The Signs Of Life!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Before we can figure out what "The Signs Of Life" are we must first define the word "life". God, in His Word, clearly describes a life He calls "the abundant life". But Satan also has a counterfeit that he and the world call "the abundant life", which will aggressively appeal to our flesh. As always our adversary, Satan, will place before us a very attractive counterfeit to tempt us away from the genuine. In order to understand the difference and discern which "abundant life" to seek after, we must also define the words "happiness" and "blessedness" according to God's Word. Satan desires us to pursue with all our heart a state of happiness, whereas God desires us to pursue with all our heart a state of blessedness.
To help us understand the differences between a state of happiness and a state of blessedness, I'll use one of Jesus' parables. Luke 16:19-21: "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores." The world, and I'm sorry to say many Christians, would read these three verses of Scripture and immediately conclude that the rich man had "the abundant life" and was obviously blessed by God; whereas, Lazarus had no life and none of God's blessings.
There is no doubt that the rich man lived out his life here on earth in "a state of happiness", i.e., what Satan and the world would describe as the abundant life. But according to Scripture, did the rich man ever have what God calls "the abundant life"? Did the rich man ever live in "a state of blessedness"? To answer these questions let's read a little further in Luke 16:22-25, "Now it came about that the poor man (Lazarus) died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he (the rich man) lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.'"
According to Scripture, Lazarus was the one who actually lived here on earth in a state of blessedness, and always had what God calls "the abundant life". What a conundrum for the world, and unfortunately for many Christians! How could God ever consider Lazarus' life as abundant, or blessed? Because when God considers the words "abundant life", He looks exclusively to the eternal and never to the temporal! Inasmuch as everyone's spirit will live forever, both good and evil, would it not be wise for all of us to embrace the same view as God and pursue the eternal with all our heart? Therefore, the question for us is, should we pursue with all our heart the temporal state of happiness which consists of about eighty years which Satan and the world call abundant life; or should we pursue with all our heart the eternal state of blessedness which God calls abundant life? The Apostle Paul knew the right answer, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Am I trying to say we must choose between blessedness and happiness? No! What I'm trying to say is that being in a state of blessedness and/or being in a state of happiness, not only can be, but are completely independent of each other. Can you be happy in this world and not blessed? Yes! Can you be happy in this world and blessed? Yes! Can you be unhappy in this world and be blessed? Yes! So then the question for us remains, which do we pursue with all our heart? Do we pursue with ALL our heart a state of blessedness which God and Holy Scripture call abundant life? Or do we pursue with ALL our heart a state of happiness which is based solely on our temporal circumstances, which is Satan's and the world's counterfeit?
Satan's and the world's view of abundant life is: The one who dies with the most toys wins! That may indeed aggressively appeal to our flesh, but that view of abundant life would only be valid if our existence ended at the grave. But the truth is, our existence is eternal! And if we would be honest with ourselves, we do know intuitively that even though our bodies and this world grow old and decay, our spirit within does not, because it is indeed eternal! So what are "the signs of life" that authenticate being in a state of blessedness, i.e., God's abundant life; since the evidence cannot be based on our worldly circumstances, the abundance of our adult toys, nor even worldly success? Who then is the one that we can say with certainty is blessed?
Matthew 5:3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Of all the "signs of life" there is none greater than a poor spirit, inasmuch as a poor spirit is where the state of blessedness must begin. A poor spirit is the only incubator where our abundant life can be conceived and grow until death is swallowed up in victory! There is NO other incubator which can conceive the kingdom of heaven, also known as God's abundant life! Therefore, just as a poor spirit is the greatest sign of heaven and life, the absence of a poor spirit (a haughty spirit) becomes the greatest sign of hell and death! There is no greater example of this profound truth in God's Word than the account of Lucifer whose name was later changed to Satan. Isaiah 14:12-15: "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning (Lucifer), son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit." Satan, also known as the Devil, became the poster boy of the arrogant -- the personification of the haughty in spirit – the embodiment of the anti-life -- the antithesis of abundant life!
