The Way of Righteousness
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A few weeks ago a hurricane hit Louisiana and a weather man was filming with his camera crew in the hurricane barely able to stand in the storm, winds pushing him, and he is straining to be there. And while this is going on you look in the background and some workers are walking around in the rain talking and laughing like nothing is going on. One actually sees the weather man and discerns what is going on so he starts doing cartwheels.
It was humorous, but then I got a little mad. I thought this is why I don’t trust a lot of the news. He is not interested in giving an accurate portrayal of the situation. He is doing what will grab people’s attention.
This happens on the news, hurricanes, and health care statistics. You feel like people are more concerned with getting their opinion across than they are in giving a true portrayal. People are interested in their own gain.
Some of these are fairly innocuous, but that same problem can grow roots and branches and turn into nasty things. Racism. Hate Crimes. Canceling those who differ with them.
I think there is a lot of anxiety today, and it has to do with people not knowing who to trust. Are people telling you the right thing or are they trying to take advantage of you. People tell you the wrong things about products you buy and what you need to do.
Another thing heightening the tension is people want you to conform to their position or be gone. I’m not sure I support your presentation of this storm and now you are calling me out if I don’t see it the same way you do.
We live in an age of tolerance, but there is no tolerance if you do not agree with people on what to tolerate. It’s increasingly difficult to advocate a biblical view of marriage and sex. It is increasingly difficult to advocate faith in a Savior and the need for redemption. People don’t want to hear that.
A popular saying a decade or so ago was the postmodern view that “whatever works for you”. People might not agree with you but they allowed you to have your opinion. That has changed significantly today. People have no problem calling you out for your beliefs and stance.
It reminds me of the new atheist movement around 2005 in which new atheist Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens came to say that religion or superstition should not simply be tolerated. Instead, they should be countered, criticized, challenged by rational argument, especially so when they exert influence in government, education, and politics.
Do you feel people doing wrong things? Do you feel the pressure to conform? Do you feel uncertain how to live? Do you ever want to treat people the way they are treating you? We are looking at a passage today that helps us see how to live in a world where people do wrong things.
When Jesus calls us to follow him we are called to live distinctly from the world. We are called to live according to God’s word. God’s word defines what we do. Not other people. Not our bosses. Not our political leaders. Not our favorite celebrities.
We are in a series where we are looking at what it means to follow Jesus. Today we are looking at the way of righteousness. There is a right way to live. There is truth in God’s word and our lives are to conform to it. Jesus came to fulfill the law. To teach us how to know God and live for him. He shows us the way. The way to live.
Today’s passage tells us there is a way to live, a way of righteousness, a way of truth. And it also tells us throughout history people have resisted and opposed that, but it also tells us God is able to save his people, and we take hope in that.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:1-22 ESV)
There is a right way to live, but not everyone follows it. Scripture makes this clear.
-Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2Timothy 3:13 CSB)
-Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. (Matthew 7:13 CSB)
The way of righteousness means there is a right way, a true way to live, and to be righteous means you are fully aligned with that standard.
For Christians our standard in life is God’s standard. Not other people. If we are going to live rightly in the world, as God calls us to live, we are going to have to go against the grain.
- God does not Spare Rebels.
God does not spare those who oppose him and resist his will. This passage is riddled with instances where people did wrong things.
The ancient world ridiculed Noah, made fun of the preparations he was making to protect against a massive flood of destruction. They did not believe God would judge the word.
Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them “committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions,” (Judges 1:7 CSB). They were not only committing immorality but forcing others into these acts. They were wicked. Lot was living among this city and living in fear and being tormented by what people were doing.
Balaam was the oracle whom the Moabites hired to come and curse the Israelites. He was willing to do this for money. He was hired to pronounce a curse and bring destruction on them. But he discerned he could not do that because God was with these people. When he realized he could not curse them he came up with another strategy. He said to tempt them with immorality.
[15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,
But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the sons of Israel: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. (Rev 2:14 CSB)
These are all instances of people going astray from God’s plan who prospered, and seemingly prospering as they did it.
As we live in a world where we see people who are not serving God prosper, it may challenge us to believe. Why would God do that??? He has been doing it from the very beginning. He has mercy. He allows time for people to repent. That means there are times for people to do wicked things and not be punished. This can seem wrong. It can seem like “Where is God??”
“Blaspheme the way of truth.”
But the point here is do not think this period of grace means God is going to spare those who rebel against him. He will punish. This is the natural conclusion when people do things without consequence. God will do what he says.
-He brought destruction on Sodom and Gomorah, reduced it to ash.
-He brought destruction on the world that Noah lived in. The point of this is God does not spare injustice. He will punish it. This is why we want to honor him!
