Heavenly Sources for the Imagination

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: 1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

We are prompted to understand how important our imagination is for the kingdom of heaven. This scripture apparently gives us the right to use our imagination. In fact, Bible imagery requires a healthy imagination. For us to be able to tap into the realities of eternal life we need to visualise the unseen.

I have experienced human ridicule for the genuine Christian; they say, You’ve just got something there in your imagination; you’re just imagining things. When I was first approached with this thought, that we are living in an imaginary castle, I was somewhat puzzled. But really, is it just our imagination, or is it reality? The things of God are written in the Bible, but they are not seen visibly so well. Our worship and our mind occupation is to do with the unseen, so you need an imagination.

Our Imagination Needed

2 Corinthians 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.

Have you ever heard scientists telling you, “The things that you see, they’re actually not real”? If they would only realise what they are saying. The Bible says, What you see is temporal. It’s something that passes away; whereas eternal things never pass away – they are always there. It tells us here that we are to look not on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen. We are to look at them. How can you look at something that you can’t see? This is why many times people read the Bible and say, This is just contradictory! But if you really let the Holy Spirit enlighten your mind, you will realise that He is here simply saying, You are to use your imagination to look at the things that are not seen. You are to look with your imagination, because the things that you see around you with your eyes, they are temporal, ready to pass away; but the things which are not seen are eternal. So it becomes very obvious, as you read that scripture, that you have to use your imagination to see something that is not seen with the naked eye. It is only with the imagination that it is possible to see the eternal.

We have a good illustration of this in the story of Moses. Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace. He was living in a world of opulence, wealth – he had everything going for him. But what was he doing with his imagination?

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses lived in a world of visual glory, but he continued to follow God’s impulses upon him and endured by looking at Him who is invisible. And as a result of that, he forsook Egypt, and suffered with the people of Israel in the wilderness. To all human observation, to the observation of natural eyesight, that doesn’t make sense that he gave up the pleasures of the palace of Pharaoh, to go into the wilderness with the children of Israel. But he had something in his mind,

Hebrews 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

Because of his faithfulness, although he died in the wilderness, he was resurrected; and he now dwells with God in reality; whereas, if he had stayed in Egypt, where would he be today? He would be a mummy in a pyramid. And he would have probably been dug up by now and placed in some museum. The imaginary life of Moses was guided for the eternal world. This is what we desire to fathom. We want to understand how important this is, because we are told to endure unto the end.

Matthew 24:13 …he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

How shall we endure? As Moses did. He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.

Faith can only function by the imagination grasping the unseen. We talk of faith; we understand we are to live by faith. Well, faith can only function if the imagination grasps the unseen. What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

As you grasp hold in your imagination the things that are not seen, and function by faith, according to the things that you imagine, then the things that are not seen become substance. Faith makes it a reality to you and you practise and live within the realm of the unseen visibly. It is the substance of things hoped for – you are actually bringing your imaginary exercises into substance. We are here today on the Sabbath-day in this building; we are here in substance, because we are occupying our mind with the unseen. What you eat and drink, what you work at, whatever you do in keeping the Sabbath, etc., it is substance of the unseen.

Fathoming the Unseen

The realities of God’s kingdom are fathomed only by a God-illumined imagination. The things that are real but are unseen, they are God’s kingdom, and they can only be fathomed as you read the Bible and become illuminated by God in your imagination. We want to have heavenly sources for the imagination. What has been inspired of God has been given as food for the imagination.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

It is indeed the working of the Holy Spirit which is needed; we want Him to bathe our soul.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

It can’t be generated by our own imagination, it doesn’t come. We’ve never seen it, we have never heard it. What God has prepared for His people doesn’t arrive in our heart out of the blue,

2 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

We might know it. It’s something that is unseen, but it is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The Bible has been written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit; so as we read the Bible, our mind picks up what is written and inspired of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit comes to us personally and makes the Bible alive to us, because we know how to use our imagination when we are reading the Bible.

We are to take the word and make it our own. This is another important facet of how to study the Bible. People have asked me time and time again, How do I study the Bible?? You take a scripture and you pick up on the thought and make it your own. In your imagination you pick up on what is written there and you make it your own in your mind. You meditate upon it, your imagination enlarges it, as it is written there, and the Holy Spirit comes along and shows it to you.

