Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
This is an extremely difficult verse to hear when we consider those things we have going on in our lives. Being able to accomplish holiness is an impossible task. God must accomplish that in us. We have a part to play, but only God can direct us as we pursue Him. Only He is truly holy, so only He can see where we are in relation to where we need to be. Pursuing peace with all people is just as difficult. For two people to have peace with one another, both parties must desire to have peace with one another. Sometimes peace is only accomplished with one overcoming another. or by surrendering to someone. Human nature is a tricky thing.
But holiness is something else altogether. For holiness is something we can choose to have in our lives. It doesn’t depend on anyone else to get there and it can only be achieved by not merely including God in the process but rather following God’s lead through the process. Holiness is living spiritually to your maximum performance and/or your greatest effectiveness in your relationship with God. And just as a bodybuilder or an athlete must constantly work to maintain and improve his or her best performance, we must always work to both maintain and improve our relationship with God. It is the most important thing we can do in this life and will greatly improve the next one.
One thing we must understand regarding holiness is that it is not necessarily living a totally pure life, but it is most certainly living with a totally pure heart. That’s the reason we are unable to accomplish holiness without God. His Holy Spirit is purity and is the only One Who can impart His purity. These two things, purity of heart and holiness are necessarily together when holiness is the goal. Holiness cannot exist without purity of heart and purity of heart can exist in someone who may be considered not yet living in holiness, but if they are living with a pure heart, they soon will be guided into holiness as well.
Like so many things of God, growth in this area will occur in steps, or in levels. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is too much for most of us to understand, so we will find it necessary to attempt to incorporate the things of God in increments. But we must also be very careful not to use that as an excuse to not chase God. The first word in Hebrews 12:14 states that we should pursue peace and holiness. The word that is interpreted “pursue”, here, is a word that has several interpretations. But it is most often interpreted “persecute”. The idea is that it takes some energy to persecute someone. You must chase after them, not merely follow them at a distance. It’s much more intense. As we look for peace and holiness in our lives, we must work at it. Neither holiness nor peace will happen in your life if you just lie back and expect everything to fall in place.
That can’t happen in the physical world, so how much more the things of a spiritual nature? For we who inhabit the physical world to enter into the spiritual world is to enter a world that is as unfamiliar as a stroll through a deep, dark cavern with very little light. There is a sense of fear and dread because there may be things that can cause fear and dread. Strange and unfamiliar is not comfortable, so we tend to stay with that with which we are comfortable. That means that if our first spiritual experiences are too far from what we expected, then we may operate out of a false assumption and desire to stay with the world and what it offers. We must discover that things are not as they seem. We must discover that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience not physical beings seeking a spiritual experience. And although we are spiritual beings, we are extremely unfamiliar with that as our home and we are also unfamiliar with how to operate within the bounds of that spiritual existence.
When we remember that, we will soon discover that simply remembering that one, simple, little thing, we will have either begun the process or will help in continuing the process of resetting our minds and our thoughts will become purer and our actions will follow.
But that doesn’t mean that is all we need. As mentioned previously, our minds must be reset to look at all things from a spiritual perspective. One of the very first fruits of doing this is joy. It is impossible to quell such joy because it is the result of knowing the end of things. Or at least having hope in the end of all things, for even if the end remains unknown, there is a peace that accompanies those who own hope for a good ending to all things whether they are difficult trials, or relatively minor difficulties.
This way our joy is found in the Lord and although there may come tribulations, and there most certainly will come tribulations, our joy, our basic outlook on life will remain unchanged because we know that our hope lies not in the occurrences in this life, but rather how we handle them. This is an oversimplification, of course, for the extreme pain, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, that is endured by some is not to be taken lightly. But if we are experiencing great pain or undergoing a difficult trial, God instructs us to seek Him. And if we see others experiencing great pain or a difficult trial, we are instructed to comfort and/or assist them.
How quickly we rush to the aid of those in pain is indicative of the state of our hearts. I’m not saying we should open up a curbside psychiatrist’s office, but showing compassion at every possible opportunity is an extremely important part of the puzzle if we are to enhance our outlook and understanding of holiness and the level at which it exists in our own lives. More to come on this subject…