Spiritual or Psychic
Our esteemed brother Horton, now back in his field of labour, Angola, has given us a most timely article. Herein is guidance for those who would adhere to the will of God.
Many of the popular movements in Christendom today are being motivated by a search for reality. One thinks particularly of the so-called “charismatic” movements, with their often unbalanced emphasis on the more spectacular sign-gifts, such as “tongues,” or on what purport, at least, to be these sign gifts, as they are described in the New Testament. Many people in Christian circles have become dissatisfied with the kind of “faith” which consists merely in adherence to orthodox doctrine, but which does not lead the way to a present spiritual experience which can satisfy the instinctive feeling of the soul that there must be, somehow and somewhere, that which can meet their inner hunger. It is just such longed-for experience of reality which these charismatic and similar movements profess to provide for those who follow them.
Now we should note carefully at the outset of our consideration, that the desire for a present experience of reality is in itself good and right. It is in perfect accord with the gracious purpose and will of God, Who desires to bring men into a full present experience of fellowship with Him. Indeed, this is what eternal life is designed to be: the experiential knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3). The end which God has in view in our salvation is not merely to give us knowledge about our Lord, but to bring us into such a relationship with Him as will result in intimate communion with Him — the knowing Him in the experience of His person as one living being may know another. To seek such an experience of His presence is perfectly “natural” to the redeemed soul. The tragedy is that so many of the Lord’s people have been content to go on knowing something about Him, without the accompanying “thirsting after God” of which the Scripture speaks so frequently, and which should characterize all who are really born of Him (e.g., Psalm 42). And it is a reaction against this very spiritual deadness in Christian circles which has caused so many to seek satisfaction outside of some of the recognized communions.
But in that very understandable earnest seeking there may lie a danger: that of making some kind of emotional experience to be the object of the search, rather than a more intimate relationship with the Lord Himself. And it is just here that Satan may operate, to sidetrack the unwary earnest seeker from the true purpose of God. His purpose is to focus our heart’s attention and devotion upon Himself: so to reveal Himself to our hearts that the consciousness of His love to us may reflect back an ardent answering love to Him. It is for that revelation, that experience of Him, which the regenerate soul instinctively longs, without, perhaps, being able to analyze its longings. Such an intimate personal relationship with the Lord will undoubtedly be an emotional experience, in what it will produce in the believer a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” But such emotion is not the end: He is the end, and the joy is but a by-product, as it were, of His manifested Presence, satisfying every desire of our hungry hearts.
We have a promise of His realized presence in such a Scripture as John 14:23, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” This, certainly, is a “coming” subsequent to that mentioned in verses 16 to 18, where the reference is to His coming realized in the advent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is the promise of an experimental realization of the fellowship of the Father and the Son: the fellowship into which we have been introduced by the incoming of the Holy Spirit into our spirits. And here we should note two things:
1. That this experience is a definite promise of our Lord, consequent upon our loving Him, and our devotion to Him as Lord of our lives. Given our practical submission and obedience to Him in daily living, the experience of this fellowship of God with our spirits will be given by Him as surely as He is God and as He is faithful. We do not have to seek such an experience. Our part is that of the attitude and practice of heart-devotion to the person and to the will of Christ, leaving the fulfilment of the promise quietly and entirely to Him. That fulfilment will without fail be that for which our hearts long — the “coming” of the Father and of the Son in our present experience, to walk with us as we walk with Him.
2. We should realize that such an experience is not one to which we may attain by any “seeking” or striving of our own. Here is the great mistake into which many fall who set out in search of a satisfying spiritual experience. That “experience” itself is made the end of their search, an end for which they strive and “agonize” — and get nowhere, or else are led astray into an emotional experience which may not be of God at all. God reveals Himself, in His sovereignty, as He will, not as we may will. And as we yield our all to the Lord Jesus, to be and to do as He would have us be and do, we may simply trust in Him to fulfill His promise to us at the time when and in the way in which He will. This He will do. We may rest secure in the confidence that He cannot do otherwise, for “He can not deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
It is in the realization of this fact and in this practice of confident expectation, that we will find rest to or souls: in the quiet dependence on Him to fulfill His promise apart from any useless struggle on our part. As we thus rest in faith in Him, giving our attention to pleasing Him in all we do, He will be known of us, and will Himself satisfy our longings, in ways “above all that we can ask or think.
Such manifestation of His presence with us, while sure, may not be an invariable constant. From time to time we may be conscious of a withdrawal of the sense of His presence. Providing that our attitude toward Him has not been sullied by selfishness or disobedience, such withdrawal need cause us no anxiety. He has not changed. The withdrawal is done in love, in order that we may learn to rest Him in faith, and not trust in any experience of our own. And provided that our resolve to please Him and our confidence in Him remain unaltered, we may be sure that He will soon restore the sense of His presence, and we will realize that it was the feeling, and not the fact, which was for a time altered. Such an attitude of maintained quiet trust will free us forever from the “up and down” experience of which some have spoken.
Finally, we should note that often what passes for a “spiritual experience,” one which may result from the striving of the individual himself, is not the Spirit of God, but simply the product of the human psyche — what is popularly termed the subconscious mind. Such an “experience” is really self-centred and not Christ-centred, having as its object self-satisfaction, and not the pleasing of the Lord.