Selfishness as Sin 44

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)

What the paragraph above (in light of Luke 6) shows with great clearness is that unregenerate men and women are just like the devil in the very best actions that they do. This is getting at the very heart of the depravity of humankind. Human beings can do what they think is best and what others may think of as kind and compassionate, yet if it is not out of love for God and the true spiritual good or our neighbor we are seeking our own sinful self in doing those things. When we do not seek the spiritual good of others and our efforts are to glorify God, we are doing them real and true harm even if our actions appear as kind and noble.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

The passage just above (Matthew 16:21) shows us what kindness and compassion with the apparent good of others in mind really are. Jesus spoke of His suffering at the hands of the religious elite in Jerusalem, being killed, and then being raised up on the third day. Peter, as one who we think loved Jesus, took Him aside, rebuked Him, and saying that this shall never happen. Again, this appears to be a great act of kindness and compassion toward Jesus, but what did Jesus say to Peter? He told Peter to “Get behind Me, Satan!” Why did He say this to Peter? It was because Peter was not setting his mind on the things of God but on the things of man. This should set upon our hearts and show us the truth about true love and the truth about what it means to follow Christ.

We are like Satan when our minds and words and actions are focused on the things of man rather than the things of God. Even when we are doing what appears to be the best for others in the physical realm or in the human only realm, we are like Satan if we are not looking at them with our eyes and hearts on the things of God. When the kind mother of a child looks after her child with great care and compassion, we think we see true love. However, if that mother does not have the love of God in her and her desire is not for the spiritual welfare of her child, she is really serving herself out of a selfish heart in some way. Even when the mother appears to deny self to care for her child, she is still doing it out of a selfish heart. This helps explain I John 4:7-8 which tells us that only believers have true love and that no unbelievers have true love. This is true because only those who have been born of God and know God truly love. All that we do that is apart from love that is received from God and is love for God is to be like Satan who shows compassion in apparent love but is actually for his own selfish purposes. If this does not show us out great need for God to show free-grace, then nothing can. How helpless we are in our selfish hearts unless God shows free-grace and turns our hearts to be like Him.

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