Self-Control and Lust
Gal. 5:22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (NRSV)
Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl. (NIV)
The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer brings about a real change. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence that this person’s life has been transformed. This witness includes self-control or self-discipline.
In another portion of today’s reading we discover the words of Job written long before the Epistle to the Galatians, however, he is arguing about his own faithfulness and it includes a foreshadowing of the fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, he is defending himself because of his self-control, and as he lists behaviors he includes the fact that he has exercised control over his eyes that they would not look “lustfully at a girl.”
When combined these scriptures bring us to an understanding that those who are filled with the Spirit exercise self-control, a personal covenant, if you will, that results in changed behavior. This change in behavior includes an intentional focus “not to look lustfully at a girl.” Therefore, to look lustfully at a girl would indicate that one is not living in the fruit of the Spirit.
This may seem like an odd topic for a devotional thought but I’m afraid it’s far too relevant. Statistics would tell us that too many people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ are looking lustfully at girls. The rise of internet pornography has led to a multi-billion dollar industry of sex-trade and people who call themselves Christ-followers are be contributing to the problem.
We don’t like to talk about self-control. All of us have things in our lives that we may find are a struggle. And yet, Paul seems to suggest that by living life in the Spirit we can exercise control over those things which may be difficult for us.
Job specifically mentions not looking on a girl with lust. Historically many religions have dealt with this problem by cover up girls, but Job doesn’t put the blame anywhere else, he recognizes his own personal responsibility. Lust comes from the heart of the one lusting and there is the problem. It is a heart problem. If we have people in the church who struggle with pornography, it is a heart problem and one which we ought to address from a spiritual perspective. The reality is that it is a spiritual problem which becomes a physical problem because of the release of hormones that literally leads to an addiction. There is no separation of the “spiritual” and “physical” life, they are interconnected as we are whole beings and it is with our whole being that we are to be transformed.
The church desperately needs to realize that we have a spiritual problem which is at the root of a physical problem. God has called us to be his holy people, to reflect his holiness to the world. Only by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit can this be done. We shouldn’t be making excuses for our behavior, but we ought to be confessing and practicing spiritual disciplines which will lead us to an indwelling Spirit of transformation. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and should be reflected in our lives.
Lord, thank you for spurring us on to a deeper walk with you. Amen.
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