Selfishness as Sin 38

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)

If a selfish heart is what the above paragraph sets out, then there is absolutely nothing virtuous, amiable, or praiseworthy in such a selfish love. This type of selfish love is really nothing but the sinful love of self and is idolatry in the presence of God. This selfish love is against the nature of God and all that is of the true God, though indeed it is in accordance with the love that the devil has for his sinful self (though he has nothing but a sinful self). A selfish heart has no true love. In fact, Scripture tells us that the only people who love are believers.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:7-8).

Love is not simply an action, it is what a person does who is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love do not know God, which is to say that those who do not love are not born of God and do not know God. When we come to grips with this we need to think of the Great Commandments and the teaching of I Corinthians 13. Apart from true love there is nothing we do that is acceptable to God or pleasing to God. Without true love which must come from God all we do is “disconformity” to God. Not only do our actions, regardless of how outwardly moral they are or how religious they are, not conform to God, they are the opposite of conformity to God. It is not just that love to God is important, but it is utterly vital. A selfish heart loves self in all it does and even when it does something that has an outward benefit to others, the greatest motive and intent that selfish heart has is for self. Yet that act that is outwardly good in appearance comes from a heart that is in full disobedience to all the commands of God and as such it is sinful and vile in the eyes of a thrice holy God.

It is perhaps impossible to stress this point too much. All the commandments of God have the foundation of true love underneath them and apart from that love all that sinners do can be nothing but disobedience and enmity toward a holy God. As I Corinthians 13:3 puts it, “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” This must be driven to the depths of our souls. Apart from true love which must come from God and only comes by His glorious free-grace, there is nothing that we can do to please Him. This throws us completely upon the free-grace of God in Christ Jesus. Not only must we have Christ in order to be saved from our sins, we must have Christ purchase a new heart for us. Not only do we need Christ to give us His Spirit to give us a new heart, we must have Christ in us working the fruit of His Spirit in us and that fruit is love. We are nothing but branches and all we can do is receive from the vine at the mere pleasure of the vine. We can only love God and anyone else if we receive the love of God by free-grace. It is only by free-grace that we have a capacity to love (a new heart), it is only by free-grace that we have the ability to know the God of love, and it is only by free-grace that the Spirit works His love in our hearts. We must be delivered from selfish hearts in order that by grace we can love and do acts of love.

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