about our beliefs? This talk looks at two Bible stories about God's specific commandment. The first is Adam and Eve's experience in the Garden of Eden. The second is about Cain and Abel and God's requirement for an offering that was acceptable.
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Many, many times people have said to me "I don't think it makes any difference what a person believes, as long as he is earnest about it." Perhaps you have heard this same statement. These folk believe that God is really not particular as long as we are zealous in what we do. They say it is the spirit that counts, and if we are doing it with all our hearts, God will accept it. We are going to answer the question today,, Is God really particular? Does He mean precisely what He says? Or, may I vary His commandments a bit to fit my own convenience and situation?

We are going to talk about some of the stories of the scripture today. Some people skip over these narratives of the Bible, and seem to think that they are interesting, but not very important. Mark this down, friend, these stories are more than just interesting tales. They contain eternal lessons which will continue to speak to us as long as the world stands. In Romans 15, verse 4, we read this: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Put with that a text in 1 Corinthians 10:11: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." In other words, these stories were given to guide us until the very end of time. If you want to know how to find the way into God's kingdom, just study the experiences of God's people in ancient times. We disregard these lessons at the peril of our own eternal life.

The first story I'd like to talk about is found in Genesis 2, it's not new to anyone, I'm sure. The story of Adam and Eve and their downfall is quite well known by the average Christian. You remember that God placed our perfect parents in that lovely ideal setting of the Garden of Eden. They were surrounded by beauties indescribable. God said to them, "Now, look it over. This is to be your home. All the pleasures of the garden will be yours for eternity if you will just obey me." But in the very midst of the garden, God placed one tree which was set apart. God pointed this out to Adam and Eve and said, "Don't bother that tree, it is set aside, you must leave it alone." There was no question in the minds of Adam and Eve concerning the commandment of God. But, friends, the fact is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and actually did eat of the tree which was forbidden. Many people say, "Well, I can't understand why God did such a thing anyway. Why did He place it right out in the open in the very midst of the garden,, why didn't God put an electric fence around the tree, or something by which to discourage Adam and Eve from taking of that tree?" Others have been known to say, "Well, I can't understand why God would forbid the tree anyway. He certainly didn't need to reserve anything for Himself. He didn't need the fruit of the tree."

Friends, let's see if we can find the answers to these questions today. God will only accept the service of love. Religion is not a fire escape. We must choose to obey God because of our love for Him, or else we will be serving in vain. God must have some way of knowing why we serve Him. Our very judgement will take place on this basis. God is going to look into the motives of the mind and heart and we shall be saved or lost according to our motive in serving God. So Adam and Eve had to be tested. God wanted to make them immortal. He wanted to give them that beautiful home for all time to come. But before doing so, He had to know that their love was true and deep. The test of their love was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said, "If you love me, don't touch this tree. If you ever lose your love and confidence in me, then just eat of this tree and I will understand."

Please notice, friends, that the test came over something that had been set aside by God. God said leave it alone. He didn't elaborate, He didn't say why; there was no apparent reason as far as Adam and Eve were concerned. God seemed to be saying, "Just trust me and obey without asking the reasons why."

Let's bring this lesson closer home to us today. We perhaps are saying, "Well, I would not have eaten of the tree. I would not have disobeyed God." But I wonder, friend about that. I submit that we have exactly the same test facing us in this modern age. How are we passing the test? God says to us, "Everything which comes into your hands may be used as your own, except one-tenth. Your tithe is sacred and must be set aside for me." Now notice friends, it's not one tree this time, but one-tenth. God says, "That one-tenth is mine. You must not touch it. You must not use it." Now if I disregard this commandment I am repeating the sin of Adam, and I will be doubly guilty because I have his example before me as well as the direct commandment of God concerning my own case. There is no reason at all to leave that money alone, except that God said it is holy; it is His. This is the very same circumstance that we find with the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden.

Then again God may say to me, "Look at the days of the week. You can have all of them except one." You know, of course, that the Bible says the seventh is hallowed, it is set aside for a holy purpose. So God says "Keep your feet off the Sabbath. Don't use it for yourself at all. It is set aside for me." Now that same test was given to Adam and Eve. There's not a particle of difference in the commands that God gave them concerning the tree and the command He gives us concerning the Sabbath. Today we might look for some human reason as to why that one day should be reserved for God. I've heard people questioning about this very thing. Since the seventh day seems to appear just like the other days of the week, they will not recognize it's sanctity. One day seems to be as good as another day for rest and worship. Adam and Eve might have said the very same thing. Their line of reasoning could have been similar. That one tree in the midst of the garden certainly did not look any different from the other trees, and it's fruit was probably just as good to the taste. The difference lay in the commandment of God to leave it alone. And today, the difference is, God says, "Remember the Sabbath day, the seventh day, to keep it holy." Both tests concern something which was set aside by God, and which man was told to leave alone.

