Editor's note:

Where I live in the South, these sum­mer days have been scorch­ing. Some­times I’ve been less aware than I should’ve been about how thirsty I am. In this arti­cle, Richard Fos­ter talks about life in a way that makes me very thirsty. He shares about enter­ing into a way of liv­ing life with God that will sati­ate us, con­sume us, and enable us to live the life to which we are suit­ed.” Life with God enables me to enter the rich­ness of my par­tic­u­lar life. As you read, may you hear the invi­ta­tion of God urg­ing into this zoë kind of liv­ing. Thirsty as we are, may we, indi­vid­u­al­ly and cor­po­rate­ly, be made into reser­voirs that just can’t help but over­flow onto others.

—Susan Green

The life we have been cre­at­ed to live is the dynam­ic, pul­sat­ing with-God life.” And Jesus (in his life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion) has made avail­able to you and to me this life that is life indeed” (1 Tim. 6:19). St. Paul writes, There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spir­it of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:1 – 2). Paul is here using a very spe­cif­ic word to iden­ti­fy the secret of our life which is hid­den with Christ in God” (Col 3:3): zoë, the eter­nal, uncre­at­ed life that orig­i­nates in God alone.

Two Types of Life

Scrip­ture iden­ti­fies two types of life: bios, the phys­i­cal, cre­at­ed life; and zoë, the spir­i­tu­al, eter­nal life. Like­wise, there are two types of death: teleute, phys­i­cal death; and thanatos, spir­i­tu­al death. Thus, it is entire­ly pos­si­ble for a per­son to be phys­i­cal­ly alive (bios) while spir­i­tu­al­ly dead (thanatos). But the sal­va­tion that is in Jesus Christ immers­es us into the hid­den reser­voir of divine love and pow­er, bring­ing into our lives God’s life (zoë) and form­ing us into com­mu­ni­ties of Jesus’ dis­ci­ples who are enabled to express his life and love through our own life, indi­vid­u­al­ly and corporately.

Jesus declares, I am come that they might have life (zoë), and that they might have it more abun­dant­ly” (Jn 10:10 KJV). In his first Epis­tle John writes, God gave us eter­nal life (zoë), and this life (zoë) is in his Son”(1 Jn 5:11). And Paul writes, For if while we were ene­mies, we were rec­on­ciled to God through the death of his Son, much more sure­ly, hav­ing been rec­on­ciled, will we be saved by his life (zoë)” (Rom 5:10). Life. Life. Life. It is lit­tle won­der that Dal­las Willard in The Spir­it of the Dis­ci­plines observes that, the sim­ple and whol­ly ade­quate word for sal­va­tion in the New Tes­ta­ment is life.’”

We are being saved by his life” declare the Apos­tles, and Jesus’ res­ur­rec­tion con­vinced them that this life, this zoë, was inde­struc­tible. The glo­ri­ous words, He is risen” proved to the dis­ci­ples that the new life that had been ever-present to them in the per­son and teach­ing of Jesus could not be destroyed by killing the body. That life, that zoë, con­tin­ues on. It can­not be destroyed: the gates of Hades will not pre­vail against it” (Matt 16:18). And it is this unquench­able, inde­struc­tible zoë that Jesus offers to all who trust in him — life” here and now, and on into eternity.

A New Order of Life

Jesus’ res­ur­rec­tion was for those dis­ci­ples (and is for us) the great escha­to­log­i­cal fact of all time. His life, his zoë, is avail­able to every­one. All who trust in him can expe­ri­ence his life in them; Christ in you, the hope of glo­ry”, as Paul puts it (Col 2:27). Like­wise, all who trust in him are in Christ” (2 Cor 1:21 and many oth­ers). Christ in us” and us in Christ” — a new order of life from above” (Jn 3:3). Colos­sians 3:4 states it ever so suc­cinct­ly, Christ who is your life (zoë)” — that is the sal­va­tion that is in Jesus Christ.

This life, this zoë, is only for par­tic­i­pants, not con­sumers nor observers. The con­sumer approach says that it is my life and I will uti­lize this with-God life” to suit my needs and my pur­pos­es. But, frankly, this life doesn’t work that way. To enter this zoë—this eter­nal, uncre­at­ed life that orig­i­nates in God alone — I must sur­ren­der my life. In enter­ing the with-God life” it is not my life any more; it is Christ’s life and I am priv­i­leged to be a par­tic­i­pant in that life.

And what a life it is! It is more vir­u­lent than AIDS! But instead of infect­ing us with death it con­sumes us with the life to which we are suit­ed. Because it is zoë life it has a prin­ci­ple of its own. We, for exam­ple, don’t have to give an instruc­tion book to a baby to teach it to walk. No, the prin­ci­ple of life in the child will, when the time is right, cause that lit­tle one to walk. In much the same way the zoë life we receive from God will accom­plish its work in us; sus­tain­ing us and mov­ing us for­ward into Christ­like­ness. We don’t have to get re-start­ed every Sun­day and then sput­ter along for a day or two and die out again. No, this is life — pow­er­ful, self-sus­tain­ing life — a with-God life.”

But we must seek this life out, pur­sue it, turn into it because there is also a prin­ci­ple of death with­in us which stems from the fall. There­fore, we must be con­stant­ly say­ing yes to life and no to death. We must always be dis­cern­ing life-giv­ing actions and atti­tudes from those that are death-giv­ing. This is why the Bible is such a help to us; it is reg­u­lar­ly flesh­ing these things out in the rough and tum­ble of real life sit­u­a­tions. Scrip­ture makes clear to us pre­cise­ly how this with-God life” works in all the cir­cum­stances of human exis­tence, both for indi­vid­u­als and for groups, both in spe­cif­ic his­tor­i­cal peri­ods and through­out all times. Oh, may I urge you to turn into this zoë life that flows from God through the Scrip­ture and into the thirsty waste­land of the human soul.

Originally published March 2005

Join the 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Cur­rent­ly under­way and runs through May 2021.

Learn More >