The Questioning God

Part 4: “Where is your brother?”

 

Opening

• Hi Everybody!

• Well, today, we’re in week four of our series, “The Questioning God.”

• We’re looking at questions that God asked people in the Bible, and letting God ask them of us.

• And today, we’re look at the question God asked Cain, when he said, “Where is your brother?”

• Now, I don’t know how many of you have a brother, but if you’re like me, this question has a little extra meaning.

• When I was in Middle School, my older brother got married and moved down the street from my best friend.

• And, on several occasions my best friend and I would be out on his property playing catch, or exploring, when suddenly, out of no where we’d start taking fire from a BB gun.

• See, my married, mature, big brother would sneak, climb, hide and crawl, and then, from some secret position, shoot us, repetitively,

• We’d run around screaming like little girls, and my best friend would yell the question we’re asking today: “Where is your brother?”

• Now, obviously, there’s more to the question than location.

• And today, we’re going to see that.

• In fact, today, whether you have a brother or not, you’re going to be challenged by this question.

• That’s what we’re doing today, before we do, let’s pray.

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Message

• I love my kids, you know, I love my family. And I like doing stuff together, as a family; especially when the weather’s nice, because I like doing stuff outside.

• I told my wife recently, I said, “I’m an al fresco kind of person.” I don’t want to just dine al fresco, I want to do everything al fresco.”

• I would rather do stuff outside. I just like being outdoors.

• So like, if I’ve got a choice, a choice between doing something outside with the kids, or staying inside and playing a board game or putting together a puzzle, guess what I choose. I choose outside.

• There’s a reason they call them board games. Because they’re boring.

• And puzzles? Don’t even get me started.

• A few months back we did the whole puzzle thing. You know, we set up the table, poured out the pieces, and for like 37 weeks we worked on it together. You know what I’m talking about right? You get the big table, do the whole thing…

• At first I put up a good resistance, I just walked past. Not gonna do it.

• But eventually the combination of my obsessive-compulsive behavior and my desire to see the puzzle go away, forced me into the madness.

• So for like two days, I’m focused like a lazer.

• Finish the puzzle. If you complete the picture you will be a better person.

• So I’m grabbing pieces, grabbing the box, see where it fits, and put it in. And I’m on a roll, right.

• And then, I’m getting close to seeing it complete. And I’m looking at the picture, and I’m looking at the pile of pieces and, all of a sudden, I realize, something is really wrong.

• Any guesses? Ya, we’re missing pieces. This is not good.

• God, if you love me, and I know you do, and I know you’ve got big things on your plate, but God, if you love me, would you please help me find these pieces?

• So, after I had completely disassembled my house in search of the pieces, with no success, I realized two things.

• First, puzzles are stupid.

• Second, I have no hope of making this picture on the box, this picture I’ve been working on for days, I have no way of making it a reality.

• Do you have any idea how maddening it is to spend all of this time, trying to make this happen?

• I had the picture, I’ve been working, but I didn’t have all the pieces.

• I know what’s is supposed to look like, I know how it’s supposed to end, but there is no way, no possible way, for it to be complete.

• And then, I realized, this puzzle is a lot like my life.

• I have this picture of what my life is supposed to be. I have this sense, an idea, this impression, that life is supposed to be a certain way.

• There’s this picture, on the box, but there are some pieces that are missing. And the picture is incomplete.

• And it’s not just me, it’s all of us.

• We all have this picture, we all have these ideas, every one of us, has, inside of us, this sense of what life is supposed to be like, how life is supposed to work.

• Because God gives us this picture.

First Big Idea: God has a grand plan for you life.

• Generally speaking, in general terms, (I’m not talking about specific, will of God kind of stuff, I’m talking about your life in broad brush strokes.)

• God has a way he wants your life, and my life, to be.

• He plants it in our minds, he plants it in our hearts, what life is supposed to be like, and deep down, in the core of our being we’re longing to see that picture come together in live living color in our existing lives.

• That’s what we want.

• But we’re missing key pieces, and without them, our picture will never be complete.

• So what do we do?

• Here’s the problem.

• Here’s what we do, and here’s where we mess things up.

• We start looking around, and when we realize that we’re missing pieces, we start taking them from other pictures, and we try forcing them in, and we’re trying to make them work.

• For example, we start thinking that the reason our puzzle is incomplete is that our house isn’t quite big enough. And so we start borrowing pieces from the American dream puzzle, and we go, well, if I could just cram a bigger house in here my picture would be better.

• Or maybe it’s a car, that has a few more features.

• Or a retirement account, with a few more zeros.

• Or maybe it’s a husband, who isn’t so lazy.

• We go on the happiness quest.

• And so we start buying things we don’t need, and we start doing stuff we regret, and we quite doing stuff we know we should, because, why?

• We all want our happy picture to be complete.

