Worship: To Purge the Imagination by the Beauty of God

Featuring Tom Kraeuter Posted on February 6, 2010

Acts 2:25 tells us that “David said about Him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.’” What an interesting statement. “...I saw the Lord...” Did David literally see the Lord? Of course not. However, because he chose to perceive God all around Him David was not afraid even in life-threatening situations. He filled the frame of his mind with the Lord and there was no room left for doubt or despair. We too can purge our imagination by focusing on God.

In our western culture we have less and less necessity for using our imagination. Previously television and movies made our imagination less needed. With the advent of “virtual reality” and its ever increasing applications there is almost nothing left for us to imagine. We can experience practically everything.

The only time most people really use their imagination is for the wrong reasons. They think about what they would do if they had as much money as Microsoft boss, Bill Gates. They imagine what it would be like to be as attractive as their favorite movie star. They wonder what it would be like to be married to someone else. Greed. Covetousness. Lust. All the wrong uses for imagination, but, unfortunately, the most common ones.

This mindset of non-use of our imagination so permeates our culture that it has even become a part of the Church. In his book, Worship is a Verb, Bob Webber talks about how we view God. He writes, “Our approach to God is intellectual and scientific on one extreme and excessively ‘buddy- buddy’ on the other; both are sorely lacking in imagination.” [Webber, Robert E., Worship is a Verb (Waco, Word, 1985)]. Most people seldom use their God-given imagination to imagine what God is like. Instead they fill their imagination with all the wrong things, things that need to be purged from them.

Scripture gives us a clear directive in this area. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). I realize that this verse is referring to many things on which our minds can dwell. However, think for a moment about the attributes mentioned. “True,” “noble,” “right,” “pure,” “lovely,” “admirable,” “excellent,” “praiseworthy.” What one Being (there’s a hint) epitomizes all of these attributes to the highest possible degree? God, of course. “...think about such things.” We can think about the Lord.

When we begin to use our God-given imagination in thinking about God our perceptions of Him often expand. When we release our minds to view the Lord as true and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy, He becomes more wonderful than our usual flat,
mundane perception of Him. As we go beyond our intellectual assessment of God or our buddy- buddy thinking we can begin to really “see” His holiness, His majesty, His power. When this happens we are often astounded by the beauty of God. And something happens to us as people and to our imagination. We become more like Him.

“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). The more that I get to know God the more I am convinced that this is not just a promise for the future but is true, in part, even now. In context this passage is obviously referring to the second coming of Jesus. However, it clearly tells us that the reason we shall be like Him is because “we shall see Him as He is.” As we behold Him, we are changed to be like Him.

One of my favorite songwriters is Mark Altrogge, a pastor in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Many of his songs have tremendously and positively influenced my walk with the Lord. In his song, “The Love of a Holy God,” Mark alludes to beholding God: “I’m ravished by one glance from Your loving eyes.” While some have questioned the use of the word “ravished” I personally think it is perfect. It reminds me of Isaiah’s experience of seeing the Lord in Isaiah 6. Remember his words? “I am ruined...” There is something about beholding the beauty of God that rips us apart and puts us back together even better than we were, all at the same time. Things are removed from our thinking. Our imagination is purged.

I am not suggesting that through a single encounter with the Lord your thought life will be forever perfect. It is possible, but not normal. My experience has been that the more I gaze on the beauty of the Lord the more I am conformed to His image. “...we shall be like Him for we shall see Him...” Filling the frame of our imagination with God, just like David did, leaves no room for anything else.

In our society there is an intense battle for the mind. Ungodly forces, both human and spiritual, desire to take control of our minds. We have all heard the old adage that our minds are like computers. If we put garbage in, we get garbage out. However, when we focus our minds on the beauty of the Lord, the other thoughts begin to fade away.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus...” (Hebrews 12:2). Can we actually see Jesus with our eyes? Again, the answer is no. However, we can focus our thoughts on the wonder of our God. We can make David’s prayer in Psalm 27 our own prayer. “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

We can purge our imagination by gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. When we do this we are offering our minds to the Lord, and He receives this simple act of worship.