2 Timothy 2:22: Flee Lusts and Pursue Christ

In 2 Timothy 2:22 the apostle Paul gave this strong command:

“But flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

This word is as urgently needed today as it was when it was written nearly two thousand years ago. In order to have a proper Christian life, we need to take this word to heart.

In this post, we’ll discuss what this verse means and how it applies to us with the help of other verses and notes in the New Testament Recovery Version.

Where do lusts come from?

Without exception, everyone is subject to lust’s passionate urges and desires. This is because the entire human race was included in Adam’s fall away from God. God had created man with a pure body, but because of the fall, that body became the evil flesh, full of sinful lusts. No one needs to be taught or trained to have lusts; they arise from the fallen flesh of every human being.

We can readily observe the increasingly pervasive immorality in all areas of society. This is the result of people gratifying their lusts in every kind of way.

Believers and the flesh

Even after we’re saved, we’re not immune to the danger of the lusts of our flesh.

When we were saved, we were born of the Spirit of God in our spirit, the deepest part of our being. But though our spirit was regenerated, our body remains the sinful flesh. So we can never be free from the peril that lust presents while we live in our earthly bodies.

Many verses in the New Testament show that no matter how spiritual believers may be, we still possess the sinful flesh.

For instance, Galatians 5:16 says:

“But I say, Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Paul wrote this to believers in Galatia. This shows us that we still have the fallen flesh with its lusts even after we’re saved, which explains why we sin.

And Timothy was already saved when Paul admonished him to flee youthful lusts. So we can see that lusts are still a problem for believers, and we can’t afford to overlook or ignore this word.

The world and lusts

The sinful lusts within us are incited by the world. The world is a system devised by Satan that has only one aim: to draw us away from God and damage us.

This evil world system is clearly defined in 1 John 2:16:

“Because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”

This is the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life.

The world is increasingly persistent with its endless stream of sinful and unclean things to view and participate in. And modern technology makes it easy to gratify our lust by just a quick tap on our phone or a click on our computer. Diverse attractions of the world designed to stir our sinful lusts tempt us all day. Perhaps more than ever before in human history, we have to recognize the danger of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.

The consequences of indulging in lusts

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessalonica:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

God created us as vessels to contain and express Him. For this, He wants us to be sanctified to live a holy life. But Satan wants to damage us—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically—through our indulging in the lusts of our flesh.

Now let’s read note 2 in verse 3 on fornication:

“At Paul’s time, in both Corinth and Thessalonica sensuality and immorality were rife in the pagan religions and even were fostered by pagan worship. Man was made to express God (Gen. 1:26). Concerning this purpose, nothing ruins man more than fornication. This prevents man from being holy, separated unto God, and contaminates man to the uttermost in fulfilling God’s holy purpose. Hence, the apostle strongly charged the newly converted Gentile believers to be sanctified unto God, to abstain from fornication, the most gross sin in the eyes of God, that they might avoid its damage and contamination.”

This note also describes life in the twenty-first century: sensuality and immorality are rife. But in the midst of this environment, God wants us to be sanctified, to live a life of holiness. This is why we must abstain from fornication.

No matter how much we love the Lord Jesus, how long we’ve been saved, or how many experiences of Christ we’ve had, lusts are still a constant peril to us. So how can we avoid the damage and contamination that comes from indulging in lusts?

Flee youthful lusts

Let’s read 2 Timothy 2:22 again:

“But flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Paul told Timothy to flee!

To flee means to escape, or to run away from a place or situation of danger. For instance, if a fire starts near you, you don’t hang around or saunter slowly away. You flee! Youthful lusts are certainly like a raging fire that we must run away from.

Notice Paul didn’t say to resist lusts or to defeat lusts with strong faith. No, Paul used the verb flee. We must take decisive action. This is how we’re to handle lusts.

In Romans 13:14, Paul gives us another clear and definite word:

“Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”

Note 2 on provision in the Recovery Version explains what this means:

“Or, arrangement. This word has the same root as the Greek word for take forethought in 12:17. To take forethought includes the meaning to provide. To make no provision for the flesh is to not take any forethought for the flesh or provide the flesh with anything that will support it and make it convenient for it to fulfill its lusts.”

The words make no provision are unambiguous, allowing no gray area. We shouldn’t supply our flesh with any opportunity or environment that makes it convenient to fulfill its lusts. This is very practical.

For example, we shouldn’t deliberately go to a place where we know people participate in sinful, immoral activities. To be in such a place provides the opportunity for our flesh to fulfill its lusts; sin will be the result.

If we somehow didn’t know that sinful activities would occur in a particular place we’re in, we should leave as soon as we realize it. We shouldn’t linger there, confident that we won’t be affected and that nothing bad will happen. We need to take away any opportunity for our flesh.

We can’t be indifferent, passive, or self-confident; we must be active to flee the lusts of the flesh.

Positively pursuing Christ

In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul didn’t just tell us to “flee youthful lusts” without any idea of where to go. He went on to say, “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.”

To pursue means to seek, search out, follow, or run after—another definite, active word.

On one hand, we must flee something terrible: youthful lusts. On the other hand, we must pursue something wonderful: righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Of course, this isn’t referring to our own righteousness; Paul is referring to the attributes of Christ Himself. While we flee, we also seek, search out, follow, and run after Christ as all these virtues for our living.

Note 2 on 2 Timothy 2:22 in the Recovery Version explains these virtues in our experience:

“Righteousness is toward oneself, faith is toward God, and love is toward others; peace is the issue of these three virtues.”

So when we pursue Christ, we experience Christ as our righteousness, faith, and love in our relationship with God and with others. As we experience Christ as all these virtues, we have Christ as our real peace within.

Fleeing lusts and pursuing Christ shouldn’t be occasional events with us; they should be our daily experience.

How to have a fleeing and pursuing life

How can we have a daily life of fleeing lusts and pursuing Christ? In the second half of the verse, Paul gave a practical way to flee and pursue: “with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

It’s impossible to flee and pursue all by ourselves. We’re no match for Satan, his world system, and our fallen flesh. But notice that Paul urged Timothy to flee and pursue with those, meaning, with other believers.

Why is this so important? We’re all influenced by the kind of people we’re with. If we choose to be with people who draw us away from God, we’ll easily succumb to lusts. Instead, we should choose to be with fellow believers who are fleeing the damaging lusts of the flesh and pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

So in addition to developing our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, we need to find some spiritual companions we can pray, read the Bible, and fellowship with.

Paul also included the words, “those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

In addition to spending time with companions, calling on the name of the Lord also strengthens us to flee lusts and to pursue Christ.

Vessels filled with Christ

It’s an inescapable fact that we believers still have our fallen flesh with its lusts, and that increasing temptations and shameless immorality are everywhere we turn. But it’s also a fact that we have Christ living in us, and we have other believers we can flee lusts and pursue Christ with. By pursuing Christ, our vessels can be sanctified and filled with Him as our righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

If you live in Europe, we encourage you to order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here to read all of the notes and verses we mentioned in this post.

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