Love for God and Self-Love
An Adaptation of the Works of Edwards, Brainerd and Baxter
2 Tim. 3:1-5: But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Notice how prominently and frequently love (the word occurs 5 x) is mentioned in the verses above. Misplaced love dominates the description of the moral free fall in ‘the last days.’ The ‘last days’ is a reference to the time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ. In other words, we are living in ‘the last days.’ In other words, our world is now characterized by the very things Paul mentions in this passage. Note all the uses of ‘love:’
1) lovers of self (this is listed first, in the place of prominence)
2) lovers of money
3) not loving good
4) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
We would summarize: these people love 3 things: self, money, and pleasure. They do not love good. They love pleasure rather than God. In fact, they put pleasure in the place of God: ‘loving pleasure rather than God.’ They love pleasure instead of God. They do love; they just love all the wrong things; and they do not love the right things: ‘good’ and ‘God.’ Their love is misplaced. They have disobeyed the great commandment – the one on which all the others hang – to love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. All the other sins on this list (ungrateful, unholy, reckless, etc.) can be traced back the their misplaced love. They have broken the first commandment (Love God!); so, the rest of the commandments fall like a house of cards.
II. What is love?
Jonathon Edwards defines love in the following ways: We love something to the degree that we are pleased with it. Love is pleasedness: the state of being pleased with something. Love is an intense delight. Love is a strong inclination of the soul that moves us toward something to try and grasp at it. When we love we admire an object; this admiring leads on to desiring to possess the thing we admire (admiring leads to desiring). Love is going after something as our highest good. Love is seeking something first. Love is favorring, choosing, preferring one thing above others. Right love is a sweet and holy affection that loves good things as good things, but loves God best as the best and highest good. Wrong love is an inordinate (loving good things as the best thing) affection. Now, what we love determines what we do. As Edwards said: ‘it is our inclination that governs us in our actions.’ This is why Augustine said: Moral character is assessed not by what a man knows but by what he loves.’
III. The Centrality of Loving GodJonathon Edwards on Love of God: (paraphrased): This love includes a sincere, generous, and happy inclination of the soul towards God; this love must be vigorously and fervently exercised and engaged in; when this happens love influences our affections, and our love for God becomes an affectionate love. Vigorous and fervent love of God is the sum of all religion. Love for God is the sum of all that was taught and commanded in the law and the prophets.
So, the love of self, money, pleasure is idolatry; it is placing our love on a low and earthly object when we ought to be gazing into the heavens at God, the only worthy object of our wholehearted love. To put it another way – there is no true religion without sweet love for God.
To quote Edwards again: It is evident that religion consists so much in affection that without holy affection there is no true religion. No light in the understanding is good which does not produce holy affection in the heart. No habit or principle in the heart is good which does not stir us to pursue after God with an inclination of intense delight; and no external fruit is good which does not proceed from a holy love.
Even if we had the most devoted religion, with great faith and remarkable spiritual gifts – to the point that we died a torturous and bloody martyrs death -- this would be eternally annoying and despicable to God unless there be love (see 1 Cor. 13).
III. Love and Hate
Notice the people in 2 Timothy 3 love certain things (self, money, pleasure), and this means they do not love other things (good, God). These two concepts are connected. If we love one thing this causes us to hate other things.Again, to paraphrase Edwards in Religious Affections: Love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections. The heart is at the center of true religion; and love is at the center of the heart. From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love – those things which oppose and thwart us in gaining the things that we love. A man hates a rival suitor because he loves a girl; he would not hate him if he did not love the girl. His hate arises from his love. So, a Christian hates the rival of sin because he loves God. If we have a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, there will necessarily arise other religious affections of hate, such as, 1) intense hatred and loathing of sin, 2) a fear of sin, 3) and a dread of God's displeasure toward those who sin. Other positive affections will also arise from the fountain of our love for God, such as, 1) gratitude to God for his goodness, 2) contentment and joy in God when He is graciously and sensibly present, 3) grief when God is absent, 4) a joyful hope when our future enjoyment of God in heaven is expected, 5) a fervent zeal for the glory of God.
