Selfishness as Sin 12

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)

When sin is taught to be nothing more than just action, the corresponding thought is that holiness and/or righteous acts are nothing more than just actions. At best this glosses over the real nature of sin and holiness. At best this glosses over the real nature of Christianity and of salvation. However, the reality is that when we teach that sin and holiness are nothing more than just acts, we deny the very reality of sin and of Christianity. We cannot preach a real Gospel if we do not preach the truth of the nature of sin. Christ did not come to take human flesh and live, suffer, die, and be resurrected from the dead just for the actions of men. He did those things in order that men could be born again and be given a new nature and thus have eternal life. The idea that sin and holiness are just actions is opposite to the Gospel and cuts the very nerve of the Christian life.

The nature of sin and of holiness is the motives of the heart and our real intent in what we do. This is to say that what we love as our primary love is vital to true Christianity. For example, a woman can be very nice and accommodating to her rich husband and yet only do it out of love for money which is a love for self. She could also do it out of love for a man other than her husband in an attempt to set her husband up for the other man to obtain money from her husband. When a professing believer does good things out of love for self, that person is not a holy person but an idolater as s/he loves self rather than God. The selfish heart (love of self as the motive of actions) is a heart that can be given over to sinful and vile outward actions, or it can be devoted to religious things and even be fervent in evangelism. It is not the actions in and of themselves that determine the real nature of a person, it is the core love that a person has in terms of motives and intentions.

This explains why unregenerate sinners will think that they love God when they think that He loves them and intends good things for them. The sinner that loves self will always love others who appear to love him or her. The sinner that loves self loves the praise and honor of men. The sinner that loves self loves it when people are nice to him or her and when others say nice things to him or her. But when sinners recognize that God opposes them and their sinful actions, even their very religious actions, their hearts will rise in enmity toward God. How strongly the religious person will rise up and fight the true God and the glory of the Gospel of grace alone when self and the righteousness of self is set out. Open sinners fight to keep the sins they love and religious sinners fight to keep the righteousness they love. Open sinners love their sin and will fight to keep the things they love in this world out of self-love. Religious sinners love their own righteousness and the great idol of self by which they think they have the praise of men and eternal life, so they seem to fight with more enmity and with greater energy to keep their religious idols than open sinners do. The selfish heart (a heart that is governed by self-love and self-interest) is perhaps at its most wicked when it is very religious and thinks that it pleases God. It will justify anything.

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