“Every civilisation decays by forgetting obvious things”
G. K. Chesterton
I was reading my Bible today in preparation for my sermon on Sunday, and though I am preaching through Hebrews, I was making use of something that James says in his small letter, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (James 3:2). I thought two thoughts in quick succession. Boy that is such an obvious statement, and yet it is so powerful. This got me thinking, that so much of what the Bible says is just simple, plain, common sense. But then most profound wisdom is incredibly simple.
Over the years I have heard Christians from time to time scorn preaching, because it is repetitive. That is, they observe that preachers are just preaching the same old obvious truths again and again. Constantly repeating the gospel, messages about sin, message about righteousness, and so much more, that are not really new at all. These are old truths and well known to many believers. I have heard some people who grew up in the Church say, "I don't need to hear preaching any more, because I have heard it all before. It's just the same things over and over again."
But now, looking at our society and the state it is in, do you see how important it is to point out the obvious and consistent truths regularly, again and again and again? Just a short while of this not happening in society and people deny that gender is fixed in the womb, they deny that infants in the womb are people, they deny that men and women are different, and they forgot that the state is not God and does not have absolute authority over all aspects of our life, and much, much more.
It was once common to hear the Bible taught in classrooms in public schools, for prayers and hymns to be sung, and for preachers to be regularly on campus. And many people thought, well we don’t really need this to be good, so let’s get rid of it. And look what has happened. People have gone from knowing basic, simple truths, to saying such simple truths are evil and oppressive. We forget all too quickly. And not just the secular society forgets, so too does the Church. I often hear from people how much of a scriptural desert their church is, or a church they visited it. I know many churches are oases of truth in a wicked culture, but many are not, many are just secular clubs with a Christian skin suit.
This is why Peter said, "Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have" (2 Peter 1:12). Peter knew that people had to be reminded of basic truths. He knew this deeply and made it a part of his ministry to ensure people were reminded of the basics, constantly. His gospel, narrated through Mark, his letters, are filled with simple timeless wisdom, that reminds us to get the basics right in life. Much of the Bible is this way. So much of the Bible is just basic, simple wisdom, but so much of society rejects it and ignores it so often.
People, Christians, society, the culture, all need to hear obvious truths regularly, because to the sinful mind often obvious things are not obvious. This is especially true of the rebellious. The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things. Humans can be clever, and often too clever for their own good, and think that they know better than the Lord. Such is the deceitfulness of sin, that it can cause us to outright deny or simply forget the importance of basic truths. You stop telling people these obvious truths and church and society go insane, because sanity is doing the obvious things well, and to do this we need constant reminders.
So don’t scorn preaching. If you have a simple pastor, who gets up weekly, opens the word of God, and seeks to explain those old and obvious truths again and again each week, give thanks to God. Because God in his graciousness has given you a great gift, someone to remind you how and why to continue to look back to God. And pastors if you have one of those congregations that is thirsty for the word of God, also praise God, because this is a great blessing. Without this, we can really get ourselves in trouble. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Every civilisation decays by forgetting obvious things.” If this is the case, then every basic unit of civilisation can be maintained by remembering the basic things, praise be that our Lord gave us his Scriptures which do this better than anything else.