As we head into the New Year a phrase has been rolling through my mind, “I want to turn Demas into Onesimus.”
One of the things sincere Christians must be vigilant about his not giving place to nominalism. Not only is it bad for our personal life, but it also distorts the purpose for which God savee us. He has clearly called His people to be salt and light as they demonstrate and declare the message of the gospel. Nominalism will seek to pull us out of that purpose.
Spiritual nominalism is always lurking at our door. It is that polluted part of our flesh that longs for the easy way. half-hearted living, lack of sacrifice, and a life of spiritual ease. When nominalism is dressed in religious clothing and given place in individuals and among the church it not only drains Spiritual life away, but it distorts the testimony of God.
A dangerous thing about nominalism is it is never satisfied. When it is given place in individual lives or among a group of people it always keeps lowering the standards and life. It works like gravity in that respect as it is always pulling things downward. It is comfortable hanging out with others who are on a downward trajectory or seeks to pull others down. It works much like a deteriorating neighborhood. It begins with little things and if not addressed they multiply and become bigger things. Pretty soon the whole neighborhood deteriorates and people hardly notice anymore. A good neighborhood becomes a ghetto and people coming in from the outside notice it immediately.
Demas and Onesimus
Demas was only mentioned three times in the New Testament. Two of the times he is on the front line with Paul and others building the church and expanding in mission (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:23-24). The last time he is mentioned it’s a much different story 2 Timothy 4:10-11 for Demas, having love this present world, has deserted me and going to Thessalonica.
What a disappointing account of someone who was being used by God. Paul did not mince words. He showed clearly the motivation of Demas moving from the front line towards a nominal posture. Demas “loved this present world and deserted.” It caused him to seek the easier path of nominalism. Who knows, he may have even gone back and gotten involved with the church at Thessalonica becoming a nominal Sunday morning attender.
Unfortunately I have seen people like Demas over my 34 years of serving God. They move from the frontlines of serving Jesus to a posture of abandonment to nominalism. Usually a “love for this present world” becomes the dominant force in their life. I have even seen people who like Demas were in leadership and on the front lines of serving Jesus but became nominal Sunday morning attenders. They lost spiritual vitality and their quest for enjoyment from this word never seems satisfied. This is sad not only for their life and family, but also for the people who knew them when they were on the front lines.
Onesimus the other hand had a much different testimony written about him. He was an individual who is running away from his master. He was useless to his master. Paul encountered him and he became a follower of Jesus. Paul then appeal to his master Philemon and you see a very different testimony than Demas. Phil 1:10-11 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have forgotten and my imprisonment, Who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.
Two men, one who became useless, and the other who became useful as a he follower of Jesus. As we head into the New Year one of the first things we need to ask Jesus is to burn out any nominalism inside of us. We need to take the posture of David when it came to the temptation of nominalism. Wesee three things in his approach.
- He made up his mind that he was going to walk in the presence of God and resist any hint of nominalism in him.
- He made up his mind that he was going to walk with spiritual heroes, those who lived authentic lives as followers of Jesus.
- He was going to avoid the influence the nominal backsliders of His day. He was determined to not let their influence get hold of him.
Psa 101:1-8…To You, O LORD, I will sing praises. 2 I will give heed to the blameless way…I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. 3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. 4 A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. 5 Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. 6 My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me ( TLB I will make the godly of the land my heroes and invite them to my home. Only those who are truly good shall be my servants.). 7 He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. 8 Every morning I will destroy (silence) all the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the LORD all those who do iniquity.
If we take this posture everyday we will see the flames of the Holy Spirit burning brightly in our lives.
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