DayBreaks for 5/15/20 – The Problem with Legalism


DayBreaks for 5/15/20: The Problem with Legalism

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2010:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes many shocking statements that take our breath away.  For example, he equates hatred/anger with murder and lust with adultery.  Those are not messages that we like to hear, because we’ve been guilty of both hatred and lust if we will be honest enough to admit it.  But he just keeps spinning such statements off non-stop.  And, he finally tops them all when he says, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Ah, thanks for that one, Jesus…that one’s simple (NOT!)”

Many who heard him that day were the Pharisees and scribes who were always spying on him, trying to learn more about him and his movement – not so they could join in worshipping him – but so they could put an end to it.  The Pharisees and scribes seemed to have a competition going between the two groups to see who could be the most holy.  They REALLY took holiness seriously!  They committed themselves to keeping the Law, to obedience.  They documented every law (613 according to them, with 248 commands, 365 prohibitions and 1521 “flavors”), wrote dissertations on the nuances of each one.  Why?  Because they wanted to be sure that they knew what the Law required so they could obey it and not break it in any way.  They were fanatical about holiness…even if they were misguided and proud of their fanaticism. 

And, in a crowd surrounded by such people, Jesus makes his bold statement: “Be perfect, even as you Father in heaven is perfect.”  Most of us would say that is not possible – in fact, we’d say it was impossible.  But the Pharisees and scribes would have loved it. 

The problem should be clear.  The problem isn’t that the Pharisees and scribes were fanatical about holiness with all their definition of the Law and what it meant and required.  The problem is that they were not fanatical enough.  They needed to reach a state of perfection in their legalism (both in terms of what the Law really meant and taught) and in their obedience to it.  In short, they could never be legalistic enough if they wanted to be saved that way.  They just didn’t want to admit it.

Those who insist on legalistic formulas for salvation today are just as misguided – and just as confused.  Anyone who says, “If you can’t obey better than that, you’ll never get to heaven” has totally missed the point.  Is obedience important?  Sure…but it is not the mechanism of salvation – never has been, never will be.  Want to disagree with me?  Let me ask a simple question: if obedience is that important to salvation, how many times can a person be disobedient before they are doomed?  100?  1000?  10,000?  If there were a number, Jesus would have told it to us and we’d be able to keep track.  But another part of the problem is that sometimes we sin without being aware of it: I offend through some careless words, I fail to give thanks when I should, I set up an idol in my heart that I’m not even aware of as an idol.  Legalists are fond of saying that one unforgiven sin is enough to send a person to hell.  And I’d agree with that.  The key has to do with the forgiveness of Jesus and God’s grace.  Jesus paid the price on the cross for every single one of my sins – past, present and future.  That’s why Paul could say that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t have to go back to the cross and die again each time I sin for the simple reason that he paid the price, “once and for all” for sin.  My salvation is not based on any level of obedience, but on my acceptance, by faith, of the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus.

The motive for obedience is to please God and be a blessing to others.  It is not for salvation – or we are all doomed because we can never be legalistic enough in our obedience to achieve it. 

PRAYER: Lord, we want to honor you with our obedience, but help us understand that we will never be good enough, wise enough, obedient enough, to be saved unless we are perfect like the Father is perfect.  Thank you, Jesus, for applying your perfect holiness to us through your blood! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 11/5/18 – What Is It About Laws?

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DayBreaks for 11/05/18: What Is It About Laws?

In a cartoon, Frank and Ernest are standing in front of row after row of shelves of books. On top of one of the shelves is a sign, which reads, “Law Library.” Franks turns and says to Ernest: “It’s frightening when you think that we started out with just Ten Commandments.”

It is sort of frightening isn’t it? We started out with 10 and now we have an estimated 35 million laws on the books in the United States alone. Some of them are very good and deeply needed. But there are some that probably need to be repealed.

For example: Did you know there is a law in Florida that makes it illegal for a woman who’s single, divorced or widowed to parachute out of a plane on Sunday afternoon?

In Amarillo, Texas, it is against the law to take a bath on the main street during banking hours. (Apparently it’s OK at other times!)

In Portland, Oregon, it is illegal to wear roller skates in public restrooms.

In Halethorpe, Maryland, a kiss lasting more than a second is an illegal act.

And in St. Louis, there used to be a law that if your automobile spooked a horse, you had to hide the car. And if hiding didn’t work, you had to start dismantling it until the horse calmed down.

