May 17th, 2009 – 2 Timothy 2:19, 22-26

Growth through the Pursuit of Personal Holiness

Lesson 3

Introduction

When a tree or plant grows it means there are things in place such as soil with nutrients, roots deep enough to deliver those nutrients, rain, sun shine, … Without these factors in place growth simply will not occur. Even though spiritual growth is not as tangible as things like soil, rain and sunshine we nonetheless need to have certain factors in place in order to experience growth. In this journey through 2 Timothy we are learning about ‘How Faith Grows’. There are disciplines we must commit to in order to see our faith or trust in Christ grow. So far, we have noted the need for two things for faith to grow:

  • Growth through the practice of courageous faith (2 Timothy 1:6-9): Courageous faith may not be anything dramatic but simply having an attitude that allows God to teach you something through a difficult circumstance for example. Courageous faith could be overcoming pride and offering an apology. The key word is “practice”. We learn to trust Christ by responding during those small but key moments in life.
  • Growth through knowing and living by the truth (2 Timothy 2:14-18): Too many believers today are spiritually empty and easily deceived by subtle false teaching because they do not make the effort to deeply understand and live by the truth revealed in God’s Word. Faith grows when we discover day-to-day the truth from scriptures and engage in the process of living by what is revealed.

In this session, we will consider how our faith grows through the pursuit of personal holiness (2 Timothy 2:19, 22-26). As Paul reveals in vv.19, 22-26, personal holiness or transformation requires an active protective effort (vv.19, 22a) and an active growth effort (vv.22b-26).

An Active Protective Effort

Read: 2 Timothy 2:19, 22a

Key Question: What actions are called for in order to protect ourselves spiritually?

The first term used in v.19 as translated in the NIV is “Nevertheless”. This a transition word is referring back to vv.17-18 where Paul spoke of the danger false teaching poses to a church body. Then Paul proceeds with, “… God’s solid foundation stands firm, …”. The “solid foundation” that is “sealed with this inscription” is the church community or body.

When it comes to the pursuit of spiritual growth or personal holiness, the body of believers known as the church is a key component. For one thing having genuine relationships with other believers who are pursuing personal holiness is important for faith to grow. We don’t grow best in isolation. The best growth and protection against destructive forces such as false teaching is healthy relationships with one another as the body of Christ — the church.

By being and staying closely connected to a church we have “God’s solid foundation” for taking two personal protective actions when they are needed (vv. 19b and 22a). First, Paul states in v.19b, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” The word “wickedness” refers to anything (environments, temptations, attitudes, …) which run counter to the character of God. Paul says, “turn away” from such environments or circumstances which will influence you to live in contradiction to God’s character as revealed in scripture. Secondly, Paul says in v.22a, “Flee the evil desires of your youth, …”. You not only need to protect yourself on a literal front from things that will lead you away from God (v.19b) but “flee” the very desires within you which will lead to the same result — spiritual drift from God. Both “turn away” and “flee” mean to take these actions aggressively and consistently.

The pursuit of personal holiness entails first a defensive, protective posture. You are more likely to be aware of things that cause spiritual drift when you are intimately connected to a body of believers seeking to grow in their faith as you are. We are called in part to protect one another as the body of Christ.

An Active Growth Effort

Read: 2 Timothy 2:22b-26

One of the great things about the second part of this passage (2 Timothy 22-26) is Paul does not stop with “flee”. He doesn’t stop with what to avoid. Some churches only vocalize what they are against as opposed to what they are for. Paul says “turn away” (v.19b) and “flee” (v.22a) so he calls you to be against anything that disrupts your relationship with Christ and hinders your faith in Him from growing. Note though that he doesn’t stop there. He says next to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace”. Like the appeal to “flee evil desires” the term “pursue” carries the idea of pursuing these spiritual traits as an absolute necessity and the need to persistently pursue “righteousness, faith, love and peace”. It is an intensive, purposeful effort involved.

At the end of v.22b it is noted that we are to pursue these things “… along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” You are to pursue spiritual growth “along with” other believers. Paul is depicting a vibrant, growing relationship with God which benefits your relationships “with” other believers.

In the final verses (vv.23-26) as a believer in relation to one another you are exhorted along three lines: refuse to get involved in foolish arguments (v.23); pursue a servant’s heart in relation to others (v.24); and handle opposition and the resulting conflict well or in a Christ-like way (vv.25-26). A faith that grows will experience growth in both contexts — in relation to God and in relation to people.

Conclusion

In a prison located in Kishinev, Moldova, the prison’s vice warden told the American Bible Society that he noticed recognizable changes in prisoners who had become believers and publicly identified their faith in Christ through baptism. “They have changed their attitudes, their visions for the future, their whole outlook toward life,” he said. As a result, the prison authorities in this former Soviet republic plan to allow Christian ministries more access to the prisoners, “… because these visits produce good results …” (National and International Religion Report, Vol. 7, #15).

Pursuing personal holiness is not a religious ritual. Like in the lives of those prisoners, a faith that grows will produce “good things”.

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