From Manifestation to Process
Aside from the Incarnation and Second Coming, God's manifestation on Mount Sinai was perhaps the greatest earthly manifestation of His presence in human history. That manifestation, filled with terrifying cinematic imagery and sounds, is recorded in Exodus 19 and briefly revisited in Hebrews 12:18-21.
As we continue reading past Exodus 19 and into Leviticus, we learn a critical truth with important applications for us today: the manifestation was simply the blast-off for the practical process that was to follow. He wanted Israel--and us--to go from manifestation to process.
From Manifestation to Process
The manifestation on Sinai inaugurated the Old Covenant. It was the wedding ceremony. Throughout the rest of Exodus and into Leviticus, the Lord then laid out practical mechanisms and processes Israel was to cooperate with to become what He wanted them to become. These mechanisms and processes are the actual marriage. Exodus 19:5,6 summarize (NASB, underline mine): Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation...
In essence, God wanted a people He could have a special intimate relationship with, through whom He could reveal Himself beyond Israel to the world (Deu 4:6, Ps 67:1,2). While the manifestation established and jumpstarted that relationship with Israel, the process intended to develop them into the kinds of people God could be close to and use as His representatives. The process, however, is what Israel repeatedly resisted, eventually forfeiting the nearness of God's presence (Mt 23:37-39) and causing Him to temporarily pause His dealings with them and focus on the Gentiles in the meantime (21:43, Ro 11:25).
New Testament Manifestations & Processes
In the New Testament era, God manifests Himself with power and relevancy through the Holy Spirit. 1Corinthians 12:7 (NASB) says, But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. In context, Paul is referring to spiritual gifts. Every born-again believer, through his/her spiritual gifts rightly used, has the ability to invoke a divine manifestation for the good of others. The more spiritually mature and the more well-developed those gifts are, the greater the manifestations.
The Becoming Process
The use of our spiritual gifts and the resultant manifestations, however, are only an adrenaline shot for others, a jolt of momentum towards the becoming process God commands us all to be faithful to. 2Peter 3:18 (NASB): But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2Corinthians 3:18 (NASB): But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory...
Like Israel, the becoming process is where many Christians resist the Lord, or are sluggish and inconsistent. They are not diligent in meeting with Him daily, developing their prayer conversations with Him, growing deeper and wider in the Word, practicing the personality changes He is telling them to make, and so on. And yet, many of these same Christians are regularly involved in churches, groups, and meetings that value the manifestations and movings of the Holy Spirit. What does this tell us? These Christians are abusing the Holy Spirit's presence like a drug, or even a prostitute. They want the exhilaration and mesmerism of His moving in a meeting, but they do not want to cultivate the daily closeness and personality changes with Him. Again, they are using the Holy Spirit like a prostitute.
Rightly Understand Manifestations & Processes
There are distinct purposes for the mighty movings and manifestations of God, but those purposes are not for us to camp there indefinitely. Remember Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration? After experiencing a dazzling manifestation of the Lord Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, he said (Mt 17:4 HCSB), "Lord, it's good for us to be here! If You want, I will make three tabernacles here..."
Peter wanted to camp out indefinitely in the manifestation, but in the very next verse the Father nudges them on to the process. He spoke from within a cloud, saying (v5), "This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!" Listen to Jesus, the Father says. Listen the voice of the Shepherd, the Father says. Listen, listen, listen. That implies a daily relationship, an ongoing process of time spent together, a diligent sensitivity to follow Jesus wherever He is going so that He can be listened to.
From Intimacy to Becoming
We do not stop at intimacy with the Lord, meeting with Him only to hear something and then go right back to who we were before. No, never. Intimacy eventually shifts into becoming. The Lord will often say things to us that are transformation-oriented, things He expects us to either obey immediately or work on daily with His help. 2Corinthians 3:17 says, as we are looking at Jesus and listening to Him (HCSB): We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory...
See that? We meet with Him in the secret place daily, looking at Him and listening for Him. As we do that, transformational insights and commands will issue from the Spirit that we must cooperate with. As we do that, we gradually become in practical actuality what we already are in positional identity.