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Philemon 1:24



Intro:  Many years ago, a man by the name of Robert Robinson was riding in a stagecoach.  Another passenger in the coach was humming a verse of the hymn “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.”  She asked Robinson what he thought of the hymn she was humming. His answer was a strange one.  He said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.

      You see, the old man riding in that stagecoach had written that hymn years earlier.  At the age of 19, Robinson had been saved out of deep sin through the preaching of George Whitefield.  Later, he became a preacher in the Methodist church.  He wandered from the Methodists to the Baptists and eventually wound up in the Unitarian church.  The Unitarians deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  Robinson was a man who knew about wandering and about the terrible price it can bring. He died a miserable, wayward soul.

      He wrote the hymn the lady was humming when he was a young Pastor, still in love and in communion with the Lord Jesus. The third verse of that hymn goes like this:


Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be,

Let Thy good ness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love,

Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above.


      Today, I want to introduce you to a man named Demas.  He is a man mentioned only  three times in the whole New Testament, but the three short verses that mention his name reveal a man who also wandered faraway from the Lord he once loved and served.  It is interesting to note that the name Demas means “The governor of the people.”  We are going to meet a man who not only did not live up to his name, but he was a man who could not even govern himself.

      As we get to know Demas a little better today, I am sure that some here will also see themselves.  That is a good thing, because there are many who have wandered away from that place of closeness and intimacy with God.  By the Lord’s help, from the life of this man named Demas, I want to preach today one The Man Who Could Not Govern Himself.  I want to look at this man’s life and share three simple principles with you that will help keep you and me from ending up like Demas.  Why do we need this? We are all prone to wander away from God.  The principles gleaned from the life of Demas can prevent us from doing that!



Philemon 1:24

(Ill. In 1936, the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany.  Hitler thought that this would be the perfect showcase for his “Aryan Race.  However, Hitler was surprised by the likes of Jesse Owens, a black American athlete and others.  Among the true surprises of that Olympics was the defeat of the heavily favored German Women’s 400 meter relay team by the underdog Americans.  When the starting gun sounded, the Germans quickly went ahead of the Americans and held first place until the baton was passed to the last runner.  The Germans had a seven yard lead, but the anchor runner dropped the baton and the Germans were disqualified.  The German team had executed a perfect start and had run a good race, but, in the end, they learned the terrible truth that a perfect start does not promise a perfect ending.) 


·        When we first meet Demas, he is called a “fellowlabourer” by Paul. That phrase literally means, “A companion in the work.”  There, we find Demas mentioned along with Luke, Mark and Aristarchus.  All three of these men were well know in the early church!  Mark wrote a Gospel.  Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts.  Aristarchus served time in prison with Paul, Col. 4:10.  All there were traveling companions of the great Apostle.  From that it would appear that Demas was well known, well respected and well liked during this portion of his life and work.  But, as close as Demas was to Paul and as much as he grew in the Lord, apparently it did not last.  For in 2 Timothy we read these words, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,” 2 Tim. 4:10.

·        We have no record of how Demas came to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior.  We can only hope that he did.  It would appear that all those around him thought he was the real deal as well.  But, the time came when Demas fizzled out as a servant of the Lord.  He was going along well, but he burned out and fell out.  His life illustrates a principle that many would rather not have to life by: How you finish is just as important as how you begin.

·        How many times have we seen this truth at work in the church? A person will come to the altar, pray a prayer, stand up tell the church they got saved, and they take off like a shot from a cannon.  But, a few months later, or a couple of years later, they are nowhere to be found!  What happened?  They forgot that how you finish is just as important as how you begin!

·        Jesus talked about this kind of person in the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:13, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”  He is talking about that person who hears the Word gets all excited about it and starts out to go with the Lord, but when trials, temptations and troubles come, they fall away.  They are kind of like a bottle rocket.  A lot of sizzle, a lot of flash, a lot of noise, and then they are gone!  We might call them a flash in the pan.

·        Jesus even had this kind of person among His Own disciples.  I am sure all the disciples thought Judas Iscariot was a saved man.  They must have trusted him; after all, they let him carry the money for the group.  But, Jesus knew something about Judas that the rest of them did not know.  Here is what Jesus said about him, “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve,John 6:70-71.

·        What can we learn from this part of the life of Demas?  Here are a couple of things you can take home with you.