Friends, how do we measure up in this thing? Finally, you remember, Adam and Eve had to face God over eating that fruit. Every soul will face God over the two tests that have been mentioned today, exactly as Adam and Eve had to face Him. This is a serious matter. If we ever enter Heaven it will be because we love Him so dearly that we will not touch what He commands us to leave alone. You mark this down carefully friends, God is very particular about things which He has set aside. The story of Adam and Eve proves it without the shadow of a doubt.

We go farther into the Bible in Chapter 4 of Genesis and find another story concerning two brothers. Cain and Abel were the two sons of Adam and Eve. Have you ever tried to picture the angel driving our parents out of the garden of Eden? It must have been a fearful thing for them to stand outside looking back into that beautiful place where they had lived for so long. Soon after leaving their garden home they saw the first leaf fall from the tree and die. They must have looked at each other in dismay. Then maybe the flowers began to wither and wilt about them; and the first beast growled at them. I can imagine they looked at one another with tears rolling down their cheeks and said, "What have we done? Is there no hope for us, after making this terrible mistake?

Then I can picture the Lord Jesus coming into the garden to meet our first parents in the cool of the day. He brought a promise of deliverance, a promise of a Saviour who would appear in this world. Hope was brought into their hearts again through Jesus, who was to be the sacrifice for their sin. God told them to take a lamb, the very best lamb that could be found in the flock, and kill it. "As the blood flows," God said, "Remember, this represents my son's blood. That lamb is Jesus who will come to atone for your sins. There is atonement in the shedding of blood." Then I picture Adam and Eve as they went over to the flock, and with trembling hands chose one of the animals as a sacrifice. The Bible tells us that Adam had actually named those animals. He knew them individually and loved each one. But now, he has to take one and slay it with his own hand. Until this day there had been no death, no killing of any kind. But now he picks up one of the lambs which he knew by name. He built an altar and placed that innocent lamb upon it and stood there trembling by the side. Perhaps the family was standing around, Eve on one side; Cain and Abel on the other. Then in a terrible moment of horror he took the life of that innocent little white lamb. As the blood spurted, he must have said, "Boys, our sin caused death. Sin is a terrible thing. There is no hope for us, except through the Son of God who will come and die for us. Let this remind you that Jesus will someday come and pay the price for our transgressions."

Adam's boys were trained in the ways of the altar, the ways of sacrifice and worship. But the older they got the more they developed ideas of their own. One day they each built an altar upon which to worship God and offer their sacrifice. Abel, the herdsman, took a lamb without spot or blemish, killed it, and on his knees prayed, "Lord, this represents Jesus, I offer it to you earnestly, with faith in the blood of Christ to cleanse and save me." Maybe Cain was watching off to the side, and he thought "This is good, I think I shall bring an offering also and pray to God." But Cain was a farmer. He thought, "I don't have a lamb, so I'll just bring the best I have. It really makes no difference. This will be good enough. God will accept it. I'll bring fruit and vegetables." According to the Bible, he brought the fruit of the ground and placed it upon the altar. Perhaps he brought something like pumpkins, strawberries or peaches.

Did the Lord meet him and say, "This is fine, I know that you brought the best you have, and I will be glad to accept it." No indeed! God said, "I cannot accept it." Why? Now don't get the idea that God rejected it because Cain brought a little dried up lemon or some poor specimen out of the garden. He brought the very best of his produce, the kind that would have won first prize at any county fair. That's not the reason God rejected it, but rather because God had said, "Bring a lamb." Cain thought that it made no difference, so he brought a substitute.

Now what do we learn from this story? Just one thing friends: your best efforts at worship are wasted unless that worship is according to the way God says to worship. You can't read the story and get anything else out of it. Cain was right there at the altar with his fruit, but it did no good. God would not accept it. His worship was completely rejected. Another thing we learn is this: be a person ever so earnest about worshiping on Sunday, Sunday worship brings into the presence of God an offering of fruit that cannot be accepted. This is too plain to miss, friends. God has said to remember the seventh day to keep it holy, and He will not accept a substitute or counterfeit offering as we come before Him to worship. Our worship is wasted unless that worship is according to His command. I could be ever so earnest and zealous and think that it makes no difference, but if I see the Sabbath in God's Word, and then bring Sunday as my day of worship to God, that will be fruit in His sight and cannot be acceptable. It's not what you think or I think that counts, it's what God's Word commands. In Isaiah 8:20 we are told to check ourselves by the law and the testimony: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.".

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