The Power of a Positive Legacy

Normally towards the first of the week, we examine an apologetic issue of importance. However, today I am still left with the overwhelming importance of a person’s legacy. This past weekend, I helped officiate my grandfather’s funeral service. I learned much more about my grandfather’s early life during his funeral than I had known while he was with us. Grandpa’s brother, Paul Sisk, said that Grandpa had led him to the Lord as well as many in their family. I also heard, from many of his parishioners, how great a pastoral leader my Grandpa had been. One word keeps coming to mind: legacy.

Legacy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “something handed down by a predecessor.”[1] My Grandpa handed down a legacy of Christian conviction and influence. Grandpa was by no means perfect. However, he did strive to live the best Christian life that he could and used the resources he had available to him to make a difference for the kingdom of God. The issue of legacy makes me wonder what type of legacy I will leave behind. Some may inquire, “Why is it important to leave a lasting legacy when people may not remember us past a generation or two?” Such is a fair question. I feel that we must leave behind a positive legacy for many reasons.

  1. A positive legacy will inspire future generations.

The term inspire is defined as to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”[2] Inspiration is generally associated with a positive urge or ability implanted in someone. Throughout the Scriptures, we find records of individuals who have inspired future generations to do great things. Abraham is one such example. Abraham inspired the faithfulness of future generations. Abraham is revered not only in the Christian worldview, but also in the Judaist and Islamic worldviews. Others have served to inspire future generations, as well.

Jesus inspired the salvation of future generation. Jesus’ obedience even leading to the cross has inspired countless individuals to face and overcome amazing odds. Jesus noted that those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).[3] If we look for a perfect example for how one should inspire others, look to the perfect example found in Christ Jesus. For it was Grandpa, who pointed me to Jesus and tried to emulate Christ as much as he could. While we all need heroes of the faith and need to be heroes of the faith for others, we should inspire individuals to always look towards the perfect example found in Jesus.

  1. A positive legacy will influence future decisions.

The legacy of an individual will influence the decision-making of future generations. If a person holds a negative influence over others, the person may propagate bad decisions in his or her children. People who constantly surround their children with drugs and addictive behaviors could influence their children to do the same. But, the opposite is also true.

We often hear about the exodus of youth from church. While we may concentrate on those things that don’t work, I have been seeking information on what does work. Michael Haverluck, writing for One News Now, notes one particular influence that keeps children in church. Haverluck writes,

“Nielson argues that firm and loving leadership at home is essential to keep kids rooted in their faith into adulthood. ‘The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church,’ Nielson continued. ‘They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.’”[4]

I feel that the Nielsen studies are accurate. If a parent does not take church seriously, what makes a person think that their children will? Wishy-washy, buddy-buddy, boundary-less parenting does not lend itself towards good results. God told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:15). It was Moses’ and the peoples’ responsibility to influence future generations. Modern Christians hold the same responsibility.

  1. A positive legacy will initiate future changes.

One person can make a distinct difference which will initiate a future chain of events. People often like to think that the person is their own person and does not influence anything or anyone else. But this is simply not true. Instead of living isolated lives, people are interconnected through a human network so to speak. The choice of one person may directly or indirectly initiate a future change of some sort.

Take Joseph for instance. What if Joseph had succumbed to temptation? What if Joseph refused to listen to God and interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh? Well, life would be much different than it is now. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, a chain of events took place eventually leading to the Exodus, leading towards the nation of Israel, ultimately leading to the first advent of Christ. Actions today lead towards decisions tomorrow.

Take again my grandpa. Grandpa became a Christian in part due to the ardent prayer life of my grandmother. What if Grandma had not prayed as she did? What then? I would suppose that we would not have had the Christian upbringing that we enjoy and countless others would have never heard the gospel message through Grandpa. Grandma was influenced to accept Christ due to the moving of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of those close to her. What if those people had rejected the calling of God to share the gospel? What then? We initiate future decisions by our actions and attitudes. A person must ask himself or herself, “Am I purporting positive potential future changes?”

