Selfishness as Sin 1

They love or hate God, just as He appears friendly or unfriendly to them. When He smiles upon them in His providence, and grants them the desires of their hearts, they are well pleased with Him. They rejoice that God is, that He governs the world, and that He fills the earth with His goodness. They have no consciousness of the least enmity against Him, but are disposed to speak well of Him, and give thanks at the remembrance of His mercies. This was the disposition of the Israelites at the side of the Red Sea . They could joyfully join in celebrating the praises of God, for their great and signal deliverance. They sang His praise with gladness of heart. And all other sinners would have done the same under the same circumstances. Their selfish hearts are always pleased with the favors God bestows upon them, and they love Him so long as they think He loves them. And they are no less pleased with spiritual, than temporal favors. When they imagine God is disposed to forgive their sins and admit them to heaven, they will sensibly rejoice in the hope of eternal life. In a word, they will always love God while they believe He loves them, and intends to do them good. But on the other hand, whenever He appears opposed to them, their hearts are opposed to Him. Their selfish hearts dispose them to hate God Himself, when He appears to stand in the way of their happiness. This was exemplified in the Israelites, who sang His praises, but soon forgot His works. As soon as they perceived that He was a holy, sin-hating and sin-revenging God, disposed to destroy them for their unholy, selfish affections, they turned against Him, murmured, complained, and expressed their bitter opposition to Him, by saying, He has brought us into the wilderness to destroy us. The selfish hearts of sinners always will dispose them to love or hate God, just as they view Him friendly or unfriendly to them. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

The concept of selfishness as being vital to the biblical understanding of sin and therefore true conversion is an absolute necessity if the statement above is biblical. It (statement above) is in line with the statement of Jonathan Edwards (not a direct quote) in which he said that the unbeliever can fake all that a believer can do except love. This is, then, a vastly important teaching. If we teach that, as the Arminians and Pelagians do, that sin is a matter of choice, then the doctrine of sin is completely opposite of the statement above as well as the biblical teaching that all must be done out of true love.

Sinners can walk around their whole lives with some recognition that they are sinners, attend church on a regular basis, and perhaps be devoted in some way to Bible study and good works and yet never come to the knowledge that s/he is at enmity with God. As long as people are taught that conversion changes us to where we make different choices, they will assume that as long as they are making religious choices to do religious things that they have been changed. But the reality is far, far different. The change is to turn a person from a self-centered focus or a focus of self-love that is the basis for all that they do to a God-centered focus where all that a person does flows out of a love for Him. This is not to say that one is perfect or even close to perfect, but one drop of true love is infinitely beyond the power of the unregenerate person and one drop of true love shows and demonstrates that a person is born of God and knows God (I John 4:7-8).

We can also observe how people how self-evident the truth of the statement by Emmons is when we simply take notice of our own hearts as they were or as they are. How terrible it is for us when a frown from God or a dark providence happens to us, though indeed they may actually be so small that they are nothing. Our hearts show enmity toward God when the slightest thing happens that crosses what we desire. Our hearts rise in opposition to His sovereignty when our will is crossed or when some small trouble comes across our path. Yet the same person will joyfully give thanks and sing praises to God when things are going well, which is defined as when things are going in a way that is in accordance with my desires and will further my hopes in this world.

We can see this clearly in children toward parents and other relationships as well that people speak highly of others when those others give them what they want. Children are happy with their parents as long as parents are not crossing the wills of the children. It has been said that as long as children get all that they want they have no reason to be unhappy, which is accurately applied to younger children. The point should be searing to our own hearts as we think of how we respond to things. When things are going well, we are happy and we are thankful to God when we remember Him. When things cross our wills, we are like children who have enmity in their hearts toward parents and become sullen and angry with them when they are denied their desires. This shows our true nature.

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