Key Verse: Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
THE SANCTIFIED IMAGINATION
INTRODUCTION – What sanctified means
Tonight we’re going to be starting a new series on the sanctified life. I’ll explain what that means in a minute, but to start off I’d like to say we’re going to have a lot of fun in tonight’s message. It’ll be a little different, but I’m going to ask you to just relax and enjoy.
Let’s start with prayer.
First of all, ‘the Sanctified Series’. Maybe some of you know what ‘sanctified’ means. But quite a few of you don’t. I’d love to have chosen a different word. I didn’t just use ‘sanctified’ because then I have ‘Sanctified Series’ – even though alliteration gave me extra points in teaching prac at college.
No, ‘sanctification’ is a very peculiar idea, and though the pastors and I brainstormed about other words, there’s none that really carries across the same idea. But there’s no point in me going on through this series if you don’t know what sanctified means. So I’m going to try and give you a working idea of it.
When we come to Christ, we come with a heart, mind and body given to sin. Though our Sin is washed away by the blood of Jesus and we stand forever justified before the LORD, our heart, mind and body are still caught up in sinful habits – patterns of thinking, patterns of feeling, patterns of living which are contrary to how God wants us to think, feel or live. God wants us to move from these old-self patterns and to begin to bear more and more a resemblance to Him. This process of becoming more and more like Him is called sanctification – it starts the moment we are saved, and doesn’t end till we die.
So – sanctification is the process of us more and more resembling the character and person of Jesus. As I thought about this, though, I realised that we so often look at our actions, and even our patterns of thinking that need to be made more and more like Jesus; but then I realised there were other parts of us which we often don’t think about.
· How about our memories. God has given us an amazing ability to remember things. Now that we’ve come to Christ, how does God want us to use our memories? We’ll look at that under ‘Sanctified Memories’
· How about our ambitions. God has given us an amazing ability to think and plan and hope and dream. Now that we’ve come to Christ, how does God want us to use our ambitions? We’ll look at that under ‘Sanctified Ambitions’
· Tonight we’re going to be looking at our imagination. God has given us an amazing ability to go beyond the physical, into an almost limitless world of possibility. I want to show you tonight that that’s an exciting and even almost necessary tool that God’s given us in our walk with Him. So I’m going to ask the question, now that we’ve come to Christ, how does God want us to use our imaginations?
To start off, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute. And just relax. Sit comfortably, hands on your knees. And just picture this. You’ve worked long and hard, week after week for months, and you’re exhausted. But you’ve finally arrived at your holiday. You’re sitting on a comfortable chair close to the beach, hear the waves washing up the shore. The sun’s shining down on your face, and you soak in its warmth. Your family is close, and you’re completely safe. You have a week ahead of you of sun, and sand, and sleep.
If you’d like, you can open your eyes now. I don’t want anyone falling asleep dreaming of warm beaches just yet. I don’t know if a holiday on a warm beach is your ideal break, but it’s a pretty sweet idea for me. And one of the great things about our imagination is that it has the power to transport us places, to experience things we wouldn’t experience in the physical. Perhaps you felt as if you were on that beach just now.
This ability to imagine is not a strange quirk or fluke of the mind. It wasn’t unplanned by God. God gave it to us, it is powerful, and it can be used to either honour Him and draw us closer to Him, or it can be used to draw us away. Let’s start with the latter.
POINT 1 – THE DARK SIDE OF IMAGINATION
Scientists and psychologists have struggled to understand what ‘imagination’ is. They describe it as the forming of new ideas, images or concepts that are not immediately present to the mind. So, picturing what we want to paint or create or do before we’ve actually done it. It’s the ability to explore without actually going. In a sense, it’s as limitless as…your imagination.
That’s so exciting, but it also has a dark side. One scholar described it like this: “Imagination, because of having freedom from external limitations, can often become a source of real pleasure and unnecessary suffering…A person of vivid imagination often suffers acutely from the imagined threats affecting friends or relatives. Also crippling fear can result from taking an imagined painful future too seriously.”
Some spend so much time imagining all the ways that they can get sick, that their brain begins to convince their bodies that they are actually sick, and their imagination can cause their brains to cause their bodies to form rashes and pains where there is no other cause to be a rash or a pain.
The ability to imagine is powerful.
Do you use your imagination? What do you use your imagination for?
As a kid, I remember my brother and I and a few friends of ours running around a scrap yard, and we found all kinds of pieces of metal and wires and things. And we hauled these to an open space, connected every piece together with wires, and then sprinted for cover! We honestly believed that we’d built a bomb. And I remember sitting there, completely confused, ‘Why isn’t it going off? I can’t understand it!’
I come from a childhood which wasn’t exactly rich, but in my imagination I bumped into the prince of Wales, saved his life, and he sent me truckloads of money.
When I grew up a little more and hit puberty, my imagination was my favourite place! Girls might turn their noses up at me at school, but in my imagination I could have whichever girl I wanted. And in that area, it became a dark place.