IV. There is an appropriate Self-Love
From David Brainerd, Life and Diary, pg. 149-150 “... I was unexpectedly visited by a considerable number of people, with whom I was enabled to converse profitably of divine things. I took pains to describe the difference between a right and wrong self-love. A right self-love consists in a supreme love to God. A wrong self-love disregards love of God. A right self-love unites God’s glory and the soul’s happiness so that they become one common interest. A wrong self-love separates God’s glory and man’s happiness – and pursues happiness apart from the glory of God.
“There is a double loving of a man’s self. One good and commendable, the other evil and damnable. Spiritual self-love is supernaturally wrought in man by God’s spirit, so that he is both enlightened to discern what is most excellent and best for him, and also moved to choose the same... Hence it comes to pass that thier chiefest care is for their souls and for their eternal salvation. Self-love is evil when it is cast upon our corruptions, our lusts, our evil humours, when we affect and love them, and for them pursue whatever may satisfy them... evil self-love is a most detestable vice, but it is both lawful and commendable to love one’s self aright (William Gouge, A Golden Treasury of Puritan Devotion, pg. 71).”
V. There is an inappropriate Self-Love
2 Timothy 3.2: For people will be lovers of self
Note: ‘lovers of self’ begins this list. It has a place of prominence as a chief sin.
The following is an adaptation and expansion of Richard Baxter’s “Self-love, Selfishness and The Gospel.”
1. Selfishness comes from a wrong self-love; this self love is the root of original sin.
The principal part of selfishness consists in an wrong self-love. This is a corruption so deep in the heart of man, that it may be called his very natural inclination; he is born with this sinful bent; this wrong self-love therefore lies at the bottom, below all his actual sins, whatever those sins may be; and must be changed into a new nature, which consists primarily in a new and supreme love of God. This is original sin itself – this is the very heart of it. This is what man by nature is; a sinful self-lover; and as he is, so he will act. In this wrong kind of self-love, all other vice in the world is contained...
2. Selfishness robs and dethrones God
Selfishness is most contrary and rebellious to God, and desires to rob Him of all His rights as God, so that God would be no God... I have formerly told you, that self is the god of wicked men, or the world's greatest idol; and that the inordinate love of pleasure, profits, and honor -- the unholy trinity -- are the ways in which this wrong self-love demonstrates itself; This idolatrous self-love also is in league with the evil trinity of God's enemies, the flesh (our first and greatest problem), the world, and the devil.
Every man is an idolater so far as he is selfish. God is not just a name. The one that takes away God's essence, or attributes or perogatives, and yet thinks he believes in God, because he uses the word God, and speaks of His name and titles, does as bad as they that set up an image, and worship that instead of God. He does as bad as the man who worships the sun or moon as gods... Now selfish, ungodly men rob God, and give His honor and perogatives to themselves, and keep him at a distance with empty titles; they call Him their God, but will not have Him for their chief end, their portion, and their happiness.
Nor will the the selfish give God the strongest love of their hearts: they will not take Him as their absolute owner; they will not be His slaves ...They will not take Him as their Sovereign Lord, and be ruled by Him; they will not deny themselves for His sake; They will not seek His honor and interest above their own. They call Him their Father, but deny Him His Honor; they call him their Master, but give do not give Him fear (Malachi 1:6). They do not depend on His hand, and they do not live not by His law, and to His glory; and therefore they do not take Him for their God. And can you expect that God should save those that deny Him, and would dethrone Him--that is, His very enemies?
3. Selfish self-love takes the perogatives of God
God will not save those who reject him and make themselves their own gods. But all these unsanctified, selfish men do make themselves their own gods – for they take to themselves the perogatives of God:
How do they take the perogatives of God? In at least 10 ways:
1. They would be their own end, and look no further.
2. They exploit all others as means to this end (the self). They have no problem ‘using’ people to satisfy self. So exploiting people sexually or financially does not bother them; people are sacrificed to the god of their ‘selves.’ People are to them a means to an end – the end of self. Yes, they even think of God Himself as a servant for their ‘self.’ This is why the ungodly will even excuse sin by saying, “I have prayed about it.” They will even call in the holy God as the servant of sin – as the servant of sinful self!
3. They love their present life and prosperity better than God: ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.’
4. They would be their own, and live as their own.
5. They would have other creatures to be their own, and use them as their own, and not as God's.
6. They must care for themselves, and provide for themselves, and dare not trust themselves wholly upon God.
7. They would dispose of their selves and their own conditions, and of all other things, without reference to God or acknowledgement that he is the owner of all things.
