Summary: This sermon identifies the symptoms of The Demas Syndrome, which is the disease of falling in love with the world.
THE DEMAS SYNDROME
by Steven L. Dow
John begins this passage with a clear command: “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” Why can’t we love the world? The Bible tells us in John 3:16 that God loved 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 created world, 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 it is used in the latter sense. In 5:19 John writes: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” This is the world that John commands us not to fall in love with.
You will notice that there is no middle ground with this issue. Either you love God or you love the world. You cannot love both. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:24 that it is impossible for us to serve two masters. James said much the same thing: “...friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (James 4:4).
John’s command is in the present tense imperative. 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 too attached to the things of this world. This is a problem that I call The Demas Syndrome. I have named this disease after Demas because he turned his back on Paul because he had fallen in love with the world. Paul had this to say about him: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10). How do you know if you have The Demas Syndrome? In verse sixteen John gives us the three symptoms of this spiritually deadly disease.
SYMPTOMS OF THE DEMAS SYNDROME:
Carnality or “the cravings of sinful man” is the first symptom of The Demas Syndrome. The RSV calls this “the lust of the flesh”. “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. I believe that 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 sin and Satan.
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 your spouse. If you are indulging these cravings then you are in danger of developing The Demas Syndrome.
The cravings of the flesh can be so strong that we feel like there is hope of overcoming them. The good news is that Jesus set an example for us 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 turn stones into bread in order to satisfy his hunger. Jesus responded, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). We must understand that our purpose in life is not to gratify our cravings but to do the will of our heavenly Father.
Covetousness or “the lust of his eyes” is the second symptom of The Demas Syndrome. This is the desire to have everything that you set your eyes on. Advertisers understand this concept all too well. They flash images on the TV screen of everything from cars to clothes to coke especially designed to make you covet what they are selling. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so you will do almost anything to get what the advertisers say is on the other side. James speaks of the extremes that people will go to in order to get the things that they desire when he writes: “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (James 4:4).