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Legacy (2 Timothy 1)

Have you ever left an “accidental” legacy? I remember one time, I was a college student doing youth ministry at my home church in the suburbs of Detroit. And I needed to move a couch, without asking permission from one side of the church to the other - and I didn’t have any body to help me, and so I just pushed it across the foyer of the church. After I got the couch to its destination, I looked back and saw that the couch had dragged an inch deep 20 foot long scratch in the carpet of that church. Right in the entryway, first thing people will see. It’s still there to this day! That is my legacy in that church. People still say, “well, there was this kid named JJ…” when a visitor wonders about the carpet. I think a lot of people view “legacy” as something that only old people have to worry about. Sitting in their rocking chairs out on the porch, looking back over their life - wondering what sort of impact they had in the world. But the truth is - legacy is for everyone. I mean, think about it, parents are obsessed with legacy. Every parent I know is in this constant frenzy of anxiety over how to raise their children - “I just don’t want to mess them up!” Have you ever wondered about the impact of your life? What sort of legacy are you leaving with your children? What sort of legacy do you leave at work? As a neighbor, a husband, a wife, a friend? Even if we never realized it before - most of us, deep down, care about the legacy we leave. We want to know - how do we leave a legacy on purpose?

Now, we don’t know one another very well as pastor and church family just yet, and John encouraged me to take some time to tell you a little bit about myself - so maybe this will help. If you were here at the VIP night last week, you heard in the trivia that I am a fourth generation pastor. My father is a pastor, his wife (my mom) is the daughter of a pastor. His wife (my grandma, my oma) is the daughter of German missionaries from Germany to China. My Oma was actually born in China, but grew up in Germany during World War II - she had some stories, let me tell you. It’s practically the family business! I am the oldest of four pastors kids. I’ve been running around destroying churches, scratching carpets and stealing snacks since I first learned how to toddle. I eat, sleep and breathe church life. I was running sound boards when I was 12, I was in the worship band in high school, and I was the intern helping in the youth when I was in college…and given all of that - it was pretty clear from a very young age that I am the perfect legacy kid. It was like I was born to be a church leader. But here’s the problem - I didn’t want to do it! I always said, “I am not going to be a pastor.” I don’t want to do the same thing my dad does, that’s not creative. That’s not individualistic. That’s lame! Despite the fact that all my friends actually thought my dad was really awesome, I knew the truth - parents are lame! You know this - parents are not allowed to be “cool.” I’m not sure what it is, there’s like a wire in the teenage brain that short circuits when a good idea comes from your parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing ministry with students and I will tell them something, and the student will respond, “wow, that’s a really good idea” and in the background the parent is freaking out in frustration because they just said the same thing 20 minutes ago. “Oh you’ll listen to Pastor JJ, but not me?!?” [laugh]. I was not going to be a pastor. Actually it goes a lot deeper than that. If you bumped into 17 year old JJ he would have said these three things - I am never going to get married. I’m never having children. And I will never be a pastor. What’s that old line? If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. That’s my life to a T. God has always moved in unexpected ways in my life. So here I am, very happily married, with an irresponsible amount of children - there are so many of them, loving every minute of church leadership. I couldn’t fight it. I’m a legacy pastor’s kid.

I’ve actually had people ask me - as someone whose family has been in the church for generations, how did you do it? How did you stay connected to God over the years? What did your dad do to keep you in the church? And I always have to respond - “nothing.” I love my dad and he’s a really good pastor, he serves a church over in Waterford - but it was my mom who drew me close to Jesus. She is the one who showed me that faith wasn’t just dad’s job - but was actually a connection to the “something more” that is out there. And actually, this has echoes in the story of Paul. If you want to grab your bibles, or open your phones - I’m going to dive into 2 Timothy, chapter 1. 

And it starts out like this, [read v.1-2]. So that’s pretty obvious - there’s this guy Paul, and he’s writing a letter to his buddy Timothy. Timothy is not actually his son, he means it like an older mentor talking to a student. Or a Jedi to an apprentice - “my very young padawan” - right? It keeps going, [read v.3a] so you hear it right? Paul is a legacy kid. [read v.3-4]. It seems a little mean to bring up the fact that Timothy is a big cry-baby, but whatever. [read v.5]. There it is. This is the first big thing I want you to grab on to this morning. Legacy is built on character. Timothy inherits his faith from his mother and his grandmother. Now this is really important that it goes through two generations. Proverbs 13:22 says, [read it]. Now I want you to think about this for a second. You can live your life any way you want, pile up loads of cash, lots of stuff, massive inheritance and give it all to your children - and then your kids can ruin it. There’s no amount of money a trust fund baby can’t burn through. The only way for an inheritance to reach the second generation - your children’s children - is if you give your children character. Dave Ramsey, the financial guru said it like this, “If you give your children wealth with no character, you will ruin their lives. If you give your children Character and nothing else - they will be able to go out and win. If you give your children character AND wealth, then you’ve got the next Rockafellers.” If you want a legacy that goes more than one generation, a legacy that lasts - you’ve got to start with character. Paul calls it out for Timothy. Timmy my boy, your grandma is awesome. Your grandma Lois - isn’t that just a perfect grandma name? - she gave her faith to her daughter, Eunice. And Eunice, your mom, passed it on to you. Legacy begins with character. 

