Selfishness as Sin 42

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.

If sinners may love themselves and others from mere selfish motives, then it is easy to account for all their kind and friendly conduct towards their fellow creatures, consistent with their total depravity. Their selfishness naturally prompts them to do anything which they think will turn to their own personal advantage. To gain friends, they will show themselves friendly. To gain the love, esteem, and confidence of others, they will do acts of kindness, compassion, and even liberality. And the most depraved and selfish creature in the universe would do the same things, to obtain the same selfish ends. Satan always acts from this motive, when he transforms himself into an angel of light, and appears to seek the good of others. When he tempted our first parents, he professed to be more concerned to promote their knowledge and happiness, than even their Creator. When he tempted Christ to turn stones into bread, and commit himself to the divine care and protection, he appeared like a kind and friendly angel. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

The profundity of the statement by Emmons can hardly be exaggerated. It explains so much in the world and in the professing Church as well. Its explanatory power is simply enormous. The Great Commandment is to love God with all of our being, yet the selfish heart loves self with all of its power and does all it does for self. The selfish heart may be nice and it may be kind and it may be given to good works (externally), but that heart is doing all that it does for self rather than the glory of God. Indeed that selfish heart may say that it is doing what it does for the glory of God, but that is just another step of deception. These people may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, but all that they do is moved by their own personal advantage. They may do a good work in relieving the misery of another, but they do so in an effort to appear righteous before self and/or others.

The professing Church is captivated by that type of thinking and has been “helped” along in that way by people like James Dobson and secular psychology which said that all we do should be done out of self-love and we should puff up the self-esteem of people so that they will behave better. When people are encouraged to do good works out of self-love, even if it is by ministers, that is exactly what the devil is like and what he wants them to do. Whether the work is outwardly good or evil he does not care as he wants people to be like him and that is to do all he does out of love for self and enmity toward God. But again, the outward actions are not the most essential issue. It is the motives and intents of the heart. Genesis 6:5 tells us this story: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every intent of the heart included when man was doing outwardly good things and even when he was religious.

Emmons writes this regarding selfish hearts: “To gain friends, they will show themselves friendly.” Businesses, when they are going after customers, try to encourage the employees to show themselves friendly. However, they are only doing it to obtain more customers and so more money for themselves. The employees, eager to please their bosses, will be friendly for a period of time, but clearly it is not out of love for God or the customers. The same thing is true of churches. Some churches have training for greeters and the idea is to swarm people with friendliness and make them feel special so that they will be comfortable and come back. However, once again, that is not love for God or the visitors. It is just a way to try to get the “church” to grow.

Preachers have also imbibed this spirit. They do not want to offend people and as such they water the sermons down to where they are virtually empty of true Christianity, whether they speak of Christ or not. One can speak a lot about Christ without preaching Christ and the Gospel. One can speak highly of Christ and yet only do this in an effort to be sure that the professing church is being biblical or that the preacher will be spoken highly of. One can speak much of Christ and yet be focused on Christ in such a way that it is not the biblical Christ in that men are the center of the sermon and not Christ. As one can easily see, only free-grace can deliver a selfish heart from itself. Yet apart from showing people the very nature of their sin they can go on with their selfish hearts and be quite religious in a conservative and “evangelical” atmosphere. We must preach the nature of sin and the free-grace of God if we are going to love men and our neighbors.

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