1.     Be absolutely sure you come to Jesus the right way in the beginning.  That is, be sure you are saved.  How?  Acts 16:31; John 6:37-40; Rom. 10:9, 13.  You can’t meet Jesus by joining the church or by being baptized.  You don’t come to know Him by doing good things or by becoming a better person.  You must be born again, John 3:3, 7.

2.     Understand that the Christian race is a marathon and not a sprint.  God did not save us for a life of ease, so that we could float off to heaven after a few days.  Friend, there will be some trials and troubles along the way.  All I am saying that that we need to settle in for the long haul and run this race with patient endurance, Heb. 12:1-2; Heb. 3:12.

3.     Take the time to encourage others in their own race.  There are some people around us today that are struggling.  How do I know?  Well, their church attendance isn’t what it should be.  If they don’t come to worship, then they probably do not pray or study their Bibles like they should.  They are probably having a difficult time making it.  Those who are running the race might need to take the time to be an encouragement to them, Gal. 6:1-2.  Others are young in the Lord.  They too need an encouraging word.  Listen to Hebrews 3:13 and do it!

4.     Remember that even if you did start out right, you can always fall along the way!  Don’t let pride, self-righteousness or blindness to your own faults cause you to stumble and fall, 1 Cor. 10:12; Pro. 16:18; Matt. 26:40-41. It could happen to you and it might have already happened in your life.



Colossians 4:14

(Ill. I remember reading about a man who fell to his death from the face of Stone Mountain in Georgia.  It seems that this man had climbed to the top of the mountain on one of the hiking trails.  When he got to the top, he wanted to peer over the edge, so he began to move slowly in that direction.  Since the top of the mountain was rounded, he was too far down the face of the steep mountain before he realized it.  When he tried to go back up, he found the face too steep to climb.  He clung to the side of the mountain unable to go either up or down until all of his strength ran out and he fell to his death.)


·        When we first met Demas, he was serving along side Paul and he was commended for his service.  When he is mentioned here, he is still with Paul, but something seems to be wrong now.  There are no glowing words of commendation.  The Bible simply says “…and Demas.  It seems that Demas was still reporting for duty, but that his heart is not in it like it used to be.  This change in his heart will soon show up in the rest of his life.  The day will soon come when Demas will walk away from the work of the Lord.

·        I am sure this was a slow process in the life of Demas.  I do not believe that he woke up one morning and said, “I think I’ll become a backslider today.  No, it was far more subtle.  Perhaps Demas allowed himself a little leeway here and then a little there and before he realized it, he was under the control of his passions and not under the control of the Spirit of God.  He learned the harsh lesson that “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,Galatians 5:9.

·        Maybe he fell into what John Bisango calls “Listen Bad Temptation.”  Dr. Bisango says our first problem is that we listen to the temptation of the flesh.  Then, the next three steps follow shortly thereafter.

1.     B – We believe the deception of the flesh.  In our spiritual world something has happened.  Deception and belief have joined together, and sin is conceived.

2.     A – We act out the sin.  Now, it moves beyond contemplation o implementation.

3.     D – We discover death, which is the consequence of our sin.  It’s the same for Demas or for you or me.  It is not physical death, but death of a more subtle kind.  Death to a tender conscience.  Death to sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  Death to usefulness in the kingdom of God.[1]

·        I would agree with Dr. Bisango.  Sin does not become full blown in an instant of time.  It is something that grows until it consumes our very lives.  This is the lesson of James 1:14-15. When you start down the pathway of playing around with sin and temptation, you will find that it is a slippery slope with a very hard stop at the bottom!

·        Therefore, we believers need to learn the lessons that are given to us throughout the pages of the Bible.  David fell into sin when he entertained temptation in his life, 2 Sam. 11.  Samson fell when he was asleep.  We need to keep our relationship with Jesus in good order!  Perhaps Demas became guilty of trying to do the work of the Lord in the power of the flesh.  Whatever happened in his life, he began a slow, steady turn away from the Lord.  Friend, don’t let that happen in your life!


(Ill. Acts 20:9 tells us about a young man by the name of Eutychus who fell asleep while listening to Paul preach.  The Bible says that he fell out of a third floor window and died.  Paul went down to him and by the power of God raised him back to life again.  But, I want to let you in on a little known theological truth.  Here it is: Do you know why Eutychus fell out of the window? You had better get out your pen and paper for this one.  You don’t want to miss this.  I went through 11 years of Bible College to learn this.  There was more of Eutychus hanging out of that window than there was of Eutychus hanging in!

