Your Legacy is up to YOU

Continuing the series on Timothy, Rod preached about leaving a legacy.  Here’s the sermon filtered through the incredibly artistic brain of my friend Crystal:


Crystal has agreed to let me use these wonderful works of art each week.  She’s great, and you should definitely check out her blog!

Notice the central image.  YOUR legacy is up to YOU.  Think about that for a moment.  Are the words you say worth repeating tomorrow?  How about in five years?  Facebook has this great feature (I don’t get to say that very often…).  It’s called “On this Day.”  Every day you are given a glimpse of your social media history.  It’s the the ghost of Facebook past.  For some of us, this is a fond reminder of days gone by.  For others, it reminds us how often we have struggled with this dreaded disease, leaving us with a distinctively foot-like taste in our mouths.  If you know me, you are likely aware of which category I frequent (I’m working on it).

I regularly read writings of men and women who have been dead for hundreds and even thousands of years.  Their words have been recorded and remembered.  That’s a remarkable legacy.  One such person is Augustine (there’s a brief bio here about 3/4 of the way down the page).  Augustine is not without controversy.  It’s arguable that he had his fair share of foot-in-mouth moments.  In spite of that, he was a theological giant.  He probably influenced western theology more than anyone in Christian history (he’s at least top five).  That doesn’t make his missteps okay.  But it does give us hope.  If he has such a great legacy, perhaps so can we.

One particular thing strikes me about Augustine’s legacy.  We still read his sermons.  Of course we still read his larger theological works, but we also read his letters and sermons.  Think about your Facebook messages.  Think about your conversations.  Will they be read in 1500 years?  What about the sermons you’re listening to?  The books you’re reading?  That’s unlikely, and I’m not suggesting that we should carry that kind of burden with everything we do.  We’re certainly in a different situation than Augustine.  He was uniquely positioned for a long-lasting impact at the end of the Western Roman Empire.

But that’s just his individual legacy.  We also ought to consider the legacy we inherit, and what we are doing with it.  To start, as I’ve often told my students, one can purchase essentially the entire collected works of the first 400 or so years of Christianity…for $3.  Actually, all of that can be accessed for free.  If those are not interesting, there are lectures available for free by some of the top Evangelical scholars in the world on topics ranging from Biblical Theology to World Religions.  After all, how does one end up with wisdom to distribute to the next generation?  By learning it from the generations that have gone before us.  Of course, the Spirit may well just give you words to say.  But as Ben Witherington has often shared, it’s a shame that you’re not giving the Holy Spirit more to work with![1]

Why should you take up this challenge?  Not because of your salvation.  I’m not suggesting that anyone is less a Christian based on their education.  After all, the disciples were “unlearned men.”[2]  Rather, it is my hope that your salvation motivates you.  It should motivate you to do good works that God has prepared beforehand for you (Ephesians 2:10).  It should also motivate you to be an unashamed worker who handles the word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

There is a consistent confession of Christianity.  Augustine called it Securus Judicat Orbis Terrarum: The Secure Judgment of the Whole World.  Vincent of Lerins said that “we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.”[3]  The legacy of Christianity has been passed down carefully for 2,000 years.  WE are links in that chain.  The strength of our link, our legacy, is up to US.

[1] Dr. Witherington shares this story in his Is there a Doctor in the House?, but it has been shared several other times in other works as well, such as People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation.

[2]Acts 4:13.  Contextually speaking, it seems as though this refers not to a lack of education, per se, but a lack of officially recognized Rabbinic education.  The point being that the disciples did what they did not because they had a formal seal of approval from recognized educators, but because they had been with Jesus.  The same is true today.  However, even this insight is an indication of the value of education in interpreting scripture.

[3] Commonitory 2:6

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