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Questions about Dreams


Posted by Matt Postiff February 7, 2024 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Bible Texts 

Are a person’s dreams sometimes God’s way of revealing truth?

In the church era, no. We can say this with confidence because the canon is closed, and new revelation is not being given by any means, whether dreams, visions, prophecies, etc. See 1 Cor. 13:8, Eph. 2:20, 2 Peter 1:3.

The Scriptures are clear that during prior times, God sometimes used dreams to reveal information (Daniel 1:17 for example, or Matthew 1:20). Given the frequency of dreams, however—every night millions of people have them—it is clear that dream-based revelation had to be very rare as a percentage of all dreams.

The Scriptures are also clear that during the future era, dreams will once again be used by God to convey information from Heaven (Acts 2:17).

What leads to the content of my dreams?

This is a difficult question. Dreams are basically thoughts—thoughts that we have while sleeping. Now think about this related question: what leads to the content of my thoughts during the daytime, when I am awake? There is a combination of factors, including:

  1. What you try to think about, which may be righteous or sinful.
  2. What your flesh desires, which is sinful.
  3. The stimuli that come from the outside world, say through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. These factors can induce thoughts that may lean righteous or sinful.
  4. Your memories.
  5. All three of the above factors can interact with one another so that you try to think about bad things and seek flesh-pleasing stimuli that come from the outside and you direct your eyes senses to focus there.

Your brain can remember many if not most things that you see, hear, sense, etc. Your brain can remember faces you have seen at the store; and it can even construct new variations of those faces, places and circumstances, sometimes in fantastical or unrealistic ways. All this is fuel for dreams.

Sometimes what you think about a lot during the daytime makes its way into your dreams. Other times, what you have not thought about much lately makes its way there.

Is there accountability to God for what is “thought” in dreaming?

Yes. Your dreams are yours and neither come from nor belong to anyone else. They are not the Devil’s fault. They arise from your own heart and mind, and as such are subject to the truth spoken by the Lord Jesus that out of the abundance of the heart come evil thoughts (Matthew 15:18-20, Mark 7:21-23, Luke 6:45). Our hearts are characterized by sinful depravity to a greater or lesser degree which affects what comes out of them in our thoughts—whether during the day or during the night.

Because a dream happens while you are asleep or partially unconscious, it may feel like you can excuse the content of your dreams because you do not have overt control over those thoughts (#1 above). But you can have thoughts or influence thoughts during your dreams. Regardless of whether you have experienced that phenomenon, we must recognize that our flesh (#2 above) still desires sinful things and can affect what we are thinking while asleep. Stimuli from outside of our mind can also affect our thoughts while we sleep (#3 above; perhaps we have a fever, or smell a skunk in the middle of the night, or a hear loud noise outside the house). These stimuli can be incorporated into our dreams as well.

The bottom line is that if we dream a sinful dream, we ought to confess it as sin to God, because it is sin. Thank the Lord for pleasant dreams!

Can I influence my dreams?

In short, yes. As you ingest God’s word, purify your heart more, and are cautious about what you expose yourself to during the day, you can reduce sinful and scary dreams. You are responsible for shaping the influences on your heart because it is the source of your life (Prov. 4:23).

Sometimes, there are triggers, such as foods, illness, or lack of exercise or too much stress or mismanagement of stress, that may influence the presence and frequency of dreams. If you become aware of particular things in your life that do this, you can take steps to mitigate their influence on your nighttime thought life.

A passage I use often when asked about dreams is Philippians 4:6-9. There, Paul teaches us to fight anxiety with prayer and purpose of thought and obedience to apostolic teaching. If we do that, "the peace of God...will guard your hearts and your minds" and "the God of peace will be with you."

We hope to conform our thoughts to Scripture so that we will be godly even in our nighttime thoughts: "when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night" (Psalm 63:6).

Resources

Heath Lambert, Fighting the Fear of Bad Dreams


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Tuesday 28-05-2024 04:27:09 EDT