Becoming Aware of the Holy Spirit Through the Sharpening of our Senses (Holy Spirit-part 2)

What does it mean to be have the Holy Spirit “fall on” you? What does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” or to “feel the Holy Spirit moving”? What is a “manifestation of the Holy Spirit”? Are these just a made up terms for overly emotional people trying to get attention?

Throughout my life, I have heard these terms used by people outside of the my Anabaptist circles. For much of my life, I tried to avoid people who used these types of phrases. I didn’t know what they meant and I didn’t understand what all the hype was about. None of these terms lined up with the ideas I had about the Holy Spirit. I thought of the Holy Spirit as a quiet, barely noticed influence.

In reading Acts, however, when the Holy Spirit is mentioned, the stories that are written about Him are vastly different than the ideas I have had about the Holy Spirit most of my life. When the Holy Spirit came upon people–whether individuals or whole crowds– they knew it and it seemed to be evident to everyone around them.

The first time we see the Holy Spirit make an appearance is in Acts 2.

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested

on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The first thing that is mentioned is that they heard something with their physical ears. The entire house was filled with the sound of a rushing wind. They also saw what looked like tongues of fire rest on each other’s heads.

Verse four tells us that they were then all filled with the Holy Spirit. They saw, they heard, and they were filled. In order to know that they were being filled, they must have felt something, a Presence, fill their bodies.

People who have experienced demon possession and had demons cast out will tell you that they could physically feel the demon leave. Their body could feel it and they knew when it left.

We are spiritual people who have bodies. When another spiritual being inhabits us, or takes residence within us, we feel something–whether physically or spiritually. The problem is that many of us do not have our spiritual senses sharpened and are often oblivious to things that are going on in the spiritual world. When we aren’t aware of things going on spiritually because of dull senses, we dismiss or ignore things we may feel even in our physical bodies (caused by things happening in the spiritual realm) because we can’t identify it.

Some people are more “aware” of things going on in the spiritual realm than others. We can’t discredit people just because they feel something with their spiritual senses that we don’t. The same thing can happen even in the physical realm.

Suppose two men–we’ll call them John and Bill– stand looking at the same scene. They may see completely different things. John may see the general picture and Bill may see many details that the John is oblivious to. It’s not that John can’t see what Bill sees, he simply is not aware or noticing it. If Bill points something out to him, he suddenly notices. hidden-babyNothing in the scene changed, John just suddenly became aware. It’s not that John can’t see as well as Bill, Bill just has sharper senses visually. The same thing can also happen in hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

How does one achieve sharper senses physically? Some people are born with certain senses sharper than others, and for some it comes from practicing and sharpening by training by someone who already has their senses sharpened. An example of this would be training a detective might receive to notice every detail in a crime scene. Musicians often can hear the slightest “off” in an instrument because of years of training and practicing. There are experts at tasting wine who can tell you what kind of wine they are drinking and how old it is just by the taste. Perfumers have a sharp sense of smell and can detect scents that the average person cannot. But none of these became an expert overnight. Even those with natural gifting in certain senses had to practice and sharpen their natural gifting or had someone else train them.

In the spiritual realm, we have senses as well. Many of us have dull senses because we have had no teaching or training and we simply are not aware of things going on around us.

The Bible makes references to our spiritual senses. David tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” in Psalm 34:8. Job in chapter 6 speaks of using his taste to “discern perverse things” In Matthew 13, we hear Jesus talking about people hearing, but not understanding; seeing but not perceiving; their hearts being dull, barely hearing with their ears, and having their eyes closed. Hebrews 5:11 speaks of having “much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing”. These aren’t speaking of our physical senses, but rather our spiritual senses.

So if we can train our physical senses to be sharper by use and training, doesn’t it also make sense that we can do the same with our spiritual senses? Hebrews 5:14 makes mention of this: “..those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Most believers agree that things happen in the spiritual world that we are often not aware of. But many disagree about whether or not we can sense those things –whether in the spiritual or physical realm. Should we be able to feel the Holy Spirit? Should we be able hear Him speak or see some evidence that He is there? In a previous post, I shared that I used to wonder how I would know if the Holy Spirit left– if I couldn’t tell when or if He had come.

For years I wondered about that. I tried to serve God in my own strength by going to church, and trying to be disciplined in Bible reading and prayer time. I would do alright for awhile, but then fall away again. I didn’t particularly enjoy praying, but I kept long lists of people and needs to pray for so I could manage to put a little more time into it. I kept up appearances of being very religious and also did my best to keep any secret vices, sins, or struggles hidden from others.

