Selfishness as Sin 71

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)

In reading the texts of Scripture above and then the passage from Emmons, the nature of sin should become somewhat clear with some reflection and meditation. We have all observed profligate sinners become very religious and then slowly leave off their religion and go into the world again. The problem is that the person was never changed by God and was still under the influences of a selfish heart. We have all observed people who viewed themselves with a far different eye than those around them. This can again be seen as a problem of a selfish heart. The explanatory power of the selfish heart is enormous.

If it is true that a sinner who is born in sin and is dead in sins and trespasses can love and hate religion (not just the world) out of and because of a selfish heart, then we must see just how this will influence the churches and the souls of men. A great change in external behavior and even in what appears to be the affections is no safe sign of conversion. Unregenerate sinners can become the most refined and committed religionists and that be from nothing but a selfish heart. Preachers can be guilty of deceiving an enormous number of people because they try to get people to pray prayers and make external changes based on a selfish heart. No amount of self-love can change the sinner’s heart and nothing but the power of God alone can do that.

What can take a heart that is guided by selfishness and guide it by the power of love for God? Only the power of God’s free-grace can do that. The devil is only too happy to lend a hand in taking open sinners and helping them become very religious as long as they remain deceived about their bondage to self-love. Sinners must have their eyes opened to their selfish hearts so that they can see that they are mercenary in terms of their religion and not true lovers of the true God. Preachers must wake up and realize that they may be preaching from a selfish heart and that may be why they are preaching a false gospel to sinners. They plead with sinners to be converted, yet it is only on the power of self-love that they do so. They offer motivations to sinners, but those are only to the hearts of self-love. True preaching is that God is sovereign and He changes hearts by free-grace. True preaching of the Gospel preaches Christ and His glories to sinners and leaves the changing of the heart to the One who alone can do so.

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