• And I’ll be honest, if ‘happiness’ is what is driving us, if we think ‘Well, whatever will make me happy will fill that gap,’ you got another thing coming.

• Because chasing happiness is like chasing the wind.

• I mean think about this, happiness, will make you do, and undo the same things.

• I’ll eat ice cream because it will make me happy. Ten minutes afterward, I’m swearing off ice cream, because when I don’t eat ice cream I’m much happier.

• You buy a car, cause it will make you happy, and then, you’re selling the car, cause being out of debt will make you happy.

• Some people say I got married because she made me happy. And then they say, “I divorcing her, because that will make me happy.”

• You see how messed up this is?

• Why are we doing these things, really? Why?

• Because we have this picture, we have this sense that things are supposed to be a certain way, and we’re doing our best to make it happen, but at the end of the day, we’re forcing pieces that don’t fit into a puzzle we can’t finish.

• And that is where God comes in.

• You know, in this series, “The Questioning God” we’ve been looking at questions God is asking us.

• We’ve all got questions for God, but God’s got questions for us, and we’ve been unpacking those the past few weeks.

• And, we’ve said this before, but I want to say it again.

• When God asks questions it’s not because he’s uninformed.

• God isn’t missing information. God doesn’t need us to educate him.

• When God asks questions, it’s him, in his grace, trying to get us to realize, first, that there are some pieces of our puzzle missing, and second, what that piece is, so that we get the right things in place, so that our lives look more like the grand plan he has for us.

• He wants the picture to be complete.

• And today, we’re going to look at another question that God asks.

• And in doing so, we’re going to be revealing another gap in the puzzle, and another piece that will make it whole.

• Now, I know, some of you are content right now, just jamming pieces into your puzzle, forcing the fit, checking things off the to do list, whatever.

• But others of you, maybe you’re realizing that something’s missing, and maybe you’re a teenager, or maybe you’re in college, or maybe you just got married, or maybe you just retired, whatever stage of life you’re in, you’re realizing that there’s something missing, if that’s where you’re at, then this one’s for you.

• Because today, we’re going to look at a question God is asking, and he’s asking every one of us this question, and we’re going to discover a big ol’ puzzle piece that we’ve been missing.

• If you have your Bible with you, I’d like you to open up to Genesis, chapter 4. Genesis 4, and we’re going to pick up where we left off last week.

• Actually, we’ll recap a bit, and then, we’ll see what happens next.

• Genesis 4, it’s the story of two brothers, Cain and Abel.

• Genesis 4:1-7

• Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. (And if you were here last week, you know what happens next.) 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Cain’s got an attitude problem, and he’s moping around.) 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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.”

• And right there is where we left off last week.

• We left off with Cain, struggling with his anger, fighting his fury.

• And now we get the rest of the story, listen to this, check this out,

• Genesis 4:8

• 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

• I know we talked about this last week, but when God says that sin is crouching at your door, and it’s desiring to have you, he knows what he’s talking about.

• Cain is so angry, so upset, so bitter, that, from everything we can read here, he commits pre-meditated murder.

• He’s consumed. His anger has devoured him.

• “Hey, why don’t we go for a walk? Just you and me.”

• And, and I want you to catch this. You’ve got to get this because this is where we really start to understand who Cain really is.

• Check this out. Think about this with me.

• Abel, he hasn’t done anything to Cain. He hasn’t harmed him, hasn’t stolen from him, hasn’t insulted him.

• Able just gave to God, generously. He wasn’t trying to one up his brother.

• But Cain is so self-focused, so self-centered, and we’re going to see this, that he doesn’t see Abel as innocent. He sees him as the competition.

• If it weren’t for Abel, his sacrifice would have been fine.

• If it weren’t for Abel, God wouldn’t be disappointed.

• If it weren’t for Abel, He wouldn’t be so angry.

• This is Abel’s fault.

• I feel bad, my life isn’t good, I’m not having fun, and it’s all his fault.

• Some of you have a brother or sister, and you know exactly what this is about.

• You know comparison game.

• If you were just more like your brother, if you were more like your sister.

• But this goes way beyond a little sibling rivalry.

• See for Cain, it’s all about him. It’s all about what will make him feel better, what will make him happy.

• He’s decided that he’s taking things into his own hands.

• What kind of person is so self-absorbed that they would kill their brother because they’d been unintentionally ‘one-upped’?

• Who does this sort of thing?

• Cain takes his brother on a walk. Out into the field, and he kills him.

• And what happens next not only reveals the flaw in Cain’s thinking, but he it also unpacks a whole bunch of insight for us.

• Check this out, here comes the questioning God. Here’s what God asks Cain, and it’s what he’s asking every one of us. Verse 9.

