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Friday, June 24, 2022

Demas Has Forsaken Me

The man by the name of Demas is only mentioned in the Bible three times, all three times by the apostle Paul.  Demas was for a time a fellow traveler and fellow worker with Paul.  He is mentioned in the closing of the book of Colossians, a book written around AD 60, as one who with Paul and others sent their greetings to the church at Closse (Col. 4:14). 

Again in the book of Philemon in verses 23 and 24 he along with Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke send greetings to Philemon and Paul says these men are his fellow workers or in the old King James language his “fellowlabourers.”  The book of Philemon is said to have been written around AD 60. 

However, by the time Paul wrote his last letter, the book of Second Timothy, dated anywhere from AD 64 to AD 68, Paul says sadly that “Demas has forsaken me” (NKJV) or in the wording of the NAS “has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10).  And why--“Having loved this present world”. (2 Tim. 4:10 NKJV) 

One gets the idea that Demas had been with Paul for a number of years and had only recently departed.  Why else mention his departure if it was one of long standing, old news, that had occurred years before? 

We have then a man who had traveled and worked with Paul, sacrificed and struggled along with him, endured the hardship a number of years, and saw with but little doubt the miracles Paul performed, and yet this Christian man fell away.  If under those circumstances a man can fall away then we all can.  If a man can walk with an apostle and fall away, then any person can, and so the threat is real.  And threat it is for to fall away is to be eternally lost if we do not repent. 

Can you and I learn anything from the life of Demas worth our while?  I believe we can. 

Paul says Demas loved the present world.  John says, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.  If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 NAS)  The greatest battle man will ever have to fight is that of the love of the world.  We live in a body of flesh, a worldly body, and that body by nature is attracted to and desires the things of the world. 

John tells us, “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16 NAS)  What Demas wanted out of the world we are not told.  Was it money, an easier life, respect, or just, in general, to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11:25 KJV)?  We are not told.  In a way, it makes no difference. 

There is no doubt the world has much to offer as long as we live in the flesh.  Who really desires to make their life a living self-sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) every day of the year?  Who desires to always put self second?  Who is it that does not desire respect from his fellow man in this world?  

Christians are not well thought of by most of the world.  We are ridiculed and made fun of and our company is not sought.  As the kids would say no one wants to hang out with us.  Who really desires that?  Who is it that does not desire to achieve great things in this world and be praised by his fellowman and looked up to?   The world offers us the opportunity for worldly wealth and possessions, honor and prestige, and sexual freedom.  Christianity, in this life, offers daily self-sacrifice. 

Paul says, 1 Cor. 4:9-13, in speaking of the apostles (in the broad sense of the term): 

“We have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.  To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;  And we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;  When we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (NAS) 

I am not sure Demas was an apostle, in the broad sense of the term, but he was with Paul here and there and surely saw and/or experienced for himself some of these very things.  Maybe Demas just got tired. 

The world offers worldly honor to those who play by its rules and succeed.  Instead of being reviled, there is praise.  Those successful in the world do not go hungry.  They are not clothed in rags; they are not persecuted; they are not slandered. 

I tend to think, but cannot prove it and do not bind it upon you, that Demas just got tired.  I do not believe he wanted to go off to commit adultery, cheat, lie, and steal.  I don’t think he left because he wanted a first-century equivalent of a three car garage and a multi-million dollar home.  I don’t think he quit and left Paul and God because he wanted to be rich and famous.  I think he left because he wanted out of the line of fire, wanted an easier life, wanted to live in peace with the world, wanted to live much like others of his countrymen.  Certainly, I can be wrong and freely admit this is nothing more than pure speculation on my part, not biblical doctrine.  

We must remember that non-Christians are often honest and hard working people respected in the community even if they are unwilling to give God the time of day.  A worldly person is not necessarily indulging in every sin under the sun.  Most are quite respectable in their own communities.  Nevertheless, their love is for the world, not God. 

What do we learn from Demas? 

(1)  We learn it is easy to quit and lose everything.  Demas sacrificed years of his life for nothing.  All of those years wasted, all of the sacrifice now for nothing and why?  He quit. 

I think most Christians have times in their life when they would like to give up, to quit.  Things are not going good for us, things are bad in the church, and no remedies seem at hand. 

Demas sacrificed it all when he gave up.  We can do the same.  In fact, that is the easy thing to do.  Staying with it is what is hard.  Quit and you have wasted the past and forfeited the future but for a time you feel free, free for you have abandoned all responsibility.  We need to think long and hard before we quit.  Quitters not only do not win they lose everything.  We should learn that.  Quitters in the spiritual realm do not come in second or third.  They lose everything. 

John says, (2 John 8), “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”  We think it very ill-advised and foolish when one drops out of school before graduating after having put in years of work and losing and wasting all that time, money, and effort for nothing.  How much more significant is the loss, and how much more dire are the consequences when we give up living the Christian life. 

(2)  We learn from Demas that the faith of the best of men can fail.  We never grow so strong but what we can lose our faith.  Some think if we had miracles today people would believe and would automatically become strong Christians with steadfast faith.  I am satisfied Demas saw miracles.  I am sure Paul spoke about seeing Jesus after his resurrection from the dead.  Yet, finally in the end it made no difference with Demas.  It made no difference with the children of Israel who came out of Egypt with Moses.  The miracles did not matter.  If their faith failed ours can too.  Sin doeth so easily beset us (Heb. 12:1 KJV).  