As humans, we have a love/hate relationship with laws. We love the laws that protect us, but disdain laws we don’t like. Why do we have 35 million laws on the books in the US? I think there’s part of us that craves rules because they tell us what we can and can’t do. But I think we like them more because they tell us what’s off limits – and we interpret that t mean we can do anything right up to crossing that line. We assume if there’s not a specific law against something, we can do it, so we push the limit. But here’s the problem with the The Greatest Commandment: it would undo all that fallacious reasoning if we take it to heart and love God more than anything else in the world. THAT would truly change our behavior.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t know if we know how to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Forgive us for the times we push the limits assuming if something isn’t forbidden then it is permitted – even though we know it would not be your choice for us. In Jesus’ name, men.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/30/17 – Moving Boundary Stones

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DayBreaks for 10/30/17: Moving Boundary Stones

From the DayBreaks archives:

Long ago, Israel had settled into the promised land and grew fat and content. Well, not quite. Some were content, but others were ambitious. They wanted more and more land for themselves – at the expense of their brethren. How did they solve the problem? Hosea tells us how some did it, in Hosea 5:10: “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.”

As you can tell from the passage, their actions did not please God. He hates injustice and greed. Many had become corrupt. Why didn’t God just ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen? Because when leaders go wrong, it isn’t long before the masses go wrong.

I was fortunate enough to attend my youngest son’s college graduation last June at Stanford. The guest speaker was Ted Koppel, the guy from ABC. I have to tell you that I was very impressed with the challenge that he gave the students. He’d been invited by the president of the university, Gerhard Caspar, to talk on “that mess in Washington” and Caspar’s concern about intrusion into the privacy of the President. Caspar got more than he bargained for. Koppel, rather than sharing Caspar’s concern over “privacy”, delivered a very eloquent and impassioned plea for a return to morality. His words were powerful, but perhaps no more powerful than in this statement as the ending summary of his speech: “Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­as you surely will ­adjust your lives, not the standards.”

We have a tendency to explain away our own improper behavior by “changing the rules”. Changing the rules is “moving the boundary stones” – deciding that the old limits no longer apply and then redefining them to meet out wishes. Koppel’s advice is right on: when we fail morally, “as you surely will – adjust your lives, not the standards.”

When we fail, don’t try to disavow God’s law by saying His standard has become old and outdated – a relic of an ancient age long gone by. God’s law is unchanging. We dare not move the boundary stones for our own benefit!

PRAYER:  Lord, help us to faithfully observe the boundaries that You have set in place, may we glorify You by our obedience.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 6/16/16 – The Answer is in the Heart

DayBreaks for 6/16/16 – The Answer is in the Heart

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Fort Hood. San Bernadino. Aurora. Oklahoma City. Orlando.

Unfortunately, I don’t have to explain to the reference to each of the above locales. They are infamous enough because of events that took place there.

I don’t want to get political about this…that’s not the point. I don’t care what you do or don’t think about things like gun control…that’s entirely up to you. I have my opinions but right now those are beside the point. I only bring that up to make this point: you won’t solve the problem by making guns illegal any more than making drugs illegal has caused them to be eliminated from our culture.

So what is to be done? Why is this happening in our country and in places around the world?

I believe it is because we have lost our bearings because we have totally abandoned the only thing that can really change people: the indwelling Spirit and Word of God.

Most people of my generation grew up going to church. Our parents went to church…and took us with them. But then in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, there was a backlash against any kind of authority, any kind of control. My generation was a part of that, too. When truth became relative and defined by the individual instead of One who truly has Authority, all things became possible.

Parents (including those of my generation) began to turn away from church, from the 10 Commandments, from the teaching of the Word…and we made our own truth.

So, if gun laws and drug laws won’t solve the problem, where is the answer to be found? It is in changed hearts…change from the inside out. If only we could go back to when values like truth, integrity, respect for others regardless of their level of authority, the Golden Rule and morality were taught to our little ones, I believe the future could look different.

But it won’t happen by passing laws. Ask Israel how the Old Law worked for them.  Even Paul says it: laws only provoke sin – they don’t stop it or cure it. He is quite clear: law leads to greater sin and death. Why? Because the heart resents law and defies it with a shouted “I will show you – I will do what I want to do! If you tell me I can’t do something, that is precisely what I WILL do!” The answer is in the heart – a heart overcome by the love of Christ and His Spirit living in us and teaching us how to love others as He has loved us.

Parents: teach your children God’s ways. Parenting isn’t about being a friend to your children – it is hard work, it is meant to be hard work because it is the most serious work you’ll ever do. Grandparents: teach your grandchildren God’s ways. And let’s live God’s way ourselves so the little ones can see that it works and is the best way to live life! Will you rise to the challenge? 