Verse 6 it keeps going, [read v.6-7]. I want you to imagine this with me. Paul is telling Timothy, “hey, do you remember when I commissioned you?” Do you remember just last week, when I was installed as the pastor of this church - John and Blake they prayed over me. It was this beautiful, solemn moment, and all I can think is that’s my two year old in the back pulling his shirt up. [laugh].  They put their hands on my shoulder and they asked for God’s blessing on this church and on my ministry in this church. Paul did the same thing for Timothy thousands of years ago in his little church in Ephesus. Paul is saying, “I am reminding you to fan into flames the gift God gave you.” Fan into flames… you know, when I was a kid, I used to do a lot of camping up north. And I’m not talking about glamping, where you bring the big trailer and you have electrical outlets - no, we would go out into the woods and build a campsite from scratch. And when we were making a fire to cook dinner, we always designated one kid to be the fanner. We had these metal, camp, dinner plates. And the fire would get going, catching on the kindling, and you would take the plate and fan the flames. And when you were fanning it, the fire would sort of get blown all over, look sort of tiny - but then when you stopped the flames would come racing back and get all huge. You would fan the flame and that made it grow. So when Paul is telling Timothy, “I’m reminding you to fan into flames the gift from God” - what he is teaching US is that faith is a flame you need to fan. Faith does not grow on accident. I love the metaphor of faith and fire - because it reminds us that if we don’t tend to it, if we don’t fan the flames - our faith will grow cold. You have to be intentional to grow in your faith. And when Paul starts talking about leaving a legacy of faith, this is the second big thing I want you to catch this morning. You have to be intentional with your legacy. Your faith is not going to “accidentally” be passed on to your children’s children. You have to be intentional. Think about this - everyone leaves a legacy. That is going to happen no matter what - and doing nothing, not being intentional is the same thing as making a choice to leave a bad legacy, or at least an incomplete one. If you are intentional, if you tend to your fire, fan the flames - your faith will grow. If you are intentional to pass on character and faith - you can leave a lasting legacy. Faith is a flame you need to fan. (boy, say that five times fast). 

The teaching finishes strong, verse 9 if you’re following along, [read v.8-10]. [awe-d noise]. That’s just so awesome. Paul has a lot to teach his buddy Timothy about leaving a legacy, like his mother and grand-mother did. But the last thing he has for us today is to draw us back to the most important legacy that ever was. The resurrection of Jesus. Paul says, “he broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.” I mean, that’s the reason we are here today. The legacy that Timothy inherited from his grandma was not church rituals. It’s not traditions or a list of do’s and don’ts - what Timothy inherited was a connection to Jesus, his Lord and savior. I said earlier that people have asked me, “how did your parents keep you in the church?” I was part of this article one time, there was a church magazine that interviewed a bunch of pastor’s kids and they asked us all “Why did you stay in the church?” And our answers were really similar - it’s not the church. It’s Jesus. You don’t keep people in the church by pushing the church on them. You push them to the person of Jesus. And if you find a good one, the best place to find Jesus is the church. Look, I’m just going to level with you - I’m a fourth generation pastor, and I’m very comfortable if the family business dies with me. I don’t care if my kids become pastors. But I desperately want them to know Jesus. The true legacy that God gives us is not bricks and mortar, it’s not programs or any earthly success, it’s not trendy branding or even pastors in skinny jeans - the true legacy God gives us is victory over sin and death and the way to live a redeemed life. Legacy starts with character. Faith is a flame that you need to fan, and the true legacy that God gives us is Jesus.

The good news that I have for you today is that our God is a God of legacy. God plays the long game. Go back to verse 9, because I think we missed how awesome it was. [read v.9] That was his plan from before the beginning of time. You want to talk about an “intentional legacy” - God crafted the entire universe so that he could write this story. From the microscopic bugs in the dirt to the stars in the farthest reaches of the galaxy - God crafted this whole story to show you grace through Jesus Christ. Loving you is God’s legacy. When I say “God plays the long game” - I mean, God plays the LONG game. [laugh].He loves you so much. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s put this diagram up on the screen.

This is a map created by Chris Harrison and Pastor Christoph Romhild back in 2007. It shows every single time the bible references another part of the bible. 63,779 cross references in total. Down at the bottom is every chapter of the bible, starting with Genesis 1 on the left, and then going all the way up to Revelation over here on the right. The length of the bar codes at the bottom shows how long each chapter is. The big long one in the middle, that’s Psalm 119. Each arch represents a cross reference, and the color shows the distance between the two chapters. It caused atheist psychologist Jordan Peterson to refer to the bible as “the first hyperlinked book.” What I’m trying to show you here is that God has written the whole book before the story began. When Paul says, “that was his plan from the beginning of time - to show us grace through Jesus Christ” - this is what he’s talking about. This is a love story woven together with incredible intention. When God moves through history, he does so on purpose. And if we are going to follow a God like that, a God who leaves a legacy ON PURPOSE, then we need to be people who leave a legacy on purpose. God’s people are people who live lives of intentional legacy. Maybe I can’t write a complicated story like this tapestry in front of us - but I can make sure my thread moves forward on purpose.

