Forsaking First Love
“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved the present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.”—2 Timothy 4:10
This is about all we know of this man, Demas, but here, in a sense, a spiritual biography is recorded. You do find him mentioned in Philemon and in the epistle to the Colossians. For instance, in that letter to Colosse, Paul says, “Luke the beloved physician salutes thee, so does Demas,” and in that little classic, Paul calls Demas a fellow-laborer, but here, the only other place he is mentioned, we note a spiritual tragedy. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved the present world, and is departed.”
Demas had come under the influence of Paul’s preaching. He had felt the tug of the Gospel. He had believed the Lord Jesus Christ. He accepted the way of life, and he stood up to be counted with Paul, and his light shone brightly for a moment and then became dimmed. He put his hand to the plow and looked back, and then he went back. He had known better. He had walked for a time in this way, in the companionship of the Apostle Paul, but the old things became attractive to him again, and he questioned the reality of his experience and the wisdom of his renunciation. The present age besmirched him and he fell in love with it.
He Made His Choice
He left his first love. Let us not be too severe with Demas, for perchance it may be written of some of us today, he hath forsaken me, loving as he does, the present age. Ah, did I not read not long ago of a man who fell in love, and he took to be his wife that one he thought to be the fairest among the fair. And love, that holy flame, burned brightly upon the altar of his home, until another one crossed his path.
Then his wife noticed that he grew cool and indifferent. There was not the same light in his face when he came into the home, and her heart was saddened. She became conscious that she had lost his love. It is said that the crisis came and he made his choice, and he left his home and his first love and opened his heart to a love that was not his, and took to himself another.
He left his first love. And that happens so often. There is spread before us constantly the tragedy of a thousand homes where man leaves his first love. But if that happens to the destruction of a home, how often it happens in the spiritual realm, and of how many it can be said like it is said of Demas, “they have forsaken my love, having loved the present age, and they have departed unto it.”
A Spiritual Tragedy
I want you to notice the setting of this text. We are told here that Crecens has gone to Galatia and Titus unto Dalmatia. “Take Mark and bring him with thee.” But they have gone on the King’s business. Paul knows where they are. There was no anxiety in his heart about them. They are gone, but on the King’s business. “Only Luke is with me.” There must have been sadness in the heart of the Apostle. He must have felt depressed in spirit, as he, the prisoner of Nero, needed the companionship and the help of his fellow laborers and has to recall here that, “Demas hath forsaken me, loving as he does the present age.” This is but a type of many a spiritual tragedy. The present age had lured and it had won.
Before we criticize Demas we had better examine ourselves. What is this that lured him? The love for riches made him forsake Paul and the call. Oh, it is called the present age. The present system of things. The world system, of which Jesus said Satan was the prince, and of which Paul says Satan is the god.
How true it is that the devil has something to offer every man and every woman in their walk through life, from the cradle to the grave. There is no desire of the heart but what Satan stands ready to satisfy. Satan is a past master in ministering to the desires and longings of the human heart, and he will do it if you let him. He knew the vulnerable point of Demas, and the alluring age won, and Satan who ever seeks to ensnare the soul, rob the Christian of his testimony, won. So it is recorded here that Demas deserted.
Somehow this age was named the present age, and to Demas, Satan suggested that he make a choice for that which was within his grasp. He put over on the other side of the spiritual things, the things that were temporal. Demas believed in the future. Satan exhorted him to believe in the present. Demas had his eyes, the eyes of his soul, upon the invisible things. Satan suggested that he lay hold of the visible. In Demas’ heart there had come a conviction that the unseen things were the eternal things, but Satan blinded his mind and it was suggested to him that he had better make sure of seen things. Demas had spiritual ambition, but Satan suggested that he had better satisfy the desires of the flesh. Demas, like many of us, believed in the things that are intangible but are real, and Satan suggested that the tangible things after all were the things that were worthwhile. Demas contrasted these things, and he made his choice, and he chose the present, the visible and the tangible. Like Esau of old, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, Demas held on to the present.
The Present Age Attractive
This is the mistake so many people make today. If the Christian life is a testimony to anything at all, it is a testimony to the reality of the unseen things. The value of the Christian life is that it is a constant testimony to the reality of the things that are not seen but are eternal. A Christian can wait, but the man of the world cannot. A Christian has great prospects, for he knows that he shall see the King in his beauty. He knows that he shall enter into the better land. He knows that his treasure is laid up in Heaven. He knows that loosed from the human, he shall enter into the inimitable life of God, but the world, blind to these things, grasps the present, and Satan tempts the Christian to take his eyes from the future and enter upon the present.
Demas yielded. The present age lured and the present age won with him. How attractive the present age is. Paul had been talking about his sacrifice, but as Demas looked around he saw self-gratification. Paul had been speaking of sacrifice with Christ, but as Demas looked around him he saw many grasping and getting. Demas, no longer under restraint of his home, thought it worthwhile to get into the swim, and so he chose the present age and he departed from God.
