Flee, Follow, Fight: Never Go Back

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto his spiritual son and co-labourer in the faith, Timothy. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eleven through twenty-one of the sixth chapter. As you begin reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture, you will notice and discover what is arguably one of the most distinctive and powerful titles anyone could be given. What makes the words which were written unto Timothy so absolutely electrifying and stirring was that they were spoken by the apostle Paul himself unto this servant and saint of the living God. If you begin reading with and from the eleventh verse of this chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul unto this spiritual son in the faith: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Oh, please don’t be too quick to move past the word which are spoken in this particular verse, nor the tremendous implications of what is found therein. Within this verse we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking directly unto Timothy—and not only speaking unto him, but also declaring unto and of him that he was indeed and in fact a man of God. As I am sitting here this afternoon reading and considering the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy, I can’t help but be gripped and consumed with the fact that these words were not only a statement of a present reality, but they were actually a statement of a reality yet to unfold within the life of this young man. When the apostle wrote and declared unto Timothy his being a man of God, I am utterly and completely convinced that there was and is contained within it a dual meaning—first a meaning in the present tense and in the present reality, but also a meaning in the future tense which speaks to a reality which speaks of that which is yet to come. I believe with everything that is within me that when the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy and declared of him that he was a man of God, he was not only declaring that he was a man of God in the present tense, but he was also speaking to the future which lie before this young man. We would be incredibly naïve to think and believe that when the apostle Paul wrote and spoke unto Timothy declaring him to be a man of God that Timothy had somehow arrived and attained all that was prepared for him. When the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of Timothy as a man of God, I believe that there was a certain level of attainment which Timothy had received and experienced, but there was still a much deeper work which needed to be done and performed within his life.

When I consider the fact that this particular statement which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy touches the realm of “the already but not yet,” I can’t help but think that even though it might very well have been known that Timothy was in fact a man of God, the man of God has never truly fully or completely arrived. Lest you think and consider for one moment that I am off the mark with such statements there are two specific references found within Scripture which perfectly and powerfully speak to this reality. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that even though the apostle Paul could refer to Timothy as a man of God, that wasn’t the end of the matter by a long shot. There is not a doubt in my mind that it was in fact possible for the apostle Paul to write of and declare Timothy to be a man of God, but still recognize that there was still a greater work which needed to be done within his heart, mind and life. This reality is perceived and recognized when continuing to read the words which are found in the remaining portion of this verse, for immediately after the apostle Paul declared of Timothy his being a man of God, he would go on to provide him with very specific instruction—namely, to flee those things which he had previously written in this epistle. What were those things which the apostle Paul was referencing when he instructed Timothy to “flee these things?” If you journey back to the verses which precede this statement you will find those things which the apostle Paul was referring to: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine, which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strife’s of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:3-10).

It’s interesting and worth noting that the apostle Paul instructs Timothy to withdraw himself from certain individuals, and certain mindsets and thought patterns that were found among a number of individuals—even a number of individuals within the church and house of the Lord. In the third verse the apostle Paul declares unto Timothy that if any man would teach otherwise, and that man would not consent to wholesome words—even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness—that man is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strife’s of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, and evil surmising. It’s interesting and worth nothing that when writing unto Timothy the apostle Paul cautioned him to guard very carefully the company he keeps, and to guard carefully his fellowship. What’s more, is that I would even dare state that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to guard carefully the community and fellowship of the saints by marking those individuals who were harmful and dangerous to the saints of God. The apostle Paul declared unto Timothy that those who would consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which was according to godliness, that man was something which could be incredibly dangerous to the community and fellowship of the saints. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul would go on to write unto Timothy concerning the perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, which are destitute of the truth, and supposing that gain is godliness. As you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy you will find him declaring unto him very plainly and succinctly that godliness with contentment is great gain. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul declared that as certainly and as surely as we brought nothing into this world, we can most certainly carry nothing out. The apostle Paul then instructed Timothy to be content with food and raiment, for everything else was nothing but add ons and accessories. Let me pause for a moment and ask you whether or not you would rather be godly and possess little, or whether you would rather possess much and have a form of godliness, or perhaps even no measure of godliness at all.