8. They would rule themselves, and be out from under the laws and government of God. They pray to themselves: “My will be done.”
9 They would be the rulers of all others, and have all men do their wills.
10. And they would be honored and admired by all, and have all praise ascribed to them. They pray, “Mine is the glory.”
If all this is not to set themselves up as their own god and idol in the world – I do not know what is!
4. God will not save selfish idolaters, but destroy them in Hell
Certainly God is far from having a thought of saving such vile idolaters; in fact they are the principal objects of His high hatred, and the objects of His justice to shoot at, and the objects of his eternal wrath. God is engaged to pull them down, and tread them into Hell. Will God stand by and see a company of rebellious sinners sit down in His throne, attempt to overthrow His sovereignty and divine rights as God, and then let them of scott free? Will God advance such a person to His heavenly glory? No! God has resolved that "he who humbles himself shall be exalted, and he that exalts himself shall be humbled." And what higher self-exaltation can there be than to make ourselves as gods to ourselves? Who deserves to be brought low by the hand of almighty God more than the one who makes himself god?
5. Self-denial is necessary to be a true Christian
No man can be a Christian unless he takes Christ for his Lord and Savior; but no man without self-denial can take Christ for his Lord and Savior. Therefore, without self-denial, it is impossible to be a Christian, and it is impossible to be saved. He that makes himself his own end, cannot make Christ, as Christ, his way; for Christ is the way to the Father; Christ is not the way to carnal self. No, the business that Christ came to do in this world was this: to pull down and subdue the sinful self. Moreover, whoever takes Christ for his Savior, must know from what it is that he must be saved. And what is it that we must be saved from? I answer: from self.
No man can take Christ for his Savior that does not renounce his own self-confidence. No man can take Christ as his savior who is not willing to be saved from the idolatry of self-exaltation. No man can take Jesus for Teacher unless he comes into Jesus’ school as a little child, and renounces the guidance of carnal self, sensible of his need of a heavenly teacher. No man can take Christ for his King and Lord, unless he has learned to deny his own lust to be King and Lord. No man can offer himself to Christ as His slave unless he has first learned to deny that self that claims priority and sovereignty in Jesus Christ’s place.
There is no antichrist, no false Christ, that ever was in the world, that does more truly oppose Christ, and resist Him in all the parts of His office, than carnal, sinful self. It is this sinful self-righteous self that will not stoop to claim Christ as our only righteousness. It is willful sinful self that will not look to Him for His guidance, nor incline to the teaching and holy Word. Self is the false Christ, the false Savior of the world, and the false god. Therefore, there can be no salvation where self is not denied and taken down...
Every man and woman on earth that take themselves for true Christians, and yet do not deny themselves (even hating their father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children, yes, their own life) for the sake of Christ and the hope of everlasting glory – these are only self-deceivers, and no true Christians at all. It is impossible for a person who loves his life better than Christ to be Christ's disciple. The one who loves his life better than the hope of everlasting life is no true Christian (Matthew 10:37-38; Luke 14:26, 27, 33)...
I plead with you, remember that this is the lowest degree of self-denial that is saving, and without this no one can be saved – namely, to bank more on Christ and the hope of glory than you bank on all this world and life itself; and to be habitually resolved to forsake life and all, rather than to forsake Christ. Nothing less than this is true self-denial; nothing less than this will take hold of eternal life or prove that one is a true Christian... For this is the very point in which Christ puts our self-denial to the test, "he that would save his life, will lose it."
What do you love better: an immortal, holy life with God, or this earthly, fleshly life? – this is the great question on which it will be resolved whether you are Christians or infidels at heart. This is the question which determines whether you are heirs of Heaven or Hell.
 cf. 1 Tim. 4:1: The Spirit clearly says that in later days some will depart from the faith. IVP Commentary on 1 Tim. 4:1: Paul's point is that periodically throughout the age of the church the faithful can expect the defection and active opposition of some who have professed to be Christians. The developments in
to be recognized as "signs of the times," part and parcel of this
evil, last age... In our era the believing church cannot afford to be ignorant
of the evil nature of this last age.