Our lives are pointing to something. Is yours pointing to yourself and your accomplishments, or is it pointing to Christ?
The ‘pop quiz’ at the beginning of this sermon was inspired by an article I read eight years ago called Personal Hall of Fame. Every once in a while, I pull out that article and re-read it. It’s a powerful reminder that I need to keep my priorities straight and decide which list I hope to be on.
Here’s the recording.
The video used in this sermon is one that has a lot of meaning for me. In fact, I normally can’t get through it without crying. I was surprised I didn’t break out into tears when we played it Sunday morning. It’s a powerful song to begin with. I spoke about a friend of mine named Greg. What I didn’t mention was that Greg died a few years ago. A tribute video was created that honored Greg’s life and ministry. What was the song of choice? You guessed it – Legacy. The song had already been an inspiration for me, but now that there’s an emotional connection with my late friend, it has become a song that has impacted me more than few other songs have.
Here’s the video:
Leaving a Legacy
September 7, 2008
We’re going to begin this morning with a little pop quiz. School’s been in session for almost a month here. And the state colleges are now back into full swing. So, in celebration of the whole ‘Back to School’ phenomenon, it’s time that we have a little quiz. I’ve asked some volunteers to pass out the quizzes. Once you get yours, make sure you don’t look at your neighbor’s paper. There will be no cheating in here this morning. And remember, this will count for 75% of your grade and will go on your permanent record. Take out your #2 pencils and you put your name and date at the top of the page. OK – you don’t have to put your name and date at the top. I’m not going to collect these. But we’re still going to have this little quiz. I guess you could say we’re going to grade it on the ‘Honor System.’ On your paper, you’ll see that there are two columns. On the first list, I want you to answer these questions…
How many of these people can you list:
- The last four Heisman Trophy winners
- The last three winners of the Miss America contest
- Two people who won the Pulitzer Prize in the last 20 years
- Three of last year’s Oscar winners – Best Picture, Best Actor or Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Actress…Best Director…Special Effects…Musical Score…any of the awards
So how’d you do? Anyone think they got all of the answers right? I didn’t think so. I think I would get about three or four of them right. They’re tough questions. Maybe we could throw in some Grammys or maybe an Emmy or two. Think you’d do any better? Probably not. You’d probably wind up with the same results. But the quiz isn’t over. Let’s move on to that second list.
How many of these can you name?
- The person who brought you to faith
- Two people who have walked with you through dark days
- Three teachers who have stirred you to love God’s Word
- Four friends who have touched you with unconditional love
- Five men and women whose godliness has caused you to hunger for God
This one’s not nearly as hard, is it? If you’re like me, it was more difficult to limit some of my answers to just two or three. The people on this list readily come to mind and I’m reminded of the people who have come alongside of me during my journey of faith throughout my lifetime. You might recognize some of the names on my list, but it’s likely that you wouldn’t recognize the majority of them. And I’m sure the same is true with the lists you have before you, too.
Having grown up in a Christian home, I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know that God loved me. And that, I’ve come to realize, has become a rare blessing. But there was still a time when I knew I had to make a decision. I remember sitting in my room one day when my mom came up to talk with me. She quickly directed the conversation towards my needing to be baptized. I don’t remember the exact exchange of words, but I do remember, quite vividly, my mom standing at the door to my room and saying, “Be baptized. Jesus wants you to be baptized.” Later that week, I had a meeting with Todd Bussey, my Youth Minister, and Phil Gerhart, my Scoutmaster, and we talked further about my desire to be baptized. I was baptized that very next Sunday.
There was our church’s small group in Tennessee who walked with us through some very difficult times. When we received some devastating news about a close family member, it was our small group that rallied around us, gave us a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. And when the new church we’d all worked so hard to help get off the ground finally closed its doors, it was that small group that suddenly became a mini-congregation for us as we all searched for a new church to join. When we announced to them that we were considering relocating to a little community south of Muncie, Indiana, they were there, praying for God’s confirmation of our decision. And as we loaded up the moving van, they were there – helping us load the boxes and cleaning our rental home. That small group of believers in upper East Tennessee became our family away from family. They were there for us during some terribly painful and dark times. They were also there for us during some unbelievably happy and exciting times.
There’s the Christian musician, Rich Mullins, who died in a car wreck over 10 years ago. His melodies and lyrics touched me in a way that few, if any ever have. Through his music, he challenged me to take my faith more seriously and to follow Christ more closely. My hunger for God’s Word increased as I saw and heard the passion that he had for living out that same Word of God.
Earlier, I mentioned Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He was always there for me, always willing to give a listening ear, and usually had just the right response. As a recent high school graduate, I proclaimed to Todd that I was going to get a degree in Communication and then go to Hollywood and make movies. Over and over, Todd would say to me, “Don’t forget your people skills, Matt.” Looking back, I know that he was encouraging me to consider going into pastoral ministry. Of course, at the time, I laughed at such a suggestion. I guess he gets the last laugh. If I had to single out one spiritual “big brother” or mentor, Todd would be the first person that would come to mind. And he continues to be that mentor for me. Whenever I’m in town, we try to get together. I always come away blessed and encouraged after spending time with Todd
There’s also Scott & Corri Brooks, who opened up their home to a group of us when we were in high school. We met at their house every Wednesday evening to play, pray, and look into God’s Word together. Whenever any of us had girlfriend or boyfriend issues, they were there with a listening ear and a compassionate heart. And as we struggled through the whole adolescent stage of life, trying to reconcile our desires to be accepted with our desires to set the world on fire with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they were there. I don’t know if I remember anything profound that they actually said, but I remember them being there. In many ways, they were like second parents for me. Even after graduating from high school and moving on to college, I’d still call the Brooks with my struggles. And they were there. Through their practice of being there for me, I grew to have a deeper understanding of how God is always there for us and He will never leave us.
