[Monty Casebolt] “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, became something of an eccentric. Imagining one side of his body to weigh more than the other, he often walked or rode with one arm raised to restore his balance. He stood while eating to straighten his intestinal tract, imagining this would aid digestion.
We can become subject to any number of imagined conditions of wellness or illness; some imagined conspiracy or foe. Many a hard feeling rules where an imagined wrong was committed. I have relatives who’ve imagined a deceased loved one sending hints from heaven to confirm their love and safety. There’s been many an imagined healing. Many a pilfered soul has imagined promised prosperity.
Sadly, not even clearly outlined facts can easily dissuade those in this state of mind. When imagination and will (what I should concede) are in conflict, imagination often wins out. The emotional ability to form new images and sensations is powerful.
It has been said that unless a person constantly keeps a partition between their imagination and their facts, they are in danger of becoming just another liar.
Such a travesty or distortion of what is actual can even become a part of accepted religious practice. Some wonder if the Communion cup and bread actually change into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ as dogmatized by Pope Innocent III in A.D. 1215. Do evangelical mystics actually pray in an angelic or heavenly language called speaking in tongues? Or has the power of imagination gotten the best of us?
God’s Bible can sort out that which is true from that which is under the spell of our imagination (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God has the capability to “cast down imaginations” (II Cor. 10:5), lest we find ourselves mentally barricaded into what Isaiah 28:15 calls “a refuge of lies” as lovers of “delusions” (Psalm 4:2 NIV).
Let’s take speaking in tongues as a test case. Is it actual or psychological? Authentic or imagined?
God the Holy Spirit teaches that the true practice was that of supernaturally speaking in a formerly unlearned, earthly dialect (Acts 2:8), similar to French, German or Spanish today. As for the Apostle Paul’s reference to speaking “with the tongues … of angels” in I Corinthians 13:1, this is but one statement in a list of hyperbolic examples of exaggerated claims to highlight the supremacy of practicing love.
Specifically, the supernatural ability to speak in known dialects in the early church was bestowed upon the Apostles (Acts 2:43; 5:12; II Cor. 12:12) for the purpose of authenticating their teachings (Mark 16:17, 20; Acts 14:3; Hebrews 2:3-4) until the New Testament was put into print for all languages to access. Such irrefutable and confirming miracles by the Apostles were obviously from God.
They could not have been of Satan since the devil’s alleged miracles are called “lying wonders” in II Thessalonians 2:9. Satan can only play with our imaginations by way of fraudulent tricks and not actual miracles. The devil is an illusionist. He does not have divine powers. Thus, no one could miss God’s miraculously confirmed teachings and appointed Savior in the first century. If Satan could perform real miracles, Nicodemus in John 3 should have amended his statement to read, “We know that you (Jesus) are a teacher sent from God or the devil, or you would not be able to do the works that you do.”
See how easily the Bible brings clarity? Imagine that.
But, it’s up to each individual to decide which will hold sway over the mind; my imagination or God’s inspired truth in the Bible? My behavior and treatment of others will grow out of the choice I make.
Grandmother saw Jimmy running around the house slapping himself and asked him why. “Well,” said Jimmy, “I just got so tired of walking that I thought I’d ride my horse for a while and rest.”
We do have active imaginations. God help us, and He can.
[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Monty Casebolt, pastor of Livingston Bible Church]