There is something that we need to be reminded of when it comes to our walk with the Lord. Our walk with the Lord is not an experience we had, it isn’t a refreshment where we fill up every year at Christmas time or Easter time. Our walk with the Lord isn’t even the weekly gathering that we have here each Sunday. Our relationship with God is a daily thing that continues just like our heart continues to beat and just like we continue to breathe in and out endlessly throughout our lives.
If you remember the last time we were together in Hebrews chapter 12 we were talking about how we are motivated by those who have gone in the faith before us and that they are an inspiration to us, and, that there are things that Christians go through, disciplines—if you will—that remind us that those disciplines come not from a vengeful angry God but from a loving father who disciplines us for our own good.
But those disciplines can weigh us down if we don’t remember that God can very well be behind them teaching us and loving us. So the writer of Hebrews continues encouraging his or her audience with verse 12-17
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
We face many troubles every day. We all deal with trouble and remember that just because we have trouble does not mean that God has abandoned us, or that we did something wrong. It could mean that, we could be suffering from consequences from sin but that isn’t what I am talking about today.
But the writer says that Christians have duties to preform in encouraging one another. We talk about how these Hebrews wanted to give up, but that they should not give up, they shouldn’t want to “go back to Egypt” where even though they were slaves, at least they ate.
So they are encouraged to have faith and to help one another out. Verse 14 talks about striving for peace and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Peace is one of those things that can be difficult to figure out. It is two things actually:
Peace is as William Barclay puts it, “everything which makes for a persons highest good found only in obedience to God. It doesn’t always mean the best things are happening in your life, it means that in complete obedience of God will you find the highest happiness.”
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
And so peace is a contentment that comes from living a life that is committed to holiness and pleasing to the Lord.
The other part of peace is the right relationship between people. Do you find that there is a difference when you are spending time with people you really get along with verses people that you don’t really get along with? You know what that feels like right?
Especially with the Holiday season that we are in right now; some of you probably spent some time with folks who you don’t necessarily share a peaceful relationship with. That makes it hard. And people don’t thrive when they are forced to be with people that they don’t share peace with.
So when we look at the church, this gathering of Christ followers we understand how important peace is and the writer of Hebrews comes right out and talks about it. Pursue peace! Strive for it. Look for ways to cultivate peace. The word in that verse is dioko and it means to move rapidly and decisively toward something.
There is a saying keeping the peace. The problem is that you don’t just try and keep it, it sounds like trying to keep all those plates spinning on those sticks. No, this word means to go after it, strive for it, work for it.
Too many of us don’t realize that making peace is an effort. It is supposed to be an effort. Many times when people don’t get along they don’t want to get along. Pride gets in the way and we don’t want to get along.
But Christ followers are required to pursue peace. They are called to go after it, to strive for it.
Because peace does not come naturally, it just doesn’t. As a matter of fact, especially when it comes to Christians peace can be really difficult. Even though we are reminded over and over about how important peace between Christians is so important.
The devil, our enemy wants to disrupt our peace, he is a roaring lion and doesn’t want peace between us as Christians.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
How do we make peace? How do we pursue peace? And it seems like it is important because the second part of that verse says that if we don’t strive for it along with holiness that we won’t see the Lord. Living in Peace is part of what it means to be a Christian. It isn’t something that is given to us but it is something that we make happen.
We don’t always get our way and we have to live with that. We have to understand that there are times when our focus has to be on others instead of ourselves. When we put others above ourselves peace is the result.
And listen, this isn’t just for church leadership, this isn’t just for pastors and people up front. It is the responsibility for every Christian to have some responsibility for their brothers and sisters in Jesus. It isn’t just my job to bring this peace by discouraging behavior that isn’t Christ like.
That can be the job of every Christian, should be the job of every Christian. It is the responsibility of every Christian to lovingly, to warmly encourage those who are not doing what they are supposed to. To bring peace, to pray for, to provide support and fellowship. To show loving encouragement along with loving correction.
Because if people in the congregation do not live in peace then the root of bitterness has a chance to grow to cause trouble like the rest of verse 15 talks about.
Last winter I was in the basement and for some reason I happened to look up and see a plant growing in the rafters of my basement. I was amazed since we have no plants in our basement. I started looking around and noticed that there was a vince that was growing from the outside of my house, growing along the siding and finally in between the sill plate of the foundation. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that this vine was able to get into my house. It wasn’t like there were any holes or anything. I wormed its way into the basement.
How do we pursue peace? We don’t always get our way and we have to live with that. We have to understand that there is
I yanked on it and pulled it out from the outside and even tried to pull up on it from the ground to get it out. I remember getting a pretty good chunk of the root but couldn’t believe that this thing was able to get in the house.
Rachel told me, you better get a shovel and get that thing out of there. I promptly grabbed my gloves and figured that I could pull that thing up. After all, I could just get the vine at the base and pull it up and the root would come with it.
Halfway through the summer I noticed it again, there it was, growing along the side of the house again. So I tried to pull it out again and I know that I got some root that was underground.
No such luck. Halfway through the summer I noticed it again, there it was, growing up through the roses again. So I tried to pull it out again and I know that I got some root that was underground.
