Updated: Sep 1, 2020
“Trust your gut,” “follow your heart,” “how you feel is so important.” How many times have you heard this advice? How many times have you trusted yourself to make a decision that you know your flesh alone cannot take on? Yeah, me too. Everyone has done that, and everyone has come to that crossroad: my way, my words, my needs OR God’s way, God’s words, God’s will. As Christians, we face this on a minute by minute basis. We are constantly having to check our minds, filtering out our sinful nature.
So, who is really talking to you then? Who is the sound board in your head? There are only two answers: that still small voice, aka God, or the voice you WANT to hear, the devil. Yes, there is your conscience, but even that was given to us as a tool of discernment, deciphering whether it is God or the devil directing us.
C.S. Lewis referred to the basis of our “angel on one shoulder, devil on the other” in his most legendary work of non-fiction, Mere Christianity, as The Moral Law. He defined it as “not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts (p. 11).” What Lewis meant by this was that this “tune” didn’t just pop up one day. It’s in us because of the Lord. He gave us the tune to a song that only He sings.
In Job 26:14, Job, who had every reason to give into what the devil had in mind for him due to the pain and turmoil he endured, instead praises God, proclaiming this:
Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
and how small a whisper we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand?
God never needs to overcompensate. He is gentle in His tone because His power surmounts anything we can imagine. His whisper is enough to hear, but only if you want to (an excellent example of meekness). He tells us that if we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). See, God only speaks to those who are listening. When you are relying on your own understanding, when you are following your own path, trusting your own gut, you’re basically telling God that you don’t care about what He wants to say to you and how He wants to guide you. If we profess to be wise, we become fools (Romans 1:22). The devil LOVES when you look to yourself for answers. He wants you to fail. He wants you to feel the pain of trusting yourself. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and in order for him to succeed, he will use you to do his dirty work.
Think of all the terrible things you’ve said to yourself. Think of all the times you’ve thought that you’ll never amount to anything; you don’t deserve to be loved; you aren’t worth respecting or considering. Think of the temptations you’ve given into because you justified the reasoning behind them. Here’s a major truth bomb: ALL of those thoughts are LIES to turn you away from the Lord. The doubt, the glorification of sin, the cutting of corners, the “just this one time will be fine”—all from the devil that you’ve allowed to sit comfortably on your shoulder.
BUT—with God, there’s always an alternative—God gives us instructions in Philippians 4:8-9 on how to identify the Truth:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, do and the God of peace will be with you.
How comforting is that? This is a great verse to have printed out and hung up in your house. It’s a reminder that whatever is NOT in those instructions is a lie. The peace of the Lord is present when you meditate on the Truth. This is the filter in which you could use to identify who is whispering in your ear. The devil will lie to you—you have every right to hate that person; you aren’t worthy of the God’s love; God doesn’t care that you’ve been high for a straight week, He loves you and that’s all that matters—the list goes on.
Another way to identify it is by asking yourself, is this [thought or act] from the Lord? Would He be telling me that it’s okay to have sex with whoever I want? Would He be saying “yeah, that guy deserves to be punched because he looked at you a certain way”? I’ll take a big, fat guess and say no, He definitely would not be telling you or giving you permission to do those things. Why? Because He is a sinless God and calls us to run from sin and temptation—temptation to hate, hit, lust, gossip, etc.
The final, and most important, identifier is always by referring to the scriptures. Get to know God, His word, and His will for you. Ask Him to speak to you. With deep knowledge of those things comes a keen sensitivity for God’s whisper.
This is also how we know the difference between conviction and guilt. Guilt produces self-loathing. Think of all the times you have felt guilty--did you call yourself names? Did you doubt that God would forgive you? Did you feel shame that you thought you could never recover from? Notice the pattern here with how the devil works. He always brings you back to YOU. It’s like he’s trying to suffocate you with your own self-centeredness. Have you ever apologized because you just wanted to make YOURSELF feel better? Yeah, selfishness. Humility is not rooted in selfishness, but in the complete opposite: selflessness. Need more convincing? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines guilt as a “feeling of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.” Focus on the words “imagined offenses” and “a sense of inadequacy”. Let me make this clear, we are not talking about criminal guilt. We are talking about self-inflicted, made up blame. It conjures up a feeling of despair, and for that to go away you must do what you can, even if it means an insincere reconciliation.
Now conviction, or to be more specific, biblical conviction, comes from knowing that you have done wrong, humbling yourself before God by repenting from it, knowing you have been forgiven, and moving on. Not to say there won’t be some self-loathing because, after all, we are still human. However, because we KNOW we are forgiven, there is no need to be ashamed. This does not—and I repeat DOES NOT—mean that you now have God’s permission to sin willfully. We must try to live like Christ every day. We must try to be an example of Him. It’s all about being sincere and intentional. God doesn’t like a façade. Conviction, as a whole, is about living by biblical standards. Feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit means taking a step back and re-evaluating your walk with God, humbling yourself, and asking Him for strength, self-control, wisdom, and/or anything you need to live justly for Him.
To recap what’s been written: All good, righteous things come from God. Grace comes from God. Conviction also comes from Him, too. All lies, doubt, self-loathing, shame, guilt, etc. are products from the devil’s warehouse where shipment is free and fast as hell (literally).
Listen for that still small voice, the one that is gentle and loving, but packs a spiritual punch. The voice that will most likely justify your flesh is the one you should silence and rebuke.
I hope I have made sense to all of you who are reading this. Like I’ve always said: please do not hesitate to shoot me a message if you have any questions, concerns, feedback, whatever! I would love to hear from you.
Sincerely + with love,