The Demas Syndrome

The Demas Syndrome

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John begins this passage with a clear command: Do not love the world or the things in the world. Why can’t we love the world? The Bible tells us in John 3:16 that God loves the world, so why can’t we?

In order to answer that question, one must understand that the word “world” is used with several different meanings in Scripture. The word “world” is used in the Bible to refer to the creation, lost people, and the world system under the evil influence of Satan. In John 3:16, “world” is used in the sense of lost people. However, in our text above, it is used as the world’s system under the evil influence of Satan.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

This is the world that John commands us not to fall in love with. Notice that there is no middle ground with this issue. Either you love God or you love the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

James said much the same thing: James 4:4 You adulterous people! 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.  

This indicates that “not loving the world” is to be a way of life for the believer in Christ. The problem is that sometimes Christians get attached to the things of this world and our love for God wanes. We can call this problem the Demas Syndrome.

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.  

Three people left Paul; however, Demas left because he was “in love with this present world”.  In the opening text, John gave us the three symptoms of this spiritually deadly syndrome.

1) Carnality or “desires of the flesh” is the first symptom of The Demas Syndrome. “Flesh” is another one of those words that can have multiple meanings. It can be used to refer to our physical body or the sinful nature that all of mankind is born with. We can see both of these meanings here. The most obvious meaning is the sinful nature. When we indulge our sinful natures, we, like the world, fall under the influence of Satan and begin to love the world instead of God.

The less obvious meaning is that “flesh” refers to our physical body or its needs and appetites. Our bodies have many needs or desires (food, sex, love, shelter) that in and of themselves are perfectly fine. However, these same needs can become sins when they are taken to extremes or perverted. For example, the need for food when taken to extremes becomes gluttony. Or again, the God-given desire for sex becomes adultery when it is perverted by being directed toward someone who is not our spouse, or it becomes homosexuality when it is perverted toward someone of the same sex. The world approves of these perversions and encourages them.

If you are indulging your flesh, then you are in danger of developing the Demas Syndrome. The desires of the flesh can be so strong that we feel like there is no hope of overcoming them. So, instead of fighting, we give in to fleshly desires.

The good news is that Jesus gave us hope and a way to fight when He was tempted in this same way. His temptation came after He had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days. At that point, Satan approached Him and tempted Him to prove His divinity and satisfy His hunger by turning stones into bread.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

When tempted by a desire of the flesh, we must keep in mind that our purpose in life is not to gratify our cravings but to do the will of our heavenly Father. It is a daily struggle to keep from giving into the Demas Syndrome. That is why we must die daily to our flesh, pray continually, and read the Bible to keep our minds on the will of our heavenly Father instead of our fleshly desires.

2) Covetousness or “desires of the eyes” is the second symptom of the Demas Syndrome. This is the desire to have everything that we set our eyes on. Advertisers understand this weakness all too well. They flash images on the TV screen especially designed to make us covet what they are selling.

They believe we will fall for the old proverb: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” They create a desire so we will do almost anything to get what the advertisers say is on the other side. James speaks of the extremes that people take to satisfy the “desires of the eyes”.

James 4:1-3 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

The problem is that when we get what’s on the other side, we are never satisfied. The object of our desires never lives up to its billing and we are left feeling empty and unsatisfied and so we covet all the more. The burger on the TV ad is never as big and juicy at the pick-up window. The truth is that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, what’s on the other side often isn’t as good as what we already have.

Have you seen cows in a nice green pasture with plenty of grass stretching their necks through a barbed wire fence in an effort to get a bite of short, brown grass on the other side? Too many people today are acting just like those cows.

Jesus also had to face the temptation to covet, and in doing so, He showed us how to overcome it. Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give them to Him if He would kneel before Satan and worship him.

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

The desires of the eyes leads to worshipping things. And to worship the things of the world is to worship the one to whom they belong. So, in essence, coveting leads to Satan worship. Therefore, do what Jesus did. Rebuke Satan and his temptation. Worship God by giving thanks for what you have.

