Orange Street church of Christ • June 09, 2022
We are probably all familiar with our credit score. The FICO credit score is a metric created by the Fair Isaac Corporation to help lenders assess the risk of borrowers who are searching for a loan. A FICO score takes into account five areas to assess a person’s creditworthiness: payment history, current level of indebtedness, types of credit used, length of credit history, and new credit accounts. Generally speaking, a higher FICO score allows one to borrow more and get approved for loans easier because he or she is deemed as a low-risk borrower.
A FICO score can range from 300 to 850 points based on the individual’s criteria listed above. According to Investopedia, only 1.6% of the population has the perfect FICO score of 850. A perfect FICO score is rare in part because individuals with such a high score usually try to leverage that score into securing more loans, which causes the score to go down. Nevertheless, having a perfect FICO score would be quite the achievement because a high FICO score more readily allows one to secure mortgages, car loans, and other financial opportunities. The FICO score reflects something inherent in our thinking: that good things can be merited.
Can you imagine if there was a spiritual credit score? Many of us would probably imagine a spiritual credit score as going up and down based on our good deeds or our sins. If we help our neighbor move, our score will go up, but if we cheat on our taxes our score will go down. If this is how a spiritual credit score worked, we might expect that the more good deeds we did, the more God’s grace would extend to us. We might hypothesize that if our spiritual credit score was high enough, we could get into heaven or earn a nicer section of heaven reserved for those with high enough scores.
The problem is, we could never do enough good to have a perfect spiritual credit score on our own merit. All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Even if we were to do everything God commanded us, we would be unprofitable servants, only doing what was our duty to do (Lk. 17:10). The only way for us to be forgiven of our spiritual debt is to rely on the compassion of the Master to whom we are indebted (Matt. 18:23-27). We are saved by grace through faith and “not of works” (Eph. 2:8-9). Our spiritual credit score can only be raised, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).
So, if we were to ask ourselves what our spiritual credit score is, it is either 300 or 850. Either we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) or we are “alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5). Either we are a son of disobedience deserving wrath (Eph. 2:2-3) or we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). The only way to raise our spiritual credit score is to be in Christ where we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sis, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
We could never pay off the debt we owe God, yet He forgives us anyway when we obey His Son (Heb. 5:9). If our spiritual credit score has been raised into the heavenly places through Christ, we should live a life devoted to good works and forgiving others (Matt. 18:28-35; Titus 2:14). If our spiritual credit score is low because we are still in our sins, we must put on Christ in faith, repentance, confession, and baptism (Gal. 3:27)! A high credit score may enable one to purchase a house or a car, but being in Christ enables one to inherit eternal riches.
Orange Street church of Christ • June 03, 2022
A preacher story is told about a man and his wife driving down a country road in their old pickup truck with a bench seat. As they were going, the wife told her husband, “Do you know what I can’t figure out?” The husband replied, “what’s that dear?” The wife responds, “When we first got married, whenever we went for a ride in the truck, we would sit right next to each other. Now, you sit all the way over there, and I sit all the way over here.” The husband, sitting at the steering wheel quipped, “well, I know I didn’t move!”
Sometimes, our relationship with God can be similar: We start to feel more distant from God. It seems like God isn’t as close as He used to be. We begin to long for the days when things were better, and we felt closer to God and wonder what happened. Well, the truth is, God hasn’t moved! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Here are some things to consider if it feels like you are not as close to God as you used to be.
First, when God feels more distant, it is possible that we have drifted from Him. We are warned in Hebrews 2:1 to “give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (NKJV). If we have been slack in our Bible reading, prayer, or assembling with the saints, we shouldn’t be surprised if we feel more distant from God than we used to feel. If one goes long without the reminders of the Word, diving communication in prayer, or encouragement from brethren, God can very easily begin to seem more distant.
If we know we have drifted, we must be honest with ourselves and seek to scooch back closer to our Heavenly Father. To put more effort into spiritual things is a choice. We can choose to “be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).
Maybe you need to pray a prayer similar to David’s in Psalm 51:10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Dwell on all the things that made you want to seek God as fervently as you used to and remember that nothing about those eternal truths has changed.
