“Leaving a Legacy”
Hello. My name is Bret McCasland. Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” One of the biggest and most important things Christians are to do is to serve one another. Not only that, we are to serve those who are not Christians, as well. It goes back to the second greatest commandment Jesus ever gave; which is love your neighbor as yourself. Serving the people God puts before us is important. The Lord does not intend for us to keep all of the blessings He has given to us for ourselves. We are to share those blessings with those in need. As we do, we provide a special blessing and encouragement to them. Perhaps some of them would not receive any kind of assistance if we did not provide that blessing. In today's lesson on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will look at some Christians who helped and encouraged others. We will also look at one who did not. We will consider the importance of leaving behind a legacy of ministry and service. I hope you will want to hear the stories of three good servants and one bad one. Open your heart and your Bible, now, as we study together.
One of the realities of life is life does not last forever. The wise man Solomon wrote, there is a day to be born and a day to die. Now we understand that. We call it the reality of our mortality. All of us have attended the funeral or memorial services of our friends, our relatives, perhaps even our family member. And we don't look forward to those funerals, for it is during those times we hear stories about the person who has just passed away. We learn some things about that individual, perhaps, we did not know, or maybe we are reminded of some of the ways in which that individual impacted the lives of other people. And we call all of that their legacy. And we are familiar with that word; that one's ‘legacy’ is how a person will be remembered. And whether we realize it or not, we are writing our legacy right now, in our daily lives. Yes, we are writing the story of how people will remember us. A story is told about a man by the name of Louis Pasteur. He was the man credited with discovering microbiology. He lived during the mid to the late 1800s, in a time when thousands of people were dying every year as a result of rabies; and for years, he worked on a vaccine. And just as he was about to begin experimenting with that vaccine on himself, a nine year old boy by the name of Joseph Meister was bitten by a rabid dog. The boy's mother begged Pasteur to experiment that vaccine on her son. And after explaining all the ramifications of that, Pasteur began to vaccinate Joseph for ten days. And the outcome was, that young boy lived. Well, several decades later, when Pasteur passed away, some of the words written on his tombstone were these: Joseph Meister lived. That's a great legacy, isn't it! Have you ever given any thought to your legacy and what people will say about you after you have passed away? Well, there are some legacies left for us to consider in the Bible. For example, in the letter of 3rd John, we find the stories of three people. The author is the Apostle John, and in the first verse he identifies himself as the elder, the overseer of some Christians with whom he is acquainted. Somewhere around A.D. 90, or so, traveling preachers and teachers were being sent out into various towns and villages to share the Good News of the Lord with such people. With everyone who was willing to hear that message, they had something good to say. Well, that, in fact, is what Jesus asked his own disciples to do, way back in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10; they were to go out in pairs or two by two and to share the story with other people. But they were not to take any provisions with them as they went. They were simply to rely upon the goodness and the hospitality of various fellow believers in those villages and towns in which they were ministering. Well, in one church, John knew about, the members who were welcoming such traveling evangelists were being cast out and rejected by the leader of that particular church. His name was Diotrephes, and for some reason or another he did not like these Christians in that church showing hospitality to John's messengers. In essence, Diotrephes withdraws his fellowship from those who were showing kindness and hospitality to these guest teachers. And in 3rd John, the author, John, scolds and he gets upset with he addresses this very matter with Diotrephes. Listen to what he writes, beginning with verse 9. <I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.> John mentions this man, Diotrephes as an example of doing wrong. It begins with an attitude of self-importance. John writes that this man loves to be first. It is all about him. It is all about making himself look good in the eyes of other people. It is all about an attitude that says, well, I'm the one in charge; I'm the one who to whom you need to be accountable. He is also spreading rumors and stories about these traveling evangelists and guest teachers who were coming to him. And then he tells his fellow Christians to leave because they are befriending these guest teachers and preachers. You know, Diotrephes wants to be in charge, to the point he himself determines who and who cannot be a part of that church. He has a big influence, but he is using it in an improper way, not for good, but in a bad way. He is acting more like a dictator, if you will, than a true servant church leader. Well, here is John's evaluation of that, along with other people who would act in a similar fashion. He writes this in verse 11. <Dear friends, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.