By Bob Bunn
You’ve probably seen the cartoons where a person with a choice to make has two voices whispering in his ears. On one shoulder, an angelic version of himself encourages him to do what’s right. On the other shoulder, a devilish version of himself urges him to follow his instincts.
The character is usually torn between knowing what’s right and actually doing it. The dueling voices create an emotional tug-of-war, and the only way to resolve the conflict is to make a choice—one way or the other.
Sure, it’s just a cartoon. But if we’re honest, we know there’s at least a hint of truth tucked away in there. Practical experience tells every man, even without animated angels and devils, that the battle between good and evil in our hearts and minds is all too real. We hear the voices, and we feel the tension.
As sure as the sun comes up each morning, we will experience the impact of this unseen war every single day. According to the apostle Paul, though, that internal battle is actually a good thing.
Sometimes, it’s easy to think of Paul as some super saint, one-man spiritual army, immune from the struggles the rest of us face. But his comments in Romans 7 demonstrate that he was one of us. He felt the tension just like we do and failed the tests more than he wanted (Romans 7:15–24).
Still, Paul understood that the struggle meant that things were getting better. We stood separated from God, feeding the works of the flesh every chance we got (Galatians 5:19–21). It was only after we came to Christ and the Holy Spirit set up shop in our lives that the struggles began.
For the first time, we had the option to reject sin, but we couldn’t do it on our own. Because sin is still such a powerful menace in our lives, we can only turn from it by turning to the Spirit who is always willing and able to help us.
The Bible makes it clear that, as long as we’re on this side of eternity, the battle is going to rage. We’re going to hear contradictory voices, and we’re going to feel the tension between knowing what’s right and longing to do what’s not. And, like Paul, we will feel like wretches when we stumble and fall (Romans 7:24).
Thankfully, our sin is not the end of the story. In fact, we’ve been given a solution to the problem of sin. The closer we move toward Christ, the weaker sin’s attachment becomes. So as we learn to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), we can acknowledge our weaknesses and lean into His strength.
In other words, the only way to quiet the voices is to let our humility and obedience to Christ do the talking.