Just a few weeks ago my pastor, Will Davis, at Austin Christian Fellowship, said something that ignited a desire in me to do an independent study on the word life. A word study is taking a keyword and researching it with a Bible concordance, a book much like a dictionary that defines every single word in the Bible. I use the NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance by John R. Kohlenberger III which not only defines but gives the Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek translation. Studying biblical words with a concordance enhances our understanding of Scripture and brings to life familiar stories and verses. The thought-provoking phrase my pastor said that sent me on a word quest was, “We all exist but not all of us have life.” This statement caused me to seriously consider the question, “Am I truly living in the life-giving power of Jesus?”
The Bible uses the word life 565 times and refers to life as: “bioo” (G1050, if you use an exhaustive concordance), which means, physical life and “zoe” (G2437), which means fullness of life. Both bioo and zoe are Greek words. An example of bioo life can be found in verse 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV). An example of zoe life can be found in verse John 3:15, “That everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him” (NIV).
I hope you agree these two verse examples of life are in complete contrast to each other. One can think of bioo as our fleshly desires and zoe as our fullness in Christ. This led me to ask myself another question, “What is causing me not to live in the full life-giving power of Jesus?” In other words, where am I finding “life” beyond Christ? At this point I stopped researching and pulled out my journal to write and search my thoughts.
I started with a two-column list. At the top of the first column I wrote “Jesus” and at the top of the second column, I wrote “things that give me comfort.” Here’s what I found; the things listed in the second column were temporary fixes: 1. Performance (to feel seen) 2. Food (to reward myself) 3. Television (to distract me). Although these things are not necessarily bad, they bring me comfort that is not eternal. If my performance fails, if I become unhealthy, or I spend all my time in front of the TV, I will miss out on true life-giving opportunities.
We must realize that bioo and zoe are constantly at odds. They come from the same word yet, they are different. I am reminded of the story of Cain and Abel. Although they came from the same parents they were different. God warned Cain in Genesis 4:7, “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (NLT). Therefore, we must subdue the things that are eager to control us. Otherwise, we will be separated from the life-giver. Cain did not accept God’s advice and in the end killed his brother Abel.
If we use Cain and Abel’s story metaphorically, one can presuppose if we consistently give into the desires of the flesh, the flesh will eventually overcome our Spirit. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23, NLT.
Consequences are inevitable to a sin-filled life and God gave Cain a consequence, “… From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth” Genesis 4:12b. When I read Cain’s punishment, I related to the feeling of separation. A desolate place of isolation where one wonders, how on earth did I get here? I contemplated the words homeless and wanderer; homeless: a person without permanent shelter or covering, wanderer: a person who travels aimlessly without direction; “So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” Genesis 4:16.
How many times have I chosen the wrong life-giver? Countless. But Jesus came so that I can have life. Not just a biological existence but a zoe life; eternal and full! Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (NLT). Knowing the meaning of a zoe life brings new meaning to this verse. I can have joy in the midst of sorrow, peace during chaos, and life in the shadow of death. There is freedom in Jesus, this alone causes me to deeply desire to seek the eternal life-giver versus temporary comforts.
Start this week by intentionally making some small life-giving changes to your routine.
- Make Mondays “Memory Making Monday.” Journal a memory from the prior week or better yet make a new one.
- Make Tuesdays “No TV Tuesday.” Take a screen break.
- Make Wednesdays “Take a Walk Wednesday.” Start a weekly walking group.
- Make Thursdays “Thirsting for Truth” day. Spend quality time studying Scripture.
- Make Friday “Freedom Friday.” Give thanks for the week and acknowledge your freedom in Christ.
Father, how good it is to hear your voice when we are far away. You call, and like sheep, we know your voice. If we are in the land of Nod, East of Eden, wake us, remind us who we are in You. Send your helpers to reflect your life-giving light. In Jesus name, AMEN.