Are you irreligious? Are you an opponent of religion? Are you rejecting–actively and intentionally, or simply through neglect because you don’t recognize how valuable it is–the birthright God gave you by virtue of the faith your parents or others in your life tried to pass onto you, in favor of teachings that aren’t real teachings, and beliefs that are opposed and hostile to the God who made you? Please don’t!
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Jesus Christ). 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.” (Hebrews 12:14-17 ESV)
Verses like this one in the letter to the Hebrew Christians are long and full of meaning, and deserve to be pulled apart and properly understood. So, what are we to strive for? What are we to do our absolute best to obtain?
Well, for starters, peace with everyone. This one’s easy to understand but difficult to accomplish. We aren’t to be argumentative, which is difficult in practice–especially when you “know” you’re right about something and the other person isn’t–yet we’re commanded to do it.
We’re also to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (this word refers to Jesus when we see it in the New Testament). This is huge! Without holiness we won’t see Jesus! When? Where? How? Obviously at the judgment; God is holy, and without holiness we cannot fellowship with Him. But we are unholy, so it’s a conundrum.
The answer is Jesus (yes, just like the joke going around on the internet, that Jesus is the answer to every question). We gain the holiness of Jesus when we submit to His authority as God, and trust that because of Him the Father forgives us. It’s called repentance–it’s believing what God says about our condition; it’s trusting in Christ and intentionally turning away from any sin we are aware of in our lives.
When we’ve repented and are forgiven, we’ll also see Jesus NOW. Not through some kind of strange vivid imaginations of Him, but through His Spirit that He places in us at the moment we submit to Him and believe. At that moment, we are no longer alone in this life; it’s no longer me against the world–it’s now “Christ in me, the hope of (His) glory.”
Without Him we’re forever lonely, vainly looking for that perfect person to complete us and cause us to no longer be alone, not realizing that even if we do find the MOST perfect person in existence, they can never fully complete us–that without Jesus in us, we will still be lonely!
With Jesus, even if we have no human with whom to share our existence, we have the consolation of Jesus in us–His Spirit who comforts us in a way no human ever could, and helps us continue onward to face the next day and accomplish every good thing He prepared for us to do during our life! So, we are to strive for peace with others, and the holiness of Christ. What are we to avoid?
We are to be very careful that none of us fails to obtain the grace of God. What on earth does this mean? How would we fail to get God’s grace? Well, by not believing genuinely enough–not enough to fully repent; by failing to reject the sin in our life. By turning away from and rejecting God’s grace–the forgiveness and acceptance and fellowship with Him He is offering us through Jesus’ death and resurrection! What else?
We are to make sure no “root of bitterness” springs up. Bitterness is insidious; it alienates us from God because it’s us refusing to let go and forgive. God forgives us; we have to “let go and let God” where forgiveness is concerned–we have to place it in His hands when we feels offenses are too deep and grave to forgive, and He will give us the ability to do so. We can’t hold on to the offenses if we truly trust in Jesus; we have to believe that He will make everything right, and forgive those who have sinned against us. What else?
We cannot be sexually immoral. In this day and age it’s all around us. In movies and TV series, in our neighbors and classmates, relatives, politicians, celebrities–immorality is everywhere. But just because some, or even many, are doing it doesn’t mean we’re free to–we cannot. What else?
Lastly, we’re not to be like Esau, who sold his birthright for a moment of pleasure. What does that mean–how does this apply to us? Well, the point of this example is that he did not value what he had been given–what was his. He valued it so little, in fact, that he traded it away for a bowl of food. Later, we’re told, he realized how terrible that had been and wanted it, but there was no way to gain it back–there was no way to “repent;” it had been given away and it was no longer his. What does this mean to us?
I think the moral of this lesson is to not value Christ too lightly; to not scorn Him or think too little of Him. Those of us who had Christian parents especially run the risk of this–it’s so common and familiar, we’ve heard it so often, that we tend to sometimes not recognize Jesus Christ for the priceless treasure He genuinely is!
Not everyone has Jesus Christ. Countless people trudge through life alone, stumbling, sinning, doing as seems right to them, sometimes seeming to do better and sometimes worse, but ultimately making a mess of things–and at the end not knowing how, exactly, they got there.
This shouldn’t be us, however, because we know better; we’ve been taught, we’ve been taken to church, had the Bible read to us, heard sermons and messages. We know–but do we value Jesus Christ sufficiently? Do we recognize that He is the difference between miserably lonely and not alone; between wrong and right; between alienated from God and in sin, and right with Him and peace; ultimately between death and life??
So, are you irreligious, or an opponent of religion? Don’t be, because repentance is a privilege we shouldn’t assume we will forever have extended to us; at some point it may be take away. That’s why we are gravely warned to take Him seriously:
“Therefore, since the promise that we can enter into rest is still open, let’s be careful so that none of you will appear to miss it. We also had the good news preached to us, just as the Israelites did. However, the message they heard didn’t help them because they weren’t united in faith with the ones who listened to it. We who have faith are entering the rest…God designates a certain day as “today,” when he says through David much later, ‘Today, if you hear his voice,’ ‘don’t have stubborn hearts.'” (Hebrews 4:1-3, 7 CEB)
Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Heal me; forgive me; accept me. Amen.