FLEEING YOUTHFUL LUSTS
Curtis Knapp is pastor of New Hope Baptist Church of Seneca, Kansas. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship and is Assistant Editor of The Sovereign Grace Messenger.
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
This edition of the Messenger is devoted to the theme of spiritual warfare, and so this article will focus specifically on warfare instructions to those at the younger end of the age spectrum. The above verse was written by Paul the elder apostle to Timothy the younger pastor. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lusts. Even though he didn’t specify what lusts were specifically “youthful,” it isn’t difficult to come up with some likely culprits. Think sex, money and vainglory. In this issue, we will focus on fleeing sexual lust.
Do not be deceived. Lust is not merely an inappropriate feeling you have. Lust is a destructive force that will ruin your life and damn your soul. Lust is a powder keg in your bosom, ready to be ignited by the devil’s match. Satan is greedy and full of lust himself, and he is eager to ignite that fire.
Lust (not sexual lust exclusively, but lust broadly considered) is the reason the world is full of evil, misery and gloom. In 2 Peter 1:4, Peter says that corruption is in the world by lust. Adam and Eve lusted after the forbidden fruit. They lusted after God’s privileges and prerogatives, and by taking the fruit, they plunged the world into darkness. We have inherited their lustful nature.
Atheists want to know why there is so much evil in the world if there is really a good God ruling over all. The answer: because of our lusts. Suicide, murder, war, quarreling, rape, pornography, kidnapping, robbery, child trafficking, extortion, adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality. All this filth is in the world by lust.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter makes it clear that lust is a deadly enemy: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” This is no game; it is war. As John Owen, a 17th century English Puritan, said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” There is no truce or cease-fire possible. There will be no surrender, unless it’s by you. Fleshly lusts are waging war against you whether you are aware of it or not and whether you are fighting back or not. You have only two choices: fight or be slaughtered.
Among the youthful lusts which Satan uses to wage war against our souls, sexual lust is perhaps his weapon of choice. Like a favorite rifle in the hands of an experienced sniper, so is sexual temptation in the hands of the devil. Seldom does he miss his target with this weapon in his hands.
Through lust, Sodom and Gemorrah was destroyed, and all its inhabitants torched. Through lust, Balaam was able to ensnare the Israelite men with Midianite women, which led to the death of 23,000 Jews. Through lust, Samson was worn down by Delilah and subsequently shorn, blinded and enslaved. Through lust, nearly the whole tribe of Benjamin was wiped out in God’s wrath. Through lust, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to hide his wicked affair. Through lust, Solomon accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines, who led his heart astray from the Lord. Are you getting the picture? Sexual lust is deadly. By this one weapon, Satan has ruined billions of people.
Perhaps you have heard somewhere that all sin is the same and not one sin is to be considered worse than another. It’s a lie, cooked up by the father of lies. There is no justification for that view in the Bible. Satan wants you to first buy into the notion that some sins are little and not worthy of notice. Then, he aims to convince you that all sins are the same. The goal is not to convince you that all sins are equally damnable, but rather that all sins are equally insignificant.
The next time you hear someone say that all sin is the same, ask yourself this question: Is this person trying to elevate my sensitivity to all sin or is he trying to diminish my sensitivity to one particular sin?
In 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, Paul teaches us that sexual immorality is an especially egregious sin because it against one’s own body, which for the Christian is “the members of Christ” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”
You are one with Christ. Will you drag Christ into your sex crimes? Will you take His members (your body) and use them for filthy purposes? Sexual immorality defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit. Dear Christian, your body is the place the Holy Spirit has consecrated for worship. You could not be more brazen if you hosted an orgy at the church building where you gather to worship on the Lord’s Day. Every other sin, Paul says, is done without the body (outside of it), but not so with sexual immorality. Who can doubt that Paul’s purpose is to intensify our horror at the sin of sexual immorality?
When it comes to spiritual warfare against sexual temptation, job number one is being convinced of the sinfulness of lust. Job number two is fleeing it. Paul doesn’t give us any explanation of what it means to flee youthful lusts, but perhaps that is because everyone instinctively knows how to flee danger. You run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Joseph, son of Jacob, was a good example of what it looks like to flee youthful lusts.
He was a handsome young man, stuck in slavery in Egypt. He was the property of a household where the mistress, Potiphar’s wife, was lusting after him and seeking to seduce him. Joseph’s predicament was exceedingly difficult. He was a slave and didn’t have a civil right not to be sexually harassed. He couldn’t flee youthful lusts by resigning his job and finding a new place of employment. He couldn’t escape. He couldn’t complain to the boss, Potiphar, and expect a favorable reception.
It was not a fellow slave who was assaulting him. It was his master’s wife. There could be serious consequences for refusing her. If he didn’t comply, she might get angry and offended and make his life very difficult. As you know, that’s exactly what happened. Furthermore, she pressed him repeatedly, day by day.
On top of these disadvantages, Joseph had no family to disapprove of his immorality if he caved in. He had no church to disappoint, and no accountability partners to face. If he hopped in bed with his mistress, no one would likely know it. Even if another slave discovered it, who would dare report it? Who would blame Joseph and condemn him for simply obeying his mistress? Additionally, Joseph was a young man with young male hormones and he had never yet been with a woman. At this point of his life, he had no hopeful prospect of ever being married. For all he knew, he would be a slave in Potiphar’s house the rest of his life. Why not indulge his sexual appetite? Wouldn’t that be better than life-long celibacy?
Joseph’s testing became yet more acute on that fateful day when he found himself alone in the house with the mistress. She grabbed him and said, “Lie with me.” What did he do? He fled. He fled youthful lust. He fled sexual immorality. He didn’t try to prove his strength by showing that he could handle the aggression tactfully. He didn’t try to let her down gently. He ran from her.
Perhaps Joseph looks like a chicken to some. Look at the weak man, running in fear from the beautiful woman. Let others mock. Joseph was wise, and he showed us what it means to flee youthful lusts. Joseph resisted and resisted and resisted, but he also ran. We should run from sexual temptation as well. We should run from pornography, run from people who are trying to entice us, and run from unaccountable situations where no one is watching. That is, no one but God.
All Joseph had going for him was the fear of God. In Genesis 39:9, he said to Potiphar’s wife, “There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
“How can I sin against God?” That was the fundamental question that kept him from evil. God was watching. The God he loved and revered would be offended, and there would be consequences greater than what Potiphar’s wife could inflict.
Flee youthful lusts, Paul said, “but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Joseph did not stand in the path of sinners. He followed the path of righteousness. He did not have a false faith in a blind God. He had faith in the allseeing God who rewards obedience and punishes disobedience. He did not follow self-indulgence, but rather love. He loved his neighbor, Potiphar, as himself. He loved God. He did not pursue a path of enmity toward God and enmity toward Potiphar. Instead, he pursued a path of peace with both, even though Potiphar did not return the favor and threw him in jail.
Fleeing youthful lusts will cost us. Satan will inflict his punishments and the world will hate us and persecute us. But that is the nature of warfare. You don’t enlist as a soldier and go to war and expect to never be injured. As is often the case in war, there is a time to flee.
Flee youthful lusts. This is the way to win.