Our last post included a quote from I Peter chapter 4. I include it again here, extending it to verses 1 through 5. “Therefore, since Christ has suffered death in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered death in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (I Pet 4:1-5).
Beginning in verse 1, follow these powerful word pictures with me.
- Christ died “in the flesh,” i.e. as a man.
- Because our flesh “died” with Christ, sin is no longer our normal practice (“he who has died has ceased from sin”).
- In fact, with the time we have left on earth (“the rest of the time in the flesh”) we should be following “the will of God,” not our former lusts.
- Following the “lusts of men” was our former course and many of these activities are described here in verse 3.
- But these activities are clearly in our past (“the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried these out”).
- For those who have not “died with Christ,” (i.e. have not become His children by embracing His message), they continue on their sinful path, our former path; a path described as a “flood of dissipation.”
- They are “surprised” or “shocked” that you no longer join them, and they “malign” or “heap abuse” on you because of it.
- But take courage under their persecution, God the righteous judge is on your side.
“Flood of dissipation” is an interesting phrase. It is translated from two Greek words; ANACHUSIS, meaning overflow, and ASOTIA, meaning wastefulness. In physics, dissipation is defined as “a process in which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work.” In other words, dissipated energy is wasted energy, energy that is not captured for any useful purpose during an energy exchange. Peter is painting a picture of our culture’s fascination with sin – in its entertainment, debauchery, and idolatry – as an overflow of dissipation, a flood of waste. And who, if we have been paying attention to our entertainment and news culture, wouldn’t agree with Peter’s assessment, and who among us hasn’t felt that sense of waste when we have been caught up in it.
We somehow have the mistaken idea that evangelism happens when we join the culture in their “flood of dissipation.” That somehow our “good” will rub off in these sinful situations. That somehow engaging the culture around its sewer enhances our “identification” with unbelievers.
This passage suggests just the opposite. Our witness and our allegiance to Christ shines brightest when our friends and family are “surprised” by our lack of participation. This does not mean we become isolationists. We still engage our unbelieving friends across the family, neighbor, work, sports, etc. spectrum throughout our circle of influence. We are brothers and sisters with our unbelieving friends under the tent of all of us being created in God’s image, an origin that all humanity shares. But as far as where our steps go from there, we are to be radically different, not in an obnoxious way, but in a winsome way that invites our unbelieving friends to join us in something better. Join me in thinking about and praying for all the winsome ways that we can shine the message of Christ in our relationships.