Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
The Purity Shield™ centers on three vital defenses against sexual sin. While they are found throughout the Bible, these three ideas are clearly represented in the charge that Paul gave to Timothy.
The three sections of this verse align with the three vital defenses of the Purity Shield:
- Flee from Sin (“Now flee from youthful lusts”)
- Come to Christ (“and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace”)
- Share with Others (“with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”)
We call these defenses because together they form a robust safeguard against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are vital because our spiritual vitality is in grave danger without them. These defenses are essential for purity, holiness, and growth in our walk with God.
Although an in-depth biblical analysis is beyond the scope of this book, in the following pages you’ll get a good understanding of each vital defense and how they all work together. To help recall the key ideas, we’ll use the acronyms FLEE, COME, and SHARE as memory aids.
The Purity Shield is not a three-step program that you can finish and then set aside. All of these are proactive defenses against sin. By continually maintaining these practices in daily life, you can effectively guard against sexual temptations and enjoy the blessed life Jesus promised to the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).
Defense One: Flee from Sin
Now flee from youthful lusts . . . (2 Timothy 2:22)
Get deadly serious about sexual sin and do whatever it takes to avoid the trap of temptation.
The easiest way to win a fight is by avoiding it altogether. This is the first principle of self-defense, and it applies equally to dealing with rogue lusts. The first vital defense to a life of purity is to Flee from Sin.
Paul told Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts.” Run away like your life depends on it! The stakes are too high to toy with sexual sin.
If you’re not living in victory over sexual immorality, the first step toward freedom is getting serious about eliminating this sin. You cannot defeat the monster of lust while coddling any of its tentacles. If you claim to hate pornography but refuse to destroy that secret stash and cut off future access, then you’re lying to yourself and to God—which never ends well.
Paul also gave the same strong counsel to the believers in Corinth:
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)
Fleeing can mean literally running away from the scene of a temptation—and sometimes this is necessary, like with Joseph in Genesis 39:12. But more generally, fleeing from sexual immorality means staying as far from it as possible.
When God opens your eyes to see how destructive pornography is to your own soul, to the men and women involved in the sex trade, to marriages and families, and to society as a whole, then fleeing is the only sane response! As Solomon wisely said,
The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it. Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out. (Proverbs 6:32–33)
FLEE: Tactics to Leave Lust in the Dust
As a helpful memory aid, the acronym FLEE breaks down this vital defense into four tactics to put into practice.
Fear God: Recognize the deadly consequences of evil and turn away.
This is the biblical starting point for living in purity: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). To fear God means, in part, that you dread the consequences of disobeying Him. It’s a fear of turning away from God, causing you to draw toward Him in purity of heart (James 4:8).
A healthy fear of the Lord will motivate you to obey His wise commandments and reject temptations, knowing that “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4 ESV). Seek to grow in your understanding of God’s character—His holiness, righteousness, justice, and other attributes.
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). Ask God daily to give you a holy hatred, dread, and disgust for pornography and immorality! Studying chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Proverbs will help you better grasp the life-destroying effects of sexual sin.
Look away: Enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward any form of lust.
Resolve as David did, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3), and like Job, make a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully (Job 31:1). Follow Solomon’s advice: “Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you” (Proverbs 4:25).
Make a habit of quickly turning your eyes away from scantily clad figures. When a temptation appears, immediately look away and pray to the Lord for help: “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways” (Psalm 119:37). Determine at the start to “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
Give no place to sexual fantasies! God sees what you behold with your imagination as well as with your eyes. If a lustful thought enters your mind, do not dwell on it, but immediately rebuke it and turn your attention to what is good and true. In these moments, quoting verses like Philippians 4:8 or Romans 12:1 is a powerful way to combat sinful thoughts and renew your mind (Ephesians 4:23).
Eliminate: Do whatever it takes to remove known sources of temptation.
Recognize the seriousness of sexual sin (Proverbs 5:22–23) and “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). If you have collected any pornographic materials, destroy them completely. Get rid of any potential pitfalls such as login credentials, contact information, or other means to access sinful content.
This might require “radical amputation” to remove or limit access to certain devices. Jesus said, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29).
Like your eyes, computers and smartphones are valuable and useful, but your soul is far more precious. Be willing to make any sacrifice necessary, “for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Evade: Stay away from ungodly influences and compromising situations.
“Keep your way far from her [the adulteress] and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).
Identify and avoid the ungodly influences that encourage you toward impurity. This could include relationships, places, websites, apps, movies, TV, music, and other media. Remember, “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
As Paul encouraged Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Timothy 4:16). Take time to carefully examine yourself, note the situations that cause temptation for you, and make any changes necessary to avoid or address those situations.
When you do find yourself unexpectedly in a tempting situation, don’t linger and foolishly trust your own willpower. Get out of there fast like Joseph did (Genesis 39:11–12)!
