“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
Back when I was in college a nefarious idea was spreading itself through Christian circles. The idea was that one could receive Jesus as their personal savior while refusing to submit to His Lordship; that one could be delivered from eternal destruction and yet have no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in his life.
The text today belies such a notion and informs us in no uncertain terms that the pursuit of holiness is not optional. We are to pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
Notice first that we are to pursue it. “To pursue” means to strive to do something with an intense effort to a goal, to press forward, to follow in haste. In other contexts this same word is used to describe persecution – to hound someone so that they cannot escape your clutches. And so, Hebrews tells us, this is to be our approach to holiness. We are to hunt it down, seek it out, press forward.
But what is the goal? What is it we are hunting down? What is this holiness? Holiness is dedication to the Lord and, hence, to moral purity. In other places, it is called sanctification, the state of being set apart. In this sense, holiness means to be separated to the Lord’s service. And so the temple in the OT was called holy – a sanctuary, a place set apart for the worship of God. So what is our goal? To be living sacrifices, set apart for the worship of the Lord.
Hebrews tells us we are to pursue this sanctification. We are to hunt it down. Bring out the blood hounds and find it. And he appends a warning to his admonition to prod us in the posterior lest we become complacent – without this holiness, we won’t see the Lord.
So, how are we doing? Are we hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Are we seeking first the kingdom of God? Are we selling everything to buy the pearl of great price? Are we scouring the house to find the coin?
None of us, of course, are adequate for such things. And this is why we stand in such need of the Spirit of grace who creates within us this very holiness, who cultivates within us the desire to pursue.
And so, as we come into the presence of our Lord this day, let us confess that we have not pursued sanctification as we ought and let us kneel and call upon His mercy to receive us and forgive us for the sake of Christ.