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"The Biography of a Backslider"

James Merritt

II Timothy 4:9-10






1. Biblical scholars tell us that these words were written from the Mamertine prison in Rome. You can still see it today. It is a sunken dungeon oozing with slime, dark, cold and damp. Paul is writing by the fading light of a setting sun wistfully looking out his cell toward the Mediterranean Sea. And in his mind he remembers a man named Demas.


2. He had never had a more promising associate. He was young, aggressive, and enthusiastic. He was on fire for God, burning with a radiant love for Jesus, perhaps in Paul’s mind he was being groomed to take over the apostle Paul evangelistic association after Jesus called him home.


3. But something had gone awry. The tentacles of the world had slowly, imperceptibly, but firmly wrapped themselves around the heart of this young man. The fire had turned to ashes. Dreams had turned to disappointment. The only thing left to say about Demas was "What might have been". Demas had joined the ranks of the backsliders.


4. There are three chapters in the biography of any backslider. There were three stages that Demas went through to become a backslider, to fall away from God. If you were a backslider, or you know a backslider, or if you become a backslider (and some of you will unless you be on your guard) you have gone or will go through these three stages.




I. The Stage of Devotion


1. This sentence speaks not only of a present failure, but it hints at a past faithfulness. He once was with Paul but he had deserted Paul. Turn to Philemon 24 and let us go back about six or seven years to a different time in the life of this young man.


2. Paul describes Demas as one of his "fellow laborers". The word there literally means to work with or to work beside. There was a time when Paul and Demas were laborers together with God.


3. There was a time when Demas was sold out to God. If you study the book of acts you find out that Paul did not choose just anybody to serve along side him. His standards were strict. This recruitment was rigorous. If you join Paul’s ranks you joined up with the spiritual marines. Only the healthiest, heartiest, holiest soldiers of the cross could be in his bible battalion. And we are told here that they were together. They were fellow laborers.


A. Together In Duty


1. They preached together. Paul's primary job was preaching and so Demas joined him in that labor, Paul would preach in the synagogue and Demas would preach on the street corner. Demas would pass out tracts, knock on doors, organize meetings and promote crusades. He was probably Paul’s front man in city after city.


2. They planted together. Remember Paul was primarily a missionary, an itinerant preacher. He was in the business of going about establishing churches in foreign lands where there was no preaching stations. So Paul would plant, and Demas would water. Paul would hold the nail and Demas would swing the hammer. Together they planted churches across the world. Over hill and dale they traveled together, founding churches and building fellowships to the glory of God.


3. They prayed together. Nothing draws men together like praying together and witnessing together. These men were two spiritual peas in a supernatural pod. They were together in duty.


B. Together In Doctrine


1. They believed the same things. You can rest assured that Demas was logically sound, that he believed all of the fundamentals of the faith. There was not an ounce of liberalism in his body.


2. He believed the bible was the word of God. Jesus was the son of God. The church was the body of God. Had he not believed the bible and all that was in it, you can rest assured he would never have served with Paul.


3. He was what we would call today a fundamentalist, he would preach hell-hot, heaven- sweet, sin-black judgment-sure, and Jesus saves. He believed in the literal resurrection and the literal return of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were together in doctrine.


C. Together In Danger


1. They both felt the cold steel of prison doors clanging shut behind them. They were both singed by the fires of persecution. They both felt the gnawing pains of poverty.


2. Many times they stared into the jaws of death. On numerous occasions they together prayed for God to spare their lives from mobs, and their possessions from robbers and thieves. They were together hand to hand, head to head and heart to heart.


3. What a lesson we need to learn today. Even though Demas at one time was standing on the top of the mountain of spiritual zeal, he fell into the valley of worldliness. You may be standing on a spiritual mountain top but you can backslide to the bottom of the valley. I wonder how many times Paul had said to Demas, "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall". But I want you to see that there was a stage of devotion in this man's life.





