Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord... Hebrews 12:14
This verse can seem a little stark at first - without holiness, none shall see the Lord. To some extent, it appears to make holiness impossible for most people. However, the verse presents an important spiritual insight that holds true.
The word "holiness" is hageeasmos in Greek (with an alternate of hageeosoonay). Both the Greek and Hebrew languages have a "word family" for the word holiness. In Greek, the word hageeos means a holy person, or a saint. The word haggeeadzo means to purify, make holy, or sanctify. The word hageeasmos means holiness or sanctification. In English, we have a variety of words with different roots for this word family, but in Hebrew and Greek these words are interrelated.
Returning to the verse quoted above, it could as easily have stated "it is the saints who shall see the Lord." This understanding is just as stark, however.
Many Christians are quite modest when they consider their place in the divine Kingdom. A few years ago, a person said in my meeting something to the effect "there aren't any saints here." What she said could have been true - that none of us had experienced holiness.
Part of the problem is that too many Americans accept the idea from the Middle Ages that a "saint" is someone who has led a life that is unattainably holy or special. Some denominations go so far as to have committees who examine the lives of people and vote on whether or not the person was a saint; these faiths object when the word "saint" is used for anyone they have not voted on. They do this even though the word "saint" is not used this way in the Bible.
Consider this verse:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus ... [Ephesians 1:1].
Who dost thou think Paul was addressing the epistle to? All the Christians at Ephesus, or just one or two of them?
Paul also wrote to "all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" [Philippians 1:1] and to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae" [Colossians 1:2].
Let's make this as clear as possible with another verse:
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [1 Thessalonians 4:3].
God wants thee to know sanctification first hand in this life - He wants thee to experience sainthood. He wants thee to partake of His holiness [Hebrews 12:10].
John records an instance when Jesus was speaking to the disciples. "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy (sanctifying!) Ghost" [John 20:22]. This verse establishes how the Holy Ghost is imparted from God to thee - through the inbreathing of Christ Jesus. It is by Jesus that we "have access by one Spirit unto the Father" [Ephesians 2:18].
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us [Romans 5:5].
So God the Father imparts information to each of us by the way of His sanctifying Spirit, the Holy Ghost. Paul wrote that the Gentiles were "sanctified by the Holy Ghost" [Romans 15:16].
Note also that God offers thee holiness through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. We know that God abideth in us by the Spirit which He hath given us [1 John 3:24]. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [1 Peter 3:15]. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts [Colossians 3:15].
When we allow the Holy Ghost to live in our hearts, we receive guidance on how to live a holy life.
But let's face facts. There are times when the Lord directs thee to do something that seems difficult, perhaps embarrassing. It is often more difficult to do the things that He asks of us than it is to choose not to. We all know that there are parts of the Lord's personality that we cannot access because of our own lack of spiritual depth. Every time we choose not to be faithful, we hold ourselves back from Him or lose an opportunity to play our small role in what He is doing.
This discussion assumes that humans by themselves do not have access to the spiritual realm. The thesis of Robert Barclay's Proposition 4 is that humans in their natural state cannot know spiritual truth, so this has been part of Quaker ministry and beliefs from the beginning. People have some ability to do good things. Economic prosperity, physical health, and mental health are enjoyed by some holy people and by some who are not holy. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. God wants to work in the life of every person, and it is up to each of us as individuals to respond to Him.
God is working all around us. He comforts the widow with her children who are tying to keep their house now that the husband has been killed in Iraq. He works to lead a young family out of the bondage of overwhelming credit card debt. He works to rescue the disillusioned worker who is addicted to tobacco and alcohol. He works with the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the healthy and the sick. He works in the lives of people who are not living holy lives and those who try to lead holy lives, too; remember that Caiaphas gave right prophecy, even though he was consenting unto the death of Christ Jesus.
Without holiness, it is not easy for thee to see God working in thy life or the life of another person. The person in a natural state does not know what to look for, does not know the purpose of a holy life, and does not understand why it is worth the time.
If the hand of God has touched thy heart, all the petty ideas about God and the opinions about God have no meaning - they are superceded by undeniable spiritual truth. It is now possible for thee to see God working in thy life, and thee can sometimes receive inspiration from how He works in the life of someone else. Opinions and speculation are swept away. The Creator is alive in thy life, and thee knows it.
Those who have known His inward work recognize it when they see it. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" [John 3:3]. We have arrived back at the starting point.