Common Sense

On a recent Sunday morning, the streets were snow packed after overnight snow.  As I drove our small all-wheel drive SUV cautiously at the speed of traffic, in the right lane on a major street, a car from behind in the left lane sped around me, swerved in front of me as he passed the vehicle in the left lane ahead of me, and veered back into the left lane as he sped on.  I was glad the car didn’t spin out on the slick street.  The previous Wednesday evening, a few blocks from this area on the same street, a car whipped around me to my right and drove through a corner gas station rather than slowing and using the turn lane in order to proceed up the street to our right.  Both drivers obviously showed a lack of common sense.

I scan the Denver newspaper every day, and usually catch a local newscast as well.  Lack of common sense is a constant unstated theme.  The left-leaning paper campaigned for decriminalization of marijuana for a couple of years before it happened in Colorado.  Since recreational pot has become legal under state law, the paper fawns all over the burgeoning pot industry, regularly championing recreational marijuana as well as celebrating alcohol consumption – promoting local microbreweries and drinking establishments, for example.  The lifestyle pages regularly celebrate and promote drinking.  Funny thing, though.  Almost every day one finds reports of crime, traffic accidents, middle-of-the-night shootings, etc., very often committed by intoxicated persons, often crimes against other intoxicated persons.  What I’ve missed are the stories of how marijuana or alcohol consumption makes one a better citizen, a better spouse, a better parent, a better employee, a better driver.  (I’ll allow that, conceivably, there may be a medicinal purpose for substances found in marijuana.  Further, I’ll concede the obvious that the great majority of social drinkers are neither alcoholics nor criminals.)

Perhaps I’m prejudiced.  My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic back when an alcoholic was referred to as the town drunk.  I only met him a couple of times, as the family broke up before my birth.  Growing up, I remember the alcoholic couple across the street, coming home occasionally – actually, more than occasionally – drunk.  Falling out of the car drunk.  Laying in the driveway or lawn, drunk.  Falling off the front step, drunk.

The current push for transgenderism is rooted in part in a lack of common sense.  Great compassion is due to many on this unfortunate path, usually victims of things like bad parenting or childhood abuse, deceived by media, deceived by friends, deceived by medical professionals, ultimately “victims” of their fallen nature.  Gender-neutral parenting – raising children in a manner which allows kids to explore different gender roles regardless of the sex the child was assigned at birth – has apparently grown in popularity, with parents somehow hoping to remove perceived societal pressure from their kids when it comes to gender roles.  A human being is of course male or female from the moment of conception.  This is fixed as the embryonic baby grows, his or her hormonal system confirming it throughout development before birth.  Imagining that one’s sex can be changed is, ultimately, a violation of common sense.  Pumping one’s body full of hormones and being surgically altered cannot change what became a reality at conception, and will never make a person truly fulfilled.  It flies in the face of common sense.

I saw a story on local news a couple of weeks ago.  A group of mostly female students at a local university was staging a protest, demanding that administrators “do something” about sexual assault.  I wondered why the protesters didn’t themselves do something.  Perhaps they could commit to remaining sober, to not attend parties or socialize in bars with intoxicated individuals, to returning to their dorm rooms or apartments by, say, midnight, and to recruit other students to do the same.  Just a guess, but it seems likely that most college sexual assaults happen at night and involve intoxicated individuals.  Common sense might cause one to take responsibility and consider avoiding such situations.

Lack of good judgement, prudence, and sensibleness is not a recent development.  It has plagued human experience since the beginning of time; it is not a phenomenon confined to any particular generation, any one social class, culture, or nation.  American pundit Will Rogers observed three generations ago, “Common sense ain’t common.”  But it almost seems that in American society today we are seeing a growing loss of common sense.  Family breakup and the decline of adherence to traditional marriage, addictions, alcohol and drug use, a victim mentality, an entitlement mentality – the list goes on –  only accelerate this decline in personal responsibility and common sense.

          

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

(Romans 1:18-23; 28-32)

Ultimately, for the Christian, one who has come to faith in Christ and the gospel, common sense in life in large measure derives from biblical wisdom, observing God’s mandates to us, seeing life from God’s perspective, and responding accordingly.  The Bible’s book of Proverbs is known as a book of wisdom and gives us a  detailed explanation of the value of gaining wisdom.  In Proverbs 2, we read

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.

When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you, . . .”

(Proverbs 2:1-11)

Living wisely is to be a priority in life for the Christian.  Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Proverbs 9:10 similarly tells us,  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  The appreciation of the fact that the sovereign and providential God is present in our lives, and then living accordingly, is the basis of true wisdom.  A life of worship, awe, and submission to God both brings wisdom and expresses that we possess a measure of wisdom.     

Ultimately, the primary way we gain godly wisdom is by learning God’s Word and putting into practice what we know from Scripture.  When we begin to understand the written Word of God and include the knowledge of the Lord in every aspect of life, we make decisions and react to circumstances based on His approval.  We live with the knowledge that the Creator of the universe is involved in even our mundane daily affairs, which results in living a life that pleases Him and brings us true joy and fulfillment.  Without God’s wisdom, we may be educated, we may become successful, we may attain a measure of happiness, but it is the wisdom derived from Scripture that enables us to live the life God wants for us and to live in anticipation of eternity.  “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).  Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16 that we should “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  The challenge is not merely to gain academic knowledge, but allowing the Word to “dwell” in us, being cautioned and instructed by Scripture and by the Spirit who speaks to us through the Word, growing in relationship with God, putting the wisdom of the Word into practice.  In no small measure, we will then develop and show wisdom even beyond

common sense.

