LEAVE BEHIND A GODLY LEGACY
Dear Christian friends,
I read an article this week about a college basketball team that will have six freshmen on the team this year. Some of those freshmen are going play. The six have become very close to each other. They practice together; they study together; they go out together. They do a lot of talking to each other. There is a good chemistry among them. The article says “And, yes, there’s already been some discussion among the freshmen about the type of legacy they’d like to leave at the university though the freshmen have yet to play their first game.” They want to leave a legacy, something they will always be remembered for. They want to be remembered for championships.
The word ‘legacy’ is defined as “something that is transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” An inheritance is a legacy, but so is the good example that someone sets for the next generation.
Today we end of our study of Abraham that began on June 5th. We have covered most of chapters 12-25 in the book of Genesis. When God wrote down the history of Abraham God was leaving his legacy to remember and learn from. The Bible says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Abraham is one that we ought to imitate, but imitating him means we are in the position of being imitated. That’s our legacy. We are called on to “Leave Behind a Godly Legacy.”
The Lord took Sarah, Abraham’s wife to heaven when Abraham was 137 years old. He lived another thirty eight years after that. The Bible tells us that he married again. His second wife was Keturah, a good Bible trivia question. She bore him six more children, in addition to Isaac and Ishmael whom he already had. But eventually Abraham went the way of all flesh. “Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”
The sad truth is that it is everyone’s legacy to die. Mel Blanc, the voice of many cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny (Do kids know who Bugs Bunny is any more?), has an epitaph on his grave marker that says, “That’s all folks!” That’s what was at the end of all the Bugs Bunny’s cartoons. The epitaph on the grave of George Johnson has says,
"Here lies George Johnson
Hanged by mistake, 1882
He was right
We was wrong
But we strung him up
And now he's gone."
Give everyone enough years and something will kill us – heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, even human error. Bud Adams, the owner of the Tennessee Titan professional football team, for those of you who love football, (we have a few of you in this room today), died this week. He never won a Super Bowl, but he was also one of the founders of the American Football League that started in the 1960’s. It eventually merged with the NFL and made the league it is today. He died of “natural causes.” Reggie Rogers also a football player died this week too. He was only 49. He was an All American football player. His death looks self-induced. The same thing happened to his brother. He overdosed at the age of 23 the day before his wedding. Death comes in a smorgasbord of ways, doesn’t it?
It is a legacy passed down from generation to generation. No one escapes it. It is universal. Nothing is more sure. Medical doctors will say there are all kinds of reasons people die, but the Bible says that it is a matter of relationships. The apostle Paul once preached a sermon in which he said, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” We all came from one woman and one man.
There are seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australiaand Antarctica. There are thousands of miles from one to another. There are oceans of water in between. Yet we have people in this church whose origins come from five of those continents. We are missing Antarctica. No missionaries have been sent to the penguins. As far as Australiais concerned Crocodile Dundee is Anglican. But Paul says “From one man he made all the nations.” Our common relatives are Adam and Eve. He sinned and we sinned. His heart changed when he said “yes” to the forbidden fruit. Ours hearts now inherit his. His body turned to dust; so will ours.
Abraham proved he was the son of Adam too. He tried to pass off his beautiful wife in Egyptto be his sister so Pharaoh would think she was available to save his own life. One would think he learned a lesson from that but he did it a second time to another king. There were times he took matters into his own hands instead of waiting on the Lord. He even tried to father his heir with a woman who was not his wife. It is not a surprise when “Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years.” The only surprise is the number of years he lived. But he died. Like all of us – all for the same reason. “The soul that sins is the one who will die.”
When I was little my dad was driving our family to a family gathering. We passed a cemetery and he asked the question, “How many people are dead in that cemetery?” There I was wondering how in the world I know that or how he would know that. How many people are dead in that cemetery? “All of them,” he said. There is something else that was true and is true. All of them were sinners! That is a legacy we all leave. Don’t be surprised to hear that at a person’s funeral. Don’t be surprised that it ought to be said at yours too.
But there is more. While Abraham legacy was that he was a sinner, his legacy is also involves a faith that did not quit. Sure he had faults but he had the faith that God forgave and loved and gave blessings in the form of promises.
In the book of Romans Paul mentions Abraham and the legacy of a faith that did not quit. “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” As old as he was and as old as Sarah was, God gave them the promise of the child that would link them to Jesus Christ. While their age seemed to make it impossible to have a child, God had to make it happen. Why? Because God made a promise. Abraham knew God doesn’t lie.
There is a whole world out there that thinks we are a pretty nutty and crazy people when we tell them that we believe that we have a God who loves and sent Jesus to die for the sins of all. They think we are pretty nutty crazy for believing that he died but rose from the dead. They think we are pretty nutty and crazy to believe he is coming back to judge the heavens and the earth. Abraham’s legacy to us his unflinching faith is that God wouldn’t have promised it if he didn’t intend to keep that promise.
The writer to the Hebrews writes a very important chapter (Chapter 11) in which he writes about some of the real heroes of faith. Guess what! Abraham has a big section in it. The legacy of his faith has other characteristics. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Faith in the Lord doesn’t question or doubt but acts. The Lord told him to leave the city ofUr and go to the land he would show him.
I read this somewhere where someone was justifying making decisions on his own. The person wrote, “I feel empowered making decisions based not out of guilt or pressure from others, but from what life has taught me up to this point, and the confidence I have in myself to make successful and moral decisions.” Some would say that was well said. It is confident and independent. “I” is mentioned four times in that sentence. But where is God? Nothing was said about God guiding and directing. When Abraham trusted his own instincts and reasons he got into trouble. When he followed the Lord, the Lord led him in the correct direction.
Abraham’s legacy of a Christ centered faith teaches us to know that the best is still to come. “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Abraham was a very wealthy man, but there was something unusual about him. The only piece of real estate he owned was the grave that he had bought for his wife’s grave. The same grave would one day serve his dust and ashes too.
The writer goes on to say, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” The real estate he knew he owned was paid for by one who would come – his Savior. So much of life is consumed by things we want to consume. Abraham teaches us to look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Remember how his God given faith showed through when the Lord really tested him too. Hebrews also says, “He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” The Lord put him through the ringer. What a strange test! What seemed to be an unreasonable test! Especially in light of the fact that God had promised that Isaac was the one who would be the link to the savior Jesus Christ. God told him to sacrifice Isaac. But he knew somehow Isaac had to live. The writer reveals the mind of Abraham. God would have to make him rise from the dead. Isaac was the link to Christ. He would need to be married and have a child to link him to Jesus who would save. He knew somehow God would grant him life. What did God do? Stopped him on the altar of sacrifice and provided a ram instead of his son.
God puts us through the ringer too. It might seem to be tough and unreasonable, but some way and somehow we are coming out the other side. We have a God who is for us and not against us. The death of Jesus, and as I said, we will get through it with the Lord.
A couple of years ago we went to WashingtonDC. One of the stops we made was at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. He is known as the father of our country. Many believe that God sent him at the right time to be our first president. Our nation is his legacy. Yet, what I loved to see was a lot of other things that he said and did. He seems to have been a man of faith. Read what he wrote. Go see his grave. “I am the resurrection and the life” and other passages are engraved in marble at his gravesite. Mel Blanc has the epitaph, “That’s all folks!” Actually that’s not true at all. If we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, then life is just beginning.