The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy as to a young man. Here is one of Paul’s exhortations – 2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” While the apostle Paul did not list the youthful lusts, let us consider some typical youthful lusts. While youth may be especially prone to these lusts, they can certainly apply to older people as well.
Perhaps the greatest youthful lust is sexual lust. It seems that society encourages sexual lust by modern dress, television, the readily available pornography on the internet, dating, and other activities and media. The apostle Paul also warned the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” In both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians, Paul told them to flee. To flee is to run away from danger. It doesn’t mean to see how close you can get to it or to experiment with it. It means to run away from it because of the danger it presents. Since your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you belong to God, you are to glorify God with your body and spirit. Sexual lust or immorality does not glorify God. Sexual lust is a danger that wars against your very soul. 1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Sexual lust is something that you must run away from because it is so dangerous.
Another youthful lust is the lust for the things of this world. The things of this world that one may desire include the clothes, the vehicles, the toys and the pleasures of this world. 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” By loving the things of the world, you do not love God, the Father. Lust for the things of the world may manifest itself in materialism – a desire for material things. Or it may manifest itself in a desire to be rich. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” The lust for the things of this world is something you should flee because of the danger it presents.
Another youthful lust is the desire for fame or power. Jesus’ disciples wondered which of them would be the greatest. Luke 22:24-26 “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.’” God’s way is opposed to the way of the world. The greatest in God’s kingdom will be the servant of all. Flee also this desire for greatness or fame.
Timothy was to flee youthful lusts and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. To pursue is to try to catch or capture something. Pursuing seems to be the opposite of fleeing. You and I have been made righteous by Christ’s sacrifice. Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s (Christ’s) obedience many will be made righteous.” As a result, you are to pursue righteousness. I understand this to mean that you seek to do the right thing at all times. Paul put it another way when he said in Romans 6:18 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
You are also to pursue faith, love and peace. To pursue faith would mean to seek to increase your faith. To pursue faith would also mean to purposely live your life in faith – trusting God and His promises. To pursue love would mean to live your life loving all those you interact with – your family, your brethren in the church, your neighbor, and even your enemy. Seek to have greater love for others. Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” To pursue peace would mean to seek to have peace with everyone you interact with. Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” A similar exhortation is given in Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy ends with the words: “with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” If Timothy would flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, he would serve the Lord out of a pure heart. A pure heart is one that is wholly dedicated to the Lord. If Timothy would not fully flee youthful lusts but instead entertain some of the lusts or if he would not fully pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, his heart would be divided and not pure. My encouragement to you is to follow Paul’s exhortation to have a pure heart before God.