Sin starts as a thought or temptation before it fully manifests into the action of sin. To flee from temptation means that we flee from sin before we ever get to the point of committing it. God does not tempt us to sin. Rather, "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:13–15). This is why Jesus exhorted His disciples to: "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40; see also Matthew 6:13 and 26:41). We flee from temptation so that we do not enter into sin.
Many times, fleeing from temptation begins within our own minds. We are instructed to think in this way: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8). We are to make no provision to gratify the sinful desires of our flesh, and this includes the open door for us to be tempted by sin (Romans 13:13–14; Titus 2:11–14).
Sometimes, fleeing from temptation is an actual physical act. We see this in the story of Joseph when his boss Potiphar's wife made inappropriate sexual advances toward him. Joseph "would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her" (Genesis 39:10). Joseph was wise about his boundaries, and even so, she kept trying. Finally, one day: "she caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me.' But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house" (Genesis 39:12; see also 1 Corinthians 6:18–20). This is a dramatic example of what it looks like to flee from temptation, and it also showcases how persistently the Devil will try to tempt us, even when we do our best not to allow ourselves to be tempted (1 Peter 5:8). James 4:7 says: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
When we see a natural disaster such as a forest fire or a hurricane on the way to us, we flee. How much more should we flee when we see temptation coming to attack our soul?! We cannot put our confidence in our fleshly ability to resist temptation; our confidence and strength are in Christ, and He provides us with the tools we need to flee from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 6:10–18). Jesus Himself resisted temptation, so He can personally empathize with our struggles (Hebrews 2:18).
When we flee from temptation, we should run to God and pursue the things of God: "righteousness, faith, love, and peace" (2 Timothy 2:22). When we fail to flee temptation and fall into sin, we should immediately turn our gaze back to Christ in repentance, seeking His forgiveness: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15–16; see also 1 John 1:9). It is a true act of wisdom to see temptation coming and instead of choosing to entertain it, choose to flee from it (Proverbs 22:3–5; Galatians 6:9).
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