I won’t go into much detail here, but there came a point in my life when I realized that doing all the right things didn’t seem to do me any good. Through a series of hard events, I came to a place of hitting rock bottom and turned to God in a more desperate way than I ever had before. I sat in a room all alone crying out to God to give me relief by either ending my life or changing what I was facing. He did neither of those things, but I suddenly was very aware of a Presence in the room with me and I felt a physical warmth, much like a blanket wrapping around me. The air was thick with a stillness and I knew instantly I was encountering the Holy Spirit. No one had to tell me that because I felt comforted like a child being held in his daddy’s arms. This was the Comforter that Jesus had spoken of.

He didn’t end my life, nor did He change my situation, but something changed in me that day.

I don’t like a lot of emotionalism and I prefer to figure out everything by logic and reasoning, so I was very curious about what I had experienced. That started some serious searching of the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes while I was reading my Bible, I would feel that same Presence come and I would pause because it seemed there must be something He was wanting to point out me on the page. Certain verses seemed to jump out at me and come alive. Reading the Word was different now. I was reading with hunger instead of because of duty. Prayer changed too.

I’ll share more of my story in a later post, but for right now I’m switching gears again.

Some of you have felt this Presence and know exactly what I’m talking about, some of you are perplexed but curious, and some of you are wondering if you should maybe find another blog to follow.

What I experienced does not mean that everyone else experiences the Holy Spirit in the same way. I have talked to many men and women of God that have shared their own testimonies with me, and only a few sounded similar to my own experience. And they have experienced things that I have not. If the Holy Spirit were able to be defined, pinned down, and put in a box, He wouldn’t be God. If God created us, He knows better than we do what the best way is to reveal Himself to us.

Throughout Acts, when we read about people experiencing the Holy Spirit falling on them or being filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t always have very many details of what that entailed. But one thing that was apparent in every situation was that they all knew when He did. Did that mean they experienced something in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm? I don’t know if they always felt something in the physical realm, but there is no doubt that at least some of the times it was absolutely with their physical senses.

Throughout the entire Bible, God has been making Himself known to people. In the Old Testament, He made Himself known in the physical world usually to only a select few people for a specific purpose. When God makes Himself known to many, He is most often misunderstood by the majority because He reveals Himself in an unconventional, unexpected way.

Every time a Person of the Trinity has made an appearance on earth to a large group of people, not only was He misunderstood, but He was rejected by the majority of those people. He is unorthodox, He does not do things like we think it should be done, He takes us by surprise and takes us out of our comfort zones.

Think of God speaking to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai. In Exodus 20, we see them respond with trembling and fear and standing “far off”. They told Moses that they wanted him to speak to them instead of God. God did not seem safe.

When Jesus came to earth, He was rejected by the majority also because they did not understand His intentions. Even though they were expecting His appearance, He wasn’t what they were expecting, so they rejected Him. His teachings did not feel safe.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that now that the Holy Spirit has come, He also is often misunderstood, feared, and rejected. We prefer the safety of the “way we have always done things”. We would rather keep Him at a safe distance and let someone else speak to us for Him.

We read the stories in the Gospels and in Acts and we believe they are true. We don’t doubt that everything that is recorded there is accurate and inerrant. But then we look at ourselves and doubt that anything like that could happen to us. Most of us don’t even want that. It’s outside of our comfort level. Would I really want to speak in tongues and be accused of being drunk (Pentecost)? Would I want to fall on my face in front of others (Saul) or to be told to do something that puts me way out of my comfort zone (Peter being told to eat unclean things)? Would I want to do something like Agabus, who tied his hands and feet with Paul’s belt in order to deliver a message that the Holy Spirit had given (Acts 21)?

He is unconventional. He makes us feel uncomfortable. He is unexpected. He isn’t concerned about us looking good, nor does He mind us losing our pride.

So why bother?

Because He is good. An encounter with Him changes us and empowers us to do what He desires for us. If He wants something for us, we can trust Him. We know how trustworthy Jesus is. If He tells us He is sending us the Holy Spirit to help us, why do we reject Him and try to figure out a different way?

Do we not believe what Jesus taught in Luke 11:10-13? If your son asks you for a fish, will you give him a serpent? If he asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

Why do you think Jesus taught us this and specifically mentioned the gift of the Holy Spirit? Are we afraid that if we ask for the Holy Spirit and open ourselves up to Him, that He will allow some demon to enter us instead? If we wouldn’t give something horrible that could hurt a child that we love–especially when they are asking for something good– why would our Heavenly Father? He is better than we are.

So ask Him in complete trust to fill you the Holy Spirit and for Him to manifest Himself to you in a way that you know He is there. Ask Him to sharpen your senses and to make you aware.

