Baptism in the Holy Spirit, being born again, experience, eyes of the heart, faith, glory, Holy Spirit, John of the Cross, Martha Jesus, presence of God, seeing God, the dark night of the senses, the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the spirit, the new self, the old self, the promised land
It seems to me that there are at least five different stages of perceiving the presence of God. Our perception, or even sight of Him, increases and improves when we have reached the next stage. All happens by the grace o God, of course. What I did not include here are dreams and visions which are something that can happen anytime whether we find our selves in stage 1, 2, 3, or 4. However, they are not as important as being led by God continuously. In fact, from my own experience I know that an immense amount of dreams and visions have their origin in the dark realm of Satan who loves to appear as the Angel of Light. Stage 5, finally, is the fully enlightened and perfected saint who can see God directly and does not need dreams or visions any longer (regarding dreams and visions I was just paraphrasing John of the Cross). Here is my biblical approach on these five various, progressively blessed conditions of heart, mind, and soul.
(1) Feeling the presence of God requires searching for Him which is possible for every human being as the apostle Paul confirmed,
“…they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” (Acts 17:27-29 ESV)
(2) Seeing the Holy Spirit (i.e., His light inside us) requires having received Him before. From that time on when we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit (*), God lives in His temple. Beforehand He was still outside of our bodies although He already spoke to us and gave us confirmation, if needed, into our hearts. The following Scripture announces the transition from God being with us (outside) to being IN us.
“…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (Jn 14:17-19 ESV)
When His Spirits is in us, we are able to see that Jesus indeed has come back to us, personally, so that we are no longer orphans as stated above. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit eventually leads to the next step.
(3) Seeing the kingdom of God requires having been born again as Jesus told Nicodemus.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3 ESV)
What does it mean to see the kingdom of God? The apostle John gives us a hint in his introduction of his first letter where he says,
“…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn 1:3 ESV)
We see our Father and Jesus with who we can have fellowship as we may have spiritual fellowship with those who have been born again, too. I know that some might disagree with me here as they think of fellowship as meeting one another physically. Maybe, we were taught as soon as we had begun to believe in Jesus, that we had been born again and thus we were from then on a new creation (quasi automatically). Well, I accept that belief because it might be true from God’s perspective, but regarding my own (human) experiences through both of those dark nights of the soul after the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I have come to realize that there must be a VERY deep work of God in our hearts before we see that we are truly born again as a (really!) new creation that was solely born from above after the old self had died on its personal cross. Since we still live on this earth and are limited by our own perception of time, we need to experience those things that are already fulfilled from God’s view step by step by step…..
(4) Seeing the glory of God requires faith as Jesus told Martha
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40 ESV)
One might also say that the faith required here is not that “little faith” Jesus sometimes spoke of, but the true faith OF Jesus Christ that also needs to be given us by God. Oh, what helpless human beings we are without a God who gives us ALL good things we might ever need!!! Eventually, that leads us to the last step which is the ne plus ultra in this life.
(5) Seeing God Himself requires purity of heart as Psalm 24 confirms.
Q: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?
A: He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
(Ps 24:3-4 ESV)
The following explanation of the second verse of this Scripture appeared to be quite enlightening to me. The Pulpit Commentary writes,
Verse 4. – He that hath clean hands. He whose hands are free from acts of sin (comp. Psalm 15:2-5), and not only so, but he who hath also a pure heart, since the heart is the source of all evil (Matthew 15:19, 20), and wrongful words and wicked acts are the necessary results of the heart being impure. “God’s demands upon his people,” as Hengstenberg observes, “go beyond the domain of action. Those only see him – those only are fit to ascend into his hill – who have a pure heart.” Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; i.e. who has not lusted after vain and worthless things, whose desires are subdued, brought into captivity to the Law of God, and kept under strict control. This is really implied in purity of heart. Nor sworn deceitfully. False swearing is the worst – or, at any rate, one of the worst – sins of the tongue. The psalmist means to say that a man is not fit to draw near to God unless he is righteous in act, in thought, and in word.
Pheeew!!! That sounds almost too difficult to ever be achieved in this life as the Pulpit Commentary describes it here where we read,
THE PSALMIST MEANS TO SAY THAT A MAN IS NOT FIT TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD UNLESS HE IS RIGHTEOUS IN ACT, IN THOUGHT, AND IN WORD.
However, we find a confirmation of this requirement in the New Testament, at least regarding our words which necessarily spring from our thoughts. James said,
“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (Js 3:2-8 ESV)
Ugh! 😛 Does not sound that good at first sight, does it? It seems to be an impossible thing to do that our tongue could ever be tamed unless – and here is the Good News – God through His Spirit does for us what no human being can do. I think we might clearly see here the absolute necessity of receiving a new heart which is truly pure and the need of developing a renewed mind that has been enabled to only think and thus speak good things that have come from above so that we can really SEE HIM. No need to worry for us, though, since God promised to do it when He said,
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ez 36:26-27 ESV)
(*) For more information including Charles Geraldison Finney’s own vivid experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, see https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/what-is-the-baptism-in-the-holy-spirit/.