      It was a gradual process, but it cost Eutychus his life.  Don’t let the same thing happen to you.  You see, backsliding begins very subtly.  You begin to miss a Wednesday evening, a Sunday night or a Sunday School class here and there, and before you know it, you are out of church.  You miss a day or two praying and studying your Bible and before you know it, your mind isn’t on the Lord, but on the things of the world.  You start to pay attention to that pretty young lady at work and before you know it, you are in trouble.  The devil never lays all of his cards on the table, but he comes slyly by enticing the heart and the mind, and before you realize it, you are in serious trouble!  Just ask David.  Just ask Samson.  Just ask some people in this room today!)



2 Timothy 4:10

(Ill. If I want to leave here and travel to California, I can go to Hickory and take I-40 West.  That road will take me all the way to California.  However, I cannot take I-40 and go to Florida.  I cannot take I-40 and get to New York.  The road I take always determines where I will end up! The same is true in the spiritual realm and that truth is illustrated by the life of Demas.)


·        The last reference to Demas in the New Testament tells us that he abandoned Paul and went back to the world.  Evidently, the temptations and pull of the world proved greater than his commitment to the Lord and he eventually fell away.  No doubt this started in the life of Demas in a very subtle manner.  Maybe he just allowed his heart to grow colder and colder until his love for the world eclipsed his love for God.  Whatever happened, Demas chose the wrong path somewhere along the way and ended up in a place that he never intended to be.

·        We need not kid ourselves, God created us to love, but we cannot truly love God if we are in love with the world, 1 John 2:15.  When we love Him as we ought to, there will be little room within our hearts for this world or what it has to offer.  But, when our love for Him wanes, then something else will fill its place.  When you and I choose a path through life that leads us gradually away from the Lord and steadily toward the world, we should not be surprised when we wake up one day and find ourselves miles away from the Lord.

·        Think about the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-24.  When he left the father’s house, he was just seeking a good time.  He just wanted to live it up for a few days.  But, before too many days had passed, he found himself in a place he could never have imagined.  He learned the lesson that “Sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay; and cost you more than you want to pay.

·        When you and I choose to walk in the “broad way” of sin and not in the “narrow way” of righteousness, we should not be surprised when our path leads us far away from the Lord, cools our heart and moves us deep into sin!


(Ill. Often, when an Eskimo needs to kill a wolf, he will take a knife and sharpen it until it is as sharp as it can possibly be.  Then, he will coat that knife with seal or walrus blood, allowing it to freeze.  Then he will dip it and freeze it again and again, until the blade is hidden under several layers of blood.  Then he takes the bloodied knife and freezes the handle into the middle of a block of ice.  He will then set the block of ice out into the open.

      Wolves have a tremendous sense of smell, so the wolf will come along, smell the blood and will begin to lick the blood off the blade of the knife.  The wolf will lick that blood with its warm tongue, until it reaches the sharpened blade of the knife.  By the time the wolf’s tongue touches the blade it is numbed by the cold.  When it finally reaches the knife, it keeps on licking, not realizing that he is now tasting his own blood from his own tongue as the knife cuts into its flesh.  The warm blood sends the wolf into a feeding frenzy and he licks until he eventually bleeds to death. Why?  Because of its uncontrolled desire to get to that blood at all costs. 

      When you and I feed the flesh what it wants, we will find that its appetite grows beyond our control.  It will demand more than we can give it!  Be careful what you allow into your life.  It might be your pleasure today, but it may become your master tomorrow!)


Conc:  Demas was a man who could not govern himself.  As a result, he found himself far away from the Lord in a backslidden condition.  Did Demas ever make things right with the Lord?  We do not know.  But, if he did, then he had to make a totally change.  He would have had to turn away from the world and renew his love relationship with God.

      Friend, where did this message find your heart today?  Are the cold tendrils of sin trying to wrap themselves around your heart?  If you can see yourself beginning to go down the slippery slope toward sin, it is not too late to turn back to the Lord.  He will receive you and forgive you.  Maybe you have realized that you are not even saved today.  If that is the case, He will forgive you and receive you into His family if you will come to Him.  Maybe you have someone in your life and you love them, but you can see them beginning to take the wrong path in life.  I challenge you to come before the Lord and lift their name up to God in prayer.

[1] Bisagno, John R.  Principle Preaching (Nashville: Broadman, 2002), 199.

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