When the Lord visits you, makes His presence known to you, when He ceases to hide Himself from you, it is a blessing. But what do we, in our natural self or in our corrupt flesh, do in response? Because we have a new creation, we are able to "sow to the spirit", be in Him as He is present. We are able then to be a spectator to our old self or flesh and see the difference.
I find that when I sense the presence of our Lord, I am brought to tears, I am grateful, I am relieved, and I am refreshed. I have found that when God does something, it is not for one reason or to fulfill one purpose. Many things happen for many reasons most of which I am unaware. When the Lord Jesus reveals Himself to me, it is a confirmation of our existing relationship. I can be still and know Him. After week in and week trying to please Him and getting caught up in my struggles, weaknesses, and my imperfect strivings, when I am least prepared, Jesus reveals Himself to me. He does not hide His face from me. At this time, in the Spirit there are no questions or strivings. The Light that enlightens every man is with me and in me and I can be still.
From this perspective I am able to observe my natural reactions, and my flesh. In my old self I wrongly interpret the Lord's presence as favor so I immediately ask Him for something. I see His visitation as an acknowledgment of high position for me, status in Christendom. I look at the Holy Spirit's filling or resting upon me as an endorsement of my present condition or actions, a stamp to my own righteousness or a pardon or overlooking of any of my sins. In short, my old self and/or flesh is self serving, seeking to "get" something from Jesus ignoring or manipulating the person to get something for itself.
Life in the Spirit is different and opposed to the flesh. It makes sense that I would or any chirstian would react to our Lord's presence with the flesh and the Spirit. How my new creation reacts to the presence of the Father of lights and how my flesh which is hostile to God reacts of course is a night and day difference. The fact the flesh would sense the presence of God, interpret it as favor, and consider it an opportune time to "cash in" on the relationship is sinful. The Spirit inspires me to be with the Person of God or be personal with Him, intimate. In His presence we can't do anything to add to Him or alter His intent upon us. I saw also during this time that I wanted forgiveness,favor,possessions,better living conditions, I had requests. It was as if, "Now that you are here Lord, in this rare magical moment, let me get in everything I want or need before you go."
One obvious lesson is to know that when the Lord reveals Himself to us, we need to be still and know Him and remember that He was and is always with us. Our prayer, our time with Him is, in times of revelation or manifestation, the same from God's point of view as when we do not sense Him. It is the same for God because He is not bound by our senses and His nature, HE, DOES NOT CHANGE. And so the difference is with us. Our faith in Him and walking By His Spirit enables us to be faithful to the truth about Him, His person and to acknowledge and engage Him and this, to me, comes in the form of being still and knowing Him. The flesh has belief but no faith. The flesh seeks opportunity for itself and will look at an encounter with God as a means to "get" or gain. I think that if our first reaction to the Lord's presence is some form of "doing" and not "being" then we are not coming from the Spirit but the flesh.
I thought of one of my reactions, the idea that the Lord's presence must "mean" something. It does but it is the Lord who determines the meaning and the purpose, not me. There is a subtle difference. It is easy for me to think of all the christians I know and think that I am being treated to rare and special manifestations and revelations which would then put me in a different catagory than most believers. The thinking is faulty and prideful. From a human point of view it is easy to misunderstand and project this misundertanding of God's presence and come away with earthly understanding of a spiritual matter or a fleshly apprehension of God's purposes for me.
This concept is similar to how I used to look at the gifts of the Spirit or supernatural events that God authored for me to witness. I critize the charismatic believer who insists on the gifts as a proof of the indwelling of the Spirit but in my own way I have also misunderstood and misused my own spiritual experience to my own harm and to God's displeasure. Paul the apostle was given most of the gifts of the Spirit. He wrote to the Corinthians who also had many of the gifts, expressed through the brethren of that early church in Corinth. Without taking too long here and staying on point, Paul wrote to put into context what the gifts are for, how they are to be used, and what their place is in the Christian life and in the Christian church. It was easy for me to take on a certain kind of quasi-spiritual pride in what God decided to give me or show me. What is remarkable in the will of God for us is that, as our Lord said," For he who would be great among you must be servant of all and slave of all"--- this is truly a difference between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul talked about "boasting" and that the Corinthians had forced him to it,but think of those passages. Paul listed his sufferings and in another place he talked about his religious credentials which he later called refuse. Paul writes to the Corinthians:
