Selfishness as Sin 19

Luke 6:31 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

When Christ first appeared in His public character, He displayed so much kindness, compassion and benevolence in healing the sick, relieving the distressed, and preaching the gospel to the poor, that He was almost universally beloved as well as admired…To anyone less acquainted with the human heart than Christ was, they would have appeared to be His real friends. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

In looking at selfishness as sin, there are several things to consider regarding the human heart and the nature of selfishness. The universe and all things in it were created from the vantage point of God, that is, God created them for Himself and to manifest His glory. The purpose for all things is the glory of God. Human beings were created in the image of God and were to manifest His glory in who they were and in what they did. In the fall human beings fell from their God-centeredness which was in the created order to a man-centeredness. The difference is huge. From the viewpoint of God all things are His, how all things relate to Him, and how all things are to manifest His glory, but in the fall man wanted to be as God (the lie and deception of the devil in Genesis 3) and so man now views all things from his viewpoint and how things relate to Him. As Romans 3:23 puts it, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23, NASB).

In understanding this verse (Rom 3:23) we can see that there is a past tense (all have sinned) and then a continuing sense in the next verb (fall short). The literal idea is that men miss the mark in all they do, which is to say that the moral goal that God has assigned to men is to glorify Him in all they do. However, in living a life of selfishness (self-love, self-focus) men miss the mark and so fall short of glorifying God in all they do. To quote an older thought, however, “we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.” The first part of the verse speaks of “for all have sinned.” What does that mean? It means that in the past there was a time when Adam fell and in him the whole of humanity fell in him. Paul explains this and some ramifications of it later on in chapters 5-7 of Romans. Since Adam all are born in a sinful state with a sinful nature and are dead in sins and trespasses. All the “fruit” that comes from a sinful nature is a life that always misses the mark of doing all to the glory of God. The sins are the effect of the sinful nature.

When the proud and selfish heart of man hears this profound truth, he does not want to believe it and so hates it. The heart of man that is at enmity with the true God will now be exposed as the wrath of man is brought out. As long as men think that God is nice to them and will help them along in their sins they will love that god of their imaginations since they love those who love them. But when they hear that they have a sinful nature and are in bondage to that sinful nature the proud and selfish hearts of man hate that and they no longer love that idea of God. While God views all things with Himself as the basis of all things and the goal of all things, man has fallen and now sees himself as the goal or end of all things. The two are at enmity with each other as God is holy in doing all things for Himself and man is vile and wicked when man does so. Man hates the idea of God being God-centered rather than man centered, and clearly man loves a god who is centered upon man. But this is opposite of reality and while man is in an unregenerate state he will always be at enmity with the true God.

They say that there is honor among thieves on the one hand, yet a thief hates it more than all others when someone steals his possessions. This is explained by the fact that men in their selfishness love those who love them and yet respond in great anger when they think that others do not love them. The only thing that can make people love One who brings hard things and suffering on them is when their heart is changed and they love God and His glory more than their own worldly comforts. Man’s heart must be changed from being selfish to loving God, which is to say that man must love the true God which in his unregenerate state he is at enmity with. Nothing can make men love God apart from God giving them a new heart by free-grace alone and His Spirit to work His fruit of love in them.

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