Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. John 14:11-14
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23
“An inheritance is what you leave for someone. A legacy is what you leave in someone.” This is a quote from Mark Batterson’s new book, Chase the Lion (p. 159) It is found in the middle of a chapter called “Chain Reaction.” The premise is that every decision we make, every action we take (or don’t take) has a ripple effect—either positive or negative. Within that chapter, it speaks of legacy. Each of us, whether we know it or not, is creating and will leave behind a legacy. The impact of that legacy depends on us. Some definitions of legacy have to do with a gift of money or property being left behind to family members. One definition that Merriam-Webster’s offers is this: “something transmitted or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Examples given are of beliefs and values passed down from generation to generation. The question I want to ask of you, and more importantly, of myself, is what kind of legacy are you (and am I) leaving?
This past week and a half has been very emotional for our family. It started on September 9th with the news that my wife’s grandfather was in hospice care and was dying. My wife was very close to her grandfather and there were many reasons this brought up a lot of emotions. He eventually passed away two days later. At his funeral this past Friday, legacy was the big focus. Al Marialke, my wife’s grandfather, was 92 when he passed away. Of that 92 years, he spent the vast majority of them telling people about Jesus. He was saved as a teenager, served briefly in WWII, and pastored for more than 50 years. Even after his “retirement” from pastoring, he continued to share Jesus and pray for anyone who would give him the chance.
One of Al’s former associate pastors officiated the funeral and gave one of the most powerful tributes I have ever heard. He spoke of Pastor Al’s love for God and people and how he never missed a chance to bless others and share Jesus. His life truly reflected his beliefs. He was one who practiced what he preached. Along with the pastor, 4 family members shared their own tributes. One of Al’s sons shared Al’s bible, showing how marked up it was with highlighter, notes, and more. He shared his dad’s favorite scriptures, and how blessed he was to witness how he served Jesus. Two of my wife’s cousins also shared tributes, focusing mainly on what they learned from their grandpa and how he always blessed them and encouraged them in their own life callings. The fourth family member was my wife. She shared a letter that she had written to Al over 8 years ago, in which she thanked him for his impact in her life over the years. She truly believes that the same anointing her grandparents operated in was passed down to her and many others in their family. Much of the growth in my wife’s faith and confidence she attributes to her grandpa. He truly left a lasting legacy, one that lives on now through his family.
Fortunately, we had friends who lived close to the funeral location. These friends are really much more than friends. Denny and Clara are pastors with whom we spent 7 years of ministry. They were and are mentors. They have been much like parents to both me and my wife. When we left that church to become lead pastors ourselves, my brother and his wife had the honor of working with them. As we reminisced, they shared how grateful they were to be associated with both of our families. We count it as an immense privilege and honor to be associated with them. We feel as if—in a small way—we are part of their legacy. And our hope is that we can leave the same type of legacy to our children, grandchildren, and others with whom our paths will cross.
The truth is, we are all actually part of the same legacy. The legacy of God. When it comes to the Bible, legacy clearly had to do with Godly principles and values being passed down. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses says of God’s commands: Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (6:7-9). Elsewhere in Psalm 78, the psalmist writes: We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done. (78:4). Clearly God’s legacy is himself. The promise of heaven is great, but the very best thing God gives to us is himself. Our legacy is not heaven, or spiritual rewards. Our legacy is God himself. Our legacy is Jesus. Our legacy is the Holy Spirit, who was given to us “as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)
When my wife and I married, she willingly took my last name. She once joked that she was excited to marry me because of the ring and the short name. She much preferred “Hess” to “Riemersma,” only for the fact that it was easier to sign, and easier to pronounce! In all seriousness though, she took my name as a sign that we were united as one. Yes, we are two separate people with unique personalities and abilities, but we had chosen to take our two individual lives and mold them into one. More than just take my name, she has given herself to me, as I have given myself to her. Our individual selves complement one another and makes for an even better life together. I can’t imagine my life today without her. We have shared in the creation of two beautiful girls and 15 years of amazing memories. I believe the best is still yet to come!
In much the same way (but even better), Jesus invites us to take his name. He invites us to be one with him and enter in to a relationship in which he has promised to give us all of himself. Even when we mess it up, Jesus is always faithful to his promise! Just as Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are one, we have been invited through Jesus to be part of this amazing relationship of self-sacrificial love and eternal faithfulness. What a promise! Even better than this promise is the fact that you don’t have to “do” anything to earn this. All we have to do is receive what Jesus is freely offering.
It is through this love relationship that Jesus says his followers will do even greater things. He has left us a legacy that lives on generation after generation—the legacy of God’s presence. But we are not alone. Although he died, God raised him from death and is seated at the right hand of the Father today! And his Spirit lives in us! We are not left this legacy so we can have the promise of stuff, or even a place. The promise is all about his presence, and his love. He says that we have been given the SAME glory that the Father gave him, so that we can be one just as he and the Father and the Spirit are one.
The first question I asked was what kind of legacy are you leaving? These next ones may be more important than the first. What kind of legacy are you LIVING? Who’s legacy are you living for: yours or Gods? We should be forever thankful for the people in our lives who have left a lasting, positive, impact in our lives. But the most important legacy we’ve been given is that of God’s presence. And even if you don’t have anyone in your life that left a positive impact, Jesus invites you to be part of God’s legacy. To be one with Jesus just as he is one with the Father. To share in the same glory that the Father has given to Jesus. To receive the gift of God himself. The one who will never leave nor forsake you. The one who will never abandon you. Now that’s a legacy worth living for. So let us align ourselves with God that we may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that (the Father) sent (Jesus) and has loved them even as (the Father) has loved (the Son.)
God bless, and live out your legacy…