As if to further confound the world, Matthew uses a Greek word for poor which illustrates a state of complete and total helplessness. Not just poor as in going hungry and/or without shelter from time to time, but so poor that without some kind outside intervention you would die! Luke 16:20-21: "And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores." What an antithesis -- even moronic to the world's view of abundant life! Which would undoubtably cause many to ask, "How can someone in such a complete state of helplessness have any life? How can anyone in such a condition be considered as having the abundant life and/or be considered as blessed?"
To gain insight, let's look at the work John the Baptist had to do before Jesus could come on the scene with God's gospel message. Luke 3:3-6: "And he (John) came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" Before Jesus could bring God's gospel of abundant life to mankind, John the Baptist had to first make a path in the wilderness of mankind's brazen heart. Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit, John had to expose the poorness -- the complete helplessness of mankind's heart, or spirit. A heart in desperate need of cleansing, a cleansing which John the Baptist symbolized by baptizing in water. Yes, John went about in the power of the Holy Spirit, exposing a spirit within mankind that was so poor it was completely and thoroughly helpless to help itself, and therefore, was in desperate need of God's outside intervention. Then, and only then, was mankind's heart prepared to receive the gospel from God's only Son -- Jesus!
It was no wonder that those who saw themselves as righteous (or at the very least not helpless) so hated John the Baptist and wanted to kill him. But John the Baptist was only the instrument; it was the Holy Spirit Himself which exposed the truth that their (the self-righteous) spirit was actually poor, impoverished, destitute, and in need of God's outside intervention. In other words, until you can acknowledge this need, you are in fact blaspheming the Holy Spirit by calling Him (God) a liar. A sin which leaves you without any hope, because why would you feel the need to ask God to do a "work" within your heart if you did not see a need. John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" John 14:6: "Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.'" Yes, as moronic as it may sound to the proud of spirit and/or the self-righteous of this world, it can only be the poor (completely helpless) in spirit which are blessed!
Hence, the first and greatest "sign of life" must be a poor spirit, as only the poor in spirit can understand and see their need for salvation, ergo, willing to accept God's "work" of salvation through His Son Jesus! And this promise in Matthew 5:3 of the poor in spirit having the kingdom of heaven is written in the original Greek in the present tense, therefore, it is in the possession of the poor in spirit NOW! In other words, just as God rules and reigns within the kingdom of heaven, the poor in spirit are born-again and NOW have God ruling and reigning within their hearts, i.e., they NOW have God's kingdom within their hearts (Luke 17:20-21)!
Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The fact that God now rules and reigns within the hearts of the poor in spirit by virtue of being born-again, causes the next "sign of life" to manifest. As God begins His reign within our hearts, we begin to mourn, grieve, and even bewail over sin in not only our lives, but also in the lives of those around us. We mourn over sin as we would mourn over the loss of a loved one. We begin to see and understand the outcome of sin -- how it separated us from our creator, our heavenly Father; and we begin to desperately desire the intimacy we once had with God to be restored. We mourn over the sin which surrounds us every day as we now see and understand that sin was the cause of our eternal separation from God. This is what the Scriptures identify as hell and/or the second death! How can we not mourn over the death and destruction sin leaves behind!? Was it not God's own mourning heart (spirit), mourning over our death -- our separation from Him -- which compelled Him to send His only Son to restore the intimacy we had once enjoyed? To literally save us from hell -- the second death! But this verse is written in the original Greek in the future passive, because we cannot be comforted until the promise we now possess is actually fulfilled and our intimacy with God, our heavenly Father, is fully restored!
