Living In Christ – Zoë: The God Quality Of Life
IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]….
There it was—the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person. He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him [did not know Him]. He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own—His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him. But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name — Who owe their birth neither to bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!] And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. John 1:1-5; 9-14 AMPC
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10 AMPC
There are 4 words used in biblical greek that translate as Life, in the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. They are:
Bios: refers to one’s life course or way of living, lifetime.
Psuche: refers to the breath of life or the natural life.
Anastrophe: refers to behaviour, conduct.
Zoë: refers to life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it, that which the Father has in Himself, and which He gave to the Incarnate Son to have in Himself.
Zoë (ζωή) is often referred to as “The abundant Life” or “The God quality of Life” it is the word used to describe the kind of Life that Jesus said he had come to provide, in John 10:10; he had come to provide it in an abundance.
In recent times, and down through the ages the church has had its eyes firmly focussed on the behaviour, the conduct of people as their guide to what Life can be, or what Life should be. The push is always YOU can do better. YOU should do better. Or, it has been focused on YOU are NOT doing enough. People have been celebrated, or condemned by ‘the church’ according to what they do, or have done. If their behaviour doesn’t line up to a specific set of rules, or the code of conduct, they are rejected out of hand. Instead of concentrating on the wonderful, abundant life that Jesus has provided those who would be prepared to accept his sacrifice and that free gift of eternal life that he gave his own life to provide, the church has been more interested in its rules and regulations; its laws and decrees and the carnally driven grasping of political power in the world around them. More interested in wresting power from the world, than accepting its role in bringing God’s kingdom to Earth, through Love; Empire building, rather than Kingdom building.
Now, don’t get me wrong, good conduct is a good thing. James, the brother of Jesus, said that Faith without corresponding actions is worthless:
What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective]. James 2:14-18 AMP (2015)
Zoë, the abundant life promised by Jesus is not something that can be earned. It is given freely by Grace. If we could earn it then we would be able to brag about what we had achieved, through our own efforts. If we could have done it ourselves then what was the reason for Jesus’ sacrifice?
For too long the people of God, the body of Christ, here in the Earth, have been robbed of the blessings through rituals and traditions that, not unlike the pharisaical practices that Jesus noted, were robbing the children of Israel, of what was in their covenant, have served as unfruitful works and excuses for a hierarchy devoid of the very Faith required to receive them themselves. Like the Pharisees, these men, and most notably it is a religion dominated by men, have become self-deceived; explaining away anything they don’t understand as a ‘Mystery’ that isn’t supposed to be understood. Any attempt to seek answers is met with derision or seen as an attempt to usurp those in positions of power, who perceive knowledge, or the pursuit of knowledge, as a threat to the status quo. I have personally encountered this fear, in the past, when I was attempting to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood.
By the time I had returned to the Roman church, as I had felt led to do, by the Holy Spirit’s promptings, I had spent Six years immersed in a culture of encouraged intense bible study. in 1983 and 84 I had attended Rhema Bible Training Centre, here in Perth. I had completed a course in Missionary studies and also traveled to Kenya, on an exposure trek, immersed in the lives of some of the remote parts of Kenya itself (this journey was life-changing for me, on so many levels). So, arriving at the preparatory seminary (as it was then) in 1987 I wasn’t a naive 17-year-old, as a couple of those who were there, with me, proved to be.
A priest I had known, as a friend a number of years before, resided there and was the Archbishop’s personal secretary. He and I enjoyed discussing ‘matters theological’ over the dinner table; both of us learning from one another as we tussled with topics and interrogated beliefs and traditions; occasionally tipping over some “sacred cows”. Unfortunately, the rector of the seminary didn’t see these discussions in the light of their merit to both of us. He wasn’t about to take on the Archbishop’s secretary and instead took the opportunity to accuse me of “always arguing”. It appeared to be the case that a simple ‘acceptance’ without question was the de rigueur that he favoured. This was but one of the many reasons that I did not proceed on to undertake seminary studies for the Perth archdiocese the following year; something that was difficult to take at the time but has since proved to be an amazing blessing.
The fear of a questioning mind provides the ground for rigid fundamentalism to take root whether it be political or religious. I have said it many times before, but it proves to be all the more true as time passes, that God will not be pigeonholed, or put in a box. The moment you think you have captured all there is, to know about God, you blink and find that he’s no longer there. I don’t mean to disdain the work of St Thomas Aquinas and his unfinished work, the “Summa Theologica” (Latin) (translates as: The Sum of All knowledge of, or about, God) but it is ironic that this famous piece of literature remains incomplete.
Notoriously the period in western history known as “The Dark Ages” corresponds to the period when the institution of ‘the church’ retreated behind fortified walls and remote hermitages, restricting access to the writings of the agreed canon of sacred scripture. This retreat saw the establishment of monastic libraries filled with illuminated copies of ancient texts faithfully hand copied and illustrated by the hands of monks and priests who, for the most part, could not actually read the texts they were copying or decorating. Again, it is ironic that the very word, the very light of life that Christ came to bring, that he said should not be hidden, under a bushel basket, that we should let shine before all humanity, that word was effectively entombed in a language that was privy only to the elite; bishops, cardinals, kings and princes.
