Jack Graham - Your Legacy
So how do you live one? And how do you give one? How do you live for the things that you're willing to die for as well as live for? Well, Paul tells us here in Acts chapter 20. And we're going to begin reading in verse 17. Again, this is Paul's farewell; it is his goodbye to his spiritual family at Ephesus, and his words echo through the centuries to us. It says: "Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church", that's the leaders of the church", to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: 'You yourselves know how I lived among you...'"
Notice that phrase, "how I lived among you". His life mattered from the first day, "the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God", note that, "and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit", compelled, driven by the Spirit, "not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me".
But then, here's his motto and his maxim for life, that is my prayer in my own life these days. "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God". He goes on to say "You will see my face no more". He commended them to the grace of God and the keeping of God's Spirit. What a man! The Apostle Paul, he shows us how to lead, he shows us how to leave a legacy. How?
Number one, if you want to live and leave a legacy for your children, for your children's children, for your friends, your family, number one, live humbly. He says in verse 19 that "You know the manner of my life, that I serve with humility". How do we show humility? By serving with humility. Paul often referred to himself in his letters as the bondslave, the slave of Jesus Christ. Early Christians often designated themselves as slaves of the Lord Jesus. In many of our translations that word that is translated slave gets softened a bit for our generation and our tenderness to the issue of slavery, but translates it servants. But it's really a word which means slaves, describing what happens to us when we become the followers of Jesus because to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Paul says, "with repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ"; to put your faith in Christ, but also then to follow Him as your Master and Commander; that Jesus purchased us with His own blood. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that "we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ". And because we are bought, we now belong to Him. We are owned! We are owned by God, by the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul would say, "I bear on my body the mark of a slave, the mark of a bondservant to the Lord Jesus Christ". We are under the authority, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! Which means that we serve the Lord in all humility, that we honor Him in all of our ways, because to call upon Jesus, to follow Jesus means that I give Him my rights, I give Him my life, I give Him my all! He owns me. And my purpose, then, becomes to do the will and the work of the Master.
That's why we're here as bondslaves of Christ! And why do we do this? Because we love our Master! We love Jesus, the One to whom we belong! And so humility demands that I deny self and follow Christ, and serve Christ by sharing Him and serving Him with others, with humility. It was C. S. Lewis who first said, I believe, that "Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself, but it's just not thinking of yourself". It is getting off yourself! Because you learn as a follower of Jesus that it's not about you! Now this is counterintuitive and countercultural in the times in which we live. In this it's-all-about-me, self-indulgent culture in which we live, humility is not even on peoples' chain. But the Christian is to live with all humility and selflessness, to serve others.
The fact is, it's not how many servants you have that matters; it's how many people you serve that matters! We were born living for ourselves! That's sin and selfishness! But we are no longer slaves to sin! We are slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ! And therefore we are set free! We have been redeemed from the marketplace of sin and bought and paid for in full by the grace of God! This is why we gratefully serve Him and live for Him! This is why the Apostle Paul said, "You know that from the first day I set foot on this ground, personally and publicly-in the public place, in your homes-I lived with humility. I lived with a servant's heart".
Paul is so transformed by Jesus. This proud, arrogant Pharisee, now humbled and broken and burdened by the love of Christ. Which brings me to the second thing about living your legacy, which is to live compassionately; live with love. For he says in verse 19, "I served with humility and", note these words, circle it in your Bible, "with tears". Perhaps you think of the Apostle Paul as a hard: charging, hard driving, get-it-done. The kind of man who said, Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I mean, he's certain, he's courageous, he's confident. And Paul, you know, he's just fearless in the face of opposition, and it takes a tough, hard, driven individual to live like this. But don't get the idea that the apostle Paul was somehow hard or harsh; rather, with tears and tenderness, and brokenness and with great burden he shared Christ and served others.
In fact, on one occasion in Romans chapter 10 he tells us as he's praying, he said, "I have a heart's desire. I have a burden on my heart". You want to see the heart of Paul? Listen to this. He said, "I have a burden on my heart that my kinsmen according to flesh", talking about his Jewish family and friends, "that my Jewish brothers would be saved". He went on to say, "I would be willing to be accursed", which means, I would be willing to die and go to hell if my Jewish family and friends would come to faith in Jesus Christ. That's the heart, the burden, the passion and compassion of this great man. And so, yes, he served with tears.
