Have you ever seen a dead body? Maybe you have attended a funeral with and open casket. If we are honest, does the person lying in the casket really look alive? Is there any chance you could think that person is just sleeping and will suddenly sit up? Have you ever seen a dead body before a mortician has dressed up the person for the purpose of a funeral?
If you were to come across a body, lying on the ground, and you suspected the person might be dead, what signs would you look for to confirm your thoughts? You could check if he or she was breathing. Or check a pulse. Or look for movement. Maybe you would shake the person and say, "Are you okay, are you okay?"
I remember times when my children were little and would sleep through the night for the first time. I was so used to getting up that I would wake up in the night and start growing concerned that my baby hadn't woken up. I would peek in and look for movement. Was there a little chest rising up and falling down? Any movement? Any noise? Was my baby alive? If you're a parent, maybe you can relate.
In the medical profession, a pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, blood pressure, eye movement, and reflexes are but many ways a person can be determined to be alive. And specific measurements can even provide information about just how alive a person might be.
But what about spiritual life? Are there life signs?
There are a few different life signs. One is fruit. Luke 6:43-45 and Matthew 12:33-37 both record a discussion from Jesus about the fruit that comes from good trees as well as the fruit that comes from bad trees. It is as if the fruit is a sign of the life of the tree. In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus tells a parable of a fruit tree that doesn't bear fruit at all. Can it even be called a fruit tree? And in the end, a fruit tree that doesn't bear fruit should be cut down to make room for a fruit tree that's actually a fruit tree. When John the Baptist was preaching in preparation for Jesus' coming, he said "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10 and Luke 3:9, ESV). And Jesus says in John 15:1-6 says,
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch that withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned" (John 15:1-6, ESV).
The biblical imagery of life and fruit is telling. A Christian life should have some indication of real life and the bearing of future life just as fruit is seed-filled fruit and food. Bearing fruit is one of many spiritual life signs the Bible speaks of. Is your life bearing spiritual fruit?
I could spend post after post addressing not the signs themselves; but more importantly, a saved, blood-bought believer should show signs of new life in Christ. There should probably be some kind of evidence, right? Some sign. Something.
James 2:14-26 deals specifically with the significance of the vital life signs of the Christian life. It is not special work, or even work in Jesus' name, that brings about salvation. This kind of work, as described in Matthew 7:21-23, will only lead Jesus to say, "I never knew you." Furthermore, a dead person can't bring about signs of true life. He or she must be made alive first.
Instead, these life signs are an evidence of a life transformation from death to life. They are like the pulse, temperature, reflexes, and rising chest. They also show and support true belief in one who God has raised to spiritual life.
If Abraham only said he believed God's words but then refused to go up the hill to sacrifice his son in faith, it would be questionable if he really believed God. The same is true of Rahab. James says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder!" (James 2:19) This is a statement about a profession that lacks the life signs. A demon can profess a belief but live a fruitless existence in rejection and opposition to God. The same is true of people. They will say, "Oh, I believe in God and stuff," but their lives lack any evidence of said belief. Are their empty words enough to overcome their dead souls? True faith and belief should probably be evidence at some point in our actions. We are not called to simply believe cognitively in word only, but in our deeds too.