Fire, wind, and earthquake happened because of God’s presence, but God was not in those (1 Kings 19:11, 12). Manifestations or experiential hallmarks of God’s presence are not God. Signs follow those who believe, but signs are not God (Mark 16:17). Jesus healed many people, but healing is not Jesus. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but resurrection is not Jesus. Rather, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25). We must never confuse the effects of Jesus’s presence with Jesus Himself. These things may serve as an initial point of contact with Jesus, and it may be that we know Him through certain things for a time, but ultimately, we must go beyond the ways He ministers to us, beyond supernatural manifestations, and beyond every experience to be had, and we must know Him as He is. If we do not, then we will not even really understand any ministries, supernatural manifestations, or experiences of God.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8). If we do not go beyond the experiential effects of God, then we are those who may hear God and feel His touch when the Spirit blows, but who do not know where He is coming from or where He is going. The center of our being is in ourselves and in this world and we know God as a sort of atmospheric disturbance—He rustles our leaves and moves things around, but as to His real nature and way of thinking we are basically ignorant. God is something we know of and regularly experience, but, like the wind, He is essentially beyond our grasp. This is seen in an exchange between Obadiah and Elijah—“I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth” (1 Kings 18:12). Obadiah indeed served the Lord, but was not knowing Him by the Spirit. Elijah, however, was one who evidently knew God and moved with His Spirit. This is also summed up when Jesus says to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Jesus said that those born of the Spirit are like the wind. They know where they are coming from and where they are going, just as John’s gospel says of Jesus that He knew He had come from God and was returning to God (John 13:3). Those born of the Spirit, therefore, live and move and have their being in God. Their source is God (live), they proceed and move in God, they return (have their being) in God. Rather than living in the realm of our experience and only knowing God as He periodically moves and rustles things, God wants us to live and move and have our being in Him. In other words, rather than living in the earth and knowing the wind only by its touch and sound as it blows, God wants us to live in that place where the wind is coming from and where it is going.Unfortunately, it is possible to experience God, to feel His touch, to hear His voice, and to know His presence, but not be of His Spirit. The scriptures are replete with examples of people like this. King Saul, for instance, was someone who prophesied on a regular basis and was seen often in the company of Samuel, a prophet and prominent man of God. Saul was anointed and ministered in his particular function as king. But, he did not keep God’s word, he did not know God, and, despite all his experiences of God, remained a fearful, grasping, murderous man at heart. Those that will say to the Lord, “did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” are sons of Saul and will receive nothing from Jesus but the sad testimony, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23). Just before Jesus explained to His disciples that friends know their master’s business, He explained what that business is—“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14). Those in whom Christ’s death and life are working, those who are participating in His cross, are those that are knowing God and who are His friends. They are those who have come from God and are returning to God and who move with the wind of His Spirit.