Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12.14)
This verse is one of the verses that is used to condemn people all the time. If you are not holy, you will not see the Lord. It’s often taken two ways: firstly, if you are not holy you will not see the Lord (come through for you). In other words, you will stay poor and sick, stay broken, stay a mess because God isn’t happy with you and doesn’t want to bless you until you reach a certain standard of holiness. That brings so much condemnation. The second way people add to this verse is even worse, they think: if you are not holy, you will not see the Lord (when you die). In other words, you lose your salvation because you are not good enough to be saved.
Let’s refute both of these. Firstly, you are not going to fail to get blessed because you are not good enough. You are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1.3) so you are not going to fail to be blessed because you are blessed. In Galatians 3.1-5 Paul is clear that miracles happen because you believed the Word not because of you obeying the Law. Your goodness is not a currency that you can exchange for blessings. The good news of the gospel is that you are blessed independent of your behaviour.
Secondly, you are not going to heaven if you are good enough. You are not good enough – entry into heaven is through faith in Christ alone. All you have to do is believe and receive. You are saved from hell by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing with your heart that He is risen from the dead. Again, goodness has nothing to do with it.
So what does the verse mean? The context is clear from the first part of the verse (and the surrounding verses) that Paul (or whoever you think the writer to Hebrews is) is talking about how we relate to other people. It’s to do with peace with all people. You see this verse is about following holiness because without that holiness no man (i.e. other people) will see the Lord.
You are holy already (Ephesians 1.5). Your spirit has been made in true holiness and righteousness. Deep down you are holy – your salvation and you being blessed is secure in Him and His work. But unless you follow that holiness other people will not see the Lord in you. You have all the love of God in your spirit, but if you steal from your boss, are mean to your co-workers and are known as the office flirt, no one will ever see that love and that holiness in you. You have to follow holiness – not to get saved, you are; not to get blessed, you are – but so that the world will see our light and come to the light.
So go and live holy. Not to impress God – He loves you to bits. Not to get blessed – everything is yours in Christ already. But so the world may know. So you have credibility when you ask people to church. So you can impact the world with the love of God.