COMMITTED TO LIVE ALL IN - LEGACIES -May 21, 2023.
Updated: May 24
A LIFE WORTH LIVING - 2 Tim 4:6-8
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
(Here in this part of Canada, we are starting to enjoy the warmth of the Sun,
after long winter not as much hard as in the other part of Canada
but, that brings us joy in going into the new series
that we are going to learn based on the Scriptures.
Then relax, enjoy and read the amazing History of
the Bible full of love from our
Lord of Lords and King of Kings,
So, “How do you want to be remembered?” Will it be the businesses built, cruises taken or countries visited? Trophies in the bookcase or letters after your name?
More often than not, thoughts about our legacy aren’t something we think about until a lot of calendar pages are turned. And why would it be with: kids to raise, businesses to run, bills to pay, and obligations to meet? Besides, legacies are for the influential, the wealthy and let’s face it, the old. But in truth, a legacy has nothing to do with great wealth, great accomplishment or calendar pages turned. It’s not about name recognition, financial empires or reputation.
It’s about replication not reputation. About what gets invested in others as they see rather than just hear what we live for. Living before eyes that look on, even when we never knew our lives were on view.
Sadly, our world tells us to chase reputation and ‘image’ with the result we’ve become more concerned with impressing than impacting. Impressing is what sells selfie sticks and what social media sites feed on. • Chasing reputation - its value on the temporary; instead of replication - its value on the lasting; • chasing reputation for some words etched on a building or the number of likes and followers we can boast of; instead of replication, its value etched in lives that live on
When I speak of legacy, I am not suggesting the things people remember when we are 6 feet under - the projects created; the structures built; the lessons taught. Because, it doesn’t matter if we are Bill Gates or Steph Currie, our names and achievements will soon be historical footnotes. But investing in lives is altogether different.
The passage we are referencing this morning considers something far greater than reputation. Listen to how Paul describes his life: I am already being poured out like a drink offering, the time for my departure is near. I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day & not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:6-8
Later Paul will say the audacious, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” 1 Cor 11:1. In short, replicate me and in this imitation, notice 3 things: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. But Paul first wants us to understand, the life he is talking about is living “all in” for Christ. Of that, he says, I am being poured out like a drink offering.
Here’s the picture: Jewish worshippers approached the altar with a goblet of wine in the OT. As prayers were said, wine was poured on the coals giving off a rich fragrance of smoke. The Romans often ended their meals with such an offering. It marked the time to rise and move on and symbolized the giving of their last drop to the glory of the gods. Paul is saying something similar as he comes to the end of his life, that he has lived all in and is ready to move on.
What a fabulous way to describe life. No rusting out from lack of use. No coasting on the downward stretch. No half-measure. Poured out was his way of saying that he was living to the end for a purpose greater than himself. Christ was all that mattered and he wanted others to find life in Him as he had.
If Paul were with us, he would say, “Young person - right here, right now – live your life poured out for what matters. Parent – right here, right now - caught in the scramble of making life work, live your life poured out. Retiree - with a slew of accomplishments in your rear view – stop looking back and instead live for what’s ahead, your life poured out. Live, so people see Jesus.” Not as some nice hope or good intention BUT as an “all out” commitment to Christ.
In this, Paul isn’t suggesting that we become some spiritual odd fellow. That we don’t take joy in kite surfing or snowboarding or last night’s concert or some business, athletic or social success. No, God has made us for this and to enjoy all the things He has given us as His good gifts.
So if anyone should live all in when it comes to our day-to-day, it is us. But in Paul’s symbolism, living with “nothing held back”, is a challenge he gives to Timothy as he says, My departure is near. ‘Timothy, Nero can’t take what Christ has secured; my life is not lost. ‘My blood is my drink offering, joyfully poured out’. The word he uses for departure is of a ship hoisting anchor and setting sail for a distant port OR of an army breaking camp and heading home. For Paul, death is breaking camp and going home. The celebration was quite different from the miserly couple whose wife went to the local newspaper to place her husband’s obituary.
Before his death, he advised, “Don’t waste $ on an obit with a picture and such. Keep it simple – no flowery words, just brief and to the point.” In keeping with his wishes, she told the editor, “No picture, no words, just, “Henry’s died.” “Ma’am, while I understand, we have a 6-word minimum.” She thought for a minute, then, “Henry’s died. Volvo for sale.”
Practical? – can’t argue that. Purposeful? - not at all but in truth, closer to how many of us live. Not Paul. His life is summed up far more gloriously: I have Fought the Good Fight; I have Finished the Race, I have Kept the Faith. Let’s take a closer look at these 3 things.
