The town of Rocky Ford, Colorado where I was once a pastor, had a ministerial breakfast each Thursday at a local motel and restaurant.
One morning one of the pastors asked if we'd heard what happened to brother ____ in the nearby city of LaJunta. Many of us knew him, an older pastor of the Lutheran church.
He was visiting a member of his church in the local nursing home, a lady now blinded by diabetes and age, and sat down in a chair next to her bed as they began talking. As they visited he helped himself to the little bowl of peanuts on the nightstand next to her bed until they were nearly all gone.
About 45 minutes into his visit, the woman said: "There really isn't much for me to do at this point in my life. About the only enjoyment I have left is eating chocolate. One of the staff brought me some chocolate covered peanuts, but I don't like peanuts so I just sucked off all the chocolate and spit them out into a little bowl on my nightstand." (I've seen this story printed or told by others over the years since, but I can tell you it really happened.)
Not being able to tell the difference between your spirit and the Holy Spirit can lead to mistaken identity not unlike the pastor above. We make decisions we think are God but turn out not to be, leaving us in confusion and loss wondering how we could do what we just did to end up like we are.
Qualities of our spirit
Barb loves sunset. I love sunrise. Fall is her favorite time of year, I love spring. She has a strong sense of right and wrong. If someone has weird spiritual vibes around them, she notices. I see the potential in people and their gifts. I first notice the spiritual season and process going on in their life.
She is a project person who must complete a project before starting another. Until complete all else is distraction from her task. She is thorough. I flit from project to project, juggling 6 or so projects at once, working a little here and a little there, completing them over time. She reads 1 thing at a time, I am reading 4 books with another 2 I read a page here and there regularly, and 3 magazines. That doesn't count the half dozen or so 'Calvin & Hobbes' cartoon books I have on or in my nightstand, for a little humor and distraction before falling off to sleep.
If I have to focus on a single project around the house for longer than a day, it looms before me as 'work', with no enjoyment in it for me, just a job that has to be done. She relishes long projects and when complete, everything will be in order, in place, and pleasing to the eye. Therefore she gets attached to things, while things hold little attraction to me, though I'm more of a romantic than she in many ways. I love her spirit, she loves my spirit. Our spiritual traits compliment and complete one another.
You are who you are
These are qualities of the spirit man, for it is who we are, how we function, how we relate. There were no soul (emotional or educational) experiences in our upbringings to form us into liking on the one hand sunsets and projects complete, and on the other sunrises and projects started. We are this way naturally.
And the fact that she can only do 1 thing at a time while I can do several, is not a character flaw in each of us that must be changed. Yes, I've learned through her to work a task to completion, and she has learned to be more flexible as it relates to her projects, but having those traits and not others is not a character flaw, sin, or other indication of being imperfect. They are just traits of our Father in us.
The soul is the issue: Confusion begins
The qualities in your spirit man, the things that make the core you, you, will bear witness with another person's spirit who is created similarly, or a similar call on their life. That spiritual attraction doesn't mean God is telling you to go in that direction, it just means your spirit man relates to someone else's spirit.
It is like the Bible student who came into my office in tears, wondering why the missionary's message at chapel so touched her. I told her it was because she too was called to Missions, so her spirit bore witness with his mission work - that didn't mean God was calling her then and there to the mission field, or to work in his ministry, just that they had similar call in life. Attraction is often mistaken for rightness, and even love.
Here are some other examples:
1) A couple both love mountains, so when they visit a mountain town seeking God to see if He wants them to move there, their spirits relate to the setting and they feel peace, so they take it as God and move. When jobs don't arise and life is difficult they wonder why God led them there.
Reality: Their spirit man loves the mountains, but that doesn't mean God wants them to move there. They mistook the qualities in their spirit that make them who they are, for God's voice. As a result they didn't 'do the homework' in the natural, to reason things through, to seek confirmations about the move, to work up a budget and orderly plan, choosing rather to spiritualize everything since God seemed to be involved in their move, which He wasn't.
2) A person interviews with 2 different companies, 1 where the corporate culture closely matches what feels right in their spirit, the other has no spiritual attraction to the corporate culture. They take job #1 but are miserable in spite of the more Christian corporate culture around them, trapped doing a job they hate.
Reality: They were attracted in their spirit to the Godly values expressed in the corporate culture without examining in the natural their actual job description. Had they done so, they would have taken job #2 which closely matched their skills and what they wanted to do instead of thinking the attraction in their spirit to the Godly culture of job #1 was God leading them.
3) There are issues in a person's heart and marriage they know God wants dealt with, but they are afraid of what might happen if they are addressed, so they draw back from church, from the relationships in church, and from subjects too close to the maturity God is trying to birth in them. They know in their spirit this issue needs to be dealt with, but they keep it bottled up inside so no one can get close. (Including the Lord)
Reality: They are running from God because of the spirit of fear instead of dealing with the issue as it confronts them in the course of life. They reason away confronting the issue because 'things aren't as intense now', and God's peace in their spirit is used as an excuse for not dealing with it, instead of understanding that peace is there so they CAN deal with the issue/sin/circumstance. Grace in our spirit is not God's permission to ignore issues; it is His empowerment to deal with issues.
Otherwise they end up doing what James calls 'lying against the truth', which means the wisdom of God is revealed to them in their spirit, but they lie to themselves and others and give excuses. Wholeness in this area is new to them, so they are afraid of what might happen if they confront the issue. Thus while in reality bound by a spirit of fear, they hide behind grace in their spirit, twisting it's purpose.
4) People go through a difficult time like a job change, a death, an illness (mental or physical), and they feel the overwhelming peace of the God in their spirit carrying them through the crisis. Because His peace is so strong in their spirit they refuse to deal with things in the natural realm like the emotions revolving around their future, tending to spiritualize everything. When asked, they refuse to be specific about what they are thinking, won't let themselves think about planning, avoiding direct questions while answering with spiritual sounding answers that say nothing.
Reality: They refuse to examine themselves, refuse to admit they are where they are through decisions they've made, or issues they've refused to deal with. They put what is their responsibility onto God, not realizing He will let them reap what they are sowing. The Lord can be very gracious with His peace in our spirit carrying us through difficult times, but that peace is not intended to prevent us from dealing with real life decisions nor ignore issues in our heart, that peace is there in our spirit to empower us to deal with life.
Experiencing His presence daily
You can see that experiencing His presence is not just about during a time of worship or prayer, but
throughout the day in decisions large and small. I can feel Him in my spirit 24/7/365, and a large part of that is realizing He lives inside me 24/7/365 to deal with life as it comes at me - I don't work to 'get into His presence', I live in His presence - and so do you! More next week on this. I hope this is a blessing to you, until next week then, blessings,
Upcoming conference in the Netherlands april 2013