7 For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? 8 Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.
I do not take this to be false humility. Paul had a wreck of a life and the brethren weren't all that respectful of him during his time here. Or the same people would turn around and try and make Paul "the one to listen to" or Apollos "the one to follow." The Corinthians, who were awash in the gifts and spiritual manifestations were also in the most spiritual trouble. Paul did talk about the "abundance of revelations" and that God gave him a thorn, a messenger from Satan, to keep him from becoming too elated." Isn't it reasonable then to conclude that one can misunderstand and/or misuse what God does supernaturally? Paul was in danger of becoming proud of all that God had showed him. We as a congregation or a body can also contribute to a believer's pride if we, like the Corinthians, engage in the "I belong to Paul", "I belong to Apollos" party spirit. In the flesh we boast as if it were not a gift and in the flesh we make distinctions between believers based on what God chooses to do with them supernaturally. WE are called to honor those who labor over us in the faith, esteem them. But to give improper attention, the worst is worship, to a servant of Christ, is idolatry. Ex-cult members know about this.
Finally, spiritual events, manifestations, gifts, have no lasting or sustaining effect on the believer. The scripture about "taking his stand on dreams and visions" and what Paul said about one or two prophets speaking and "those standing by weighing what is said" go together, I think. There is a partnership that God has made with us. The Holy and Perfect God wants to partner with imperfect and sinful us. Our prophecy is imperfect, not because of God but because of us. Today in prayer I did experience God's presence and was shown some of what I have written here. Part of what I thought was about the Transfiguration. I was not thinking about what it means but about the behavior of the Peter, James, and John. They were afraid and then Peter said, "Let's make booths." I saw my own anxious response to our Lord today. The Lord revealed Himself in the Spirit and my spirit was comforted and at peace and still, but then I sprang into action....as though anything I could do would "keep" the Lord before me or "hold" his attention. Nothing I could do would make me more worthy to Him or less worthy, more loveable or less. The Lord comes and you are who you are. The Light shines and reveals what is true instantly.
Peter, James, and John as far as I read never threw the Transfiguration up in anyone's face as some indication of their faithfulness or identity in Christ. They were told not to tell anyone until after He, Jesus, was glorified. Peter did write about it in one of his letters to the early brethren but there was again no indication that this event somehow was used by God to enhance Peter's spiritual significance in the early church. What I meant when I said earlier that spiritual or supernatural events or manifestations have no lasting or sustaining effect on the believer is this: that when God reveals Himself to us, it isn't that experience that we look for in the future or put our faith in.The happening or gift is not a substitute or lasting motivation to follow Christ. Jesus did miracles and one would think that these miracles alone would be enough for people to always follow Jesus. When their faith starts wavering they could just remember the miracle and keep on chugging away. But the same people who saw his miracles also doubted him later and eventually shouted for His death.
When we witness or participate in something from God that is supernatural,one of our tendencies in our old self is to "want to worship the creature rather than the Creator" and I would say that even Christians sometimes don't guard themselves against idolatry of the things of God. Yes, we can actually make something that is of God, more important than God Himself in our lives. Gifts and manifestations and spiritual visions are meant for a purpose. When a believer misuses or misundertands the meaning and manipulates the spiritual expression to either call attention to themselves or ascribe some kind of endorsement from God for themselves, then he or she has sinned. We must not in our hearts and then in our words misunderstand God's presence or the meaning of The Spirit's will to impart gifts to us.
After Peter offered to build booths, God the Father spoke and said, "This is my beloved son, Listen to Him." This, by God's grace, will be my reaction to our Lord when He makes His presence known to me. "Be still and know" sounds like "listen" to me. If you were to observe someone "listening" what would you see? For the legalist and the toiler for God, the judgment would be that the listener is "doing" nothing. Martha wanted Mary to get up and help. Work has it's place. Our works will be tested and we shall receive reward according to what we have done. But notice in scripture how those at the end hold up their works as a means of evidence to the Lord that they also should be rescued by Him. Our Lord says, "I never knew you." How do we prepare for the Lord's coming? By being ready. What is readiness? I would say, "Be still and Know" first, sit at the Lord's feet and listen. Don't make booths. Be quiet and listen. Listening is a verb. We are doing something when we listen. It just doesn't look that mighty or productive. Please note also the sheep and the goats at the end. It still strikes me how the sheep were doing God's will and didn't know it and the goats thought that they were doing all the right stuff and were surprised when the Lord rejected them.
To conclude, it is a blessing to experience in a very real way, God's presence, but remember, as I shall try to, that Our Lord is as present, loving, Holy,gracious,wise...HE IS as He WAS yesterday, and the day before and before we were born, and before the world was made. Our God has not and will not change. Sometimes He hides Himself from us so we cry out with the Psalmist, "Hide Not Thy Face from me." And when He makes His presence known, be still and know. Listen, learn, be! The HOW, WHERE, WHEN, will come in time.