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Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

This time of year people start thinking about taxes. Getting exemptions on taxes is a good thing. Being exempt from paying all or part of taxes is a great thing. Not likely, but great.

In our Christian life we often seek exemptions from God’s standards. Oh, we are real subtle about it, and self deception is the loophole of choice. We are master at subconsciously excusing our habits, behavior, character faults and neglect because of some imaginary exemption we’ve come up with up. There are endless varieties of them. Here a few examples to get you thinking about any you’ve come up with for yourself.

My Past

I had a rough childhood. I was abused. My parents didn’t teach me. We didn’t go to church when I was young. I didn’t come from a good family. I was picked on.

Our past can become one of the biggest wells from which we draw our buckets of excuses and exemptions. We excuse materialism because of past poverty. We exempt ourselves from moral purity because of past abuses. We let ourselves off the hook in the present and in the future because of what happened in the past.

It’s no accident or surprise that modern humanist psychology deals primarily with the past in direct contradiction with Scripture:

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

God knows that we cannot do anything about what has happened in the past. We have no control over the future. We can only make choices and decisions for today. Modern counseling professionals, sadly including many Christian counselors, have subscribed to the humanistic idea that we should spend our lives being what we were in the past. My name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic. My name is Susie and I’m a victim of abuse. My name is Mike and I’m a sex addict. My name is Jane and I was very hurt by someone who loved me.

I know this will come across as utterly overly simplistic and almost childish in today’s environment of complex and progressive humanistic approaches to problems but I believe that the answer to 99% of forgiving, forgetting, and moving on to new growth in our life is simply to say “that was the past, I’m moving on”. How many of your problems would disappear if you simply decided to let the past be the past, learning the appropriate lessons, but pressing on to the future?

How many of your problems would disappear
if you let the past be the past?

Unfortunately, many of our excuses wouldn’t be available to us either; maybe that’s the real issue.

I’ve been told that this is simply sweeping your problems under a rug and not dealing with them. Having a pesky of a habit of taking Scripture at face value, I don’t agree. I not only don’t agree from a strictly Scriptural standpoint, but I don’t agree as a matter of experience either. I take to heart Paul’s admonition, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”, simply deciding “the past is the past” and most of the time it does not have to be “dealt with”. It is my personal experience, both in my own life and in the lives of those that I have counseled, that this Biblical approach is both effective and healthy.

Nevertheless, your past is never an excuse and never exempts you from what God ask you to do today. Past sexual abuse does not exempt you from moral purity. Past trauma in relationships does not excuse you from honesty and fidelity now. The Christian hypocrites of your past do not excuse you from your Christian duty now.

Be careful you are not using your past is somehow exempts you from what God wants you to do today.

My Hurt

I have physical pain. I have emotional pain. I have relationship pain. I have family pain. I am hurting from betrayal. I am aching from heartbreak. My health is suffering. Because of all these things, God exempts me from service, devotion and holiness. What’s more, God understands why I am discontent and unhappy. Right?

He could not possibly expect me to be a good Christian or a joyful contented person with that kind of hurt and pain that I’m enduring. Could He?

2 Corinthians 11:24-28 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (NKJV)

All that happened to the apostle Paul and what was his attitude?

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

There are very few of us who will suffer anywhere close to what Paul suffered and yet we are so quick to bellyache and exempt ourselves from God’s commandments because of comparatively minor hurt.

Do you have personal pain today? Be sure to honestly evaluate whether you’re using it to excuse yourself from doing what God would have you do.

My Circumstances

I’m too busy. I have too much responsibility. I have too much pressure. My boss is a jerk. I’m in financial trouble. I have people persecuting me.

How easy it is to exempt ourselves from what we know God would have us do by making the excuse that circumstances beyond our control have hamstrung us. On the surface it appears to be a perfectly legitimate explanation and yes, at times it may actually be a legitimate reason. However, if there are genuine circumstances that are truly forcing you into certain schedules, activities or routines (in apparent conflict with God’s will) then I would propose to you that you are doing exactly what God would have you do and you need to find His will in the situation. Most of the time though, our circumstances are self originated and while they appear to be leaving us no alternative but to neglect the things of God, in reality it is a choice we are willfully making.

