Flee and Pursue

2 Timothy 2
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

In our passage this morning, Paul touches on what may seem illusive to many of us as Christians. He is talking about a pure heart. We know that as believers, or we should understand, that God wants all of us. I mean, He wants all of you as a person. He wants your heart, your mind, your will. He wants every part of you – your allegiance, your devotion. He wants all of who you are. He is not interested in your finances, but not your weekly schedule. He is not after your mind, but not your emotions. No, He has given Himself, Christ has given Himself to you, He has redeemed you, that means purchased you, and you and I, if we are Christians, we belong to Him. We are to be His in every respect. As we wake in the morning, we are His. As we lay our heads on our pillows at night, we are His. As we work, as we play, as we eat, as we drive, as we relate to others, in all things we are His.

We learn from God’s Word that we have been bought with a price, and so we are to glorify Him. I want to press this even further because God does. This means we are to first of all please Him. We are to consider our actions and make choices that will please and honor Him. We are not to first of all please our spouse or our parents or our children or our boss or anyone else, but we are here to please our Lord.

1 Corinthians 10
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This is our calling. It is a high calling, but I hope we all understand this. Now understanding and doing are two very different things, and this is our struggle. We struggle to do all, to live all of life for Christ because of our flesh. Our flesh is the remnants of our old self that includes our sin nature, the one we were born with. We know we are to serve God in all things and yet we often make choices to serve ourselves. We know we belong to Him, but we take from Him and we live as if we are free to live for ourselves. And in this we get into all sorts of problems.

We hear in our minds, “Be holy for I am holy,” but our flesh says, “Live for self, because that is where you will find enjoyment.” We read that we are to crucify the flesh, and yet we still may want to feed it and nourish it. We may promote in ourselves what we are to crucify. And so the struggle continues. So what do we do?

I want to answer that today. What is not helpful for many is to simply hear, “Do better, just be holy.” Or, “Do better, just be pure.” That sounds good, but it may also sound, well, unattainable. And what we think is unattainable we will probably not go after.

I started training for the Olympics in 1976. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. It was 1976 when I was glued to the TV watching the summer Olympics. As I watched the Olympics in 1976 as a 12-year-old boy, I was sure that my future was set. I would be one of those athletes competing for the highest honors in the world of sports. My training started immediately and consisted of anything I could possibly do in my backyard that I thought would help me reach my goal. I made hurdles to prepare for running hurdles; I marked off distances; tried to make a pole vault, which didn’t go well; I ran laps around my yard; I began training the summer of 1976. My training for the Olympics ended, you know when? 1976, yes, the very same summer. It took me only a few short days to realize that the Olympics would not be for me. The Olympics were over, school was out, and I quickly found other things to do. And the great reality was, the goal was too great, too lofty, I simply would never make it, and so I quit.

When we hear that we are to be holy, that we are to be pure, I don’t want any of us to simply give up, thinking it is too great. “I will never make it,” and just quit. It is lofty, it is great, but let’s not quit. First of all we have God working in us. We are not on our own, He is for us and helps us, we must always go there and remember that. But also, there are steps to take, there are ways in which we move toward that goal, and that is what I want us to see today.

2 Timothy 2
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Purity of heart is what we are talking about, and Paul mentions fleeing and pursuing as we continue on this journey toward holiness. The fleeing and pursuing, these are things we can do to get to the purity mentioned. Purity sounds lofty, fleeing and pursing may seem more practical for us. These are things we can do in the strength of Christ.

But even the fleeing and pursing, they do not stand on their own. In the fleeing and pursuing we must remember even why we are doing this. It is because of Christ. It is because He is our all. Earlier in this chapter Paul said:

2 Timothy 2
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Remember Christ. Remember Ephesians 1 and all He has done for us and in us. Remember His eternal plan that includes you in the heavenly places. Remember that you are one of God’s chosen ones. Remember these things, His love for you, and then with passion flee what is evil and pursue what is good. The fleeing and pursing is not just a passionless duty, it should be a joy because it pleases the One who has given Himself to us and for us. So flee and pursue with joy.

So from what did Paul encourage Timothy to flee?  “So flee youthful passions” What is this? This is very practical, what are we to do here in our move toward purity?

This fleeing is a command, an imperative, it is not optional. The word flee is where we get the word fugitive. What is a fugitive? A fugitive is someone who must always be on the run. He is running from the law. If he does not run, he will be captured. A Christian then is one who is on the run, to flee we must be on the run. On the run from what? On the run from sinful passions that are indicative of youthfulness, or a lack of maturity. Now, this is not just a word for the young or for youth. This was written to Timothy, and he was a grown man, younger than Paul, but not a youth. But the truth is many, even older adults are still plagued by passions that may generally be associated with young people or immaturity. Passion here is not just about sinful sexual passions, although it would include that. These passions would include other things too like pride, worldly ambition, lack of self-control, a desire to be best or first in all things, laziness in work, just wanting to be entertained, and so on. Anything really that would oppose what God wants for His children. Over time and with the Holy Spirit at work in a person, the hope is that sinful passions, youthful passions will subside to some degree, that spiritual maturity will take hold, but everyone struggles with something and that something probably started in one’s youth.

