Saturday, December 09, 2006

Feel the Spirit

Do you ever sense the Holy Spirit as a real and tangible presence?

I believe that I have had, and continue to have, very moving and undeniable experiences while in the presence of God's Holy Spirit. I know that's a very spooky and vague statement, that could very easily be misinterpreted, so please read on.

First, let me address the potential pitfalls of what I'm examining here -- and there are many. We do not acknowledge, serve, or worship God just to get a good feeling or "spiritual sensation". We are not supposed to be motivated by selfish desires, or sing songs just to "feel moved by the Spirit". Additionally, we are called to serve based on faith, not on emotions or feelings. If there are no feelings, and nothing seems tangible or uplifting, we should still live in obedience to Christ.

Secondly, what we are talking about is so subjective that discussing it might seem almost useless anyway. People who practice meditation, yoga, and any number of countless other religious rituals report a sense of euphoria, strong emotional sensations, and other similar feelings. It's well documented that the power of suggestion in human experience is extremely strong, so telling someone that "the Spirit of God is here, do you feel it?", and playing beautiful music or using other similar techniques can arguably produce a counterfeit version of what I'm describing as real.

As somebody who does not show much outward emotion, and is by nature an observer more than a participant, I believe that I'm as wary of all these problems as anyone -- even to the point that I consider it a fault. I often have to overcome my natural impulses, such as being too skeptical, too cynical, and too slow to trust or believe.

But please consider something here: The Christ-followers gathered in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts were experiencing something. It was real enough, experiential enough, and tangible enough that they were able to act on it and live out lives of Christian discipleship with great power and boldness. Those who witnessed it knew they were encountering something undeniable. It served an important part in the birth of the Church, and I can't imagine God intending to start something so revolutionary with such a huge bang, only to decide that such power would have an expiration date.

There's really nothing else I can do here in a blog except to say it honestly -- many times in the past, and many times recently, I have experienced an overwhelming sense of the presence of God. It's a very real, and very tangible sense that He is nearby -- it's an overwhelming sense of peace and calm, a strong sense of reverence, and a sense of connectedness to the One who is ultimately the very longing of my heart, and the very One for whom I was made. It's particularly strong, for example during times of singing, praying, and worshipping with the people in my small group. The other night it almost felt like a tangible wave sweeping through the room, a moment when I suddenly became very aware that a strong, almost euphoric sense of the Holy Spirit was suddenly there among us.

I don't want to reduce this to some sort of self-glorifying "I must be someone really special and spiritual" type thing. Far from it -- lately I have been feeling increasingly aware of my inescapable wickedness of heart, my continual craving for things other than the Lord. I feel like I can be in a time of sincere prayer and devotion, among friends praying or praising, and my heart is begging God to help me be closer to Him, and I'm thinking of things in my life that stand in the way, and I'm vowing to remove those things so I can see Him more clearly in my life. Then, within that same hour, I'm totally distracted, and some worthless pretty charm has wrapped it's fingers around my heart and drawn me away, with ease that's just sickening.

But I am interested to hear the thoughts of others about this subject. Do you have any idea what I mean about the Holy Spirit's presence? Have you had tangible, moving experiences that you believe were real? Have you personally experienced or seen supernatural things? Is this a subject worth exploring, or is there danger in glorifying the experience, or some other wrong thing, rather than glorifying God and God alone, regardless of feelings?