Why This Hit Song Turned Movie Means So Much to So Many

Lately I’ve been contemplating the phenomenon behind “I Can Only Imagine,” the best-selling Contemporary Christian song of all time.

Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote this song in 1998, seven years after he lost his dad to pancreatic cancer.

The song’s title and lyrics reflect Millard’s imagining what his dad was experiencing in Heaven in the presence of Jesus.

“I Can Only Imagine” was first included in MercyMe’s 1999, independently-recorded album, The Worship Project.

But in 2001, it was released as the lead single on their major-label, debut album, Almost There, which, to date, has enjoyed triple-platinum success.

Two years later, the song crossed over onto pop radio charts after stations were flooded with requests for the song.

People everywhere wanted this faith-based song played in the secular arena because of the hope that it infused.

Hope not only for those who had lost loved ones, but also for anyone who was going through really tough times—for whatever reason.

Since 2003, when “I Can Only Imagine” launched MercyMe into the Contemporary Christian limelight, the band has enjoyed much success, producing several albums with number one hits.

(Last summer, I had a ball reviewing every grace-saturated song on their most recent album, Lifer.)

And now, seventeen years after the release of ‘Imagine,’ the movie (by the same name) based on its backstory surprised Hollywood, making around $17 million its opening weekend.

This film depicts the heart-breaking physical, verbal, and emotional abuse that Bart suffered for years at the hands of his dad, Arthur Millard.

It also portrays the incredible transformation Arthur underwent after he found out he had cancer and asked God to save him.

You can only imagine what kind of impact this had on Bart’s faith, seeing God change his dad from a “monster” into the father he had always wanted.

This movie is a wonderful redemption story. I cried more the second time I saw it than I did the first.

If you want to learn more about it, just Google it and you will find numerous articles and videos to enjoy.

My purpose for the rest of this post is to zero in on what I believe is the real reason behind the impact of this remarkable song.

What sets this song apart from other Christian-based songs?

I don’t think we have to look any further than one word in the song’s title.


Imagine means “to form a mental image of (something not actually present to the senses).”

Every believer in Christ is banking their eternity on Someone they have never actually laid physical eyes on—Someone they have put their faith in.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is …

  • “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV).
  • “being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it” (EXB).
  • “the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen, the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead” (TLB).

Faith is knowing that what we hope for—that which we cannot see with our physical eyes—will someday manifest in physical reality.

Last week on Twitter, I was challenged by someone whose handle included the word atheist.

That person asked me to justify my faith in God, to give proof of His existence without quoting Scripture or divulging personal experience.

After going down a few religious rabbit trails, my final reply to that person was: I don’t have to justify my faith. Christ’s Spirit lives in my heart. It’s a love relationship I’ve experienced with Him for years that will last forever. I’m sorry you don’t have the Hope that I do.

The common thread in my Twitter conversation and the above Biblical descriptions of faith is that believers in Christ have the incredible hope that this world is not all there is because of their faith in Christ.

The hope that someday soon, we will be experiencing Jesus face to Face forever.

Even though it’s difficult to wrap my mind around how wonderfully glorious that will be, I still try to.

And the thing is, believers aren’t limited to only imagining what it will be like when we stand face to Face with Jesus.

Right here, right now, we can ask the Spirit of Christ within us to inspire our imaginations and cause us to see, experience, and enjoy Him.

In a sense, we can experience Heaven right now, because we are one spirit with Him, already seated with Him in Heaven (1 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 2:4-7).

When I began to “see” Christ in me, with me, smiling at me, embracing me, dancing with me, loving me perfectly, and hearing Him speak life-giving words to me, it was like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy walks out of her black-and-white surroundings into the vibrant world of Technicolor.

Relating to Christ in my mind’s eye has added a whole new dimension to my life. I guess you could say that I now I see my life in Christ in high definition.

And I’m convinced that this is the key to believers enjoying Heaven on earth in the here and now.

I’m also convinced that experiencing Christ’s cherishing love in our mind’s eye is what catapults us into the expression of His love in this world.

The success of “I Can Only Imagine” is proof positive that pictures of us relating to Christ in our mind’s eye touch our emotions and affect our lives in ways that rows of black print on white paper simply cannot.

God longs for us to experience the positive emotions that result from believing spiritual truth.

And the quickest way to believe that something is true (real) is to see it.

You’ve likely heard the old adage: Seeing is believing.

I’m not talking about seeing with our physical eyes, but picturing spiritual truth in our mind’s eye through the power of Christ’s Spirit.

In the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” Millard pictures himself seeing Jesus for the first time—what his reaction will be when he actually lays physical eyes on the Resurrected Christ.

And every time we listen to this song, we too picture ourselves standing before Him.

Jesus wants us to see His continual smile toward us—a smile that can never be erased by something we do or don’t do.

Our initial yes when we first believed in (into) Him sealed His forever smile toward us.

