[Editor’s Note: This has been adapted from Paul Tripp’s Christmas devotional, “Advent: The Whole Story.” Download your free copy today at www.PaulTripp.com/Advent.]
Could you get any more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these? “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, ESV).
It’s clear from Genesis 6:5, and it’s clear if you watch the news today, that something is deeply broken with the human race. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible would agree that something is wrong and people need help. But how do we fix the problem?
There are two commons lies that we all believe. The first is this: “I’m one of the good guys.” It’s easy to read Genesis 6:5, and it’s easy to watch the news, and remove ourselves from the problem. “I’m not as wicked as those other people. And look at my track record – I have a long list of helping people and doing good!”
For the Christian, there is some truth to that logic. Because of the sacrifice of Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of sin in your life has been broken. That means you now have the ability to reject wickedness. You do have pure thoughts, pure motives, and pure intentions. In some ways, you are exempt from the diagnosis of Genesis 6:5.
But you must always remember that your purity is a result of grace, not the natural condition of your own heart. You must also remember that while the power of sin has been broken, the presence of sin remains. And so while you are positionally righteous before God, your corrupt heart still commits sinful deeds, and your intentions are certainly not pure all the time. If I can be so bold, you are still part of the problem.
There’s a second lie we believe: behavior reform will clean up the mess. In other words, we often think that all our world needs is a harsher justice system, a little faster police response, and a new election to replace corrupt politicians.
Again, there’s some truth to this. God established law and order for the health of mankind, but the Bible never once proposes that the lasting solution for the human condition is more law. No, the Bible teaches that what humanity needs is radical heart change.
All throughout Scripture – and you see it there in Genesis 6:5 – the Bible teaches that “the heart” is inherently evil and needs replacing. You and I can’t change our own heart, nor can any law or institution put in place by man. The only way you and I will be rescued is by a transformed heart, created in us by God (Psalm 51:10).
This Advent season, celebrate the work of the Messiah and the new heart you have (Ezekiel 36:26) because of his birth, death, and resurrection. But remember, you still wrestle with the presence of sin in your life. You’re not yet exempt from the diagnosis of Genesis 6:5, and what you need most is not a set of rules and regulations to fix you. What you need is a soft and humble heart that’s captured everyday by a love for the Lord.
Paul David Tripp
Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit www.paultripp.com.
- How is your world similar to the world of Genesis 6:5?
- How should you respond to the corruption of humanity?
- Why is it tempting to think of yourself as a “good person”?
- Where have you given empirical evidence that you’re heart is still corrupt?
- How can you participate in God’s work of cleansing your heart?
(HINT: read Psalm 51 and examine David’s response)