The other day my wife and I were talking about legacies. She made the comment, “The only people who have left a lasting legacy were people whose legacy is based upon something bigger than themselves.” She remarked that this was a “duh” moment. However, I am not so quick to acknowledge this was that type of moment. I don’t believe it’s that obvious to people.
Many people believe legacies are built upon what we do in this life and the “name” we hand down to our children. I still remember being a kid and my dad telling me that I was a McCallum and that meant “this or that.” And there is truth in that. My family heritage is Scottish. We have a family heritage of Presbyterian preachers. Must be why, while growing up a Baptist, I still find myself agreeing with much of Presbyterianism outside of baptism. Further back, the McCallum clan fought with William Wallace for Scottish freedom. That’s a cool legacy. I guess, I should be preaching the Word and then coming home to watch Braveheart!
When I think about legacies they are typically built upon what we do and what we want to pass on. Many people base their legacy upon self. It’s about how they want to be remembered. It’s about being able to die knowing that their memory and values will be passed on to future generations. Usually the legacy we leave when this is our motivation will only last a little while.
There are others who built legacies based upon a cause. For instance, Martin Luther King’s legacy was built, not only on what he did, but what he stood for. His legacy has lasted longer than most.
However, whether self-consumed or cause-consumed, a legacy may last for a while but eventually your name and your cause will fade to a distant memory at best.
Listen to a sobering reminder from Solomon, who lived around 970 BC – 931 BC and had the whole world at his fingertips. He was the richest man on the planet. He was wise. He was handsome. He was Warren Buffett, Matthew McConaughey, Einstein all wrapped into one. And talk about legacy. His dad was King David. He succeeded David as King of Israel. Solomon built the temple. He accomplished so much. Surely his legacy was something that was meaningful!
Here is what he said in Ecclesiastes:
“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 (emphasis mine)
Interestingly, Solomon had material wealth and power to the point he could have whatever he desired and in the end it was meaningless. So, if your legacy is about working hard (toil) and getting all you can you will die disappointed.
Well, maybe you could always be remembered, right? Look at how he responds, “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!.” Ecc. 2:16
So even a legacy of a wise man is not immortal. If this happens to this man, how much more will it happen to us!
So I challenge you to leave your legacy.
Not leave it to your children or peers or the next generation. I challenge you to LEAVE your legacy. Let it go. Change your focus. Leave your legacy. Pursue something bigger than YOUR legacy.
Why? Because your legacy will not last forever. Wouldn’t you want your legacy to be something that lasts forever? “Nothing lasts forever,” you say? Well, you are almost right. Nothing lasts forever except one thing.
One thing will last forever. That is the kingdom of God. Before you shut me down as a religious nut just think about it for a second. Jesus, who walked the earth 2,000 years ago, started a movement that is still going today, stronger than ever before. Jesus’ legacy is marked by one historical event that changed history and that ensures his legacy will remain forever: the resurrection. He was the first to actually be raised back to life with an incorruptible body. He offers real life now with a future resurrection for you. So what does this mean for legacy?
Here are 3 ways you can leave your legacy and pursue a legacy that will last forever~founded on Jesus and motivated by his gospel.
1. Give your life, your legacy, your all to Jesus Christ.
It starts here. Jesus came initiating the Kingdom of God. Entrance is free. True life is free. But it requires faith in him and what he accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection (if this is unfamiliar click What is the Gospel). Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)
2. Pass on a legacy of a life lived where there is an exchange at the center of your worldview: Self at the center exchanged for God at the center.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) We are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33).
This is tough. We are born with hearts rebellious towards God. We want to be the center of the universe. Look at children. You don’t have to teach them to say “MINE!” It’s natural. Do you teach a toddler to throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want? Of course not. You have at to work very hard to break this pattern. It’s innate.
Adults do it to. Paul tells Timothy, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal,not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim. 3:2-5a) You don’t have to look far to see this.
We need a paradigm shift away from self-centered living. We need the gospel to change our hearts. We need to be reminded, as Christians participating in God’s Kingdom come to earth, that just as Jesus gave up everything to pursue a wayward people so now we are empowered to give up our selfish desires for God’s good desires to reach a wayward people for his Kingdom. Only the gospel has the power to change a heart from self-centered to God-centered.
3. Live counter-culturally within your culture (city/neighborhood) for God’s glory and your increasing joy based upon your future hope.
Joy is infectious. When people are around joyful people it rubs off. This is why people flock to “positive thinking.” But the difference between joy and positive thinking is reality.
Positive thinking is not based on reality but what you want reality to be. Joy is based upon reality–based upon something that has happened in you, for you, and is happening through you.
Joy is a state of the mind and of the heart that is untouchable. It’s untouchable because it’s born out of hope. A hope for today. A hope for tomorrow. A hope for forever. A hope built upon a savior who has already won the war over Satan, sin and death.
This is hope. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15). That’s why “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
The hope born of all that Christ has done on our behalf and the hope of what is to come, the redemption of our bodies and resurrection into a renewed heavens and earth (Romans 8) is what gives us hope to face trials and tribulations of today. You can’t truly face trials without real hope. It’s this hope in the ultimate renewal of all things that prompts Paul to pen things like “for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
What would cause a man to say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)? I mean, how indestructible is that kind of joy? This kind of joy, displayed in good times and bad, and lived out in our cities instead just our Christian circles, will make a lasting impression on an unbelieving world looking for real hope. That is a legacy I want to both be a part of and pass on to further generations.
Finally, we experience the uttermost joy when we live for what we created to live for. There is freedom in that. A fish trying to live on dry land because it doesn’t like the restriction of water is not free. It’s dead. And we won’t find freedom, life and joy living outside of what we were designed to live for. We were designed to live for God’s glory. All of God’s creation was created for his glory. That’s why “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1) and God “leads [us] in paths of righteousness for his namesake” (Psalm 23:3b). He says of his people, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7). We were unmistakably created for his glory.
So that’s were we find joy. That’s were we find meaning and life. That’s were we find a never-ending legacy. A legacy of God-centered joy that goes on forever. A legacy that is built on King Jesus in his “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34). That’ quite a kingdom. That’s quite a legacy.
According to his great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you ~ 1 Peter 1:3-4
Let’s devote ourselves to that kind of legacy. One that’s imperishable. That’s way more than we can do on our own.
Grace & Peace