Inner vows must be revoked
God’s words are powerful, and so are ours. His Word is binding and will always accomplish what He sets out to do. God’s spoken Word is like a contract. In the gospels, we see an instance where Jesus cursed a fig tree and it withered within 24 hours. The Son of God explained to His surprised disciples that anyone who says anything and truly believes it will make it eventually come true, similar to a contract. Inner vows are like contracts or promises we make about ourselves. Inner vows will come to pass – whether they were intentional or not, remembered or not, voiced out or not. They represent us choosing our will over God’s and need to be revoked before we can experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
(See Chinese versions: 繁體中文 > 廢除內在誓言與咒詛 | 简体中文 > 破除内在誓言与咒诅)
Psalm 89:34 I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Mark 11:23 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
The binding power of word contracts
Before the legal profession was formed, man’s word was his binding contract. The Bible points out that words can bring spiritual life (blessings) or spiritual death (curse) – and they are binding.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Similarly, research has shown that a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress. Positive words such as “peace” and “love” promote the brain’s cognitive functioning and resilience, while negative words stimulate stress and the brain’s fear centre, interrupting its functioning. Hurtful words may not literally break our bones but they can affect us physiologically and crush our spirits.
Notice that every time something is said about a person in the Bible, it will come to pass. Consider the Israelites whom Moses helped escape from Egypt and leave for the Promised Land. They all died in the desert after wandering around for 40 years. The reason? It wasn’t because God is wicked – but primarily because they kept grumbling and declaring again and again that they would die in the wilderness. God never intended to leave their bodies in the desert but eventually, their own words overturned His intent. Because God respects our freedom to choose, our invisible spoken words can bring about changes in the visible, physical realm.
Numbers 14:2,26,28-29 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron… would that we had died in this wilderness! And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron… Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness…
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Declarations over our souls will come to pass – whether they were intentional or not, remembered or not, voiced out or not. Declarations include pledges, covenants, oaths, wishes, promises, and vows, all of which have an impact on our future. By the nature of our words, we are either saved or condemned. Like it or not, we will invariably “eat the fruit” of our words.
God knows that we are incapable of always making godly choices with regard to our words and declarations. Therefore, to keep us safe from our own demise, God warns us not to make any oath of any sort, except to swear allegiance to Him alone. To illustrate, let us suppose a believer is in hospital for cancer treatment. He vows to God to follow Him for the rest of his life when he is completely healed. This is a vow that man should keep. If however, he vows to himself that he will study medicine and become a doctor when he gets out of hospital, without confirming if this is God’s will for him, he has made an ungodly vow. In spite of his good intentions, the cancer patient needs to repent of and renounce his inner vow.
Matthew 12: 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
All inner vows are destructive
In the midst of pain and suffering, however, we may make declarations about ourselves in an effort to avoid suffering in the future. Such inner vows, even the ones that sound positive, will stop us from submitting to God’s greater plans and blessings for us. We end up setting a trap for our souls through our own vows.
Proverbs 20:25 NIV It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.
1. Sinful reaction to pain
An inner vow is usually the result of unhealthy or fleshly responses to hurts, unfulfilled expectations, and unmet needs. Only God can shield us and show us how to stand up against life’s disappointments and pain. When we fail to turn to God, we end up relying on our own limited strength. This creates a lot of stress and strife as a result. Human beings have no hope of becoming their own personal saviours.
2. A form of idolatry
An inner vow is a form of self-determination and idolatry because we place our desires above God’s desires for us. We decide to rule the direction of our futures by vowing to make what we want to come to pass, even though we can’t even predict or control the future. This seems foolish.
Even positive-sounding inner vows, such as “I will be the most respected sibling in my family,” are idolatrous, because they seek to control our own destiny, rather than joyfully follow God’s plans. We lack the freedom to become all we were created to be, because our one-dimensional and superficial inner vows will keep holding us back. In the example, we will form a competitive spirit with our siblings and keep ourselves from being vulnerable and authentic with them.
James 4:13-15 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
3. Passing judgment
Inner vows are also often made in response to our condemnation or judgment of others. Vows such as “I will never be like her / him” or “When I have my own children, I will make sure they listen to me, unlike those parents at school” are a result of us judging the actions of other people.