PRAYER: How desperately we need individual and collective transformation of our hearts, Lord! Please, we need you to change us before we destroy one another! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 5/21/15 – Dust Motes

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DayBreaks for 5/21/15: Dust Motes

Ephesians 5:13 (ESV) – But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible…

It may seem that what Paul wrote in this verse is blindingly obvious (no pun intended).  And, I suppose, in a way that is true.  Things that aren’t exposed to light are in utter darkness and you can’t see them.  You can’t see their shape, size, utility nor if they are alive or inanimate. 

We need light not only for visibility, but also for life. Popular Science says that if the sun were to disappear, the earth would drop to zero degrees Farenheit within a week, and within a year, to 100 degrees. 

The Bible has a lot to say about light and our need for it.  But here’s a thought that you may not have considered in this age of anti-nomianism (anti-law): we tend to think of the old Law of Moses as being a bad thing, a useless thing that could do nothing to save us.  And that is true.  But that doesn’t mean the law wasn’t good.  Jesus was very clear about that – that not even a single period at the end of a commandment would ever be done away with.  He said he’d come not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. 

So, how precisely does the Law work?  Romans 5:12-14 is a difficult passage where it seems that Paul is saying that without the Law, there was no condemnation.  He’s clear that death comes as a result of sin which is a breaking of the law.  Yet, even before Moses’ law was given, death reigned.  Why?  Because of the law of right and wrong that was written on humanity’s heart, even before the giving of Moses’ Law.  That’s why those before Moses died. 

But is the knowledge that is written on our hearts all we need?  No, because not all hearts are equally sensitive or yielded to it.  That’s where Moses’ Law came into play.  It defined sin for what it is. 

This past Sunday, the preacher used the illustration of light to explain it.  You’ve seen beams of light pouring through a window many times.  And when you do, what do you see?  You see small particles of dust floating in the air, moving, dancing, shifting.  You wouldn’t know they were there without the sunlight.  And that sunlight is like the Law…it reveals truth to us about ourselves in places that we would not otherwise see.

So rather than throwing out the moral law portions of Moses’ Law, we would do well to study them diligently, and let the Light reveal to us where things are wrong and where we need to change.

What is the Law saying to you?  Are you still listening to it?  Or have you thrown it out totally in a headlong rush to embrace grace?  If so, I’d encourage you to reconsider because if Jesus said it will never pass away, we’d better pay attention to it and learn from it!  It will never save us, but it can teach us.

PRAYER: Join our hearts with that of your servant David, Lord, who said, “I love Your law” (Ps. 119:97)! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 05/20/13 – Where It Shines Brightest

DayBreaks for 05/20/13 – Where It Shines the Brightest

bright-light-1NOTE: I am on a missions trip/internship to Africa and will be gone until 5/25.  Please pray for God’s work to go forth mightily, for protection for myself and those with whom I will be working, and for my wife in my absence!  Thank you…I cherish your prayers!  You will be receiving DayBreaks as usual (from the archive) until I’ve returned.

Romans 6:15 – “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

On the surface, the very suggestion that we should sin so that God’s grace would be magnified is ludicrous.  I don’t know anyone who has ever seriously suggested such a thing.  I have to wonder if the writer to Romans was being facetious.  I find the suggestion shocking that a Christian could think such a thing.

Yet, once I get past the shock of the idea, I find that my actions are not as consistent with my indignation about the suggestion of sinning so that grace is magnified.  Every time that I knowingly sin and have an inkling of a notion that “Well, if I blow it, I can go back to God and ask Him to forgive me again” I betray the fact that part of me has bought into this offensive logic.

We all need to remember the terrible price that was paid so that we could be under grace instead of law, under the law of love instead of the law written on stone.  It is when we forget (or when we consciously ignore) the suffering of the Lamb of God that we give in to our sinful desires.  May God always keep the cross of Christ set before our eyes!

I like what Brennan Manning had to say in The Ragamuffin Gospel: “Here was the purest picture I’d ever seen of God’s relentless pursuit of His raggedy creation.  Not that I could sin more so grace might abound (Rom. 6:15), but grace abounded more because I could find it in the darkness as much as in the light.

Perhaps that is as good of a description of grace as I’ve ever heard…it is something that isn’t found only when we are walking in the light, but it is appreciated much more when we find and experience it in the darkness of our sinfulness.

