In this series by Dr. Daniel Berger
“Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?” (Job 31:3).
You must identify the false promise of earthly addiction while realizing the destructive reality of the wrong pursuit of it. If a person is unwilling or unable to see how corrupt their nature is apart from God, he will never have victory over lustful pursuits.
This worldview presupposes that you receive the ultimate promise of God—a covenant relationship based upon the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. An unregenerate person, no matter how much he tries, lacks God’s promises to free himself from the enslaving nature of sin.
Granted, unsaved people sometimes do find value in people, objects, and experiences apart from God that allow them to gain back control from their destructive valuing of a specific sin. But they are merely switching from one lustful pursuit to another, which still imprisons them apart from God’s promises and eventually destroys their souls. Second Peter expresses this reality.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (Peter 2:11).
It is not enough to “get over an addiction.” People’s root problems are not merely that they need freedom from the control of an experience or substance, but that they need freedom from condemnation and the false promise of self-dependence. Instead of worshipping self at regeneration, people are free to know and worship God.
With ‘Addicts,’ they know how to lay down their lives. We need more addicts in the local church. But we don’t need them to be addicted to substances; we need them to be addicted to Jesus. They’re the ones who know how to sacrifice. – Mark Shaw
When God changes our hearts, our desires and objects of worship will change too.
“Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity” (Job 31:4, 6).
Here, Job returns to the knowledge of God and mentions two features about God that are at the constant forefront of his mind: (1) God is omniscient and (2) God is perfectly just, righteous, and holy. Job’s consideration is not fear of others finding out or someone exposing him—the fear of man.
Instead, Job describes the fear of the Lord: God knows who we are and will perfectly judge us accordingly. If we are sincerely desirous to please God above our flesh, then God’s holiness is of great importance to us.
“If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit” (Job 31:5).
Deceitful pursuits in one’s own heart must be acknowledged. We all have lusts that draw us away (control us) and left to ourselves without God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s gift of self-control, we are all addicts. There must be intentional putting off deceit and putting on truth. There must also be a recognition of the awful news of who we naturally are if the good news (the gospel) is to have its necessary effect in our lives.
This response also requires that we are transparent with others about our weaknesses and our lusts that draw us away (control us). Confessing our sins to other transparent and humble people allows us to have a godly support system that provides strength, prayer, encouragement, and just as importantly, speaks truth into our lives.
“If my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands. If my heart has been enticed toward a woman” (Job 31:7-8a).
We must realize that this is primarily a spiritual heart issue that will control the physical nature. Our bodies are not truly in control of our pursuits, but our spiritual hearts are. This reality means that we are entirely responsible for our pursuits and behaviors. Both the step and the spot on Job’s hand are metaphors for sin carried out in the body. While man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart, since the heart produces the behavior.
“And I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her. For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase” (Job 31:8b-12).
Job expresses here that if he were to fulfill his lusts, it would require him to plan it out. We either plan and prepare to fulfill our lusts, or we plan and prepare to pursue Christ.
Those who become addicted to pleasures such as pornography or substances such as drugs are schemers who not only deceive but also spend enormous amounts of time planning to fulfill their lusts; pursuing deceitful promises demands that we mislead others and think through schemes to get our way.
In Genesis 3, the Bible explains that this tendency to use deceit is one of the greatest skillsets of Satan. In Genesis 3:1 the Bible states, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” “More crafty” means that Satan knows how to use deceit to get his way better than anyone else.
Today, people refer to this tendency as manipulation. Satan is a master schemer, and to participate in his masterplan of lust means that humanity must also utilize deceit. Our flesh, the world’s system, and the devil are all working together to fulfill the Devil’s will in our lives: destruction and separation from God.
In contrast, the righteous plan to do good according to God’s goodness. Peter says—after declaring that God’s promises and a covenant relationship with Him are delivering from Satan’s scheme—that we still need to plan to do good and please God:
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-12).
Even in our plans, however, Peter recognizes that the promises of God are the enablers of our efforts: If we practice these things, we will never fall. We must put on the full armor of God if we are to have victory. We cannot merely waltz into war and hope everything works.
Our pursuits directly impact those around us. Job, here, offers a second motivation in addition to loving God and believing in His goodness: loving others. People who give themselves over to the control of sin cannot give themselves over to loving God and others.
When a person engages in lustful pursuits, not only do they harm themselves and hurt their relationship with God, but they also destroy relationships with those who love them most.
Job states this truth so emphatically in the text when he asserts that his actions would be as bad as if his wife committed adultery or others raped her and that it would wipe out everything he owns. The promises of sin are not only empty and harmful to our selves, but they also destroy others too. Lust—primarily when it controls—is never merely bad for the one pursuing, but it is also a sin against God and others.
Another way to discern what Job is saying is by realizing that if God’s promises (blessings) are not enough to motivate us, then God’s warnings (negative promises) should ensure it. The New Testament provides many specific warnings of such harmful pursuits.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
No matter how deep we proceed into false, destructive lusts, there is hope in Jesus Christ. While sin is a powerful slave master, Christ is a more powerful and loving Savior. To have victory over any addiction means that a person must begin to see his pursuits and desires as God does—realizing and rejecting the false promises in worldly treasures—and honestly evaluating his condition.
This change of mind—repentance—requires that faith in God over trust in self be realized (Proverbs 3:5-6). The fact that each of us trusts in our understanding and pursues our way means that all people—whether understood or not—are naturally addicts; we find great value in the pursuing false hopes and destructive desires. But thankfully, there is genuine delivering hope. When the fear of the Lord is accepted, and the departure from evil occurs, the spiritual and physical natures will positively change (Proverbs 3:7-8).
Just as a criminal who is invited to eat at a King’s table and to receive a portion of the King’s wealth is foolish to choose to remain hopelessly eating spoiled food off of the prison floor, the person who genuinely treasures God and believes in the incredible value of His promises will not continue to pursue false promises and destructive lusts. Only by a change of faith (spiritual heart) can people have deliverance from addiction, but no person, program, or substance can change another’s faith.
Only God can supernaturally save people from their destructive lustful pursuits. As a very close friend of mine who God saved out of the vice of drugs, sex, and alcohol and now serves the Savior as a missionary likes to say, “I tried every pill you can imagine, and only the ‘gospill’ saved me.”
The truth about human nature is that we pursue that which we value most and trust that which we believe offers the most. Unless our treasures and beliefs are in accordance with God’s truth, our worship will always reflect our natural bent to trust in our understanding and pursue all that our hearts desire.