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One Marshmallow or Two,
or The Demas Syndrome

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(11/30) Introduction Ė Recently, I read Mark Battersonís book, All In, in which he tells of a study started in 1972 at Stanford University by psychologist Walter Mischel. That study has come to be known as the Marshmallow test. It was a study of delayed gratification. The test was started at Bing Nursery school with children 4-6 years of age. Each child was given a single marshmallow and told that if they would not eat it, they would get a second marshmallow. Children who would eat their marshmallow would get no more. The study was to see how children dealt with temptation. Some grabbed their marshmallow right away. Others, however, tried to resist. Some sang songs, played games, and even tried to nap to deal with the temptation.

The objective of the test was to see how delayed gratification affected the long term academic achievement of the children. 216 children were tracked from the nursery school through high school graduation. The researchers found, that the two marshmallows later children scored an average of 210 points higher on SATís, were more socially competent, self-reliant, self-confident, showed greater initiative, and handled pressure more effectively. A follow up study of these subjects were done when they were inn their forties and it was discovered that the two marshmallows later subjects made more money, had stronger marriages, and happier careers.

Batterson says this, "The net result of these studies is this: goal directed, self-imposed delay of gratification is a powerful predictor of future success in any endeavor."

So, you may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with 1st John?" The answer is it has everything to do not only with 1st John but the entire Bible. The choice we have in deciding to follow Jesus is, should I eat my marshmallow today or wait to get two marshmallows later. Iíll come back to this in a little while.

Letís look at Johnís letter.

I. Johnís Confidence (vv.11-14)

Maybe because he has just written some tough words, John pauses to reassure his readers of his confidence in their faith in these verses. Itís as if he is saying, "I am not writing to condemn you but to commend you for your faith. But I am concerned about the teachings and the temptations that you are exposed to." Do you understand that? John wants them to know he cares about their future. He doesnít want them to eat their marshmallow. He wants them to have the two that are waiting for them. So, he tells them why he is writing and perhaps why he wrote the Gospel of John. That may be why he says at first, "I write," and then, "I have written." This is why I felt led by God to write these letters to you and why I wrote the former letter, or gospel.

Now, just for our understanding, I donít think John is addressing three groups of people. I think he is addressing just one group, which he refers to as, "little children," (Cp. vv. 12-13, with 2:1; 18; 28; 5:21). Then, he speaks to the mature, older believers, and then the younger believers to express his confidence in their faith.

A. To the Whole Church (7 churches). He reassures them and is confident in them for two reasons.

1. They have been forgiven (v.12). What they received when they came to faith in Jesus continues. The blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing and freeing us of our debt to God. No one should think that God wonít forgive them or that they have messed up too bad to be forgiven. The Name of Jesus which means the Lord Saves, is on the line. Paul reminds the church at Corinth that though they had sordid pasts, they were clean now. "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11)

2. They have known the Father (v. 13). They have experienced the love and grace of God. They had come to known the character and will of God. And they have lived in fellowship and harmony with the Father. They didnít live by intuitive or intellectual knowledge, they experienced God by living according to His will. Seeking Him in prayer and meditation, and walking by faith, imitating Jesus.

B. To the Spiritually Mature in the Churches (vv. 13, 14). He commends and expresses his confidence because they have demonstrated with their lives that they know Jesus as John 1:1-3, and 1 John 1:1 states. You have eternal life because you know Jesus, or as we have coined (not in the Bible), you have a personal relationship with Jesus.

C. To the Strong Young Men (vv. 13-14). He expresses his confidence in them and commends them because they deferred their marshmallow. The Father has brought or allowed their testing; they went into battle with the enemy and they came out victorious. Like Jesus, they did not give in to temptation. They knew they were being tested and they followed God looking for the two marshmallows later. When we get to chapter 5 we are going to talk about being overcomers. But I remember the 1980ís and I had determined to primarily listen to music that I felt honored God and got rid of my Eagles albums, Leonard Skynyrd, and many more. One of the popular Christian duos was Harvest. I loved their music. They had a couple of songs about being overcomers. One was based on Revelation 12:11, "and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." These young men were strong with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit residing in them.

John is reassuring these churches of his confidence in them and so he commends them. But He is also concerned for them because of the temptations and the lies that Satan will use to try to destroy their faith ruin their testimony, and steal their joy, and rob them of their rewards. Listen to me carefully here. Men need to hear that their wives, their parents, their employers, etc. are proud of them; that they did good. Menís Fraternity taught us that we need to tell our sons, "we love them, they are really good atÖ, and we are proud of them." Ladies, want your husbands to do more around the house, or help you, tell them the same three things; "I love you, you are really good at what you do, and I am so proud of you." Men are wired to need and thrive on that confirmation. Say it often.