You have a perfect Father who only gives good gifts. And He is trustworthy.

 

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16 thoughts on “Becoming Aware of the Holy Spirit Through the Sharpening of our Senses (Holy Spirit-part 2)

  1. Until around age 12 my family was part of a “Pentecostal” church. I distinctly remember the emotionalism driven services, the shouting, aisle running and tongues. One service in particular when there was a guest preacher there for revival and several men laid hands and prayed over me to receive the Holy Spirit and to evidence receiving by speaking in tongues. I begged God for all I was worth, but I was never “filled” and refused to fake it, no matter what they thought of me. It was devastating to me as a young person of faith, and almost caused me to walk away from God altogether because He wasn’t behaving the way He was supposed to or the way these men told me that He was supposed to. Afterward I remember walking around in my parents fields crying out to God to prove Himself to me. Instead He spoke to me in the quiet and for some reason would not let Him go. Later my parents left this church and I eventually became acquainted with and attended an anabaptist assembly. I grew. And I also became increasingly uncomfortable with outward displays of worship. About a year ago I went to Israel, and while visiting the Temple Mount felt a heaviness and a tightness in my chest. When I left the area a man I was with made the comment “what a dark place.” It was as if the fog cleared and I realized, I was feeling spiritual darkness. I’ve since been wondering about manifestations of God’s Spirit, and how my past has maybe clouded my understandings of His lesser acknowledged part of the Trinity. I’m hoping to unlearn the things of earth, and to accept all of Him, even the parts that make me uncomfortable or confront me. And I’ve been wondering why some of the manifestations of His Spirit aren’t among us more. Thanks so much for writing this post and continuing my education of unlearning!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good for us to hear of opposite end of the spectrum as well. I think it’s easy to react to things that have hurt or hindered us and then turn to the complete opposite direction–which is what many of our generation have done. If we can look to Scripture for Truth to compare experience with– rather than just reacting to and doing the opposite of whatever we feel is done wrongly–we are more likely to get it right.

      The reality is, we could learn some things from the Pentecostals, and there are things they could learn from our Anabaptist settings. I probably wouldn’t feel very comfortable doing some of the things you described, but it sure would be good for me to learn to express my worship of the One I love much more freely. 🙂

      I like how you described how you noticed some things you were sensing and when someone named it, the Spirit in you affirmed it. The more we are aware of those things happening, the more He makes Himself known.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Ryan;
      I was pained to hear how you were devastated when you were not “slain by the Spirit” like the others in your old church group, and It reminded me of my youth when I became shunned unofficially when I just could not get myself to be baptized in my parents old order Mennonite church. Sometime later still as a as a youth I spent some Sunday evenings in my local Pentecostal congregation and wow what an extreme and shocking change from growing up old order Mennonite. I do remember some really emotional Biblical based Pentecostal preaching, but what freaked me out was that I just happened to recognize one of their inner cliché members who was regularly “slain in the Spirit” and I recognized him to be the very same man that did our early Monday morning deliveries where I worked and was an obvious and serious alcoholic. Call me judgmental but I was extremely unimpressed and did not continue long at this assembly. Because of my spiritual state at the time I did not put a lot of thought into this experience however many many years later I was personally very well acquainted with a (completely different person than above) fairly close family friend and his whole family… and this man of about 40 who had been an extremely active Pentecostal member of some 12 years (his mother was a lifetime fridge member)…long story short, he called me in the middle of the night and confessed that he “was devastated” because he has wholeheartedly invested 12 some years and STRICTLY BECAUSE he was NOT “slain in the Spirit” AS REGULARLY as the inner core/the clique membership he had to finally confess that he will never be wholeheartedly accepted or wholeheartedly loved by all the members he wanted to closely commune with. I personally know that this man (my friend) kept attending his assembly but things got worst rather than better for him and his family. Do not get me wrong I am NOT blaming the man or his congregation BECAUSE I know there is a spiritual/Spiritual battle going on everywhere!

      Truth is, God IS Love! AND God of order! so from my own personal experiences, the old order Mennonite and the Pentecostals are two extreme opposites in the way they experience and display the Holy Spirit and we can learn and embrace the Biblical strengths of both but we do NO have to suffer the weaknesses. Experiencing both extremes made me want to scream AND fight for TRUTH all at the same time. True Christians must be “separate from the world” AND “long for The Holy Spirit” . What concerns me the most personally is; I know how God feels about lukewarmness, so I truly believe we, individually and corporately have good reason to be/stay very motivated!