We are to be running from these things. We need to identify any of our passions that are sinful and make plans to run from them. One author wrote that we must be killing sin or it will be killing us. What are our sinful passions and are we running from them so that they do not overtake us? “So flee youthful passions.” This is very practical, isn’t it?

Here is how it can work. Identify a sinful passion. Determine, “When am I most tempted to do this?” And prepare yourself spiritually for that time, be in prayer, quote or read Scripture, occupy yourself with something else during that time. “Where am I most tempted?” Avoid that place. “With whom am I most tempted?” You may need to avoid that person for a time, or not be alone with that person. These are practical plans that can be made and can represent this idea of fleeing, getting away from, running in the opposite direction by the choices we make.

This is sort of the negative side of the equation, “flee youthful passion.” But there is more, there is the positive side. We don’t only run from something but we run toward something, we pursue some things. What are they? Pursue “righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”

How do we pursue righteousness? By pursuing God’s Word. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The way of righteousness is in understanding God’s Word, which explains to us what righteousness is. And having understood what God’s way of righteousness is, we follow it. So knowing God’s Word and then obeying God’s Word, that is righteousness, pursuing righteousness.

Psalm 119
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!

This is a call to stay in God’s Word, saturate our minds with His precepts, be taken with what He says and what He values. So flee youthful passions and be saturated with God’s Word.

What else? Pursue faith. How do we pursue or go after faith? Well, here I think this is better translated faithfulness. Again, this is then living faithfully according to God’s Word. Flee youthful, sinful lust and pursue being faithful to Christ as we understand faithfulness in His Word, living for Him, treasuring Him above all other things. This is a pursuing of life, all of life with God.

This kind of faithfulness reminds me of Peter and John in Acts 4. They were arrested and held for preaching the gospel. Eventually they were brought before the council and warned to stop preaching or lose their freedom. What did they do, what did they say?

Acts 4
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Faithfulness, even under the threat of harm. Again this is a practical matter, this is the way toward purity, toward holiness, faithfulness to our Lord no matter what. Make a plan to be faithful, a determined plan, even if you will be made fun of, even if some may mock you, even if you lose a friend, even if you are threatened with arrest. Is our plan that we will be faithful? Are we settled with that?

Next we are to pursue or go after love. This is another very practical pursuit. We are to love God and to love others. This love is a high calling. It is not just a feeling, though it can include that. It is primarily giving to another what you can because you know God wants you to. It is doing good for others, being concerned for them and their good. We are called to this even with our enemies! This is to be a part of our character, a very visible part of our lives. I mean, who loves their enemies? It is unique to Christians. We should stand out in radical ways because of our love. Think of this, think of how Jesus Himself did this, modeled this for us. Did Jesus love His enemies? Absolutely. How do we know?

Romans 5
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But being sinners, did this make us His enemies? Yes:

Romans 5
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

He loved His enemies, you and me, so much that He died for our redemption. He modeled this, and so here is what we are to do:

Romans 12
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;

Radical words, words that teach us what love really is.

What is your plan to love those around you? Again, make it practical. Are you loving those around you, those God puts in your path? Are you thinking of them as more important than yourself and acting on that thought?

One more, we are to pursue peace.

Romans 12
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Living in peace with others often means giving up things you may strongly desire for yourself. To live at peace often means giving in. Not giving in to sin, but giving in to preferences, even strong preferences. Letting others have their way when it is not sinful to do so. Just letting go of some things. Ultimately this is trusting God to give you what you need, trusting Him and His goodness to provide what you need. Is He enough for you? If so, then just give to others what you can in the pursuit of peace.

So how do we pursue purity, how do we pursue holiness, does that sound too lofty, too vague, purity, holiness? Then let’s make it practical like Paul does. Pursue purity by fleeing from youthful, sinful passions and pursue or go after righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace. We can grasp those, can’t we?

Don’t be like the 12-year-old boy, the younger me, giving up on pursuing what he cannot attain to. Don’t be like that, but instead realize that you can pursue purity by moving ahead, by fleeing youthful passions, pursuing, going after righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace. This does not have to be elusive for you, for it is God’s will for you if you are His. He is with you in this, He is for you. He can hold you up as you seek after Him in this matter. It is not a foolish pursuit, it is God’s desire for you!

Purity and holiness, these are not vague ideas, but are rooted in practical pursuits.

2 Timothy 2
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.