Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WITHOUT THIS YOU WILL NOT SEE THE LORD”

Hebrews 12.14

Many of you folks remember our recent prayer time, when we prayed for a pastor and wife who experienced some difficulty with four families in their congregation. It seems a woman in the church when he became pastor moved to another state, married in that other state, and after some years returned to join the church once more with her newfound husband. Upon rejoining the church, the woman became embittered when she discovered that in her absence the church had unanimously changed their constitution to eliminate monthly church business meetings and allow for business meetings to be called at the discretion of the pastor. Her attitude was such that she became angry over such discretion being recognized by the church in their constitution and she organized a walkout of three other women and their families. My, what spiritual leaders those women must be married to, sitting back silently while their wives are acting out like that.

Yesterday, I was on a Skype call to another gospel minister who reported to me that God is blessing his ministry, though there are two men in the congregation who do nothing other than attend the services. That is unusual in this particular congregation, where the great majority of members are fervent Christians who bear a great deal of fruit. The two men’s opposition to the gospel minister has not developed to the point where comments are being made to anyone, but they arrive at church late, sit in the back, leave early, and no longer interact with others in a joyful or smiling manner. The communication with my friend yesterday was additional confirmation to me that the portion of God’s Word planned for this morning’s message was, indeed, the right one for us as we seek to reach the lost. Turn to Hebrews 12.14, and stand for the reading of God’s Word: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

As background, keep in mind that this letter to the Hebrews was written with three groups of readers in mind: The primary group of intended readers were Hebrew Christians suffering rejection and persecution by their kinsmen, though none had as yet been martyred, who needed encouragement and confidence in Christ, their Messiah and High-Priest. The second group were Jewish unbelievers who were convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who had not yet trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, being intellectually persuaded but spiritually still uncommitted. The final group were Jewish unbelievers who were not convinced of the gospel’s truth but had been exposed to it. Different portions of this letter to the Hebrews addresses each of these three situations. Overall, one could easily distill the message of the letter to the Hebrews down to a single word, superiority, or a single phrase, the superiority of Jesus Christ. Divided into five portions, Hebrews establishes the superiority of Jesus Christ’s position, the superiority of Jesus Christ’s priesthood, the superiority of Jesus Christ’s priestly ministry, the superiority of the privileges enjoyed by one who is a believer in Jesus Christ, and the superiority of the behavior and conduct of one who is a believer in Jesus Christ.

Remembering the three groups being addressed by this letter to the Hebrews, and the discouragement some believers were facing who needed encouragement, notice again what our text says: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Allow me to apply this verse, written almost 2,000 years ago, to our present situation and the situations my two friends find themselves in. There is a connection, I assure you. I am sure the woman who objects to the pastor exercising his discretion when calling business meetings has abiding assurance of her salvation. I would be surprised to learn that she questioned her own relationship with Christ. The same goes for the two men I learned of in the other church during that Skype call yesterday. This is because most professing Christians approach the Christian life as comprising different compartments, with one compartment being one in which you get saved and obtain assurance, and then there is a subsequent compartment in which you live out another portion of your life, and then another compartment. The point that I seek to make is that most professing Christians make the mistake of thinking the compartment of life they are presently occupying has no connection with the compartment of life they occupied when their salvation and assurance issues were supposed to have been dealt with.

People who hold such views are profoundly, and sometimes fatally, wrong. There are no such “compartments” of life that are isolated one from the other. The reality is that everything in your life is connected, and you cannot separate your so-called conversion experience from the way you presently live your life. To describe it using theological terminology, justification and sanctification are inseparably connected and interdependent. If you were justified you will be sanctified, and if you are not presently being sanctified it is because you never actually were justified. To further clarify what I am saying, look to our text and the word “holiness.” What is “holiness,” without which no man shall see the Lord? It is akin to one of the Lord Jesus Christ’s beatitudes, where in Matthew 5.8, He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” “In this epistle it is explained as a drawing near to God w. a cleansed conscience (10:14, 22), a true acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice as bringing the worshiper into fellowship w. God.”[1] Please understand that this “holiness” is not a one time concern that occurs only when someone comes to faith in Christ, but refers to an ongoing pursuit, a continual following after, and a hunting for personal consecration. In other words, the guy who got saved twenty years ago with tears and sobbing accompanying his repentance and faith in Christ and subsequent baptism, church membership, and attendance, but whose life has not been an ongoing pursuit of Christ likeness, spirituality, and personal holiness . . . has a serious, serious problem.

This text declares, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” The questions at this point are, what does it mean to see, and who is the Lord? First John 3.2 speaks to both questions: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” The Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ, the subject of the entire letter to the Hebrews, and the person about whom the Apostle John writes in First John 3.2. To see Him refers to His second coming, to our appearance before Him in glory, to faith coming to an end and the Christian’s hope fully and forever realized. For now, however, First Peter 1.8 describes the believer’s present state: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Though we have not yet seen Him, we love Him. Though we have not yet seen Him, yet we believe in Him. Though we have not yet seen Him, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory . . . for what we have in Christ with the indwelling Spirit, and what we anticipate when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ.