Second, it is possible that we have not drifted from God but feel as though we have. Maybe we are as diligent and zealous as we used to be. We still read the Bible and pray and assemble as much as ever, but we feel like we are not as close to God as we once were. If this is true for us, it may be the case that our feelings are misleading us. Feelings can be extremely fickle and do not always represent the truth. We must remember that “if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 Jn. 3:20). A feeling is not always representative of a spiritual truth. In this case, we must trust God more than our heart and hope and pray to feel close to God again as we serve Him the best we can, undeterred by our emotions.
Third, we might feel far from God because we are. Unconfessed and unrepentant sin can separate us from our Holy Creator (Isa. 59:1-2; 1 Jn. 1:5-6; Acts 8:21-24). If we know that there is something separating us from God, the best option is to always deal with it as soon as possible. When we return to our Father, He welcomes us back with love and open arms (Lk. 15:20). Though our hidden sins can separate us from God, they are not unforgivable. When we bring them into the light we can awaken to spiritual life (Eph. 5:13-14).
As you go through life, does God feel distant? We know that He hasn’t moved. Maybe we’ve moved from Him. If so, let’s return today! Or, maybe we have to stop listening to our emotions and start listening to the Word of God (as challenging as that can be). Let’s strive to sit close to God as He drives us down the road of life!
Orange Street church of Christ • May 27, 2022
What is a human being? Many today say humans are randomly evolved, nothing special, and no different from the animals around us. Let’s notice what the Bible says about being a human.
Made in the Image and Likeness of God
Unlike any other creature, human beings were created by God in His image and likeness: “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26a, 27 ESV). To be made in God’s image and likeness does not necessarily mean that we look like Him (He is non-material, Jn. 4:24). Instead, it seems to refer to our moral awareness, intellectual capacity, and emotional capability.
To be made in the image and likeness of God has implications for the value and worth of human beings. Before the Law of Moses, only the crime of murder carried a divinely ordained death penalty. The reasoning behind requiring the death penalty for murder is given by God: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6). Murder is heinous in part because when one commits murder, he is violently destroying God’s image and likeness. Because human beings bear God’s image and likeness, they should be treated with respect, love, and dignity (Jas. 3:9-10; 1 Jn. 4:20)
Blessed with Dominion
God created mankind in His image and likeness so that they could “have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). The first command from God to mankind was: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
Humans are the only creatures given dominion over and charged to subdue the rest of God’s earthly creation. As humans, we are supposed to tame the ground, train and husband animals, grow crops, make things, invent stuff, and multiply on the face of the earth. Meditating on this awesome responsibility and the magnificence of God reflected in creation, David writes in the Psalms, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Ps. 8:3-6). Our race is here for a glorious reason: to subdue the earth and be stewards of it, while filling it with more of those made in the image of God.
Mortal and Fallible
Being a human is not all good, however. Our original parents had access to the tree of life which enabled them to live for as long as they ate from it, but lost access to the tree due to sin (Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24). Because of sin, every member of mankind is cursed to have a difficult life and eventually return to the dust from which he was initially formed (Gen. 3:17-19; Job 14:1-2).
While humans initially could have lived forever in the garden, now our life is fleeting, our days are only a few handbreadths, our lifetime is as nothing, all of us stand as a mere breath and go about as a shadow (Ps. 39:4-6). Our life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). Now, “it is appointed for man to die” (Heb. 9:27) and many humans, “through fear of death” are “subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15).
As our first parents demonstrated by introducing our mortality, humans are fallible. Indeed, “to err is human.” God blessed us with the ability to have moral choices and we often choose wrongly: “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Eccl. 7:29). Growing up in a fallen world, we all eventually follow the father of our race and choose to sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; 5:12).
Thankfully, while we are mortal and fallible, humans are also loved. God was not content to watch the crown jewel of His creation waste away in sin and death. Instead, He demonstrated His love for the world by sending His Divine Son to earth as a human to die on our behalf and grant us access to eternal life, forgiveness, and righteousness (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8; Rom. 8:1-4; Heb. 2:9, 14-15; 1 Jn. 5:11). God even restores the fullness of His image and likeness to us when we are in Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)! Truly, whatever we lost in Adam we can regain in Christ (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22).
