“Abraham--your 'father'--with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered."
(John 8:56 – The Message)
“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
(Hebrews 11:10 - KJV)
This past Sunday I spoke on the power of imagination as it relates to living out our lives in the identity of the “beloved of God.”
I looked up the word “imagination” in Wikipedia and learned that it is defined as the "ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination is the work of the mind that helps create. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental faculty through which people make sense of the world."
When God saved us, He saved all of us. Including our previously fallen and corrupted imagination. Part of the work of the Spirit of God in sanctification is the redemption, purification, AND PROPER UTILIZATION of our imagination.
Our imagination allows us to see things which are not evident. A believer is called to engage the imagination through the spiritual faculty of “faith” and to see and envision the realities and promises of God’s Word – and to “see” things which are not yet as though they were already.
Sometimes, funny things can happen when we pastors step up to a pulpit and begin preaching. I am convinced after 32 years of preaching sermons (16 in full time ministry) that a preacher enters a sort of “twilight zone.” Did you ever see the TV show? I never tired of hearing Rod Serling, the writer and executive producer of the series, say these words, with that ominous smoked too many Pall Malls voice of his.
"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man ... a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination."
"This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you're on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable...Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you're entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. . .
Next stop The Twilight Zone.
Always gave me the shivers, and I loved every minute of it. Rod Serling's genious lay in his ability to take us into a story and make us feel as if the protagonist was us! Anyway, sometimes in the "Preacher's Twilight Zone", the Redeemed Imagination can take over and...bang! I know what some of you are thinking, “yes Pastor Ralph, sometimes your messages are a bit “bizarre and unexplainable!”
But we don’t need to stumble into the Twilight Zone to enter the "wondrous dimension of the imagination." We can go there anytime – by faith. This is how Abraham was able to “see” Jesus’ day – 2200 years before His time. Abraham imagined and invisioned the Day of Christ so vividly that it shaped his actions, his faith, his identity. "He saw" Christs Day!
There is always something I did not say on Sunday that I wish I had said. Blame the Twilight Zone.
I guess you could summarize my sermon for this past Sunday with this sentence: "See who you are, then relax - live from this vision; be yourself. You were made to live this role of the Beloved."
I've been speaking about getting into character - our true character. Actors assume another character. We're called to assume our new character - but it's our real "role." It’s a character God prepared in advance for us and intended us to “play” many eons ago. Method actors work hard and take drastic measures to get into character. Adrian Brody, in preparation for his role in the movie, "The Pianist", sold his apartment and car - since he would play someone who had everything taken away. What are we doing to engage our imagination and imagine how God sees us?
This is what Paul is so passionate about in Ephesians 1:18-19. After telling the Ephesians about God's beautiful plan - His Ultimate Purpose to unite “all things” in Christ, he tells them how he prays and what he prays: (from the New Living Translation)
"I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe Him..." (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Why does Paul pray this? Because this understanding requires prayer. It does not come without prayer. The appreciation of the “incredible greatness of God’s power” requires the engagement of the praying imagination. It takes a work of the Holy Spirit to "see it!" To imagine the greatness of what we are as the "accepted in the beloved."
When the great Greek Scholar, A.T. Roberston analyses the Greek grammatical structure of 1:18 - "having the eyes of your heart enlightened" - he writes: "(this is) a beautiful figure, the heart (is) regarded as having eyes looking out toward Christ."
Abraham’s heart looked out and with enlightened imagination, through faith, saw the day of Christ 2 millennia into the future. Then he looked further and saw the city of God, the New Jerusalem, with real, eternal foundations! A place worth living in.
When we are enlightened by the Spirit, we can understand the incredible love of God towards us. He loves us as much as He loves His own dear Son. This is enough to meditate on for the rest of our lives. We are the focus of His attention - because, not only have we been redeemed and forgiven, we have been literally joined to Christ. Relax, don’t stress. God is not going anywhere. He doesn’t grow bored with us. He doesn’t get “seven year itches” or mid-life crises.
When I know that I am loved perfectly, eternally, and passionately by a God who will never ever leave me or forsake me, I can then, from that basis extend the same love to those around me - my neighbors, co-workers, friends, family. There is no one who I cannot love as God loves. Since I don’t have to earn God’s love, others don’t have to earn mine. Love becomes, not something I reciprocate with, but something I give freely. After all, it is a “renewable resource.” I will never run out of it.
When I “know” that all things are mine in Christ because, Iike Abraham, I can look ahead, down the corridors of time to that DAY – The Day – when His Kingdom comes in fullness – when I will live with Him in that “City whose builder and maker is God”, I am now anxiety free. The Lord is my Shepherd, I want nothing, I lack nothing.
Do you “see” yourself as the Beloved? I pray that God would open the eyes of your imagination and cause you to see into that “dimension beyond space and time” - to see what the Word of God says you are. It is not evident yet, so it must be received and “seen” with spiritual eyes.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2
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