Friday, August 22, 2014

Self-Help = The Way of Cain

Image of Melody Beattie
Melody Beattie:
Leading Name in "Self-Help"
Self-help books, ministries, seminars, and speakers abound in our times.
What is going on?

Why are so many helpless, or needing help?

In these modern times, which are actually quite backwards, men  and governments have rejected God, they have rejected the goodness of God, the grace of God in Christ.

Even the most morally bankrupted of kings recognize that their reign depended on the grace of God, not the will of men, and even if they did not rest in the truth of the Word of God, no one could run away from the truth of God's grace in the lives of men.

There is no help in a man's own efforts.

Man needs life, not just help:

"15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2: 15-17)

Yet man did eat for the tree, and all of Creation fell with Adam.

Nevertheless, the plan for redemption was already in place:

"15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3: 15)

and then

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11: 9)


"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." (Isaiah 55: 3)

and then

"For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them." (Isaiah 61: 8)

Man does not help, but needs a full cleansing and new life. Man does not need someone or something to make his life better. He needs life:

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10)

We have this life through the gift of righteousness, granted to us because Jesus became sin in our stead (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5: 21)

This righteousness cannot be earned as a gift. Cannot.

There is no improvement in ourselves. We need a new life, we need a perfect ransom, we need restoration granted to us from outside.

Self-help indeed is no help at all:

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16: 25)

The Message translation brings out the fact that we cannot save ourselves:

"Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."

Keeping in mind that Jesus spoke these words while operating under the Old Covenant, we must confront the truth that man does not have "a self"  or a life to give:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2: 4-6)


"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" (Colossians 2: 13)

If you are dead, you cannot help yourself.

For this reason, the writer of Hebrews talks about repentance from dead works:

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9: 14)

Notice that our conscience is purged by the blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God whose blood speaks better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12: 24)

God Accepts Abel's Sacrifice
Now, we can  understand the woeful evil of "The Way of Cain":

"Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11)

The way of Cain does not refer to murder, since way implies a mindset or attitude, not one action.

Bearing in mind the full context of 1 John 2, where Cain's actions were labeled unrighteousness, we can recognize that the way of Cain refers to the sacrifice which he offered to God:

"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4: 3-5)

Abel offered a lamb, a picture of the perfect sacrifice of God's Son. Cain offered "of the fruit of the ground". Not even the first-fruits, Cain offered something from his efforts, from the sweat of his brow, from a source which God had cursed at that time:

"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;" (Genesis 3: 17)

Man was cursed, and the ground was cursed, and yet Cain presented a sacrifice to God which suggested that there was no sin problem, as though God would award his efforts.

In the same fashion, the modern self-help movement has given rise to the defeated and frustrating folly that man is basically good, but he needs a little help here and there.

For years, even I was carried away with this dissimulation, reading my Bible, then reading self-help books to give me advice on how to live.

We do not need the counsel of the ungodly, but rather we meditate, live on the Word of God, and He causes us to prosper in all that we do (Psalm 1: 1-3)

Man does not need help, he needs everything, for man is beyond help, but dead in his trespasses. The deeper perversion of self-help programs is the lie that man just needs to try a little harder, work a little more, and then he can make himself a little better. The result? Man finds intractable problems and perversions in his flesh, and still no respite to overcoming.

Why do so many Christians struggle? They are trying to overcome when in Christ we have already overcome:

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4: 4)

and then

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5: 4)

Notice that John writes that what is born of God. We cannot bear ourselves, nor can we remake ourselves. This life must come from above and into us:

"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (John 3: 4)

Nicodemus was at least humble enough to ask, while today, many Christians and religious sects dispense with the hard reality that man needs to be reborn, taken from dead in his trespasses to alive and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6)

There is no self-help in that.

Self-help, ironically, has made many people helpless all the more, looking at themselves and their circumstances, trying to fix the problems in their lives, when it is the unmerited grace of God which brings us life an power and victory into all facets of our walk in Christ.

When the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians, they cried out because of their bondage.

Imagine if they were slaves today, surrounded with the self-culture which tells men and women to keep trying to improve their situation. Most of those Israelites would have died out before seeing any liberty in their lives.

In the same fashion, many Christians, who have subscribed to the way of Cain, the way of self-improvement through man's efforts, find themselves failing over and over, not getting any traction or gaining any ground in their fight.

Why would it be otherwise? We are called to one fight, and one only:

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6: 12)

There is no helping ourselves. We need life, we require His perfect peace, not our imperfect attempts to piece together something for ourselves.

Rest in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ today, and let the blood of Jesus speak better things than the Blood of Abel: forgiveness, redemption, favor!

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