One of the best ways to ensure you are living as a dead man is to constantly check for signs of life.
The call of cross is to die daily, and consider ourselves crucified with Christ so that we are no longer living in our own strength and subject to the desires of the flesh, but ruled by the Holy Spirit. It was impressed on me to share from my own experiences about how I know that my flesh is ‘coming back to life’ so that I can put it to death by the Spirit (Romans 8:13).
Good or bad signs of life?
God has shown us in His creation many examples of life – some good, and some bad – that we should be aware of. When cancer cells are alive and growing rapidly, that is not a good ‘life’ one wants to see. However, if white blood cells are growing and rapidly spreading, that is a good sign of life one wishes to see in their fight against cancer. So it is, we must discern the signs of life to determine whether they are of the Spirit, and helping us ‘die to self’, or whether they are warning signs of the old man coming back to life and therefore must be ‘put to death by the Spirit’.
5 signs from my life
1) The annoyed and aggravated test
Signs of life in my flesh that are a warning sign that I need more Holy Spirit are when I get aggravated and annoyed with others who don’t treat me like I deserve to be treated. See all that ‘me’ wrapped up in there? But the reality is that life in the Spirit brings an aggravation at sin and the fact that people aren’t treating the Holy Spirit as He deserves!
If you find yourself being aggravated at annoyed with people and how they are or are not treating you, then that’s a warning sign that your flesh needs to die. If your ‘annoyed flesh’ is at a 7 on a 1-10 scale, then that means your ‘annoyed spirit’ is at a 3. You can’t say “Oh yes, I am annoyed by sin and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit… like a 7!’ and then also say “Yeah, my flesh is getting pretty annoyed lately… probably a 7.” That’s called deception – which leads me to the second test.
2) Lying and deception test
When was the last time you told a just-enough-truth. Maybe you deceived your boss by saying you were on time to the job site, when you were in fact 2 minutes late. Maybe you told your wife you were on your way home, when you hadn’t walked out the door yet. (I used to text my wife ‘I am walking out the door!’ in order to make it sound better as if I am on my way, when I had not even shut down my computer and left my office yet. Big warning sign! As I acknowledged this subtle deceptive practice, I learned to quickly repent and confess… and by God’s grace, those are few and far between now.) Maybe you told your accountability partner that you were having daily time with the Lord, but you had in fact missed a few days – those are significant things!
life by the Spirit brings an aggravation at sin and the fact that people aren’t treating the Holy Spirit as He deserves!
Signs of life in my flesh are when there are small compromises to truth in the small things. But life in the Spirit is truth, and willingly and unprovoked brings things into the light! It’s not waiting till you get caught that begins to change your heart. It is humbly and repentantly volunteering things into the light so that the blood of Jesus and purify and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)! The opposite spirit of lying and deception is that of truth and light. It is walking in the light that produces true fellowship with our brothers (1 John 1:7) and intimacy with God.
3) The affections test
I know my flesh is starting to get its pulse back when I start to long for the affections of others, and feel a need to be noticed. Simply put, it is another self-love meter that needs to go jump in a lake! When I crave the affections of others and feel like I need to be validated by my peers, or leaders, or even my spouse, it is really saying that ‘their affections will satisfy me’, when the reality is that they never will. That is a sign of life in the flesh that needs refocused and replaced.
life in the Spirit willingly and unprovoked brings things into the light!
Life in the Spirit is when my affections are towards others and my desires are to uplift others. “He must become greater, I must become less.” The scriptures even say that we are to ‘flee sexual immorality, and thru love, serve one another.” If my affections are focused on myself, or longing for that of those around me, I am missing what the Spirit brings to life which is a love for others.
When I feel that ugly self-pity flesh stuff rising up, it is a sure sign that I better check my heart with Jesus and get it right.
4) The cravings test
The flesh vs. the spirit life on this one is simple: are you craving ‘escapes’ or craving intimacy with the Lord. Signs of flesh life rising up sound like “Man, I just need to crash and watch a movie tonight.” or “Let’s go do something tonight!” Maybe you escape by playing video games, reading books, or exercising. Guess what? Craving escapes from your circumstances are a dangerous slippery slope to a lack of dependance on God.
Life by the Spirit looks like craving intimacy with Holy Spirit. It sounds like “Man, I just need to get time with the Lord in prayer tonight!” or “Man, I can’t wait to get home and worship more!” It is a craving to 1) pray, 2) fast, 3) worship, and 4) get in the Word.
Sound absent from your cravings list? Yeah, it’s convicting to me too – but it’s indeed what life in the Spirit craves!
5) The stressed test
The last sign of life that I don’t want to see in my life is that of stress and tiredness. Flesh life sounds like “I am tired and stressed.” I am not talking about a tiredness that comes from simply living, working and – in my case – trying to keep up with 5 kids ages 3-10! Jesus got tired. The disciples got tired and needed to rest. But there is a ‘tired all the time’ and ‘always tight and stressed’ that is all flesh and sinful.
Being so stressed and tired that everyone else is commenting on it, is sinful. Why else would Jesus say “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden!”? He said His yoke was easy and His burdens are light – so if we are heavy, tired, stressed and worn out, I believe we are walking in sin.
Life in the Spirit is ‘joy and peace’. It is ‘light and restful.’ Easy? No. But when our trust is in the Lord, and we are letting Him do what only He can do, and simply doing our part of ‘faith and works’, it looks and feels much different than weariness and stress.
Just the other day, I justified my stress by pointing at busyness in my business, lots of home selling and buying issues, and kids summer schedules – until it took a slipped disc in my back and numerous observations from my wife that “I was not being myself” till I was forced to stop, slow down, lay on ice (thanks to my slipped disc), and reflect on the fact that I was carrying things I should have laid down at the cross. There is no excuse for stress and weariness when the Lord has commanded us to come to Him so He can give us rest!
So, now what?
If you see good signs emerging, that is life of the Spirit. Keep asking the Holy Spirit to help you put to death the flesh so that your spirit man comes alive – Christ in me, the hope of glory.
If you see no signs – that either means there is a process in the spirit taking place, or there is suppressed issues in your flesh you that are about to explode. You need to ask the Holy Spirit for discernment if you see ‘no signs’. Sometimes people say ‘I am not craving escapes, but I am not craving intimacy with Lord… what’s up?’ I think you need to ask the Lord that question – not man. The Holy Spirit is the Helper and He will indeed help you discern the season you are in.
If you see the flesh emerging, this is my encouragement. I felt the Lord’s encouragement the other day that “More time in the gym is not what people need – the gym doesn’t bear any fruit. But time with a personal training is what one needs!” So it is that so often we tell ourselves, “I know, I just need more time in the Word, or more time at church, or more time praying…” and we point to doing things we know we should do. It’s like saying we need more time in the gym. But an every so slight shift in that desire would actually cause us to cry out “I need more of you, Holy Spirit!”
After all, the fruit of The Spirit is … self control!
And it’s by The Spirit we put to death the deeds of our flesh!
And the Lord promises to pour out His Spirit on those who ask!
So, rather than resigning to a Sunday School answer of ‘I need more time with Jesus’ – trying tweaking your prayer from your heart to be ‘More of The Holy Spirit!’ It’s His personal training, from The Helper himself, that will help us ‘walk by The Spirit and no longer gratify the sinful desires of the flesh.’
Listen to the full message on ‘Signs of Life’ here.