I I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
Paul’s descriptor of a fight is one familiar to his time. Boxing and wrestling were essential skills for a Roman soldier. This preparation was bloody, more Ultimate Fighter than Olympic wrestler. The prize is not a medal or an impressive 6 pack but the opportunity to live to see another day.
Paul’s point is that he didn’t live in some monastic ‘God is good and God is in the great bubble. Fighting the fight is his way of realistically describing life. It’s a fight in which lots of things can throw us to the ground. Circumstances we didn’t expect. An opposition that comes in full force. Calamities that take us to the brink. Paul knew all about that.
Listen to how he describes his life, I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 5X I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus 1. 3X I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, 3X I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I’ve been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 2 Cor 11:23-27.
And Paul’s summation? Despite it all, it’s been a good battle, a battle in which he lived fully engaged. He didn’t run. He didn’t turtle. He didn’t cower. He took it on.
If we want to live a life worth following, we need to recognize that each day we too are in a war. No matter the form our battlefield takes – financial, situational, relational, - sexual - beneath the chaos is the destroyer. Our struggle may not be as calamity filled as Paul’s but make no mistake as Christians we’ve been enlisted in a battle. A battle to live for truth and in truth – in a world that has no desire to entertain truth. A battle in which we are called to stand firm, as a spiritual warriors in the Holy Spirit’s power. It’s a battle to “Lay aside the sin which so easily entangles".
A battle for truth. A while back the NYT described how young people’s understanding of sexual behaviours is being completely distorted by porn. Instead of love - exploitation. Instead of honour - acts that abuse and degrade. And the sad part is, these are being taken as normal expressions of sexual love. But the area of sexuality is not the only area where delusion and lies have taken hold. Beyond the sexual temptations and compromise, there is also jealousy, the critical spirit, the pride, the need for power, and the lust for ‘more’. Paul says, “Strip it off and leave it behind!”
Live for something greater. Live for what is ahead. To repeat, that doesn’t mean we don’t fully enjoy the good gifts, God gives. We should never forget, it’s not enough to try to live better by focusing on what is left behind – the sin and the temptations – because, without a clear decision to look ahead and choose to live all in for Jesus, sooner or later we will return to being captive. Why? Because sin’s goal is to ensnare. That’s what God warned Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you” Gen 4:7.
Young people – you have a decision to make. Business person – you have a decision to make. Parents and grandparents – you have a decision to make. And that decision will determine the course of your life. Simply put, it is this, is your life fully Christ’s? Because without an “all in” commitment to the Lordship of Jesus, some here will fail in the battle because they aren’t prepared to fight. You compromise when you need to hold firm. You give in when you need to hold your ground. We settle for our version of truth rather than His, with a little bit of God and a little bit of things around and try to make it fit. We want a God who is love while we brush away a God who is holy. We reach out a hand for His promises but then run from His commands. We underscore forgiveness and white out repentance. And in that fight, we always lose. Perhaps some here have already gone that way, but know this He wants you to turn back to Him. His heart is not a finger-wagging spirit that condemns but wide open arms ready to forgive and renew.
God addresses this in Hag 1:5,6 when He says, Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes.
Of these, Jesus said, These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Mt 15:8. He describes people who don’t understand the life to which they’ve been called. And what is true for them is also true for us. We are too easily a people living for small purposes and misdirected goals. But as Jesus's followers, we are called to live for Him. To please Him. That means a young person, waiting for marriage before sex. That means, once around the blocked person, God’s call for sexual purity in the sanctity of marriage isn’t altered because we are older. Living in a relationship outside of marriage is still a sin. That means the business person that that particular business deal needs to be walked away from because what’s involved doesn’t honour God. That means, hidden behind the screen person that flirtatious, online connections need to end
Because as Christians, we are called to be different in a far greater way than words or actions. Our difference is 1st and foremost, for WHOM we live. That is the decision Jesus calls us to - fully His or not?
But if we treat God’s commands as negotiable, we leave ourselves exposed to an enemy who crouches at the door, waiting to tear us apart. And take note, when Satan targets us to: weaken our faith, compromise our stand or induce us to sin, we are NOT his only target. True, his attack is: personal – ensnaring me BUT it is also relational – disqualifying our witness with colleagues and friends and it is generational – drawing our family, our children and our children’s children away from God. So for your sake and theirs, live for the legacy that reveals Jesus.
II I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE
Paul frequently framed his teaching around sports which is something I identify with – ‘boxing the air’, ‘running the race’, ‘running for the prize’. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders ... and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:1-2.
