Flee from Sin
When my son, Caleb, was fifteen months old. He would babble and toddle and get into everything. (And he still does!) When I was in charge of watching him one day, he got away from me. Looking through the house I found him standing over the dog’s dish staring at the food. Even then Caleb knew he was not supposed to touch it, so he was just hovering, thinking about what to do next. Coming closer, I said (tongue and cheek), “Caleb, you are supposed to flee from temptation, not stand there and look at it.” (He tried to touch it anyway.) I got to thinking about that later and realized that is exactly what the Bible tells Christians to do: flee! Not to stand there and look at sin! But to flee!
The Greek “pheugo,” used 31 times in the New Testament and often translated “flee,” literally means “to run away,” “flee,” or “escape.” By implication, it means “to shun.” This word describes Joseph’s, Mary’s, and Jesus’ flight to Egypt to escape Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13). Those who tended the swine took off when the Lord cast the demons out of the man and into the herd (cf. Mk. 5:14). When Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies, those in Judea were to run to the mountains for safety (cf. Lk. 21:21). And as Jesus was being arrested, His disciples forsook Him and fled (cf. Mk. 14:50). When this word is used, there are often at least hints (if not outright aspects) of confusion and peril. There is, however, always a sense of urgency and haste.
For this reason, the apostle Paul used this word, in the imperative, concerning specific temptations and sins: flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), flee greed (1 Tim. 6:11), and flee lust and fornication (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18).
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). Just previous to this verse, the Corinthians had been urged to learn from the mistakes of those who lived under the Old Covenant (vv. 6, 11). The nation of Israel had involved themselves in idolatry which led to loose and immoral living (vv. 7-8). The Apostle’s conclusion was that these Christians, if they thought they were standing, needed to take heed that they did not fall since no one is above the temptation (vv. 12-13). Instead, believers needed to look for the way of escape and take it—fleeing idolatry (vv. 13-14).
For the Corinthians, there were literal temples with idols, incense, and immorality. Idolatry often takes more subtle forms today: entertainment (including sports!), materialism, and selfishness. Sometimes people say, “‘Sin has an ‘I’ in the middle, because ‘I’ is at the heart of sin.” Well, “idolatry” has “I” at the beginning. Selfishness is its foundation. The Lord’s command to Israel is echoed, in principle, in the New Testament: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exo. 20:3; cf. 1 Jn. 5:21). We must flee from idolatry!
“For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:10-11). Closely linked to idolatry is the temptation and sin of greed and covetousness (cf. Col. 3:5). Whether preachers or presidents, no one is exempt from this enticement. While most do not consider this to be a “serious sin,” it is one that has subverted countless souls. The only way to overcome is to run away!
Greed seems to bite down hard and hold on tight. When Christians are overdrawn and going bankrupt because they can’t say “No,” Satan has won the battle. When homes are destroyed because the spiritual leaders of the household (fathers and mothers) have egos that cannot be satisfied, unnecessarily work long hours to the neglect and loss of their families to the devil, covetousness has conquered. “No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24). We must flee from greed!
Lust and Fornication
“Now flee from youthful lusts” and “flee fornication” (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18). While the apostle Paul may have had more in mind than just physical desires when he told Timothy to flee youthful lusts (e.g. desires for prominence and profit), there is no doubt that younger men and women are faced with sexual temptation—though older individuals are not exempt. The Corinthians were enticed to return to the idols’ temples and employ the religious prostitutes, but the call to be holy ought to have turned their eyes to something better. The classic example will always be Joseph: He didn’t loiter in the shadows of sexual enticement, he ran!
The devil is inundating society with images of sexuality in an attempt to mold the minds of Christians into acceptance, yet God’s expectation is transformation (cf. Rom. 12:2). It’s time for disciples to make more “eye covenants” (cf. Job 31:1). (Practically, that means turning away from private pornographic viewings and public displays of immodesty.) It’s time for believing teenagers (and adults) to get out of each other’s arms until they are married! It’s time for Christians to remain true to their covenants and stay out of adulterous situations! We must flee from lust and fornication!
Temptations can be confusing, and they are always dangerous. An urgent response is necessary. We need to run away from Satan’s entrapments! Let’s not stand and look at them! Instead, we must flee!