Have you ever listened to the voice in your head that tells you things like this?
“You’re not good enough.”
“You’re not as bad as them.”
“It’s OK, no one will know.”
That voice can get us in a lot of trouble, and that voice needs to be fired. I have heard this voice referred to as the inner lawyer, the voice that will justify absolutely everything. It will tear you down or encourage you to ignore accountability. I listen to this voice way too much.
There was a season in my life when I completely ignored what God was calling me to do. I would listen to my inner lawyer daily, which would always communicate, “It’s not that bad,” or “No one will know.” After listening to this voice for so long, I would end up doing what I didn’t want to do. Afterward, guilt and shame would flood my thoughts, and the voice would say, “Look how awful you are.” So, instead of looking at the cross, I focused on my sin and slowly walked away from Jesus.
At this point, sinning felt more normal than following Jesus. How did I get there? The inner voice kept justifying my actions, and as soon as I would try to change my direction, guilt and shame would hit me right between the eyes. Instead of fighting through the guilt and shame, I would listen to the voice again and embrace my sin even further.
I hate to even write this, but I believe someone needs to read it: I knew I wanted Jesus, but I began to feel that Jesus didn’t want me, which in turn made me angry that God would not want me. I know it sounds weird, but that’s me being transparent. I didn’t even think about him, because when I did, the shame and guilt grew. It was easier not to trust Jesus and to disregard the conviction.
The inner lawyer won. Until one day, Jesus broke through the inner voice. He took my eyes off my sin and reminded me of God’s grace. I was reminded of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11. It says, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” I picked up my Bible and read it differently. I didn’t listen to the lie of the inner voice, telling me that God didn’t want me. I believed that God was after me. I knew the voice in my head that told me to read that passage was from God and not the inner lawyer. I tried to fire the inner lawyer that day, but it wasn’t that easy.
I started trying to live a life that didn’t listen to the inner lawyer. And I was convinced that, since I stopped these certain sins, that the inner lawyer would go away. I was wrong. Instead, the inner lawyer began to pivot. Instead of justifying sin, the thoughts of “You’ll never be good enough,” “What if they find out what you did,” and “God can’t use you,” kept running through my mind.
Not too long after turning towards Jesus and feeling grace in a way I never had before, I sensed God was calling me to full-time ministry. Again, the inner voice attacked, “God can’t use you,” “God only uses those that don’t commit those sins.” Fortunately, I had a godly mentor teach me this: God will use those who are willing, no matter their past. I said, “Yes!” I believed God and became a youth pastor. I began to chase after Jesus and point people to Jesus, the whole time trying to hide my past. To be honest, even writing this has been scary for me. I lived in fear of “What if?”
Then I heard someone say, “If you knew everything about me that I know about me, you would discount me from ministry. And if I knew everything about you that you know about you, then I would discount you from ministry. But Jesus knows everything about us and still chooses to use us.” I’m not sure why, but at that moment, it was clear that God was calling me to use my past to help others get past their current situations. When I had that paradigm shift, my inner lawyer got real quiet.
We can often relate to our common failures and, if we allow Jesus to use our past, we can show God’s grace. God wants to use your story to help others. People need to know that they can be forgiven. People need others to walk with them. Just telling someone that God will forgive them usually doesn’t do much. But if you show someone how God has forgiven you and use your story to show them God’s grace, God moves in a mighty way.
The best weapon against the inner voice is the story of God’s grace and salvation in your life. This is your story, your testimony. Jesus can and will use your past for his glory. Our God is the only one who takes failure and turns it to victory.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.
— Psalm 66:16
Jesus knew your past before he ever created you. I believe he had a purpose for your past before he ever created you. It’s our job to fire the inner lawyer and let Jesus get the glory!