Matthew 5:5: "Blessed are the gentle (humble), for they shall inherit the earth." A heart characterized by gentleness or humility is our next "sign of life". Humility is not a weakness, but a virtue born out of immense inner strength -- the inward strength it takes to admit we are not always right, nor are we the center of our own universe. It takes immense inner strength to deny yourself and allow God's holy light to expose your weaknesses and imperfections. Only the weak cannot allow their imperfections to come to light, because their fragile egos could not handle the perceived indignity of ever being wrong and/or in a state of helplessness! Instead, as the light (Holy Spirit) attempts to expose their imperfections, they gnash their teeth and growl like a frightened animal that's backed into a corner. Agitated and provoked, they again look for the comfort of their familiar territory of self-deceit and sin, i.e., the world they were born into. Whereas, the humble are willing to accept God's dealings as good and do not dispute, nor resist His work within; as they have learned by experience to no longer question God's love for them and they begin to trust implicitly God's wisdom over their own. And since humility is a "sign of life", and life is defined as being with God, and as this earth and all that's in it belongs to God, how then can the humble not inherit the earth? But once again this verse is written in the original Greek in the future passive, as Satan is now the god of this world in its fallen state. Besides, there is nothing in this present fallen world that I could conceivably desire!
Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." As the humble of heart allow God to rule and reign within their hearts, and they begin to experience the righteousness of God firsthand, they begin to display another "sign of life" -- an ever increasing hunger and thirst for more. These humble spirits crave to be filled with all the goodness and righteousness of God; they have tasted it and found it to be most desirable. In God's righteousness they found a peace and freedom which are far beyond the ability of mankind's imagination to conceive. But once again this verse is written in the future passive, so the promise of our hunger and thirst for God's righteousness to be fully satisfied must wait for the redemption of our body, when we will be no longer tempted, or hindered by our flesh. But until then, our hunger and thirst should cause an impassioned desire within to press in as hard as we can, and get as close as we can to God's righteousness, even though perfection is for now unobtainable.
Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." This "sign of life" begins to manifest itself within our lives as the hunger and thirst for God's righteousness causes us to discover a need -- no, an overwhelming necessity -- for God's mercy. And in the course of seeking God's righteousness, we also discover we are to treat our neighbor as we wish to be treated; how then can we withhold mercy from our neighbor? This promise is also in the future passive; therefore, we should not expect the mercy we now show someone to always be returned in kind. But that's OK! We know that someday the promise associated with this "sign of life" will be fulfilled. Luke 6:36-38: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give (mercy), and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." As for me, I cannot wait to be abundantly merciful to someone, because I know how much I need God's immeasurable abundance of mercy for myself!
Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This "sign of life" is about a heart that's sincere, without duplicity or hypocrisy. It is a heart that passionately seeks after God's righteousness and virtues just because it is hopelessly in love with God. And never – never does it ever enter into their heart to seek His righteousness for any kind of personal reward or advantage; nor do they pathetically try to gain esteem in the eyes of God and/or mankind. Are the motives in your heart pure!? Then, as this "sign of life" is also written in the future passive, there will come a day you will see God face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." The Greek word for son in this verse denotes maturity and not a small child. Therefore, this "sign of life" is a sign which confirms maturity within a Christian's heart. Inasmuch as, you have moved away from a childish one-upmanship and/or the desire to seek revenge, onto a heart desiring reconciliation and restoration. Just like God, with all your heart you wish for none to perish, not even your worst enemy, but you wish for all to come to a saving knowledge of God. Even if you find you must deny yourself to accomplish this objective! As this verse is also written in the future passive, you may be known as a fool in this present world, but there will come a day when it will become known to all that you were just acting as a mature son or daughter of God.
Matthew 5:10-11: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me." Finally, we have another "sign of life" that is written in the present tense. That's right, we can count on the people of this world to continuously persecute and hurl insults at us, since this world can only love its own. So beware! Luke 6:26: "Woe to you when ALL men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets."
It is very important for us to always remember and incorporate these "Signs of Life" within our everyday lives. They were obviously VERY important to Jesus as He immediately followed with Matthew 5:13-16, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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