In the fall, I noticed that stinking wild vine still growing up. I ended up having to get a shovel and dig that thing out all the way to the root. The root was thick and strong and it went deep.
Even though I was able to break the plant off even below the surface that root would continue to produce more vines.
If there aren’t pursuers, strivers for peace then there is a root that has a chance to take hold and grow it’s branches up to hinder the people in the church.
If peace isn’t obtained, then the root of bitterness can destroy a church. It can destroy a group of people.
And that root can be one person who was never encouraged in love to do the right thing. That root could be that one person who was never told the truth about a particular behavior or was told that maybe they were being selfish and that they need to be part of pursuing peace.
And so the writer backs this up with the story of Esau in Genesis. Again, every Jew would have been very familiar with this story from their history.
The story comes from There were twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first which meant that he would have been the elder and would have received the inheritance of a first son which would have been a double portion. Esau did something very foolish and is looked at as one who only goes after what he wants at the moment.
Esau was a hunter and went out to hunt game. Apparently he didn’t do so well with the hunt and came back and found his brother cooking a meal for which he wanted for himself. He asked Jacob, the younger twin for his meal. Jacob responds.
When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Esau is looked at by the Jews as one who cares only for base needs. He wants to be fulfilled in earthly ways. He would be the poster child for “if it feels good, do it”, and I am doing it because I want it.
Esau is the person who trades the future promise for immediate gratification in this life. He misses the grace of God because of it. This illustration really speaks to us today.
There is no looking to the future, there is no wisdom in something that is right or wrong, or that we hold off because of the future blessings, there is only the here and now and what I want.
There is no looking to the future, there is no wisdom in something that is right or wrong, there is only the here and now and what I want.
That kind of attitude doesn’t work for the Christian. That kind of attitude is not what God wants for His children.
Part of what faith is for us is to understand that we have a future with God.
That future is tied to, chained to our here and now. We do what we do for a future benefit or reward that is given to us by God. We don’t pursue peace just because it is nice and that we like it when everybody gets along. We pursue peace because that is what God call us to do.
We pursue peace with one another because of who God is. Remember the words of Jesus when he was at the last supper with the disciples.
Jesus spent time praying for them and it is one of my favorite pieces of Scripture. It reveals something about the heart of our Heavenly Father.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Let them be one as we are one. That is a pretty big deal. This is a theme that we see for Christianity as a whole. That we are to have unity and that we are to spur one another on toward that unity.
Do you have unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there something that is hindering your relationship with them? Is there a root of bitterness between you and another Christ follower that is keeping peace from happening?
Because if there is, then it should be taken care of. If there is something that is disturbing the peace between you and another Christian you are called to make that right.
The verse says to pursue peace, to strive for it. That means that we work at it. You don’t think of peace as something to be achieved but it really is even though many of us think that peace is a passive thing, it is something to be sought. It is something to be fought for. Peace is something that Christ calls for us to have between one another and we know from what God says in His Word that Peace is a blessing.
Where is peace missing in your life? Where is it missing in your walk with the Lord?
Well we could start with the question do you have peace in your life? Have you surrendered control of your life over to Jesus Christ? Because if you haven’t you will never know real peace. And I know that I do this often but I believe it is very important because in a group of people this size, even this size there are going to be people who have not surrendered their lives over to jesus Christ.
All you need to do is believe on the Lord Jesus, that He was God’s Son, that he died on a cross and came back to life 3 days later. You admit that you cannot be saved on your own, you have to depend on Christ for it.
And then life will change for you. You will have true peace that can only come from putting your trust in Jesus Christ as your savior.
Then, to follow the natural progression of what faith in Christ means, you get baptized so that you can be obedient in Christ and to show the whole world that you put your trust in Him and then you have accountability and you have made sure that your church family knows where you stand.
And Christ says that whoever acknowledges Him before men, He will acknowledge you before His Father in Heaven.
That is true peace my friends. Bowing your heart to Christ is pure peace. That is why we have those Christmas sayings that say in the World peace on earth, Jesus came so that there would be peace on earth.
For you who have been trusting in the Lord for a long time but have not been experiencing peace, you need to ask yourself why that is? Is there something between you and another Christian that isn’t resolved? Is there a root of bitterness that has gown and has become a barrier to peace?
How to you get to that root? You can only get to it by cutting it out. That means that you address it, and you forgive it. If someone has offended you, you address what happened and then you let it go. You forgive.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Daily duties/it is the duty of the stronger to help those who are weak (discipling)
Daily duties/it is the duty of the stronger to help those who are weak (discipling)
You may say, “but Mark you don’t know what they did”. And I don’t but the only thing I have to offer is what Jesus did for us.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We don’t deserve forgiveness but we have been given just that through Jesus Christs death on the cross. He forgave you even when you and I didn’t deserve it.
You see, we pursue peace, and we are successful at it when we finally let that thing go that has offended us. And remember that when you are holding onto un forgiveness you aren’t hurting that person that you aren’t forgiving, you are hurting yourself.
God’s desire is for us to live with one another in peace. It is in your hands to make that happen in your own life.
Don’t hold onto that offense, don’t hold onto that root of bitterness that is only going to hurt you in the end. But forgive the way you have been forgiven.