A photo by margot pandone. unsplash.com/photos/QE2QOZqxdr4

Why Your Imagination Matters

The flesh, which we discussed in this post earlier this week, is shaped by Satan’s web of deception that deeply infects our imaginations. This is why it has such power to move us to perform in order to obtain life and then to hide our failures when we fall short of true life. And of course the end result is destruction.

Satan’s deception is anchored in powerful, imaginative misrepresentations of reality, and until these lies are confronted with truth (as explored in this post) in ways that are at least as vivid and powerful as the misrepresentations, the lies of the flesh will continue to dominate our lives. Until this happens, our experienced self-identity, our old self, will continue to exercise a strong influence in our lives, suppressing the truth about who we are in Christ. We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), but if this truth is believed in the form of mere information while the old self is continually experienced in vivid imaginative ways, we will find it nearly impossible to display our new nature consistently.

One of the most fundamental problems with contemporary Western Christianity is that we have lost the positive spiritual use of our imagination. So many of us only know Christ intellectually. We know and experience the web of deception imaginatively and vividly, but often this is not how we experience our Christianity.

For many, faith is little more than intellectual assent to certain propositions and a commitment to live a certain way. So is it surprising that our experienced self-identity continues to reflect more the pattern of this world rather than conformity to Jesus Christ?

Is it surprising that our old self seems more real than all the incredible things Scripture says about our new self?

If our faith is going to be powerful and transformative, it is going to have to be imaginative and experiential. St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, wrote “It is not knowing a lot but grasping things intimately and savoring them that fills and satisfies the soul.” Memories shape us profoundly because we grasp them and savor them not as information, but “intimately.” This is the manner in which we need to embrace our faith if it is to satisfy our souls and transform our lives.

It’s a wonderful thing to know that God is love (1 John 4:16), but this information will not significantly impact us until we can intimately grasp and savor the truth that God loves us individually. It’s a wonderful thing to know that Jesus died for the world, but this information will not significantly impact the way that we experience ourselves and the world until it becomes vivid, experiential, and personalized. I need to be able to savor in a concrete way the truth that Jesus died for me, that he loves me to this unfathomable degree, and that I am completely forgiven.

This involves the imagination.

We need to imagine truth and savor it; only then can the flesh that holds us in bondage be broken. We need to see pictures of grace in our minds and savor them; only then can grace break our flesh-driven compulsion to perform. We need to engage imaginatively in the unconditional love of God; only then can it break our flesh’s need to hide.

When we do these things, we will find ourselves savoring wholeness and life, our new identity in Christ, rather than death and destruction.

-Adapted from Seeing Is Believing pp. 79-80

Image by margot pandone via Unsplash

Related Reading

What the Cross Tells Us About God

Whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or with other people, the quality of the relationship can never go beyond the level of trust the relating parties have in each other’s character. We cannot be rightly related to God, therefore, except insofar as we embrace a trustworthy picture of him. To the extent that…

Theology and Imagination

The human brain is by far the most amazing, complex, and mysterious aspect of the physical world. Our brains continually interpret our world, and the way we interpret it is mostly determined by the way aspects of our world trigger our imagination. Our imagination encodes messages and creates feelings, and thus motivates behavior. And most…

Greg’s Review of Changing Your Mind by Victor Copan

Several months ago Victor Copan introduced himself to me at the end of a Woodland Hills Church service. He told me about his recently published book, Changing Your Mind. “I know you’re into spiritual disciplines and neuroscience,” he said, “so I suspect you might enjoy my book. It’s about the interface of these two topics.”…

Imaging God Wrongly: God’s Self-Portrait, Part 2

Our relationship with God depends on the way we imagine God. When we get the image of God right, the doors open for us to trust and relate to God in the ways we were created to do. But there are so many images of God that are entirely messed up. Just think about the…

Topics:

Overcoming the Flesh

In Monday’s post, we talked about the nature of the flesh. Here let’s introduce the work of the Spirit in overcoming the flesh. The Holy Spirit’s goal in pointing us to Christ is to replace the destruction of deception (the flesh) with the wholeness of truth. By leading us into an experience of truth, the…

The Danger of the Penal Substitution View of Atonement

About 25 years ago I was traveling on the freeway to somewhere or other and I stopped at a truck stop to get a bite to eat. I sat down at the counter next to this scruffy truck driver who had just started his lunch, and we started up a friendly conversation. Within about fifteen…