Flee from Sin
When my son, Caleb, was fifteen months old, he would babble and toddle and get into everything. (And he still does!) One day, when I was in charge of watching him, 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 wasn’t supposed to touch it, so he was just hovering, thinking about what to do next. Coming closer, I said—somewhat tongue and cheek—“Caleb, you are supposed to flee from temptation, not stand there and look at it.” (Guess what? He tried to touch it anyway.) Later I got to thinking about the incident and realized that that too often as Christians we hover over temptation instead of doing what the Bible tell us to do—flee!
The Greek word translated flee (pheugo) is used 31 times in the New Testament and literally means “run away,” “flee,” or “escape.” By implication, it means “to shun.” This word is used throughout the New Testament: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape Herod (see Matthew 2:13). Those who tended the swine took off when the Lord cast the demons out of the man and into the herd (see Mark 5:14). When Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies, those in Judea were to escape to the mountains for safety (see Luke 21:21). And as Jesus was being arrested, His disciples forsook Him and ran (see Mark 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.
Thus, the apostle Paul incorporated this word, in the imperative, into his instructions concerning temptation and sin—flee idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), greed (1 Timothy 6:11), and lust and fornication (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 6:18).
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). Just previous to this, 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 being tempted by idolatry (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 real, pagan temples with idols, incense, and immorality. Yet, for us, idolatry often takes more subtle forms—entertainment, materialism, and selfishness. It has been said, “‘Sin has an ‘I’ in the middle, because ‘I’ is at the heart of sin.” Well, “idolatry” has “I” at the beginning, and selfishness is always its foundation. The Lord’s command to Israel is echoed in principle in the New Testament: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3; see 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 Timothy 6:10–11). Closely linked to idolatry is the temptation/sin of greed and covetousness (see Colossians 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 hurt countless souls; and the way to overcome it 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 and 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” (Matthew 6:24). We must flee from greed!
Flee Lust and Fornication
“Now flee from youthful lusts” and “flee fornication” (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 6:18). While the apostle Paul may have had more in mind than just physical desires when he told Timothy to flee youthful lusts, there is no doubt that younger men and women are confronted by sexual temptation—and older individuals are not exempt! The Corinthians were enticed to return to the heathen temples and employ the religious prostitutes, but the call to be holy turned them 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, enticing Christians to accept worldly standards; yet God’s expectation is transformation (see Romans 12:2). It’s time that we make more “covenants with [our] eyes” (see Job 31:1). Practically speaking, that means turning away from private pornographic viewings and public displays of immodesty. It’s time that we—teenagers and adults—get out of each other’s arms until marriage. It’s time that we remain true to our marriage covenants and stay out of adulterous situations. We must flee from lust and fornication!
Temptation can be confusing, and it is always dangerous. An urgent response is needed. We must run away from Satan’s snares. Let’s not stand and look. Let’s flee!
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations taken fron the NASB.