Nearing the end of his life, Paul wrote young Timothy. Part of his instructions concerned Timothy’s sanctification or being a vessel for honorable use (2 Timothy 2:21). This sanctification would be realized by two contrasting movements. These movements move the believer away from a prodigal path and turn him down the pilgrim road.
What we learn from this passage is that the two movements are really one and the same movement. Picture a man going down a one lane road. As he turns away from the direction in front of him and goes in the other direction, he must naturally place his back to the initial direction.
What are we to flee?
To flee indicates that we have come upon something from which we are to escape. Spiritually, we would call this sin. But we know that James teaches that we are drawn towards that sin because of our own desires which serve as a lure and enticement towards sin.
Before we ever get to the sin, we are to flee even these desires or youthful lusts. Joseph serves as a great example of fleeing from those passions. Finding himself alone in the home of his master with his master’s wife, he was enticed by this woman to lie with her. He did not mull over the idea or linger in self debate. He fled. So strongly did he flee, that the temptress was left with Joseph’s garment still in her hands. Joseph fled out of there.
We would experience must less shame and dishonor if we would likewise flee those passions which would draw us away from the Lord.
What are we to pursue?
Too often we attempt our own behavioral modification by focusing only on what we wish to avoid. This strategy will set you up for failure.
When we flee we are not simply to run off in any direction. We are to pursue that which is pleasing to the Lord. Paul told Timothy to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
The idea of pursuit has an intensive element to it. When speaking of police chasing criminals, we speak of hot pursuit. It is not a Sunday afternoon stroll pursuit. It is with lights flashing, sirens blaring and in high gear. Let that be the manner in which we chase after the Lord and the things of the Lord.
This is a picture of repentance. That pivot from one direction to another is the initial point of repentance. This new direction points us directly at Christ. We pursue him.
When I was a soldier in the army, a command existed – To the rear, march! Although we were heading in one direction, we would pivot and begin marching in the opposite direction. This is the command of holiness characterized by the two words flee and pursue.