[-4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
[6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
People may rebel and get away with it… for a time. But sin always comes out. It always does. You can only hide things for so long.
There is much hardness of heart because people don’t see the immediate effect. There is always an immediate effect of going against God’s command, but often it just is not big enough for a person to stop doing what they are doing. There will be an accounting.
You may think you are too good to be punished. That is not true. Even the angels who rebelled against God were thrown into hell. If God did this to angelic beings don’t think he won’t do it to others. He is a God of justice. Justice demands people do what is right. If they have not then they should be punished.
When you see people do wrong things, don’t reciprocate. You won’t escape judgement. God will hold you accountable.
A friend of mine shared a story about all his friends being at a party and doing things they shouldn’t be doing. He was there and felt the pressure, but also knew his parents would not approve, and they knew what was best for him. And he knew whenever he did something wrong they always found out about it. But he also thought about God not approving of it and even more knowing what is best for him. He looked at them and said, “My Father won’t let me do that. He won’t let me get away with it. I’m good.”
Don’t think you can lie, cheat or steal and get away with it. It always comes out. Always. Maybe not immediately but it comes out.
- God knows how to Save.
[9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
Don’t think you are beyond being held accountable.
Don’t think you are beyond being saved.
God knows how to bring justice. He knows how to deliver people.
Don’t think those doing evil are bigger than God. He is able to save. God knows what to do in your situation. Don’t think he is confused. Don’t think he doesn’t know what to do. Don’t think of him as you would someone with an instruction booklet with the world in front of him, scratching his head and saying, I’m just not sure this fits together, maybe they left out a piece. He knows!
Gospel: save sinners, maintain his holiness, grace justice, holiness, perfect wisdom coming together.
Noah was saved. Ridiculed for a bit but saved. Lot was saved, escaping through the flames but was saved. God was with his people, some fell, but those who sought him were saved. This is the story of the Bible.
The world turning against him, and a small remnant following. He knows how to save his people. A giant ark to escape floods. A donkey to restrain a prophet’s madness.
Mounting national debt. Politicians who want to implement policies that are hard for people of faith. Health care mandates. Racism. Injustice. People taking advantage of you. Increasing pressure on Christian views.
This is nothing new for God’s people. God knows how to save his people.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to tell you. But God knows. And I know you need to trust him.
- Don’t Forsake the Way of Righteousness.
[21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Some of these people knew the way of righteousness and they turned from it. He says it’s like a dog returning to its vomit or a pig to the mud. It would have been better off for them to have not known. When you know the right thing to do and you don’t do it, that is a problem. You are liable.
V14 enticing unsteady souls. -seduce is a hunting term and has the meaning to entice or ensnare. Bait. Denotes deliberate deception.
In contrast to the firmly established believer, the unstable lacks a firm foundation in the faith and are easy prey to the enticements of false teachers.
Umberto Ecko “Chronicles of Liquid Society” says we move “from one act of consumption to another in a sort of purposeless bulemia.”
*doing what is easiest never leads to what is best.*
Best things are not found through easy paths.
*are you committed to honor God or doing what is easiest.
There are two very different paths.
Hearts trained in greed do not do what is best. The world does what is easy.
Train yourself to follow God. Know his word. Don’t let things push you aside from knowing him. When you don’t know him, that is when it gets easy to do whatever your heart desires. Read his word. Join a Bible study. Get some people to pray with.
Are you intentionally spending time in God’s word to let it frame how you think, or are you passively allowing television to lead you astray?
Keep Jesus’ commands.
Love your neighbor. Do to them how you would want them to treat you. Do you want them to lie to you about the services they provide? Do you want your spouse to lie to you, even if it is trivial?
Sacrifice for others. Love them in ways that are meaningful to them. Don’t tell them how they ought to be loved.
Part of the tension in our country is one party wants to do this to the other, and that’s great until the other party is in office. You are fine putting others off and feel safe, but what happens when you are in the minority view? Are you committed to showing love to others? Is there anybody you want done away with?
Don’t lie. Don’t slander.
Even the angels did not bring a slanderous accusation against such beings in the presence of the Lord v11
The kids have an argument. One is blocking the door and one is yelling. He is doing this and he is doing that. Typically I tell them you are both wrong. When someone is doing something wrong you cannot control them. You need to be above reproach.
The Lord Knows. The Lord knows. I don’t know. The Lord knows. He knows how to save you from death. This might not be the end. Some have asked are we in the time of revelation. Maybe. Maybe not. This may not be a big deal, and you need to be saved from your fears. It might be the end and you need to be saved from your fears. He deserves the highest praise.