Only under the direction of the Omniscient One shall we, in the study of His works, be enabled to think His thoughts after Him. {Ed 134.5}

As you are studying the Bible, as you are studying nature, under the direction of God, you are enabled to think His thoughts after Him. He will show you the deep things of God. How will He show it to you? In your imagination. That was David’s cry, Let our imagination be set in harmony with God’s thoughts.

This is what is needed for our imagination:

How man can be a counterpart of Jesus Christ is beyond human comprehension. {SD 34.2}

How can we comprehend something like this, that we can be a counterpart of Jesus Christ? We can be part of Him. How can that be? Human comprehension can’t generate that.

But the Holy Spirit can strengthen our spiritual eyesight, enabling us to see what our natural eyes cannot see, or our ears hear, or our minds comprehend. By the Spirit which searches all things, even the deep things of God, have been revealed precious truths which cannot be described by pen or voice. {Ibid.}

Can you transfer perfectly what’s in your imagination to someone else? It’s pretty hard to do. So God’s Spirit is needed to transfer to us what is in His mind. God’s word tells us that these things are beyond our comprehension, but the Holy Spirit can strengthen our imagination – our spiritual eyesightenabling us to see what our natural eyes cannot see. It’s something that you see with your mind’s eye and that you visualise through the imagination. It is very important that we have our imagination illuminated by the Holy Spirit, because He is the only one who can communicate the deep things of God to us.

In the Bible, a boundless field is opened for the imagination. The student will come from a contemplation of its grand themes, from association with its lofty imagery, more pure and elevated in thought and feeling than if he had spent the time in reading any work of mere human origin, to say nothing of those of a trifling character. {FE 165.1}

If you want to dwell in your mind in the realm of boundless imagery, read the Bible, study it, and let your imagination grasp the pictures that are conveyed there. Let the Holy Spirit make what is written a reality to your imagination.

Qualifying Imagination

But before I pursue any further, let me qualify “imagination”. We often demean someone who dwells in his imagination. You know how people make fun of others, It’s just your imagination, it’s not reality. So the word “imagination” has a few negative connotations in it. Imagination in itself is not wrong. It depends on where the source for that imagination is coming from. If I live in an imaginary world that is not generated from God, then that is when imagination is not a good word.

A Bad Imagination

I am personally acquainted with some who have lost the healthy tone of the mind through wrong habits of reading. They go through life with a diseased imagination, magnifying every little grievance. Things which a sound, sensible mind would not notice, become to them unendurable trials, insurmountable obstacles. To them, life is in constant shadow. {CTBH 124.1}

Why? Because their imagination was fed by the wrong reading. It becomes a diseased imagination. We often hear people talking about what they imagine, and we think to ourselves, This is ridiculous. So we often put the term “imagination” on a negative premise. This is helping us to appreciate that we need to make sure that we feed our imagination correctly.

What does the Bible say about an imagination that is not good, in contrast to the other one which is not a diseased imagination?

Jeremiah 7:23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. 24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels [and] in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

God is saying, I want you to exercise your imagination under My direction; obey Me; follow My direction. But what did they do? “No, I’d rather dwell in the imagination of my own evil heart.” That’s what you people are doing, He said to the Israelites. There is an imagination that is not to be considered of wholesome occupation. It is when it arises from our own hearts, instead of from the direction of the Holy Spirit and of the Bible. That is a diseased imagination.

Be sure that you do not follow the imagination of your own heart, but move in the fear of God. {CSA 50.2}

Move in the unseen world, in the fear of God, in your imagination with Him, not in the imagination from the natural heart.

All are free moral agents, and as such they must train their thoughts to run in the right channel. The first work of those who would reform is to purify the imagination. {CTBH 136.1}

We are to be hygienic in our minds; we are to purify the imagination. We are to use the pure water of life to purify our imagination, to remove that imagination which comes from an evil heart. You know what happens sometimes, thoughts come to you and then you permit your mind to enlarge those thoughts, and it comes to you as pictures, and your imagination goes from one thing to the next, etc. This is an unhealthy imagination. We are to have our imagination stirred alone by God, and if we are going to reform our life, we must first start by purifying our imagination. Don’t let your imagination run away under wrong sources.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

We are to destroy the imagination in our mind that comes from the natural heart, or from wrong reading. Clean it all out. Use the water of life to wash it all out. And then, with a mind that has been illuminated from on high, from the unseen, we can begin to exercise a healthy imagination.