Do you remember, and this is such a cheesy thing for me to quote in my first sermon here, but do you remember that speech in the movie Braveheart? If you’ve never seen it - it’s a movie about Scotsmen who are fighting the English for independence, for freedom. And it’s before the first big battle, and the men are whining, “but it’s scary and we might die we want to run away” And William Wallace sort of nods, “like, yup” Fight and you might die. [I’m not going o try and do a Scottish accent, Sara will tell you that won’t go well.] Fight and you may die. Run and you will live. At least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to tell them “they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom.” It’s like one of the most famous quotes of any movie anywhere, won a bunch of academy awards - and it resonated with people because it was a moment when they were choosing their legacy. Those men wanted to leave a legacy, and I think every single person in this room has an echo of that desire in our hearts. We want to leave a positive impact in the world. And what we see from Paul today is that God leaves a legacy on purpose. Everyone leaves a legacy. Good, bad, and everything in between. Everyone leaves SOME type of legacy. But if you are intentional, like our God is intentional, you can choose the kind of legacy you leave. You can leave a legacy on purpose.

So what I want you to do this morning is I want you to take all of these teachings that Paul is giving to us, and I want to challenge you to put it into your life. My first challenge for you today is to chase character first. Because remember, if you want your legacy to make it to your children’s CHILDREN, you have to start with character. Chase character first. It’s not about piling up money, or leaving a great vacation home for your kids - give them character, and that will last through the generations. Like Proverbs said, “good people leave an inheritance to their children’s children.” That’s my first challenge for you. Make character the first step of your legacy.

Second, my second challenge for you - leave a legacy ON PURPOSE. Be intentional with the way you live your life, so that it will have a positive ripple effect on the people around you. And this isn’t just parents and kids - this is co-workers and neighbors, this is the guy behind you in the grocery aisle - the way you live your life ripples outwards, so be intentional with that. If you’ve been with us through this whole series, you know what I’m talking about. Actually, this is one of the really cool things about the Zero Collective - the network of our churches - we’ve had four different pastors deliver the four parts of this series. John got us started a month ago talking about family core values. Take some time to write down - what are your family’s core values? Then Brian came in and talked about Generational Baggage, and he left us with the challenge to repent and forgive so that we can change the trajectory of the future, grow in a new way. And then Jack was up here just a few weeks ago teaching us how to write a Rule of Life, to show us that we all have habits, and so we want to be intentional and make sure that our life is shaped by good habits. So really - all I’m saying in this sermon is “yeah, if you want to have a Healthy Home - go do all that awesome stuff they taught us.” And if you missed those sermons, you can check them out on the website or our youtube channel. 

Third and finally, my third challenge for you (I know it’s a lot, but you can handle it, I promise) - my third challenge is “if nothing else, give them Jesus.” Jesus is the legacy that God left for the world, and so he is the legacy we need to leave for our children, our friends, our co-workers. People ask, “how did your parents get you to stay in the church?” And the answer is - they didn’t. They kept me in love with Jesus, and this just happens to be the best place to worship him. A lot of us in our jobs, we take a few bucks out of our paycheck and we put it into a retirement fund. And that gets invested, and saved over the years - so that when we get to retirement age, it will be waiting for us. A nest egg to take care of our finances when we have retired. We’re very intentional about that. But I wonder, do we have the same care for our connection to Jesus? We are given 1,440 minutes in every day. (No, I didn’t do that math, google told me). Can you commit today to take some of those minutes, just a few of them every single day - every time you get a paycheck of life - take those minutes, invest them. Talk to Jesus, read his words - talk to your kids about it, your spouse, the people around you. If you give them nothing else, at least give them Jesus. Like Timothy’s grandma Lois.

I know we don’t know one another very well as pastor and congregation, and I’m really excited to be here. But if I can give a word of assurance - I want to celebrate John’s legacy. John and I are very different - he’s got those trendy jackets, he’s way more stylish and I’m over here - a wooly mammoth of hair on my face and head. He has two beautiful daughters, and I have…a herd of tiny tornados. But for all our differences, we have the most important thing in common. We love and serve the same Jesus. John has led this church well - and I don’t mean just the administrative stuff, although I see that. I’ve heard the stories of the space you used to be in. He has shepherded this church, through transition, adoption, location changes, and even a global pandemic. Center Church owes an immense debt of gratitude for his love and his leadership. But even if you put all those accomplishments aside, because remember legacy is not buildings or stuff, it’s character. I’ve been here - what, two, three weeks? - and I can see the ripples of his love, and the effect his leadership has had on all of you. You love well as a church. I see it in the prayer chain, the emails I’ve been getting. I see it in the way you celebrate your volunteers, the way you welcome a new pastor. You have loved well, and that is because John has loved you well, and that is because Jesus loves John. I can’t promise things will be the same, because they won’t - things will be different. But I can promise you, with all my heart, that I love the same Jesus, and that’s a legacy worth leaving. Let’s pray.


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