Professing Christians everywhere have always believed there is a connection between past justification and future glorification, between the day you got saved and the day you will arrive in heaven. That is true, as far as it goes, though that is not all. There are also connections between following holiness now and whether you ever really did get saved when you thought you got saved, and (what our text shows) following holiness now and whether you ever will arrive in heaven someday to see the Lord Jesus Christ. No holiness now, no Christian growth and spirituality now, no serious concern about the things of God and fruitful service at present, and there will be no seeing the Lord in the hereafter. Not only is getting saved connected to your future in heaven, but the quality of your “Christian” life now is connected to your future in heaven.

These things clearly established in God’s Word (in Hebrews, and in our text for today, as well as a number of other passages), I urge you to consider three things with me this morning:

First, CONSIDER YOUR DEATH

As you consider your own impending death (since everyone dies), reflect for a moment on your own understanding of death:

Some people, and you may be one of them, consider death as simply the end. Several of my friends from high school are convinced (or are trying hard to convince themselves) that death is simply the end of life, and that it is nothing more than that. That is the position of the atheist and the materialist, as well the Jehovah Witness and the Seventh Day Adventist (with reference to unbelievers). Of course, the problem with this notion of death being the end is that no one who has ever died embracing such a position is in any position to refute it. That is, it is a position that, if it is correct, can neither be proven nor disproven. Thus, it is a conversation-ending position.

Others hold the position that death is not the end, but is instead a transition from one phase of existence to an entirely different phase of existence. Of course, this is the position of those of us who embrace the Bible as true, with its record of those who have died and who have come back from the dead (Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus, who were raised from the dead by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead by God the Father, as well as others).[2] Notice, however, that they came back, meaning death was not any end of existence for them. Consider also those who have died and have not risen from the dead, but the Bible record also shows their continued existence. This would be the rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham, in Luke 16, and Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, in Mark 9.1-7. However, there is more. Surprising even to many Bible-believing Christians, are well-documented books investigating the near death experiences of those who have been at the very edge of death, either as a result of surgery, or an automobile accident, or some other such thing, who received verifiable information from someone thousands of miles away after they lost consciousness from an accident and were admitted to an emergency room and either their heart had stopped or their brain activity had ceased. Perhaps they did not die, but they were standing in the doorway of death, and provided convincing evidence that death does not end existence. Here is one of the books written on the subject, Beyond Death: Exploring The Evidence For Immortality, by Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland. There are other books that, together with the testimony of the Bible, show that death is not the end of anything, but the gateway to existence after death.

Next, CONSIDER YOUR ETERNITY

Having pointed out that there is evidence agreeing with the Bible that death is not the end, you might want to give serious consideration to your eternity after you die. After all, eternity is a long time to be wrong. What researchers and analysts can do is gather and evaluate evidence related to near death experiences to establish the validity of convictions that embrace the idea that death does not end it all, and that death is a doorway to forever. What researchers cannot do is evaluate evidence that does not exist, and no evidence outside the Bible exists for what lies beyond death. Existence, yes, but what kind of existence? To address that question we can only turn to God’s Word, since no other source of information speaks with authority on that matter:

From God’s Word, we learn there are two options, Hell or heaven. Hell and heaven are dealt with in the Bible as being places, places where the souls of people go after they die, from which there is no return except in the rarest of instances. Hell, of course, is the place of God’s wrath, of God’s vengeance, and of God’s punishment. It is a place of constant torment and conscious agony. Heaven is described as a place of unending bliss and delight, a place where God and the glorified Savior abide, a place of light, joy, tranquility, and bounty where there are no tears.

Also from God’s Word, in connection with these two options, we consider this matter of obstacles. What obstacles impede someone from going to Hell? The only impediment that bars anyone’s immediate descent into the pit of Hell is physical life. Thus, if someone is born into this life, he is required to do absolutely nothing to guarantee his eventual arrival in Hell upon his death. What must you do to go to Hell? Nothing, my friend. Do nothing whatsoever, and when you die you will plunge into Hell. Heaven, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. If heaven is understood to be the abode of God in His resplendent glory, then God because He is holy will not allow anyone into His heaven but those whose sins are all forgiven and washed clean in the blood of Christ. Thus, while one need do nothing to end up in Hell, one must trust Jesus Christ so that his sins are forgiven for him to go to heaven when he passes from this life to the next.

Allow me to once more make some observations about the two different eternities that await those who die and enter the next manner of existence, the final manner of existence. If God is righteous and men are wicked, then there must be a place known in God’s Word as Hell. It is a place of conscious and constant suffering. It is a place of everlasting remorse. Finally, it is a place without hope where justice is meted out. Heaven, on the other hand, is the place of no mores. In heaven, there will be no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more curse, no more night, and no more death.[3] Heaven is the culmination of God’s grace and mercy.

