“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
2 Pe 3:18
Scientists search the universe for signs of life, any evidence of life that might exist on other planets. I’ll admit, the notion is captivating, and certainly one that has gripped the imagination of writers and movie makers for years now. There’s no reason why we cannot hold to the Biblical account of creation, and still entertain the possibility that there are other creatures “out there,” still a part of God’s creation.
Most likely, though, when and if we do discover life, it will be small, simple, microbial life; not the little green men from Mars.
Still, the search continues for signs of life.
When I was a college freshman I was part of a group of students who were interview by a PhD candidate, who was researching Spiritual Development among High School and College Students. I don’t know that I ever saw the results of his study, but I remember the interview vividly. During the interview I mentioned that I really wanted a “stronger faith,” and the interviewer stopped me and asked, “What do you mean by that?”
I honestly didn’t know what I meant by “a stronger faith.” Looking back now, I’d tell my younger self that a stronger faith would mean being more consistent in your walk with God, struggling less with sin and doubt, and perhaps being someone people looked to as an example of Christian maturity. That’s what I’d say now. But I couldn’t articulate that back then.
But if I’m honest, I still have the same desire. I long to have a faith that continues to grow stronger, a maturing walk with the Lord, and a deepening love for God. I continue to look for signs of life (see – I had a point in talking about that stuff at the beginning), life in the Spirit, life in the Vine.
I must remember that I am a man in the midst of transformation. God isn’t done with me, not while I’m still alive. He continues to prune, feed, and nurture growth, that a harvest of righteousness will be produced in me. One day I’ll be raised in perfection, until then I must continue to tend to my growth in grace.
What are the signs of life? In biological terms, the signs of life are:
- Responsiveness to the environment;
- Growth and change;
- Ability to reproduce;
- Have a metabolism and/or ability to breathe;
- Maintain homeostasis;
- Being made of cells;
- Passing traits onto offspring.
In spiritual terms, the signs of life, according to J.C. Ryle, are:
- Increased humility – The nearer a man draws to God and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections…
- Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ – But as a man grows in grace, he sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power, His heart and His intentions, His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner.
- Increased holiness of life – The man whose soul is growing strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow Him as his example, as well as to trust in Him as his Savior.
- Increased spirituality of taste and mind – The man whose soul is growing takes more interest in spiritual things every year; spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation appear of ever-increasing value to him.
- Increase of charity – The man whose soul is growing is more full of love every year – of love to all men, but especially of love towards the brethren.
- Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls – The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year.
Take a second and consider your own life. Do you see signs of genuine spiritual life? Is there a sincere humility, a growing love for Christ, a passion for holiness, a taste for the spiritual, a heartfelt affection for the church, and a desire to see the lost come to Christ. Look for signs of life, and lean hard on those things that God has promised to help this life grow, the means of grace. Be reading daily in God’s Word. Spend time communing with God in prayer. Attend worship regularly, to be renewed in the grace of communion and fellowship with Christ and other believers.
Look for, and work for signs of life in the Spirit. But I leave you with this caution from Ryle:
Let us never measure our religion by that of others and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors. This is a snare of the devil. Let us mind our own business… Let us follow on, remembering daily that at our best we are miserable sinners. Let us follow on, and never forget that it signifies nothing whether we are better than others or not. At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last. Then let us leave off looking at others and comparing ourselves with others. We shall find enough to do if we look at our own hearts.
Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.