Ok, I’m not quite sure if “mood” is the right word for what I want to write about, but it’s the closest I can come up with. I’m hoping this topic will be intriguing for those who have yet to experience much direct and conscious interaction with God’s Spirit, and for those who are experiencing the Spirit regularly, it will give voice to and deepen a fascination with knowing the Lord experientially for those who have not analyzed this facet of their participation in the Spirit of Christ until now.
You’ll notice I used the terms “Spirit of Christ” and “God’s Spirit” somewhat interchangeably in the above paragraph – and while the last thing I want to open here is some huge debate on the anatomy of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” so for now I’ll just say – for believers, it is via the Spirit of anointing from God – the same Spirit on the Anointed One (which is what the word Christ actually means) by which we encounter and interact with the Spirit of God the Father. When one receives the anointed One, that person themselves becomes anointed with the same anointing of the same Spirit.
Whatever aspects of God’s Spirit we have received, we become aware of Him when there is resonance between what we know of Him inwardly (called faith) and what we are encountering of Him in the realm outside ourselves. Thus, as every person has a “light from God” within (which the Quakers believe based on John 1:9), there is something in all people that was made to resonate with and enable them to perceive in some measure the God of the Universe. When we receive the message (and therefore the essence) of Jesus and His finished work in the gospel, into our minds and hearts within, that impartation resonates within us (what charismatics term as “bears witness”) every time we encounter Jesus being glorified in the Spirit and testified to around us – and every time the Spirit testifies to us about Jesus and His mind towards us. Resonance of His spirit within us with that of God occuring outside us, is a major facet of how spiritual perception and discernment operates.
Non-believers DO encounter the Spirit of God, and there are many aspects to how God relates Himself towards those who do not even know He exists, or who do know of Him but don’t know Him in a personal aspect. Christians need to be aware of this and learn to notice how God has been communicating with those who do not yet know it is Him nor that they are being communicated to, in order to not run roughshod over the relationship God has already been building with that person in attempting to help them find Him even more.
But when nonbelievers do notice the presence of God in the world, often they do so in a very non-personalized (although personal) and distant way – for instance, while overlooking a nature-esque vista from a mountaintop, there is the general serenity of the created realm which transmits in a general sort of way the Spirit of God to all who live. (This is because all of creation is declaring God’s testimony and His glory.) This is one of the reasons those who have not come to know Christ but who do believe in a “higher power” often view God as an impersonal force or entity and are sure that “He-She-It” exists but are not sure that there is any sort of personhood associated with this entity, nor that this entity would know nor care for them personally, either. Often people will even term this awareness of God simply as, “The Universe.”
Experiencing God’s Presence through Nature
For many nonbelievers (and believers too), this sort of awe and/or peacefulness in nature is one of the most notable ways in which they are able to perceive the presence and existence of God, and it is a valid experience of the general grace of God to all Creation – available to impart the beginnings of realization of God’s reality to those who are sensitive to that sort of input, and looking for it. While this is a “personalized” experience that people have, it is a glimpse of God hindered because of a spiritual veil still hanging in the way – and is not the interpersonal and intimate sense in which the Spirit which is available to enter into God’s presence in receiving the gospel of Christ. That experience of God’s presence is more direct, via the anointing that Jesus shares with us, as in having suffering Himself on the cross, in Himself his own torn flesh has synonymously torn the veil that is between humankind and God.
But before moving on to discuss those things – it’s worth mentioning that the testimony and essence of God in the natural realm is obliterated when the environment is destroyed. And many, if not most humans today grow up and spend almost their entire lives surrounded by the edifices of human construction and civilization, and the fullness of the natural world is hidden to most of us most of the time, so that even the rudimentary faith that the natural world sings of the Lord and would speak into the souls of humanity is barely experienced or rarely so by urbanites, suburbanites, and sometimes even rural peoples (who still are surrounded by civilization in a great many ways in their daily lives.) There are gradients of how much the natural world and the world of mankind are interacting and competing with one another, and it is not that the spirit of mankind is devoid of God’s Spirit, but the way God operates within humanity is very different than the way He operates in nature and thus the glory of God in humans and the glory of God in nature operate on significantly different wavelengths (and therefore the resonance is often quite different.) And while mankind in ideal situations can transmit God’s presence, unfortunately often mankind occludes much of God’s light.
Peoples’ spiritual faculties can be so unused, and so dulled and bombarded by the spirits associated with humanity (both mindsets of other humans and demons alike) that even when taking a nature hike, their spirits have an immense burden of noise to unload and they cannot even perceive the generalized impartation of the glory of God all around them in nature. Encountering God’s Spirit resonating within the testimony of nature does not instantly result in someone becoming a worshiper of YHWH, but it does mean that one would be more sensitized to the Spirit of God overall, so that even if one does not know what they are perceiving and is mixed up in animism, paganism, or any other type of monotheism, there is a tiny measure of God’s reality mixed in with whatever other confusion might be coming into play.
The experience of God’s presence in nature is so generalized and non-interpersonal that not much of His “mood” is usually sensed in the interaction. People find His presence in that way to be tranquil, awe-inspiring, quieting, profound, deep, but while His presence may be interpreted differently by different people, and even differently by the same person on different occasions, one is not sensing a difference in the “mood” of the Spirit being manifested in the created world as much as a difference in the way a very static expression of God’s glory affects one’s mood. It is in fact more His “glory” – the leading edge of the cloud surrounding His personhood, that is encountered, than His innermost living heart and emotions. If the universe is God’s temple in some way or another, then the glory of God hidden in nature is the outermost fringe of the train of God’s robe, so to speak – it is an extremely “outer court of the temple” type experience of His reality.
Yet even the most distant experience of God is a profound experience indeed, and not to be dismissed or made light of. But it simply does not get us close enough to God’s heart to know what He is thinking or feeling or expressing to His friends at any given moment. It is but a dull glimpse of Him from afar, (and easily misperceived, or even missed entirely) but one that is beckoning us to come nearer. For there is more to experiencing God in the human realm than what simply getting out in nature, away from humans, can give us – as much as nature has its own impartation of God’s testimony and presence to share.
To be continued, LW.