I’ve heard people talk about the Holy Spirit as if He’s a rockstar that occasionally shows up and causes great emotional highs and outbursts among His people when they gather to worship Him. They speak about Him as if He comes in great theatrics… and then leaves. This does not sound like the Spirit that I know.
“You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you” (Rom. 8:9-10, CSB).
This Spirit of God/Christ “lives in you” if you belong to Him. He doesn’t visit us to give us emotional highs and then leave us alone to try to live in a way that pleases Him. He is truly ever-present with His children. This beautiful truth is echoed throughout the Scriptures.
“Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (God speaking to Moses in Gen. 28:15, CSB).
“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you” (God speaking to Joshua in Josh. 1:5, CSB).
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you”… Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
(John 14:16-21, 23, 25-26, CSB)
I love the verses from John that I mentioned above (I took the ones that were directly relevant to the topic at hand, but please feel welcome to always read the verses in context). It’s such a beautiful example of the simple yet complex nature of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and that He as Father, Son, and Spirit lives in His children. I’m using self-control not to go on an explanation of God being Father, Son, and Spirit. I’ll try to save that for another article devoted specifically to the topic.
Okay, so back to the point. Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.” I believe that this refers to His death and return to heaven. He comforts them by saying, “I’m not going to leave you alone and orphaned in this world, but the Father and I will come and make our home within you as the Holy Spirit.” The word translated as “home” is “monē,” and an outline of its biblical usage is 1. a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode 2. to make a (one’s) abode 3. metaphorically of God the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. Strong’s defines it as a staying i.e. residence (the act or the place)—abode, mansion.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is the Holy Spirit is not a visitor to Christians but a constant presence and the source of one’s “Christianity.” The Scriptures are clear that if you do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then you are not a Christian.
People have been mistaking emotional highs for the presence of God for a long time. Let’s look at 1 Samuel 4.
And Samuel’s words came to all Israel. Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped at Ebenezer while the Philistines camped at Aphek. The Philistines lined up in battle formation against Israel, and as the battle intensified, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about four thousand men on the battlefield. When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did Yahweh defeat us today before the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of Yahweh’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from our enemies” (1 Sam. 4:1-3, CSB).
Okay, let’s take this step by step. Here we read that Israel is engaged in war with the Philistines. They prepare, they fight, and they are defeated. They get together and have a meeting to see how they can have victory over their enemies. They realize that God permitted their defeat, but instead of seeking Yahweh Himself, they come to the conclusion that all they need is the Ark of the Covenant to have victory.
Don’t we as people have a tendency to trust in physical things or in things that we think we can control instead of seeking God? Well, the Israelites made this mistake. They put their trust in the physical presence of the Ark of the Covenant and took comfort in their own ability to “fix” the situation by being able to control the Ark’s location. Bring the Ark to us and then God will be with us. Let’s see what happens next.
So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh of Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the Ark of the Covenant of God. When the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh entered the camp, all the Israelites raised such a loud shout that the ground shook.
The Philistines heard the sound of the war cry and asked, “’What’s this loud shout in the Hebrews’ camp?” When the Philistines discovered that the ark of Yahweh had entered the camp, they panicked. “A god has entered their camp!” they said. “Woe to us, nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us, who will rescue us from these magnificent gods? These are the gods that slaughtered the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Show some courage and be men, Philistines! Otherwise, you’ll serve the Hebrews just as they served you. Now be men and fight!” (1 Sam. 4:4-9, CSB).
They bring the Ark to the camp and the result is an emotional high. Did they truly believe that the Ark was the equivalent of God’s presence? I cannot say for sure, but the Israelites raised a shout that literally shook the ground. In fact, they shouted and rejoiced so loudly that the Philistines could hear it in their own camp!
The Philistines knew of the history of the God of the Israelites, and they feared that this God or perhaps ‘gods’ had come into their camp. The Israelites’ emotional high and the reputation of the God of Israel scared the Philistines. Let’s read on.
“So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent. The slaughter was severe — thirty thousand of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1 Sam. 4:10-11, CSB).
Well, that emotional high didn’t last long. The Israelites went back into the fight with the Ark in their presence and the confidence of their victory only to be horribly defeated once again. They not only suffered a grave defeat, but the Ark of God was captured and Eli’s sons, the wicked priests, died (you can read some about their wickedness in 1 Sam. 2:12-17 & 22-25).
Why am I bringing this up? I certainly don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with having moments of emotional highs (they can be a natural result of some precious moments in life such as an engagement, finding out about a pregnancy, etc.).
My concern is that some people are mistaking an emotional high for the presence of God. They mistake an emotional experience from their past as eternal salvation. I fear that many might stand before God as guilty and condemned with their defense being, “But Lord, Lord I had an emotional high in Your name!”
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?” Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matt. 7:21-23, CSB).
Now, because I know that in today’s society we have to include disclaimers in just about everything, I’ll put one here. Experiencing the presence of God can and likely will cause you to experience an emotional high. How could you not when you feel the tangible presence of the God of love, justice, mercy, hope, etc.?
My argument is not that our relationship with God is without emotion but that people should be cautious not to mistake emotion for God Himself. God has emotions, but He is not an emotion. Experiencing the presence of God can cause you to feel intense emotions, but being emotional is not the equivalent of being in the presence of God.
For God’s children, I would encourage you to savor the moments where God’s presence overwhelms you. Embrace the moments where He gives you a supernatural taste of His love, joy, hope, etc. and live your life passionately devoted to loving Him and loving people. Keep in step with His Spirit.
To those of you who have had emotional highs but lack the peace that comes from knowing you have the Holy Spirit within you, I would encourage you to humbly go before God with this concern. When it comes to whether or not you are forgiven, saved, and a child of God through Jesus Christ, “I think so” isn’t something you should bet your eternity on. God isn’t going to be upset with you for seeking His guidance on this matter.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless you fail the test [Or you are disqualified, or you are counterfeit]” (2 Cor. 13:5, CSB).
“The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, CSB).
But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, CSB, emphasis mine).
Humility before God is not risky. If the Holy Spirit calls you to repentance, respond with repentance. If Satan tries to guilt you with shame and fear, remind Him of the promises of God. Remind him that those who God holds in His hand can never be taken away from His Almighty love and grace.
Satan has a nasty habit of trying to convince the unsaved that they are saved while also working to convince the saved that they aren’t. Satan’s voice and God’s voice are nothing alike. If you have read and studied the Scriptures, you should have a good idea of what the voice of God sounds like and you should have a good understanding of the heart behind the words. Whenever you’re dealing with doubt or fear, use discernment and respond to the voice according to the Word of God.
Featured Image by Shaun Frankland