1 John 4:7-8
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I remember meeting up with a friend one day. She seemed unusually happy.
“God gave me a revelation last night,” she said. “God is love.”
“Yes, I know,” I replied. It seemed like the logical response. Scripture is crystal clear on this.
“No, you don’t know. God is love.”
I looked at her, not sure if I should be offended or not. She repeated it again with a wide smile. “You don’t know! God is love!”
Somehow, something had happened to her that night. The Spirit of God took her beyond an intellectual knowledge of this truth and into a profound revelation. The truth that “God is love” was now real for her. As a result, all the implications of God being love were now flooding her life. She now knew that God was only ever going to be good to her. She could trust Him. She knew that God really liked her. She could be honest with Him. She no longer needed to fear failure. She felt secure. She could draw close to Him. Her entire life was being changed by God with the gift of one simple revelation: God is love.
This revelation gave my friend a new sense of identity in God’s love. She knew God loved her, and the joy it brought was uncontainable. I thought I knew that God is love and I was comfortable in that knowledge. But on that day, I realized that what I believed in my head was not what I knew in my heart. In my mind, I believed that God is love, but my heart was yet to be convinced. I needed a revelation. I needed reality.
An Unimaginable Inheritance
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
The word truth here is the Greek word aletheia, which means “true to fact; reality.”[i] The truth of God is not merely a theory to be taught, but a reality to be experienced. God is so good and He does not intend for us to work our own way into reality. Instead, He gives us the gift of His Spirit to make it easy for us. The Holy Spirit is here to teach us the truth of God and to make it our reality by bringing us into the actual experience of the truth.
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (BSB)
Rather, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no heart has imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard…What no one envisioned; what no one ever preached; what no one ever dared to imagine or dream of—this is what God has prepared for us because we love Him.
When Jesus died, He gave us an inheritance beyond all comprehension. Because our minds are so limited, no amount of learning can empower us to take hold of what God has prepared for us. The only way we can get a vision for our inheritance is through the Holy Spirit. It is His work to enable us to understand and receive the gifts that God has so freely given us. And He does this through revelation.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Revelation is not about God teaching us something new, but about God making something real for us. Through revelation, the Spirit of God opens our eyes to see the gifts He so longs to give us. At one time, the Spirit may give us a revelation of God’s love; at another time He may reveal God’s joy or peace or His presence or power. When the Holy Spirit reveals what He is freely giving us, His revelation speaks directly to our hearts. In our own strength, we so often strive to declare the truth of God in our lives, hoping that what we know to be true in our minds might become a reality in our hearts. Yet what no amount of human effort can ever achieve, the Spirit of God can do in a moment of time. Through revelation, the Holy Spirit gives us faith, understanding and vision, and together these create a platform in our lives for reality.
Deuteronomy 11:18 (NASB)
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul…”
Joshua 1:8 (NASB)
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
Revelation is not a gift that we passively receive from the Spirit. It requires our willing participation and obedience to produce the fruit that God has purposed for it. Like the soil in the parable of the Sower, we need to prepare our hearts for revelation so that the seed of truth can be nurtured through to reality. When the Spirit shares His word with us, our call is to impress His truth on our heart and soul through meditation. This is not the emptying of our minds through New Age or Eastern meditation but the infilling of our hearts with the truth through Biblical meditation. This is a discipline that engages both the heart and mind. We start by reading a Scripture slowly, memorizing it, repeating it, and thinking it over. We then ask the Spirit of Jesus to inspire our imagination and turn faith into vision.
Imagination bridges the gap between the mind and the heart. This is why Jesus speaks in so many parables. The word-pictures He uses inspire the imagination, which brings together both the heart and mind of the hearers. When something we hear or read inspires our imagination, our brains become active as if they are processing real-world senses. We can picture ourselves in a situation and imagine what it would be like to smell, hear, taste and feel within that situation. As we use our imagination to meditate on a truth of Scripture, we pass beyond the borders of logical thought and engage our senses and our emotions in the truth.
