There have been plenty of strange “manifestations of the Holy Spirit” in recent decades, associated with what is supposedly spiritual revival.
People barking like dogs, falling backwards in waves, laughing uncontrollably, dancing around an auditorium oblivious to their surroundings. The list could go on.
There is also the reasonably common manifestation, getting drunk in the Spirit, whilst others have “connected with the Spirit” by “toking the Ghost,” a supposedly spiritual version of getting stoned “in the Holy Ghost.”
These things, as strange as they might seem, are nothing new. Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher and theologian, was instrumental in revival breaking out in New England in the 18th century. And he witnessed many strange manifestations in the course of that great revival.
Edwards wrote on this subject, concluding that the strange manifestations said nothing about whether revival was – or was not – genuine. Importantly, he also concluded that there were some genuine signs. See the link at the end to see what Edwards decided.
What’s all this got to do with the holiness of God, the attribute of God that Mike talked to us about on Sunday?
The holiness of God is not just about good, moral behaviour. It’s about being set apart – different, distinctively different from anything else.
So God is set apart; He is like us in some ways, but so unlike us in so many important ways. He is above all, supreme. He rules over all; He never changes; He is entirely perfect. There is none like Him, and there will never be another like Him.
The heavenly angels, in all their (created) beauty and holiness can not match Him in perfection. In fact, Isaiah gives us a glimpse of God’s holiness in chapter 6:
[Isa 6:1] In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
[Isa 6:2] Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
[Isa 6:3] And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
[Isa 6:4] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Even the seraphim – these fiery celestial beings – who have surrounded the throne of God from time immemorial, are unable to look on the perfect holiness of God. They shield their eyes and cover their feet with their wings, all the while crying out “Holy, holy, holy!”
And what was the reaction of God’s holy prophet Isaiah? “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” [Isa 6:5].
Who among us could claim to be as holy as Isaiah was? And yet he was devastated when he saw himself in relation to this holy and perfect God.
And even the apostle John – the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who may have been closer to the heart of Jesus than any other – was undone when confronted by the risen Lord Jesus in the book of Revelation. When John saw the Lord, “I fell at his feet as though dead” [see Rev 1:10-18].
Try as I might, I can’t seem to visualise the various characters in the Bible carrying on like so many Christians do today. How different they were to what we have witnessed amongst so much of Christianity in recent years.
The truth of the matter is that we are, by nature, completely and totally unfit to stand in the presence of this holy God. In fact, we are only fit to be destroyed by this All-Consuming Fire.
But thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord, that when He touches us, our guilt is taken away, and our sin atoned for [see Isa 6:6-7].
Then – and only then – are we clean, worthy, holy to come into His presence. Shouldn’t that inspire awe, reverence, worship, respect, honour, thanksgiving towards God? Or does it instead inspire flippancy, even disrespect?
How then should we live? How then should we represent this holy God?
If you want to learn more about Jonathan Edwards’ assessment of the revival, read “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” here: https://ccel.org/ccel/edwards/works2.vii.html
You can also listen to his most famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God” here: https://revivedthoughts.com/jonathan-edwards-sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-god/