Defense Two: Come to Christ
. . . and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace . . . (2 Timothy 2:22)
Direct your attention to pursue what is good, drawing near to God through His Word and prayer by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The best defense is a good offense. This oft-repeated phrase is as true for spiritual warfare as for physical warfare.
Paul didn’t just tell Timothy to flee from the bad; he followed up with a charge to pursue the good! So, the second defense is to Come to Christ, replacing your old, sinful desires with new, holy desires for the pure pleasures God wants you to enjoy.
We all know that “just say no” doesn’t work for long. Cutting out deeply rooted sin is no easy task, and old habits die hard. Your willpower is a finite resource that is quickly used up in the struggle against temptation.
Instead of joyless self-denial, you need what theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Think about this: how can you get all the air out of a glass? Easy, fill it with water instead. So, how can you get rid of those filthy, sinful desires? Replace them with good, beautiful, and holy desires! The Bible calls this “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new self (Ephesians 4:23–24; Colossians 3:9–10).
Never leave a vacuum in your heart; it will quickly fill up again with all the old lusts—and worse (see Matthew 12:43–45). Having recognized pornography as a repulsive evil, turn your attention to the goodness and beauty of God in Christ. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
By continuing to embrace your new identity in Christ and to deny the old sinful passions, your desires will be transformed. The soul that awakens to enjoy God will begin to see sinful desires as empty counterfeits to the lasting pleasure and joy of knowing Him.
The more you draw near to God, the easier it is to say “no” to lust and sexual immorality. And God Himself will draw near to you as you pursue purity!
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
COME: Drive Out Lust by Drawing Near to God
The word COME spells out four key tactics to apply this second defense in your life:
Confess: Acknowledge Jesus as Lord and ask Him to forgive your sins.
First, confess that Jesus is Lord. Confess means to acknowledge or agree. The Bible says that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is your Master, your King.
Believe the good news that Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for your sin and rose again to ensure your salvation (Romans 4:25). You cannot save yourself. But no matter what your sins have been, in Christ you can be forgiven and made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Second, confess your sin to God. Lay it all before Him in prayer and humbly ask for forgiveness, believing His promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). You also need to confess your sin to your spouse and to others, but we will address that under Defense Three, Share with Others.
Confession is not a one-time event; it should characterize your life as a Christian. Keep confessing Christ as Lord and confessing your sins. Continue practicing regular repentance.
Obey: Submit to God and embrace His wise commandments.
As a Christian, you belong to Christ, having been purchased by His precious blood. Jesus is Lord not only of your heart but also of your mind and body. God’s claim on your life has very practical implications, as the Apostle Paul wrote,
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12–13)
In other words, obey God, not sin! No excuses. Agree with God that His commandments are good and right (Psalm 19:7–11). Submit yourself to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). In the power of the Holy Spirit, strive to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV).
Meditate: Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
God’s Word is alive and powerful, our sword in the fight against sin (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Read the Word daily and meditate on it throughout the day (Psalm 119:97). Think about what you read and spend time understanding it and applying it to your life. Saturating your mind in Scripture is a powerful way to guard against sin (Psalm 119:9–11) and to renew your mind (Romans 12:2).
Meditating on Scripture is especially helpful for fighting temptations that arise out of boredom. Instead of “killing time” when you have nothing to do, fill your down time with God’s Word. Open the Bible and spend time reading it, or simply recall Scripture in your mind and prayerfully reflect on passages you’ve memorized. Consider setting an alarm or writing well-placed reminders for yourself to practice this tactic effectively.
Fix the gaze of your heart on God and His character. As A. W. Tozer insightfully wrote, “Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.” Scripture teaches this as an essential mindset:
Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1–2)
Singing or listening to “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” is another excellent way to meditate on truth throughout the day (Ephesians 5:19). Pursuing righteousness does require discipline, but the reward is worth it!
Enjoy: Cultivate delight in God and His good gifts.
Far better than the fleeting thrills of pornography, God’s steadfast love for His children is a river of delights (Psalm 36:8). David said of the Lord, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).
God is never far away. Draw near to Him throughout the day by praying “at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). Like Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth century monk who dedicated his life to “the practice of the presence of God,” you too can find enjoyment and thankfulness in Christ, no matter your circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
When you pray, ask God to replace your sinful desires with a hunger for what is good, right, true, and beautiful as you choose to “dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Plead with God to give you more of a holy hatred of sin and a love for Him.
Invest yourself in productive, God-honoring work and hobbies, knowing that He “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Spend time developing close, rewarding relationships with friends and family—and if you’re married, delighting in your spouse! Fill your days with righteous pursuits, leaving no idle time for temptation, and in all things give thanks to God (Ephesians 5:20).
Defense Three: Share with Others
. . . with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Confess your sins and commit to sharing openly with others who will hold you accountable to grow in purity.
When defending purity, there is strength in numbers. As the proverb says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV).
