Plato made this observation: “Conversion is not implanting
the eyes, for they already exist; but it is giving them
direction, which they do not have” (Plato in Rowell).
There's an interesting story about Albert Einstein: “He
boarded a train, and everyone is his car recognized him and
knew who he was. Prior to the train leaving the
station, the conductor made his routine inspection to ensure
that each passenger had their tickets. The conductor
noticed Einstein fumbling through his things, in his
pockets, and papers. When the conductor reached him,
Einstein admitted that he had lost his ticket and could not
remember his stop! "That's no problem Mr. Einstein," the
conductor replied, "we know who you are." Einstein
responded, "I know who I am too, but I do not know where I
am going" (Bowen)! Knowing your direction can be very
important. Just ask the 75 convicts who tried to
escape from Mexico's Satillo Prison. “In November,
1975, they started digging a secret tunnel designed to bring
them up at the other side of the prison's wall. On
April 18, 1976, guided by pure genius, they tunneled up to
the surface, which came to the nearby courtroom in which
many of them had been sentenced. The surprised judges
returned all 75 to jail again” (Campus Life, Sept. 1980)!
Not knowing your direction can really get you off course.
We've been preaching from the book of 1 Timothy.
Paul's letter is trying to help Timothy do deal with a
congregation which has experienced great chaos because some
of the church leaders there shipwrecked their faith and
began teaching beliefs and practices which were contrary to
those of Jesus. In our last sermon, we saw that Paul
admonished the members to develop spiritual strength by
applying three challenges: identify and withdraw from
heretics; realize true gain (godliness with contentment);
understand the dangers of wealth. Today's text will
help us to develop spiritual direction because the verbs it
uses are very interesting. Paul exhorts in 1 Timothy
6:11: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
gentleness!” The verbs are “flee” and “pursue”; those
are opposites aren't they? “Flee” literally means “to
run away from”, and figuratively, it means “to avoid or to
shun”. Now “pursue” means literally “to run towards”,
and figuratively, it means “to strive for or to aspire to”.
So, Timothy, as God's man, is told by the inspired apostle
Paul to shun some things and to pursue some things.
Now both of these verbs are also present commands, and this
means that they have a continual force, and can be
translated “Keep on shunning ...” and “Keep on pursuing ...”
The strategy of retreating in one direction and advancing in
another is given here. So, how many other times are
“fleeing” and “pursuing” used in the New Testament?
You see, when we know what we should keep fleeing from and
what we should keep running toward, our life develops a
sense of spiritual direction. So, this morning, let's
look first at passages that deal with fleeing. And
then we'll look at passages that deal with pursuing.
And lastly, we'll zero in on this passage in Timothy.
Here are three sins that a Christian should continually flee
from or shun. The first is found in 1 Corinthians 6:18:
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is
outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins
against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Continually keep away from sexual immorality! Make it
a habit to avoid forbidden flesh! Don't let your
hormones control you! We have to be very
counter-cultural here because our media glorifies sex, and
our society no longer sees sexual encounters as sinful.
Our media preaches full indulgence without any restraints.
Our society's wrapped reasoning is that immoral sex can't be
wrong when it feels so right. With those messages
bombarding us, it is hard for us to remember God's will:
Flee or shun sexual immorality! Why? The apostle
Paul tells us that sexual encounters outside of marriage are
a sin against our bodies. Sexual sins are unique in
their character. “[They rise] from within a body bent
on personal gratification. [They drive] like no other
impulse and when fulfilled [they affect] the body like no
other sin. [They have] a way of internally destroying
a person that no other sin has. Because sexual
intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse
corrupts on the deepest human level. [Isn't this truth
the reason Paul commands us to flee sexual immorality?]
You see, sexual immorality is far more destructive than
alcohol, far more destructive than drugs, far more
destructive than crime” (MacAuthur). What our media
fails to show us are ruined bodies of those who have given
themselves to prostitution. Men and women in their
twenties will appear to be in their forties. When are
we going to learn? Immoral sexual encounters are
destructive fires that eventually char our bodies?
Don't let our culture deceive you! Brothers and
sisters, make it a habit to flee from sexual fantasizing and
to shun sexual immorality!
The next sin is found in 1 Corinthians 10:14 and 20:
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. … I do not want
you to have fellowship with demons”! In Corinth, there
was a huge temple to the goddess Aphrodite, and it employed
some one thousand sacred prostitutes. Now if that
wasn't enough temptation, temples often had dining areas,
and pagan worshipers would often ask their relatives,
co-workers, and friends to eat meat with them that had been
offered to an idol. So what is Paul's advice to the
Corinthian members when they were tempted to return to their
idolatrous past? Notice, flee from idolatry!
