The Lord’s Presence, Rom. 5: 1 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In our personal experience, the greatest single evidence of the Lord’s presence is peace. Peace derives from our salvation [Rom 5:1], peace is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal 5:22], peace is assured to us when we pray rather than worry [Phil 4:6-7], and peace is connected to the very nature of the Lord [Is 9:6; 1 Cor 1:3; Col3:15].
The Lord’s peaceful presence is accompanied by thoughts, motives, desires, affections, feelings and imaginations that are pure [Jas 3:17; Phil 4:8] and heavenly [Col3:1-2]. They are not worldly or earthly [1 Jn 2:15; Jas 4:4].
The Lord is the good shepherd [Jn 10:11] and shepherds lead their flocks. When we are led by the Spirit of God [Rom 8:14], his leading is gentle [Gal 5:22, Jas 3:17], not pushy. David said of the Lord, “…thy gentleness hath made me great.” So, there are times when the Lord leads us to give or to witness, for instance, where we may sense a gentle impression or impulse from the Lord. As a dear preacher friend recently said, “Never resist a generous impulse.”
So, these three testimonies of the Lord’s presence, peace, gentleness, and purity, are not really sensual or emotional and they are definitely not of the world. But because we are sensual beings, there is naturally a desire to “feel” the Lord’s presence.
Yet, whether we sense the presence of Jesus or not, he is always with us when we are saved. We are assured by the promise of Heb 13:5, where the Lord says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” So, for the many times that we can’t sense his presence because we can’t hear him, smell him or see him, we know by faith in his words that he is there.
When you look for a feeling or something sensual (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, or gustatory) to confirm the Lord’s presence, you are subject to being deceived by other spirits which feel good to you like what you would expect the Lord to feel..
For example, when people speak about feeling the Lord’s presence, there are many sensations that could describe what they are feeling: giddiness, a spiritual high, goose bumps, tears, exhilaration, warmth, excitement, and so forth. For the most part, these feelings can be caused by a pep rally environment, a moving speaker, or a spirit other than Jesus. The modern mega-church movement involves all of these. However, though you might feel some of these feelings in the Lord’s presence, they are not proof that he is there. These feelings are so easy to counterfeit that to look for them as evidence of the Lord’s presence is sure to lead you astray.
Others have testified to hearing the Lord speaking to them. The voice of the Lord is heard in the words of the Lord [1 Sam 15:1]. Thus, we know his voice by faith in his words. The scripture is “more sure” than a voice from heaven according to Peter who knew both [2 Pet 1:16-20]. Typically, people who follow the “voice” they hear end up disobeying the scripture. Hence, they are not listening to the Lord but rather to their feelings or to an unclean spirit.
In order to distinguish the difference between the Lord and unclean spirits, James contrasts wisdom that is, “earthly, sensual, devilish,” [Jas 3:15] with “wisdom that is from above,” [Jas 3:17]. Sensual wisdom is discerned with feelings; wisdom from above is discerned by faith in the words of God. Sensual wisdom deals with earthly and fleshly things as opposed to heavenly things. And sensual wisdom comes from the devil [Eze 28:3-5, 12, and 17] rather than from God, though you couldn’t tell that by your senses.
Consequently, feelings of the presence of unclean spirits are often mistaken for the Lord’s presence. So, we need to be circumspect. In our experience with sensual wisdom, we discovered that the unclean spirits associated with it feel “right” and the wisdom sounds “right” but it is ungodly.
Aside from simply trusting the words of God, you can tell when the spiritual presence you feel is devilish because, first of all, you can feel these spirits “pushing” you as they guide you. Remember, the Lord gently leads. Over time, they will eventually lead you to dependence, superstition, fear, confusion, strife and envy [Jas 3:16].
You start out feeling good about your sensual wisdom not realizing that the spirit associated with it is evil. You begin trusting your feelings and experiences more than the Lord’s words. In time, you become dependent upon the feelings associated with the presence of the unclean spirit as evidence that you are feeling the presence of Jesus. Ultimately, superstition becomes your guide. You attribute feeling good and good circumstances with blessings from the Lord and feeling bad and adverse circumstances to his disapproval. Hence, you become hypersensitive to feelings that indicate whether this spirit is pleased or displeased with you. This leads to fear that you will lose the presence and blessing of this spirit if you do not obey it.
Confusion results from having multiple authorities in your life [i.e., God’s words and gentle leading versus the feelings associated with this sensual wisdom]. When questioned by anyone about your spirituality, you feel challenged and strive with the inquirer [if only in your mind] because of your spiritual pride at achieving something higher than the ordinary Christian or person. You secretly envy those who have greater spiritual power than you and covet their spirituality and approval.
So, while the sensual feelings and the spiritual achievements give the sense of fulfillment, power and strength, the presence of unclean spirits eventually leads to bondage [2 Pet 2:19]. You have mixed feelings: powerful, positive, spiritual feelings, on the one hand, and negative feelings of fear and confusion, on the other hand. You’re trapped.
The only way out of the trap is to quit relying upon feelings and sensory perceptions as proof of the Lord’s presence and guidance in your life. You must trust by faith the words of God, whether you feel anything when you trust his words or not. He leads when you trust his words [Ps 119:105] and he does not tie you up with superstition, fear, strife and confusion [1 Cor 14:33]. The Lord’s presence yields peace, liberty and, therefore, the fullness of joy [Ps 16:11].