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Experiencing the Spirit

Concerning various physical feelings and sensations when in the Spirit's presence, and general reflections and meditations on the manifestations of the Spirit being poured out on flesh; by Dean VanDruff.

There can be physical manifestations of the Spirit's moving in the body and/or emotions. Often, and especially early on, these are overwhelmingly negative. In scripture the "gnashing of teeth" is such a manifestation. Conviction does not sit well with the flesh, but God must get us to agree to die before He can resurrect us, and that means condemnation for the flesh. I have often said that if you could put medical probes on people while they were hearing a prophecy, you would see blood pressure go up, teeth grinding, and people generally getting agitated. Think about it, people like us killed prophets in the past, so let us have no simpleminded or romantic notions about what it is like to hear God speak confrontively about our sin and need. This is why we have the scriptural command:

1Th 5:20 (NKJ) Do not despise prophecies.

This command is not wasted words, for this is exactly the natural response to a true prophetic word. Thus we are commanded not to despise them, which is easy to do because they feel horrible.

For carnal man to come in contact with a Holy God means pain! This is part of the process of sanctification. It is hoped that you are beyond this stage, although it is good to be aware of it in others and ourselves, as from time to time we do get "in the flesh" a bit and have to offer up our bodies a "living sacrifice" in a painful session again.

2Ti 2:21 (NIV) If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

My own experiences may be instructive along this line.

In a prayer meeting, with my head bowed, someone came along and "laid hands" on my head with considerable squeezing pressure, which I thought was a bit rude and rough. The grip and force were right on the threshold of pain, but I figured I would go along with it--or had little choice in any case! This continued for many minutes, and I was sure it was this one guy who had these huge hands and was strong. Wanting it to end and also due to curiosity, I planned for several minutes to jerk my head away and up and see who it was, which I finally did. When I did, it was like waking from a dream: there was nobody there. This jolted me horribly, and I was terrified and a bit angry in response. Around this time, someone had prophesied to me that I had made an idol of my mind, which was true enough, and it seemed to me the pain of this encounter had something to do with my healing. For the next few months, as it turned out, whenever I would pray or feel the Spirit's presence I would get this same distinct "headache", squeezed-head sort of feeling, like God was both rebuking and reforming my mind... physically! <smiles> If memory serves, near the end of this was when I received the full revelation of the fear of the Lord, which resulted in actual trembling for a good long while. Hey, we are commanded to tremble in His presence directly and repetitively in scripture, so if He does this to us we can be sure we are on solid ground. Right? I offer these as but a few examples of the painful interplay between flesh and Spirit.

More common and less painful for me is a feeling in my throat of a "tightening" (best I can come up with to describe) where my voice goes up in pitch about a half-octave. I can actually sing rather beautifully when this happens, and it is a distinct experience which is not entirely unpleasant. It has some pain in it, but also some pleasure. It is an acute sensation when it occurs. At first, I was sort of "freaked" by the consistency of this whenever the Spirit would move, especially in praise. At one point, it became distractive to me and would derail my thoughts from the Lord; so I gave up paying attention to it. Later, I began to see the utility of such in our sanctification and ministry, for now when it happens I feel it a fairly sure endorsement of the Spirit for whatever is happening or is about to happen. It is an "early warning system" for the wind of the Spirit, proven by experience.

So, what you mention is a fairly common thing, as it turns out, for myself and for many people I know. Tingling is often reported.

God wants us to love him not only with all of our minds (which need humbling), but also our hearts. Emotionally stilted people like me need to not be lax in growing in grace in the transformation of feelings, however uncomfortable this is in the flesh.

To be sure, these sorts of feelings, without experience or testing, can be manipulated by hucksters and/or occur due to weaknesses in the flesh as well as the moving of the Spirit. Fainting seems more a manifestation of the flesh than of the Spirit, although many charismaniacs have made it seem like it is some spiritual "badge" of sorts. Tingling may come from poor circulation, for example.

Still, when Spirit actually does alight on flesh... things happen. These things can be distractive at times, but also can be a sort of "sermon" as well. In the long run, we can learn to trust them if proven by consistent fruit and confirmation of God's word by experiential discernment.

Acts 2:17 (NKJ) "'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh...'"

Eze 36:26 (NKJ) "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

Isa 16:5 (NAS) "Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice..."

There are feelings God has given me that are beyond description; tastes of His glory and beauty, etc. These are rare, but serve to have ruined me for this world by giving me a taste of the goodness of God. In one situation that I am thinking of, I had a sort of meta-dimensional musical-spiritual "chord" shoot through me during a time of praise that was incredibly delightful, and rang through my whole body for about 5 minutes. Was it spiritual "sound"? Was it music? Was it heat? Was it pure joy? It was all of these and more, yet I cannot adequately describe it; But I think I would choose to endure an hour of torture for another 5 minutes of it. I am sure it was only a taste of glory, only a drop in God's ocean, but what a drop.

Beyond alerting you to the possibility of such, it might be instructive to mention that in the "chord" instance, the temptation was to attempt to step outside myself to analyze what was going on. I seemed to know intuitively that this would be wrong, and that it would end the encounter with God. Circumspection can kill what is genuine, making it artificial and stilted--like a staged scientific experiment. Perhaps that is why I cannot describe it, for I chose in that moment to be an enraptured child rather than an analytical scientist. <smiles> C.S. Lewis describes this as the difference between looking "along" something (like a sunbeam) as opposed to looking "into" it. Looking along you see a shaft of light in a dark shed illuminating dust particles; where you could measure how long the sunbeam was before it hit the ground, measure its angle, width, length, brightness, etc. Looking into, you see at first a crack in the wall of the shed, then as you move forward your eye can see through the hole to the outside, and when you get right up to it an entire scene opens up of the landscape outside: sunlight playing off of the trees, etc. Two very different perceptions, two very different experiences... from the same sunbeam. The scientist measures, standing outside and analyzing. The child sees, enjoys, is "in" the experience. The point is this: don't kill your own heart spiritual development with over-analysis or deadly circumspection. At the same time, be keen to see any obvious meaning God may be trying to communicate to you. If you find a particular manifestation consistent, consider it one of many ways God might be teaching you to discern spirits--good or evil.

Rom 12:2 (Wey) Do not follow the customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God's will is--that will which is good and beautiful and perfect.

1Pet 2:1-5 (Wey) Rid yourselves therefore of all ill-will and all deceitfulness, of insincerity and envy, and of all evil speaking. Thirst, like newly-born infants, for pure milk for the soul, that by it you may grow up to salvation; if you have had any experience of the goodness of the Lord. Come to Him, the ever-living Stone, rejected indeed by men as worthless, but in God's esteem chosen and held in honour. And be yourselves also like living stones that are being built up into a spiritual house, to become a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

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