Selfishness as Sin 61

It appears from the account given of his [Adam] first offense that it essentially consisted in loving himself supremely. He voluntarily partook of the forbidden fruit, from the motive of increasing his own knowledge and happiness, in opposition to the glory of God and the good of all his posterity. This was freely and voluntarily turning from benevolence to selfishness, which is the essence of moral depravity. He became morally depraved in the same manner that Satan, the first sinner in the universe, became depraved. Satan had no corporeal instincts or appetites to tempt him to rebel against his Maker. He loved his own glory more than the glory of God, and aspired to become independent and supreme, which was the essence of selfishness, or moral depravity. The prevailing notion that Adam became morally depraved by the mere want of holiness is repugnant to the very nature of moral depravity, and to every dictate of reason and Scripture. (Nathanael Emmons, Selfishness, International Outreach)

The selfish heart, whether Satan’s or a human’s, is in direct violation of the commandments of God, but more importantly is in direct opposition to God Himself. The selfish heart loves itself as its supreme love rather than God and makes up its own commandments rather than obey the commandments of God. The selfish heart lives to please itself rather than find its pleasure in pleasing God. The selfish heart makes its own morality whether in outward sin or in adjusting the commandments of God to allow it a self-righteousness. The selfish heart desires to be honored and praised rather than desiring for God to be honored and praised. The selfish heart, then, is an idol to itself and worships itself since it pays homage to self rather than God. The selfish heart is so wicked that it wants to use God to obtain honor for itself and uses the things of religion to obtain praise for itself. The Westminster Larger Catechism sets out some tremendous teaching that exposes our hearts. It is quoted just below.

Q. 107. Which is the second commandment? A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment? A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintainance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Q. 109. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself, tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or any of the three persons, either inwardly in the mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever, all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them, all supersititous devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

It is important to note that a selfish heart violates all aspects of the 2nd Commandment. Until the light of the Scriptures and meaning of them are brought to bear on our hearts, we don’t see the filth and selfishness in our hearts. We violate this commandment in what we do and in what we don’t do because a selfish heart always operates according to self. The selfish heart may do the religious duties prescribed by God in an outward manner, but it does them from a self-love and self-oriented way. The selfish heart may oppose false religion, but not out of love for God but instead out of love for its own opinion. It can fast and preach and hear preaching, but it does so out of self-love rather than love for God. This selfish heart is its own idol and so it is in constant worship of an idol in the presence of God. The selfish heart corrupts the worship of God by adding to it and taking away from it, but the worship of self. Oh the vileness of a heart of self in the things of religion, even true religion. The selfish heart opposes the Gospel of free-grace as the true Gospel strips self from all hope in self and the selfish heart clings to self.

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