Paul finished his charge to Timothy by directing him to pursue righteousness, not alone, but “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Like Timothy, as we Flee from Sin and Come to Christ, we must also Share with Others who will spur us on toward purity and holiness.
As with the first two defenses, this third defense is vital. It completes the Purity Shield, bringing you into the joy of Christian community and the light of thoughtful transparency.
As a person made in God’s image, you were created for authentic relationships. From the very beginning, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Without the counsel of godly friends, it’s dangerously easy to stray from the right path. Isolation is your enemy in the fight against sin.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1 ESV)
Have you tried to battle pornography on your own, discouraged by repeated failures? Friend, you need accountability! Pornography is deeply isolating because it is utterly self-centered and turns everyone else into objects for your personal pleasure. It also heaps on the viewer a crushing load of shame so that you think, “I could never tell anyone about this.” The result is a vicious spiral of secret sin and shame that only increases over time.
If you’re not presently caught in sexual sin and wisely want to avoid that trap, you too need accountability. Countless men and women have fallen into sexual sin because they trusted themselves and were not answerable to others when they began to stray.
Being accountable to one another is non-optional if you want to escape and avoid the awful cycle of sin and shame fueled by isolation.
SHARE: Heart-Level Accountability in Christian Community
Lasting peace and sexual purity are found when you walk in all three vital defenses of Flee from Sin, Come to Christ, and Share with Others. Our key word for this last defense is SHARE.
Seek help: Ask at least one mature believer to hold you accountable.
Find a trustworthy partner who is willing to hold you accountable regarding sexual temptation and who is not struggling in this area. Two or three partners are best, but one godly, mature person can be a huge help.
Your accountability partner should be the same gender as yourself, unless you have a strong marriage and your spouse is able to carry this responsibility. However, if your spouse has been hurt by your sins, meeting together with your pastor or a qualified biblical counselor will be invaluable as you seek to rebuild trust and heal your marriage.
Agree on a regular schedule (time and place) to continue meeting together for accountability. Weekly face-to-face meetings are best, but a phone call or video chat can also work well. This accountability relationship should be a high priority for both you and your partner.
Heed advice: Listen and diligently apply the counsel you receive.
Having opened yourself to be accountable to others, heed their advice! Humbly receive counsel from your accountability partner and diligently work to apply their input.
Invite your partner to critique how your actions are helping or hurting your pursuit of purity. Their objective feedback will help you recognize successes, correct deficiencies, and keep you moving forward. Listen graciously and assume that the speaker has your best interests at heart, speaking what is “good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Show your gratitude to those who reprove and correct you. Avoid a foolish mindset that refuses to accept counsel. Be willing to learn, change, and grow. Remember, “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored” (Proverbs 13:18 ESV).
Assemble: Regularly join with your local church in worship, fellowship, and service.
If you haven’t already, join a church that teaches and practices God’s Word—and don’t neglect meeting together weekly for worship, prayer, and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Get involved in an authentic Christian community, welcoming people into your life to know and be known.
Look for opportunities to “do life” together with people who love the Lord, in addition to worship on Sunday mornings. This could mean joining a small group that meets in a church member’s home, or perhaps hosting a Bible study or game night at your own home. Maybe it’s making an informal meeting for coffee and prayer with a friend each week or inviting someone over for dinner. Start small and increase your fellowship with others as you become more comfortable.
Be careful not to approach relationships with a self-serving mindset, as if other people exist to meet your personal needs and desires. Instead, practice the many “one another” commands in Scripture: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). Combat the self-seeking nature of lust by finding ways to sacrificially serve and build up others around you.
Reveal: Embrace transparency and confess your sins to others.
No more hiding, period. This is key! Accountability crumbles when you deceive and cover up the truth. Commit to honesty, no matter what.
If you are married, you must confess any sexual sins to your spouse, recognizing the deep pain your choices have caused. It’s usually not wise to share every graphic detail, but you should not hold back the truth. Humbly ask for forgiveness, but don’t expect to be trusted right away, since you have been untrustworthy. Pledge to be fully transparent with your spouse in the future as you begin to rebuild trust in your marriage. Obey this command with hope:
Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Whether or not you are presently tempted by pornography, it is wise to defend against digital temptations by installing accountability software (such as Accountable2You) on your devices and inviting your accountability partner to receive regular reports of your device activity. Cultivate a lifestyle of thoughtful transparency and do whatever it takes to keep living in the light.
Engage: Do the work necessary to walk in freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Together with your partner, make a clear plan for how you will stay accountable in known areas of temptation, such as an unmonitored computer at work or a trip away from home without your spouse. Commit to the plan and follow through.
Remember, it’s not your accountability partner’s job to drag the truth out of you or make you change. You are primarily responsible for your spiritual growth (Galatians 6:4–5). Take ownership of your actions. Accountability helps those who want to be accountable.