How true it is, beloved, that we owe much to our environment for the keeping of us faithful to the Lord. How many a man who thought that he was strong, has gone to another place, another city, where the restraint of home and loved ones is no longer playing upon his life. He has lost his grip and he has departed from his faith, as did Demas.
Yielding to Counter Influences
I remember of hearing a man in South America telling of men who went down there, men who in this country were respectable, men who moved in the better circles, it may be in church circles and had playing upon their lives, Christian influences. When they went to South America it was not very long before they sank into the depths of sin. Restraint was taken off.
We owe much to God today because He has surrounded us with holy influences. Demas, when in Rome, away from his home, yielded to counter influences, and he departed from the faith. Satan offered him wealth and liberty. It was the love of the present age that caused Demas to desert. It was the love of the present that caused him to part company entirely with Paul. He loved. It was not because he feared the persecution of Nero. It was not because he was not willing to stand the test. He saw. He loved. He chose. He looked. He listened. He yielded and the love of Christ grew cold, and step by step he went away from Christ and departed unto Thessalonica. Satan fastened his chains upon him and he met the crisis but he failed.
Paul Exhorts to Steadfastness
Had not Paul written to the Church at Colosse, doubtless the home church of Demas, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
And had he not written also in that first chapter to the Church at Colosse, to continue in the faith. No wonder Paul exhorted to steadfastness and called upon men and women of the faith to be unmovable. He saw Demas departing. No wonder John writes, “Love not the present age, the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.”
It may be true of some here this morning that their vision has grown dim. It may be we have lost our conviction in the reality of the unseen. It may be true that some of us have deserted and departed, or like Jonah, did run away from the Lord. It may be that God is calling to some of us who have fallen into the trap of Satan and departed, to return unto Him and he will hear our prayer and bring us back into fellowship with Him.
What is it in your life, that, having seen, you love? We find that Demas left Paul and Luke and Mark. Demas had the privilege of enjoying the companionship of these men and yet the present age lured him and won him. Just think of it. Giving up the companionship of Paul and yielding to the enemy. Yet what Demas did so long ago, so many are doing today. They are loving the present age. They are deserting and departing.
I do not know what happened to Demas. I can imagine what happened to him. Did he return? Did his conscience trouble him? I wonder, if when he saw some fellow Christian that he had known, coming down the streets of Thessalonica, whether he dodged and went some other way so as not to meet him. I wonder if he returned. Or did Demas go lower and lower and finally was heard to say, “I thought it was all right but I was deluded.” I wonder if he became a mocker, saying that is the light that failed. Well, we do not know. I hardly think he was an apostate, but we are not told that he ever returned.
We do know that God is long-suffering. We do know that God must have gone after his wayward child to woo him back into fellowship. We do know that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We do know that God goes out after the erring Christian to bring him back. We do know that God will not give us up, and there is our hope.
Beloved, if you have followed in the footsteps of Demas and you have come to Chicago and it is so easy to lose yourself and your testimony, remember that God may have directed you into this church today to restore unto you your testimony, and to put a spring into your step that you may get back into his path of service.
Have you been neglecting the great salvation? Have you deserted your post? The crowning sin today in the Christian world is the sin of neglect. Paul wrote to the Christians, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.” Christian parents perchance your boy had not gone so far on the pains of sin if you had not neglected so great salvation. Perchance that daughter may not have fallen, like a snow-flake from heaven to earth, if you had not neglected so great salvation.
Israel went on a toboggan downward until she was carried off into captivity, because the altars of the Lord were broken down. How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation? How will you escape the heartache and the crushed life if you neglect this salvation? The heartache that comes because children are wayward. The life that is crushed because your children lay not in their hearts the Word of God.
Our churches today are weakened because the members are neglecting this great salvation. They have followed in the train of Demas and they have forsaken, deserted and departed because they have loved the present age. Who are you with this morning? Are you with Paul and Luke, or are you with Demas in your living for the future? Are you prospecting in the future? Are you having foretastes of the good things that He will spread upon the table when He calls you to be with himself? Are you laying stress upon the finer things, or are you with Demas, loving the present age?
Victory Through Faith
I know what would have cured the malady that effected Demas. This Book tells me what will cure it. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” Faith is that which makes real the unseen things. Faith is the assurance that the things which we now behold are the things that we shall see in all their beauty, in all their glory, and see them to be of intrinsic worth when we shall behold the King in His beauty.
Faith gives substance to the things that we hope for. Therefore if in your heart there lingers a love for the present age, if you find any affinity with the things of the world, open your heart and let God take possession, and you shall come off more than conqueror.
Then we have the Cross. The Cross on which the Prince of Glory died. Thank God, the world is crucified to me, and I am crucified to the world. That will cure my love for the present age. When the love of the Father is known and He sheds abroad in my heart that love that will make me love the things that He loves, a love that will constrain me to go out and compel men to come in,—when that is apprehended, it consumes all other love and gives us the victory that overcomes the world.
Who are you with this morning? I plead that you come and take your stand with the Apostle Paul of old, and turn away from the pathway over which Demas trod, and over which so many have gone, for the heart of the Master must be pained as He looks down upon us and sees so many like Demas of old, having deserted Him, loving the present age.