July 21

Vows, Part 2 (Inner Vows)

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Perhaps more powerful than outer, verbally expressed vows are the inner vows we make. Some of them we may have said out loud; others remain hidden in our hearts.

We know that a vow has been made, however, when something—a person or a circumstance—contests that vow. We might get defensive, protective and angry, and maybe don’t even know why.

Maybe you’ve never vowed a vow like Jephthah (see yesterday). But how about one of these?

• I’m not going to treat my kids like my parents treated me.
• I’m not going to get married (again).
• I’m not ever going to let anyone (man/woman) get close.
• I’m going to make sure the kids get the things I didn’t.
• No one is going to get me to lose my cool.
• No woman will control me like my mother did my father (or like my father did my mother).
• I’ll never go to church again.
• I’ll never lose weight/quit smoking (or beat alcohol, etc.).
• My kids will all have a college education.
• I’ll never be dependent on anyone again—I’m going to make it on my own.

Have you ever said any of these, or vows similar to these? The tricky part of making inner vows like this is that the goal is usually a good one, perhaps even a godly one. Take a look at the apostle Peter. Peter vowed to Jesus in Mark 14:29, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Yet it was no time at all before he broke it.

It was a vow of good intention, but there was one fatal flaw: He relied on his own strength to do it. (The difference between this Peter and the Peter after Pentecost is like night and day. At that point, he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, and there was no stopping him.)

You see, it’s not the vow itself that’s usually wrong. It’s the HOW of the vow. Every inner vow begins with “I will” or a similar sentiment, and is based on our strength and determination, not on His grace. Eventually, we get exhausted maintaining the vow, and we can get like Jephthah, blaming others and outside circumstances for our troubles.

Identifying inner vows is a Spirit-led endeavor. Perhaps we can identify a few obvious vows with our own thinking. But for permanent change that gets to the root of things, we need the power of His Spirit combined with a humble heart. We need to give God free reign to touch old memories and get into tender places. We will learn how to undo these vows tomorrow. But for today, let’s agree with David in his prayer:

Prayer: (Psalm 139:23-24) “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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