Stanley D. Gale

Depravity Unleashed

Written by Stanley D. Gale |
Monday, January 30, 2023
What we see unleashed in our society today is not the product of an enlightened mind, but rather a willing descent into the darkness of sin, fueled by an aspiration to be as God. The lid has been lifted, giving license to depravity. As the biblical diagnostic puts it: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19–20).

Before Pandora was a personalized radio service, she was a figure of Greek mythology. She was given a box with the instruction not to open it. Curiosity as her key, she lifted the lid and so streamed miseries, maladies, and all sorts of malice into the world to plague mankind.
The expression “opening Pandora’s box” relates to that story to warn of consequences and ramifications of certain actions. It provides counsel for avoiding unwanted trouble. It also suggests a metaphor for the unraveling moral fabric that endangers American society.
God’s diagnosis of the human heart is not an optimistic one. He speaks of the heart in bondage to sin, filled with wickedness, and inclined to evil.
Theologically speaking, human hearts are totally depraved. Not that people are as evil as they could be, but there is nothing in the operating system of people’s inner being that is unaffected and uncorrupted by the fallen condition of sin. Sin warps. It distorts. It incapacitates for honoring God and pursuing righteousness.
Parents are told that this waywardness, this misalignment, is bound up in the heart of a child. Therefore, they are to guard and guide their children. To protect a child from the foolishness bound up in the heart is to exercise love, as is direction in the way of righteousness.
Just as God has given parental authority to safeguard children, so He has given governmental authority to safeguard citizens. Societal structures represent common grace to restrain evil, to keep people from self-destructive behavior, and to promote community well-being.
When these restraints are lifted, depravity is unleashed.
Wickedness advances by being tolerated, then accepted, then promoted, then imposed. Psalm 1 traces this sort of progression.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night….
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Repentance and Forgiveness

Written by Stanley D. Gale |
Sunday, October 23, 2022
For our part, though, we should be eager to forgive even before signs of repentance are forthcoming. Our private inclination should be to let go and to give grace. When and if we are given the opportunity in person, we should be ready to extend the forgiveness we have already fostered in our hearts. Freely we have received, freely we are to forgive.

While an accurate understanding of forgiveness can be discerned by studying the vocabulary found in Scripture, in another sense it takes sixty-six chapters to plumb the depths of forgiveness. Even then, we cannot fully comprehend it because we will grow in our understanding and appreciation as we study God’s Word and seek His wisdom for its application. One of the questions that relates to forgiving another has to do with the place of repentance as a requisite for granting that forgiveness.

“If He Repents, Forgive Him.”
Is hearing an expression of repentance by the offending party necessary for the granting of forgiveness by the one wronged? Can a debt of sin be canceled apart from recognition of some degree of remorse on the part of the offender? Should it be?
A pastor friend was wronged by another pastor, totally blindsided and slandered. My friend intended to pursue conciliatory efforts with the offending pastor but said this: “I forgive him and I pray that he will one day repent.” Is my friend putting the cart before the horse by forgiving without first hearing an expression of repentance and, in so doing, cheapening grace?
We want to form our opinions from the Word of God. A key passage to consider is found in Luke’s gospel: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3–4). Is our Lord laying out a requirement that we discern repentance before granting forgiveness?
It is safe to say that repentance is always to be desired when it comes to ownership of sin. All sin is first and foremost against God. Repentance accords sin its weight before a holy God. It also admits not only the wrong but acknowledges a degree of personal responsibility for the wrong and laments over it.
“I Repent.”
But is Jesus saying that we need to hear the actual words, “I repent,” or does He mean that we must always endeavor to somehow discern or elicit contrition before granting pardon? Or could it be that our Lord is not speaking of repentance so much as He is of return? The brother who was adversarial and moving away is now conciliatory to some degree and moving toward even if he has not fully acknowledged his sin.

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Vanity

It’s frustrating when things don’t work as they’re supposed to. You rummage through the junk drawer to get batteries for the remote, only to find that they have no charge, despite not being expired.
This futility gives us an idea of what the Bible means when it speaks of vanity. Vanity is a wisdom concept found in both the Old and New Testaments that points us to what will work and what won’t. It serves as a warning label from God to help us discern what is real, lasting, effective, and of value, as opposed to what is empty, futile, meaningless, and fleeting. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes specializes in the subject of vanity, bringing application to just about every area of life under the sun where we might try to find meaning in this fallen world. Its descriptions of frustration and ineffectiveness resonate with our experience.
As a wisdom concept, vanity is intended to keep us from seeking meaning, purpose, and value in what will only disappoint. It reflects the proverb, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov. 14:12). Wisdom, however, not only helps us discern vanity; it directs us to where we can find the life we seek. After a comprehensive survey of vanity, Ecclesiastes lays out the operating principle to a meaningful life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

Whosoever Will

Written by Stanley D. Gale |
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
It is the Spirit who opens eyes to His beauty and opens ears to His call. Whether at the tomb of Lazarus or before the Athenian philosophers or to the hearers assembled before us, the response of the congregation is not elicited by the preacher but by the One preached.

