There is something very pathetic in the manner in which the Apostle describes the conduct of the man whose testimony we purpose considering in this article. In order that the matter may be before the reader in the very-words of Holy Writ, we quote from 2 Tim. 4. 10 : “ Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” It is difficult to miss the plain inference of such a statement, or fail to perceive the evident sadness of the Apostle, as he writes of one who had thus forsaken him in the hour of loneliness and need.
We should hesitate ere suggesting that Demas was not a child of God. Other Scriptures seem to leave no doubt concerning his recognition as a brother in Christ ; indeed, we have him described in Philemon 24 in the honoured association of a “ fellow labourer “ with the Apostle Paul. Doubtless Demas had a good start, and for a time went on well ; but the race became too difficult, and the test of trying times found him lacking in that quality of godly endurance which would have carried him all the way.
A glance at the passages quoted above will show us two aspects of this sad declension–(1) “Demas hath forsaken me “–the direction in which his feet were moving. (2) “ Having loved this present world"–the secret inclination of heart which led his feet into wrong paths.
As a runner in that heavenly race, in which one must lay aside both Hindering Weights and Besetting Sin, Demas had forgotten the vital necessity of “ looking unto Jesus.“Alas, his eyes were attracted to another object, and, true to the principle of a moral law of gravitation, he went after that on which his heart was set. Thus began a course of spiritual decline that, in the ultimate, led to the complete wreckage of the man’s testimony. And we would remark here that the Word docs not say that “ Demas loved this present evil world “ (as so often misquoted). The Devil does not always present such a “ world “ to the victims of his guile. But of this we may be perfectly sure, the wily enemy of souls has a snare for every saint. Millenniums of experience have unfolded to the Accuser of the brethren almost countless avenues by which he may gain entrance to the “City of Mansoul," with the usual disastrous effects.
And because of this solemn fact, so sadly manifest in the life, and witness of many “ who did run well," we would urge upon every young believer the great necessity of taking heed to the exhortation of Prov. 4. 23, “ Keep thy heart with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life.” All departure from God, His Word, and His ways, always begins in the heart. Without the shadow of a doubt, this is true. Experience proves it, and above all the Word of God declares it to be so, for it is written, “ The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways “ (Prov. 14. 14). Our “ ways “ are but the outward indication of An Inward Condition of Heart, which makes or mars our testimony. Doubtless Lot lived in spirit in the city of Sodom long before he trod the streets of that den of iniquity. Surely that appears to be the inference conveyed by Gen. 13. 10-12.The man looked, and then pitched his tent toward " that guilty city," thus betraying the desire of his heart.
One of the first essentials in order to be a decided witness for Christ is that the believer should have Scriptural views of his attitude toward the world. And in speaking of the world, we mean that ordered system of which Satan is both god (2 Cor. 4. 4). and prince (John 14. 30). If we rightly understand the redemptive work of our blessed Saviour, we believe that it has cut every cord that bound us to such a world system.(See John 17. 14-16 ;Gal. 1. 3, 4)-The friendship of such a world that crucified Christ must rightly be regarded as “ enmity with God “ (James 4. 4). “Be not conformed to this world “ (or age), is the admonition of Rom. 12. 2. The believer’s life and testimony should not be moulded and controlled by the principles or practices of a world which has no place for Christ in all its thought and action. At least, not the place that Scripture claims for Him, and of which He is supremely worthy.
In that wonderful parable of the Sower, in which our Lord Jesus describes the various results following the preaching of His Word (Lu. 8. 4-15), we note that some good seed “ fell among thorns ; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it “ (v. 7). What Do These Thorns Represent ? The Lord graciously interprets their meaning to us (see v. 14). We suggest that they arrest spiritual growth in this way–
Pleasures–the temptation of youth.
Riches–the menace of middle life.
Cares–the bane of advancing years.
With such words before us, so evidently written for our admonition, we should beware lest leisure, pleasure, or treasure turn us from the path of simple-hearted devotion to Christ, and His interests down here. But we imagine we hear some young believer ask the question, “ How can 1 avoid becoming a Demas, double-heart ?” Well, let us take an Old Testament picture out of its frame, and give it a New Testament setting. In 1 Chron. 12. 33 we read of a company of men who “ were not of double heart.” Indeed, it is written of these children of Zebulun, with others, that they “ were of one heart" (v. 38). With whole-hearted enthusiasm they set out to make David king. Even though David be an exile, and a usurper is on the throne, they recognized that to David belonged the place of kingly glory and rule. To give him his rightful place was the all-consuming desire of these great-hearted followers of a rejected king.
The parallel in our day is very plain. “ Our Lord is now rejected, and by the world disowned."It is high treason to have any complicity with such a world. The believer, either young or old, should have One Holy Ambition, i.e., to give the Lord Jesus the place of supreme control in his life and ways. Cold negations, creeds, or rules will not do. What our God requires of us is whole-hearted loyalty and allegiance to our absent, yet soon-returning Lord.
And from your heart, dear young believer, 1 think 1 hear you say, “By the grace given, He shall have it.” May it be so with both reader and writer alike. Thus shall we be saved from the dangers of world-bordering, and enabled to run our course with joy, acceptance, and use-fulness.
In conclusion, the words of a devoted missionary who lived and laboured for Christ amidst the darkness of Africa, come with power and inspiration to one’s mind–
“At the close of my day how glad I shall be– That the lamp of my life has been burnt out for Thee.”
How much better to live in such fashion, rather than that it should be written of any of us, “ - – hath forsaken ME, having loved this present world.”
(To be followed by (3) Caleb, The Whole-hearted)