      Now in my case more recently I now realize that 1 John 4 is for all of us and stipulates how we are to test the spirits/Spirit… and this truth sets you/me/us, FREE ! Ryan it is so good to hear that you NEVER gave up and I feel that you and Simon on the right track because you both seem to be seeking more of the Holy Spirit that I too am seeking…the Holy Spirit that belongs to God The Father and Jesus The Son. A VERY though provoking and challenging discussion. Never Give Up!

      Just a Prodigal Pilgrim;
      Delmer B. Martin

      Liked by 1 person

      • Delmer, thanks for your encouragement, and for sharing your own story! I love that Simon’s blog brings together the community of believers.

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  2. Excellent post!

    I have felt that Presence. At a very dark time in my life, I felt the Lord come and stand beside me as I prayed.

    I think our overemphasis on “getting it right” has severely hampered and dulled our spiritual senses.

    Hebrews tells us that those who are mature have their senses exercised by using them to discern between good and evil. This would tell us several things. 1) The ability to discern between good and evil is not innate. It is something that we develop. 2) The way that we develop this skill is to practice using it. 3) Those who are not skilled sometimes get it wrong.

    We are so obsessed with not messing up that we are not willing to allow our senses to be exercised. “Let’s just stay on the safe side, and stay away from anything that MIGHT be wrong.” Doesn’t that seem wise?

    It may seem wise, but it isn’t what God tells us. We learn by exercising our senses. We grow by making mistakes, by getting it wrong. Imagine trying to learn math without doing any math problems unless you were positive that you knew the right answer. You wouldn’t get far.

    God wants us to be doing spiritual algebra and we’re stuck at 2+2 because we’re scared of writing down the wrong answer.

    Thank you so much for the truth you’re sharing! I’m recommending your blog to others. Keep being faithful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks David. Good thoughts as well. Your statement, “God wants us to be doing spiritual algebra and we’re stuck at 2+2 because we’re scared of writing down the wrong answer”, reminds me of a Hebrews 5 where it’s talking about still using milk instead of meat. Some of us are afraid of go beyond milk for the same reason. And meat is for those who have “their senses exercised”.
      Blessings!

      Like

  3. Amen to that post. I think we all could learn a lot more about God in his three forms. I experienced a few times the presence of the Lord (or his spirit similar to your description) but often he is also within me quietly as that ‘blessed assurance’. We are loved by our Lord and he loves when we seek Him. However I would be very cautious about assemblys where the Holy Spirit is ‘forced ‘on a person. I attended such meetings a few times and I felt deeply uncomfortable. To my knowledge the Holy Spirit was never ‘commanded’ on a person in the Bible. With such practices we should not be found dealing.

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    • Hi Ruth,
      You had a couple typo’s but it looks fine to me. 🙂 I can still delete if you prefer, but I think you had some good thoughts.

      I agree, I don’t think you can “force” or “command” the Holy Spirit on anyone. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3:8, He says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you can hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” He goes where He wishes.
      Blessings

      Like

  4. Very stimulating and encouraging conversation. I love the reference to math education… Been reading recently that making mistakes in math actually fosters learning more than getting correct answers (more firing neurons, more building synapses), so the conversation in education centers on “how do we foster fearlessness and cultivate a learning mindset as opposed to fixating on leading students through a set of hoop jumping exercises which will assure good results on standardized tests but leave students unprepared to apply math in real life or ever “own” numbers in an experiential way?” In my experience, learning to hear the Spirit is something akin to learning to recognize a flavor profile or signature scent. We are constantly receiving messages from “the world, the flesh, and the devil” in addition to the word we receive from the spirit. And our consciences are fallen and too easily trained to false standards to be helpful in sorting and identifying those voices. Any step out of “groupthink” can raise guilt, no matter how horrific or fallen the groupthink standard may be. The quest of christian maturity is to tear down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ, I think most particularly within one’s own conscience. And the spirit must be our guide as we are mostly blind to our own deception. A practical example of how the conscience and spirit may be at odds: I became aware of God’s call to come away, to sit at his feet, to receive and learn, I could hear and taste it, feel it. But too often I ignored it or postponed my obedience because there was another voice clamoring about the dirty dishes in my sink, etc. The voice of my trained conscience (the little German on my shoulder, I call him 🙂 “work before sit” must be brought into submission. Scripture is clear that sitting at Jesus’ feet as a learner is a better place than fulfilling womanly household duties, but I really struggled with this. As I get better at recognizing the voice of the One who loves me, the voice of the little German (for me a subset of “the world” category which is somewhat ironic) is easier to discern and put in its proper place.
    Although the voice of the spirit brings the scripture to life, he also reveals to me things the scripture alone cannot bring to my attention–why I have so much difficulty forgiving this or that person (or myself), why I habitually erupt in anger in this set of circumstances, where my “foreign allegiances” to the kingdom of God are located, and–what is most precious to me–what to do about it. Having a bible is like having the apostle Paul (and a host of others) in your living room but via sattelite with reception only, no video conferencing. Having the spirit is sitting down to eat with Jesus….which is what he promises in Revelation. If you hear him knocking and open the door, he will come in and eat with you and you with him. It used to blow my mind that Jesus could say it was better that he leave so the spirit could come. Obviously it would be better to have Jesus here. Which completely misses his point that he IS here, no longer bound by history or time. But a growth and learning mindset feels scary to those whose conscience is trained against ever making mistakes. It feels safer to stay wealthy and in need of nothing–not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I appreciate all the comments and observations. Thank you for starting and hosting this conversation.
    –Letitia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Letitia,
      Good thoughts. That was some interesting information regarding the fact that “making mistakes actually fosters learning” in math. And I find myself identifying with that mind-set of not wanting to make mistakes, especially mistakes that others might see. It is deeply ingrained into our culture.

