Think of the last time you were faced with a difficult decision. More specifically, think of the last time you literally had two choices you could clearly see before you. Perhaps you’re on a diet, and you recently found yourself looking at the drive-through menu at a fast food restaurant trying to decide between the Mega- Sized hamburger or the salad for dinner. Or, perhaps you were renting a movie online or on Redbox and you had the choice between the R- rated movie and the G-rated one. Sometimes, the good and the bad are plainly side by side, and the fact that there is a choice to be made is very clear itself.
There is always a choice. God has blessed us with one of the greatest powers in the universe, that of free will (Jos. 24:15). When it comes to sin, we can always choose whether or not to serve sin (Rom. 6:16), but we have to be aware of the fact that a decision has to be made. It’s easy to visualize our choice when we’re staring at the menu items at the drive-through or have the DVD choices in the palm of our hands, but the choice between sin and righteousness is often not so clear.
In the New Testament, unclean spirits or “devils” took possession of individual men and women, often causing them to behave in inhuman and dangerous ways (Matt. 8:28, Acts 8:5- 7). We have many figures of speech regarding sin where we identify the sin as having a controlling personality or will of its own, as if the sin is a devil or demon that’s overtaken us. However, the truth is that, though we may be influenced by the ministers of Satan (II Cor. 11:14,15, Eph. 6:12), we ultimately sin because we choose to do so (Jas. 1:13- 15). We may personify a sin as a “demon” that haunts and terrorizes us, but that demon has no control over our spirits that we don’t willfully hand over to it.
But, sometimes, we don’t want to face those “demons”. Sometimes, even though we know the urge to sin exists, we comfort ourselves (and justify ourselves) by ignoring the simple fact that a choice has to be made, and refuse to confront that sin face to face. We intentionally cloud the issue in our own minds. We build complicated networks of reasoning and look everywhere except directly at the sin. The less we are aware that there is a simple choice to be made, the easier it is to simply “find” ourselves entrapped or possessed by sin, as if we didn’t simply choose to do so.
And sin can be so abstract at times, especially sins of thought. The married man lusting after a woman who is not his wife may feel like he doesn’t truly have a choice, because as soon as he sees the woman he feels overcome with a feeling of attraction for her, a natural reflex beyond his control. But Matthew 5:27,28 says that the lust he feels is a transgression of the heart, a sin he has chosen to serve (also see Prov. 6:25). We likewise choose to sin with the tongue, to be enslaved by addictive substances, to lie, and to commit any other sin no matter how abstract or
If we find ourselves struggling with a particular sin, sometimes it helps to find ways to visualize the choice that is being made. Sometimes we need to make an effort to face our demons, that is, acknowledge the sin for what it is and see the choices we make. For example, simply take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, write sin on one side of the line and righteousness on the other. Exercise vigilance: as soon as you feel the urge to commit that particular sin consider the choice before you. If you choose not to commit the sin, mark a point for righteousness; if you choose to transgress, mark a point for sin. It may seem a bit silly and childish, but such an exercise will help you to confront the sin and realize you are making a choice for which you will be accountable (II Cor. 5:10).
Satan wants us to think we don’t have control. He wants us to think we aren’t making a choice when it comes to sin. If he can get us to ignore the decision making process, to disengage ourselves from the responsibility that comes with free will, he’s got us right where he wants us. If he can convince us that our sin isn’t real, he’s got us right where he wants us. If he can get us to ignore our sin, he’s got us right where he wants us. When it comes to the war against sin and darkness, sometimes the hardest thing to do is maintaining awareness of the fact that a war is going on and we must daily choose which side to fight for (Rom. 7:23).
When Joshua placed the clear choice before God’s people, they declared that they would indeed choose to serve God and not the strange gods of foreign lands. With that declaration of awareness and intent, they were responsible for their choices (Jos. 24:20-24). We, too, as God’s chosen people, have declared our intent, and we, too, should be prepared to face the consequences and rewards of our choices.