To be a human means that you are not a mistake. You are not just another animal. You are not a random collection of cells that crawled out of some prehistoric soup. Instead, you bear the image and likeness of God. You are here to have dominion over God’s creation. And, though you are mortal and fallible, you are loved so much that God’s own Son died to give you eternal life and forgiveness!
Orange Street church of Christ • May 17, 2022
I am not a doctor, and the following is not medical advice.
It seems like now more than ever the world is focused on health and longevity. Three basic things always seem to be included in the popular view of how to be healthy: diet, exercise, and supplements. While these are not groundbreaking and are common sense for most, the same three things help us spiritually. Our spiritual health and longevity matter even more than our physical health. Here are three things we should keep our eye on and be sure to practice for spiritual health and longevity.
Pretty much every doctor has something to say about how we eat. We all know that certain foods can be good for our health or bad for our health. What we eat (and how much of it) can affect our health for good or bad. The same is true spiritually. What we “eat” (ingest/consume) matters for our spiritual longevity and wellness.
If we do not have a steady diet of God’s Word, our spiritual health will undoubtedly decline. Jesus reminds us from the Old Testament that men should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). In the context, Jesus was responding to Satan’s temptation by affirming that God’s Word is more important even than physical food! Christians are instructed to, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Pet. 2:2-3 ESV). We should give attention to ingesting that which is spiritually good for us!
Just like there is good food and junk food, there is good spiritual food and junk spiritual food. That which is brings us closer to God, builds our faith, and helps us be more like Jesus is good spiritual food! The Word of God will always do those things. However, that which drives us further from Jesus, causes us to sin, makes us scared and doubtful, and takes away our peace of mind is spiritual junk food. Spiritual junk food should be avoided while God’s Word is prioritized in how we spend our time and what we allow our mind to ingest. A regular diet of God’s Word is vital to our spiritual health. Hopefully, as we feast on the Word of God, we can transition from the “milk” of the Word to the “sold food” of the Word as we mature and grow.
Along with diet, one of the most popular and longstanding pieces of advice for physical health is exercise. When I was a kid, we were told in school that, to be in good health, we were supposed to exercise 30 minutes a day. Of course, that is nothing for a kid! We all know that some sort of regular exercise is vital to our physical health, but it is also vital to our spiritual health!
As Christians, our responsibility is to “work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) while God works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Just like in physical exercise, to work out our own salvation requires training and discipline. We must train ourselves for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).
Exercise is rarely pleasant, but it is done for the sake of the future. So it is with spiritual self-control, discipline, and training for godliness (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Sometimes we will have to say “no.” Sometimes we will have to deny ourselves something our flesh really wants. Sometimes we will struggle just to keep afloat. But such is the will of God. Like physical exercises, spiritual exercise is never easy, but it is worth it! Remove the sin in your life, focus on Jesus, and run with endurance (Heb. 12:1-2)!
Popular modern medical advice usually includes supplements because very few of us receive the complete nutrition we need from food alone. Whether the supplement is a general multivitamin or something specific our doctor says we are lacking, supplements are a mainstay for many who seek to have a healthy lifestyle.
Similarly, supplements are a requirement for spiritual health. Because God has saved us by his grace, Christians should “make every effort to supplement” their faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). It is only by supplementing our faith with these Christian graces that we can prevent being “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8) and make sure that an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is richly provided for us (2 Pet. 2:11).
If you have faith, that is great! But you need to supplement your faith. Look for ways to serve more, know more, love more, and be godlier. If we take our spiritual supplements, we will “never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10), but to neglect them is to forget that we were cleansed from our former sins (2 Pet. 1:9).
There is an interesting overlap between advice for physical health and what the Bible says about spiritual health. God made our bodies and our spirits alike, so it makes sense that there would be some parallels. Let’s ask ourselves if we are spiritually healthy. If not, it’s not too late to start!