<<agents of perception>>
We receive information from the physical world through our five senses – hearing, seeing, taste, touch, and smell. These sensors continually provide immense amounts of information for our minds to analyze and store, to act on or discard. All this input affects us profoundly, in body, soul and spirit, and we need to personally establish and enforce clear guidelines for its management. The Bible says, “Guard your heart more than any treasure for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23). Managing our senses well is the key to wholesome input – they are the entry points for both good and bad ‘messages’.
Our senses are only indicators not dictators
closely monitor what we look at as impure thoughts and wicked imaginations quickly develop from what we see and let our minds mull over (Job 31:1; Mt 5:27,28; 2Pet 2:14; 1 Jn 2:16).
If any one of these sensors is impaired, often another is more enhanced to compensate – for example, a blind person may have more acute hearing. Sometimes information from just one of the five gathering mechanisms can be misleading and so if there is confirmation from another source it is beneficial. People with damaged senses need assistance to live well eg. the blind. Down the centuries many Christians have performed such acts of service to help the disadvantaged.
The prodigal son ‘came to his senses’ (stopped acting foolishly) when he ceased acting on them alone! He began to appreciate the reality of his situation, then took the required steps to change things (Lk 15:17-20). Pray that many desperate people will clearly see their predicament and take the necessary steps back to the heavenly Father.
A deeper level
As we are now spiritual beings, why are we only looking at life with our natural senses and not the spiritual? “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Cor 4:18). Our physical senses enable us to interact with the natural world around us while our spiritual senses allow us to experience relationship with our Lord and address issues in the spirit realm where the most vital engagements take place (Eph 6:12). Because the natural physical world is so easily identifiable, we focus so much time and attention relating to it and have failed to experience the depth of the spiritual dimension that is our right in relating to God who is unseen. The spiritual application of our senses empowers us to function in the unseen spiritual world – not in a mystical way but with divine intuition because we are in tune with the Holy Spirit.
Much of the time we are seeing but do not see; though hearing do not hear or understand, instead of like God who views things from a true perspective (1 Sam 16:7; Mt 13:13; Jn 5:30). We are to “live by faith not sight” – reducing our reliance purely on our earthly human capability of understanding (2 Cor 5:7).
Am I impaired in the spiritual realm?
natural world. Likewise, we can be disadvantaged in the spirit dimension. Intimacy with God is found only in the realm of the Spirit; discovering a deeper dimension of God’s presence through longing, thirsting and seeking will result in a more eternally effective ministry.
Spiritual sight. Jesus in the Spirit saw Nathanael before he arrived (Jn 1:47-51). “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). This is not so much about heaven and the afterlife but the ability to perceive in the spirit realm here and now, seeing life from an eternal perspective, and to evaluate experiences according to God’s purposes and priorities (Num 22:31; 2 Kgs 6:17; Act 26:18).
Spiritual hearing. Both an angel and the Spirit of God spoke to Philip (Act 8:26,29). Philip heard in the Spirit realm and because of his obeying, church history records a great work for God was started. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear let him hear…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Mk 4:9,23; Jn 10:27).
Spiritual touch or feeling. The desire of the Lord can be discerned as peace or lack thereof, and so we can make the appropriate adjustments to navigate the unseen realm and its effects on the natural. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…” (Col 3:15). “It seemed good to us…” implies they had peace thus it seemed right in the Spirit (Act 15:25).
Spiritual smell. In detecting a smell, we absorb the essence of it. When Mary anointed Jesus with the costly oil, the aroma of it filled the whole house (Jn 12:3). Holiness has a fragrance. Our prayers and financial offerings are a pleasing aroma before God’s throne (Ps 141:2; Phil 4:18; Rev 5:8). As believers we carry a spiritual aroma of heaven that can be detected (2 Cor 2:15,16). When we sniff in the natural, we are able to discern what is causing the smell. Likewise in the spiritual realm we need the ability of “discerning of spirits” to recognise what spiritual forces are seeking to influence a situation, what motivation is driving a person or circumstance (1 Cor 12:10; Heb 5:14). Discernment is continually needed so we are not deceived.
Spiritual taste. When we eat of the sweetness and graciousness of the Lord, devouring the Word of God we absorb it and it becomes part of us, enabling us to grow and become mature in Him (1 Pet 2:1-3). As we taste of the Lord we see He is good and are filled with His health and nourishment in our spirits when we hunger and thirst for His righteousness (Ps 34:8; Mt 5:6). "As the tongue tastes food" so it is with the spiritual food we take in, we need to separate the fish from the bones (Job 12:11).
Our five senses enhanced and utilized in the spiritual dimension help us navigate life in a God-honouring way that are fully in agreement with the Bible and its principles as we keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25).