Don't stand around dillydallying on this issue, and don't
expect God to wisk you from this situation. Don't see
how far you can go and still be safe! No, get out of
there, distance yourselves from the pagan temple, and see
how far away you can stay from them! And make this a
continuous habit as well. Idolatry is the worship of an
idol, but idolatry can also be devotion or reverence to
someone, something, or some cause. Idolatry is
anything that will steal your devotion to God. Now why
is idolatry such a serious sin that Paul commands us to stay
away from it? It's because Satan and his forces are
behind idolatry (verse 20). They want us to take our
eyes off of Christ, and put them on to something else.
Instead of serving others and Christ, they want us to serve
ourselves and our modern idol. The only wise course with any
idol, ancient or modern, is to have nothing to do with it.
Brothers and sisters, make it a habit not to let anything
become more important to you than Jesus, and shun whatever
modern idol will take you away from Him!
The next sin is found in 2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful
lusts ...!” When you first hear that, the natural
inclination is to think of sexual temptations. But the
word translated “lusts” just basically means “desires”.
Stay away from youthful desires, such as ambition, love for
novelties, favoritism, and quickness of temper. Paul
wants Timothy to avoid bad “traits of character which
headstrong young men are liable to display” (Kelly).
Brothers and sisters, make it a habit to shun immature
Now that we've seen what other passages say about fleeing.
Let's turn to what we are to pursue. The first passage
is 1 Thessalonians 5:15: “See that no one renders evil for
evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for
yourselves and for all!” The verb “pursue” in this
case is a plural. So Paul wants all the members in the
congregation to work together to pursue goodness. That
goodness is the opposite of what is evil and means that
which will be helpful to the one that wronged us. “It
is the attitude of returning blessing for cursing, of being
friendly in the face of hostility” (Morris). Notice
that we habitually seek to act in this way because of the
adverb “always”, “always run toward doing good to all
people, both believers and unbelievers.”
“Non-retaliation must be cultivated [and practiced],
difficult as it may be to do so” (Coffman). Brothers and
sisters, let's work together to make it a habit to repay
evil with goodness!
Another passage is Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all
people, and holiness, without which no one will see the
Lord!” Again we have plural verb here. We are
all to work together to pursue peace with all people and
holiness. Of course, true holiness, sometimes makes
attaining peace difficult, if not impossible. But we
should make every effort possible to live in peace with
others. Why is this? Well, since the God of
peace (Hebrews 13:20) through the Prince of peace (Hebrews
7:2) brought us reconciliation and peace; we should strive
to pass on His peace to others in all our daily
relationships. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they
shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
“Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). It is
interesting that we are admonished to pursue peace also in 2
Timothy 2:22 and 1 Peter 3:11, so the pursuit of peace with
others is very important to God. We are also to pursue
holiness. God's absolute holiness hates that which is
impure. God wants to raise us up to the same level as
He Himself! Just as it takes energy to live
peacefully, so it takes energy to obtain holiness.
Holiness is inward and private, and its good deeds are done
privately (Hughes). “This kind of holiness, which
reflects the pure goodness of God, springs from
single-minded love [for] God, not from love of human
applause, and it is consistent with a longing to see God,
who is all holy, not with a lust to be seen by men” (Ibid.).
This is a practical holiness manifested by a pure and
virtuous life (Coffman). Brothers and sister, let's
work together to make it a habit to strive for peace and to
Now having seen passages outside our text, dealing with
fleeing and pursuing, let's see again what Paul admonishes
Timothy and the members at Ephesus to do: “But you, O man of
God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness,
faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)!”
“But you” is an emphatic contrast that Timothy should
display in opposition to the heretics. “O man of God”
was an expression used often in the Old Testament for the
Jewish prophets (1 Kgs. 17:24; 2 Kgs. 7:17). Similar to
their ministries, Timothy is to teach, reprove, correct, and
train God's people (Spain). Now notice the verb flee,
which means keep on shunning. You know, our feet can
sometimes be one of the best influences for others to see.
Keep on avoiding these things. What things? The things
that Paul has just mentioned in talking about the heretics:
their pride, love of disputes, envy, strife, slander, evil
suspicions, parties, useless debates, and their using
religion as a means to pad their pockets. You know,
fleecing ordinary people in the name of religion does more
to discredit Christianity than many grosser sins.
Brothers and sisters, let's follow Paul's advice to Timothy
and make it a habit to shun being arrogant, loving disputes,
being contentious and divisive, and commercializing our
faith for money. But now Paul tells Timothy what to
pursue or run towards: righteousness, godliness, faith,
love, patience, and gentleness. Let's look at each of
these six virtues more closely. Pursue righteousness.
