Malachi 3:16-18 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (17) “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” (18) So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
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 saves 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 away 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 by moving towards half-hearted living, lack of sacrifice, and a life of ease. It will pursue convenient commitment (commitment subject personal convenience). When nominalism is dressed in religious clothing and given place in individuals and among the church it not only drains Spiritual life, but it distorts the testimony of God.
A dangerous thing about nominalism is it is never satisfied. When it is given a small place in our life or among a group of people it always wants more. It works like gravity as it is always pulls things downward. It is usually comfortable hanging out with others who are on a downward trajectory or it seeks to pull those in authentic faith 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 and stay away.
Demas and Mark similar journeys different results
Demas went from a co worker on the front line with Paul to wasting his life on the “love of the world.” He was only mentioned three times in the New Testament. In two of them 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 mention 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.” Who knows, he may have even gone back and gotten involved with the church in Thessalonica becoming a nominal Sunday morning attender. He could have made a bunch of money and gave a respectable tithe while giving his best efforts in pursuit of wealth. One tradition gives even a more disappointing account. A copyist in an ancient manuscript preserved in the Medici Library in Florence adds in the margin the information that Demas became a priest of a pagan temple at Thessalonica. How sad!
Unfortunately I have seen Demas’ over my 36 years of serving God. They move from the frontlines of serving Jesus and go AWOL. Nominal Christianity becomes their identity. Usually a “love for this present world” becomes the dominant force in their life. Some were leaders like Demas. I have seen them go from front line service to nominal semi-Sunday morning attenders. The only thing that seems to stir them now is recreation and money.
John Mark had a similar experience but didn’t stay that way. He was on the front lines as a fellow worker with Paul and Barnabbas but became frightened at one point and abandoned them. He turned around and wanted to go back with them but Paul was skeptical (Acts 15:36-47).
Thankfully Mark continued in his pursuit of God. This restored Paul’s confidence and he specifically requested that Timothy bring him to Paul right after speaking of Demas. 2 Timothy 4:10-11 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica… (11) Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. Mark not only returned and became useful, he ended up writing a gospel. That is restoration!
Was Paul too hard on Mark? Shouldn’t he have given him a little more grace like Barnabbas did? Paul was not just concerned with Mark’s backslide but the effect it would have on the front line co workers.
There is a negative effect those that go AWOL. This is why the military is so hard on them. It usually results in a court marshal and at times it was justified to shoot them on the spot. Paul probably was adopting the posture David did in regard to those going AWOL. David would not tolerate them because of their negative effect. He only wanted the faithful close to him so their fire for God would help keep his burning.
Psa 101:1 …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.
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