How’s That Working Out for You?
(Working Your Way to Heaven, Part Two)
As we saw in Part 1 of “Working Your Way to Heaven,” there is one way of worship that God accepts—and many ways He doesn’t.
“One Way” is more than just a catch-phrase, a slogan, or a finger pointed heavenward. There’s but one way to be accepted into God’s presence—into His kingdom, His family. “One Way” to spend eternity with Him. That way is the way of the Cross.
The hymn writer said, “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.”
Indeed, only the Cross will lead you “home.” Every other way leads to destruction. We know this because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said so.
1. Before we return to the account of Cain and his brother Abel in the early years after Creation, first turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 7.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to ___________, and ________there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and ______ is the way, which leadeth unto life, and _______ there be that find it.
a. Who is speaking?
b. Who is the audience? (see Matthew 5:1)
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew contain what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Just before, Jesus has been tempted (chapter 4) by Satan in the wilderness. Afterward, He returns to Capernaum and begins to assemble the 12 men who became His disciples. Then He begins teaching.
c. Where in chapter 4 does His teaching ministry begin?
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 record foundational teaching from our Lord. Note that the Son of God makes it clear in the verses above (Matthew 7:13-14) that becoming a member of God’s family—being saved, having your sins forgiven—is not something you just stumble upon…or invent yourself, as Cain tried—and as most unsaved people are trying to do today.
2. Turn to John 14:6. Who will qualify to enter heaven without needing to go through Jesus Christ?
3. Turn back a few pages to John 10 and read verses 1 through 15.
a. Who is speaking?
b. How many times does He use the word “door” in verses 1-15?
It’s been said, “If God uses a word one time, we should pay attention. If He uses it twice, we really should pay attention.” “Door” is used here more than twice!
c. Clearly, Who is the door?
d. If you don’t enter by way of the door, how else are you going to get in?
e. (v. 9) “I am the door: ____ ____ if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Express in your own words what Jesus means by this.
f. If you decide you won’t use the door, you’re coming in by breaking a window, breaking out a wall…what sort of person does this kind of thing? (Jesus mentions him in v. 10)
Throughout this passage, Jesus uses a word picture so familiar to his listeners: sheep safely in their sheepfold. The image would resonate well with them.
h. In this scene, who is Jesus? (v. 14)
i. What price did He pay to become this for us? (verses 11 and 15)
God has made nothing more plain in His Word than this: to gain access to God, to receive forgiveness of sins, to be admitted into His heaven, you must come by way of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not just in these New Testament passages, not just in Jesus’ own words, but throughout the Bible.
Since “one way” is so clear, this reminds us there were two different ways Cain and Abel made their approach to God, as presented in Part One. (If you have not taken that study, you may want to go back and do that now.)
You say, “Fine for us to understand this now…we have the New Testament! Poor Cain and Abel—they didn’t.”
In Part One, we saw that Abel didn’t need the New Testament—and neither did Cain. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel understood this by faith, and if this knowledge was available to Abel, God—who “is no respecter of persons”—would have made it available to Cain.
Somehow we get the idea that Cain and Abel were a couple of country bumpkins, out there plowing up the ground with a stick, herding around a bunch of sheep. One day, they just sort of sauntered into the presence of God and tried to worship Him.
No, Hebrews 11:4 says Abel worshiped God by faith. And in order to have faith, he had to have the Word of God. In Luke 11:49 Jesus Himself declared Abel to be one of the prophets. (We examined this in Part One.) Abel understood the blood atonement. He may not have understood it as you and I now understand it, standing this side of Calvary, but he was a man of God. He was one of the Old Testament prophets pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Blood Atonement is a principle that starts in the book of Genesis and goes all the way to the book of Revelation. If you cut the Bible anywhere, it will bleed! The red river of redemption runs throughout Scripture. It welled up in the Garden of Eden and flowed past its gates.
BLOOD IN THE GARDEN
4. Turn to Genesis 3, The Fall of Man.
Once we had disobeyed God and sinned, the first death in Creation came immediately.
(Verse 21) After man fell, God made clothing for Adam and Eve. What did He use?
