We need to untie some of the “knots” that keep our minds and our hearts in bondage. Often they are “knots” of our own wrong thinking, “knots” that we’ve allowed to burrow deep into our souls and become permanent residents there.
For example, we get all tied up in the have nots. How often do you focus on what you don’t have instead of being thankful for what you do have? Having recently returned from a trip to Kenya where I visited in the homes of women who truly have almost nothing of this world’s goods, I was again amazed at their contentment, their joy in the midst of what we would call deep poverty. We classify them as the have nots of this world, and yet they displayed more contentment and purpose in life than lots of us do here where our lives are crowded with stuff.
One of our enemy’s most effective weapons against us is to make us discontented with what we have, so that our lives become focused on trying to get what we think we must have in order to be happy and complete. The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content, whatever his circumstances. When you and I are tied up in the have nots of our lives, it’s because we haven’t learned to be content.
Have you been thinking that you have not the job you want, and so you’ve become discontented with your job, which almost always leads to lack of excellence in your work habits? Maybe you’re thinking that you have not the mate you want, and you’re desperately looking for that mate who is going to make your life complete—or so you think. Or could it be you have a mate, but you have not the kind of mate you want, and so you keep trying to change that person, which, of course, is an exercise in futility.
When was the last time you thanked God that you have a job? Have you ever thought about the good things you have because you’re single? Do you ever take time to appreciate the positive things about your mate—or your boss or your co-worker—fill in the blank?
If you’re tied up in the have nots, the way to be set free is to develop a thankful attitude. To start each day with a focus on being thankful and expressing thanks every chance you get. You must determine to do it, whether you feel like it or not. Just start saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” at every point in your day—for the sunshine, for safety, for good health. There is great power in being a thankful person, and it will set you free from the have nots!
And then there are the can nots that frequently strangle us. How often do you talk yourself out of stepping out and doing something because you tell yourself you can not do it? Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” That means that everything God intends for you to do, you can do because he will give you the strength to do it.
The can nots of life will keep you from accomplishing the good works God put you here to do. Ephesians 2:10 says that we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has a can do list for you to do, and he is totally capable of empowering you to do it. He has promised to provide the strength and the resources you need to do what he has called you to do. So, why do you tell yourself you can not do it? Why are you tied up in that knot?
I know, you look at the job, and you look at yourself, and you are frightened because you know that in yourself you don’t have what it takes. But this is what it means to walk by faith not by sight. If God is saying this is a can do for you, you’ve got to trust him to do through you and with you what you could never do without him. But that’s what the Christian life is all about—it’s about Christ living his life in us so that we can do what he has called us to do.
It has been my experience in my years of walking with the Lord that when he calls me to do something, I am always in over my head. It is way more than I can do; I never have the education or the experience or the resources or the know-how to do it, and yet as God has placed that passion and desire within me, he has always been there to accomplish what he wants to accomplish through me.
I want to encourage you to undo the can nots in your life. Stop feeding yourself negative messages. I’m not advocating foolishly doing things without much thought and prayer and guidance. But so many of us just stay on the sidelines and never get in the game because we are filled with the fear of the can nots. You’ll make some mistakes along the way, you’ll have to learn some things through failure, but if God is in it, he will bring you through to completion and you’ll learn the joy of being involved in what God is doing. It’s the abundant life; sitting on the sidelines is really boring.
Were you raised with a lot of do nots? Christians who live their lives by the do nots are not living in the freedom that Jesus came to give us. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Living under the burden and the guilt of the do nots of life is a yoke of slavery.
It’s true that the Old Testament gives us the law of Moses, but Galatians 3 teaches us that the purpose of that law was to be our schoolmaster or our tutor to bring us to Christ. The law shows us how far short we fall of God’s holiness, and therefore how desperately we need the redemption he has provided for us in Jesus Christ. That law—the do nots of life—places guilt on us, and that guilt is often very deserved. But when we accept the grace offered to us through Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins, then that guilt is removed and his righteousness takes its place.
Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col. 2:20 – 23)
Living by the rules may appear to be right, but eventually it is going to fail you because living by the do nots of your own making or someone else’s is not enough to accomplish God’s purposes. It is based on your performance, and that leads to pride or guilt. Have you noticed that those who base their Christian life on all the things they do not do usually have a very judgmental attitude toward others? They judge others by comparing them to their set of rules.
Of course, the Christian life is one of righteous living, but that has to be based on our desire to please Jesus. Rather than trying to obey all the do nots of law, as believers we should be motivated from love and devotion to Jesus to please him in every area. The sanctification process that should be taking place in every believer is to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and when that is happening in our lives, we don’t perform out of fear or duty or pride, but we allow the life of Jesus to be manifest in our lives. Do not be a slave to the do nots!
Do you have any will nots in your life? I’m sure you’re well aware that you did not have to teach your children to be selfish. They come that way! Have you noticed that even as infants, they behave as though the whole world revolves around them and everyone in their life is there to cater to their desires? And sadly, we don’t change much as we grow older; we’re just not quite as vocal about it!
We do what we set our wills to do—and conversely, we don’t do what we set our wills not to do. So, when I set my will not to do God’s will, but to do my own will, then I’ve set myself on a path to pain and heartache. And oh yes, even people who are truly born of the Spirit of God can decide that they will not obey God. I know, because I’ve been there.
For many years I set my will to go after what I thought I needed in order to be happy. It was all about me, and many times through those years I demonstrated through my lifestyle and the choices I made that I would not do God’s will. I didn’t actually utter those words and would probably have denied them if I had been confronted. But there was no doubt that I had a bundle of will nots in my heart, and I intended to run my life by my will, not by God’s.
I wonder if someone is in that place right now. You know that you’ve set your will to do what you want, and you simply will not obey God. I have to tell you that is one of the most miserable places to be. Refusing to obey God is a surefire way to mess up your life but good. God’s plans for you are good; they are by far better than your plans. He knows the best way for you to go, but as long as you will not listen to his voice, you will forfeit the good path he has for you.
Jeremiah 6:16 says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
If there is any will not in your life, I pray you will immediately confess and forsake it, and walk in the ancient paths, in the good way, where you will find rest for your soul.
I want to close this topic as we look at one more “knot” that has many of us tied up—and that is the am not. How often we focus on all our am nots instead of focusing on the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. For example, when was the last time you thought or said, “I am not qualified,” “I am not good enough,” “I am not as good as others”? Oh, how the enemy of our soul loves to keep us looking at ourselves instead of looking at Jesus.
Romans 8 assures us that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and yet we have a tendency to keep condemning ourselves—or to allow others to condemn us. God never deals with us through condemnation. He may convict us of something in our lives that he wants to change in order to conform us to the image of his Son, Jesus, but he never beats us over the head with our unworthiness, even though we are all truly unworthy.
Depending on your life experiences, you may have great difficulty believing that anyone could truly forgive you and set you free from your past, especially God. But I urge you to make this truth the centerpiece of your life: what you have confessed and forsaken is out of God’s memory, separated from you and never to be brought up against you again.
When God sees you in Christ, he does not see your ugly past; he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ which has been credited to your account.
Furthermore, God never compares us with others; he takes us where we are, gives us hope for the future, and assures us that nothing can separate us from his love.
I hope you will by God’s grace get rid of the am nots that you’ve harbored far too long. Don’t believe the enemy’s lies any longer. When you hear those am nots starting to invade your thoughts, just quote Romans 8:38-39:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.