• Genesis 4:9

• 9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Remember, he’s not asking because he’s uninformed. He’s asking because we are. He wants us to understand something we don’t already know. So he asks, “Where is your brother?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

• Am I my brother’s keeper?

• How many of you have heard someone say this? Sure we have, right?

• Isn’t it interesting, the phrases that get ripped from the pages of the Bible and get used in popular culture?

• I mean, do people realize what they are saying? Do they realize they are quoting a murderer who is justifying his self-centered behavior?

• Did you know that this is the first record of someone asking God a question, and it’s not even a sincere question.

• He’s not really asking a question, he’s avoiding the truth. He’s defensive.

• And yet somehow this is something we’ve latched on to; a phrase our culture, people we know, maybe even you, use.

• Am I my brother’s keeper?

• You know why this is easy for us to grab on to? Check this out.

• You know why we don’t mind quoting a murderer?

• Because Cain’s question represents our perspective.

• Cain’s response to God reflects our attitude.

• Now maybe you say, “Hold on, wait a minute Brad, I haven’t killed anyone. How could this be me?”

• But I want you to catch this, and, hopefully, you won’t get up and walk out until I’m done, because, here’s the problem, there’s something wrong with you.

• There’s something wrong with me.

• There’s something wrong with every one of us.

• I want you to understand this, the human heart is so marred by sin, (and I know that word sin isn’t a popular word in our culture, bit it’s true, we’re all sinners.) We’re so messed up by sin, that when you pull back the curtain, you see that the ultimate expression of our broken sinful souls is a rugged individualism that abandons the needs of others and only cares about it’s own.

• In other words, we’re all Cain.

• We are all self-centered.

• We are all self-focused.

• Deep down, the default mode of the human heart is selfishness.

• It’s all about us.

• I’m only responsible for myself.

• We’ve got this big gapping hole in the picture we’re trying to put together, and we try to fill it by doing what WE want. Doing what WE think will work. By looking of for number…what? One. Right.

• We’re all Cain.

• Cain kills Abel. Strike one.

• Cain tells God he doesn’t know where Abel is. Strike two.

• Cain implies that he’s not responsible for his brother. Strike three.

• And look what happens next. Verse 10.

• Genesis 4:10

• 10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

• God says, “Cain, Listen to me. You have violated the very core of who I am and who I have created you to be.”

• “The denial of responsibility for your brother, the abandonment of another human being, this total self-absorption, it cries out to me! I can’t ignore this. Your brother’s blood cries out.”

• You might be able to ignore this Cain, but I can’t.

• This past week, I read about a man who was stabbed while defending a woman from a would be purse snatcher.

• The man died on the sidewalk, while more than 25 people walked by, indifferent.

• They just left him there, ignored him. Went on with their day.

• And God says, “You’re brother’s blood cries out to me.”

• Don’t you wonder, I know I do, but don’t you wonder how many times a day we walk past situations, or we ignore injustices, and God is cringing, saying, don’t do this. Don’t ignore this.

• Your brother’s blood cries out to me.

• And he continues.

• Genesis 4:11-12

• 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer (catch that, a restless wanderer) on the earth.”

• Cain, your denial of another human being, your participation in injustice, for the sake of your own well-being, for the sake of your own comfort, because of your self-centeredness, is leaving you a restless wanderer.

• You will live a disconnected, discontented, life. Verse 13

• Genesis 4:13

• 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. (I’m thinking, buddy, you’re not getting what you deserve. But he says, “My punishment is more than I can bear.)14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

• And I want you to catch something here. I want you to notice something about Cain. He still hasn’t changed.

• I mean, he’s sorry, right?

• But he’s sorry about the consequences.

• It’s like when my kids do something, and there are consequences, and they’re cool, everything is fine, until they hear the consequence, and then they’re like, “We’re sorry, Dad. We’re sorry. Please, don’t ground me, please don’t take my iPod away, please, I’ll do whatever.”

• I always want to ask them, “Why weren’t you that sorry before the consequences?”

• But I know why, because we’re all like Cain, and for Cain, it’s still about him. He’s still not getting it.

• Notice what he says, “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

• Wrong answer.

• It’s not about the punishment.

• It’s about the puzzle, and the missing pieces. And Cain, you are still trying to fill in the gaps with a piece that doesn’t fit.

• You’re still making this all about you.

• As I read and studied this over the past several days, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Cain would have turned his question into a statement.

• What would have been different, if when God asked, “Where is your brother?” Cain would have responded with, “I AM my brother’s keeper.”

• What would have happened, if, before they ever walked into the field, he would have realized, I AM my brother’s keeper.

• When he asked, evasively, of God, “Am I? Is that my responsibility? Should I be concerned about him?”

• The answer from God, to him, and to us is, YES.

• Yes, you are Cain.

• And yes you are church.

• See, that’s the point here today. You are your brother’s keeper.

