Selfishness as Sin 23

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.

We are to consider why sinners love others. Our Savior said to His disciples, that if they were of the world, the world would love them. And He said in the text that sinners love those that love them. Though the love of sinners always centers in themselves, yet it may extend to others, and take in a large circle of mankind, and even God Himself. Sinners loved Christ, and cried, “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The whole people of Israel loved the God of Moses when He carried them through the Red Sea, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, and gave them manna from heaven. But the question before us is, why do such selfish creatures love others? The answer is easy. It is because they have received, or expect to receive, benefit from them…For the same reason that sinners love themselves, they naturally love those that love them and are disposed to their own good, so they love every person or object which serves to increase or preserve their own interest…So they love their fellow men, not on their own account, but because they deem them in some way or other subservient to their private, separate interest. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

The Scriptures are powerful in what they say, but in the hands of a man of God they seem to be applied by the Spirit in deeper ways. It is still the Spirit using the Scriptures, but it is also the Spirit using men who are used to give understanding to the people of God. Why do sinners love other sinners when I John 4:7-8 tells us that unbelievers do not truly love? It is not from a love for God, but a love for themselves. This is a devastating point for those who hope to obtain righteousness by religion and good works. This shows with great clarity that those who are being nice are being nice for the sake of self. We like it when people are nice to us, so we are nice to them so they will be nice to us. When people are not nice, we don’t try to be nice either. Of course being nice is simply a custom of civility and is not the same thing as love, though it seems to have replaced true love in our day.

When people give a gift, they want something back in return despite their protestations. They want to be appreciated, they want to get an even bigger gift back, or perhaps they want some honor for the gift. The point, though, is that all that sinners do for others is to get something in return that is fitting for their love for self. The unbelieving sinner has no ability to do anything apart from self-interest and self-love. This is a profound teaching by Emmons and it would behoove us to spend time thinking on this point. When sinners make a profession of faith based on self-love, they have not been truly converted. When sinners only love the god they believe gives them good things and intends no discomfort for them, they can love (as such) that god.

As men in the days of Christ loved Him for what He did but not for who He was in and of Himself, so people today will love the Christ that is preached in our day. As long as the truth of God is kept out of the churches, the people may not recognize the enmity that is in their hearts toward God and His true people. Unbelievers can live quite well and get along with their neighbors as long as they think that they are doing things for each other. Unbelieving husbands and wives can get along well with each other as long as both serve each other in a way where the self-love each has is able to be stroked. When the self-love of each is able to be balanced, they can get along and be quite proud that they are still married.

This should give us insight into why so many false churches can get along and yet why true churches cannot. The false churches are filled with unbelievers and as long as they can keep the false teaching of the false god going, they can all be happy. One can be part of a true church (at least by appearance and creed) and yet there can be many unbelievers, so when some love God and others love themselves as the chief love, there will be problems. Then we have those who have made professions out of sinful self-love and out of that same sinful and natural (as opposed to spiritual) self-love they become very religious. While liberalism is far from Christianity, so are the self-righteous who do all out of self-love. How this teaching brings light to the professing churches and our own hearts!

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