The apostle Paul would go on to write unto Timothy that those which will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Paul would then go on to declare something which has been misconstrued and misinterpreted and misquoted throughout the years, for the apostle Paul would declare that the love of money is the root of all evil. Please make note of the fact that the apostle Paul declared that it THE LOVE of money which is the root of all evil, and not money itself. There would be those who would declare that money is the root of all evil, however, that is simply not what the apostle Paul declared. That which the apostle Paul declared was that the love of money—the reckless pursuit of money is the root of all evil. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Himself declared unto all those who would gather themselves to hear Him deliver what would become known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” If you begin reading with and form the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus speaking a great deal about the location of our treasure, as well as which masters we would in fact serve within and throughout the course of our lives. If you carefully read the words which Jesus spoke and delivered unto those who gathered to listen to and hear Him speak, you will find that He directly challenged our common perception concerning that which is valuable and worth possessing within our lives. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke beginning with and from the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the flows of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no though, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take though for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:19-34).

Within this particular passage Jesus speaks directly to the treasure(s) we as human beings lay up for ourselves here on the earth—those things which we deem valuable and worth having within our lives. Jesus speaks directly to one of the most difficult things within the human heart, and that is the need to accumulate more stuff and to accumulate more things. When speaking to those who had gathered around Him on this particular occasion, Jesus instructed them to lay not up for themselves treasures upon the earth where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through ands steal. Furthermore, Jesus goes on to instruct those same hearers and listeners to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, where neither most nor rust do corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Jesus then went on to declare something truly remarkable, and something that directly challenges our concept of possessions within our own hearts and lives, for Jesus emphatically declares that “where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. In other words, if you want to know the true condition of your heart you need only look at the treasure(s) which you have stored up for yourself here on the earth. I am convinced that one of truest signs of the condition of our heart is and can be centered around our love and pursuit of money—and not only our love and pursuit of money, but also our love and pursuit of material things and “stuff.” Jesus would then go on to declare that no man can serve two masters, for that man would either hate the one and love the other, or would hold to the one and hate the other. He would then go on to declare that we cannot serve both God and mammon [money], and we would have to pick and choose which master we would serve. One of the most difficult questions to answer and consider within our hearts and lives is which master we are going to serve, for we are either going to serve God, or we are going to serve money. Bear in mind that if we make the decision to serve money, we are not only serving money, but we are also serving material possessions, goods, things, and “stuff.” What’s more, is that if we make the decision to serve money we are deliberately and intentionally giving ourselves over to idolatry and coveteousness, for money and the pursuit of things would become idols within our lives, and we would continually be breaking the commandment given unto Moses atop the mountain in the wilderness to not covet.

This concept and reality of treasure is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for one of the greatest truths we will need to acknowledge within our lives is where our treasure truly is. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler when unto Jesus was brought little children that He might put His hands on them, and pray. Consider if you will the account of the rich young ruler and Jesus: “Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence. And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto Him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, He went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:13-22). This particular passage is absolutely and incredibly challenging to us in this modern generation, and it is so for two very distinct reasons. First, if you read the commandments which Jesus listed and provided unto this rich younger ruler you will find that there was a commandment that was present, yet was present in its absence. If you return back to the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus—specifically when the Lord God gave Moses the Ten Commandments—you will find the tenth and final commandment being as such: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:17). As you read the commandments which Jesus listed unto this rich young ruler, you will notice that He seemed to deliberately omit the first four commandments which dealt with his relationship with God—one of of which dealt specifically with idolatry within one’s heart and life: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not by down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