Historically, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the dawning of the Age of Enlightenment, over time, saw the end of this elitism and the dissemination of the sacred texts of the canon to the broader community. The stranglehold upon knowledge was effectively broken. But, access to education remained privileged. But, in the same way as the word Light in John chapter 1 represents the notion of progress for humanity, so too, the age of enlightenment ensured that the availability of an education, to those who wanted it and in some cases those who still do not want it, progressively. This is only a notional look at the history of western humanity. I encourage those with a spark of interest, to dig deeper to understand the journey that has brought us socially, politically and historically to this point in time.
“The Zoë the Light was the Life of Men…the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]” Christ is The Word, The Light, The Life, The Truth and He is also The Way, in fact, he is the ONLY WAY to the Father (John 14:6). Another translation reads “the darkness could not comprehend”, or understand the light. Jesus made it very clear that those who were in the darkness could not understand the things he taught because they were “Spirit and Truth” and that without Holy Spirit it is impossible to comprehend and even properly contemplate them.
This is a factor that religion cannot comprehend because it is not focused on what the spirit reveals, but it is an effort to use human reason; what is meant and relies solely upon experiences and sensory knowledge, or feelings, sight and sound. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are involved in the process of the journey. But, it is only the “Born Again” human spirit, filled and indwelt by Holy Spirit himself, that can arrive at the revelation knowledge that God has in store for those who seek him.
Religion sits on “God’s ways are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9) suggesting that we cannot know God’s will for our lives; that what comes, comes and we have to accept “Our lot in life”. This is a passive and quite frankly, a lazy approach to life. It is a ‘safe’ way of thinking and can be heard in some of the famous songs of the last century like “Que Sera Sera!” popularised by Doris Day and even “Rock the Boat” by Hues Corporation in the 1970s. Sadly, even Pat Boone’s classic “One day at a Time” has been cast into this lackadaisical school of thought, when it was inspired by a passage of scripture that advocates quite the contrary position.
The three chapter sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 the antithesis of this come what may argument is established. Jesus says in 5:6 “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied”. Then in 6:33 “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.” Then in 7:7 he goes on to declare: “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened”. This striving does not involve the stress that only doubt can bring. But, instead, it is a working towards a goal, an end point, confident of the outcome, based on the knowledge that it is God’s desire, his will that you succeed.
This confidence can only come about through a knowledge of who you are, your standing. In fact, it is dependent upon the knowledge that you are in right-standing, righteousness, with God. In previous weeks I’ve discussed the part that righteousness plays in how our behaviour is developed. That coming to that understanding by the process of renewing the mind, effectively retraining our way of thinking regarding our relationship with God, will bring about holiness in our lives. Then as a consequence of developing that “righteousness consciousness” we can also begin to understand our right to enjoy our eternal life in the here and now and that eternal life is Zoë. In fact, your eternal life began the very day that you made Jesus your Lord and Saviour and became “Born Again”. You don’t get another ‘eternal life’ after you stop breathing on this Earth; you already have ALL the eternal life you’re ever going to get, right now. It is the quality of life that God has for us when we become a part of his family.
Take the time to Live NOW! People who are caught up in the past, regretting the things they’ve done, or not done; things they can’t do anything about are often found to be depressed; they aren’t living in the NOW! When people start living in the future, either filled with fear of what might, or might not happen their current life is affected and it can seriously have an effect on the people around them; particularly if they are seriously worried about the future, if they’re not careful they will find them surrounded only by others who share their dread and sense of powerlessness. The clinically depressed can have a combination of both of these approaches to life, a morbid sadness about the past and a dread of the possible future; they are definitely not living in the NOW!
Jesus told the people gathered on the mount that day that:
Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 AMP (2015)
Your Father KNOWS what you have need of, even before you ask him. But you still need to ask him.
The Apostle Paul summed up the crux of this when he said:
for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Philippians 4:11-13 AMP (2015)
Please note that Paul did not condemn having an abundance, or being prosperous. the point is that whatever the circumstances he found himself to be in he knew satisfaction. He learned to live in the NOW! of God. When we decide to be obedient and cast our cares upon him, Christ, then we have begun the process of living NOW! The inherent message behind Zoë, is becoming completely reliant upon God and his ability to meet our needs. When we strive to do it ourselves we are effectively saying, to God, I know better than you do; if I remember my childhood Sunday school classes properly, that attitude was called PRIDE.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we don’t have our part to play. But, when we come to the recognition that ALL that we have has originally come from God and that everything we will ever need will come from God, we’re on the right track. We are to get our focus off our needs and onto the work we are called to do: study to show ourselves approved, walk in the Spirit, renew our minds, walk in the light as he is in the light, make disciples of all nations, lay hands on the sick, share the Gospel. Nowhere are we told to have a care, worry or anxiety about anything. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that would be a good way to live. That is a life of humility, as it turns out:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. 1Peter 5:6-7
Life without a care, or anxiety about anything. that sounds like Zoë. That sounds like the God quality of life.
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Audio: Zoë: The God Quality Of Life
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