Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don't Be a Demas

Today I want to talk about the infamous Demas.  Demas began with so much promise but left with so much disappointment.  I think his lesson is an important one to learn as the call of the world can sometimes be loud, and we must not look back to who we were, but continue to strive forward into who God is making us to be.  First let's read the brief known history of Demas.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:23-24

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.  Colossians 4:14 NKJV

for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.  2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV
And there is the story of Demas.  He was called by Paul a "fellow laborer."  He was serving the Lord, but he looked back.  He looked back at the world and rediscovered his love for what he left behind.  He abandoned Paul.  He abandoned the ministry.  He abandoned God.  The Bible never tells us if he ever repented, but either way his story is a warning to us all.  If we look back to the world, we will fall in love with it all over again.  The Bible clearly warns us of that fact and it's consequences.  For this we need to go back to Genesis. 
And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." Then Lot said to them, "Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live." And he said to him, "See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there." Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.  Genesis 19:16-26 NKJV
We should all be familiar with this story.  God was planning on destroying Sodom and Gomorrah and was saving Lot from that destruction.  Lot and his wife were removed from the judgment.  They were saved, but Lot's wife looked back (and the implication is that she looked back longingly) and she was turned to a pillar of salt.  That is a really hard lesson.  She was saved, she was free from the judgment of those cities yet she looked back longingly at the world she was separated from and in that longing, God judged her.  Jesus answers why her judgment was so harsh.
But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Luke 9:62 NKJV
This leads to an interesting theological question.  Can you lose your salvation by turning back to the world?  I am of the camp where you can not lose your salvation, but I do believe that one can be deceived into believing that you are saved when you are not.  The Bible is clear that some will be surprised when they stand before Jesus only to learn they are not welcome in Heaven.  If some who think they are living for God are not saved, how much more can someone who turns from following God have never been saved to begin with.  I believe there are two kinds of people who turn back to the world.  There are those who were never saved to begin with and there are those who backslide.  I believe the test is if they return. 

First let me address the first kind, that being those who were never saved to begin with.  They hear a message that inspires them, they might even say a prayer, but they never really give their heart to the Lord.  The never really have that faith.  They have no root and as soon as something better comes along they fall away.  At best, they strive to live the life Christ calls us to in their own strength and instead of ultimately surrendering to God in a true profession of faith, they just give up and fall away.  They have no root and in that they have no strength. 
"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away." Luke 8:13 NKJV
They have a great emotional high but never really believe.  They are tempted by the world and they fall away. 

The other kind are those who are Christian, but are backslidden.  They love the world too much to really leave it behind.  Jesus speaks of this kind here:
"Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity." Luke 8:14 NKJV
Some Christians just can not let go of the pleasures of this world.  They do not even have to be sinful pleasures.  For example, I was at a Christmas production at my wife's school last night and other than the production, I think I heard more talk about football then I did about Jesus.  At the party I was at this weekend, I heard people coming with statistics of exact running times of various football players and I wondered if they had the same knowledge of the Bible.  I am not meaning to pick on sports, but that is something the Lord has been speaking to me about lately.  I see all the arguments it causes, I see the ungodly trash-talking that comes with it, and I see that, especially with football, it oftentimes coincides with days that should be reserved for the Lord.  Now there is nothing inherently sinful about football, but it becomes a distraction.  It takes our hand off the plow and brings our focus back on the Lord.  I know that I have to make a choice, and that choice is that if I let sports distract me from the Lord, then I need to give up being a sports fan.  My hand is to the plow, and I can not look back.  We must all have that same heart.  What is it that keeps you looking back to the world?  It is shopping and nice clothes?  Is it music?  Is it movies or television?  What in your life draws your attention away from the Lord and back to the world.  Any of those things will only serve to lead us further and further astray until, like Demas, we choose those worldly lusts over the spirituals treasures found in our Lord. 

It make seem like I am making a leap in saying that acting worldly for sports can ultimately lead me away from the Lord, but the journey to apostasy begins with a step.  The more we turn to the world and away from the Lord, the easier it becomes.  The more we focus on the world while losing our focus on the Lord, the more desirable the world becomes.  The more desirable the world becomes, the more will fill our hearts and lives with the things of the world.  The more we full our hearts and lives with the things of the world, the less room there is for Jesus.  Eventually, Jesus is diminished to a point where we do not hear His voice and once that happens, we fall away.  We have to ask God to till our hearts.  We must remove those weeds and thorns before they choke out the Lord.  If anyone has ever gardened, you know very well about weeding.  When weeds first sprout up, they are isolated, small, and easy to just pull up by the root.  If we neglect to pull those weeds up, they spread, grow, and multiply to the point where they become impossible to control.  They take over your garden and the only solution is the tear up the whole thing.  This is just like our hearts.  If we neglect those weeds that draw us away from God, they will grow out of control and take over our hearts.  God, who promises to complete the good work He began in us, will have no choice but to tear up our hearts to clean it of the weeds we allowed to grow.  That is chastisement and please heed my warning as someone who has been chastised by the Lord, you do not want the experience of God having to tear your heart apart in order to clean it.  It is by no means a pleasant experience, but for the backslidden Christian it is a necessary one.  I thank God for weeding my heart.  I thank God for the weeding He does now. 

Please, put your hand to the plow and do not ever look back.  Look ahead to the Lord and where He is taking you.  Do not look back to the sin that God has judged your from. There is only death there.  Leave behind those things in your life that draw you back to the life Jesus delivered your from.  Put your hand on that plow and follow Jesus and you will find that His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  It only becomes hard when we try to turn aside or turn around.  Stay straight, stay forward, and Jesus will lead you to the life He created you for. Follow Jesus and never look back. 
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."  2 Peter 2:20-22 NKJV

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