Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12, verse 14.
Here’s another tall order: live in peace and be holy. How does that fit in with America’s NFL controversy this week? Or our political discourse in general since the start of this century? How well are we living in peace with our enemies and even our allies? Is there peace in Detroit or St. Louis? Is there peace at your table on Thanksgiving? And are you and your spouse at peace (if you’re married)?
Let’s get this out there: peace is NOT the absence of conflict. Don’t think that just because we don’t have conflict that we’re at peace. Yes, I mean that. Sure, not shooting each other in war is indeed “peaceful” yet there’s all too often no real peace in that. It’s a good thing to not have someone shooting you, attacking you, berating you, and that condition is indeed conducive to overall peace. But it isn’t real peace. There isn’t peace along the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula: there is only a cessation of hostilities that has lasted since 1953. There isn’t peace in Sudan. There isn’t peace in Ukraine. There isn’t peace in Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, or most of America’s inner cities.
You can only have peace if the Holy Spirit is working within you. The bumper sticker meme “no Jesus no peace. Know Jesus know peace” is spot on true. The only real peace you can know in this world is when you open up your heart and let Jesus crowd out all the rest of the noise. Sure, there are some true believing folks in all the areas listed above (even in North Korea) but without God’s Holy Spirit in control, the peace we will know is uneasy, tenuous.
That isn’t easy to do. I have a schedule to keep. There are Facebook posts that require my brilliance. My wife and kids aren’t doing what I want them to do. That guy who passed me on the right was a real jerk! DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME FOR PEACE? Actually, Dave, if the truth is told, you don’t have time to NOT have peace. Without the peace of Jesus, you got nuthin.
You’ve got nothing without Jesus because, without Jesus, the second half of verse 14 is also impossible. I’m not holy; you aren’t holy. Neither Franklin Graham nor Pope Francis (nor even Pope Emeritus Benedict) are holy. We’re all dirty sinners on our own. Without Jesus, we still own our sins; owning our sins, we are unholy. Without Jesus we still own the consequences of our sins. What’s more, without Jesus you won’t see the Lord. You won’t see heaven. You won’t be there.
Don’t get mad at me for pointing that out: it’s what verse 14 says. Without knowing Jesus we can’t be holy and if we’re unholy we won’t be going to heaven. The ONLY cure for that is to put your faith in Christ. And the way to do that is to say “I believe” and then start walking the walk. Read your Bible. Pray constantly. Be with other believers and be built up by your fellowship with Jesus and each other. Tithe from a giving heart. And, most of all, practice what you preach by starting to live your life in ways the Lord has told us to. Once again, that’s a tall order. It means giving up the porn, holding your tongue, confessing your dark secrets to the unseen God, and changing the way you act with other people. Pick your pet sin: you and I GET TO give up these things and follow Jesus closer so that His holiness can be imputed to us and we may stand with Him in paradise. These are simply the practices of a follower of Jesus. If my tone seems preachy, I apologize.
I have no illusion that everyone turning to Jesus would immediately solve the world’s problems. Perhaps we would still have conflicts, arguments, and hurt. Or, perhaps we wouldn’t. Si Robertson once said “it ain’t gun control we need. It’s sin control.” Right on brother. If we all embraced Jesus more and did what He asked, perhaps we’d have more control over those temptations that lure us in. If we all did better and walking the walk and talking the talk, perhaps the world’s problems would indeed be solved. Sin control looks a lot like Jesus.
For further reading: Romans 14:19, Romans 6:22, Matthew 5:8.
Lord, thank You for giving us Your righteousness, for making us holy. Help us to believe in You more, to practice our faith.