So after commending and expressing confidence in the Churches, John expresses His concern.

II. Johnís Concern (vv. 15-17)

A. He starts with a Command (v. 15a)

Johnís concern is the temptation to eat your marshmallow. "Do not love the world or the things of the world." Just so there are no misunderstandings, letís consider what he does and does not means by, the world.

1. He does not mean the world of nature or beauty. This Godís creation. Nature is intended to glorify God. Wanting to be at the ocean, or the mountains, or beside a stream is not what he is referring to.

2. He doesnít mean not to enjoy the blessings of this world (1 Tim. 6:17), "God has given us richly all things to enjoy."

3. He doesnít mean to not love the people of the world. John 3:16 reminds us that God loves the people of world enough to die for it and He wants us to love it enough to let it know that He died for it. In fact, we are commanded to show and tell His love to it.

4. What he does mean is that we not love the world that is under the influence of Satan and is diametrically opposed to God and His ways. It is the philosophies and teachings and lies designed to make you want to eat your marshmallow and have none later. It was your sphere of living before you followed Jesus. Listen to Paul. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:1-3) It is the world of the depraved, the world of the spiritually dead, the world led by the devil, and the world that is going to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:1-13, cp. 1 John 2:17). Debbie asked after the riots started Monday eve, "Why would people do that?" The answer is they are led by the devil, thinking with depraved minds, and are spiritually dead. Listen to this by Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints: (at end of lesson)

James says this to us, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

B. Notice the Certainty (v. 15b)

Again, notice what Mr. Black or White says. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him." Most likely meaning that this person may be religious, but has never experienced or understood the love of the Father and what it costs the Father to rescue and adopt you. The love of God is not central to this personís thinking. He or she still thinks and acts like an un-redeemed person, and still a slave to their sins and passions.

Or, it could mean that that though they understand the love of God, they love themselves more than God and would rather eat their marshmallow than trust Him for more. Kinda like the religious people in John 12:42-43, "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

This person is like Demas. Paul, like our Lord Jesus, had an entourage of disciples that traveled with him and ministered alongside of him. One of them was named Demas. Paul closes his letter to Philemon with this: "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers." He says a similar thing to the church at Colossae (4:14), "Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you."

Can you imagine traveling and working alongside of Paul? How awesome would that be? Only Jesus, and maybe Moses would be greater. But when Paul is in jail, awaiting his own execution, and writing his last published letter to Timothy, this is what he says. "Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica," (2 Tim. 4:9-10). I am not sure what was attractive to him in Thessalonica. Perhaps it was a place to hide. Maybe he thought, church planting was exciting; whereas, beatings, jail, and death was not so exciting. Do you remember the Lordís parable of the sower and the seed in Matt. 13? This is how He explains part of the parable. "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful."

Maybe it was the pleasures he had once enjoyed or the hope of health and wealth now that made him want to quit. Maybe he just wanted to eat his marshmallow. Esau ate his marshmallow, as did Samson, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira. They all chose to eat their marshmallow. They each opted for the temporary rewards of today rather than the eternal rewards of delayed gratification.

C. Notice the Characteristics of the World (v. 16)

1. Carnal-ness - For all that is in the worldóthe lust of the flesh (v. 16a)

The strong desires of the flesh could refer to one of two things are maybe a combination of both. The wordís carnality or sensuality are good descriptions of the lust of the flesh.

a. It could refer to the depraved sin nature that we are all born with and its desire to satisfy itself independent of Godís will. It may be our desire to steal, cheat, lie, hate, withhold forgiveness, seek revenge, etc. We saw this demonstrated this last week in Ferguson and other places. It has a right to look out for number one. The world seems to promote this philosophy as the strong way of life.

b. It could refer to the appetites and desires of the body. The desire, for food, sex, companionship, to feel good, etc. The world promotes, drugs, alcohol, sex with whoever, whenever, and however you want. It considers all of this as natural and normal. Do you remember that when our Lord was in the wilderness and Satan tempted Him? Satan began with the desires of the flesh. Jesus had not eaten for a while and Satan tempted Him to take stones and make bread and eat. The devil wanted Him to eat that marshmallow!

2. Covetousness Ė "the lust of the eyes," (v. 15b). The lust of the eyes refers to wanting what our eyes see. We want what we see that others have. We want the latest and the best. The world is telling us that we ought to have it. We donít need to wait. All those commercials for pizza, steak subs, beer, Olive garden, new cars, new furniture, computers, tablets, I-things, game systems, guns, bows, golf clubs, etc. No money down, low interest, long time to pay, etc. The whole Christmas season has been turned into a time of covetousness. "For Christmas I really hope I get a red rider BB gun," or whatever you want. The Lie of Satan since Eden is that things will make you happy. If I just had a little more, a little newer, a little better, I would be satisfied. Pause for a second. What is that thing that you may not confess to, but your heart really wishes that it had?