When you read the words which Jesus spoke in response to the inquiry of this rich young ruler, you will notice three distinct characteristics of this encounter which must be noted and paid close and careful attention to. The first characteristic of this particular encounter is that Jesus deliberately and intentionally omitted the commandment to have no other gods before Him, and the commandment to not make unto oneself a graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. What’s more, is that the Lord omitted the instruction to not bow oneself down to any god, or graven image or idol, nor serve them, for the Lord our God is a jealous God. When Jesus spoke unto this rich young ruler concerning the commandments he should keep, it’s almost as if He deliberately and intentionally omitted the commandments which dealt with His relationship with God—specifically, those commandments which dealt with having and setting up idols and graven images within one’s life in order that they might bow down and serve them. What’s more, is that not only did Jesus seemingly omit those commandments which dealt specifically with one’s relationship with God as it pertained to idolatry and having other gods before Him, but He also seemingly omitted the final commandment which dealt specifically with coveting that which belonged to another and wasn’t present within one’s life. It’s absolutely incredible that not only did Jesus omit those commandments which dealt with idolatry and coveting in His dealing with this man, but Jesus also pointed directly to the hearts of the matter of where his treasure truly was. By declaring unto this man that if he sold all his possessions and gave to the poor that he would have treasure in heaven, that which Jesus was emphatically stating unto him was that he had laid up and stored for himself treasure here on the earth and had little if any treasure in heaven. By declaring unto this man that if he followed and obeyed the words which He spoke unto him, Jesus was emphatically pointing to the one single reality which was at the heart of every other matter within his life—namely, that he had stored up for himself treasure here on the earth and had absolutely no treasure in heaven. Perhaps that question can and should be asked of countless men and women among us in this particular generation, for how many of us may very well have vast treasure, vast wealth, and much possessions here on the earth, and yet we have absolutely zero treasure in heaven? How many of us would willingly, deliberately, knowingly and intentionally lay up for ourselves treasure here on the earth rather than and instead of laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven. For this rich young ruler, Jesus not only spoke directly to the coveteousness and idolatry that was found within his heart, but Jesus also spoke directly to the fact that he had stored up for himself much possession and treasure here on the earth while having absolutely zero treasure in heaven where it truly matters.

When you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy—specifically his instruction to flee these things—it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that that which he was to flee was the love of money which was the root of evil. Because Timothy was and was becoming a man of God, he was to flee coveting money, coveting earthly treasures, material wealth and possession. Since Timothy was and was becoming a man of God, he was to lay up for himself treasure in heaven and deliver and set himself free from the snare and trap of laying up for himself treasure here upon the earth. Timothy—being and becoming a man of God—was to give up worrying about what he would eat and what he would ear, and to be content with what he had been given and provided by the Lord his God. Because he was and was becoming a man of God he was not to seek being and becoming rich in order that he might not fall into temptation and a snare, as well as into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. When we read the words which the apostle Paul writes unto Timothy we must recognize and understand that the man of God is and must be completely set free and delivered from the love of money, and from the desire to lay up and store for himself treasure here on the earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break in to rob and steal. Permit me for a moment to delve into your heart and into your life and ask you what has become a snare within your life? What within your life has become a snare and a trap within your life and has pierced you through with many sorrows? What treasure have you forfeited and sacrificed in heaven because you were so utterly and completely bound by the treasures of this world? When writing unto Timothy the apostle Paul instructed him to flee from all these things, and to instead follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. What’s more, is that immediately after instructing Timothy to flee from the love of money and the desire to get rich, and immediately after instructing Timothy to follow after such things as righteousness, godliness, faith, and the like, the apostle Paul then goes on to instruct him to fight the good fight of faith. FLEE! FOLLOW! FIGHT! Oh, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the words which are contained in this passage of Scripture, for I am convinced that these three realities are intrinsically connected and linked to each other. I am convinced that before we can truly fight the good fight of faith we must first follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. What’s more, is that before we can follow after such things as these, we must first flee from such things that would corrupt our hearts and minds and lead us into a snare and trap. If we are going to truly be a man and/or woman of God we must first flee, then follow after, and finally fight the good fight of faith. It is only to the degree and measure that we are willing to flee and separate ourselves from those things which would ensnare and trap us that we can truly fight the good fight of faith.

