Selfishness as Sin 47

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)

As we think through verses like Luke 6:31-35 and the writings of men like Nathaniel Emmons, we begin to see sin in a different light. The essence of sin is not that which we do outwardly, but it is why we do them. As Mark 7 puts it so clearly and plainly, it is what proceeds out of the heart that defiles us. We are then driven to ask ourselves why it is our own hearts that are so bad that the things that come out of them defile us. It is what is in us that defiles us rather than what we put in ourselves that defiles us. The problem is that our hearts desire and covet and drive us to do what we do and as such the problem is our wicked hearts. We think that we have repented if we stop our outwardly bad actions, but that is a great and widely accepted deception. We have not repented until we have been given new hearts so that we now desire righteous things. We have not repented until we are no longer completely controlled by selfish hearts, but now we have a new heart that is under the reign and rule of Christ. It is not just a forcible reign and rule, however, but it is new life in the heart, the very life of Christ Himself.

Mark 7:21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

As we think through this even more, we see where modern versions of Christianity fall far short of the glory of God. We see the professing Church, ministers, and the people being driven in so many ways and reasons to keep up their religious expressions. We see with great sorrow so many professing churches doing so many things to make themselves relevant and to reach people for Christ, or at least that is what they profess to be doing. As long as men and women have selfish hearts, they will not be converted regardless of what they profess. A selfish version of Christianity is as much from the pit of hell as devil worship. Let me say that again to emphasize this. A selfish version of Christianity is as much from the pit of hell as devil worship. Both come from the devil and both come from selfish hearts. Any version of professing Christianity that tries to reach people on the basis of their selfish hearts is not from God who opposes selfish hearts.

Let us not think for a moment that conservatives are exempt from this. Some people like to be conservative as a way of distinction or even self-righteousness. Some people like to be conservative in order to be like those they are around. Some people like to be conservative because it ties them in with historical figures. Those reasons are not the same thing as believing truths because they are the truth about the Christ we love. Many people need to repent of their conservatism in the same way that others need to repent of their liberalism. Both can be ways of people trusting in themselves and both come from a selfish heart. Justification by faith alone is a great truth, but one is not justified by believing that justification by faith alone is true. One must be actually justified by Christ alone and through grace alone in order to be actually justified. The selfish heart can believe that justification by faith alone is true, but only a humbled and broken heart that is delivered from a selfish heart will actually be justified.

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