Selfishness as Sin 20

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)

When Nicodemus came to Jesus in John 3 he had observed at least some of the miracles that Jesus had performed and was convinced that Jesus was from God. Jesus spoke to him clearly and firmly and told him that he must be born from above to see or enter the kingdom of God. This was a profound shock to the religious leader. Perhaps it was a shock to him for many other reasons, but he identified the kingdom of God with his nation and his religion. What he had not realized is that he had been steeped in tradition which missed some major teachings of the Scriptures. We can think of Paul and how he described himself and assume that Nicodemus was a lot like Paul. Most likely he thought of himself as the elect of God because he was born a Jew. He thought of himself as righteous because of all of his religious learning and activities. He was quite mistaken as are vast multitudes in the modern day. True Christianity (true religion) does not start with what to believe (as such) and what to do (be moral and good works), but instead it starts with the new birth.

The reason that Christianity starts with the new birth is because all human beings are born dead in trespasses and sins. This is utterly vital. We don’t start with sinners who only need to be convinced that they have sinned a little and so need to be saved, but instead we start with dead sinners who need to be made alive. We don’t start with sinners who can repent in their own strength and do some good things to make up for the past, but instead we start with dead sinners who cannot do one good work at all. Even the outwardly good things that sinners do come from a bad heart and as such they are sinful as well and instead of making up for past wrongs, they are wrong too. We cannot just inform them to read their Bibles and say prayers because they need new hearts. For the sake of clarity, unregenerate sinners should read their Bibles and they should seek the Lord. The point is that these actions cannot save them and that there is nothing meritorious about them, but instead this is what sinners should do in putting themselves in the path that God usually saves.

Selfish sinners will read the Bible and say prayers out of selfish heart and they will also interpret the Bible and say prayers in light of their selfish hearts. Should they go hear sound preaching, read their Bibles, and seek the Lord? Yes, they should. God saves sinners by giving them ears to hear and eyes to see (faith) as they are under the preaching of the Word. What we must say, however, is that it is the Spirit who regenerates sinners as He pleases. This means that selfish hearts that sit under preaching and read the Bible should look to God in His free-grace to give them understanding and a new heart. God is under no obligation to sinners to give them understanding of the Bible and He is under no obligation to give new hearts. There is also no way sinners can bring God into obligation to show mercy and grace to them, though their selfish hearts want to believe that. The new birth is by free-grace alone and that means free-grace that is moved by God and His glory and nothing else.

This should teach us a lot about evangelism and preaching. While the vast majority of modern people preach a God of easy love and an easy going, compassionate Jesus (their version of compassion), that does nothing to show men their real need of the new birth which only comes by sovereign grace. In our efforts to please men we falsely approach them in evangelism and preaching by wanting to please them and talk them into something. However, when we tell them truth of God and about themselves the enmity they have to God will come out. Men need to hear about the new birth which comes by free-grace alone and of their vile and selfish hearts that they need to be delivered from. Instead of encouraging that selfish heart with false teachings about God and them, they need to hear the truth even if they will get angry with the messenger. If they never get upset, most likely that means that they have not had their eyes opened to their exceeding wickedness of heart and their utter helplessness in sin. The natural man hates these truths when they are applied to their hearts. When man does not see these things, it may be that s/he is a religious person who needs a new heart.

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