It is never God’s will that circumstances force us to sin. God always provides a way to escape temptation (1Cor 10.13). So we can never excuse or exempt ourselves from the Lord’s standard of holiness and blame our circumstances. God is sovereign and in control. He does not allow circumstances in our lives that cause us to genuinely neglect Him or forsake Him. If you’re neglecting the things of God today and claiming that you have no choice, you need to really think that one over.

My Family

My family doesn’t believe that. My family makes fun of me. My family will disown me. It’s just how our family operates. It’s a family tradition.

I don’t have much to say about this particular excuse except for this: is it God or your family that will save you? When you stand before God to give an account for your life, do you think He will give you a pass when you tell Him that your family’s opinion, pressure or acceptance was more important than Jesus’s sacrifice?

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (NKJV)

What is Jesus saying? He is very simply saying that if your love for God does not make your love for your family seem like hate in comparison, you cannot be His disciple. Obviously God will not exempt you from following His commands because of anything concerning your family. So quit pretending it will.

My Spouse

My husband is not a Christian. My wife is not submissive. My husband is a selfish jerk. My wife is a discontent nag. My spouse doesn’t care about spiritual things.

Far from exempting us from being the very best Christian we can be, the very fact that our spouse is any of these things is more of a reason to raise your level of Godliness. Anyone who’s been married for any length of time knows that it is difficult to live in a situation where one spouse seeks to follow God and the other is neutral at best, and antagonistic at worst. However, this not only does NOT exempt us from following God, it actually increases our responsibility because our example may be the very thing that convicts our spouse and brings them to the foot of the cross.

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (NKJV)

If you are living with a spouse that makes your Christian walk more difficult then take heart that your Christian sacrifice of holiness may be what God is using to draw your spouse to Him. I do not say this lightly. I know that living in marital conflict and discord is an extremely tough burden to bear. Try to put things in eternal perspective and realize that while you may very well live this life without marital contentment, God sees your life and He will reward you eternally for your sacrifice.

Don’t allow your spouse to become your excuse for not fully serving God with your whole heart.

Church

The church is full of hypocrites. The Christians I do business with are not honest. My church is full of arguing and gossiping. The preacher doesn’t teach us anything. We don’t have any good teachers at our church. There aren’t any programs to teach me how to be a good Christian. I don’t get anything out of the worship service.

Unfortunately, given today’s lukewarm church there is great opportunity to use the downfall and faults of our assembly to exempt us from fully taking up our cross and following God. Let me ask you this: if all or part of these negative things are true about your church, how much more is it necessary and desperately needed, for you to raise your level of commitment, devotion and holiness to lead the way for others?

Far from being an excuse to waiver, bail out or quit, the weak and worldly state generally found in today’s churches is all the more reason for each of us to live an exemplary and blameless life so that others may follow our example.

1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)

It doesn’t matter how many hypocrites or weak Christians are in your church. It gives you no exemption from imitating Christ’s so that wayward and shepherdless Christians can look to you as their example.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

If there is any area of your spiritual life that is consistently weak or erratic, then there is a good chance in the back of your mind you are exempting yourself from correcting that area. Look honestly at your habits and shortcomings and see if you have given yourself one of these built-in excuses (or some other clever one you’ve dreamed up) to neglect change in that area.

As Tax Day approaches, try to get all the exemptions you can. As Judgment Day approaches, try to rid your life that excuses and exemptions that keep you from sanctifying every area of your life to God’s greatest glory.

Lord God, help us to be honest with ourselves if we are using any of these things to exempt us from your commandments. Give us the strength to stop making excuses, to press on to the future and leave the past behind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do you have areas of your spiritual life that are inconsistent and neglected? Have you honestly evaluated whether or not you’re excusing yourself from dealing with those areas? Have you convinced yourself of any reason whatsoever that exempts you from following God completely in fully in every area of your life?

Application: Examine your life and see if there are any areas of neglect or inconsistency that you have claimed exemption from because of your past, you’re paying, your family, your spouse or your church. If there are, determine that you will put the past behind you and press on toward the goal of becoming more like Christ and stop making excuses or exempting yourself from any part of God’s will for your life.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


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