Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fight or Flight?

“But thou, O man of God, flee these things…” – 1 Tim. 6:11

         Would you consider a man who endured public stoning and beating, faced down an evil spirit, prayed and sang in a dark prison, rebuked a popular but blamable elder of the Church, and who refused to follow what he perceived to be the will of God, knowing it would lead to his death, to be a coward? Neither would I. Yet there were three enemies to the Christian that the Apostle Paul considered to be too deadly to be faced head on, but instead, called for immediate flight if one hoped to gain the victory. I don’t know about you, but such a man’s words of warning strike me as going way past a gentle warning to a roadblock. Here are three things he says call for flight, not fight.

         “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). The sin that is excused in the name of love is not only an affront to God, but according to the rest of the verse, is a death warrant to one’s own body. I say this because sin always brings death of one kind or another. In the case of fornication, often the result is death of the so-called “pure” motivation: love. Fornication is not just an activity; it’s an appetite. It is insistent, in deniable, and in most cases, invincible. It’s a trap not to be toyed or argued with. In this case, it is better not to engage the enemy, but simply to run away. Let Joseph be your example (Gen. 39). Listen to Paul: “Flee fornication” in or outside of marriage.

         “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). If fornication is insistent, idolatry is insidious. It creeps into our lives subtly, posing as something justly worthy of our admiration. After all, are not idols considered by their worshippers to be benevolent? Obviously then, most of the idols you and I face are ones that seem innocent to others, as well as to ourselves. Family, friends, Bible preachers and teachers, political figures, commentators, ideas, books, our own reasoning, etc., can all tip the scales against God and His Word as far as the judgments we make and the decisions we come to. I’ve heard or read many different definitions of idolatry, but in my own life, I have come to believe that anyone or anything that makes you question the goodness or power of God, or the final authority of His Word, is an idol. Smash it as Moses did the golden calf. Don’t argue; run. “Flee from idolatry.”

“But thou, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Tim. 6:11). If you read the context of things mentioned, you will see Paul is saying, “Flee covetousness.” Indeed, he says in Colossians three, five, he says that covetousness is just another form of idolatry. Now, if fornication is insistent and idolatry is insidious, covetousness is insatiable. Whatever the object of our covetousness – money, recognition, power – there is no point when we say, “This is enough.” It feeds upon itself and like Midas’ golden touch, ends up depriving us of the most important people and things of life. It cost Judas his sanity, his life, and his soul. Don’t try to reason with this enemy; there’s too much at stake. Don’t get within reach of its vice-like grip. Flee covetousness!

You can find many places in Paul’s Epistles where he exhorts us to fight, but here are three times when he tells us that the way to victory is flight. We should take heed.

“Sometimes our finest victories are found in triumphant retreat.”J. H. Jowett


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