Signs of Life

“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:

  1. Responsiveness to the environment;
  2. Growth and change;
  3. Ability to reproduce;
  4. Have a metabolism and/or ability to breathe;
  5. Maintain homeostasis;
  6. Being made of cells;
  7. Passing traits onto offspring.

In spiritual terms, the signs of life, according to J.C. Ryle, are:

  1. 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…
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Count the Cost

For which of you, desiring to build a tower,
does not first sit down and count the cost,
whether he has enough to complete it?

Luke 14:28

Planning for retirement takes discipline, but it is worth it. 

When I got my first real job with salary and benefits, I was encouraged to put a little extra aside in for retirement savings each month, above and beyond what my employer was contributing. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always possible, but the discipline of saving now to have something later pays off over time.

It requires a change of focus. When something shiny and new comes up, you can’t just run out and get it. You have to balance the now and the not yet. You tell yourself, “it’s okay to go without this now, in order to save for something better, later.” You assure yourself that its okay to drive a car with 150,000 or more miles on it, to stay in for the night rather than eat out, to delight in delayed gratification. 

I think everyone would agree, sound financial stewardship is good, and the benefit in the end is worth the cost now.

Why then do we think that our life in following after Christ (Matt 16:24), storing up a treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33), of growing and training in holiness (1 Cor 9:24-27) would come without a cost?

We are called in scripture to strive after holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14), but many have come to think and act as if holiness is just something that will happen to you. The pursuit of holiness, and the reward of eternal life, is of greater value than all the financial security this world can offer. Why then do we spend so little time considering the cost, and committing to it? Why are so few willing to pay the price for holiness?

Partly to blame is our mishandling of the grace of God. We hold to the teaching of God’s Word that salvation is by “grace through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). We are assured, rightfully so, that salvation is God’s free gift in Jesus Christ, and that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace or merit His gift of salvation. 

Still, we should remember, salvation is God’s free gift, but it did not come without a cost. Our salvation was purchased with the precious blood of Christ. 1 Pe 1:18–19 teaches, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” This is echoed in Titus 2:14 and 1 Cor 6:20 and 7:23. Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that he gave his life as a ransom. Salvation is the gift without price, but not without cost. Our salvation cost the life of the sinless One who stood in the place of sinners, to ransom and redeem us from the wrath of God.

This is the gift we receive freely. But holding on to this gift will mean we have to let go of everything else. There is a cost that we bear, not for our salvation, but for growing in righteousness, in building up the treasure in heaven. There is a cost to following Christ. Jesus said, 

  • Lk 9:23  And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
  • Mt 19:29  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

J.C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, lays out the cost analysis for the followers of Jesus. Here’s the expected cost of discipleship:

  1. It will cost you your self-righteousness. You can only go to heaven as a poor sinner. If you come claiming any part of your righteousness is the result of your own doing, you will never be admitted. All our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Unless you come clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and in Christ alone, you will be sent out from the wedding feast (Matt 22:12-13).
  2. It will cost you your sins. You cannot cling to Christ and still cling to your sins. You will love the one and hate the other. Would your husband be honored if you kept pictures of previous boyfriends?  Can you claim to love Christ while still loving the very sins that led him to the cross. If you would follow Jesus, you must repent, turn your back on the old life, and take up the new, through the power of His Holy Spirit dwelling in you.
  3. It will cost you your love of ease. Christ did not come that you would have your best life now; to comfort you in your prosperity, or to make good people better. Christ came to bring the dead to life, and to give us such a vision of coming glory that we would be willing to give up everything now for the sake of what’s to come. The life of faith is a race (Hebrews 12:1), and we are called to journey on in Christ, the trailblazer of our salvation. This is a marathon, not a spring, and it requires endurance, diligence, and perseverance. 
  4. If will cost you the favor of the world. If the world hates God but loves you, what does that say about your Christian life? Do you look and sound more like the culture than you do like Christ? Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).”

Count the cost!

I leave you with this from Ryle:

I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But what sane man or woman  can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.


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.