Over the past year or so, we have been exploring "night seasons" - what they are, why God allows them, and what we are to do to get through them.
One of the important things that a "night season" does is highlight the glibness of "religion." It reveals its hollowness and its emptiness. A "dark night" causes the breakdown of order and schemes. In the darkness, there are no guidelines and no maps to follow. No religious experience will ever get us through this time. If we want all of Jesus, then we must be prepared to let all of our "religious" thoughts and traditions go.
Most religions concentrate on our souls or our outward man. Very few religious systems deal with the inward man or our spirit. Christianity is the one exception. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is within us - in our inward man. (Luke 17:21) Therefore, the further inward we turn towards God in our spirit, not only are we moving towards intimacy with Him, we are also moving away from soulish things or outward things.
Man's spirit was once "head" over the whole man. But because of Adam's fall, our soul and spirit became intermingled, with our soul being the dominant force. Thus, when our soul becomes defiled because of our emotional choices, it also defiles our spirit and causes all communication, leading and guiding from the Holy Spirit to be stopped. (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
All communication with God occurs in our spirit, because this is the place where "He meets with us," and this is the place where He dwells. (John 14:23) Thus, when our spirit is cleansed and purified, we are able to communicate and fellowship directly with Him.
God's will is that we glorify Him, not only outwardly in our bodies, but also inwardly in our spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:20) In order for this to occur, however, we must first understand what our spirit is, how it can be freed from the domination of our soul and what we can do to help speed up this process.
What Is Our Spirit?
Romans 8:16 tells us very clearly that we do have a human spirit. "The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Therefore, as the "children of God," God's Spirit will always lead us and guide us through our human spirit.
Our spirit is like the power source, the energy source or the light source of our lives. It's analogous to a generator or the electric power facility in a huge building. Without its energy and power, nothing in the building will work. There will be no light. It's the same with our spirit. Our spirit is the life-giving power that makes us alive, that quickens and gives us life. (Ezekiel 37:5) It's removal means death. (Psalm 104:29)
God gave us a body to interact and be conscious of the world and others around us; He gave us a soul that we might be conscious of ourselves, our own thoughts, emotions and desires; and He gave us a spirit so we could communicate and fellowship with God and be conscious of His will. In other words, our spirit is our "link" to God.
What Happened at Our New Birth?
When we ask Jesus Christ to come into our lives and become our Savior and Lord, God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38, He says, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
This is the time that God's Spirit unites with our human spirit and becomes a brand-new spirit (alive, quickened and regenerated). In other words, the electricity is "turned on" by the Master Transformer. God's Spirit uses our human spirit like a carrier or a transport to help implement the process of sanctification and to restore spiritual communication in our lives.
The process of sanctification is simply the process of restoring our spirit to its rightful place, as director of our souls. This restoration is crucially important because until our soul is completely submitted to our spirit, our communication with the Lord will be hindered.
Our biggest difficulty, then, is that our spirit needs to be untangled from our soul and enabled to break free from its influence and rule. God's will is that our regenerate spirit becomes stronger and stronger, so that it can work alongside of God's Spirit to control and govern our soul. Then, the tables will be turned and our spirit can, once again, become the uniting factor between our souls and our bodies. Our spirit will be able to operate outwardly through our soul and communicate with the world, and it will be able to operate inwardly towards God and commune with Him.
In order for our spirit to freely lead and guide us, however, the sensory part of our soul must be weakened, crucified and annihilated. In other words, our soul needs to be brought through the death of its own ability; i.e., a night season.
Thus, a true spiritual Christian is one in whom the spirit rules, not the soul; whereas, a carnal Christian is one who chooses to follow his own will and desires (his flesh) over what God is trying to say through his spirit.
What Are the Functions of Our Spirit?
Our spirit - the place where we communicate with God - has three main functions or operations: our conscience, our intuition, and our communion.
Briefly, our conscience is the place where God teaches us and speaks to us. This is where He lets us know what is right and what is wrong and what His individual will is. Our intuition is where God leads and guides us, where we can develop true intimate knowledge of Him and where we experience His revelation and His anointing. The third function of our spirit is where we fellowship and commune with God. This is where we worship the Lord in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)
Let's explore these functions of our spirit in detail.
All three functions of our spirit are very closely related, so each one builds upon the other. A pure conscience leads to an undefiled intuition and ultimately to open communion and fellowship with God.
Our conscience is like the inner voice of God. This is where God corrects and protects us. (John 8:9) This is also where the Holy Spirit reveals God's will to us. Our conscience is like God's inward monitor or teacher. It renders us uneasy when we don't choose to follow His will and gives us peace when we do.
Our conscience reprimands us, reproves us, corrects us and approves us. It is designed to govern our lives and, by doing so, constantly show us what God's will is.
Someone once said, "It's more important to be afraid of one reproach from our conscience than it is from all the condemnation of men in the world."
I do not believe it's God's will, however, to make some sort of a "blanket" or "general" confession by acknowledging all of our sins and all of our self-centered ways in some vague manner, only to return to these same ways shortly thereafter. This is not what cleanses our conscience.
We need to let the Holy Spirit daily, moment by moment, reprove and convict us of specific things that are "not of faith," and then be ready to confess and repent of these very things.
