Selfishness as Sin 49

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.

Bellamy [Joseph] believed that much of the religion of his day was defective because it simply appealed to the selfish interests of men. He argued that if God is set forth as a Being who is simply dedicated to doing good to His creatures there is nothing about such a God to offend or contradict the personal welfare of the carnal mind, thus nothing objectionable as far as the lost man is concerned. The Arminian preachers were telling sinners that God was doing all He could to promote their best interests. But Bellamy argued that no natural man would object to such a God, thus there is no reason for the conviction of sin. In True Religion Delineated, he states, “True if God were such an one [if God were dedicated to seeking the happiness of man as His chief end, editor], then the most wicked man in the world could not but love him. Self-love would make it natural. Even publicans love those who love them, and are good to those who are kind to them (Matthew 5). Did men firmly believe God to be such an one, they could not, indeed, possibly be at enmity against Him. Self-love would not admit of it. Men would not need any grace to make them love God. Nature would make them love Him. They could not but love Him, so long as they love themselves. The point is that it does not take a supernatural work of grace in the heart of man to cause the sinner to love a God who is dedicated to the sinner’s own good. But it does take a “divine light” from God to turn the lost man to see the glory of God and dedicate himself to a God whose great cause is to magnify Himself. (From John F. Thornbury’s Introduction, True Religion Delineated, by International Outreach.)

Joseph Bellamy studied under Jonathan Edwards and saw that the selfish heart of man was the very core of the nature of sin. It is not just what man does, but it is the nature of the heart which is what all the actions, thoughts, intents, and motives flow from. When the very nature of the heart is selfish (love of self, pride, self-focus), then all that flows from that heart is selfish and therefore sinful. A selfish heart interprets all things according to the interests of self in some way. A selfish heart may appear to serve others, but in reality it is serving self as its primary love in some way.

Since men are born dead in sins and trespasses with a selfish heart, then men want everything for their own sake. This should make us wake up and realize that if this is true, then we must recognize that selfish hearts will want their ears tickled by ministers and ministers will not want to disturb their listeners. This means that men can be extremely and even extraordinarily religious and yet not be delivered from their selfish hearts. Men will seek religion out of self-love rather than seek God to deliver them from their own selfish hearts. What we must see is that in the modern world our theology has become so man-centered that professing Christianity is really another form of humanism. While ministers can preach and use the name of Christ and the name of God a lot, they are preaching Him in a human-centered way. The living God has created all things for His own glory and He will do nothing but what is for the glory of His own name. The Gospel is the Gospel of His glory and it is not just so that men can live selfish lives and escape hell in the end. We must not be lulled back to sleep if God is pleased to awaken us to see just how far professing Christianity has slid away from Him and His glory.

Thornbury (in the quote above) rightly notes that Joseph Bellamy thought that the religion (Christianity) of his day was defective and he thought it was defective because it was focused on and appealed to the selfish interests of men. If he thought it was bad in his day, what would he think of our day? It is said to be worship in music, but in reality the music is selected in order to get people in the door and entertain them. We have bands up front rather than ministers who revere the name of God in truth. We seek electric guitar players rather than the living God. We seek men with personalities and trained voices to lead the music rather than men who love God and long to see His face. But even if people are strict in their adherence to the Regulative Principles, one can sing the songs because they are conservative or because they are historical or because they make me feel good rather than as a means of seeking the presence of the living God. Selfish hearts will ruin all aspects of true worship and the music or the singing is just one aspect. We want to please ourselves rather than seek to be pleasing to the living God.

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