This editorial has some good ideas, prompted by a particular Bible verse. But, when I studied the verse more deeply (original language, etc.), I learned that the verse did not speak about the ideas that had appeared in my mind. The English translation took me in a whole different direction. That is the reason I study the Bible more deeply than only reading English translations. Such mistakes happen sometimes, with no mal-intent. So, my editorial does not rest upon the verse I had in mind, but it is nonetheless true to Scripture, just different passages than I thought. Here goes!
The old word “dissipation” in Ephesians 5:18 captured my attention. In the New American Standard Bible (1995 edition), it says, “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” I began to ponder the idea of dissipation. Unfortunately, I followed the word’s construction, not its underlying original meaning.
First, I’ll share what it does mean. Then, I’ll move onto my initial thoughts about dissipation. The word translated dissipation is also translated debauchery, reckless indiscretion, wickedness, reckless living, reckless actions, riot, wild living, wastefulness, luxury, etc. The original word comes from the same root as Savior, but has a prefix attached: “un.” The word describes a person’s “unsavedness.”
Everyone has some “unsavedness” left inside – that old, fleshly nature. Being drunk with wine is behavior prompted by that old nature, not a Christian’s new nature. Our “savedness” would be life prompted (filled) by the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit. Basically, Ephesians 5:18 compels Christians to live out the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of our “unsavedness” or old nature.
My “dissipation” ponderings led me in a completely different direction, but a good one. I will start with an English lesson. When I temporarily vacate my job (with permission), my actions are called a vacation. When I aspire to some level of expertise beyond my skills, I am said to have aspirations. Likewise, when something is in the process of dissipating, its activity is called dissipation.
Let me illustrate that kind of dissipation. When I was a child, my family sometimes traveled north from my hometown. Just over an hour up the road, we passed a very active oil field (Forsan, Texas). The rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide that came up the wells with the crude oil was potent. For a young boy, it as a ghastly smell, akin to the smell of a roadside gas station’s mens’ restroom. It was terrible. As we approached, it grew stronger, more pungent and decidedly intolerable. But, as we passed the field and moved away, the smell began to lessen – to dissipate. The gas that we smelled in the air was experiencing dissipation. It became less and less intense, thankfully, until we could no longer smell it.
When a gas or liquid dissipates, it gradually mixes with some other gas or liquid. The concentration of the original substance becomes less and less, until it is almost or totally undetectable. The proper term for liquids is dilution. When one liquid is diluted by adding another liquid, it becomes less concentrated and detectible. With dilution or dissipation, the original stuff becomes less and less intense and has less effect.
I spiritualized that concept. Spiritual dissipation is what happens when my faith becomes so spread out among other activities that it becomes nearly unrecognizable. The ultimate end of spiritual dissipation is spiritual invisibility. With dissipation, my faith would become less and less intense and have less and less effect. Eventually, it would become imperceptible to most people. Do you know any Christians like that? Some people call those Christians “invisible Christians.”
When my electric razor runs down, I charge it. When I run low on gas in my car, I fill up my tank. When my phone begins to flash “5% Battery Remaining,” I reach for a charger cord. Christians can do the same thing when their faith becomes diluted, weakened or less intense. They can seek out and experience revival, spiritual refilling.
Once I am spiritually refreshed or revived, my faith is more potent and energetic. God’s presence increases in me and becomes more visible, identifiable. My passion for and pursuit of God intensifies. I have more spiritual influence and effect. The spiritual concentration and recharging of my faith matters.
Spiritual dissipation is the slow, gradual transfer of life control from God (via His Spirit) to some other influence. That definition focused me on some questions. What leads to the dilution of Jesus’ influence in me and on me? What is my dissipation activity? What do I do that causes the dispersion of God’s influence on me? What do I do that dissipates His Spirit’s presence and work in me? What causes me to dilute Jesus living in me?
Spiritual revival, refreshment, renewal, refilling, recharging, etc. reverses the processes those questions expose. Revival reverses dilution and concentrates my faith and its effects. I become stronger, like the sulfur odor as we approached the oil field. Renewal reverses spiritual fading.
The Bible describes some of a sower’s seeds falling among thorns. Those seeds sprouted and grew. But, they bore no fruit because the thorns grew around them and choked them out (Matthew 13:7). Some Christians are choked by things that dilute them, that dissipate their faith. Will you join me in asking God for personal revival in ourselves and others, so we will not be invisible Christians, diluted ones.