• You ARE your brother’s keeper.

• You. Me. Every one of us.

• And you know that type of thinking is totally contradictory to how we’re wired, to what our culture tells us. It’s contradictory to the way we’re raised, it’s contradictory to things we see on TV, or the music we here on the radio.

• You’ve been fed a message of rugged individualism. An individualism that has influenced and shaped every aspects of your life.

• You’re competitive and angry and work, because you’re not getting your way. It’s about you.

• You’ve got relationships that are damaged and broken, because you made the relationship about you.

• You’ve got financial problems, because you made the money, about you.

• And you’ve hurt your mom and dad, because, it’s about you.

• Or you’ve got friends you won’t talk to.

• Or you’ve got a spouse whose heart is broken,

• All of this stuff is, because, I want you to understand this, when you look at a life that doesn’t feel quite right, or you start to feel like something is off, your first inclination, your first response is to make it about you, about your happiness, about what you want.

• Because everything in our world, everything in our culture says, that’s the way you do it.

• But the selfish cry of our sinful hearts and the individualistic emphasis of our culture can’t fill that space, and, I think you know that.

• God says, “Where’s you’re brother?”

• You ARE your brother’s keeper.

• And here’s the one thing I want you to get.

• Here’s the one thing, that if you’re sitting here, and you’re thinking, “Man, I’ve been trying to feel whole, trying to get this thing right”, here’s the principle, from this story, that I think will change everything for you.

• If you don’t remember anything else from today, except one thing, let it be this one thing.

A life lived for others is the only life worth living.

• A life, lived for others, is the only life, that’s worth living.

• As much as our culture, and hearts, tell us something different, we have to understand, that a life lived for others is the only life worth living.

• That’s why God’s heart breaks for Cain. “What have you done?”

• Because God knows, it’s in an others connected kind of life, that we find life.

• Think about it.

• The emphasis of the creation story is on what? It’s on relationship.

• And the New Testament, it’s filled with stories of people living in authentic relationship with one another.

• And then, we’re instructed to speak the truth in love, to confess to one another, to care for widows and orphans, and on and on and on.

• The point, is, that a life lived for others is the only life worth living.

• When Jesus was asked, what’s the greatest commandment, he said, two things. Love God with all you’ve got, and Love…Others.

• Even this week, if you do the reading plan in the life journal with us, then you read the words of Jesus, when said, (Matthew ______) that anyone who wishes to save his life, or, in other words, live life for their own purposes, will lose it, and anyone who loses his life for the sake of Jesus will save it.

• See the depth and commitment you have to others-centered living, will determine the quality and satisfaction of your life.

• Because, a life lived for others is the only life worth living.

• So, let me ask you question?

• Who are the other characters in your story, and how are living toward them?

• Where is your brother in the story of your life?

• Do you OWN the relationships in your life? Do you take real responsibility for the people you work with? For your the family you were born with? For the friends you hang out with? For the roommates you life with?

• Are you living to make the lives of others better, not just when it’s convenient to you, but when it’s best for them?

• Do you speak the truth in love to a friend who needs truth, and have those truthful conversations? Or, maybe even longing for them yourself?

• See, I think it’s real common for us to sit by, and not say anything to that person in our life that needs to hear something.

• Maybe you think, ‘who am I?’ or you think, ‘if I say something to them, then they’re going to have permission to call me on my issues, and I don’t want that.

• But you know what I wonder? I wonder if, when you and I don’t have that honest conversation with a buddy, or we don’t care for that friend, is the blood of that person crying out to God?

• I mean, maybe they aren’t dying in a physical sense. But, when they start sliding down that slippery slope, or when they start making bad choices, are we responsible?

• Am I my brother’s keeper?

• The answer is yes.

• So, “Where is your brother?”

• If you feel like something is missing in your life, then God is asking you.

• And it’s time to go deeper, to be more honest, to be more vulnerable, and discover the deep spiritual relationships he designed you for.

• It’s time to join the community.

• Have the talk, join the group, make the call, and start living others first.

• Maybe you’re doing it locally, and it’s time to do it globally.

• Is there an injustice that you’ve been ignoring. Something you’ve been walking past. Maybe your brother is halfway around the world, or living in South America.

• I don’t know.

• All I know is this, As much as I love my kids, and I started off by saying this, as much I like doing stuff with my kids, it pales in comparison to how much God loves you, and it’s nothing compared to how much he wants to you to join in him, in others first living.

• Ultimately, this is a trust thing.

• God has a grand plan for your life.

• In broad brush strokes, he’s painted a picture, and he wants you in it.

• You just have to trust, that when he says other’s first living is the only way you’ll fill that hole, he’s right.

• You just have to trust and say, “God, everything around me says live me first, but because you say that the only way to live is others first, then, that’s what I’m going to do.

• Let’s pray.