People in the world embrace imagination as a tool for creativity and innovation. Yet in many religious circles, imagination is considered to be self-inspired fantasy and therefore something to be avoided. However, imagination is simply thought that is expressed in pictures and explored with the senses and emotions. And Scripture never calls us to avoid thinking. Instead we are called to take our thoughts captive and only nurture godly thoughts. In the same way, Scripture never calls us to avoid our imagination. On the contrary, the word of God encourages us to use our imagination in a positive way.[ii]
When used negatively, our imagination leads us out of reality and brings us into the fantasy of lustful, proud, religious or self-serving thoughts. However, when the Holy Spirit inspires our imagination, instead of immersing us in an inner fantasy, our imagination brings the truth to life for us. We can imagine what it would feel like to humble ourselves under the hand of God. We can imagine what it would be like for God’s joy to become our strength. We can imagine being filled with boldness and confidence through the Spirit. Every time we engage our imagination with the Scriptures, we create space for the Holy Spirit to bring revelation and make His truth a reality in our lives.
I Shall Lack Nothing
I remember the first time I took time to dwell on a single verse of Scripture. For 15 minutes I focused only on Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want [or I shall lack nothing].” I repeated it slowly over and over, allowing the weight of that truth to sink in. Jesus is my Shepherd; I shall lack nothing. I imagined Jesus providing for me. I imagined never having to worry about provision ever again. As I meditated on this verse, the Spirit burned His word into my heart. It was like God Himself was speaking and promising me that He would provide everything I would ever need in life. This revelation produced an unshakeable confidence within me. I knew in my heart that Jesus was truly my Shepherd and He would always look after me.
It was not long before this promise was tested. I started my fourth year at university with only two dollars to last me for five days. I knew that God would provide for my needs, so I reasoned that if I needed food, He would give it to me, otherwise I would fast. I resolved not to share my need with anyone but just to trust God to determine what I truly needed.
On the first day I helped a friend who was a chef and was having technical issues with her computer. I walked in the door and she looked up and spoke.
“I am so glad to see you. The kitchen over-catered for a conference last night and we have all this food left over. Can you take some?”
I smiled. “I think I can help you out with that.” She gave me croissants, fruit and a large three-layer chocolate gateau that would last for several days. The next day a friend invited me to have dinner with his family. On another day, a friend shared some French baking that his sister saved from being thrown out at a local bakery.[iii] Every day God provided me with better food than I would have bought myself if I had the money. He was keeping His promise and taking care of me. Jesus was my Shepherd and I did not want.
Revelation leads to reality. The revelation of God as my provider started with a time of meditation and imagination. The truth of God’s promise to provide my needs was impressed on my heart and then experienced in my life. This truth set me free and set me and my family up for life. Since that time, I have never felt any stress over where we would sleep, what we would eat, or the clothes we would wear. Jesus promised to care for me and for my family, and He has always kept His promise.
We are called to be a people of the truth; a people who not only know the theory but live in the reality of our inheritance in Christ. If we are to answer this call, we need to learn to treat our times of meditation on the truth of God as sacred, holy and deeply precious. As we create space for revelation, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to inspire our imagination, to increase our faith, to clarify our vision, and to transform our lives.
What is a promise that God has given to me?
Is that promise impressed on my heart?
How can I nurture that promise to reality?
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Take a verse or passage that the Spirit has been bringing to life lately. If no verse comes to mind, use Psalm 23:1. Take some time to meditate on the verse. Ask God to sanctify your imagination. Let Him bring life to your senses and emotions as you imagine what it would be like for that verse to be a reality in your life.
This post is taken from the first chapter of First Love. Get your free copy.
[i] HELPS Word Study #225
[ii] The Scriptures use parables, metaphors, symbols, types, and pictorial language devices (such as the imperfect aspect) deliberately to inspire the imagination.
[iii] God knows how I like French baking, especially croissants. It was humbling to experience His love going beyond just meeting my basic need for food but blessing me with food that He knew I loved.