Do you remember when King Saul was so jealous that he
actually tried to hunt down David and kill him? David
had a chance to kill Saul when he entered into a cave where
David was hiding, but he spares Saul's life. In 2
Samuel 24:17, Saul says these words to David: “You are more
righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good,
whereas I have rewarded you with evil.” David did not
practice his men's advice nor did he take matters into his
own hands. He knew it was God's will that Saul be
spared, and he did God's will. He did what was good
and let God determine when Saul would die. Pursuing
righteousness means doing God's will and doing what is good.
Pursue godliness. Godliness is not just our worship.
It includes that, but it goes beyond it. Godliness is living
according to Christ's teachings and honoring God as Creator
and Redeemer in all our daily conduct. Being godly has
benefits both in this life and in the hereafter (1 Timothy
4:8)! Next, we are to pursue faith. As men of
materialism, the heretics had strayed from the faith (1
Timothy 6:10), but the man of God is to pursue faith.
“Now faith is substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And then that great
chapter shows us that by faith, we believe in God as the
Creator of all things, by faith, we worship, obey, and
follow God. By faith, we refuse evil, gain freedom,
and overcome enemies. By faith, we become mature
disciples. “But without faith, it is impossible to
please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”
(Hebrews 11:6). Pursue righteousness, godliness, and
faith. Then pursue love. “In this is love, not
that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to
be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so
loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John
4:10-11). “True love is a splendid host. There is
love whose measure is that of an umbrella. There is
love who inclusiveness is that of a great mansion. And
there is love whose comprehension is that the immeasurable
sky. The aim of the New Testament is the conversion of
the umbrella into a tent and then the conversion of the
mansion into the sky's canopy. Push back the walls of
family love until they include the neighbor; again push the
walls until they include the stranger and foreigner; and
again push back the walls until they [embrace] the foe”
(Jowett in Swindoll). Pursue patience or endurance.
“Your have heard of the patience or perseverance of Job and
seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very
compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10). Job was that
man who was unswerving in his devotion to God despite all
the losses, hardships, and pains that Satan threw at him.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Patience is holding onto God's hand no matter what may be
your persecutions or trials. Pursue gentleness or
composure in the face of wrongs. “But when you do good
and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable
before God. For to this you were called, because
Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you
should follow in His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was
deceit found in His mouth'; Who, when He was reviled, did
not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten,
but committed himself to Him who judges righteously” (1
Peter 2:20-23). At Jesus' trials and crucifixion, we see
great composure in the face of wrongs; there is true
gentleness. Someone has observed: “The test of good
manners [and great composure] is to put up pleasantly with
those who have bad manners [and harsh dispositions]”
(Willkie in Rowell). Pursue love, patience or endurance, and
gentleness or composure. If we would be people of God
going in the direction of God, 1 Timothy 6:11 certainly
gives us a great challenge: “But you, O man of God, flee
these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith,
love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)!”
“There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the
way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Whether we want to
admit it or not, the modern ideas of our American culture
can often lead us in the wrong direction. Isn't it
wonderful how God's Word has revealed the behaviors that can
harm our lives and those which can help our lives? God
wants to bless us, and if we will obey Him, we will reap the
benefits that His guidance has to offer. The words given to
the Jews can be applied to us today: “I call heaven and
earth as a witness against you today, that I have set before
you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose
life, that both you and you descendants may live, that you
may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and
that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the
length of your days ...” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Do you want to develop some spiritual direction in your
life? Then flee, run from, or shun these sins: sexual
immorality, idolatry, youthful desires or immature behaviors
(like ambition, love for novelties, favoritism, and
quickness of temper), and false teachers' evil behaviors
(like arrogance, disputes, contentions, and commercialism)!
Then pursue, run toward, or put in practice these virtues:
goodness, peace, holiness, righteousness, godliness, faith,
love, patience or endurance, and gentleness or composure.
God has revealed what we should keep working to avoid and
what we should keep trying to make become habitual!
Will we put into practice His instructions?
Did you notice that some of these good behaviors are exactly
the same as those called the fruit of the Holy Spirit in
Galatians 5:22-23? You see, the Holy Spirit can help
you to flee from sinful conduct, to pursue virtuous conduct,
and to develop spiritual direction. But you can only
have the Holy Spirit if you make Jesus your Lord.
Peter told a group of Jews: “Repent and let every one of you
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”
(Acts 2:38). Do you see how baptism in Jesus' name
brings not only forgiveness of sins but also the gift of
God's indwelling Spirit? Put on Jesus through baptism
in His name and receive both forgiveness and God's Spirit
this morning! Let's the Holy Spirit help you to
develop spiritual direction!