Seek God’s Righteousness
By Rich Carmicheal
God’s Word makes it clear that there will be a great breakdown in the world and in the church in the last days. For example, Jesus warns that there will be political upheaval, natural disasters, tribulation, deception and a great falling away (Matt. 24:7-11). He also cautions us that lawlessness will increase and the love of most will grow cold (Matt. 24:12). The Apostle Paul writes that "in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
The Apostle Peter draws attention to the false teachers that will emerge in the church (2 Pet. 2:1ff.). These are men who secretly introduce destructive heresies, malign the truth, and even deny truths about Christ (2:1-2). They have hearts trained in greed (2:14), and in their greed they exploit God’s people with false words (2:3). They are arrogant (2:18), they despise authority (2:10) and they forsake the right way (2:15). They promise freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption (2:19). Many people will follow their sensuality (2:2).
The Apostle Peter also warns that "in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’" (2 Pet. 3:3-4). In other words, these mockers begin to question and deny the reality of Christ’s return and any judgment to come. They argue that God has never intervened in man’s affairs and never will. Of course, this fits very well with their defiance of the Lord and His ways because it means they can live however they desire and never have to face judgment for it.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of people seem to have this mindset. Are we not seeing more and more sinfulness all around us, not only in the world, but also in the church and among church leaders? Is there not an increase of immorality, corruption, greed, deception, exploitation, denial of central truths about Christ, and an arrogant turning from God’s way to the way of man’s own choosing?
God Will Intervene with Judgment
No matter how much man may disregard and rebel against the Lord and His Word, the reality remains the same – judgment is coming. Peter stresses the certainty of this by pointing out that God has indeed intervened in judgment before by destroying the world with a flood (2:5; 3:6). The reason for this terrible judgment was the Lord’s tremendous grief over the depth of man’s wickedness, corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5-13). However, God spared Noah because he was a righteous man, blameless in his generation, a man who walked with God (Gen. 6:9).
Peter also gives two other examples of how God previously brought judgment on those who sinned: "...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4); and "…He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter" (2:6). But the Lord rescued Lot, a righteous man who was distressed by the sensual conduct and lawless deeds of the ungodly (2:7-8). Peter goes on to state that "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority" (2:9-10).
Even as the Lord has intervened in judgment in the past, so will He definitely intervene in the future. However, some people reason that because there has been such a long lapse in time since end-time prophecies and promises were originally given, God is not going to intervene and this world will go on indefinitely. Peter answers such faulty thinking with these words: "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (3:8-10). It will be "the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (3:7).
Righteousness Will Prevail!
Whereas the Day of the Lord will be terrible for ungodly people, believers can look forward to the coming Day as they look "for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (3:13). How good it is to know that one day all unrighteousness will be done away with and righteousness will mark our eternal home. There will be no more sin or injustice. No one will violate any of the commands of the Lord. No one will ever take advantage of others or mistreat them. Instead, all of God’s ways will be fully appreciated, honored and obeyed.
How tragic that a growing number of people in the church have lost sight of God’s heart for righteousness and His standard of righteousness. Many seem to believe that a person can live in unrighteousness and still remain in good standing with God. What God calls evil is being tolerated, and even embraced, even though His Word makes such clear statements against unrighteousness. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10). "Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning" (1 John 3:7-8).
God is righteous and His standard for righteousness flows out of His nature and His ways. "…There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength’…" (Isa. 45:21-24). His righteousness is like the mighty mountains (Psa. 36:6), and while man may shake his fist at God and set his own definitions of what is good and evil, ultimately, God’s definition of righteousness will triumph. In the end, whatever God calls sin is sin, and whatever He calls righteous is righteous.
God "has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness…" (Acts 17:31; Psa. 96:13), a day when "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God" and give an account of ourselves to the One who is completely righteous and holy (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). In Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), and He will "bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…" (1 Cor. 4:5; Rom. 2:16). On that day it shall be exposed as to whether or not we have received the righteousness of Christ through faith, and if we are "filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:11; Eph. 5:9).
Make Every Effort to Be Blameless
In light of the judgment that is coming, Peter exhorts us to be holy and godly, and to "be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless" (2 Pet. 3:11, 14). Notice that the reason for the seeming delay in the fulfillment of His promise to return is that He "is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (3:9). If there is anything in your life out of line with God’s righteousness, He is graciously giving you the opportunity to come to repentance.
Now is the time to allow Him to shine His floodlight upon you: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psa. 139:23-24). Is there any self-righteousness in your life? Any hypocrisy? Any unrighteousness in your thoughts, desires, motives or actions? Do not be content with answers based upon the world’s standards or upon the lukewarm standards of much of the church, but upon the standards of a righteous God. Wherever you may fall short, confess your sin and seek His cleansing and His righteousness (1 John 1:9). Turn to the Lord with all your heart and allow Him to work through your life to help bring the spiritual awakening that is so desperately needed in the world before He comes again.
"Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you" (Hos. 10:12).