 

Finally, CONSIDER YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE

 

Do you claim to be a Christian? Is there evidence in the form of holiness that suggests you will someday see the Lord? Please consider several things about your Christian life that must be true for your life to be eternal life in Jesus Christ:

First, it must be a life of faith, which of course is faith in Christ. Why so? Because the just live by faith.[4] The sinner not only becomes a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ at the onset of his new life in Christ, but the entire course and character of his life is thereafter lived by the same principle, by faith in Jesus Christ. Does this mean faith never wavers, never falters, never grows weak, and never needs to be strengthened? Of course not. However, faith is never finally and forever abandoned by one who is justified by faith in Jesus Christ.[5]

Second, it must be a life of grace. Why so? Because salvation is by grace, both the acquisition of one’s salvation and the sustaining of one’s salvation.[6],[7] By grace it is meant that God has no obligation whatsoever to save anyone, but the salvation He provides through His Son Jesus Christ is a free gift that is undeserved by any sinner who benefits from God’s grace, both in the becoming of a Christian and the being of a Christian. God’s grace has always been available, is presently available, and will always be available.[8] Does this mean a Christian will never fail of the grace of God? Not at all. However, the child of God will not utterly or finally fail of the grace of God, but will be chastised or even experience premature death at the hand of a loving heavenly Father before God’s grace will ever been finally forsaken.[9]

Third, it must be a life of life. The Lord Jesus Christ was very clear in John 15.1-8 when He identified Himself as “the true vine.” In verse 2 of that chapter, He said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he [referring to the Father] taketh away.” In verse 6, He said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Of course, this is an allusion to ending up in Hell. It is clear from the Lord Jesus Christ’s imagery that there are those who profess to be Christians and there are those who actually are Christians, with the differences not being outward conduct or obvious appearance but that sole evidence of genuine life which is bearing fruit. As he said again and again, one can only bear fruit if one abides in Him, that is, if there exists real Christianity. What the writer of Hebrews spoke to was the existence of life as seen from a somewhat different perspective. While the Savior spoke of eternal life from the perspective of fruit bearing, the writer of Hebrews spoke from the perspective of personal holiness. James phrases it in his epistle with these words: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”[10] That is, there is no personal sin which is so insignificant that it does not need the attention of the believer in due course.

No one in our auditorium today that I can tell is Jewish. Nevertheless, there is cause for the application of our text to every one of us in turn, whether you are a Christian, a convinced but not yet converted unbeliever, or one who is not yet even convinced of the truth and historical accuracy of the gospel.

Christian, let me apply to you first. From this verse, we see that there is no disconnect between one’s salvation experience and the living of one’s Christian life, as some suppose. Your future glorification in heaven is as much linked to your sanctification as a growing and committed child of God as it is to your conversion experience of however long ago. If you are not going and growing for and in the Lord, heaven will not be your home because without the ongoing experience of holiness no man shall see the Lord.

Now, I address you who are persuaded of the facts, but not yet converted to the person of Jesus Christ. Facts are wonderful, but only Jesus Christ, the living Savior, actually saves and keeps those He has saved. Thus, when you look around for Christian credibility and see some professing believer who is not holy, who bears no fruit, who does not live the life, dismiss that person as an irrelevancy, because the Lord Jesus Christ promises to not only save but also to keep His own.[11] If that professing believer is not being kept by the Savior from a life of fruitlessness and selfishness, that person isn’t a real believer in Jesus Christ at all.[12] Be assured that one who trusts Jesus Christ is kept by Jesus Christ and will be enabled to live for Him in holiness and personal consecration all the days of his life.

Finally, to those of you who are unconvinced, unpersuaded, and even unimpressed. Why are you here? Are you so sure that there is no life after death that you are unconcerned? Or are you so convinced by your past successes at achieving lofty goals that whatever the eventualities are you can address them? To you, then, I will leave this consideration: holiness. God is holy, clean, untarnished by defilement of any kind. You on the other hand are spiritually dirty in addition to being spiritually dead. Dare you attempt to face the living God with dirty hands and face, with a dirty heart and soul? Suppose you cleaned yourself up a bit (which is actually impossible, but for discussion), how long would you stay clean before getting dirty again? What Jesus Christ provides for the defiled sinner is holiness, cleanness in the sight of God, purification of the soul, and that on an ongoing basis instead of just once. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Rather than fussing with anyone, consider if you are holy. I can assure you that those four families who left one church, and the two men in the other church, are giving no thought to their holiness, without which they will not see the Lord.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 715.

[2] Luke 8.41-56; John 11.1-44

[3] Revelation 21.3-5

[4] Habakkuk 2.4; Acts 15.9; Romans 1.17; 3.22, 28, 30; 5.1-2; 9.32; 11.20; 2 Corinthians 1.24; 5.7; Galatians 3.11, 22, 24, 26; 5.5; Ephesians 3.17, Philippians 3.9; Hebrews 10.38; 11.4-9, 17, 20-31

[5] Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, (Faverdale North, Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, Third Edition, 1999), page 214.

[6] Ephesians 2.5

[7] London Confession 1644, Article XXIII in William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, Revised 1969), page 163.

[8] 1 Corinthians 1.3-9

[9] Hebrews 12.5-13; 1 John 5.16

[10] James 1.21

[11] John 10.28-29

[12] 1 Peter 1.5



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org