Scripture tells us, and Christians commonly concur, that there is an internal experience of the Holy Spirit that assures us of God’s reality in our lives. It is not the only way we know God is real, but it is an important one.
Paul asked yesterday,
Could you describe in positive terms what this direct perception of God or the Holy Spirit is like?
Christians reading here, could you help by writing in your answer to Paul’s question, or direct us to other sources that speak of this? (I should think that hymns and poetry would be great sources.)
I have much I could say about this myself. For me it began when I first realized God was trustworthy; or more likely it was the other way around: I realized God was trustworthy once he began this work in me. Now, I had also been prepared for this realization by study of evidences for Christianity; but there was a time of massively deepening conviction of the truth then.
For weeks following that, there was a literal experience (I know it’s hackneyed but it’s still true) of the sky being brighter, the grass greener, the air smelling more fresh and clean, and the like. I apologize for the clichés; if I were a poet I could say it better. It really happened, even if I can’t speak it in the language it deserves. It was as if scales had dropped off my eyes, off my whole spirit in fact. I don’t think that heightened awareness of life has gone away, although I have become accustomed to it, adapted to it, so that it no longer seems so extraordinary all the time.
There was also an uncanny light and joy and brightness in reading the Bible, especially in discussions with others. I heard myself saying again and again, “I had no idea this was so alive, so relevant, so life-giving.”
There was an immediate sense of overall personal freedom that continues to this day. It’s of this sort: I don’t have to fight to be the person I ought to be, I need only be who I am, and trust God to lead me to the next steps. (There is a kind of personal discipline I must exercise in the process, but it’s discipline within freedom.)
I had been much frustrated for years by a certain personal inconsistency, an area of my life in which I did not live up to my own expectations for myself. Upon trusting Christ, the temptation to that sin (as I now called it) disappeared. It wasn’t a case of, “Now I’m a Christian, I have to fight this off!” Rather it just went away, taken from me by God’s grace, for well over a year. It did come back: I believe God wanted me eventually to deal with it as a matter of character growth and not just have the easy way out. It has proved to be just that, a source of much growth in many ways, not limited to just one issue in my life. But that extended period of freedom, provided through no effort of my own, was confirmatory.
God instilled in me a new sense of love and care for others. My self-centeredness at the time was typical for a musician. Hours in the practice room alone, building my skill and my art, were fine with me. Who needed other people? But God changed that in me.
There was an immediate bonding with other believers. I have seen extraordinary instances of that bonding with Blacks in South Africa, with former U.S. enemies like Vietnamese and Russians, with Cubans, Koreans, and members of many more nationalities, in their own countries where I have been a guest. I have had frequent fellowship lately with African-Americans, experiencing a truly sweet unity in Christ.
I state all of the above in terms of what it was like when it was new and fresh, when the contrast with my prior experience was most salient. Other than the one thing just mentioned, the same experience continues.
So my answer to Paul is, this is not a one-dimensional experience. It is a relational experience with God. Some of it plays out in other kinds of perceptions. Some of it is probably incommunicable, like describing Dvořák or Miles Davis to a deaf person, or blue to a blind person. Before God made his move into my heart, I believe my apparatus of divine awareness was not alive yet; or at least it was seriously clouded. To say that I can now experience God is still of no personal credit to me. I had no ability to wake it up in me. It was God’s doing.