PHYSICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT
Gal. 5:25 ¶ If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Over the years there have been outpourings of the Spirit in every generation. There have been many different outward manifestations at different times. Some have been quiet and serene and others quite loud and demonstrative. There have been reports over the years of many various types of outward signs of God’s outpourings. There have been swoonings, shaking, laughing, crying, jumping for joy, running, trances, jerks, and various other types of physical tokens of God’s presence. Some people love these holy interruptions, others not so much. The Bible neither condemns or encourages such things, there is not clear instructions or rules governing these outward signs.
Historically, many prominent men and women of God have experienced some profound interruptions in their lives. I think of Jonathan Edwards and the sudden appearance of God’s manifest presence in his services. Many meetings were interrupted with crying out to God, weeping, laughing, and what he called “faintings”. There were times when young people were incapacitated and could not make it to their homes, many staying the night at their host homes, after Bible study, because they were too overcome by the Glory of God. Then there was the sudden appearance of God at Azusa Street where lives were disrupted internationally by God’s visitation. Missionaries, ministers, and hungry Christians came from all over the world (quite an accomplishment in 1906) to experience the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
These interruptions were not over when the meetings stopped or the people returned home. The people who really “got it” would never be the same. Charles Spurgeon spoke of three characteristics in the life of someone touched by this fire. First, he said there would be a new humility in the person’s life. Anyone touched by the greatness of God becomes painfully aware of their own deficiencies and at the same time, they recognize the greatness of God. Next, there is a new profound happiness in their life. To be touched by God is to taste the edge of the joy of heaven, it is impossible to ever be the same. Heaven will be a place of ever increasing joy that will increase in intensity throughout eternity. To to be touched by even the edge of this realm is beyond description. Finally, there is a new holiness. The presence of God is like a refiner’s fire. He convicts, cleanses, and transforms us, our lives are more than interrupted, they are transformed. The old habits and sinful pursuits will begin to disappear.
When it comes to physical manifestations, we should probably hold back our assessments until we see the fruit in the lives of the participants. Rather than saying “that is surely not God” or even “I know that is the Lord” it is better to wait. Usually you don’t have to wait long. Usually the fruit starts to grow pretty soon after the encounter.