II. The Stage of Decision


1. Now let us move to a different day in the life of Demas. As a matter of fact, it wasn't very many weeks or months after Paul had written these words in Philemon. Look in Colossians 4:14. He describes Luke as his beloved physician, but no longer is Demas his fellow laborer, he is just Demas. Perhaps Paul had sensed a change in him. He could see that his zeal had begun to wane. His enthusiasm for the things for the things of God had begun to wax cold. Now don't think this change happened over night. It was not that one day as Demas was witnessing and praying and working and serving and walking with God, and in over night something snapped and he decided, I’ve had enough, I’m going the ways of this world. Backsliding does not occur overnight.


2. It happened one step at a time. Proverbs 14:14, "The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways". Backsliding always begins in a man's heart. The music of the world, its wine, wealth, women and ways, was sounding sweeter to Demas every day. He knew about the rewards of heaven, but he also was looking at the wine, women and song of this world. And he had begun to think, maybe I had better "Take the cash and let the credit go".


3. I'm reminded of a story I read about a young man who was proposing to his girlfriend. He said, "Now honey, I love you.  I'm not wealthy like Jerome green, I don't have a yacht and a convertible, and precious jewels and fine clothes like Jerome, but I love you". The girl thought for a moment and she replied, "I love you too, but tell me more about Jerome". Demas was beginning to say I want to know more about this world. I want to drink more of its wine. I want to see more of its women. I want to learn more of its ways.


4. You see, Demas knew he could not serve two masters, but he knew he would serve one and one had to go. The Greeks had a game. When a man would get on the back of two horses and ride them as far as he could, but eventually the two horses would split off into different directions and then the man had to make a decision. Demas was in the stage of decision.


5. Where once he would only look once at the world, now he would look twice. The pull of the world was getting harder and harder to resist. Whenever you begin to look twice at this world you have started down the road of backsliding.


6. 1 read about one of these new streamline trains that was rushing over the rails at an unbelievable rate of speed. A passenger asked the conductor, "Does this train stop at the next town"? The conductor said, "No sir, it doesn't even hesitate". Friend, when it comes to this old world, he who hesitates is lost.


7. You see, at first for Demas it was all of Jesus and none of the world, but then Demas thought all Jesus and no world makes Demas a dull boy. So it then became mostly Jesus, and partly world. But then it became partly Jesus and mostly world. Then it became none of Jesus and all of world and when the world moved into Demas' heart, God moved out.


8. But I want you to see that it all came down to a decision. What a man is today he is because of decisions he made yesterday and what a man will be tomorrow is determined by the decision he makes today. Do you know what the primary function of a parent is? It is to teach your children how to make wise decisions, Solomon said to his son in Proverbs 5:1-2, "My son, pay attention to my wisdom lend your ear to my understanding that you may preserve discretion and that your lips may keep knowledge"'


9. The great men of the bible were men who made great decisions. They were men who came to the same crossroad that Demas did. One sign said, God, and one sign said, world, and they said we're going to follow God and not the world. Joshua stood before five million of his countrymen and said, "Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". Pharaoh said to Moses, "Stay in Egypt and the land are yours". Moses said, "I would rather have God than gold". Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told, "Bow or burn". They said, "We may break and we may burn, but we won't bow". They said to Daniel, "If you pray, you're dead". Daniel said, "I would rather die, then deny".


10. Demas' future destiny was determined by a faulty decision. Instead of saying, "I have decided to follow Jesus no turning back". He began to sing, "I had decided to follow Jesus but I’ve turned back". But I want you to see that it was the stage of decision that brought him to the third stage in his life.





III. The Stage of Desertion


1. Demas had not lost his salvation, he had lost his satisfaction, and he was saved.  Now not all so called "backsliders" are saved. Some people we call backsliders didn't have anything to slide back from.


2. But Demas was a true backslider. That is, he was a disobedient, ineffective Christian. But he was a Christian. He had not lost his salvation, but he had lost the joy of his salvation. The fire had gone out and his zeal had turned to ashes. Now notice what took place in this stage of his life.