> Well, the solution was for these people to expose his behavior. He is called out for his actions. It has to be recognized, that he is doing more damage than good. And when it comes time for John to go and visit these people, he will address that matter. Yes, Diotrephes is causing some big problems there within the church, and if he is not careful, he will ruin the spiritual lives of many people. And so everybody was to take note of him, and to mark the error of his ways; and, John would take care of that matter when he showed up. And I would wonder what all that looked like. What did John say on that occasion? I would love to have been, what we would call, a fly on the wall to overhear the scolding that John gave this man. And so we see, very simply, that John condemns Diotrephes refusal to encourage those who teach about Jesus. He scolds him for his criticism of other church members who do so even to the point these good Christian people just are driven away from the church. You know, it takes just one such person to affect the whole church, doesn't it? And maybe some of you have been in churches where you experience them. Someone made you feel very uncomfortable. They had that ‘me first’ mentality. They took on the role of saying, well, this is what you're going to do and not going to do, and if you can't abide by what I'm going to say, then, well, that's just too bad; and that's unfortunate. And yet we all know that exist, and I'm sorry if that has happened in your previous experience. And that's just the way it is with some of the people who are in what they would say a leadership role within a church. And no doubt Diotrephes left behind, what we would call, a bad legacy. Well, John also has some good things to write about two men, here in this same letter, 3rd John; they are named Demetrius and Gaius, and they are showing hospitality to these traveling preachers. They are recognized for being good examples of service to people within the church. Just notice what he writes to them, beginning with verse 1. <The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.> John really likes what he has heard about his dear friend Gaius. He is pleased that he is providing a good example of faithful Christian living. He is promoting spiritual growth. He is not trying to control the actions of other fellow leaders or church members. He welcomes these traveling evangelists and teachers, and John has everything good to say about this man. And he continues on with these words, in verses 5 through 8. <Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It is for the sake of the Name that they were sent out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.> Well, this obviously is in contrast to the attitude and the actions of that man, Diotrephes. Gaius is extending some fellowship to all who come to him. He's an example of genuine hospitality and he doesn't seek to control other people or to draw attention to himself. Well, John mentions something about this other man named Demetrius. Notice the words he writes about him in verse 12. <Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone -and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.> One of the trademarks of true Christianity is showing kindness and hospitality to people who are in need. It is having a spirit that welcomes those who are sharing the Good News wherever they go, and that is what these two men, Gaius and Demetrius, were doing. Oh, they were leaving behind a good legacy, in contrast to the bad legacy of Diotrephes. And so we find that John's message is quite clear: To be a discouragement to preachers or to control others is working against the will of God, but to faithfully serve and to show hospitality to others is what we as Christians are called upon to do. Throughout the Bible, we find many examples of people doing that very thing, examples of doing what the Lord has asked them to do. They follow Jesus by putting their faith into action. They seek to be a blessing to all church members and to all who are trying to advance the Kingdom of God and to share the Good News. But in the midst of serving and ministering to other people, however, oftentimes we are tempted to draw attention to ourselves. We cannot allow a spirit, however, of showing off and showing our good deeds to override the good that is being done. I'm reminded of the words of Jesus, which are found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 1: <“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."> Well, that first verse introduces three things Jesus addresses in the next three verses. Three acts of righteousness are listed; and that is giving and praying and fasting. And here's what Jesus teaches on those three subjects, in a summary statement; when you give, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing; when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray privately; and, when you fast, do it in a way that does not draw attention to yourself. Well, Jesus says very plain, very simple, here are the ways that you are to practice your righteousness so that you do not draw attention to yourself. And certainly, those are good words for us to consider and practice, today. One of the purposes for living like that is to allow the Lord to reward us for what we do in secret. We don't do things for the praise of other people, we do things in order to receive praise from God, if He so chooses to give it. We minister to and serve other people to deflect any kind of attention we might get to the Lord, and we do it to honor Him and His name. In an effort to serve people, we have to be careful to not draw attention to ourselves; and sometimes we like to do that. We like a little bit of praise. We like that pat on the back. But we are to think about why is it that we're doing this and how God fits into the whole story. There is a story found in Acts, chapter 9, about a lady who really served a number of people in a little town called Joppa. She probably was a widow and she didn't have much, but what she did have, she used it to bless others. She made clothes for those who could not make them for themselves, or could not purchase them. She probably fed people who were hungry and in need of something to eat. And she was recognized by many as a great servant of the Lord. One day she passed away, and one of the apostles, by the name of Peter, was nearby, probably eight or ten miles away. And some people were sent to him, informing Peter of her passing. And it was then that Peter immediately went to Joppa, to minister to the family and to others. And we pick up with the reading of these words, beginning with verse 39. <Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.