Sometimes people who are Christians disappoint us. We thought we knew the person. This person had encouraged us in difficult circumstances. This person endured hardships we saw and knew to be real. This person was an involved, active Christian--the kind of person we called first when we knew a pressing need existed in the congregation. He/she was the type of Christian we knew we could rely on in all circumstances.
Then, in a difficult moment, he/she disappears. He/she violates the most basic of Christian principles. He/she even refuses to honor the most basic beliefs we hold dear. We do not see the person. When we check on him/her, it is obvious he/she does not wish to talk to us--he/she is polite to us, but cold and withdrawn. If someone had told us a year ago that this person deliberately would cause us to feel uncomfortable in his/her presence, we quickly would have responded, "No way!" Yet, here we are, feeling very uncomfortable. It is almost like we are listening to and seeing a stranger.
Suddenly, our mind is reeling. "How" did this happen? How can the situation be understandably grasped? Did "I" do something? "What" happened? The more confident we were that we understood the person, the more confusing the situation is. "Make sense of this situation. There has to be 'a reason' for all this! Help me understand! Is nothing I believed true or relevant to 'now'? Could I do the same thing?"
Demas is an interesting figure whom we know little about. In Colossians 4:14 he is a part of Paul's team of missionaries. We have already learned Paul did not allow "just anyone" to travel with him as he spread the news of the love of Jesus Christ for all. Demas, at that moment, must not have had the weakness Paul saw in John Mark. For Demas to be part of the team, Demas must have possessed all the visible attributes of a strong believer who was committed beyond question to Jesus Christ.
In Philemon 1:24, Demas was still a part of Paul's team--along with Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke. Demas (as the rest of Paul's team) is referred to as Paul's "fellow worker." There is no indication that Paul (who is in prison) has anything but confidence in Demas.
In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul again was in prison (2 Timothy 2:9). He knew that this imprisonment would result in his death (2 Timothy 4:6-8). He wanted Timothy to come to him as soon as possible (2 Timothy 4:9) because he was lonely and in need of some things (2 Timothy 4:11, 13). In the context of imprisonment, being misunderstood, and being alone (except for Luke), Paul stated that Demas deserted him because Demas loved "this present world."
Before you summarily condemn Demas, look at the situation carefully. Paul served Jesus Christ passionately, sacrificially. What was the result (or as we might say, "What did that get him?")? Paul was in prison, misrepresented and misunderstood, knew he was going to die, had no one who could solve his dilemma, had powerful (and effective) enemies, and was pretty much alone. This, of itself, is not a pleasant picture!
Demas evidently decided loyalty to Jesus Christ was not worth the price tag! Being in prison, facing death, and existing as a dependent did not sound appealing to Demas. He had rather live than die. He had rather not be facing execution. He did not wish for his life to be ended as a helpless person. Yes, it was admirable to be committed and passionate as was Paul, but when all was said and done, what did it accomplish? (Remember, Christianity continued to be an illegal religion opposed by some in the Roman government, some idolaters, and many Jewish people. Opposition was organized! The harshest times were still to come and could not be prevented!) When you see the strong losing life, it can have a negative impact! To say the least, that situation was sobering! It was not longer hypothetical; it was sobering reality!
Nothing we can do can avert the time of decision for those whom we love or care about. No matter how much we love our children, they will at some time decide if being a believer is worth the price. No matter how much we love our mate, he/she will at some time decide if being a believer is worth the price. No matter how much we care about our neighbors, our friends, or our world, the time will come when they have to decide if believing is worth the price. Yes, Satan always will find ways to make people decide if trusting Jesus Christ is worth the price. Yes, believing cost.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Like Demas, you can commit to Christ, and change your mind. Yes, you can repent, but you also can choose not to repent. Have you read Hebrews 6:1-8 recently? Note the problem was not that God could not forgive, but that they could not repent.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide
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