Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Pursue Peace
Pastor Steve Schell
Hebrews 12:12-15
The author of Hebrews is writing to churches which were under attack. The greatest danger they faced was false teaching directed at undermining the person and work of Jesus Christ. So it’s no surprise that contentious arguments were taking place. We can only imagine the angry exchanges that must have erupted when some were charging that Jesus was not the divine Son of God (Heb 1:5-14) or that He couldn’t be the Messiah because the true Messiah would never suffer and die (Heb 2:9-18) or that returning to a Judaism without Jesus was perfectly acceptable to God (Heb 2:1-4). And it’s in the middle of this storm that the author gently says, “Pursue peace with all….” He certainly wasn’t telling believers to passively allow false teachings to go unchallenged, most of his letter is a correction to false teaching, but he did want the debate to remain respectful and calm. He wanted his readers to respond to those with whom they differed in the same manner as Paul instructed Timothy when he said, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all… patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” (2Ti 2:24-26). Paul had already told Timothy to confront false teaching and correct it (1Ti 1:3, 4) and even discipline people when necessary (1Ti 1:20), but through it all he wanted him to maintain a gentle spirit (1Ti 6:11). And there are some very important reasons for this which we need to understand. Because if these early believers needed to be told to “pursue peace,” how much more do we need to hear these words today.

A. Overview
1) God’s plan to win the world is focused on the community of His people, not isolated individuals.
a) Individuals are effective insofar as they are an extension of a healthy community
b) The devil does all he can to prevent a healthy church
2) The devil uses only a few basic weapons generation after generation to weaken the church:
a) False doctrine (deception)
b) Immorality (temptation)
c) Greed (fear, ambition)
d) Strife (division)
e) Individualism (isolation)
f) Persecution (incarceration, death)

B. Results of Division
The author writes the words, “pursue peace” to all of us. He wants us to be at peace with other believers, but he also wants us to be at peace with non-believers as well. Here’s why:
Division (strife between people):
1) Lifts the anointing: loss of power to heal and save (Ps 133)
a) The presence of the Spirit dries up personally and corporately
b) Ephesians 4:1-6
c) Colossians 3:12-15
d) 1 Thessalonians 5:13, 14
e) 1 Timothy 6:11
f) Galatians 6:1
2) Breaks the proper functioning of the Body: loss of harmony as an interdependent team (Eph 4:15, 16)
3) Destroys the faith of the weak: bitter attitudes toward God and others spreads like a disease
a) It’s contagious and often it’s the “lambs” who are wounded. Disillusioned and confused, they drop away.
b) Verse 15: “Carefully watch… lest any troubling bitter root grow up and by this many be defiled (“stained”).”
c) Resist the human tendency to garner support when offended (come hate them with me).
4) Brings physical disease through stress and sorrow: the loss of spiritual relationships are as painful as a divorce.
“Bitter roots” will always spring up even without anyone knowingly doing anything wrong.
• The devil works to confuse, insert thoughts (“disagree with” vs. “disappointed by”).
• Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”
• He looks for wounded areas in us. These are the responsive spots. We hear a distorted voice.

C. Solution
When we spot division we must take the healing steps Jesus has taught us. Doing so transforms a potential victory to the enemy into a situation which the Holy Spirit “works together for good” (Ro 8:28) and leaves us and the Lord’s church stronger. Here are some basic steps to removing division:
1) Obey the Word: Do what you do by faith expecting God’s blessing for your obedience.
a) Mt 5:23, 24 “if… your brother has something against you…”
b) Mk 11:25 “forgive if you have anything against anyone”
2. Learn how to reconcile: it’s a skill we must learn.
a) You take the first step
b) Stay peaceful, refuse to get angry
c) Stay focused: your goal is to restore the relationship, not win an argument.
d) Remember, real peace is based on truth not you taking all the blame (“speaking the truth in love…” Eph 4:15).
e) Apologize for the sin you recognize in yourself. Don’t demand that they reciprocate.
f) Clarify false impressions in their minds as much as you can. Don’t ignore a lie, it has a demonic energy that will cause it to grow.
g) Listen long enough for them to tell their story once. They need to know you understand the pain they have suffered. Reconciliation can’t take place until this happens first.
h) Remember, it takes two to truly heal a relationship, and if they refuse there’s nothing you can do. But still remain calm and respectful.
i) Close with prayer, if possible.
3) Never forget the value of that person to God.
4) Maintain a forgiving heart when you can’t reconcile.
5) Keep the door open for that person to return.
a) The Holy Spirit will continue to use that event to speak to their heart. They may call you years later.
b) Joseph and his brothers (Ge 50:15-26)

D. Conclusion
As believers we are called to be kind and gentle (peaceful) with everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. And there’s good reason for this: it breaks one of the devil’s primary weapons against the church and one of his primary barriers to prevent unbelievers from coming to Christ. For most of us being peaceful and gentle isn’t natural. It’s a skill we have to learn and keep learning the rest of our lives. But isn’t it worth it if afterwords, “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11).

E. Questions
1) Describe a time when you reached out to reconcile with someone. Was is successful?
2) Which of the practical steps of reconciliation (section C) is the most difficult for you? Why?
3) Why is it so hard to maintain a forgiving heart when you can’t reconcile with a person?


Return to Sermon Notes