“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).
Could you get any more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words? All over the inhabited earth were people who were constantly doing evil in the sight of God, and every intention of the thought of their heart was wicked. You couldn’t find a pure person with a pure motive.
Genesis 6 doesn’t go into gritty detail about what kind of wicked deeds were being committed, but you could guess. Every act of murder and violence is rooted in a wicked heart; every moment of financial greed is rooted in a wicked heart; every bit of disobedience to authority is rooted in a wicked heart; every lustful flash of adultery is rooted in a wicked heart.
Maybe you never killed someone. Maybe you never beat someone up on the street. Maybe you’ve been more generous than most in your church with your resources. Maybe you never committed adultery on your spouse. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m one of the good guys. I’m not defined by this verse.”
For the believer, the power of sin has been broken, so in many ways, your life isn’t defined by this verse. You’re not in bondage to this type of wickedness, and you do live righteously and serve God with a pure heart.
At the same time, however, the presence of sin still remains. A war rages on the turf of your heart everyday. There are times when you love God more than yourself, but not always. There are times when you sacrifice in love for your spouse, but not always. There are times when you are generous with your resources, but not always. There are times when you speak from a pure heart, but not always.
Think again about the world described in Genesis 6:5. It’s a scary place! It wouldn’t be safe to walk around your neighborhood; it wouldn’t be safe to trust the government; it wouldn’t be safe to invest your money in banks or stocks. You would be surrounded by wickedness at every turn.
So what’s the solution? Here’s the trap that you and I fall into all the time. We think that with a little bit of behaviour reform, we can clean things up. So maybe all Genesis 6:5 needs is a police force that locks up criminals quicker. Maybe all Genesis 6:5 needs is a new election that replaces corrupt politicians with new ones. Maybe all Genesis 6:5 needs is little bit of bank reform.
The Bible doesn’t propose that. All throughout Scripture, our big problem is a heart problem. That’s why Genesis 6:5 uses the word heart. The heart is the control center of the human being. Whatever controls my heart will then control my behavior. A temporary solution might be to alter my words and my behavior, but permanent change will only travel through the pathway of the heart.
The only way the world of Genesis 6:5 will be cleaned up is with a new heart. And the only way you and I will be rescued is by a transformed heart. Someone needs to do for me what I could never do for myself – create in me a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).
God did just that. In love, the Father sent his Son to be exposed to all the harsh realities of life in a fallen world, but to live perfectly in the midst of that brokenness and temptation. In every thought and every desire and every word and every action, Christ obeyed perfectly on our behalf. He died a satisfactory death and paid the eternal penalty for our sin.
The Cross satisfied the wrath of God and sealed the promise of eternal life. But it also gave me a new heart. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can now live for Jesus. “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). That’s what Christmas is all about.
This Advent season, celebrate the work of the Messiah and the new life you have because of him. But remember, you still wrestle with an impure heart. You don’t need behavior reform. You need a soft and humble heart is that is captured everyday by a love for God and his kingdom.
Paul David Tripp