Advent: A Love Story
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. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5)
Perhaps even more shocking is the profoundly personal nature of the verse, describing such divine heartbreak. Can you imagine tears streaming from the Creator as he surveys the creatures he so lovingly designed, plunging the world into chaos driven by selfish pursuit of pleasure?
What could be so significant to evoke a response like this from the Father of the children of the world? A personal betrayal of relational love.
Whether you know it or not, all of us are lovers; God hardwired us to love. Everything we do, have done, and will do in our life is motivated by love.
Our first and only love was meant to be for our Creator. Jesus says that the great and first commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36).
Out of that love for God comes obedience to the rest of his commands. Because we love God the lawgiver, we find joy in staying within his boundaries.
But something horrible happened. After the Fall, a seductive, powerful, and deceptive love replaced the love we were meant to have exclusively for God: the love of self.
When we choose to love ourselves, it becomes very easy for us to overstep God’s boundaries because our hearts aren’t motivated by love for him anymore. When we violate his law, designed to give us life, evil thrives in a way that Genesis 6:5 describes.
And so, humanity needed to be rescued. Someone was required to do what we could not do for ourselves: defeat the love of self and restore the love of God in our hearts.
“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).
This Advent season, celebrate the baby who came to deliver betraying lovers like me and you back to our original love. But also remember that the rescuing work of the Messiah is both an event and a process.
By grace, we are no longer slaves to the love of self, free to experience the soul-satisfying love of God. Yet the love of self remains, so we must be aware that the battle of love rages in our hearts.
Every situation, location, and relationship in our everyday life is a warzone, where the love of God and love of self fight for control of our heart. Are you aware of this raging battle?
One day, because that baby came, every cell of our heart will be captivated by the love of God, and we’ll live joyfully inside his boundaries forever and ever.
Now that’s a reason to celebrate Christmas this year!
Paul David Tripp
1. Where have you seen the great wickedness of man in your world this year? What should the Christian response to this wickedness be?
2. When you survey the great wickedness of the world, are you tempted to justify your sin as lighter than it is? How have you excused or lessened your violations against God’s holy standard?
3. What can you do to increase the grief in your heart when you have grieved your Father? How will this grief lead to righteous living?
4. Identify an area of your life where, by grace, Christ has rescued you from the love of self. Even where the work of sanctification is ongoing, celebrate 2 Corinthians 5:15 and how you are no longer living for yourself in a specific area.
5. Identify an area of your life where you are struggling to live for him who was, for your sake, crucified. How can you use this Advent season to focus on abandoning this love of self? Be specific.