Dearly beloved, you can bask in the warmth of His forever smile toward you right here, right now!

The best news you will ever hear and believe is that He rigged this so you can’t mess it up!

And when you see Him smiling at you, taking great pleasure in you, you will begin to feel the truth of His unending, cherishing love for you.

And when you see and feel His no-strings-attached love for you, you are motivated to love yourself, love Him back, and love others.

That’s when life on planet earth becomes sweet and you begin living in the fullness of what you will get to enjoy throughout Eternity.

Dearly beloved, are you enjoying Jesus’ cherishing love for you through seeing Him loving you right here, right now, in this present moment?

It’s there for your receiving and enjoyment 24/7/365.

And this time on planet earth is only the beginning of pleasures forevermore!

If you enjoyed this post, then I believe you would savor my debut Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love.

This is an intimate, interactive study on the first two chapters of the Song of Songs, dynamically designed to help believers in Christ, both men and women, enjoy wondrous delight in intimacy with Him.

If you want to learn more, check out my book page.

Until next time,
Live Christ—Live Happy!

P.S. If you want to know more about me and the types of content I post, please visit my About Page.

Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE PDF Download of “Who I Am in Christ IS Who I Am!”


Kim K. Francis
P.O. Box 357
Perryton, TX 79070

MY BLOG: KimKFrancis.com
TWITTER: @KimKFrancis 64
FACEBOOK: Kim K Francis

Why Many Christians Aren’t Enjoying Intimacy with Christ

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve enjoyed leading several Bible studies focused on how to enjoy greater intimacy with Christ. At the beginning of the opening session, I ask the participants complete a questionnaire so that I can find out what they hope to gain from the study.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The last question is: “In your life, what do you believe is the greatest obstacle to enjoying intimacy with Christ?”

While most of their answers have to do with busyness, tiredness, and just not taking the time, every once in a while someone will answer that they are the greatest obstacle to enjoying intimacy with Christ.

Sadly, they see themselves as the major hindrance.

I remember when a wrong view of myself kept me from enjoying intimacy with Christ.

Oh, I spent focused time with Him, reading His Word, journaling, and talking to Him.

But almost always, my conversations with Jesus revolved around my shortcomings—my sins, failures, and mistakes—and asking Him to forgive me and help me do better in my walk with Him.

There was no fixing my eyes on Jesus, setting my mind on things above, or dwelling on eternal spiritual truth (Heb. 12:2, Col. 3:2, Phil. 4:8).

Until one day.

That incredible, liberating, marvelous day when I finally realized that His finished work on the cross had already wiped out my sin debt in full and made me a brand new person altogether!

In many of my posts, I share about the believer’s identity in Christ and our new life in Him.

But I don’t believe I have fully expressed what it means that Christians are already completely forgiven—forever.

Oh, how I pray that God will give you eyes to see that the sins of your lifetime are gone and you no longer have to fixate on them!

Instead, you can focus on the Wonderful Christ and His finished work on your behalf.

This way, you won’t waste one more minute missing out on the wondrous delight He longs for you to experience in intimacy with Him!

Right here. Right now.

Beloved, I don’t expect you to take my word for it when I tell you that you are already completely forgiven for the sins of your lifetime.

The following list of Scriptures provides more than enough evidence:

If you are thinking, This sounds too good to be true, I encourage you to look up and write out the above Scriptures for yourself, meditate on them, and trust Christ’s indwelling Spirit to confirm the truth of your complete forgiveness in Him.

My favorite passage concerning our complete forgiveness is Colossians 2:13–14:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Some interpret this passage as “He forgave all of my sins up until the moment I got saved, but then after that, I have to make sure I ask forgiveness for every sin I commit.”

If that is true, then let me ask you an important question: What happens if you forget one?

Imagine that my wealthy earthly husband never wants me to do without anything I need or want, so he deposits a massive sum of money into a savings account to cover every debt I will incur throughout my lifetime.

But there’s a catch. My checking account has a zero balance.

Every time I write a check, I have to tell him what I bought and how much it cost. Then I have to ask him to transfer the exact amount from the savings account to cover my transaction so that I won’t overdraw my checking account.

While I am extremely thankful my generous husband will always agree to pay each debt, the consequences (overdraft fees, embarrassment) will be costly if I forget even one.

This may sound like a silly example to you, but I lived in fear for years over the possibility that some of my sins would go unforgiven because I couldn’t remember them all.

You can imagine how thankful I was when I found out my heavenly Husband deposited His unlimited riches into my checking account instead!

Now I never have to worry about incurring hefty insufficient funds fees for unconfessed debts.

Does this make me any less appreciative for His overwhelming generosity? Of course not!

It makes me even more thankful that I can lay my head on my pillow every night and sleep in sweet peace, knowing that I will never have to work to pay off my own sin debt.

My heavenly Husband paid it all with the first and only forgiveness deposit the very moment we were joined in sacred union.