Then there’s the people of Athens Church of Christ in Athens, Ohio (home of the Ohio University Bobcats – the team that almost pulled off the upset of the weekend by giving the Ohio State Buckeyes the scare of their lives) who taught me more than I would ever learn from a textbook about Christian love and hospitality. During the Summer I spent there as an intern, the theories I had learned about the nature of the church actually took on flesh as I learned from them about what it really means to be a member of God’s Church.
I have been inspired by people like Stan and Kerri Jurgens, who took their kids, packed up their things, and moved from Colorado to upper East Tennessee to help their church start a new church plant in the Johnson City area. They didn’t know the area, definitely didn’t know the culture, and didn’t really know anyone other than the church planting team that was moving out there at the same time. As they struggled with being so far away from family and friends and adapting to a new culture, they remained faithful to God’s leading. And their desire to be obedient made a lasting impression on my family.
And there’s Greg Pas, whose life was an amazing testimony to God’s grace and the life-changing power of the gospel. His desire to see others fall passionately in love with the Father just seemed to pour out of every part of his being. He would challenge me with tough questions – not to really be confrontational, but to really make me think about whether my actions and my words were lining up. And after graduating from college, we kept in touch. Greg’s passion was seeing the lives of teenagers becoming sold-out for Jesus Christ. He was a youth minister in Tampa, Florida, and he made a huge impact on not only the Tampa area, but all around the world with the people he touched. His energy, passion, and compassion were contagious. And at one point when it seemed like no one else really cared, Greg was willing to give me a second chance. My desire to see other people’s lives changed with the gospel has been encouraged by Greg’s example.
I wish we had the time to go around and give you the opportunity to share who is on your list. I’d imagine some people would have the same names, but there would be some unique names, too. We all have our own lists of people whom God has used to make a lasting impact on our lives.
Paul had such a list. If you turn with me to Acts chapter 9, we’ll be able to see a few of the people on his list. Acts is in the New Testament. It immediately follows the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you don’t have your Bible with you, you’re welcome to use the one in the pew in front of you. Acts 9 is found on page 955 in that Bible. The book of Acts is the continuation of the story of God’s activity in our world after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And just to add a little plug, we’re studying the book of Acts in our Bible Study that meets on Wednesday evenings. You’re more than welcome to check it out.
As we pick up the story, we find Paul, who is known as Saul right now, as one of the chief enemies of the early church. He’s going around, breathing murderous threats against the believers; hunting them down and throwing them in prison. He is the chief persecutor of the church at this time. He was working his way up the first list – the list that everyone thought was important. At that time, the first list would have been full of names like Herod, Caesar, Pilate, and the members of the Sanhedrin. They were the people whom the world said you should emulate. They were the ones the world calls famous. And Saul is doing a good job of making a name for himself as he is persecuting the members of this small, but growing community of Christ-followers. And suddenly, Saul sees a blinding light and encounters the risen Christ face-to-face. The voice tells him to go to a particular house and wait for a man named Ananias.
Ananias wasn’t seeking any fame. In fact, his goal as a disciple was to make the Lord famous, not himself. His job, just like our job, is to point to Christ in all that that he did. And that’s what he did. I’m thankful for people like Ananias who are willing to do whatever it takes to make Christ famous. I’m thankful for the Ananiases in my life who didn’t seek out their own fame and fortune. They didn’t seek to be on the first list, but were obedient to Christ’s call. And they are on my second list.
If you jump ahead a few verses to verse 27, we find Saul having trouble being accepted by his new brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. After all, he’s earned a reputation for being a persecutor of the church. And now he wants to be part of the church. That wouldn’t add up in my mind if I were to come face-to-face with someone like that. But that didn’t stop a man named Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” It was Barnabas who showed everyone else that they could accept Saul as a brother in Christ. Barnabas made a huge impact on Saul’s life. It appears that Barnabas had a dynamic personality. He could have pursued the first list. He could have sought out riches and fame. But he didn’t. He allowed God to use his talents and gifts to make an impact on this new believer. It’s because God used people like Ananias and Barnabas that Saul’s life was changed. Surely, if you asked Saul to fill out this second list, Ananias and Barnabas would be some of the first people he’d mention. I’m thankful for the Ananiases and Barnabases in my life. And I’m sure that you are thankful for the Ananiases and Barnabases in your life. Thank God for the people on our second list.
We live in a world that emphasizes and glorifies the first list. Fame is the goal. People are considered celebrities now simply because they are famous. They don’t even have talent to earn their celebrity status. Because fame is the ultimate goal. To many people, the first list – the fame – is the prerequisite for greatness. But, as we’ve seen in this little exercise this morning, this ‘greatness’ is quickly forgotten. And a greatness that’s so quickly forgotten isn’t really that great after all, is it?
One list fades and the other remains. It remains because of people who seek to be obedient to Christ’s call, no matter the cost. It remains because people go wherever He sends, regardless of the destination. It remains because these are the people who have impacted our lives and have somehow helped us connect to God. All of us have this second list. All of us have a legacy of believers who have impacted our lives, who have pointed to Christ with their words or with their actions.
So here’s the real pop quiz this morning – are you on someone’s list? Are you choosing to love others unconditionally? Are you pointing to Christ with such a radiant light that others can’t help but see Him? Are you leaving a legacy in the lives of people around you?
Which list are you striving to be on? The first one – the one that only lasts for a few moments, or the second one that makes an impact for eternity? Leave a legacy. Live for that second list.