7 December 2014
What Are You Leaving Behind?
NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered on December 7, 2014.
I heard a story this past year of a man who had passed away. As people went through what he left behind, they came across a box in his attic. In the box, they discovered pornographic magazines. The deceased man's reputation was tarnished. While this may not be a true story, it is a good illustration of how a man had skeletons in his closet, which he left behind. The man in the story may have had some good things he left behind as well. However, this begs the question: "What are you leaving behind?"
The other month, I saw my belt hanging and noticed it was curved and I don't mean curved in the manner to go around my waist. I mean the flat part of the belt veered in a curve. Do you think I bought the belt that way or did I buy a straight belt? Of course I bought a straight belt! Over time, however, the belt curved. I remember an older gentleman who used to attend a book study I led. He used to say, "An inch is a cinch; a mile takes a while." What does that mean? He was talking about decline in morality on a personal level. It's a slow leak, not a tire burst. It happens over time. Usually, there are patterns that gradually lead to the fall. John 1:13-15 (NASB) captures this well:
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
The deceased man in the story had skeletons in his closet. We all do. And these skeletons are often precipitated by patterns that lead to them. What are your patterns that need to change? Where do you need to repent, to turn the other way? So, we all have skeletons in our closets or patterns creating additional ones. Yet, will those be the defining voice of our legacy? The fact is, like the man in the story, eventually all is laid bare. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB):
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Now this is the Judgment seat of Christ, the Bema Seat. This is where those in Christ are rewarded (or not) for our deeds, not the Great White Throne of Judgment where the lost are cast into hell. Hopefully that judgment is already resolved for you. If you are in Christ, then the judgment has already been pronounced at the cross and by His wounds, you are declared righteous. If you are in Him, then you are to live for Him, storing up treasures in Heaven, working out of your faith. That is where the Bema Seat comes in. It is not for unbelievers who face the wrath of God. Rather, it is for believers and their deeds. And the Bema Seat is in the wide open. I saw this for myself in Ancient Corinth when I went to Greece in 2004. When Paul stood trial, he stood in the middle of the city at a podium like structure before the Bema Seat, a large platform where the official sat. Paul was laid bare in the trial where anyone in town could see him. And so it will be with us. You see the things we leave behind may very well carry on into eternity. What are you investing in eternity?
What kind of case are you building for your stand at the Bema Seat? And in doing so, what are you leaving behind for those who come after you or who have experienced or are experiencing some of life's journey with you?
We can leave good or bad things behind. They might be material, but there is much more than the physical. This is an issue of legacy. Every day, we are leaving something behind somewhere. It may an atmosphere in a room from an attitude. Are people edified, that is, built up, when you leave their presence or are they torn down? Are you a refreshing presence or a negative one? This takes some self-examination. What you leave behind may be a relationship. Is there someone you need to forgive? Matthew 6:14 (NASB) says the following:
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Phil Downer of Discipleship Network of America contrasts success and significance, pointing out that success if based on things that are temporary while significance is based on leaving behind a legacy built on something that transcends you, namely a vision built in ministering to and reaching others for Christ.
Are you the aroma of Christ? If you are in Christ, you are called to be. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB) says the following:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
And further, the Scripture in 2 Corinthians 1:14 (NASB) states the following:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
Take notice how it is God who manifests through us the sweet aroma. This is from the Holy Spirit. Only in Christ does one have the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for aroma in both verses is óσμην, which in the Greek means "a smell, odor, savor." This brings another question to consider: Is your presence savory? Is what you leave behind savory?
Christmastime is a season of gift-giving, often where boxes are given to the receiver and left behind by the giver. What are you giving to others in your attitude, in your spirit, in your words, in your deeds? You may be of the mindset that you have nothing to give. Materially, this may be true of some, but ultimately, it is not true. If you are in Christ, you have everything to give. Do you know Him? If you believe in faith that He is your substitute on the cross for your sins and that He rose again for you, giving you His righteousness as a free act of grace, then you have the greatest gift! And you have the greatest gift to share! Do you have Him? Share Him with others. You have something to give wherever you go - a listening ear, an encouraging word, a hand to hold, a life ministering to those around you, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
How many have heard the song The Little Drummer Boy? Consider the lyrics:
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?
The Little Drummer Boy had "no gift to bring" it would seem, but after all, he did. He had something to leave behind. He played his drum, used his talent, and left his song. Is this just for Christmastime? No, it's not just for Christmas. It's for every day. We need to consider what we are to leave behind. Wherever you go, you have something to give, something to leave from the experience and people you encounter. What are you leaving? Is it savory? Does it reflect Christ? Is it building a legacy that will point others to Him?
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