I just finished my first week of classes here at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It has been an extremely humbling and an extremely enjoyable experience for me. I am excited as I am able to pick the minds of men who have dedicated their lives to teaching God’s Word, and “entrusting” what they have learned to “faithful men” (2 Tim 2:2). It is a joy and a privilege for me to be here now, and I am thankful to God for it.
These last two weeks, though, I have been struck by two extremes as I attend seminary. I have had the chance to meet with old family friends, including one of my dad’s best friends, who married my mom and dad here in Dallas. I was able to sit down with him and his wife (Alan & Dianne) and look through old pictures of the ministry we did together in Hermosillo, Mexico, when I was probably 10 years old or so. It was a joy to see people I’d recognized who came down, and hear Dianne update me on where they were and how they were doing now.
But it was also very sobering. As we flipped through pictures, all too often Dianne would say, “He divorced his wife a few years ago,” or “he left the ministry,” or “he fell into great sin and has left the faith.” Sometimes it came as a great shock to me: people I knew well, who were doing missions work, preaching the gospel, working in churches — those same people had now deserted the faith, or could care less. In several of my classes here at DTS I also heard stories of the same sort: women who had several affairs while their husband was in seminary, men who graduated from DTS and are now openly bisexual and atheistic, fathers who have left their wives and children. It was a sobering week as I realized that even seminary students are not immune to the pull and tug of this present world.
It reminds me of Demas from 2 Timothy. We don’t know much about Demas (he’s only mentioned in three passages: Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Timothy 4:10), but apparently he was doing ministry alongside Paul over the years with some other guys. But the last reference in 2 Timothy is a sobering one because Paul says, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me…” And that’s all we know about Demas. He was serving, ministering, working alongside Paul… and then he loved the present world and left. It’s a line we can read over easily because it seems like something just tagged on the end of Paul’s letter — more weird names and all. But it’s sobering to me now. Very sobering this week. He left.
I know many people like Demas – far too many, sadly. I’ve been reminded of them this week. And so I have to ask: am I going to be a Demas? It’s easy to think that I will just simply endure since I’m in seminary, or since I grew up in a Christian home, or since I’ve been doing ministry my whole life. But how different is that from Demas? He was with the Apostle Paul! Yet he deserted him in the end — he didn’t finish strong. Could I be a Demas? That’s a sobering thought.
But I’m also encouraged. Because the next verse gives me hope: “Luke alone is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11) Luke is also mentioned in the other two passages where Demas is mentioned. Luke also was a “fellow worker” with Paul in his ministry, like Demas. But Luke is still with Paul – even in the end. He didn’t leave. He stayed faithful. He finished strong. I want to be a Luke.
I’ve seen my share of Lukes this week at DTS. It’s one of the things that excites me most here at Seminary. This week in chapel I had the joy of hearing from three men that had each been teaching here at DTS for over 50 years: Dr. Campbell, Dr. Toussaint, and Dr. Pentecost. Each of these men have been faithfully serving God their entire lives, and they are still going strong. And they still teach with passion, and they still are great expositors and communicators, and they still made everyone in the chapel laugh. I cannot wait to sit under each of these men and learn from their years of experience and study, and have the blessing of seeing them continue to be faithful to the end. They are great examples and powerful testimonies to what it is to “finish the race” and “keep the faith.” They are modern day Lukes. In fact, most of the professors here have been teaching for 20, 30, 40, or 50 or more years! What an honor to learn from them!
It was amazing listening to those three dear men in chapel. White hair, glasses, slowly moving to the podium. Notes scribbled on several small sheets. Slowly, deliberately speaking. Hands shaking because of arthritis, using magnifying glasses to read Scripture. But their minds were sharp as ever. Their passion was deep in their eyes. There words were slow, but powerful and well thought through. The whole audience was silent as they waited for each word, because we all knew how much experience and wisdom they each had. There were dozens of teachers that were younger, more vibrant, better entertainers — but I was on the edge of my seat each time these three men spoke. I was more eager to hear what they had to say, and I trusted them easily because of their faithfulness. These were clearly three Lukes, and it was a blessing to hear them speak.
So it has been a sobering and joyful week for me. God has given me vivid pictures of two extremes: Demas and Luke. It is a good reminder as I enter seminary, not to fall “in love with this present world” or get caught up with “the affairs of every day life,” but to be a “faithful man” who endures until the end. To be a Luke, not a Demas. As I listened to each of those three men of faith, I prayed silently: “may that be me, Lord God. By Your grace alone may I serve you faithfully for 30, 40, 50, or as many years as You give. I want to be a man like the one speaking before me, Father.”
I pray that I will not be a Demas. I want to be a Luke.
May we all be like Luke, and not Demas – by the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, alone.