Copyright 2002 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 01/02/13 – The Victory of Grace

DayBreaks for 01/02/13 – The Victory of Grace


On New Year’s Day, my wife and I went to see Les Miserables, the movie that was released on Christmas day.  We knew the story well, having seen the musical on stage at least 3 times. I know of no musical that can rival it for either the music or message. Please, do yourself a favor and go see it.  If you don’t know what it is about, read something and get the gist of the story first…then GO!

The first time we went to see Les Mis was the night that allied forces launched the first Gulf war against Iraq.  The first bombs had fallen just before we left for the movie.  From the time I first hear about it, my mind was captivated by the imaginings of brave men and women in harm’s way at those moments.  It made Les Mis all the more relevant during the scenes at the barricade (and leading up to the scene of the fighting of the revolutionaries for freedom.)

Today, as I watched the movie, I was more struck than ever about the dynamic portrayal of law versus mercy and grace.  Javert is the epitome of one who has lived his life by not just the spirit of the law, but the letter of it as well.  Once himself from “the gutter”, he believes it has been his adherence to the law that has raised him up to a position of influence and power.  He sees himself as a better human than the main character, Jean Valjean, a convicted thief who changed his ways after he received an undeserved act of mercy and grace from the bishop.  Valjean has not earned the blessings he received and Javert is intent on putting him back in his place for years ago breaking parole.

I can identify with both men.  I was raised in an extremely legalistic church that was all about the things we couldn’t do because we were tasked to obey.  If you sinned, you were at risk of eternal hellfire if you didn’t have a chance to pray and seek forgiveness between the time you sinned and the time you died.  It is, to put it bluntly, a terrible way to live.

Then, thanks to new eyes during a study of Romans, and the writings of Philip Yancey and Brennan Manning, I came to learn about mercy and grace.  Living under an umbrella of God’s mercy and God’s grace is a much better way to live…and it sets one free!

Perhaps the most comforting verse in all Scripture to me is this from James 2:12-13:  Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

And so it is in the movie: Javert takes his own life rather than believing in and accepting the truth of grace.  Valjean dies in peace, knowing that though he was a flawed man with many faults and failings, that if one human could show to another the kind of grace he received from the bishop, then the grace of God must be of infinity magnitude.  With such knowledge, he breathes his last.

If you are struggling with a version of “performance Christianity”, I beg of you to see Les Miserables, then go home and read Romans, then Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace and Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel and Ruthless Trust.  Let mercy and grace prevail.  If James was inspired when he wrote what he did (and I believe he was), not even on the day of Judgment will law triumph over grace.   

PRAYER: May we throw ourselves with reckless abandon into Your waiting arms of love, mercy and grace, there to wait mercy’s ultimate victory over Judgment…all because of the blood of the Lamb!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 08/04/11 – Just One Command

DayBreaks for 08/04/11 – Just One Command

Max Lucado (In the Grip of Grace), invites us to take a trip of the imagination with him.  He posed this idea: wouldn’t it be great if God had given us just one command that, if we obeyed it, would guarantee our salvation?  We could forget about all those really tough things that Christ said: loving your enemies and blessing them instead of cursing them, we wouldn’t have to carry a cross ever – let alone daily, we wouldn’t have to love him more than anything or anyone else (which is somewhat hard to love someone you’ve never seen), we wouldn’t have to give to the church or any other cause, we wouldn’t have to deny ourselves anything – as long as we obeyed that one command which would guarantee one’s salvation.  Sound good?  Well, here’s the command: Thou shalt jump so high that you touch the surface of the moon.

Uh-oh.  There’s a bit of a problem.  How high can you jump?  If you’re like most people, you can jump a foot or two.  An Olympic high jumper can manage about 7-1/2 feet.  But that’s it.  Do you know how many feet it is to the moon?  1,191,284,160 feet (at its closest to earth)!  No one can jump that high…not even close.  Even if one can jump 8 feet high, that leaves 1,191,284,152 feet to go.

Aren’t you glad that God didn’t give us that command in order to be saved?  He just has well have, when we look at Jesus words from Matthew 5:48: But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.- Matthew 5:48  It would be easier, would it not, to jump and touch the surface of the moon?

This is why we have no right to judge: no matter how good we may look compared to others – even if we jump 8 times higher than they can jump, we come nowhere near to the perfection of God.  We can, actually, come closer to touching the surface of the moon.  We are all lousy jumpers.  There is NO ONE according to Paul (Romans) who does ANYTHING that is good.

So, is it hopeless?  No!  We can be perfect, even as the Father is perfect – but only through the blood of the Lamb of God…and the incredible grace of God!

PRAYER: Thank you, Almighty Father, for priceless grace, and the righteousness of Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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