Little else has divided the modern church more than the subject of manifestations. Some absolutely deny the authenticity of physical manifestations, while others struggle with the “purpose” for such displays. There are entire websites devoted to the proposition that all manifestations are demonic or fleshly in nature, and are therefore false. To those seeking definition on manifestations, this post will offer biblical insight, as well as experiential testimony. Manifestations are situationally interpreted. When discerning the source or meaning of a manifestation, one must take into account many things, for example:
- The spiritual state of the person experiencing the manifestation.
- The spiritual environment in which the manifestation occurred.
- In a church setting, the message or ministry that precipitated the manifestation.
- The fruit of the experience.
- Scriptural precedent for the experience.
All of these things have an effect on the interpretation of the manifestation. Is the experience false or true?Flesh or spirit? What is God doing in the life of the manifestor? Is satan at work to mock or distract? These questions are answered by examining the situational evidence and discerning with the help of the Holy Ghost as He reveals. Having said that, manifestations can happen to the saved and sinner or backslid, alike. I’ve seen both the sinner and the saint fall under the power of the Holy Spirit. The same manifestation was serving different purposes in each. So, let us not judge according to externals, but according to what is being accomplished. Here is a short list of things that we must NOT consider in judging the validity of a manifestation.
1. The salvation or spiritual maturity of the individual. A powerful manifestation of the presence of God can smite the heart of a hardened sinner and bring him/her to repentance and transformation. Manifestations are not a reward for, or evidence of super-spirituality. All flesh (sinner, carnal Christian and seasoned saint) will respond when the power of God mightily touches the soul.
2. Where the manifestation occurs. Manifestations will happen wherever the Glory of God shows up. Whether you’re in a church service, your living room, or the middle of the supermarket, the physical body can sense and respond to His presence. Early in American history, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were marked for the manifestations that happened among their street side audiences in the open air. The earth is the Lord’s, and He has been known to show up in the fulness thereof!
3. The oddity of the manifestation. The stranger the manifestation, the more likely people are to consider it false. No one reacts “normally” when they put their finger in an electrical outlet! Similarly, the soul that is being touched by the lightning of God can respond shockingly. There are physical responses to the glory of God that defy human logic. It is quite usual for the onlooker and/or the manifestor to experience a level of offense at the manifestation. Just because someone is having an experience doesn’t mean they understand it or accept it. I have experienced physical responses to the glory that (quite honestly) offended my senses in the moment. As I delved into the Word to find explanation, my eyes were later opened to the purpose of the experience, easing my initial apprehension. Some manifestations, I’ve found are intended to offend in order to gain the attention of the spiritually distracted. Unless the manifestation is lewd, suggestive or jeopardizing to one’s wellbeing, we must be cautious before ruling it false.
4. The frequency of the manifestation. Manifestations can happen once in a lifetime. They can linger for a season in your life, or remain indefinitely. People sometimes have difficulty accepting a repetitive or knee-jerk manifestation as true. For example, ticks, sounds, or the repetitive gestures that are often demonstrated, give many reason for offense. We must afford one another the grace to be human and to humanly respond to God in our own individual way. Author, Stacey Campbell has compiled excellent neurological research that explains why we respond predictably in her book, Ecstatic Prophecy. She suggests that when the Spirit of God touches us powerfully, it actually blazes a trail in our brain that creates a pathway of memory. We become marked by such an extraordinary experience. When the Lord moves upon us again, the experience will likely be processed in the same neurological path, producing a similar response. I call this glory recall. These neurological paths or “ruts” for lack of a better word, can actually light up during imaging. This might explain why some people tend to respond with a tick or gesture that is familiar to them or repetitive in nature.
5. The “appropriateness” of the manifestation. Some take issue with the timing or appropriateness of a manifestation. When at all possible, it is important to exercise decorum in the house of God, or in public. Our church has experienced seasons of high-level manifest presence. In these times, manifestations are more pronounced. We have learned to mark these seasons and proceed sensitively. Manifestations are not allowed to hijack the serving of the meat of the Word. There are times when the service proceeds amidst laughter, crying, and a number of other responses to the Glory. Normally, these experiences would not be “appropriate” during the preaching of the Word. If the Lord is moving, however, we will not restrain Him.
This series is meant to bring understanding to those who are seeking answers. A controversial topic, such as this, often solicits emotional responses from those who have been wounded by false manifestations. Before the conclusion of this series, we will discuss false manifestations as well as the purpose and biblical precedent for a number of commonly occurring manifestations. I welcome any comments and questions that might help us cover sufficient ground in the coming days. Looking forward to conversing, here, with you.