Roman 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
4. Hardens hearts
Inner vows form walls around our hearts. Our hardened hearts alienate us from the life that God has planned for us. They keep us ignorant and darkened in our understanding of His blessings.
Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Inner vows cause our hearts to become hostages to our past, even if our circumstances have changed drastically. Our souls cannot truly be free to follow Christ. There is only one vow we should make, and that is to follow God all the days of our lives.
Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
Signs of inner vows
Inner vows continue to work in our subconscious minds, long after our conscious minds have stopped thinking about them. They typically bring stress and block peace. If we notice that we feel “torn” and our souls struggle to follow God, it might be worth asking the Holy Spirit to reveal if we have ever made inner vows that shut God out of some areas of our lives.
Inner vows made as children are still binding and follow us into adulthood. Childhood inner vows are often made in response to intrinsic emotional needs that we have felt. Growing up, we have all instinctively needed and desired to feel:
- Unconditionally loved;
- Validated and accepted;
- Valued for who we are;
- Part of a family;
- Safe and secure;
- Forgiven for our mistakes;
- Guided and taught lovingly;
- Little or no shame;
- Happy with our looks;
- Happy with our genders; and
- That we had a voice, our opinions mattered.
Some possible symptoms of inner vows include anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, unrealistic expectations, hatred, stubbornness and generally strong reactions to certain triggers.
Let’s look at an example of a man whose mother kept telling him that he was “good for nothing” because he did not excel in his academic results, despite his A grades in music and art. God blessed him with incredible creative talents, but his mother was too fearful that he would not have a rewarding career in these fields. As a result, she pushed him to study mathematics and science instead. In his pain and frustration, he made an inner vow as a boy to “prove to the world that he will become successful in the future.”
He dedicated himself to working hard and eventually became an investment banker. To keep up with the inner vow he made as a child, he spends the money he earns on expensive cars and apartments he can’t really afford, to show the world that he “has made it.” All the while, he struggles with high levels of anxiety and stress, but his hardened heart and pride keep him from being honest with himself. He also finds it hard to maintain healthy relationships with women. Subconsciously, his mother’s harsh words and curses haunt him. He is fearful of marriage because he is afraid his wife will find out that he is “good for nothing” and leave him.
This man’s story began not at his birth, but at his mother’s. She grew up in severe poverty and had previously made her own inner vow to “never allow my children to suffer poverty and disgrace like I have.” Her inner vow blinded her to the blessed creative gifts that God had endowed on her son, and brought unexpected suffering to the one she wanted so badly to protect. Sadly, this is not an unusual scenario.
Here are sample inner vows and their crippling spiritual consequences.
|“I will never …||This person will struggle to:|
|… trust anyone.”||Fully trust God.|
|… trust Christians.”||Fully trust Christian community.|
|… trust authority figures.”||Trust pastors. Will tend to revolt against them in their hearts.|
|… let anyone hurt me.”||Be authentic with people.|
|… let another man/woman hurt me.” (same gender)||Be authentic within same-gender accountability groups.|
|… let another man/woman hurt me.” (opposite gender)||Trust one’s spouse and enjoy the intimacy in marriage that God intended. May end up in homosexual relationships.|
|… let anyone into my heart.”||Invite Jesus in one’s heart.|
|… let anyone take anything from me.”||Surrender harmful things to our loving God.|
|… let anyone control me.”||Submit to God’s will and plans.|
|… let anyone look down on me.”||Be humble.|
|… be as successful as my dad.”||Find one’s identity in God alone.|
|… be good enough.”||Accept God’s unconditional love. May resort to lots of joyless church activities.|
|… be loved.”||Believe God loves him/her.|
|… be financially secure enough.”||Be content with what God has given. Will keep wanting more.|
|… be weak, vulnerable, cry.”||Release pain and receive healing.|
|… be honest about how I feel.”||Seek help for personal struggles.|
|… be like my mother.”||Truly forgive one’s mother. Accept God fully since God is also a parent figure.|
|… be like my father.”||Truly forgive one’s father. Accept God fully since God is also a father figure.|
|… be sick.”||Not panic when ill. May turn to new age healing and medicine.|
|… be successful.”||Be confident in Christ and stay faithful to God.|
|… matter to anyone.”||Celebrate life. May consider suicide and thoughts of death.|
|… stand out again.”||Take on ministry opportunities|
|… make much of my life.”||Embrace God’s plans.|
|… live in a messy environment.”||Volunteer to help in messy situations or go on mission trips to alleviate poverty.|
|“I will …||This person will struggle to:|
|… make sure people like me.”||Love others unconditionally. Will try to please or manipulate people.|
|… overcome the lack of my mother’s/father’s love.” (same gender)||Overcome same-sex attraction.|
|… be as successful as ___.”||Follow God’s definition of success and prosperity.|
|… be a self-made person.”||Be thankful to God.|
|… stay young for a long time.”||Focus on the heart and instead focus on physical appearances.|
|… always look perfect.”||Be authentic and real.|
|… do anything to protect myself.”||Practice integrity and be vulnerable.|
|… do anything to win love.”||Practice sexual purity.|
|… always live in this country.”||Accept that God may have other plans in another country.|
Notice that all the vows in the table above may seem good, but they will ultimately become stumbling blocks that stop us from submitting to God’s love and his plans for us fully.
