A Flood of Dissipation

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.

“Holiness Befits Thy House”

“Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore” (Psalm 93:5).  God’s dwelling place is adorned or decorated with holiness.  It has the aura of holiness.  It has the look and feel of holiness.  It has the taste and smell of holiness.  It is literally filled up with holiness.  Holiness befits God’s house.  Does holiness adorn your house?

God has placed us here as a family to be salt and light.  If we “bubble wrap” ourselves and our kids, we are making a mistake.  Jesus was called “friend of sinners”.  He didn’t get that title by withdrawing in isolation.  At the same time, I think it is safe to say that Christ was not influenced by the sin He encountered.  While there is danger in being legalistic, of imposing our gray area views on others, or becoming boastful about what we do or don’t do, I think our greater danger is going the other direction.  We hear much advice about engaging the culture.  Unfortunately, I fear much of our cultural engagement is taking place around the culture’s sewer.  Is our effort to relate just an excuse to conform?

The New Testament has plenty to say about not conforming to this world.  We demonstrate and offer a radically different option to our unbelieving friends than the life they are now living.  We are radically different, not because we are better, but because we have been rescued to a new life.

How different is the rescued life?  I Peter 4:3-5 says, “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.”

The time for sin is “past”.  The time for the practice of sin is in the rear view mirror for the rescued believer.  Could there be any more accurate description of our entertainment culture than we see here in verse 3?  God says run away from these sins of our past, not continue to participate.  Our unbelieving friends should be “surprised” (vs 4) by our refusal to participate.  Why?  Because it is so rare.  Are people surprised by how we parent?  Are people surprised by how we spend our money?  Are people surprised by our refusal to join the gossip and complaining in our workplace?  Are people surprised by what we feed our minds?  This is where we often lose our impact.  Sadly, our Christian life is not surprising.  Let your life be a surprise by your radical identification with Christ.

Surprise the world around you by refusing to “run into the flood of dissipation” that is our current culture’s mentality and be prepared for rejection as “they malign you.”  Stand firm, even if it offends, if it is for the cause of Christ.  Do not offend by being obnoxious, by being angry, by being judgmental.  There is no blessing in that.  And rest in the judgment of Christ.  After all, “He who is ready to judge the living and the dead” is the one we seek to please above all others.

May holiness be the adornment of your house.

Facing Adversity

The blessing of adversity is not an oxymoron.  The goal of these posts on prosperity and adversity is not to depress us.  The promise of adversity is not for us to adopt an Eeyore-like attitude of “woe is me,” looking for the negative in every event and relationship.  It is also not about bringing on adversity needlessly by being obnoxious, offensive, etc.  Adversity will have no trouble finding us when we follow the path God has laid out for us.

The goal is to develop joy in the face of adversity.  It sounds difficult, and it is without the supernatural resources we have in Christ Jesus.  Being joined with Christ in His death is our power and following the example of His joy is our strength.  “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2-3).  What I have been trying to say is this, “Don’t be surprised by adversity” and “don’t grow weary and lose heart” under its weight.  Instead, embrace adversity with the resources of the supernatural Christian life as being part and parcel with our current kingdom experience.  May you be strengthened by it.

I also would like to quickly add that these prosperity and adversity posts do not imply that God does not financially bless or miraculously heal new covenant believers.  Far from it.  I have seen in our own experience God’s provision ranging from us selling our car to pay the hospital when our first child was born (we were college students with no insurance) to blessings of unexpected financial windfall.  I’m just saying that as I understand the New Testament, there is no ironclad promise, no magic spiritual formula for acquiring wealth.

On the healing side, I believe God heals today.  In fact, I think we are generally too timid in our prayers for the sick.  I believe God heals.  Sometimes it is by His choice that we can’t explain.  Sometimes it is by our prayers of faith.  Sometimes it is not at all.  Healing miracles are happening today.  I just can’t be certain when and where.  But I am content knowing that God knows the when and where for His glory and our good.