Flee Youthful Passions/Lusts – Is this Command Mainly About Sex or Something Else? #112

Happy Lord’s Day, Brothers and Sisters! Today, I am livestream preaching out of 1st Thessalonians 5 for the church that am a pastor at, Valley Baptist Church in Salinas, California. I’d love for you to join us on the livestream at 11am Pacific time zone, or to just head on over to our Facebook page whenever, and check out the video. Throw out a comment to let me know you are there – just search for VBC Salinas on FB, and that will get you to us. Get to the site from our webpage – Bible Reading Podcast, home to well over 600 pages of transcript from the show -every episode has a blog entry there that you can read and look up what you might have missed. Today’s Bible readings on this shorter than normal episode are: Leviticus 23, Psalms 30, Ecclesiastes 6 and 2nd Timothy 2. Our focus passage remains in Timothy, and we are talking about one of the most well known Bible passages/commands- “Flee youthful lusts!”

Many, many times (especially as a youth pastor) I have talked about this passage in ministry, almost always with the gist being that we are to stand against other temptations, but flee from sexual lust – especially when we are young. 

For example, I’ve probably taught along these lines a quite a few times: “In Ephesians 6:10-12 you are commanded to make your stand against the devil. In James 4:7 you are given the promise that if you resist him, he will flee from you. Nevertheless in II Timothy 2:22 you are commanded to flee youthful lust. It is rather amazing that you are commanded to be strong, take your stand, and fight against fallen angels, while at the same time, you are commanded to flee with fear from youthful sexual desire. This demonstrates that the youthful lust of your flesh and the unbridled sensuality of your culture is more dangerous than a face to face battle with the devil.” 

But what If I told you that we might be actually missing what this very important verse is saying to us? The word here that we are supposed to flee from is ἐπιθυμία epithymía. Interestingly, it doesn’t actually mean lust, not exactly – at least not the way we usually use the word ‘lust’ in society. For instance, see Luke 22:15

Luk 22:15And he said unto them, With desire G1939 I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

The word in Greek more appropriately means Over-desire, heavy desire. So – We are supposed to flee from ungodly over-desires. Which ones are Paul talking about in 2 Timothy? Let’s read the passage and then come back and discuss.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe we SHOULD flee lust – and every other sin and temptation, but that doesn’t seem to be the context of what Paul is talking about here. Let me tag in pastor Ray Ortlund, who does a great job explaining this passage:

The “youthful passions” in this context are not sexual.  Paul has in mind the passion for controversy, that feeling inside that relishes a fight and loves to be proved right and even prophetic.  Instead, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, . . . patiently enduring evil” (2 Timothy 2:24).  But there is something about us, especially in our youthful immaturity, that lusts to raise protests and set the world right and make sure everyone cares as passionately as I do, because I’m on the side of the right, I’m the defender of the downtrodden, I get it more than others do, etc.

In this world of blatant, horrible wrongs, it is not hard to get angry.  It is hard not to get angry.  But “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  It just doesn’t.  Because it can’t.  No matter how right the cause is, the anger of man only makes things worse.  Sometimes the youthful don’t see how clever evil is, how easy it is for us to add to evil while intending good, how hard it is for us to be angry and not sin and complicate things further.  Exposing and confronting wrongs — real wrongs with real victims — is good, but not simple.  Not for us.  What is simple is creating more victims by rushing to judgment with guns ablazing and a golden heart pursuing a noble cause.

Personally for me, as a pastor, I long to be the kind of man that sinners want to move toward, not away from.  Inevitably, for every one of us, there will come a moment when we have sinned so stupidly that our future is in peril, or when we have been sinned against so destructively that we fall into despair.  When that happens — not if it happens — to whom will we go?  Not to the fault-finders and finger-pointers.  Desperate people will go, if they have any courage left, to a pastor who is known for good news of great joy for all kinds of people.  They will go to a man who is known for being kind to everyone, a man who understands sowing and harvesting shalom for other people.  And if the pastors within the acquaintance of a person in serious trouble are not like that, if those pastors are known only for their trenchant criticisms — Oh, what a loss!

There is a continuum in pastoral ministry, with rebuke at one end, comfort at the other, and various strategies between.  Wise pastors move along that continuum constantly, interacting with people as we understand their needs moment by moment.  Personally, I default toward comfort.  Unless a person is defiant against the Lord, the ministry of comfort is more consistent with the tone of the gospel — good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  They, and they only.


One concluding thought – please don’t take this as permission to indulge sexual lust in your mind – that is not at all what this episode is about. There are volumes of passages in the Bible that warn us away from indulging lust in the wrong way. This episode is merely focused on pointing us to why many modern Bible translations don’t warn us to flee youthful lusts, but rather, as the CSB, “Flee youthful passions.”

One Reply to “Flee Youthful Passions/Lusts – Is this Command Mainly About Sex or Something Else? #112”

  1. John Barry

    I’m glad you pointed out this verse isn’t about sex. Way too many times I’ve heard pastors use this against single people and their desire for companionship. If Paul was talking about sex, he would have advised Timothy to get married, like he told people in 1st Corinthian. If it was about sex, how could Timothy read Song of Songs, which is all about sex.

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