To make my ongoing forgiveness contingent on my memory and my asking for it shifts my focus away from what Jesus has already accomplished on to what I must do to remain in “good standing” with Him.

His shed blood and my belief in Him were all that was necessary for me to enjoy my complete once-for-all forgiveness (Heb. 9:22).

Beloved, if you believe that all of your sins—up until the moment you receive salvation—are forgiven, but the ones you have committed since then aren’t forgiven until you confess them, you will not be able to enjoy the assurance and peace Christ died to give to you (Rom. 5:1; 1 John 5:13).

This is hardly the kind of life the royal bride of Christ should be living!

It may help you to understand your complete forgiveness by considering the answer to the following questions:

  1. How many of your sins did Jesus shed His blood for?
  2. How many of them were in the future when He died for them?

All of them!

We appropriated His complete forgiveness for the sins of our lifetime—past, present, and future—the very yoctosecond (smaller than a nanosecond) we believed in Him.

Opponents of the complete forgiveness doctrine often cite 1 John 1:9 as evidence that we have to keep asking God to forgive our sins to remain cleansed: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This verse has been referred to as the Christians’ “bar of soap.” Thirteen verses later, however, the apostle John writes, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12 NASB).

At first glance, this appears to present a conundrum. The two verses cannot both be true at the same time—unless they are addressed to two different audiences.

In the first chapter, John was appealing to the Gnostics (those who had infiltrated the early church and believed that they had no sin) to be saved.

In contrast, 2:12 is unmistakably addressing believers—little children whose sins have been forgiven them.

People who teach that believers have been forgiven for the sins of their lifetime often get accused of giving people a green light to sin. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever needing anyone to give me a green light!

I did a pretty good job of sinning without one. But now that I understand what I’ve been given through Christ’s finished work on the cross, I realize that I really don’t want to sin.

My heart’s desire is to express the cherishing love and exuberant life of Christ (Heb. 10:16).

Before I conclude this post on our once-for-all forgiveness, I would like to clarify a couple of things.

First of all, I believe that confession (agreeing with God that we are sinning) and repentance (changing our minds and turning from sin) are healthy and beneficial habits in the life of every believer.

When we realize we are sinning, it is important to tell our Beloved we are sorry for not living in complete dependence on Him and to thank Him for the forgiveness that is already ours in Him.

Nevertheless, our confession and repentance are not a means of obtaining more forgiveness.

Our initial acceptance of His forgiveness through His shed blood at salvation secured a clean slate for us forever.

Christ wants us to believe it and live like we believe it!

Second, our complete forgiveness before God does not shield us from the earthly consequences of our sin and doesn’t mean that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness from other people when we sin against them.

In order to maintain healthy relationships, we must be willing to admit our wrongdoing and seek forgiveness from the person we have injured.

We also need to be quick to forgive others when they sin against us. (That’s a topic for another post … or book … or series.)

Jesus wants us to wake up every morning, believing that we stand completely forgiven in Him.

This may not be something we fully understand with our minds or feel with our emotions, but we can choose with to believe it, regardless of opposing thoughts or feelings.

It is much easier to believe our way into a new way of feeling than to try to feel our way into a new way of believing.

After all, don’t we possess the very faith of Christ (Gal. 2:20)?

Believing that we are completely forgiven for the sins of our lifetime will enable us to receive and enjoy His lavishing affection.

That’s where the cycle of authentic love in our life begins—by letting Him love us unconditionally.

Dearly Beloved, do you believe that the sins of your entire lifetime—past, present, and future—were forgiven through Jesus’ shed blood the moment you believed in Him?

If your answer is yes, what difference has it made (or will it make) in your life?

If your answer is no or not sure, what is hindering you from believing it?

If you have trouble allowing yourself to enjoy His unconditional love without thinking you’ve earned it, ask Him to give you revelation about your total forgiveness.

Remember, just because you might have heard (and believed) throughout your life that you have to continually ask God to forgive each and every sin, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Simply put, repetitive exposure to a false concept does not make it any truer.

Instead, why don’t you see what happens when you begin to thank Him for what you already have and see yourself as a completely forgiven, brand-new person altogether!

What you focus on will be expressed through your life.

If you enjoyed this post, then I believe you will savor my debut Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love.

This is an intimate, interactive study on the first two chapters of the Song of Songs, dynamically designed to help believers in Christ, both men and women, enjoy wondrous delight in intimacy with Him.

If you want to learn more, check out my book page.

Until next time,
Live Christ—Live Happy!

P.S. If you want to know more about me and the types of content I post, please visit my About Page.

Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE PDF Download of “Who I Am in Christ IS Who I Am!”


Kim K. Francis
P.O. Box 357
Perryton, TX 79070

MY BLOG: KimKFrancis.com
TWITTER: @KimKFrancis 64
FACEBOOK: Kim K Francis