I'm guessing that one of the most disappointing sentences for Paul to write was 2 Timothy 4:10. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes this: "Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." Demas had been a fellow worker of Paul's (Col. 4:2; Philemon 24), but the final word spoken of him in Scripture is "Deserter." John's counsel could have been very timely to Demas: "Do not love the world or the things in the world . . . For all that is in the world . . . is not from the Father . . . and is passing away" (1 John 2:15-17). I have often wondered what it was about the world that was so alluring to Demas. What caught his eye? What appeared more beautiful than the Gospel? What was more attractive than a sinless savior taking on the sins of His people? Regardless, whatever it was he took none of it with him when he died. John Owen aptly exhorted: Do not have living affections for dying objects. Like the Rich Young Ruler, Demas and those like him gain "stuff" but also sorrow. Jesus tried to warn us "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul?"
When any of us follow the world it's bad, but when one who is serving in ministry chooses the way of the world, then it's really bad. It's devastating for the minister, for his family, for the congregation, for those who hear of the matter, and for the Kingdom. Sure, redeeming factors will come (Rom. 8:28), but the consequences can be brutal. I'm burdened this week because of 3 ministers who have made poor choices and have caused a riptide of painful consequences in their wake. My immediate thought is "but for the grace of God there go I." But on a deeper level, I'm burdened. How did they get to the places they were in their walks with Christ? How did hope become replaced with hopelessness? Did they not feel they could tell anyone about what was really going on? How did sin become more alluring than obedience? (I know this answer. I battle it every day in various forms). Fundamentally what has happened with them is true of all us. At some point, eyes were taken off of Christ and placed squarely on sin. When we aim at sin there is a strong chance we will hit it, but when we set our eyes on Christ then we will not aim at sin. When we are satisfied in Christ, nothing the world offers is as alluring as it seemed before. As Paul says, when I saw Christ, then I realized all the rest of the stuff was dung.
Ministers are not immune from the need for accountability, transparency, and to be reminded repeatedly of the Gospel themselves. Please pray for your pastor and his family. Pray for his eyes to be completely set on Christ. Pray that in the Gospel he finds freedom, peace, hope, contentment, strength and relief from the feeling of having to be perfect. Pray for these brothers who have made poor choices, their families, their congregations, their healing. Pray for the grace that they faithfully have proclaimed to wash afresh in their own journey and in mine.
Pray for all of us to walk like Paul and forsake the world rather than walk like Demas and embrace it. Gal. 5:16, 24 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . . And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Gal. 6:14 "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."