An Example: Toni
I co-hosted several seminars with a woman speaker who lived a very self-centered life. She treated others very badly; she never read her Bible or prayed, except when she was going to give a speech, be on the radio or do a TV show. Just before these events, she would publicly pray and very generally confess all her sins. Right after she spoke, however, she immediately went back to her old hedonistic and self-oriented life-style.
This used to really bother me because I knew it wasn't right and it always struck me as being so phony. I'm not so uptight about it anymore, however, because I realized that "God is never mocked." He knows exactly what is going on. He knows our "hearts" behind our words. Consequently, I believe, in His timing and in His way, the truth will come out.
But how many of us do the very same thing? We go as long as we can without confronting our sin and our self, but when we really need God, we quickly confess and repent of all the things we can think of, get what we want from God, and then go right back to the same old life-style. God's will is that we daily and specifically confess and repent of our sins and self-centeredness, and truly turn around from doing these things again. Then, we can enjoy the intimacy that God has prepared for us and receive even more illumination from Him.
Our conscience is like the window to our soul. If we allow Him to, God's light will shine brightly through this window, exposing our faults. If we heed what He shows us, that light will shine even brighter next time. If we don't obey God, our conscience will be corrupted and our window clouded. After quenching His Spirit over and over again, pretty soon we won't be able to see God's heavenly light at all.
Thus, maturity in Christ can simply be measured by our responsiveness to our conscience. A good conscience enables us to receive God's promises, walk by His Spirit and enter His presence. An evil conscience leads us to a lack of faith, being guilt-ridden and walking by the flesh.
The next function of our spirit is our intuition. Intuition is the attaining of direct knowledge, perception or conviction beyond the means of reason alone. Our intuition and our conscience work closely together. A pure conscience leads to a keen intuition. In other words, we can't have discernment if we have a defiled conscience.
Intuition is simply "spiritual sensing" or spiritual discernment. This is very different from following our own natural instinct or our soulish emotional feelings. Spiritual intuition is adhering to what the voice of the Spirit is saying, as this is how we receive God's instructions. (1 Corinthians 2:11)
An Example: Trish
A precious friend of mine was a missionary in New Zealand (8000 miles away). One morning two summers ago while she was in church, God impressed upon her that I was in "great need." She immediately wrote me a letter expressing her concern:
"So, sister, what is going on in your life? Seems like the Lord has given me a heavy burden on my heart for you. I know these are not my own thoughts. When the Lord spoke to me this morning, I heard three words: lonely, hurting and uplifted. I wrote them on my pad during the sermon. I truly was trying to listen, but it seems the Holy Spirit was having His own agenda with me.
"Even though we are 8000 miles apart, I feel very close to you right now and I am writing this letter from my heart, not my head. I know how we can be in the midst of millions of people and yet, still hurt. I know you know all this, but I just want you to picture Jesus always being there with you and holding your hand. I don't know what is wrong, but I know you are hurting, and I just want to uplift you...."
Our son Chip had died that very day.
Trish had no way of knowing this by natural means! Yet, she wrote to me "as an extension of God's Love" almost to the very hour of his death.
Many Christians do not have this intuitive knowledge because they don't know how to discern God's voice, and thus they don't know how to "walk after the spirit." If we don't heed our spiritual intuition, then we'll naturally go back to walking after the flesh and adhering to our own soulish thoughts and emotions. To live and walk by the Spirit means to live and walk according to our intuition.
A pure spirit will disclose an unmistakable discernment (Mark 2:8) and this discernment is critical when fighting the enemy. The enemy can attack us only through our outward man (our soul and body), through the motions of our flesh. Therefore, if we are not sensitive and discerning of this vulnerability, he will always find a "hole" to keep us his prisoners. Those who adhere to the Spirit's leading, via their intuition, will be preserved from being deceived in times of confusion.
God's discernment is absolutely crucial in everything we do.
Communion and Fellowship
In review then, our conscience is where God teaches us what His will is; our intuition is where God leads and guides us and gives us supernatural discernment and revelation. The third function of our spirit, however, our communion and fellowship with God, is unique.
This operation of our spirit requires our participation. Teaching and guiding (the first two functions of our spirit) are aspects of God's communication to us; whereas, communion and fellowship (the last function of our spirit) require our communication with God. In other words, there is a response needed from us. Communion is a two-way relationship! Communion is our fellowship and our communication with God.
In order to do this, however, we must possess a similar nature as the Lord, a spiritual nature. Scripture tells us that God is Spirit and the only way we can have intimacy and be able to fellowship with Him is through our sanctified and purified spirit. Therefore, if our spirit has been quenched because of sin or self, we won't be able to hear Him clearly and He certainly won't be able to hear us. Lamentations 3:44 validates this, "Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, that our prayer[s] should not pass through."
All of us attempt to communicate with God in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately, we often give our soulish thoughts and emotions first place and overlook the most important way to fellowship with God, which is through our spirit.
A truly spiritual man is one who has a cleansed and sprinkled conscience, a sensitive and responsive intuition, and is continually praying and fellowshipping with the Lord in the Spirit. Our conscience tells us what is right and wrong, and our intuition leads and guides us - both of which lead us to communion and fellowship with God.
Knowledge of God's will, followed by spiritual understanding and discernment and a two-way fellowship, is a life that is both pleasing to God and one that will bear much fruit.
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To be continued next month: The Sanctification of our Spirit. This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book Faith in the Night Seasons.