During my charismatic days, though I have experienced some of the so called “presence of God”, I have always always have had doubts about the genuine intervention of Holy Spirit in those meetings.
Our minds have enormous capacity to stretch-out and make imaginations real. All we need is an external force such as, another person, music, intense prayers etc. I have personally witnessed some of the Hindu religious mystic acts such as the things they do to invite the “presence of God”. They play some musical instruments such as drums in high intensity along with some other high pitching organs combined with wild dancing. As the organs go from slow to high pitch, the dance intensifies and within minutes, the people who are dancing can become as though they are “drunk”. At this point some of them start screaming, yelling, laughing and cursing. Few of them fall on the ground and crawl. Others, who are watching them believe those who are “influenced” of the “spirit” (spirit of their god), are like gods themselves. So the onlookers start worshiping these people. And to be honest, as someone who is watching them, I have felt some electricity going through my body at times. Remember, as a traditional orthodox Christian (at that time), I never intended to participate in a Hindu religious ceremony in any way or fashion. All I wanted to do was to watch them. Though I never danced or anything, I have felt “something” in my body and I am convinced that it was caused by the intensity of the music, and the mystical influence of others who are dancing around me like maniacs. Most of such ceremonies are done at night. The component of darkness adds "power" to the entire service. Believe me, darkness has some mystic power.
What exactly is happening here? While I am not totally eliminating the influence of evil spirits, we should also remember that our minds (emotions/feelings) can dramatically be influenced by external forces such as man-made environments/atmosphere. For example, most of us can feel sad when we listen to a sad music. That is just the way our emotions/feelings would respond.
Well, I do not see much difference in a modern-day Charismatic meeting (sadly). One of the challenging questions I had in mind was, how come the catholic charismatic groups (who do not even believe in salvation by faith), are experiencing the same phenomena as the protestant charismatics? The answer I got was, Catholics are experiencing evil spirits (Satan coming as the messenger of light), but ours is genuinely Holy Spirit!
There are other examples as well, such as wild tribal dances etc. Obviously they are all "evil spirits" and ours is "holy spirit". Well, I am sorry but I doubt!
I read a post by Naked Pastor recently which addresses a similar issue in a challenging way. You can find that post here: Flesh and Spirit.
Again, my intention here is not to offend anyone but to challenge our understanding of the “presence of God”. In the light of Gospel and New Covenant, "Presence of God" is Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer. Once we become partakers of divine nature, the Spirit dwells in us permanently. We don't keep inviting Him again and again as though we don't believe in the indwelling of God in us. According to John 1:12, Spirit comes in us (who are dead in our sins), regenerates us and makes us His children when we believe on Jesus Christ and receives Him, not when we create an "atmosphere". The only atmosphere for Spirit is faith, not material arrangements and events. By faith we receive Him once. And when He comes into our life, He comes in 100%, He won't leave some of His presence outside for us to "invite" later. He won't keep going in and out either.
I am well aware of the mysteries surrounding godliness. In fact I recently wrote about it and I still hold on to that. What I am talking here is totally different. It is more about the abuse of spiritual gifts and the emotional mysticism a person can easily fall into (I too was a victim once). Our mind has huge capacity for imaginations, but all our imaginations wouldn’t stand against the scrutiny of the scripture. There is also a component of "human spirit", means other humans (and objects) can influence our mind, some times in weird ways.
There is no place for “mind tricks” in biblical New Testament. New Testament is all about TRUTH. We cannot and shouldn’t take portions of scripture out of context forgetting the centrality of the entire Bible which is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Miracles, supernatural manifestations, healing, exorcism etc cannot set us free. Only truth can set us free.
When it comes to the relationship with God, what matters the most is nothing but “faith expressing itself through love”, not so much the "show" side of it. We are living in an age of deception. All kinds of deception, all around us. And the way we stand against such deceptions is by constantly renewing our mind with TRUTH. Again, there are no mind tricks in TRUTH. It is the truth what gives us the ability to discern and distinguish what is from the Spirit and what is from the flesh.