Summary: The race or the chase that we are to run as believers is the pursuit of peace with all men and the pursuit of Christlikeness.
The Pursuit of Peace and Holiness
In the opening verses of Hebrews 12 we are told that as Christians we are to run the “race”. But what is that race that is set before us? Verse fourteen provides the answer – it is “the Pursuit of Peace and Holiness”. We are given a command to energetically strive toward the goals of peace with all men, and of personal holiness. We are not to be passive, believing that it will simply happen without any effort or action on our part. Philippians 2 tells us that this a synergistic work. Our responsibility to work out our salvation, in dependence on God's indwelling Spirit, is the pursuit of peace and holiness.
I. Pursue Peace with all men.
A. Peace with God.
1. The root cause of every war and every conflict, whether internal or external, is rebellion against God. When God created man, there was perfect harmony with God, but when man sinned that peace was broken and conflict entered the world; the greatest conflict being that of enmity with God. (Genesis 3:15, Romans 8:7)
2. While we are called to pursue peace with all men, you’re never going to make peace with all men until you first make peace with God. And there is only for you to make peace with God; and that is through the cross.
3. Colossians 1:19-21 says that " For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.”
4. Martin Luther told a story about a monk who denied original sin. The monk was frustrated with his own contrariness and impatience. He decided to go and live out in a desert by himself because he believed that people around him made him sin. He wanted to isolate himself and then sin would not be a problem. In the desert he thought he could live in peace and holiness because he was alone. One day he went to a spring to get some water. Inadvertently he knocked the container over and spilled it all. In anger he flung the pitcher to the ground and broke it. He realized something; he couldn’t blame his anger on other people. It was inside. It is inside us too. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” We need God’s transformation of our hearts.
5. Peace with God is only accomplished when you acknowledge your alienation from God due to your sin, repenting of that sinfulness and surrendering to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
6. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
7. Ephesians 2:14 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us”.
8. God grants peace as a gift through Jesus Christ. His suffering and sacrifice opened the way for peace between human beings and God, and between human beings and other human beings.
9. Once God has made peace with you and you begin living a Spirit-filled life, you begin to realize the peace of God. The fruit of the Spirit includes a peace that goes beyond that of salvation. Isaiah 26:3 says, " You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."
10. God’s peace transcends on earthly issues and matters, as Philippians 4:4-7 illustrates. Christ’s children are to be "anxious for nothing," for God promises to "guard our hearts and minds." It is a peace “which passes all understanding”;
11. Because as believers we have been reconciled with and have peace with God, we are instructed to be peacemakers among fellow believers and with unbelievers.
12. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”
B. Peace with fellow believers.
1. Within the Christian community, God tells us to live in peace with one another. Unfortunately, peace is something that is lacking in many churches today.
2. The church is an amalgamation of individuals who have different personalities, backgrounds, and outlooks. Residing in the depths of each of them is residual sin of the old nature, leading to conflict within the church.
3. Our relationships should be without any of the things that get in the way of peace: selfishness, argumentativeness, discord, jealousy, lying and distrust, cliquishness, as well as a host of other sins.
4. James 4:1-2 (ESV) “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”