Inner Vows

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.  (Proverbs 20:25)
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:25-32)
24 For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
Over the past two days, we have looked at two of the self-inflicted chains that can rob us of the joy, peace and freedom that the Lord wants to give us. Today we are going to look at a third and final self-inflicted chain.
An ‘inner vow’ can be defined as “a resolution set by the mind and heart, then usually forgotten, which then starts to control our responses to life”. Such inner vows are easy to make and it is easy for us to underestimate their power, yet Proverbs 20 warns us that such rash vows work untold damage in our lives. Somebody who is betrayed might resolve that ‘I will never let anybody close to me again’, and many years later that inner vow is still affecting their relationship with others. Someone who is abused might resolve that ‘I will never enjoy sexual pleasure again’, without realising how much that inner vow will wreck their marriage. Somebody who has been shamed or bullied or rejected might resolve that ‘I will never let myself get in that position again; I will always strike first’, little realising that they are setting in motion a way of relating to people which will ruin their friendships and hurt those who are closest to them.

The challenge with identifying inner vows is that very rarely do we think about what we are doing at the time. Inner vows are often made unnoticed. They can be made at a young age, either by yourself as a child or spoken by your parents over you. Inner vows are made in the midst of pain to avoid future pain, but they always make things worse.

The tell-tale sign of an inner vow is that you over-react in certain situations. You think, ‘Why did I just get so angry about that? It wasn’t that big a deal’. But the reason why you over-reacted is that an inner vow was transgressed, an invisible line was crossed by somebody who didn’t know that the line was there. One of the reasons why God forbids us from making such vows, in Matthew 5:34-37 and James 5:12, is that such vows become our true ruler instead of God and our true authority instead of God’s Word. The Lord warns us in Proverbs 30:6 that adding to his words will always harm us. Inner vows promise to protect us, but they always end up harming us.

So here’s the good news. The promise that we looked at a couple of days ago in Ezekiel 36 is effective in breaking the power of inner vows. The Lord promises us that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” If we confess our inner vows to him, the Lord promises to break their stranglehold over us. He will restore to us a heart that is tender towards his commands, not our foolish additions to his commands. He will empower us to walk in freedom through his Holy Spirit.
1)   Can you think of any ‘inner vows’ that you have spoken over yourself? As a clue to help you spot them, they often sound something like “I will never … … again.”
2)   What effect do you see those inner vows exerting over your life today?
3)   Do you want the Lord to set you free from those inner vows today? If you do, then tell him so. Confession always precedes breakthrough, so confess those inner vows to him and ask him to deliver you today.
Father God, I thank you that you are my true Protector. I am so sorry for the inner vows that I have spoken in an attempt to protect myself. They have only made things worse. Please forgive me, Lord, for adding to your Word. I undo those inner vows right now in Jesus’ name. Please give me your tender heart of flesh and empower me by your Spirit to live in true freedom, entrusting myself to your protection instead, Lord. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were written by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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