He tried to let it go but he couldn't stop thinking about it. Cain's anger burned within him. Why had his brother, Abel, received God’s favor and he hadn’t? It wasn’t fair. When Cain’s mind lingered on thoughts of harming his brother, he didn’t try to stop it.
Then the Lord confronted him:
"Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it." —Genesis 4:6-7
Sin was crouching at Cain’s door. He could let it in and be devoured or he could keep the door bolted. The same is true for us. Whether we open the door depends on what we believe about sin.
The Devastation of Sin
The Lord warns Cain of the devastating effects of sin, which he refers to as a ravaging animal waiting for its opportunity to pounce. Sin's desire is like the longing of a predator for its prey. If Cain does not repent of his evil thoughts, the crouching animal will devour him.
"Nothing about sin is its own; all its power, persistence, and plausibility are stolen goods. Sin is not really an entity but a spoiler of entities, not an organism but a leech on organisms," says Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Like a rip in our jeans, sin is merely the tearing of something good. Or as C.S. Lewis writes, “Badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good before it can be spoiled."
God created everything and declared it good. When sin entered the world, it was not a new creation but a perversion of God's good design. God gives us food but we turn into gluttons. He gives us sex but we turn to adultery and lust. Relationships become abusive, codependent, or manipulative; material blessings devolve into greed; passion turns to uncontrolled anger.
Sin perverts God’s good gifts. While promising to fulfill us, our sin instead leaves a wake of devastation.
The Subtlety of Sin
"To do its worst, evil needs to look its best,” Plantinga, Jr. says. Satan doesn't come to us with horns and a pitchfork lest we recognize him for who he is. Rather, he "disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).
Our sin disguises itself as good and only asks for small compromises. Just one more glance, one more “harmless” flirt, one white lie, or one more high. Inch by inch, our sin leads us down a path of destruction.
It doesn't require big steps. The small steps are much easier to justify. However, a thousand small steps will lead you into the same dark pit as a few big steps. Don’t let the subtlety of sin deceive you into believing your sin is “no big deal.”
Sin is crouching at your door. And it won’t settle until you are devoured—or until you decide to rule over it.
Repent Before Sin Devours You
Slowly but surely, Cain's jealousy led him down the dark road to murder. The Lord graciously confronted him and warned him of sin, the wild animal ready to devour him. It wasn't too late for Cain; there was still time to repent.
But he didn't. He gave opened the door to sin and the predator devoured him. Icy sin coursed through his veins, freezing his heart until he murdered his brother Abel in cold blood.
"Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden" (Gen. 4:16). Instead of fulfilling him, sin separated Cain from the Lord’s fulfilling presence. Instead of bringing Cain joy and satisfaction, sin isolated him from the Giver of joy, severing his connection to what is good and beautiful.
Like Cain, we must beware the danger lurking within us. Our sinful hearts cannot be trusted (Jer. 17:9). The distance between our thoughts and our actions is closer than we think. Sinful thoughts nudge us into sinful actions before we realize what's happening. The familiar quote, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay," comes to mind.
But the good news is that God's grace is greater than sin’s power. Take God’s advice to Cain: repent of your sin before it destroys you. Take every thought captive lest it lead you down a dark path (2 Cor. 10:5-6). If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matt. 5:30; Mark 9:43).
Grace is Greater Still
After David was confronted with his sin, he cried out to the Lord, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow . . . hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities” (Ps. 51:7,9). David’s sin was great but the Lord’s grace was greater still. This triumphant grace is lavished upon the broken and repentant, or as David says, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
God sent his Son to bear his wrath and free his children from the bondage of sin, and to set us on the path of life. Because God’s justice against our sin was satisfied on the cross, we are given this wonderful promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God delivers those who cry out in genuine repentance and faith. Yes, the crouching at your door is ferocious and wants to devour you. But as devoted as sin is to your destruction, God is even more devoted to the good of those who trust him.
Don’t Let Sin Have the Last Word
Don’t go the way of Cain. Instead, follow the path of Abel: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).
What gift did Abel offer God? The firstborn of his flock of sheep, yes. But what he truly gave the Lord was his faith. And because of his faith, he still speaks today.
Sin may be crouched outside your door like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) but there is a greater lion still—the risen Lord Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. And this Lion rules over all (Rev. 5:5).
Don’t let sin have the last word. Rule over it through faith in the Greater Lion.
James Williams has served as an Associate Pastor at FBC Atlanta, TX since 2013. He is married to Jenny and they have three children and are actively involved in foster care. He is in the dissertation stage of a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. You can follow James Twitter or his blog where he writes regularly.