I mentioned two distinct passages found and contained within the epistles and writings of the apostle Paul which perfectly describe the reality of being and becoming within the heart and life of a saint of God and follow of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this concept of being and becoming—the reality of “the already but not yet”—for we must not only live in and experience the reality of what already is, but we must also press forward and toward that which still lies before and head of us. I would first direct your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning himself when writing unto the saints which were at Philippi. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi beginning with the seventh verse: “But what things were gain to me, those counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death: if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule” (Philippians 3:7-16). Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul not only speaks of what already is within his life, but he also writes of that which still is, and that which has yet to come, for he recognizes and understands that he had not already attained, that he had not already been made perfect, and that he hadn’t arrived by any stretch of the imagination. The apostle Paul used the same language which he wrote unto Timothy, for in the twelfth verse he wrote “but I follow after,” and in the thirteenth verse he speaks of “forgetting those things which are behind,” as well as “reaching forth unto those whines which are before.”

That which we find and read in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi can be directly linked and connected to the words which the apostle wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth. In the fifth chapter we find the apostle Paul writing unto them concerning being a new creation which is in Christ, and what being a new creation and a new creature in Christ actually means within the life of an individual. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes unto the saints of Corinth in this second epistle beginning with the sixteenth verse: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). When writing and speaking concerning one’s being in Christ and their being a new creature, the apostle Paul emphatically declares that being a new creature in Christ means that old things have passed away, and all things are becoming new. The more I read and the more I consider this particular passage of Scripture, the more I am convinced that within this particular verse is the concept and reality of “the already but not yet,” for while it is true that old things have passed away, it is also true that old things are continuing to pass away. It is true that we have been buried with Christ in baptism, and that our old man was buried beneath the waters of baptism, however, I am utterly and completely convinced that with each and every day comes the continual process of old things within our life passing away. Even though the children of Israel were delivered from the slavery, bondage and oppression of Egypt, and even though they had passed through the waters of the Red Sea, thus signaling and speaking of baptism, there was still a great deal which needed to pass away and be done away with in their hearts and minds. Consider the tremendous reality that they couldn’t even enter into the Promised Land until the last of a generation had fallen and perished in the wilderness after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Consider the reality that for forty years the children of Israel wandered around in the wilderness while one generation was preparing to enter into the Promised Land, and another generation was counting their days knowing that they would fall and perish in the wilderness. Consider that an entire generation was forced to wander for forty years in the wilderness waiting for that which was present among them would perish. For the children of Israel, it wasn’t until that last part of them died in the wilderness that they could then proceed to cross over the Jordan River and enter into the land of Canaan and into that which the Lord had promised on oath to their ancestors. It is true that old things have passed away and all things have become new, but it is also true that old things are continuing to pass away, and all things are continuing to become new.

When writing the final words of this first epistle and letter unto Timothy the apostle Paul first instructed him to flee from those things which would ensnare and trap him within this world. The apostle Paul would then instruct him concerning those things which he should follow after, for it isn’t and it wasn’t enough simply to flee from certain things without also following after something else. Remember how the apostle Paul not only declared that he pressed toward the mark of the high prize of the high calling which was in Jesus, but also that he was forgetting those things which were behind him. In other words, it is not simply about pressing toward something which is before us, but it is also about forgetting those things which are behind. It wasn’t enough for the children of Israel to leave Egypt behind them, but they also needed to press toward and pursue the Promised Land which was before them in the earth as their inheritance. For Timothy, he was not only instructed to flee those things which would ensnare and trap his heart and soul, but he was to follow after those things which would continue transforming him into the man of God who he already was, and would continue becoming. What’s more, is the apostle Paul then instructed Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, which is actually quite interesting when you consider the reality that not only is faith a fight, but the fight of faith is in all reality and essentially a good fight within our hearts and lives. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James the half brother of Jesus wrote in the first chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbradieth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:3-6). I am also reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the first epistle which was written unto the strangers which were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ whom having not seen, ye love; in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with unspeakable and full of glory: receiving of the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

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