(3)  We learn also that the world has an enormous pull on us and will as long as we live in a body of flesh.  We learn it is not easy to walk with an apostle, a thing we all ought to be doing.  It is a tough, tough road and often a long one and we should not kid ourselves or others.  We should prepare for it.  Unless, as the Bible says, we put on the whole armor of God, how can we hope to survive? 

Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:16 (NAS) concerning his trial, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”  Are we stronger than they were?  Are we stronger than Peter who denied the Lord three times?  We are, at our best, but weak and feeble men and women prone to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.   

What can we do to keep our faith from failing us?  There is a vast multitude of Christians who have lost their faith and many who have just given up and left God and the church.  How do we survive when we so often want to do as Demas did?  How do we resist the temptation of the call of the world? 

The answer is to build our faith.  How does one do that?  There is a two-part answer to that.  First, we must recognize our need, and understand who and what we are.  We must see our need and our weakness.  A wise man is one who observes, learns, and takes heed.  In the last part of the book of Job God is questioning Job beginning in chapter 38.  Much of that runs along the line of Job can you do this, can you do that, God can.  He is showing Job man’s weakness and need for trust in God. 

For example, God asks Job (38:31-32), “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion?  Can you bring out Mazzaroth (literally ‘Constellations’--NKJV footnote) in its season?  Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?” (NKJV) 

In the New Testament Jesus says “you cannot make one hair white or black” (Matt. 5:36).  We are unable to add a cubit to our stature, unable to add a single day to our life.  “For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NKJV)  A mother or dad, a son or daughter, a husband or wife passes away and there is not one thing you can do about it. 

Scientists talk about distances in outer space in terms of billions of light-years.  A look into the clear night sky on a cold winter night when there is no haze and one cannot help but be overwhelmed if he only takes the time to consider what he is seeing.  If we would stop just long enough in our life to consider seriously where all this is leading us we would see our need for Jesus and could develop our faith. 

Faith begins with a man being honest with himself about his own inability to have control and his need for help, help from a power greater than him.  When we see and admit our impotence this leads to the will to believe.  I strengthen my faith by an awareness of what I am (a mortal with very limited power or control) and an understanding of my great need. 

Secondly, to grow faith we must immerse ourselves in the word of God.  “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17, NAS)  You cannot believe what you do not know.  The more of the word of God you know, the better you understand it, the more your faith will be strengthened.  One cannot expect to be a casual and occasional reader of the word of God and be strong in the faith.  It does not work that way. 

Paul, in writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:15 NAS), speaks of “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 

We must believe what Jesus told us.  We must believe there is a reward awaiting us.  “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6 NKJV)  It has often been said that Peter walked on the water as long as he looked at Jesus rather than the water and that is true.  We can figuratively walk to heaven if we continue to look to Jesus rather than at the trials and troubles and temptations we are here faced with.  Do you believe?  You have to believe.  Way, way down deep within your heart you have to believe. 

We can believe if we will.  John says, 1 John 5:4, “this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.” (NKJV)  Paul says faith is a shield (Eph. 6:16), a protection for us.  With it we can “extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” in the language of the NAS. (Eph. 6:16) 

We often believe well enough in Jesus except when it comes to his love for us as an isolated individual.  We feel He will save everyone else but not us for we just keep on sinning despite our will not to.  If it is not this sin then it is that one.  Isn’t that true of how we often feel?  Do we not at times just feel like giving up? 

But, why did Jesus die?  Did he die so men could be saved by perfect law-keeping?  Did he die so that only those who are really deserving could be saved, deserving because so good and perfect in their law-keeping?  John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 NKJV)  David Lipscomb once said that he doubted that any man ever lived a single day without sin.  Are all men doomed despite the death of Jesus? 

Peter tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  When Peter asked the Lord (Matt. 18:21) how many times he should forgive a brother and said, probably thinking he was being generous, seven times the Lord answers, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (NKJV)   The Lord tells us thus that there is no set limit on the number of times we should be willing to forgive.  He is indirectly also telling us that is also the way it is with the Father? 

Isaiah says (Isa. 55:7 NKJV), “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For he will abundantly pardon.” 

In Luke 17:3–4, Jesus says (NAS) “Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent, forgive him.’”  This tells me that if in my life it just seems as though it is one sin after another yet, if I will truly repent, the Lord will forgive me and will forgive you likewise.  We should never give up; never reach the point where we become so frustrated with our own lives that we walk off in despair and hopelessness.  No case is hopeless as long as you care. 

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17 NKJV)  One suspects the greatest danger in life is not that of recognizing sin and unworthiness in one’s life but rather that of not recognizing it.  Remember the two men who went up to pray (Luke 18:10), the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer?  The Pharisee basically prayed along the lines of God I thank thee that I am not a sinner like others while the tax-gatherer prayed “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13 NKJV)  The tax-gatherer Jesus says went down to his house justified, thus forgiven.  The Pharisee left unjustified, unforgiven. 

It is a positive in your life if you feel deep down in your heart that you are unworthy as did the tax-gatherer.  The real threat when our unworthiness pricks our hearts is that we may despair and give up.  Do not do that.  The Bible teaches us in passage after passage that it is the humble man that God will exalt, the truly deep down in the heart humble man, not the man who merely pretends humility. 

Jesus is our only hope in this world.  He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV)  In the Phillipian letter, Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13 NKJV) 

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb. 4:16 NKJV) 

Let us “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12 NKJV) of God.  Let us gather strength and not become a Demas.

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