It could also be for a person, fantasy sex, pornography, or the fantasy of violence that we see on TV or movies, etc. We have the credit cards to make it happen. We have Visa, Discovery, American Express, Master Card, and more with cash back benefits to pay you back, and stores offering free shipping. The world wants you to satisfy the lust of your eyes. The Devil tried to get our Lord to do the same. "Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." (Matt. 4:8-9) You can eat that marshmallow that your eye wants. The Apostle Paul tells us in Col. 3:5, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

3. Conceitedness Ė "Öand the pride of life" (v. 16c). The world promotes the pride of life. This is the boastful pride of arrogance. It is Ali claiming to be the greatest. It is to boast, flaunt, and brag about what you have, what you can do, what you have achieved, etc. Itís what this last Thursday was intended to move us away from. Deut. 8 tells us that Thanksgiving has as one of its purposes, to keep us from this kind of arrogance and self-deception. The conceited person doesnít see any need for God. He takes the credit for all that he has accomplished. Itís wanting to get your picture in the paper, 15 minutes of fame, a star on the walk of fame, your name in lights. Back around 1972, it was the desire of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, to get their picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Then along with Sinatra, Presley, Davis Jr., you can say, "I did it my way."

Here is a serious question. What is the point of a, selfie? Seriously?

Itís also about driving a certain car, wearing certain cloths, and the bling that says, I did it. I have arrived and I live in the house that proves it. "Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ĎHe shall give His angels charge over you,í and, ĎIn their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. No one else in the world can bungee jump without a bungee cord. You will be on page one of the Guinness book of records.

4. Conciseness. There is one more thing about the world that you should consider. "Is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it;" (1 John 2:16d-17). The temptations and philosophies to satisfy these passions apart from God is Satanic. We see what he tried to get our Lord to do and Paul in the Ephesians 2 passage we read earlier reminds us that he wants the whole world to feed their passions apart from God, because he wants to destroy you. Think of the homes and lives destroyed by pornography, affairs, drugs, alcohol, workaholics, wasteful credit card spending, jealousy, and arrogance.

How many of you have ever really watched the Disney movie, Pinocchio? The wooden boy is lured to Pleasure Island, where he can be free to indulge in anything he wants and all that is attractive to being free. There is candy, beer, cigars, and pool tables. But the pleasures are intended to turn him into a jackass, enslave him, and destroy the life he was created to have. That cartoon offers a powerful lesson for our young people and for some adults. Indulge and eat that marshmallow, but know that it comes with a heavy price.

Again, one of two things may be intended here in this verse, or perhaps a combination of both.

a. One, is simply that life is fleeting. It is temporary. It goes by quickly and all you have will belong to another, all you did will be forgotten. In fact the Greek literally says, it is already in the process of passing away. Isaiah writes, (40:6-8) "The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." I know I am just a pup to some of you and an old man to others, but I honestly donít know where 63 years have gone so quickly.

b. Is that all of this world is going to be burned up. That is what John will tell us in the Revelation and Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:10ff. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Either one may be in mind, the point is that if you love the world, when it is over, your marshmallow will be gone and there will be no more. To build your life on the promises and desires of this world is just plain foolish.

c. Perhaps, third, there is the subliminal message that your life will also end soon and without knowing Jesus personally, there is only eternal death and darkness to look forward to. Did not our Lord once tell us that if you eat your marshmallow today, there will be done tomorrow? He says it like this. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works," (Matt. 16:25-27).

D. Notice the Compensation Ė "but he who does the will of God abides forever" (v. 17). To the onesí who defer todayís marshmallow, and are willing to trust and follow Jesus, there will so much more to look forward to; so much to gain in the future. Jesus promises a place in His house. A Life like His. A body like His. Joy and peace in His presence. Employment that will be purposeful and pleasurable, and an eternal life.

The choice is ours. One marshmallow or two? Go for it today, or defer, trust God and know that there will be so much more tomorrow.

Letís pray about it.

If this life lesson has challenged, encouraged or helped you, let me know, or if you have any questions, write to me at I would love to hear from you. (p.s. I wonít put you on a mailing list or ask you for money). It would encourage me to know that you were encouraged

Benjamin Watson who plays for the New Orleans Saints posted the following on his Facebook page and it has since gone viral:

"At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.

I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope."

Here is the link to his Facebook page:

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman