Is this experience from God?

My friend also had another question, which I shall seek to answer:

(2). Many of my Christian friends told me that they were touched by Holy Spirit.  How do we know the power touches someone is from the Holy Spirit and not from other beings, such as angels or the staff of God?

Another good question! Many Christians do claim that they have been affected “touched,” “filled,” “baptized,” etc.) by the Holy Spirit, but how do we know whether our experience is from God’s Spirit and not some other source?

A famous theologian named Jonathan Edwards once wrote a whole book on this subject, called Religious Affections (emotions, experiences). He pointed out that much of what seems to be from God may not actually be. After all, the Bible says that Satan and his demons (evil spirits) can work miracles, so a supernatural healing or other miracle is not necessary a work of God.

Furthermore, speaking with other tongues, which is commonly used as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit, can come from another source also – either our own voice production or the work of some other spirit.

Strong emotions, too, don’t necessarily come from God. You can be really “happy” or excited, but that could simply result from your reaction to something you are thinking or some stimulus in your environment. I once had some sort of mystical experience of “peace” and “unity with the whole world” during and after listening to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony!

If you are in a crowd, and they all go crazy over something, you can be overcome with powerful feelings that derive from the influence of the mood of the people around you. Both Hitler and Mao Zedong had that influence on large gatherings of devoted followers, and something like that seems to happen to many young people at rock concerts.

You can have a strong impression that something is true or right, but it may be very false and very wrong. These “clear” “messages” may seem to come from God, but they could be the work of the devil, who knows very well how to deceive us.

People in religious meetings are sometimes overcome by joy, or ecstasy, or dread. None of these is necessarily a product of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. Likewise, falling down as if dead – sometimes called “being slain in the Spirit” – can happen to people for all sorts of reasons, and is not necessarily a work of the Holy Spirit of God.

Okay, so how can we know whether an experience comes from God? There are several ways of evaluating religious experiences:

Does it make me love God more – his holiness, justice, mercy, truth, and all his other excellencies?

Does it make me trust God more? Does this experience lead me to believe more in what the Bible says, to rely on his promises, especially the spiritual promises in the New Testament, even if everything else around me seems to deny the Scriptures?

Does it make we way to obey God more? Does it cause me to think that all his commands (meaning primarily those in the New Testament, not all the food laws in the Old Testament) are good and right and true, and that I must seek to follow his revealed will, no matter what the cost?

Does it make we want to hope more in God and in the grace that will come to me when Christ returns?

Does it make me hate sin, and falsehood, and everything that is wrong?

Does it make me love God’s people – other Christians – and want to be with them and serve them and work with them to advance God’s kingdom?

Does it make me more aware of my own sins and need for God’s mercy, and does it cause me to rejoice more in the sheer grace of God that has reached down to someone as unworthy as I am?

Does it cause me to focus my attention on Jesus Christ, the Son of God and only Savior? Or does it turn my eyes towards something or someone else? All that comes from the Spirit of God will bring honor and glory to the Son of God, as revealed in the Bible.

Is this experience in any way contrary to the will of God as revealed in the Bible? Does it make me want to read the Bible more and meditate on the Scriptures? Or does it distract me and cause me to yearn after other emotional experiences?

These are some of the tests we can use to ascertain whether what we have experienced has come from the Holy Spirit or from some other source.