  1. A positive legacy will insulate the furtherance of truth.

A person’s legacy is either that of one who insulates, or protects, the truth, or one who rejects and distorts the truth. The importance and value of the Scriptures were emphasized to me very early in life. My grandpa told me, “Son, if you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you are okay. However, if you leave the text found between these two covers, you are on your own.” Grandpa’s sage wisdom in the area of biblical exegesis is one that I have tried to keep and maintain in my ministry. It was actually due to this advice that I left the ministry when I had times of doubts. If the text could not be trusted, then I did not need to preach at all. Once God demonstrated the veracity of Scriptures, I could then preach and teach with a newfound fervor.

I am struck by the dichotomy found in the Third Letter of John. John, on the one hand, praises one named Demetrius. Why did John praise Demetrius? Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 12). The legacy of Demetrius was one devoted to truth. Yet, the same was not true for Diotrephes.

Diotrephes had a legacy that was one not devoted to truth. Rather, Diotrephes was one “who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). Furthermore, Diotrephes was involved in “talking wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10). While scholars do not know much about Diotrephes, his legacy has been tainted in the pages of God’s Word. Can one imagine the horror of having one’s legacy recorded for all eternity as one who stood in the way of God’s church? Such is the case for all who allow themselves to be the conduits of falsehood.

Conclusion

Every person will leave behind a legacy of some sort. Theologians, pastors, apologists, and regular congregants alike leave something for the next generation. One must ask oneself, “What will be my legacy? What will others remember about me?” It behooves each person to evaluate themselves and begin building a legacy that will bring about good results. God has been too good for one to lackadaisically and half-heartedly settle for mediocrity. Let us all strive to leave behind legacies that will positively shape the generation to come.

 

© May 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Michael F. Haverluck, “3 Factors Keeping Youth in Church Through Adulthood,” OneNewsNow.com (May 4, 2015), retrieved May 23, 2016, http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2015/05/04/3-factors-keeping-youth-in-church-through-adulthood.

Where is Your Ultimate Authority Found? The 7 Loci of Authority

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).[1] Jesus’ classic statement is found in his famous sermon named the “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus says that whatever is most central to a person will control that person. That central focus serves as a chain reaction which penetrates every aspect of a person’s life. So what controls your life? At the time that this article was written, I have over 12 years of ministry experience under my belt. That being said, I have found that seven categories normally serve as the central focus for a particular person. The central focus determines how the person views the world around them and how the person processes information. We will call these seven categories the “locus of authority.”

1) The Locus of Authority in the Self.

Many in the secular humanist camp places ultimate authority in what a person can know or do. Ultimately, the authority is found in the self. When one holds the self as one’s locus of authority, everything in the world revolves around the person’s ego. It is a self-obsession. However, can truth be found only in the self? Ultimate truth cannot be determined only by the self. It exists beyond the scope of person’s opinions.[2] 10 times 10 will always equal 100 regardless of a person’s being. Also, the person will find that there are times when he/she must depend on someone outside of oneself. Therefore, the self is a poor avenue to find one’s locus of authority.

2) The Locus of Authority in the Family.

Some place the locus of their authority in their family. Obviously, one should care for the needs of one’s family. A person’s family should hold a high value to them. However, often people will demote truth claims and one’s moral convictions if a person’s family member is involved in some false or immoral behavior. The person who holds the locus of authority in the family will use excuses like, “Well, he couldn’t help that he robbed the bank. Others made him do it. He is really a good boy at heart.” Or, “Well, she has cheated on her husband five times. But, her husband is a lowlife anyhow.” Or even, “That video may show my son attacking that other person. But, I think the video lied.” In such cases, truth and morality are lowered or eliminated to excuse the bad behavior of the member of one’s family. This is why many change their outlook on particular issues if a member of their home is engaged in such an activity. Problematically, such a mentality actually enables further bad behavior from the family member.

