I believe God has to accomplish a work in us before we can lay claim to any covenant promise. What is this precedent work upon which all others depend? Jeremiah tells us. “I will put my fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:40, NKJV). God’s foundational work of the covenant is to put his fear into our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah is speaking here of the provisions of God’s new covenant, not the old one. God tells us very clearly how this first work of the covenant will be performed. “I will put my fear in their hearts.” He is letting us know we cannot work up a holy fear by the laying on of hands or the strivings of our flesh. No, the only way this holy work can be accomplished in us is if God’s Spirit performs it.
God is telling us through this passage, “I am going to do marvelous things in you. I will send my very own Spirit to abide in you and give you a new heart.” He will empower you to mortify all fleshly deeds, and he will guide you into total freedom from the power of sin. Finally, he will cause you to will and do his good pleasure.
However, there is one work the Spirit must perform in you before any of these others. He is going to put in you the true fear of God concerning sin, a deep reverence for him and for his Word. He will implant in you a profound awe of his holiness so that you will not depart from his commands. Otherwise, your sin will always lead you away from him.
Very simply, the Holy Spirit changes the way we look at our sin. He knows that as long as we continue to take it lightly, we will never be set free. How does the Holy Ghost do this? By using the convicting Word of God, the piercing arrows of holy truth.