A Sanctified Imagination

The idea is not to do away with imagination, but rather to seek for purity of thought and a refined and sanctified imagination.

If they in humility entreat God for purity of thought and a refined and sanctified imagination, He will hear them and grant their petitions. {CG 463.1}

What are we to pray for? In humility we should entreat God for purity of thought and a refined and sanctified imagination. And God will answer that prayer. I have to get my imagination acting correctly, so I need a pure, refined, sanctified imagination. Don’t do away with imagination. There are people who live very much in the rigidity of, “Just do as you’re told, and that’s it. Don’t think too much, don’t picture anything.” They live a rigid life of very legalistic dimensions. God wants us to exercise our imagination, but it has to be one that is in answer to the prayer, Lord, refine and sanctify my imagination. And He will do that. Then we can do what we saw in the introduction. The prayer of David was, Keep this in the imagination of their hearts, that theirs hearts will be right towards You. That is when imagination is important. My imagination needs to be purified, and then I can exercise it freely.

Parents should guard their children and teach them to cultivate a pure imagination and to shun, as they would a leper, the lovesick pen pictures presented in newspapers. Let publications upon moral and religious subjects be found on your tables and in your libraries, that your children may cultivate a taste for elevated reading. {AH 415.3}

What are we to do once we realise that our imagination needs to be purified? What must I do? What must we do for our children? To teach them to cultivate a pure imagination. What does it mean to cultivate? When you go cultivate the soil, you turn it over and make it soft. We are to cultivate a pure imagination; we are to bring into our mind an imagination that we pray for from God and that we then deliberately pursue to exercise upon the material that is revealed by God. With such a God-given, sanctified imagination, we begin to function in a way that is going to render us in faith like Moses.

It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, {DA 83.4}

When did Jesus live? He’s not living in front of us, is He? He lived over 2,000 years ago. What should we do? We are to take the life of Christ point by point,

…and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. {Ibid.}

With an imagination that has been cultivated in correct lines we are to take hold of the life of Jesus, which He lived over 2,000 years ago, and make it a reality to us in our imagination. You actually picture Jesus as you read about Him. You don’t just say, Oh well, that was His life. No; you actually take His life point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scenes, so that you’re actually seeing Jesus going through the motions. The Holy Spirit will give you the enlightenment as you cultivate that imagination.

As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. {Ibid.}

What will happen? We will catch His looks; we will hear His voice speaking to us, as we let the imagination run. We will pick up and be deeply imbued with His Spirit. By beholding you become changed. You have to behold Him in your imagination.

If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross. {Ibid.}

Can you see how meaningful this becomes now? “At the foot of the cross” means I am there in my imagination, and it’s real to me! And everything that Jesus is suffering, especially at the cross and Gethsemane, it is real to you! And as it becomes real to you it moulds and fashions your life. You pick up on the spirit of it. This is what we do.

As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. {DA 83.5}

Because we are dwelling on the unseen, and that is what we talk about. That is our communication, that is our fellowship – in the unseen realities.

Exercising our Imagination

Sr. White is here exercising her imagination:

While seated in this beautiful retired park [in Healdsburg, California], free from all confusion and bustle, a sweet peace came over my spirits. I seemed to be taken away from myself, and the bright home of the saints was presented vividly before me. {9MR 104.1}

What was the Holy Spirit doing? He was showing her the home of the saints.

In imagination I gathered with the saints around the wide-spreading tree of life. {Ibid.}

She actually gathered with the saints in her imagination around the tree of life. She was using her God-given imagination.

Friends and dear home relatives who had been separated from us by death were gathered there. The redeemed, white-robed multitude, who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, were there. {Ibid.}

In her imagination.

No flaming guard stood around the tree of life, barring our approach. With happy, joyous songs of praise, the voices were blended in perfect harmony as we plucked of the fruit from the tree of life. {Ibid.}

That was in her imagination; and that is what we are encouraged to do. These are living examples of using the imagination in a most beneficial manner.