3) The Locus of Authority in the Culture.

Some hold the locus of their authority in their culture. This is far more prevalent than one might think. Throughout history, people have left their morality and truth behind just to gain popularity with those nearest to them. Churches have allowed errors and even perhaps heresies in their midst all in the name of tradition. Churches that hold an “us versus them” mentality are especially prone for this mindset. Lynchings, slavery, and other egregious actions have been permitted, sometimes even in the name of God, only due to the person holding their locus of authority in the culture. But what if the culture is engaged in immoral activities? In such a case, culture fails as the ultimate authority.

4) The Locus of Authority in Entertainment–Sports/Hobbies.

For some, the locus of their authority is found in a far baser genre—that of entertainment. Some will shift their entire schedules around in order to participate in a particular sport or hobby. Their authority is found in the governing bodies of particular sports. If everyone in the sport chews gum, the person will chew gum. If everyone chews tobacco, so will they. If everyone free falls off a cliff, they will join the flight. In schools that hold entertainment as the locus of their authority, athletes will be held to a far lower academic and moral standards than the regular student. Entertainment should not serve as the locus of one’s authority as it is flimsy and holds few standards.

5) The Locus of Authority in Academics/Science.

For some, the locus of one’s authority is found in the established acceptance of particular theories and models. However, John Lennox warned in a conference a few years back that one should “remember that at one time academia thought that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth” (Lennox 2012, NCCA). While discoveries and the like should be accepted and understood, it must be remembered that in the wise words of Frank Turek, “science doesn’t say anything, scientists do. Scientists are the ones who must gather the data and interpret it properly. Science doesn’t do that” (Turek 2014, 146). It is important to note that data must be interpreted and that theories often change. Thus, there must be a more stabilized form of authority for a person’s life.

6) The Locus of Authority in Politics–National/Government.

For many, the locus of one’s authority is found in their political system. Atrocious activities throughout history have been permitted from national and political regimes without as much as a peep of disdain from the faithful. Even now, people allow for the murder of innocent babies and immoral behaviors all in the name of politics. If one allows a political system to hold the locus of authority in one’s life, rest assured that such an authority will not afford ultimate truth and morality.

7) The Locus of Authority in God.

Thus far, one has found bad examples of ultimate authority. Luckily, there is yet another category. This is the authority to which Jesus was directing his hearers, as he does today. The ultimate authority for a person’s life should be found in Almighty God. God is the best basis for one’s locus of authority. First, God is unchangeable. The writer of Hebrews notes that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:9). Malachi speaking for God writes, “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). James notes that good gifts come from God “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Second, God’s morality does not change as he is the ultimate good. The psalmist writes that God’s “steadfast love is good” (Psalm 109:21). On certain occasions someone will acknowledge God in a tripartite “holy” which demonstrates God’s ultimate goodness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).

Conclusion

When one seeks to find an ultimate source of authority for one’s life, the authority should be unchangeable, eternally true, and morally perfect. God is the only being in heaven or on earth or under the earth that could ever meet such a standard. All other standards fail and falter. Let God be the locus of authority for your life. As Norman Geisler said, “An ultimate commitment to anything less than ultimate will not ultimately satisfy” (Geisler 2015).

Copyright. October 19, 2015. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Geisler, Norman. “The Idea of God.” National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Lecture (2015). Calvary Church. Charlotte, NC.

Lennox, John. National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Lecture (2012). Central Church of God. Charlotte, NC.

Pascal, Blaise. Pensees and Other Writings. Translated by Honor Levi. Oxford, UK; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Turek, Frank. Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014.

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Blaise Pascal holds a wonderful point on this matter. He writes, “I feel that I might never have existed, since my self consists in my thinking. So I who think would never have existed if my had been killed before my soul had been created. So I am not a necessary being. I am neither eternal nor infinite. But I can certainly see that in nature there is an essential, eternal, and infinite being” (Pascal IX.167, 44).