A. He Loved the World


1. Now it is important to understand what Paul meant by the word, world. The word, world does not refer to the world of nature. We ought to love that world. God created this world and said it was good. We are to enjoy this natural beautiful world God made. There is a theology of ecology and we are to enjoy what God has created.


2. It does not refer to the world of men. We are to love all men. "For God so loved the world" and that refers to the world of men.


3. But the word, world, here refers to the world system, the way the world thinks and the way the world is, it is better translated age. John tells us very specifically what it means to love this world.  In I John 2:15, "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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the father, but is of the world".


4. In case you're still wondering what the world is, John Wesley said, "The world is anything that cools my love for Jesus".


5. You know, we think of backsliders as a Christian who's living in adultery or going to the bars, or playing cards and gambling, or something like this; some terrible sin. Friend, backsliding is much deeper than that. Did you know it is possible to go to church, sing in the choir, teach Sunday school and pay your tithes to God, and still be a backslidden Christian?


6. Just for an example, take this matter of soul-winning. Andrew Murray said, "There are only two classes of Christians: soul-winners and backsliders". Well, what was he saying. He was saying that backsliding is not only doing something you ought not to do; it is the failure to do what you ought to do. Anything that cools your love for Jesus; anything that keeps you from prayer and soul-winning and the word of God, whether it's the opera. Baseball or television is worldly, and it is loving the world. Backsliders do not always go to the same location, but they always go in the same direction - away from God.


B. He Left the Work


1. The word, forsaken, is made up of three Greek words, that put together literally mean "to leave down in." It is the picture of leaving a man down in a pit with no way out. We would put it this way today - to let a man down. Or, it means to leave in the lurch. Demas had let Paul down. He had left him in the lurch.


3. Oh, it is one thing to desert man's army. It's another thing to desert God's army. Would to God that we soldiers of the cross would adopt the motto of the foreign legion. "If I falter, push me on; if I stumble, pick me up; if I retreat, shoot me".


4. When one Christian backslides the whole church suffers. A backslider is never a backslider unto himself. Friend, we are all members of one body. When one finger on my hand quits working it affects the whole hand. When one Christian in our church backslides, it affects the whole fellowship. That means that some work will not get done. Some witnessing will not be done. Some worshiping will not be done.


5. But that is not the greatest tragedy of all. Because he loved the world, because he left the work, one other tragic result occurred.


C. He Lost His Witness


1. He went to Thessalonica never to be heard from again. The greatest tragedy of the backslider is, he loses his witness. He loses his influence. The salt loses its savor.


2. Someone has well said, "The greatest argument for Christianity is a spirit-filled Christian, but the greatest argument against Christianity is a backslidden Christian."


3. I want you to think of what he did when he chose to love the world and forsake his Lord. He shamed his Christ. Do you know what a backslidden Christian really is saying? He is saying, it doesn't pay to serve Jesus. Jesus is not worth serving. Jesus is not worth following. He is not worth my all. Do you know what a shame, a reproach, a rebuke it is to our dear Lord to live in a backslidden condition. He shunned his companion. He left Paul. He left the church. He left God holding the bag. He shirked his calling. He resigned his divine commission. He deserted God's army.  He committed treason against his king. Then he shattered his crown.  He did not lose his salvation, but he lost his reward. We are warned in II John 8, "'Look to yourselves that we do not lose those things we work for, but that we may receive a full reward". When you forsake your calling, you forfeit your crown.




1. I want to end this message, however, on the note God would want it to be ended on. If you are a backslidden Christian you, can come home, the prodigal son did. And if you will notice in v-11 you will see that mark did. Paul had kicked him off the team, but mark had repented and he had been reinstated.


2. 1 want to say to all of you, whether you are lost and need to be saved, or you are backslidden, and need to be restored, God is willing to start over with you, if you are willing to start over with him. 


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