Selfishness as Sin 72

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)

As we think back about the heart of the meaning of Luke 6:31-35, it teaches us that sinners love those who love them. In other words, they love others only for the sake of what they will obtain by it. They may obtain a regard for themselves and think that they love the unlovely and as such think of self as righteous, but the heart of all they do is love for self. This means that if sinners love those who love them, they will hate those that do not love them. The love and the hatred of sinners, then, must come from the same nature of self. All that the unregenerate sinner does is from self, of self, and for self. The sinner gives self to open sin and from that same selfish heart can give self to religion. As long as self is stroked and honored and pleased to some degree; self will be there.

Again, pastors and elders must know that they cannot just stroke people and tickle their ears. The selfish hearts of sinners long to hear of positive things about themselves and how much God surely loves them, but regenerate people long to hear the glories of God and want to die to self that they may live for His glory more and more. Emmons notes that sinners love and hate for the same and can be openly sinful or very religious from the very same heart that loves self. The unregenerate person that is full of self-love and pride can become a very, very religious person (think of the Pharisees) without a change of heart. It must be stressed over and over and said in different ways so that men and women will hear. There is nothing but a divine work on the heart that can change the heart from selfishness to true love and as such from open sin to holiness. A change in behavior does not qualify a person for the kingdom, only the work of God in changing the heart will do so. A person that says a prayer and gets involved in religious activity may be in even greater danger because of the deception of self-righteousness.

As Emmons notes, sinners can come to hate the world without a change of heart. They can begin to see that the world is harming them and as such they begin to hate it. They can see that following the world is not good for their self-righteousness and for the honor they will obtain before religious people, so they can hate the world as such. Unregenerate sinners can even hate certain sins because they can see that those sins are not good for their self-righteousness or that they cannot obtain assurance of salvation by those sins. But again, a new heart which loves God in Christ cannot be had by those things. There certainly appears to be vast numbers of ministers who preach from selfish hearts because they have nothing to say about the true nature of sin. Instead, it appears that vast numbers are lulled to sleep by a religious potion that leaves people in their self-love and pride. Whether the people said a prayer or not or walked an aisle or not is not the real issue. The real issue is whether the living God has given these people a new and living heart where they now really love the real God from a new heart and are now at war with self and pride.

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