5. When God made coats of skin for Adam and Eve, an innocent animal had to be sacrificed. What great principle was God teaching right there in the dawn of civilization?
Remember Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin.”
Then in Genesis 4, Abel comes to worship the Lord, bringing a pure, spotless lamb, continuing in the same idea. God received Abel's offering.
THE FLOOD AND THE BLOOD
6. Continuing into the Old Testament, centuries have now passed and men have sunk deeper and deeper into sin. Turn to Genesis 8.
19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
20 And Noah builded an _______ unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered ______ ______on the altar.
21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
Every living thing on the Ark, and Noah and his family, are now leaving the Ark after the Flood.
a. What is the first thing Noah does when he emerges from the Ark?
b. How do we know that his offering was clearly acceptable to God?
Though centuries have come and gone, and even though God has judged and purged the world with a flood, still the Bible teaches, “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin.”
BLOOD ON MT. MORIAH
Turn to Genesis 22, the famous account of Abraham walking up Mount Moriah with Isaac, prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. What an illustration!
Some people would accuse God of cruelty here. But there is no more sacred picture in all the Bible than Abraham on Mount Moriah, ready to sacrifice Isaac.
7. What did the Angel of the Lord say to Abraham?
b. What advance preparations had God made for Abraham and Isaac?
No death for Abraham—no death for Isaac—but sins were paid for—by blood.
The ram God provided is a picture of the coming sacrificial lamb, the Lord Jesus. No wonder Jesus said to the Jewish leaders in John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
“Abraham saw My day. Abraham saw Me.”
The Bible says the gospel was preached to Abraham, and there was a blood atonement, for “without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins.”
BLOOD ON THE DOORPOSTS
Come forward many centuries again to Passover night. The Jews now become a nation, preparing to come out of Egypt.
8. Turn to Exodus 12.
a. v. 7: “And they shall take of the ______, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses,”
b. When that blood is seen, what is God going to do? (v. 13)
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, ____________, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
As they strike it on the lentils and on the doorposts, it forms the cross in blood.
- Had they put rubies, diamonds, emeralds and all kinds of precious things upon those doorposts instead of the blood, the angel would have come in and slain the firstborn.
- Had they written beautiful poetry and tacked it upon the door, the death angel would have come in.
- Had they taken a precious, spotless, lamb and set that lamb before their door without killing that lamb, the death angel would have come in. For “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin.”
BLOOD ON THE ALTARS
As God establishes His people Israel as a nation, the levitical sacrifices come, and the red river of redemption continues to flow. In these Old Testament sacrifices, God was building into the hearts and minds of His people that sin means death.
All those levitical sacrifices are mere shadows pointing to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. (See Part One for an explanation of “shadows.”) Again, we see a shadow.
- Romans 6:23—”The wages of sin is _______.”
- Ezekiel 18:4 and 20—”The soul that sinneth, it shall surely _____.”
- Hebrews 10:4—”It is ______ that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.”
Then, one momentous day, John the Baptist stepped from the banks of the River Jordan and saw the precious Savior, Jesus, coming. John pointed to Him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
There's no real power and substance in a shadow, but we're living now at high noon, and God is pouring all of His light upon the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God! Look at Jesus, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES
For Cain and Abel, their choices brought consequences. God received Abel’s blood offering; he didn’t receive Cain’s bloodless offering.
The difference between the religion of Cain and the religion of Abel is the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness, acceptability and unacceptability. It is, therefore, the difference between heaven and hell. The consequences are that one of these men went to heaven and the other went to hell.
You say, “Now, wait a minute. Why couldn't God just say, ‘Now, Cain, I'll have to admit that you didn't do it exactly the way I wanted, and there's no blood sacrifice here, but Cain, I'm going to accept you anyway.’ Why couldn't God do it that way?”
God's holiness would not allow him to overlook Cain's sin. You see, God must judge sin. God's righteous judgment, God's holiness, God's integrity say that sin must be punished.
9. Turn to Romans 3:23
a. “For ____ have _______ and come ______ of the glory of God.”