‘Running the race’ means running with a finish line perspective. As with any race, it doesn’t matter how we start, it matters how we finish. It also means knowing why we are running.
Like the 2 gas company servicemen, a supervisor and a young trainee who were checking meters. They parked their truck at the end of the alley and were working their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman looked out and saw the men checking the meter. Finished, the supervisor challenged his co-worker to race back to the truck. As they neared the truck, the lady from the last house was alongside them huffing and puffing. “What’s wrong?”, they asked.
Gasping, she said, "When I saw you two running full speed away from the gas meter at my house, I figured I better run too."
Seams, she was afraid her finish line was seconds away. But Paul was crystal clear, he was, Running for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus Phil 3:13-14.
Finishing the race means that you don’t quit, you don’t get disqualified and you don’t lose sight of the finish line. Remembering this, our race isn’t a sprint or a marathon, it’s a steeplechase with countless obstacles in our way. That’s why Paul observes, You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?" “Who cut in on you? Gal. 5:7. Paul's warning of the 3 ‘D’s’.
What DISTRACTED You? Well, there’s the obvious, the: wrong things – the substances, the screen addiction, the pornography. The affair – emotional, long before it becomes physical - but no less an affair. Your heart is given to another – your body is soon to follow. And there’s the attitudes – the criticism, the judgments, the cynicism. But there are also the: good things – other priorities, other play things that become a priority: a family to raise, a career to establish, a hobby to pursue, a dog to walk, a dollar to earn. Valuable and important but not to be 1st love.
What DISCOURAGED you? The Offence held onto - things said, things are done, promises are broken. A church that wounded or individuals who hurt. And then there are the Failures – the dreams not met; the hopes not fulfilled; the doors not opened
What DIVIDED you? You and Others - a festering wound. An abuse endured. A relational split. A doctrinal split. A church split.
Race disqualifier. But Paul’s declaration, “I have finished the race.” It’s the race of our life to win the prize of the high calling of God. A race run with full attention on the One standing at the finish line. It’s not a race we get serious about after we have other things in place - like the:
… little boy who went to a playmate’s house, and found his friend’s grandmother deeply engrossed in reading her Bible. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him. “Why do you suppose your grandmother reads the Bible so much?” he asked. “I’m not sure,” said his friend, “but I think it’s because she’s cramming for her finals.”
Not running - cramming for the finals - but running because it’s the only way to live.
III I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH
When other people fell away, Paul preached the Word. When it would have been easier to put his message on mute to save his life, Paul preached the Word. When it would have been easier to compromise, Paul preached the Word. He kept the faith; his life lived in truth.
He held to the truth tenaciously, because he knew other ‘more palatable, more acceptable, truth’ would vie for people’s attention. But Paul lived to please Christ, not men. That is why he could say, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live yet not I BUT Christ who lives in me. Gal 2:20.
It’s a truth far greater than words he could recite. It’s a truth he tasted like the man at Chicago Divinity School. Every year prominent theologians were invited to lecture while students and faculty ate their lunches. One year they invited Paul Tillich, who, quoting scholar after scholar and book after book, “proved" the resurrection of Jesus was false.
Finished, he asked for questions. After 30 seconds, an old preacher stood, "Docta Tillich, I got one question." He reached into his lunch, pulled out an apple and took a bite. "My question is simple." He took another bite. "Now, I ain’t never read them books you read and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek." Another bite. "I don’t know nothin’ about Niebuhr and Heidegger." He finished the apple and then said, "All I wanna know Mr. Tillich – was this apple I ate - was it bitter or sweet?" Tillich paused for a moment and answered in a scholarly tone: "I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple."
The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, "Neither, sir, have you tasted my Jesus."
Here’s the thing, Paul HAD tasted truth – not mere words he heard or helpful life principles he lived by. His truth aligned with what John wrote, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. I John 1:1
I’ve tasted Jesus! And He tastes really good.’
That’s why Paul never stopped fighting, never stopped running, never stopped believing and why he concludes his life with hope. It was a truth he first tasted. A truth from which he first worshipped long before he proclaimed, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day. 2 Tim 4:8
That was Paul’s truth that set him on fire as he etched the legacy of Jesus into others. But the point is, not what is Paul’s life. The far more important question is what is my life, your life?
What is the legacy that will be told of us? Will it be short-lived stories of reputation, buildings on which our names appear, pictures of fish caught or trophies won or will it be stories told by others – by friends, by family, by coworkers of a faith-filled replication of Jesus that will be told for all eternity?
I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith.
Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness
which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me
on that day— and not only to me but also
to all who have longed for his appearance.