Four pursuits of a lifetime

“Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, and faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Let’s say you are a mama trying to get your children ready for church on Sunday morning. The first one is finally bathed and dressed, and you are working on the second and third ones.  Suddenly, you notice that the first one–the child ready for church, decked out in his Sunday best–is heading out the back door to play in the yard.

You call him back.  You warn him as sternly as you can against going there and doing that.

Then, you sit him down at a table with some books or toys, hoping to occupy him with something good.

After cleaning us up, so to speak  (one verse earlier), the Apostle Paul now says we should avoid those activities that dirty us up again and dedicate ourselves to better things–righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

What are those famous “youthful lusts”?  Paul didn’t say, and for good reason.  He left it general enough to cover whatever it is that is weighing you down and threatening to hijack your spirituality.  For some of us, youthful lusts (uncontrolled desires) would be the drive to be somebody famous, and for others a yearning to make lots of money and possess many unwholesome things or to have sexual conquests or to fill his life with pleasures unending.

Run away from them.  “Flee those things; they are not worthy of you.”  Do not argue with them, reason with them, or try to make them conform to Christ. They don’t and they will not.  Get away from them, period.

Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

The KJV says to “follow” these four. But the word is stronger than follow and means to pursue with a passion.  Dedicate yourself to achieving these.  Relentlessly go after them.  Ask any Olympic athlete what it means to pursue something with a passion, day after day, for years, without let-up.

Pursue righteousness.  We are to ruthlessly eliminate all unrighteous acts, habits, language, and pursuits. In their place, we are to do Christ-honoring things. And what might those be?  Short answer: Everything that can be derived from loving “the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength” and loving “your neighbor as yourself.”

Pursue faith.  Think of faith as “confidence in Jesus Christ that results in acts that honor Him.” We are to grow in our faith. Since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Hebrews 10:17), that means we will begin by staying in the Word, day in and day out. As we obey Him, we go “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17), resulting in ever-increasing growth and acts of obedience.

Pursue love. The love of God has been “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Therefore,and since love is the first quality listed as “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), we should devote ourselves to staying close to the Lord in obedience and worship. “Walk in love,” says Ephesians 5:2. Love is “the perfect bond of unity,” Colossians 3:14.  Our ambition becomes to do the loving thing for others in every situation.

Pursue peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” says our Lord in Matthew 5:9. Why? Well, one reason is “they shall be called sons of God,” a Hebraism meaning “people will say that we are like God.” In Romans 14:19, Paul says, “Pursue the things which make for peace in the building up of one another.” You may recall that when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He said, “If you had only known the things which make for peace” (Luke 19:42). What are those things? You will want to pursue the answer, friend. (Here’s a hint: Humility is a big part of it.)

With those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Scripture makes clear that God’s people were never intended to live the Christian life in isolation. The Christian who is a loner is an aberration, a freak if you will, and not what God planned. Invariably, he or she will grow up deformed because they have missed the teaching and shaping influence of the larger congregation.

The choice of traveling companions is mighty important.  One reason I enjoy taking Amtrak from time to time is because of the passengers. They are an eclectic group, invariably friendly, and a healthy mix of races and social classes.

“Those who call on the Lord” would be people who worship and who pray. “From a pure heart” means they have no ulterior motives, no agenda they are trying to force on others.  They are humbly bowing before the Lord in love and submission.  That’s the group we should want to associate with and worship God with.

The object of this pursuit?

We do not pursue (stalk, hound, relentlessly go after) righteousness, faith, love, and peace just so we can be righteous and faith-filled, loving and peaceful.  The idea is given in the previous verse: That we might be “a vessel for honor, sanctified (that is set apart), useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Vance Havner used to say, “I hear people pray, ‘Lord, use me! Use me, Lord. Listen, friend–when you get usable, God will wear you out!”

To be of use to the Master, that’s the idea.

There is no greater thing in this world.


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