I am a pretty introverted guy. I do not like spending long periods of time with a large group of people. I find it to be draining and exhausting. Being with people is not a way that I constantly rejuvenate myself. I often need to just get away for a little bit to recharge. However, I understand the need for Christian fellowship and community. I understand enough to know that I am a fool when I do not make this a priority.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Paul is always pretty big on fleeing temptations. He always seems to be saying about the need to run from lustful temptations, and to pursue righteousness and holiness. The truth is that we often realize the necessity of what Paul says, but only in the aspect of the theoretical. The practical element is where things begin to get difficult.
A man may know that he should not view pornography, but trying to flee form that temptation is another thing entirely. That young couple may know that sleeping together is wrong, but trying to keep their hands off each other proves to still be difficult. How can we keep ourselves from these sins, and instead pursue these qualities that God calls us to?
One way is found in what Paul says at the end of this verse. “Along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Paul is saying a few things in this statement. One is that we need to pick the right kind of company. We need to be in a community where we are encouraged to flee these temptations. Often we strive so hard to live this holy life that we are called to, but keep saying it is impossible to do this on our own. Paul is saying you were never supposed to do it on your own. One of the ways God helps us is by providing us an opportunity to be in community with one another. That is why we are encouraged to gather together. This is why I always tell people there is real value in going to church, and it is not just to listen to a pastor preach.
The other thing Paul is saying here is we need to be a help in this community as well. Look at the structure of this sentence. When Paul is speaking about those of a pure heart who call upon the Lord, he is saying that the reader is meant to be in that group as well. Just as we must be in the company of those with a pure heart who call upon the lord, we too must be in that category.
There is a problem. Sometimes this community does not act out of a pure heart. The very next verse says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” There are some things that can put this community at risk. There is a reason why people stop going to church because they feel they are always being judged, ridiculed, or dragged into a pointless debate they never wanted to be a part of in the first place.
The church is controversial, but not always for the reasons it should be. Sometimes we argue for very stupid reasons. It may not always be about the color of the carpet. Sometimes Satan may disguise it as something that we believe really is a crucial issue that is foundational to our faith. Each side ends up hurling their accusations. They demand that everyone in the community pick a side. Ignorant quarreling is something that destroys a community.
Over the next couple of days I will be dealing with that issue, but I want to tackle one thing here and now. There are some who have no real reason for failing to remain in community. We explain it away by saying that we have a few good Christian friends we talk to on a regular basis. We convince ourselves that we are just loners at heart, and do not need much help from others. I think this is a lie. We have a desperate need for healthy community. When someone is struggling hard with a sin I try and ask them about their church life. Do they go to a church? How involved are they in that church? Do they get involved in ministries there?
We may try and excuse it away, but there is a real need for community which is why I want to discuss what can make a community work, and what can destroy a community. Today I simply set up for the basics, but I also needed to make the importance of community abundantly clear. We need to surround ourselves with those who cry out to God with a pure heart. We need to be encouraged and strengthened by fellow believers. We need to start waking up to the alarm clock, and get involved in a church.
The lion picks off the animal that is weak and separated from the group. It goes for the one that does not appear to have a strong support system. How do you think you look to Satan right now who is said to be a prowling lion?