A Desire For The Pure Milk of the Word

Baby

Since my daughter’s maternity leave ended, I’ve had several occasions to watch my infant granddaughter for a few hours in the morning before my wife gets home from work to assume babysitting duties.  It has been a delightful experience.  This beautiful baby is as well-behaved as a four-month-old can be.  She has even been considerate enough to only soil her diaper twice when I’ve been on duty!  She sleeps, we play, we “talk.”  But almost on schedule, she gets hungry, and when she gets hungry, there is no other solution.  She wants her bottle of formula!  I give her the amount that I am supposed to per my daughter’s instructions, with the powdered formula mixed with the proper amount of pure bottled water, not watered down further, not adulterated in any way.  The baby is given just what she is supposed to have per her mother’s instruction in conjunction with her conversations with the pediatrician.  At this point, I don’t sneak in anything else – not a different brand of formula, no dairy milk or other snacks.  (There will be time later when Grandpa can sneak in a few unapproved treats!)

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, we read, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  Just like a baby that has a single-minded focus on receiving milk, Peter reminds believers that we need to have a powerful focus on being nourished by the scriptures.   

     

Recently I traveled with my brother to the northern panhandle area of Nebraska to attend a memorial service for our cousin after her passing.  As we traveled, we listened to three recorded sermons by a noted Bible teacher and pastor, part of a series delivered some two decades ago entitled “Lessons From The Dungeon” concerning the Old Testament account of Joseph.  The story of Joseph gives us profound lessons about life, how we should live, how we should react to circumstances and to adversity, which was the emphasis of these messages.  This Bible teacher is a faithful expositor of Scripture; his thoughts are not only profound, but completely in accord with the passage from which he is preaching.  These messages are timeless and could be applied in any culture in any period of history; with little modification, they could have been delivered to an English-speaking audience a century or more ago, or a century in the future, or translated and delivered to Asians or Africans.  He compared scripture with scripture, teaching the principle that Joseph came to understand when he declared that “God meant it for good,” the principle of Romans 8:28, that God works all things for His glory and our ultimate good according to His wisdom and purposes.  This pastor has a sizeable church, and a following via radio and other media of people who are “hungry” for true and meaningful teaching from scripture.

Several days before our trip, I had heard a very different teaching based loosely on the account of Joseph.  Via a YouTube video, I listened to a “sermon” from one of the more prominent megachurch pastor/entertainers in the broad evangelical sphere.  He speaks to a few thousand people each weekend at his main megachurch campus plus many more watching at satellite campuses.  In a talk entitled “The Danger of a Dream,” there was a reading of Genesis 37:5, “Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more,” relating Joseph’s divinely-given dream that he told to his brothers causing them to reject him.  This speaker used this as a pretext for an upbeat and energetic talk about developing a “dream” from God, about having a good idea and a  “dream” that will make one’s life different.  I noted that he spoke much about himself, but nothing of Christ or the gospel.   Minus the verse, this would have been a great talk for a Silicon Valley company’s corporate event.  The development of a personal vision or dream is popular in such megachurch circles, and there is of course nothing wrong with and everything right about developing purpose and direction.  But there is everything wrong with a supposed evangelical church substituting such themes for those found in scripture.  His talk would have been preceded by a generationally-focused contemporary christian pop concert; any mention or hint of Christian themes in the performance would have exceeded the biblical content of the speaker’s presentation.  He is a deception.  He is giving his audience of mostly younger people who are hungry for something not “the pure milk of the word” but grossly watered down, aberrant teaching.

Joseph is not memorialized in Scripture because he did amazing things when he dreamed big.  For most of his life, he lived a nightmare, not a dream.  Nor is he remembered because he added the wisdom of the Hebrews to the wisdom of Egypt.  A type and foreshadow of Christ, Joseph is memorialized in scripture because he was a man of great faith and belief, because he obeyed God, manifested the highest of character, and did what he knew to be right, because he remembered and lived out the principle of “God meant it for good.”  The faithful Bible teacher got it right; the other guy got applause almost on cue from his audience, but in truth he gave them nothing.

     

Christians need to exercise good judgement in selecting a church and in selecting teachers who they read or to whom they listen.  More importantly, we must have a disciplined, healthy feeding on the Word of God.  We must regularly read and study the Bible; we must have a strong desire for it.  There is no other way to progress in the Christian life.

My healthy granddaughter takes in her formula and grows.  She makes no effort; she simply follows her natural desire and is nourished and continues to grow.  Here, the analogy begins to break down.  We must make an effort to make the time for fellowship with God, to exercise discernment, to take in the Word and to grow as a result.  Mere knowledge of the Bible isn’t the end.  In the 1 Peter 2:1-3 passage, Peter wrote, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  The context of maintaining this desire for the Word is behavioral and attitudinal change.  We take in the truth of the Word, we pray, we put the Word into practice, we lay aside sin, we experience the grace of the Lord, and we grow to maturity.  Then, whether we live a dream, or sometimes live a nightmare, we can bring honor and glory to God and declare His grace to those around us.