Beginning with Cain and Abel (and their parents Adam and Eve), this is true of all people who have ever lived. It's true of you. It's true of me. We're sinners by birth, by nature, by choice, by practice—sinners under judgment.
b. Continue to verse 24: “Being justified (that means being made right with God) freely by His grace (that means without earning it, without working for it, without buying it, without deserving it), through the _______that is in Christ Jesus.”
The only way you can receive grace is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. At the cross we were redeemed.
c. Verse 25:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a _______ through faith in His ______ to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are passed through the forbearance of God.”
We are talking about the blood atonement.
|A CLOSER LOOK AT PROPITIATION
Propitiation is a mouthful. It means “a satisfaction.”
This means that God has a holy law, and that law cannot be overlooked. God never has, God never can, God never will let one half of one sin go unpunished.
If God were to let one half of one sin go unpunished, God would cease to be a holy God. God would topple from His throne of holiness. I've said it before that when a guilty man is acquitted, the judge is condemned. If God ever lets a sinner go unpunished, God Himself becomes a sinner. Such a thing is unthinkable. God has sworn by His holiness that sin will be punished. His righteous law must be satisfied. What meets the satisfaction of God's law is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ—His death upon the cross.
d. Having read this, how confident are you right now that you can, through your own good works, work your way into heaven?
The Bible says Jesus is the propitiation, the satisfaction for our sins.
e. Verse 26. (still in Romans 3)
“To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”
Put a star by that in your Bible.
- Who is justified before God?
- Who is the just judge?
- Who is the One providing our justification before a holy God?
Because of the cross, God can be both just and the justifier of those that believe in Jesus.
If God were to forgive us without the cross, He'd be the justifier, but He wouldn't be just. He wouldn't be just because He would be overlooking sin.
But, on the other hand, if God were to give us what we deserve… we’d go to hell.
[Some people say, “Well, you know, I just hope God will give me what I deserve.” I hope He doesn't give me what I deserve!]
If God just simply justified me at no cost, He wouldn't be just anymore. He would have overlooked my sin.
In the Cross, God can be just and the One who justifies us. The cross is God's way where Jesus took my place and all of my sin, shame, blame, and unworthiness.
“Him who knew no sin, God hath made to be sin for me.” (1 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus, God's Lamb, took my sin to the cross. There He bowed His head and said, “It is finished!” (“paid in full”) God’s righteous demands have been satisfied. He is the propitiation. He is the satisfaction for my sin.
STILL A PROPHET!
Abel was murdered, but the Bible says in Hebrews 11:4
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Death to the child of God is not a period; it is a comma. We leave behind all that we have and we take with us all that we are.
And all that you are is what you are in the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE WAY OF CAIN vs. THE WAY OF THE CROSS.
There are but two ways. Which way you going?
- The Bible says, “Woe unto them, for they have gone the way of Cain.”
- From the dawn of civilization, God continued to teach, “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin.”
Now, I know there are some reading this who still don't believe it. You believe in culture rather that Calvary. You're going to bring your herbs, your fruits, your flowers. You're going to bring your ingenuity. You're going to bring your good deeds. You're going to bring your Golden Rule. You're going to bring it all, and you're going to say, “Now, God, look and see what a good boy I am.”
But God is not impressed. The Bible says, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
You won’t be a boaster when you get to heaven. You're going to give Him all the glory.
If you were to start with Cain and Abel and take all the best men that ever lived, and you were to extract from those best men the finest qualities of their lives and put them all into one man—that one man would have to bow at the feet of Jesus Christ by faith in His shed blood in order to get to heaven.
There is no salvation apart from the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Put it down big, plain, and straight,
“Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin!” Hebrews 9:22
You say, “I don't agree with that.”
“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Why do you think God put this story of Cain and Abel in the Bible? You can try culture if you want. You can try works. You can bring the fruit of your hands if you want. But the Bible says, “Woe unto them, they have gone the way of Cain.”
“I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this.
I shall ne’er catch sight of the gates of life
If the way of the cross I miss.
The Way of the Cross leads home.”
At the end of this teaching, Dr. Rogers had a specific message regarding false religion and the “tolerance”—or perhap intolerance—running rampant in our time. His thoughts are all the more remarkable, given the early date of the preaching of this message.
If you want to see what he said, please see our latest article on OnePlace