Another Man’s Hardships

Now in the following statement she is writing to ministers who feel that they are suffering under hardship. You know, when you’re serving the Lord, there are many hardships that you meet.

If ministers feel that they are suffering hardship and privation in the cause of Christ, let them in imagination visit the workshop where Paul labored. Let them bear in mind that while this chosen man of God is fashioning the canvas, he is working for bread which he has justly earned by his labors as an apostle. {AA 352.2}

What is she saying? If you think you’re having a hard time, minister, have a look at Apostle Paul, and, in your imagination, look at him. He is earning his money by making tents out of canvas, money which he rightfully could have simply by doing the ministry. He should receive their tithes and offerings, but he said, I’m not going to make myself amenable to any man; I’m going to earn my money while at the same time I am doing the ministry. She says, If you think you’re having a hard time, just go in your imagination to the chamber where Paul is labouring with his hands, working with canvas – stubborn stuff that is, that is hard work.

Nature’s Beauty

This is another example:

The glory of God is displayed in His handiwork. Here are mysteries that the mind will become strong in searching out. Minds that have been amused and abused by reading fiction may in nature have an open book, and read truth in the works of God around them. All may find themes for study in the simple leaf of the forest tree, the spires of grass covering the earth with their green velvet carpet, the plants and flowers, the stately trees of the forest, the lofty mountains, the granite rocks, the restless ocean, the precious gems of light studding the heavens to make the night beautiful, the exhaustless riches of the sunlight, the solemn glories of the moon, the winter’s cold, the summer’s heat, the changing, recurring seasons, in perfect order and harmony, controlled by infinite power; here are subjects which call for deep thought, for the stretch of the imagination. {CG 49.2}

When we sometimes go for walks in nature, I muse to myself – we’ve gone so many times with different people, in New Zealand, and in different places – there are people that want to go for a walk. So off they go on a Sabbath afternoon walk, and it’s just walk, walk, walk; and they walk right past things which I love to stop and have a look at. To let the Sabbath afternoon be spent in your imagination on the beautiful things that God has created around us, isn’t that what the Sabbath is for? to spend time in meditation in our imagination? As your imagination grasps hold of what is beautifully portrayed there, you are exercising an imagination that brings you close to the Lord. That is an example of using our imagination.

The World to Come

As your senses delight in the attractive loveliness of the earth, think of the world that is to come, that shall never know the blight of sin and death; {CE 55.2}

As you are looking at nature around you, think of the world that is to come.

…where the face of nature will no more wear the shadow of the curse. Let your imagination picture the home of the saved, and remember that it will be more glorious than your brightest imagination can portray. In the varied gifts of God in nature we see but the faintest gleaming of his glory. {Ibid.}

Let the Holy Spirit illuminate your imagination, and see what heaven is going to be like. That is what Sr. White was doing in that park in California.

A Saving Theme for the Imagination

I want now to conclude by meditating on an imaginary exercise that is going to save me from sin. This is an extremely important exercise of the imagination.

Thank God, He has presented to our imagination no picture of a sorrowful shepherd returning without the sheep. The parable does not speak of failure but of success and joy in the recovery. Here is the divine guarantee that not even one of the straying sheep of God’s fold is overlooked, not one is left unsuccored. Every one that will submit to be ransomed, Christ will rescue from the pit of corruption and from the briers of sin. {COL 188.2}

You know what it’s like, when you find that you have gone astray from the Lord, you feel so overwhelmed. Well, let your imagination dwell upon Jesus in Gethsemane and the cross, and see Him there as the Shepherd restoring the sheep that has gone astray. Not one person that has fallen in the pit of corruption and the briers of sin needs to feel in his imagination that he’s a hopeless case; because Jesus came back with the lamb that He found caught in the briers.

Desponding soul, take courage, even though you have done wickedly. {COL 188.3}

Isn’t that strange? How different this is to what we often hear from many churches. When a person has fallen and done wickedly, how do they treat them? Not as Jesus treated them, unfortunately.

