Christianity 201

August 2, 2021

Marked as a Child of God

Genesis.4.1b.NLT When [Eve] gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

A year ago we introduced you to Chuck Griffin who is the LifeTalk editor and one of the writers of Methodist Life a devotional.

This introduces an idea that was new to me, that as a child of God, we also have a mark of protection, as did Cain, though for different reasons. Read the devotional here or through the link in the header which follows, and see what you think!

Marked for Life

Today’s text: Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the story…, God sentences Cain to the life of a homeless wanderer for killing his brother, Abel.

“Anyone who finds me will kill me!” Cain declares. By some mysterious method, God marks Cain in response to this expression of fear.

In the English language, saying a person has “the mark of Cain” is pejorative, and the story has been used foolishly to justify all sorts of ill treatment of people, including race-based slavery. Cain’s mark was really a blessing, shielding him from violence by others.

Whatever it was that made Cain stand out to those who would do him harm, the mark amounted to undeserved protection from God. We certainly should classify the mark as God’s mercy, and in a way, perhaps it even represents grace, an act of love offered by God to one who has grievously sinned.

We are all sinners, meaning we all deserve death. We all should hope to be similarly marked so we can be protected from what we deserve.

And in fact, it is easy to receive a protective mark, one far better than Cain could have imagined. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God marks us as his. We can think of baptism and confirmation as opportunities to formally accept the mark, which reads “Child of God.”

It also is easier than we might initially think to show our mark to others. As the Holy Spirit works within us, our lives should become signs of the presence of God’s kingdom.

Any time you show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control to others, your mark is showing.

Lord, make us wholly yours, and may your Holy Spirit continue to seal us and keep us from the works of the evil one. Amen.


July 17, 2016

Who are the children of God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Children of God•••by Russell Young

Many esteem themselves to be children of God.  Being such allows a person right to all of the privileges that belong to a son, including the inheritance that God has provided for his children.  Paul wrote: “You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed (put on as sinking into a garment) yourself with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27, NIV) This passage identifies that “marking” by the Spirit of the one who has made a confession of faith.  Since they have been baptized through confession and through water, they have been clothed with Christ through his Spirit. The redeemed person must remain clothed with Christ, however. (Jn 15:4, 5, 7, 10)

John has identified a son in a different way. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) John has made a distinction between those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil.  This distinction is presented as being based upon a person’s doing.  According to John the person who is a child of God must do what is right.  Many make the claim that they are a child of God because of a confession that they had once made.  The distinction between ‘doing right’ and ‘confessing faith’ needs to be made clear.

The believer becomes a child of God through faith-persuasion that God exists and is able to reward those who diligently seek him-but his faith may not last.  The Lord requires faith expressed through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) to the end (Mt 10:22), and stated that the Father would cut out those who do not bear fruit. (John 15:1) A son does the will of the Father and is obedient to Christ throughout his lifetime.

The Lord taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV) The son does not sin.  He will honour the Father’s provision to gain victory over it through obedience to the Spirit.  In another place Paul, who had recorded that sonship was achieved by faith, stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14, NIV)

The sonship achieved through the marking of the Spirit must be proven through the believer’s walk if his or her state is to become permanent and if he or she is to be adopted as his child, a position for which they are waiting (Rom 8:23).  Paul has recognized the distress that God’s children (and all of creation) feel in this world as they wait for their adoption to be realized.

A person’s walk in the Spirit identifies him or her as a child of God. They have learned to walk as Jesus did (1 Jn 2:6), and they have been conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29).  They have the characteristics of the parent, the Father. Paul has written, “For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Further, he has listed that neither fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, etc. will inherit the kingdom. ” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Those who practice such are not sons but are slaves to sin because he has provided all that is necessary to avoid it; their place in the family will not be permanent. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 Jn 5:18, NIV)

In his revelation the Lord said, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7, NIV) It is the one who prevails over sin or who gets the victory who will be a child of God.

Who are the children of God?  They are the ones who have humbled themselves before God and have accepted the lordship of Christ in their lives.  They have obeyed him and have overcome the world and the evil one, and have been conformed to the likeness of Christ.  Their practice has been to live righteously and to defeat evil through the power of the Spirit.  Their old self has had to be put to death so that Christ has become their life.

The believer is not to be cavalier about the honour of sonship offered him or her but must be prepared to work it out with fear and trembling. The plan of God is to have a royal priesthood, a holy kingdom, children who have become a fit sacrifice for his presence (Rom 15:16).    Those who have given in to the sinful nature will not be adopted as his children and will be separated from him forever. (Mt 13:41)


June 15, 2010

If I Could Sit With You

This is from the blog, 300 Words a Day by Jon Swanson

If I could sit with you, I would tell you that sometimes we can hear God talking and sometimes we can’t. I would tell you that when we hear him talking, you don’t actually hear anything with your ears. I would tell you that you hear it anyway, that is probably isn’t an essay, it’s probably just a couple words. But you know when it’s God.

If I could sit with you, you would ask me how you know for sure. Because, you would say, all the time you have thoughts that you think could be God talking, but you want to be sure they aren’t wishful thinking. Especially when those thoughts are telling you how stupid you are. Especially when those thoughts are too convenient and fun.

Then I would tell you about a shepherd, one that never calls sheep stupid.

Think about a shepherd who spends time around his sheep, talking enough that they know his voice enough to recognize it. They have heard that voice talking to the sheep around them. They have heard that voice talking to assistant shepherds. They have heard that voice talking to them, calling them by name.

How would a sheep be confident about the voice of the shepherd? By knowing that there are strangers who wander by. By knowing that there are hired hands who don’t really care. By knowing that it is important to listen. By spending as much time listening to that voice as possible, listening for tone of voice, for topics, for style of talking, for consistent concern with sheep welfare.

Then I would ask how much time you and I spend actually listening, reading letters, reading stories, being open to hear. We may not hear much, but we will hear more clearly than if we never listen.