“For Demas, having loved this present age, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica;
Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” — 2 Timothy 4:10
I believe that out of the 31,102 verses in Scripture, there is none more sobering and terrifying than 2 Timothy 4:10. This quick, often overlooked comment is found in between names and greetings at the end of the last chapter of the last book written by the apostle Paul. But it should cause us to stop and ponder. There we find a reality more dreadful than hell itself. The mere thought of it should cause every genuine believer to tremble in fear and consider anew the state of their soul before the living God.
2 Timothy 4:10 teaches us that we can spend our entire life fooling everyone, including ourselves, but it also teaches us that God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7).
The text is short and simple: “For Demas, having loved this present age, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica...” The passage moves on quickly—we should not.
Demas was one of Paul’s fellow laborers in the faith. We don’t know how long the two worked together, but we know that he was dear enough for Paul to remember him while in prison. At the end of the book of Colossians, Paul couples Demas with people like Luke, the beloved physician (4:14); in his only letter to Philemon, among all the people he could have included, he mentions Mark, Luke and…Demas (1:23). Demas was Paul’s companion and fellow worker. He travelled, fasted, preached, and risked his life alongside Paul for the advancement of the Gospel. He was not ashamed!
But…what happened? Paul says that he “loved this present age.” Demas grew fond affections for this world. He forgot that the days are evil and stopped searching his heart. He stopped redeeming the time, stopped considering the end, and stopped beholding the beauty of Christ. As the pilgrimage brought him to the Hill Lucre, he became captivated by the silver mine and decided to dig in it for treasure of little pain, and in so doing, he forsook the real treasure—his soul.1
All Scripture is Profitable
Epistolary conclusions like this passage don’t usually play a big role in our devotionals. Maybe we find them a bit more enticing than genealogies, but only because they’re not as long and unfamiliar.
We see the names and greetings at the end of the epistles and ask, “Why would I need to pay attention to that?” We often think, if only subconsciously, “I know it’s the Word of God, but I’m sure that Paul has already concluded the thrust of his argument. Surely there’s nothing else for me here.”
However, let’s think about it for a minute. I said it in passing, but do we really believe that the Bible is the very Word of God? If we skip past epistolary conclusions and genealogies, are we confident that God wrote every single word contained in Scripture?
Well, true Christians do not just believe this truth, they are willing to die for it. Why? Because it is more precious than anything this world has to offer.
In His Word, God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). In it we find the very mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Its every word will stand forever, and all of it—even its smallest letters and strokes—was literally breathed-out by God.
The Bible is the product of the infinitely wise mind of the eternal God, and therefore every single word of it is profitable for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Every single word, including the greetings at the end of the book that no one cares about.
The problem is that we are propelled by our hearts to do everything for ourselves. It’s all about me—what serves me and how I can use it for my own benefit and glory. This is dangerous in every area of life, but especially when we come before God. Our task-oriented, pragmatic disposition results in lacking a true desire to be with God.
We kid ourselves in thinking that we have done our dues by checking off the box, spending ten minutes reading a few verses in the Old Testament and a couple of paragraphs in the New Testament.
We call that a “devotional.” Is it really devotion though? Have you ever met a devoted person that only spends a few minutes doing whatever he is supposed to be devoted to?
The truth is that, like Demas, the pleasures of this age are slowly driving us away from that which is supremely glorious and everlasting—the truth. We may read the Bible, but we are not always keenly considering what the Lord intended to communicate. We may do our “devotions,” but we do not seek to bask in the beauty of the Savior and strive to behold His glory. Such mediocrity has led us to believe that the Holy Spirit breathed out useless words, and we quickly forget that our souls desperately need all of them, including the names at the ends of the books.
Dear Christian, as you read 2 Timothy 4:10, your heart should scream: “How?! Why?! How can you forsake the celestial city for this rotten world?! How can you turn your back on such a sweet and fair Savior?! But above all, how can I make sure I won’t end up there too? How can I make sure I won’t love this present age to the expense of my very soul?”
