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
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…
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…
There are many scripture passages that seem to suggest that the way people view God often says more about them than it does about God. Our perception of God, as well as other spiritual truths, is conditioned by the state of our heart. Jesus’ most important teaching on this matter is found in John’s Gospel…
Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen, based on Hebrews 11:1 as I explained in this post. Practically speaking, this means that you become aware of what you are representing in your imagination as you pray, and that you take care to align it with what…
Image by Martijn Braat via Flickr Many Christians feel empty, tired, and apathetic, if not positively angry, though few express this out loud because it’s usually taboo to do so within Christian circles. These believers often fault themselves for their shortcomings when, in fact, it may be that their lack of zeal for the things of God…
This is a sermon clip from Greg’s preaching a couple of weeks ago. He testifies about answered prayer and also details the important role of the imagination in prayer. This sermon is based on Greg’s book called Seeing is Believing. If you’re interested, you should definitely pick that up. You can find the whole sermon…