I said I would look more deeply at how we experience the Holy Spirit in our ‘belly’ and how He desires to birth things in our lives out of a place of intimacy with Him. I think the key thing is first understanding that we have a spirit, where we experience it, and then learning how to do so. I believe we can train ourselves to pay attention to our spirits. I have the privilege of having some friends who know what it is to sit in Jesus presence and experience Him. They consciously cultivate an intimate hearing heart. Something I believe we can all do to varying degrees. After all He said if we would draw near to Him then He would draw near to us.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (NKJV)
Think of a hearing heart like a muscle, it only gets stronger through exercise. If you have ever broken a bone or spent a period of time lying in a hospital bed you know that your muscles atrophy. They are still there but they need to be rebuilt and strengthened. Similarly many people resolve to ‘get in shape.’ What they are referring to is exercising muscles to make them more functional, usually stronger or with more endurance. It is no different learning to exercise our spirits. The first step is having a desire to exercise our spirit; the next step is actually doing it. A neat thing I can tell you from experience is that sometimes you can do a new exercise and start to become aware of muscles you never knew you had. You may have been vaguely aware that they were in your body but you now develop a refined ability to use them. When we start to exercise our spirits it is also a process of awareness leading to refinement.
In my last post I referenced 1 Corinthians 2:9 and the meaning of the word entered. The word ‘entered’ in verse 9 has a specific meaning in Greek.
303. ἀναβαίνω anabainō verb
Ascend, go up, bring up, to spring up.
Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Alpha-Gamma.
Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 2:6-9 is that if the rulers in the natural realm had been able to pay attention to what was arising to their hearts and minds from their spirits they would not have crucified Jesus. He then makes his point (verses 9-12) that being born again we have the capacity to receive in our spirits from the Holy Spirit and not only is the Holy Spirit willing to reveal things to us, in fact He desires to! He points out in verse 11 that we can naturally know what is real via our spirits and in verse 12 highlights that if the Holy Spirit is in us we can know what we have been freely given and what has been purchased for us by Jesus.
In understanding more about how to experience our spirits it is instructive to look at what Paul taught. In Ephesians 1:17-21 we have Paul’s famous prayer for spiritual revelatory insight. In less depth he in essence prays for the same things in Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-11. For Paul, going deeper and moving to maturity in spiritual matters hinged on the eyes of our hearts or understanding, our spiritual eyes being opened. A primary message of Ephesians is Paul praying that our spiritual eyes, which we have, would be opened. The problem is not what is available to be seen and known, it is that we need to see and know! It is like someone going for counselling. It doesn’t matter how clearly the counsellor can see the issue, unless the client can ‘see’ it they will not make any changes. Just so we need to learn to ‘see’ spiritual things. If we are born again we have the spiritual eyes we need, but if they were automatically opened much of what Paul wrote would have been unnecessary.
Let me illustrate a little further. I have a good friend who is now 88 and has walked with Jesus for about 80 years. She has more spiritual discernment than anyone I know and she knows how to live out of His presence. When I first began having regular contact with her in 1991 I would sometimes call her and rather than asking how I was she would tell me how I was doing. She had made an agreement with the Lord to pray for me every day so the Holy Spirit would let her know how I was doing so she would know how to pray.
At times this dear friend would attend a home group I led and afterward would tell me at a spiritual level what had happened in the group. When she first started doing this it was like we had been at different groups as she would describe numerous spiritual things I had missed. When she did this I could reflect back and see what I had missed. I still think I miss a lot of things in meetings but now having walked through this process a number of times I learned and now discern a lot more than I used to. However, none of this would have happened without;
- a hunger on my part to know more,
- a willingness to learn from her and others,
- a desire to know His presence, and
- learning to pay attention to my spirit.
I think there are some important elements in learning to discern in the spirit and learning to sit with Jesus. My own belief is that if we don’t learn to do this on an individual basis it is difficult and less effective on a corporate basis. I know when Mike Bickle and others began Kansas City Fellowship in the 1980’s (The International House of Prayer, now famously known as IHOP, grew out of Kansas City Fellowship) they had numerous corporate prayer meetings. At the same time the leaders were quite clear that if those attending did not have an individual devotional life with Jesus they did not want them at the corporate prayer meetings.
My experience is that we need to learn to sit in His presence, learn to experience Him with our spirits and let our head observe and learn from the process. I know that when I do this it affects and stabilizes my spirit, soul and physical body (see 1 Thess. 5:23). I feel at rest, His shalom is present. Then in a corporate setting I pay attention to what I feel/sense/experience deep within and become aware of what is going on in the lives of others in the room. I sense needs and have an awareness of how to direct my prayers for others. I don’t see this as some mysterious mystical thing; I think it is normal Christianity as defined by the New Testament, not normal Christianity as defined by the experiences of the bulk of Western Evangelicals. My experience and that of others is that as we learn to honour the Holy Spirit and what He desires to do in our lives and the lives of others He shares His heart with us regarding the needs of others.
I am not suggesting this is easy in our busy, hectic and driven culture. However, if Susanna Wesley (the mother of the famous John and Charles) could find time each day to focus on his heart, in the midst of raising 19 children with no modern conveniences, perhaps we can find a few minutes for Him. However, easy or no, I am saying unequivocally that it is worth it, both for ourselves and others.