Do not think that perhaps God will pardon your transgressions and permit you to come into His presence. God has made the first advance. While you were in rebellion against Him, He went forth to seek you. With the tender heart of the shepherd He left the ninety and nine and went out into the wilderness to find that which was lost. The soul, bruised and wounded and ready to perish, He encircles in His arms of love and joyfully bears it to the fold of safety. {Ibid.}

There is not placed in front of my imagination Jesus returning without the lamb. This is powerful food for the imagination. To permit the imagination to pursue this kind of exercise we look at

The Living Story of Redemption

Jesus has picked the lamb up. He has picked us up from where we had fallen. What will give me assurance that I will not fall again if I will use my imagination right? When I read this statement the other week I just suddenly saw a profound, beautiful picture of righteousness by faith in practice, because the imagination grasps hold of this.

God brings His people near Him by close, testing trials, by showing them their own weakness and inability, and by teaching them to lean upon Him as their only help and safeguard. Then His object is accomplished. They are prepared to be used in every emergency, to fill important positions of trust, and to accomplish the grand purposes for which their powers were given them. God takes men upon trial; He proves them on the right hand and on the left, and thus they are educated, trained, disciplined. Jesus, our Redeemer, man’s representative and head, endured this testing process. He suffered more than we can be called upon to suffer. {4T 86.1}

She describes the suffering of the trials that come upon us, in reference to which we often say, It’s too much, I can’t anymore; and she says, God takes men through these trials to draw them near to Him. And as you think, How is that possible? I’m having such a hard time; then she says, Jesus, our Redeemer, man’s representative and head, endured this testing process. He suffered more than we can be called upon to suffer. So in your imagination, take hold of this. And as you see in your imagination what Jesus suffered, which is my suffering, you realise that He took my suffering upon Himself, so that as I, in my imagination, take hold of His beautiful sacrifice to pardon me from sin, I now take hold in my imagination of the beautiful work of Jesus passing the test with me.

He bore our infirmities and was in all points tempted as we are. He did not suffer thus on His own account, but because of our sins; and now, relying on the merits of our Overcomer, we may become victors in His name. {Ibid.}

You want to become a victorious Christian, let your imagination picture Jesus’ sufferings, and realise that the sufferings that He is suffering are all mine, and more. As I picture that in my imagination, I see that He suffered this not on His own account, but because of my sins. And as I rely in my imagination upon the merits of Jesus conquering the terrible trials, which are mine, I may be become victorious in His name. I’m hoping and praying that you are picking this up, because this is the story of life for the sinner. This is something that brings tears to my eyes, as I grasp it in my imagination. This is what we need to exercise our imagination on, and we will become victorious. But if we don’t exercise our imagination, we will just walk past; and Jesus is standing there, saying, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, what God has done to Me? He has put all your sins and all your struggles upon My shoulders, and it’s getting Me by the throat;” and He dies with it. Let the imagination grasp hold. Don’t just pass by! And the victory over sin is ours as we engage in that imagination.

To become victorious, Christians perfect in character, it is imperative that our imagination grasps the transition from us to Christ, and from Christ back to us. I must exercise my imagination, as it is written in 2 Corinthians. This is the subject for meditation that we must let the imagination grasp. The transition of us to Christ, with our sins, and then of Christ back to us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin;

It is our sins that He became sin with. This is our transition from us to Him,

2 Corinthians 5:21 …that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

This scripture needs to be exercised in your imagination. And it becomes a reality of freedom from sin.

What follows is once again something for the imagination to grasp in the reality of God’s plan of salvation to give us victory.

1 Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

No flesh can glory in His presence because Jesus has taken our flesh and our sinfulness. As you meditate upon, and imagine, this, then we are in Christ Jesus; and as Jesus takes my sinfulness, my flesh that He couldn’t glory in, that He was hanging on the cross with, crying, Why hast Thou forsaken Me? as your imagination grasps this, then of Him are you in Christ Jesus, and God turns the tide in your experience away from the guilt and the hopelessness of your condition, into the wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption that is in Christ. This is the imagination exercise.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ,

How? By the Holy Spirit in your imagination,

2 Corinthians 5:17 …[he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

He has given to us the ministry of the imagination to reconcile with God in these revelations. May God grant each one of us this reality, never to doubt the revelation of a wholesome, sanctified imagination. This is my prayer, that we will permit our imagination to make the unseen a reality to us.

Amen.

 

Posted on September 4, 2016, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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