Working From the Inside Out

You know Him (the Holy Spirit), for He is with you and will be in you.  Jn. 14:17

As Christians, we often operate more from of an Old Testament understanding of our relationship with God than that of the new covenant.  More often than not we picture Christianity as a life that we live for God.  We try, on our own, to be good Christians, doing things for God.  But to the degree that we are formed by the language of the New Testament we will recognize that this way of relating to God falls quite short of the Spirit-breathed life that Jesus envisages for us.  According to the grace of Pentecost, God is not only with us, but now, more proximately, within us.

The prophet Jeremiah foresaw the event that would radically alter the nature of human/spiritual experience. In Jeremiah’s prophecy we hear of a new way that God has made possible by changing the very locus wherein He meets us.  Comparing this new way with the old, Jeremiah writes,

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.  (Jer . 31:31)

The old covenant, of course, is the external law that calls for our compliance.  It is this form of obedience, more than the law itself, that has been replaced by a more proximate means of God achieving His purpose in us.  Jeremiah elaborates on the distinctives of this new covenant.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.   (Jer. 31:33)

Jesus, as well, speaks of this distinction between the old and new initiatives of God when, referring to the Holy Spirit, He says, “You know Him, for He is with you, and will be in you.”  A very different spiritual potential exists for us ever since the day of Pentecost.   We are invited to a much more immediate relationship with God.

In his book, The School of the Holy Spirit, Jacques Philippe recognizes the attentive obedience that the Holy Spirit now calls us to.  He emphasizes the new modus operandus that this implies for those who live according to the new covenant.  Philippe writes,

We should endeavour, not to attain holiness as a result of our own efforts, but to let God act in us without our putting up any resistance against him; we should open ourselves as fully as possible to his grace, which sanctifies us, and be alert to recognize, welcome, and put into practice the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

The new covenant invites us to cultivate a much more attentive life with God, and a joyful willingness to seek and heed His promptings.   We do so out of love and a growing desire to serve God as living expressions of His immediate will.  Philippe encourages the spiritual sensitivity that this will lead us to.  He writes,

Ultimately what will help us recognize and respond to God’s motions most easily and promptly is the interior development of a sort of “spiritual sense” which, to begin with, we may not have at all or may have only in a very rough form. We develop this sense by experience, and especially by faithfully and resolutely learning to follow our Lord in all things.

Jesus taught His disciples to listen for His voice and to not follow the voice of another (Jn. 10:4-5).  Philippe as well recognizes the precision that this attentiveness will bring to our lives.  He writes,

This “spiritual hearing” is an ability to recognize, among all the multiple, discordant voices that we hear inside us, the unique, unmistakable voice of Jesus. This sense is like a loving instinct that makes it easier for us to distinguish the voice of the Spouse, in the chorus of sounds that greet our ears.

It is the practice of attentiveness in prayer that sharpens this “spiritual sense” in us.  It fosters the humility by which “Christ must increase” as we decrease in our inner prominence.  Philippe encourages us to embrace the long process of incremental growth that this transformation will entail.

When souls have abandoned themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit he raises them little by little and guides them. At the beginning these souls do not know where they are being led but slowly, a light begins to shine within and allows them to see the guidance of God in all their actions, so that they have almost nothing else to do than let God do whatever he chooses in them and through them.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, we are invited to respond to God in a much more immediate way. “I will put my laws in your mind, and write them on your heart,” the Lord says.  What better way to reply but for us to say, “Write on Lord! We welcome your gracious initiative in our lives!”

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.   Heb. 12:2