 3) Cockiness or “pride of life” is the third symptom of the Demas Syndrome. This “pride of life” essentially consists of two things: (1) boasting about material possessions; and (2) boasting about accomplishments. If we are proud of either our position in life or our possessions in life, we may be in danger of developing the Demas Syndrome. Such pride causes us to put our faith in ourselves rather than in God. Therefore, the “pride of life” will ultimately cut us off from the grace of God because His grace is received through faith alone. The Bible clearly teaches that pride will lead to our downfall.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

It should come as no surprise to us that Jesus was also tempted in this manner. Satan dared Jesus to prove to the world He was the Son of God by leaping from the top of the temple, because the Father would not let Him be harmed.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

It is important to remember what is written and live by God’s Word, not the philosophy of the world. If we have been blessed with positions and possessions, we must be careful not to put our confidence in them because, as it is written, they will not last, “the world is passing away along with its desires.” One day, the earth and all the things of the world will be destroyed by fire.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

If you have lived your life only for the things of this world, what will you have left on that day? Nothing! That is why Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool, who gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

We will share in the destiny of whatever we give our lives to. If we give our lives to the world, we will burn in the lake of fire for all of eternity. If we give our lives to God through faith in Jesus Christ, we will enjoy paradise for all of eternity, as we read, “whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

However, we don’t have to wait for Heaven to enjoy God’s presence and blessings. If we separate ourselves from the world, God promises to abide with us now.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Being separate from the world is a clear command from God’s Word and a part of every Christian’s calling. But today, there seems to be very little distinction between the church and the world. This is tragic, because God has set His people apart for His kingdom purposes, to be instruments of change—for the very purpose of making a difference in the world. We are to be lights in the darkness.

Instead, a lot of churches today seek to appease the world. They are infected with the Demas Syndrome. They compromise Christ’s gospel rather than stand on the Gospel to impact the world. As a result, a lot of church-goers have allowed themselves to conform to the world’s values and character rather than to Jesus’ values and character. God does not abide in those churches and individuals.

When the lost souls of this world face serious life crises and are confused with no source of hope, Christ’s church is meant to embody the difference they’re looking for. Our lives are to be distinguished by hope, joy, peace, love, and humility. But a lot of church-goers today have erased those distinctions by succumbing to the Demas Syndrome. They are pursuing the things of this world. As a result, the lost and hurting of the world see “Christians’” lives as no different from their own.

When God speaks of separating from the world, He doesn’t mean removing ourselves from it. The separation He desires takes place in the heart. It is reflected in our desires, our choices, and our lifestyle. Some people think being separate means not drinking, smoking, or partying. Those are outward things, but God is addressing much more. He’s asking, “Do you draw peace and self-worth from what the world says about you or from how I see you? Do you obey me because you love me? Do you produce my character, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, or the fruit of the flesh?

Jesus tells us in Revelation that the separation between those in the world and those in God’s Kingdom will become more distinct as the end approaches. The wicked will grow more wicked and the holy will become more holy. Of course, our holiness is based on our position in Christ. But holiness is also a pursuit as well as a position—it’s a part of our relationship with Jesus. As we seek Him with all of our heart, we are also seeking His holiness. Consequently, the appeal of this world diminishes in us.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

God is holy and pure, and yet, He seeks to dwell in us, His creation. His presence in our lives is what creates the separation from the world. His presence, the Holy Spirit, is what makes us distinct—unlike the world and like Jesus. This is the grace and power given to us to be His witness to the world.

So, what condition is your faith in? Is this world becoming less appealing to you as you love Christ and keep His Word, or are you infected with the Demas Syndrome? Do you desire the things of this world, or do you desire the holiness and character of Jesus Christ? Which are you pursuing?

The world—Satan’s system—tempts us to pursue the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. What we are not told by the world, is these things result in death and eternity in Hell.

Jesus is the Way, Truth, and the Life. He promises love, peace, and joy. His Way leads to life, here and now, and eternal life in Heaven.

To follow Jesus, believe Him and acknowledge that He is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin by dying on the cross. Then give your life to Him by dying to yourself in baptism. Your sin will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will change your character, your desires, and make you separate from the world.