Inner vows must be revoked
Inner vows are declaration 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.
Inner vows will subconsciously impact our thought processes and behaviour. Some examples include:
- “I will never trust anyone.”
- “I will not let anyone control me.”
- “I will never be like my father.”
- “I must become successful.”
- “I will make sure people like me.”
- “I will always look perfect.”
Inner vows have consequences
Before the legal profession was formed, a man’s declaration was his binding contract. Inner vows act as contracts we place on our lives. The Bible states that what we say has the power of spiritual life (blessings) or spiritual death (curses). We are either saved or condemned by the nature of our words and we will “eat the fruit” of our words.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Matthew 12: 37 ESV for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
God knows that we are incapable of always making godly choices with regards to our words and declarations. Therefore, to keep us safe from our own demise, God warns us not to make an oath of any sort, except to swear allegiance to Him alone.
James 5:12 ESV But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath…. so that you may not fall under condemnation.
The power of declarations and inner vows to destroy
1. Biblical evidence: Life and death in our words
Words can bring about changes in the visible, physical realm. Consider the Israelites whom Moses helped escape from Egypt to go to 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.
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…
2. Scientific evidence: Life and death in our words
Science has shown that a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress. Stress can lead us to experience life negatively. To quote research by neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman in Psychcentral, 2013:
“Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. They propel the motivational centers of the brain into action, according to the authors, and build resiliency.
Conversely, hostile language can disrupt specific genes that play a key part in the production of neurochemicals that protect us from stress. Humans are hardwired to worry — part of our primal brains protecting us from threats to our survival — so our thoughts naturally go here first. However, a single negative word can increase the activity in our amygdala (the fear center of the brain). This releases dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn interrupts our brains’ functioning.”
3. Practical evidence: Life and death in our words
Let’s look at an example of a man whose mother kept telling him that he was “good for nothing” when he was a child, because he did not excel in science and mathematics. Instead, he achieved 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 this field. So 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 to 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.
The back-story to this man’s history is that his own mother 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 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.
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 invariably stop us from submitting to God’s greater plans and blessings for us.
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 an unhealthy or fleshly response 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. By not turning to God, we end up relying on our own limited strength and create a lot of stress and strife as a result. Human beings are hopeless as our own personal saviours.
2. A form of idolatry
Inner vows are 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, when 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.
James 4:13-15 ESV 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 in response to a condemnation or judgment of a person or a group of people. 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 ESV 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. 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.
Breaking the power of inner vows to destroy
1. Acknowledge God as our King
First, we need to ask Jesus to rule over our mind, will and emotions and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us. We need to take ourselves off the throne 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 restores us back to Him. 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 for 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 that led us to make inner vows in the first place, such as fear, pride, greed or the need for control.
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.
5. 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 souls under, in Jesus’ name.
6. 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 ESV 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.
7. Replace the inner declarations with God’s declarations
A crucial aspect of revoking inner vows is replacing our wrongful 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 ESV … 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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