Selfishness as Sin 24

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.

It remains to inquire, why there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners exercise towards themselves and others. Christ supposes that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praiseworthy in it…Is there any thing truly virtuous or amiable in men’s loving themselves, or in loving others from mere selfish, mercenary motives? All men in the world know that there is no moral goodness in such selfish affections, and they are always unwilling to acknowledge that they are actuated by mercenary motives. Who is willing to allow that he loves himself merely because he is himself? Or that he loves others merely because they love him? Or that he does good to others only when he thinks it will be for his private advantage?…Who is willing to be seen in doing any act of selfishness? Who ever thanked another for doing him a benefit only for the sake of gaining a much greater benefit? We never thank me for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind that there is no virtue in that love which flows entirely from mercenary motives. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

We are told by modern evangelists that all a person has to do to be saved is to pray a prayer or make a choice. When we read the text above and the writings of Emmons just above we can see that the modern evangelists are simply wrong. There is no way that a selfish person can pray a prayer or make choice that is not from a selfish heart. When Paul wrote that sinners are saved by grace and not works and instead of being saved by works sinners are saved for good works. Surely it is clear, then, that sinners cannot be saved for good works unless they are saved from their selfish hearts. As long as a person has a selfish heart that person cannot do one good work in the eyes of God. The only true salvation is when God changes the sinner’s heart by free-grace and then Christ dwells in that person. Salvation is by a holy and righteous choice, but only God can do that.

What moral goodness can there be in the choice of a sinner who loves all things for himself? What moral choice can sinners make when all that they do is out of love for self? How is it that God would regard the choice of sinner when that sinner would be choosing the idol of self out of enmity to God? If it is the case that few if any human beings in the world would consider that a person only loving others for mercenary reasons would be a moral person, then why does anyone even begin to consider that the mercenary choice of sinners would move God to respond to them in salvation? It is not just that sinners have no power to do things that are morally good, which they don’t, but all that a sinner does is out of love for self and as such is idol worship. The very best that a sinner can do is done out of enmity toward God.

God sees the heart of men and knows why men do what they do. Since He is omniscient (all-knowing) He sees the motives and intents that are hidden from the eyes of men, perhaps hidden to the eyes of those who have the motives and intents. There is no reason for God to save a sinner based on a selfish choice made out of heart that loves self with the motive of self-love. This is another point at which Arminian theology suffers a great problem. Sinners cannot love God until they have new hearts and as such there is no way the choices of a will that is determined, guided by, and with intent for can be anything but thoroughly sinful in all ways. When sinners think that God will save them because of their wicked and selfish choices, they are (by implication) saying that God saves sinners as a result of a sinful choice. This simply cannot be. God saves sinners by free-grace of they will not be saved at all.

This should also teach us a lot about sanctification as well. As Jesus taught us, apart from Him we can do nothing. Even those with new hearts cannot do one spiritual and/or good action apart from Christ working it in them. There are only two motives possible in the entire world. We either have motives (what we love and intend) for self or we have motives for the glory of God. Our motives will either be moved by our fleshly hearts or they will be moved by the grace of God. Our motives will either be moved by love for sinful self or for the glory of God. We have no other options in the matter. We are left in the hand of God’s sovereign grace to do with as He pleases. We should seek Him asking Him to break our hearts from our fleshly self and grant that we would be guided by His grace.

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