Selfishness as Sin 69

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.

Philippians 2:19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.

If sinners are constantly under the governing influence of selfishness, then they must experience an essential change in their affections, in order to be saved. If they naturally possessed the least degree of disinterested love, or true holiness, there would be no need of a radical and essential change in their moral exercises. They might love God and repent of sin and believe in Christ, without becoming new creatures. Their carnal mind, which is perfect selfishness, cannot be new modified or molded into benevolence by any exterior means of motives. Though under some circumstances, they may, without a change of heart, hate the world which they once loved, and love God whom they once hated, yet their love and hatred will arise from the same mercenary motives, which are entirely sinful. Sinners are continually turning their attention and their affections from one object to another; but their love and their hated continue to be of the same selfish nature. The careless sinner fixes his whole attention and affection upon the world; but when he is awakened from his stupidity, he turns his whole attention from the world to God, whom he hates for the same reason for which he before loved the world. Whatever sinners love and hate, they love and hate from selfish motives; and consequently no change of objects, motives, or circumstances, has the least tendency to change the nature of their affections. So that nothing short of a divine influence upon their hearts, can turn them from selfishness to benevolence, or from sin to holiness, without which they cannot see the kingdom of God. (Nathanael Emmons, Selfishness, International Outreach)

It is vital to understand something of the nature of sin so that one can understand something of the Gospel as a whole and regeneration in particular. As seen in the quote from Emmons with the Scriptures above, one can see just how easy it is for sinners to have a religious experience of some sort and be deceived about salvation. It is not the behavior only which needs to be changed, it is the very heart that needs changing. It is not that people need a little change here and there, but they need an inner renovation which includes the whole soul. It is so encompassing of the soul that it is referred to as the new birth and one that has undergone that new birth is said to be a new creature. A selfish heart is the very essence of sin which is to do all out of love for self and to seek the glory of self rather than love God and seek His glory. A selfish heart lives to please self rather than to please God.

This is devastating to modern versions of Christianity which is always going after self-love and self-interest in order to motivate people to pray a prayer or to give money. But again, noting the thought of Emmons, if a person has some little bit of true love or true holiness in the soul then there is no need for the new birth. However, for those who are born dead in sin and trespasses and have nothing of true love or true holiness in the soul, those people must be born from above. What we see is that in modern evangelism people are not told about their selfish hearts and they are not told about the real need of a real new birth. They are just told to pray a prayer and make a change. Then their selfish heart is not changed but now a false god has been held before them and now they think they love the true God when in fact they hate the true God.

Because the nature of sin (as selfishness) is not understood and not taught in our day, false conversions abound and the masses are deceived. Many make decisions and moral changes and all of those things are based on their self-love and as such they have not been truly born again and are not new creatures in Christ Jesus. This is deadly to true Christianity and it is deadly to the Gospel of free-grace alone. When sinners see that their hearts are full of self and pride and that even the most religious things they do are out of self-love which is idolatry, they understand to some degree that it takes free-grace to save them and they can have no part in that. God starts with nothing but a mass of sin and enmity toward Himself and changes it according to His pleasure and according to His own will. There is nothing in the selfish hearts of sinners that is lovely to Him and in fact that selfish hearts are hateful to Him. A little prayer or a little walk down an aisle will not change the heart of sinners, but only the free-grace of God can do that. Sinners must be taught not to look at themselves for faith, but to look to Christ for all things that are needed and to look to receive nothing but by free-grace.

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