      “Although the voice of the spirit brings the scripture to life, he also reveals to me things the scripture alone cannot bring to my attention”… Yes! And if we are not aware of the Holy Spirit, how will we know?

      May His Spirit be poured out on us in a new way.

      Like

  5. David

    It is encouraging for me to see a hunger in young Anabaptists for God and a longing to have a real experience with Him. For probably over 30 years of my life (a total of 68 years) I have been praying for a revival among my people.
    As a young believer I became part of a Conservative Mennonite church. At this time the movement was still in its infancy. In the beginning it seemed to be a warm fellowship and I was still too immature in the faith to notice some ominous clouds begin to form overhead after a time frame of about a decade. At the time I drank in all the things which I was being taught without questioning them.
    Then my “secure” world was thoroughly shattered when I, with a few others, found myself facing the choice of being denied communion or else doing what we believed was helping to cover up dishonesty in the ministry. That startled me into taking a serious look at what we were being taught about “group conscience”, the authority of the church in making rules in augmentation to the Scripture (one leader wrote that a “Scriptural Church” making a collective decision about a practice was equal in authority to the Voice of God), and the interpretation of “what is bound on earth is bound in Heaven”. I studied early teachings in the Martyr’s Mirror and came to the conclusion that what we were being taught would have been thoroughly rejected by our first forefathers who were just emerging from such a system in the Catholic Church. Had God left me there I may simply have become a cynic, but in His Sovereign mercy He led me to an experience with Himself I had never dreamed possible. After stripping me bare of the outside influences which had formerly controlled my life, He graciously revealed Himself to me as “Dad”. I could come to Him with all my questions, whether great or small, and He would return to me with answers which I could understand. No longer was anything secular in my life – all things became sacred and devoted to Him. No decision was too small to ask His direction about with the expectation of receiving an answer from Him. I cannot explain how this all happened – I simply bless Him because it did. Now I realize that from Genesis to Revelations and all of history tells the wonderful story of a loving Creator Who longs to have camaraderie with man. What an honour! That is what redemption is all about! The outpouring of His Spirit Who abides within us is the glorious experience of the NT believer! How we grieve Him when we push Him aside with our religious tradition and devices which we create by our own efforts! May He bring our people back to the ancient Gospel way by performing a mighty revival which involves first repentance for us leaving our first love and then a mighty outpouring of His Spirit! One of the ways the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in my life is by enabling me to express the longings of my heart in poetry. I was sitting in a church service, grieving in my spirit about our contentment with a mediocre Christianity, when the words for the following sonnet began to come to my mind:

    Holy Fire

    What is the Gospel without holy fire…
    Or preaching without unction, passion-filled,
    Conceived by prayers whose crying is not stilled
    Until God’s living Words the lips inspire!
    And what is prayer without anguished desire?
    Can souls be won without Christ’s love instilled
    Into the heart – His precious blood was spilled
    In burning quest our lost souls to acquire!

    But here we grovel in His Church below
    With those devices which our means supply –
    Content with such tradition as we know;
    Unknown the promised Power from on High!

    Lord, fan our smold’ring embers to a flame,
    And pour Your Spirit’s oil upon the same!

    David Jantzi

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing some of your story. Your words struck a cord within me and I found myself identifying with much of it.

      I have also been praying for many years for revival among our people. But it will not happen without a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So that is what I pray for. Oh that God will breath life into the dry bones of our people and bring us into a deeper intimacy with Him through the life of His Spirit within us.

      “Lord, fan our smold’ring embers to a flame,
      And pour Your Spirit’s oil upon the same”

      Amen.

      Like

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