> What a legacy Dorcas left behind! She made a difference in people's lives. She made clothes for those who were unable to clothe themselves. She served many people who were in need. And as Peter arrived, we notice that the men and the women were grieving over that significant loss. No doubt Dorcas left a void in that community. What were people going to do? Who was going to take her place? And they told stories about the way she ministered to and served others; no doubt, stories that Peter perhaps would share that very day in her memorial service. Well, it almost seemed like Peter had no choice but to raise her up from the dead, she was such a servant of the Lord. But then I think about those last words of the story. Let me read them again: This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. I have oftentimes wondered if people believed in the Lord because of Peter's miracle of raising the dead to life, or did people believe in the Lord because Dorcas was such a great servant of the Lord? And that's the kind of legacy this woman, Dorcas, left behind. You know, none of us know what somebody else will say about us when we are gone. But the only thing we can know is that we will leave behind a legacy. And hopefully it will not be like the legacy of Diotrephes, that we noticed a moment ago, but maybe it'll be like Gaius or Demetrius, or perhaps this woman, Dorcas. But our legacy will be based upon the testimony of those whose lives we impact. At the beginning of our lesson, we told a story about a man by the name of Louis Pasture. He stepped out in faith. He took a risk to help a young boy by the name of Joseph Meister. He didn't know for sure what the outcome would be, but it turned out okay. Well, when I think about the legacy we leave behind. Sometimes we need to do the same thing, to take a risk, to step out in faith, to help people perhaps we don't even know, and to be some kind of a blessing to them, to make an impact upon their life, not to draw attention to our self, not to have a ‘me first’ mentality, but rather simply to say, as a servant of God, I'm trying to represent Him and bless other people. Let me ask a question for us to consider as we close today. Will someone we come in contact with enjoy a better life because we took a risk to minister to their needs? Here's another question. Will we live a life of service, goodness and hospitality to those who need to see Jesus Christ living in us. When we think about our lives as Christians, we realize we're not to live them for ourselves. We are to lift up our eyes and see the needs of other people whom God puts into our lives. And then we are to do something about them. And when it comes time for us to pass from this life, will anyone tell about the good works which we did in the past? Will anyone miss us? Will anyone even try to intervene to bring us back to life? I would encourage you to think very carefully today, what kind of legacy are you leaving behind?
For most of us, our lives revolve around people. We see people on a regular basis almost every day. We live with people. We work with people. We go to school. We go to church with people. We see people just out in a parking lot, wherever we might be. We have the opportunity to engage people. “Hi, how are you today?” “How are you?” “I'm fine, thank you.” “Hey, good to see you, Ed.” You know, we have the opportunity to greet folks like that, and hopefully it makes our day. Hopefully it makes their day. But also we come in contact with some strangers, some people we've never seen or know. And we have an opportunity to leave an impression upon those people. You know, sometimes we take a risk. We step out on a limb, if you will. We don't know how people will respond to us, but hopefully we will respond well to them. We will have a good word to say, a message of encouragement, or something that they will remember. You know, all of us have the opportunity to bless and to serve other people, and hopefully we are doing that. Hopefully, we are leaving a good impression upon others. We are leaving a legacy. Have you thought about your legacy recently? Have you thought about how your life is impacting the lives of others? I would encourage us, today, to think about that, as Christians. As people who represent our Lord, what kind of impression are we making? What kind of legacy are we leaving behind? And hopefully it will be something that impacts other people's lives for good. As Christians, today, let us think about our impact and the legacy we are leaving on behalf of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for watching today's program on “Key to the Kingdom.” I hope it encouraged you to consider how you can be a servant to the people God puts into your life. Think about the many opportunities to do that, which present themselves on a daily basis. If you would like to access our website, at keytothekingdom.com, you will find this message along with many others. Any of them can be downloaded in audio, written or a video format. There is never a cost nor an obligation required in order to do so. While on the website, please take a minute to look at the other teaching materials and information we offer. You may be interested in a Bible study or want to know more about our basic beliefs and ministry. I hope you will send us an email if you would like more information. Devotional thoughts and inspirational videos are available to assist you in your daily walk with the Lord. On a weekly basis, we offer a short message on Facebook®; and if you have not done so already, please take a look at those messages then share them with others. Thanks again for tuning in to today's broadcast. I hope you will do so, again, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”