By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, NKJV)
Vital teaching is given here on the nature of faith and worship that is “by faith.” First, we learn what is evident from Cain and Abel; not all worship pleases God (Gen. 4:4-5). Why? Because not all worship is “by faith.” Faith results from hearing God’s word and following it (Rom. 10:17). Abel did that, but Cain did not. Like Abel, we must hear and follow God’s word concerning acceptable worship. Otherwise, we follow Cain’s path of worthless, faithless worship. Second, God testified Abel was righteous based on his gifts. God said Abel’s “by faith” worship pleased Him (cf. Heb. 11:6). The question for us is, “Who is bearing witness that our worship is by faith and pleasing to God?” We can rule out our personal feelings. Cain felt his worship was good (see his angry reaction, Gen. 4:5). Acceptable worship is not defined by how a person feels about it, or by how he feels when he offers it. Billions of souls feel their worship pleases God, yet that does not make it so (Prov. 14:12). God’s word testifies that worship in spirit and truth is “by faith” (Jno. 4:23-24). All other worship, by definition, is not by faith. What is God testifying about the gifts we bring Him? Are they “by faith,” or are they faithless?
12 “But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord.” (Malachi 1:12–13, NKJV)
When will man learn that acceptable worship of God is not defined and determined by what man chooses to offer God, but by what God says will be please Him? Ancient Israel corrupted the table of the Lord by failing to carefully offer Him sacrifices according to His law. They brought defective offerings before Him, and sneered with contempt at the commanded sacrifices (Deuteronomy 15:21). God heard their complaints, and rejected their contemptible, faithless offerings. Surely, we must learn that our worship will only please God when it is “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God rejects defective worship today, even as He did then. God will not accept attempts to worship Him that fail to conform to the worship taught and approved in the new covenant of Christ. True worship does not become “a weariness” and “contemptible” to true worshipers (John 4:23). Let us approach God with reverential honor, and never grow weary of offering Him the worship He commands – and is due (Malachi 1:6).
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8–10, NKJV)
Christians know that what pleases the Lord also brings joy and fulfillment in life. They “walk as children of light,” choosing the joy and confidence faithful living brings. You see, you do not have to sin in order to enjoy life. That is the devil’s lie. The path of sin may bring you momentary pleasure, but it always leads to spiritual darkness and eternal death. On the other hand, a life lived in goodness, righteousness and truth has God’s approval, and shows God’s light to the world. You get to choose whether to enjoy life in the joyful fulfillment of God’s approval, or to live in the darkness of sin and death. You must change your way of thinking in order to change from living in darkness to light. Faithful living results from transforming the way you think. Instead of thinking that sin is the way to happiness, think the way God thinks. Live in the light of truth, and show “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). Nothing is more fulfilling and joyful than knowing God accepts you. That assurance is real to all who “walk as children of light.”
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2, NKJV)
We all fashion ourselves after something or someone. Some set of values, someone we admire, or some goal to which we aspire. The Christian makes a conscious decision not to assimilate the thinking, values and goals of the world – that system of evil that is in opposition to God. Now converted to Christ, a change occurs – a metamorphosis – that is visible and recognizable. This transformation must begin in the mind, for that is the seat of all that we are. Rather than doing those things that offend God, we live for His approval. His full or “perfect will” is set before us in His Scriptures, and there we go to learn what is “good and acceptable” before Him. Renew your mind, your thinking, so that in your life will be the light of the world and please your heavenly Father (Matt. 5:14-16).
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:8-13)
Christians are “light in the Lord”. We do not live in the shadowy recesses of sin and shame. This passages calls us to the following actions: 1) Walk as children of light. Goodness, righteousness and truth are “acceptable to the Lord” and is the fruit our life must bear. 2) Have no fellowship with sin. To practice, teach, endorse or otherwise approve of sin and those who practice it puts one in fellowship with sin. 3) Reprove the works of darkness (sin). That is, expose sin for what it is; shameful before God and those who love God. Do not approve it. Do not be entertained by it. Do not compromise with it. Stand up against sin and call the lost to repentance. You were once in sin’s darkness, too. Now, you are a child of light. Live like it every day.