Selfishness as Sin 34

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 [selfishness in the heart] tends to spread misery and destruction through the universe. It makes creatures as bad as they can be, and would destroy them all, were it not for the power and wisdom and goodness of God, which are employed in restraining, directing, and overruling its pernicious influence. Though sinners may love those which love them, and do good to those that do good to them, yet the nature of their feelings and conduct is still the same. Their apparent goodness is the essence of moral evil. Their partial love is general malevolence, and their best deeds are an abomination to the Lord. All their affections and actions terminate in themselves. They value and regard themselves more than all other beings put together, and whose interests they would sacrifice to promote their own. And can there be any thing virtuous, or amiable, or praiseworthy, in such a totally selfish love, which is disconformity to God, disobedience to His law, and its nature and tendency destructive of all the good of His holy kingdom? (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

The nature of the heart is beyond the powers of the natural heart to see without aid by the Holy Spirit, but to accept the fact about ourselves and see our utter inability to do anything spiritual apart from the new birth is a deeper work of the Spirit. The new heart alone, however, can live in light of this and constantly cry out for grace to enable it to live by grace and true love rather than only by the love of self. Oh the profundity of this truth and how we need to have the Spirit search our hearts and shine the light upon ourselves that we can see it.

It is one thing to see this in some way as truth, it is quite another to see it as true of myself. It is still quite another step to have the Spirit open the heart and to see that this truth has pervaded and utterly despoiled every moral action that I have ever had. But even deeper, it absolutely sinks the soul into despair when the Spirit brings the deep conviction of sin that all of my religious actions were done out of self-love and as such were evidences that my heart is guilty of the essence of moral evil. The Spirit must work this truth in the soul and shine His light in the soul so that it may see that it stands guilty before the living God with nothing but a selfish heart. It will see that it has never done one thing out of love for God. It will see that it has done all of its very best moral actions (the worse as well) out of a sinful self-love and as such it was an idolatrous evil which means that the very best moral actions of the soul were vile and wicked idolatrous acts before God. It will see that all of its religious actions, devotions, attending church, reading of the Bible, and prayer were nothing but the acts of a selfish heart.

When the very best moral acts and religious acts that I do demonstrate the essence of moral evil, then that leaves me in the hands of the living God to do with as He pleases. I have nothing of my nature to plead before Him because my nature is evil. I don’t even have one moral action to plead because the best I could do was evil. I have nothing to claim in the religious realm because all of my religious actions were evil and done out of a sinful love for self. I have nothing that I can do to change my own heart so that I can do something that pleases God. Instead, I will see that all I can do is sinful as well. This teaches me that I must have a new heart and I must have a Savior or I will perish. Since there is nothing in me that can move God to save me, it must be something in Him that will move to save me. The only thing that can save a vile wretch is the free-grace of God and that is found only in Christ Jesus and in Him alone.

We must see that apart from teaching the depravity of man and really apart from seeing that the self is the essence of sin, we will never quite get to Christ alone and grace alone and the glory of free-grace in the Gospel. Men and women don’t just need a little help, some help, or even a lot of help; but instead they need someone to do it all from the motives, to the purchasing, to the applying. If everything that the unregenerate person does is out of a sinful self-love and as such is repugnant to a holy God, then salvation must be all of grace and all of God. This salvation must change the heart from a selfish creature to one that loves God and loves the neighbor in truth and in reality. This salvation will change the heart from wanting to be saved out of preservation and sinful self-love to one that glories in salvation because in that salvation the soul was enabled to love God and His glory.

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