Practical steps in renouncing inner vows
In our earlier story, the man struggled with both the words of death his mother spoke over him (curse) as well as the declarations he made for his future (inner vow). Both need to be broken in Jesus’ name. Only God can wipe our spiritual slate clean and give us a fresh start.
In the Bible, Jabez was a man whose mother also did not give him the best start in life. Because of her labour pains, she gave him the name, Jabez, which means “he makes sorrowful” in Hebrew. Jabez knew that he had to cancel out the effects of his mother’s curse on his life by calling out to God for help.
The key thing to note is that Jabez is described as being “more honourable than his brothers.” He submitted his life to God and sought his Heavenly Father first, before he asked God for His blessings and protection. We too can ask God to replace the mistakes of our past by seeking Him first.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
1. Acknowledge God as our King
First, we need to ask Jesus to rule over our minds, wills and emotions and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us. We need to take ourselves off the thrones of our lives and invite God to take His rightful place, so that we can enjoy all the benefits of our spiritual inheritance.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help us remember all our inner vows
God always answers our requests for help when we ask, particularly when it comes to restoring us spiritually. We can ask the Source of all wisdom and truth, the Holy Spirit, to show us what inner vows we need to renounce.
3. Repent of following our fleshly desires
There are various reasons why we resort to inner vows, and none of them pure. We need to repent of obeying any fleshly desire, such as pride, greed, or the need for control, that led us to make inner vows.
Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
4. Forgive those who have hurt us
Importantly, we also need to forgive those who caused us any pain that resulted in us making our inner vows – before we seek God’s forgiveness. God calls us to come to Him with our hearts free of any unforgiveness.
Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
5. Break curses in Jesus’ name
There will be people who can’t help themselves but pass their misery and insecurities on to others through words of bitterness and curses. We must be cautious not to allow their curses and the resulting effects to take root in our souls and harden our hearts.
In the case of our example, the young man made his inner vows as a result of his mother’s curses. Let us break and reject the curses spoken over us in Jesus’ name, invite God to heal our wounds, and release us into His full favour. Remember we are to also bless those who curse us and not curse them back.
Romans 3:14-17 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
Luke 6:28 Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
6. Repent and renounce all inner vows in Jesus’ name
After these steps, we should repent of choosing our own destinies and foolishly making inner vows, and release ourselves from the bonds we put our own souls under, in Jesus’ name.
Psalm 2:3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
7. Ask God to transform our hearts
Where our hearts have been hardened towards God’s will, we can invite Jesus to give us a new heart and spirit so that we can be free in Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ezekiel 36:26 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.
8. Replace the inner declarations with God’s declarations
A crucial aspect of revoking inner vows is replacing our harmful self-promises with the promises of God. We can ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the riches of His blessings so we are not tempted to follow our fleshly desires.
Ephesians 1: 18 … having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints
For example, someone who once declared “I will never be good enough” can overturn this inner vow with the truth by declaring, “I celebrate all my strengths and weaknesses, because God has a purpose and a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) in making me this way. I will not be afraid to admit my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9), so that people will see that it is God who has helped me attain everything that I have. With God as my Helper, I never need to fear (Hebrews 13:6). My sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5).”
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