The answers to all these questions are found in the book of James. James presents a series of tests to assess the authenticity of our faith. In chapter 4, he delves into Demas’s own issue of “friendship with the world.” The term for friendship in James 4:4 is “philia,” love. James declares that to have affections for this world is “spiritual adultery.” Prioritizing the ease and pleasures of this earthly life over the eternal one leads to everlasting damnation.
We hear of grandiose catastrophes, such as missionaries who, despite many years of preparation, choose adultery at the expense of their family and ministry. We hear of husbands who succumb to the allure of money, forsaking everything else. And we hear of individuals like Demas, who opt for the pleasures of this age even after walking alongside Paul! And we think, ”That would never be me!”
But James reminds us that we should not be so hasty in our judgments. He tells us that these great catastrophes began with an innocent affection. That’s why John Owen famously said: “Be killing sin or it will kill you.”2
James, Paul, and Demas are telling us that spiritual adultery begins with the seemingly small choices in our lives: the movies we watch, the freedom we embrace, and the laziness we allow.
But what is the solution to all of this? How can I make sure that I won’t follow Demas? James chapter 4 presents two non-negotiable practices that will bring you to the tomb still loving Christ. No believer that has seriously pursued these two has ever fallen in love with this present age.
The principles are simple: be devoted to godliness (4:6–10), and be devoted to the church (4:11–12).
Be Devoted to Godliness
John Calvin said: “The soul of man is insatiable when he indulges wicked lusts; for he who suffers his sinful propensities to rule uncontrolled, will know no end to it. Were even the world given to him, he would wish other worlds to be created for him.”3
Like Calvin, James chapter 4 tells us something simple: make sure you are aware of the wickedness of your heart and fight against its insatiable desires. How? Depending on the power of the grace of God, pursue personal integrity (vv. 6–7); personal worship (v.8); and personal repentance (vv. 9–10).
In other words: Do not puff yourself up—stay humble. See yourself as God sees you. Do not congratulate yourself because you know such and such pastor, such and such president, or such and such director. Do not think much of yourself because you have a nice house, a great car, or a big office. Do not boast about the position you happen to have or the size of your bank account. Remember this: “God is opposed to the proud” (v. 6). Be very careful! Do not let your heart go unchecked—it will devour your soul. “Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and draw near to God” (vv. 6–7).
How can you make sure you won’t end up like Demas? The most fundamental practice you must pursue daily is the well-being of your soul. Do not be content with Bible reading. Dig deeper, study, seek the precious stones and then obey! Do not coddle yourself with the approval of men—seek God’s. And when you sin? Run to Him and repent. “Purify your hearts, mourn, weep, and be humble” (vv. 8–10).
The beholding of Christ and the killing of sin are to be your regular joy (2 Cor 3:16–18). You must seek Him and love Him.
As you do this you will hardly resist the second non-negotiable, your relationship with His bride, the Church.
Be Devoted to the Church
After finishing up a profound charge to watch over your soul, James presents another fundamental reality—the church.
“Do not speak against one another, brethren…” though chapter 4 focuses specifically on judgmentalism, it is significant that he moves straight from your soul’s repentance and delight to your relationship with the church, writing, “Do not judge one another.” What are you supposed to do then? Hundreds of pages would not be enough to fully answer the question, but perhaps the succinct words of Jesus will suffice.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 12:34).
Here Jesus is talking to believers. Judas had just left, and Jesus was alone with his dear disciples. We heard that we must love our neighbor as ourselves, and that is true! But friend, we must love our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us. We must be sacrificially devoted to them.
Dear Christian, these were the issues that led Demas astray: he stopped searching his heart and devoted himself to this present age instead of devoting himself to the church.
Perhaps that is you. Perhaps you’re allowing sin to suck the life out of your soul and it is slowly devouring you. I beg you, please, do not let it kill you! Perhaps you’re not meditating as much as you should or examining yourself as much as you should. Maybe you’re going to church, but you’re not really devoted to it. You’re chatting, you’re hanging out, but you’re not really exhorting, commending, and encouraging others to strive after Christ.
Friend, "Take care, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).