A group of pastors was talking about preaching, evangelistic preaching in particular. The question was raised about the appropriate way to urge people to profess faith in Christ. How do we appeal to our listeners so that they know a response is necessary for them to realize the benefits of the gospel?
The group was theologically savvy enough to know that they could not cajole anyone into the Kingdom. They fully believed the apostle when he says: “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5).
They recognized that they were not to be spiritual salesmen but spiritual midwives, working in tandem with what God would bring about.
The question then remains. How do we preach to the will? Knowing that many in our congregations are without the Spirit of God and thus do not have ears to hear (1 Cor. 2:11, 14), how do we speak to them with an eye to their confessing Christ?
Let’s examine our personal experience. How did you come to Christ? For me, I had heard the gospel in full or in part many times. But there came a point when what was at one time absurd to me began to make sense, what was repugnant began to be savory, when that which I resisted became irresistible.
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The Relevance of Revelation

From my visiting churches to preach on the book of Revelation, I’ve discovered something. People tend to talk more about the book of Revelation than about the message of the book.
Many people hear Revelation and, like a word association test, their minds immediately go to their position on the millennial reign of Christ. Most recently when a congregant heard that I was there to speak on Revelation, he felt compelled to identify himself as a premillennialist, as though that settled the matter and satisfied the book’s purpose. On another occasion, a member of the congregation lingered to inform me that he was a staunch partial preterist. He went so far as to say that Revelation cannot be understood apart from an early date for its writing.
While hermeneutical approaches and questions of date are worthwhile considerations, are they necessary to glean benefit from the book of Revelation? I believe that our Lord’s message to us in the book is apparent apart from these considerations, and a preoccupation with them can lead us to miss the substance our Lord has for us.
A Pastoral Letter from Our Lord
Imagine going off to college. While unpacking, you discover a letter from your parents. The letter contains counsel to you at this stage of your life, telling you what to expect, what challenges you will face, and how to conduct yourself. They assure you of their love and provision for you. They paint a picture of what your future could be like. As you read the letter, you hear echoes of things your parents have taught you your entire life.
That sort of letter is what our Lord Jesus has given to us in the book of Revelation. Just as college can hold many dangers through worldviews contrary to the Christian faith and temptations to indulge in self-serving ways, so this fallen world presents challenges for us who bear the name of Christ. In the final book of the Bible, our Lord speaks to equip us for life as His disciples in what can be a hostile and inhospitable world.
Revelation is often seen as a cipher, an answer key to the future. While things to come are certainly in view, the primary focus is not tomorrow but today. John lays out how we are to approach the book. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
Read-Hear-Keep
John instructs us to read, hear, and keep what is written. We handle the “word of God” and “testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:2) properly when we give ear to it. We are not to neglect it but must take it in hand and take note of the message our Lord has packed for us for the journey we face as those who are in the world but not of the world.
Not only are we to take note, but we are to take heed. We must attend to what our Lord says, and especially in the book of Revelation, what He shows us. Revelation is filled with evocative imagery that brings to mind Old Testament anticipation. Like that letter from parents to their student at college, we have heard these things before and are eager to see them at hand. We are to incline our ear to God and dig deep to plumb the depth and richness of the redemptive landscape in which we find ourselves in these last days (Heb. 1:1–4).
One other element is necessary for rightly approaching the book of Revelation.
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What Does Paul Say about Spiritual Warfare?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.(Eph. 6:12)
What comes to mind when you think of spiritual warfare? Perhaps images of Linda Blair’s contorted face or spinning head from the movie The Exorcist. Those who are more biblically minded might think of Jesus’ casting out a legion of demons, sending them into a herd of pigs to plunge over a cliff. Or maybe you can find no other explanation for some experience of dark oppression, so you start to consider something demonic.
But The Exorcist was fiction, and Jesus’ casting out demons was something that happened back in a unique period of time. Your experience of evil oppression could just as easily be your overactive imagination.
Basic to Christian Discipleship and Mission
Why bother with spiritual warfare? The reason is twofold. One, it is evident throughout the Bible. Two, we are called by God to spiritual warfare. Spiritual opposition is part of a biblical worldview. Believers must be equipped for spiritual warfare, for it is integral to Christian discipleship.
Spiritual opposition is the subject of both our Lord’s priestly work and our Lord’s priestly prayer. He came “to destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14). His prayer on the eve of the cross was that His sheep would be kept from the evil one (John 17:15).
Spiritual warfare is recognized by every New Testament writer. In his first letter to the persecuted and scattered exiles, Peter addresses an array of practical matters dealing with all sorts of ordinary issues related to suffering. He concludes the epistle with a discussion of spiritual warfare, not as something abnormal or tangential to the topic but normal and integral. Peter remarks: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
But the vast teaching on the subject of spiritual warfare is found in the writings of the Apostle Paul, as core subject matter in the curriculum of Christian discipleship. The division, disorder, depravity, and dysfunction highlighted in the first letter to the church at Corinth are shown in Paul’s second letter to involve spiritual opposition (2 Cor. 2:11; 10:3–6; 11:14; 12:7).
It is in his letter to the Ephesians, however, that the Apostle establishes a center for the study of spiritual warfare. Every chapter touches on the subject, as Paul describes the deliverance of Christ, the call of the Christian, and the dark world in which we live as children of light, contending with spiritual forces of evil.
V-J (Victory in Jesus) Day
Though Ephesians 6 contains the most focused treatment of spiritual warfare in the letter, that is not where the Apostle starts the discussion. We can follow the stream of thought beginning with the headwaters in chapter 1 to its outflow in chapter 6.

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