2 Timothy 4:9-10 “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…”
The lights dim, a light fog envelops the stage, the wildly colored LED’s kick and begin to dart around in the fog like a fly trying to escape its captor’s bottle. Just then, you hear the thump of the kick drum, the crescendo and rumble of the bass, the tickling of the ivory’s, the screech of the electric guitar! A voice pierces the atmosphere, it’s not quite rock but not quite emo, and all parts awesome. After 10 minutes of musical madness, a man steps on the stage, the man, where he begins
his expository preaching and proclamation of the Gospel to explain why the Holy Book in the laps at the homes of the audience is a road map to our “best life now” or how David represents us and Goliath our problems such that we can overcome any obstacle in our way!
“If you alter or obscure the Biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you don’t get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. This is not evangelism but deception.” – John Piper
This is the state of the American Protestant church. We have begun to shift our thinking to the idea that church is no longer for edifying the saints, rather, it has become the primary arm of evangelism. Therefore, under the guise of “attracting the lost”, we’ve rapidly begun conforming our worship and messages each week to the world and the world’s standards/sensitivities. The troublesome effect of this theology is that we are creating culture-loving Christians by the church-full and preaching the full Gospel, including imputed sin and our own unworthiness, has quickly been tossed out in favor of a flowery, non-convicting half-Gospel; which is not the Biblical Gospel at all. It then follows that if one is not hearing the Biblical Gospel, any proclamation of salvation is inherently apostate, the purported conversion is false, and the soul remains lost. John Piper was spot on when he said, “If you alter or obscure the Biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you don’t get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. This is not evangelism but deception.”
I plan to dig deeply into the state of the modern church and its preaching/worship styles but that will come in a later article. In this article, as the title states, I’d like to engage “culture-embracing” Christians and issue a warning using the life of a little-known Biblical Character named Demas (Dēʹ mȧs). You may be wondering, though fairly obvious, what a culture-embracing Christian is. While we all adapt to the culture surrounding us, we do not necessarily embrace the accepted practices and customs based on our belief as Christians. Unfortunately, as the Millenials (of which I am a part) begin to take over the American church from the baby boomers and Gen-X’ers, we’re seeing a rapid infusion of cultural customs infiltrating our worship and our pulpits. In an effort to make church “cool”, we’ve sacrificed reverence and fear of The Lord in favor of a love-only, feel-good message that distances itself as far as possible from the previously perceived stodgy church norms. Thus the culture-embracing Christian is that believer whom tries earnestly to combine the church with their favorite parts of culture whether it be music, social issues, idolatry, or attitude. Before moving on to Demas, I feel I must make it clear that I am in no way condemning modern instruments or lobbying for hymns from the 1800’s. However, our modern worship music must be Christ-centered and Christ-glorifying because, after all, we are worshiping Him.
Demas is only mentioned in scripture three times, twice of which indicate he is a “fellow worker” in the Gospel (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24) and one final time in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he indicates Demas “… in love with this present world…” deserted him and headed to Thessalonica. The first mention of Demas was roughly five years before Paul’s letter to Timothy and thus would indicate that, at that time, Demas also chose, like Moses, “…to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin”. (Hebrews 11:25) There follows, again, the pathetic notice of his desertion in the second imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:10; Parry neatly renders ‘left me in the lurch’). Paul’s words, ‘in love with (agapēsas) this present world’, suggest that personal interest, not cowardice, took Demas to Thessalonica: perhaps he was a Thessalonian 1.
The key here is that Paul wants young Timothy to be prepared to face disappointment and sadness during his ministry. Further, he doesn’t want young Timothy to fall into the very same trap that Demas did! Once again, John Piper astutely observed, “There is a love for this world that makes ministry impossible. Either it abandons ministry, or it makes ministry worldly enough to be at home there. Under Paul’s leadership Demas couldn’t make the ministry worldly, so he left.”
This is where the culture-embracing Christians, both young and old, need to seriously and honestly evaluate themselves. There is a love for this world that simply cannot coexist with a deep, soul-bearing love for Christ. In today’s world, God is demeaned, denied, distorted, and ultimately ignored. How could anyone who identifies themselves as a God-fearing Christian who loves Jesus Christ with every fiber of his being even give off the vibe that they possibly condone the wicked, God-hating ways of the world? If a person loves the world, ministry is impossible. There is no way such a person could accurately and objectively expose the evils of this fallen world to those whom they are witnessing and therefore there witness is ineffective and souls remain lost.
I say to you, as Paul wrote to young Timothy, love for the world is the number one cause for people leaving Christ, the ministry, and the promise of Heaven. Paul mentioned that Demas left to go to Thessalonica. For what? Why would Demas abandon his work for Christ to head to Thessalonica? Was there a woman there? Was it his hometown? Did he just need to get away from Paul who was “souled out” and in it to win it? Or maybe he just took off because he was not prepared to die for Christ. Whatever the reason, it was made clear that Demas bailed on Paul and he bailed on Jesus Christ his Savior because he loved the world. Some friends, family, and fellow ministry workers will leave you and some may never come back. Loving the pleasures of this world is very, very dangerous and will suck Jesus right out of your Worship Centers and your pulpits if care is not taken to prevent that from occuring. As James said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”. (James 4:4)
The warning then, brothers and sisters, is very clear, “Be soberminded; be watchful. Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9a). The enemy is very real and he is very clever. Even the strongest and even the leaders among us, like Demas, are vulnerable to his deceptions. We are not told what came of Demas, but I sincerely pray that he repented of his sin and turned to Christ, even if it meant persecution, before his death 2.
Dear brothers and sisters, be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2).
Don’t be a Demas.
Your brother in Christ,