Ever had a mountain top experience? Sunk down into the valley? Been on a drug high? Gone through withdrawal-depression? Is there much difference between the two? Cruise through the blogosphere, or talk to a mega-church worship leader and it's no great revelation that people's emotional states are pretty easily manipulated. A nice U-shaped song set, the right mood lighting, the summer camp bonfire with a dramatic testimony or two . . . and we're all ready to get spiritual. Question is, does all that really have anything to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit?
I'm not ready to say that the Holy Spirit cannot or does not use the feelings of spiritual openness that people manufacture to his purposes. But I think that it's important to recognize that such things can be easily manufactured . . . and the church in modern Western culture has not done a very good job in teaching its members to use much in the way of discernment on issue.
Is that buzz that you've got the result of the presence of God, or the result of your 8th shot of espresso in the last two hours? Is that vibe in the chapel the wind of the Spirit, or just a great band that knows how to work a crowd and wrap it all in God language? I've known all of those, I believe, and here's what I think: There are times that I can prepare myself to be in the presence of God and hear from him, and an extra cup of coffee is deliberate step to ready myself and be open to hear him. Good music can ready me to open my spirit in a different way than anything else can. But the vibe from the group-sing is not the same thing as the Spirit of God and there are too many who are being told that it is. The emotional rush and nice buzz are not indicative of whether the Spirit is actually present. They may make us more inclined to listen to him . . . if the tools are not abused to the point that people assume that they're just being manipulated anyway. And anyway, the feel-good times aren't the only ones in which the Spirit manifests himself to us. (Beware anyone who dares tell you that if you feel it, you're in a spiritually good place and if you don't, you're not.) Discernement, people, discernment.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . (Ps 23:4a)