So our imaginations are powerful, and practically limitless.
Do you use your imagination? What do you use your imagination for?
The first point I want to make today is that our imaginations are powerful, and almost limitless, but left unchecked and free, it can be an incredibly dark place. Some of us use our imaginations to enjoy finally telling off the annoying co-worker who thinks all too highly of herself – feel the warmth of righteous indignation as we shame the proud. Some of us use our imaginations to enjoy fighting and beating up the bully at school – feel the warmth of final victory over our enemy. Some of us use our imaginations to delve into sexual fantasies where we’re all wanted and desirable – and we can even feel the warmth of that encounter.
For some of us that’s what we use our imaginations for. And it’s a place that becomes our own, a place that’s private and dark, a place that takes us away from God and His laws.
You see, God has given us the ability to imagine, and it’s powerful and it’s limitless. But just as God did not intend for our bodies to be subjected to rebellion against His ways and His laws, so God has not intended our minds to be subjected to rebellion against His ways and His laws.
So let me ask you again: do you use your imagination? And what do you use your imagination for?
Let’s look at the lighter side of this, the playful gift of the imagination.
POINT 2 – THE PLAYFUL GIFT OF IMAGINATION
One of the main themes of human imagination is that it is not bound by the laws of the world around us. If you want a million dollars, a yacht, and a great big Saint Bernard in this world, then you have to work for it. But you can close your eyes, and picture yourself lying on your million dollar yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, your hand slumped out the hammock stroking your Saint Bernard. Our imaginations are free from external limitations. Some would even say that our imaginations are practically limitless.
The only real thing in existence that’s limitless is our Creator God. And He created us with this ability to imagine. And I can only think that He gave it to us so that we can try to grasp the smallest part of who He is.
Our imagination reflects the limitlessness of our Creator. And God wants us to use even our imaginations to seek Him, to know Him, to understand Him. Granted, we won’t ever be able to, but our imaginations offers us a door to be able to better connect with the One who is beyond the scope of natural limitations.
For example, God has chosen to remain unseen by people. I don’t know why He’s chosen to do that. He could be ever-present in the physical form of Jesus, but He’s chosen to be ever present in the form of His Spirit who dwells in the hearts of believers.
Jesus said to His disciples just before He was to leave them: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” [John 14:16-18]
Sometimes the world can be a very lonely place for believers, because we know that Jesus is with us by His Spirit, but we also feel like He’s so far away. I know of one Christian who used his imagination to put himself in a place where speaking to God was easier: He’d always put two chairs together, sit in one, and speak to Jesus who he pictured in the other chair. When he got older, he got sick, and had a chair moved close to the bed he spent his days in, so he could converse with Jesus as he always had. One day, he died. His family found him, half on the bed, and half lying on the chair, as if he’d moved to lie in the lap of his Saviour for the final hours.
There’s a beautiful side to the imagination. It’s powerful, it’s limitless; let me ask you: do you use your imagination? What do you use it for?
In the preparation for this message I asked many people what they used their imaginations for. One answer I got just stirred my heart with excitement. A young lady said that she has a garden in her mind, and she meets with God there. It’s a beautiful garden, and as she walks through the garden, the light of God filters through the trees, and the presence of the Lord fills that time and place. She sits on the grass, and plays at the feet of the Lord, and He listens to her there, and speaks words of comfort and guidance.
Where do you go when you are using your imagination?
POINT 3 – START WITH SCRIPTURE
I want to make a final point tonight. Just as the imagination is limitless, people have come up with all kinds of kooky ways to use it. I’ve spoken about the dark side of the imagination. And even in pursuing God, some have used their imaginations and gone so far off the track that their theories should send them to a padded cell rather than to heaven.
I said before that God has given us this ability to imagine, and it can be a gift that either draws us closer to Him, or further from Him.
Have you ever gone to God and asked Him, “Lord, how can I use this gift to pursue you?”
A good place to start is the Bible. Start with Scripture. Allow the word of God to stir up and guide your imaginings. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes again for a few minutes, and just use your imagination to think of this awesome God we serve!
· [Isaiah 66:1] This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you ever build me a temple as good as that? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD.
· [2 Chronicles 6:18] Will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple that I have built!
· [Isaiah 40:10, 12-31]
· [Exodus 15:11] Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
· [Psalm 91:14-16] The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honour them. I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Wow! My God is awesome! My God is awesomely awesome! I want to think about Him, I want Him to expand in my thinking. I want to find out more, try and grasp Him more. I want to see Him, even if only in my mind’s eye, through His word that He’s given me. I don’t want to escape into a world of fantasy. I don’t want to lose myself in my bitter thoughts. I want thoughts of THIS LORD of the universe to saturate my thinking, and I want to find Him in my heart and mind.
I hope that through tonight’s message, you have been encouraged to seek the LORD with your whole mind, and enjoy the good gift of imagination that God has given you to grow in relationship with Him.