Jesus was a man of tears, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He wept at the tomb of His good friend Lazarus, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead, and yet, His heart broke with sorrow for those around who were grieving. He shares our sorrows, our burden. He carries our griefs. When Jesus came to Jerusalem that final time before the cross, He stood on a ledge there on the Mount of Olives (I've stood there with groups many times) and there He said, Matthew 23:37, "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I would have drawn you to Myself, like a hen would gather its brood, but you would not". And the Bible says Jesus wept. He convulsed, His great heart breaking, His chest heaving, and His tears pouring out.
So Paul's tears were like our Lord's tears. And in my view it's time for more tears among God's people. Our nation is in trouble. Our church and churches need revival. The prophets tell us to cry out to God! Some of you have loved ones and friends, children, parents, neighbors who don't know Jesus! You say, "How can I reach them"? Try tears! Ask God to give you a burden. And if it's been a while since you've poured out some tears, since you cried for the sake of some soul on its way to judgment and hell. If it's been a while, ask God to give you tears again. Ask God to break your heart for the things that break His heart! That's the Apostle Paul! That's how to make an impact! That's how to influence people! Because people, as has been said many times, they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!
And often we're pretty good at anger, getting upset about some of the sin that's around us, and rightfully so. There's a righteous indignation that we should have, that Jesus had towards sin, but the fact is we're really good at anger but we're not too good at anguish these days. Let our mentality be one of anguish for those around us who don't know Christ. This is why we keep going with the Gospel, whether it's through our church or through its ministries, through PowerPoint, because people all around us are breaking, their hearts are breaking. Friends all around you are burdened and you could make a difference in their lives. There's someone that you know who needs to know Jesus.
Verses 37 and 38, just scan down the passage with me and Paul speaks to them regarding some other things that we're going to talk about, but at the end, verse 36, he says: "And when he said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all". And notice what verse 37 says: "And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship".
So the church gathers around the apostle, they hit their knees, and they're crying profusely. When it says there was much sorrow, there were many tears, it means there they were just wailing basically. This wasn't a little sports cry. They're crying out on behalf of their brother Paul, their pastor, who's going away, who's saying goodbye. They're praying and they're crying, they're holding each other up. It's a great picture of what the church ought to do when we have to say goodbye to people that we love. It's a great picture of how the church ministers to the grace of God and through our grief and through God's grace we're able to get through things together. They were sending Paul on and their prayers and their tears were with him.
Did you know why God allowed those tears to come into your life? When you didn't understand why you were hurting and why your heart was breaking and why you had to say goodbye to the dearest and best in your life? And you didn't know why there were so many tears; you just couldn't stop crying? You know why God gave you those tears? As a testimony of the God of all comfort, Paul said, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, "The God of all comforts who comforts us and with the comfort we have been given we comfort others".
So don't waste your sorrows. Don't throw away your tears. God gives you tears as a test and as a testimony to share the love and the hope that is in Christ with others? Isn't that good? That's how you make a difference. And then when you leave, if you live like that, when you say goodbye and you take the last ship home, people will weep for you, people will cry because you made such a difference in their lives. What are you leaving? What are you leaving behind? Is it just a void? Will people forget about you just a few days, a few weeks after you're gone? Will your children, your grandchildren know the influence of your life because you so lived for Christ that your influence lasts in their lives? How to live a legacy is to live humbly, serving the King of kings, the Lord of lords; to live lovingly, compassionately; and thirdly, to live boldly.
Now I love what the Apostle Paul said to these Christian leaders. He reminded them that while he was there he declared the entire message of the Gospel publically, house to house. He said to the degree that "I am innocent of the blood of all men". He's referring to the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel talked about describing watchmen on the walls, whose responsibility was to guard the walls and to shout it out if enemies were on their way, lest, if they failed in that responsibility the blood of the city, the people would be on their hands. That's what Paul is talking about that, "I'm innocent of the blood of all men". He gave us the Gospel and said it is repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That's why I pause there and ask you to underline it. That's the message. What else is there but to amplify that and to magnify Jesus who gave His life for us but to live boldly with the Gospel, declaring the whole counsel of God. I tell you, if you want to live a legacy for your family and for your friends, build your life and teach them God's Word. Make sure that your kids and the people under your influence hear from you what God says in His word! Don't be afraid, and don't be ashamed to tell people about Jesus, lest their blood be on your hands! Some of us have neighbors, we have family members, we have co-workers, we have fellow students that if they were to die today and go to hell, their blood would be on your hands.
Paul said, "I was faithful to the Gospel, I was fervent in sharing my faith". He told it all. He didn't tell the good news. He said the bad news is what makes the good news so good. So let's be true to ourselves and to our message, the message of Jesus. Let's live humbly, let's live compassionately, let's live boldly, ferociously, on message, on point with the Gospel of Christ! And then finally, let's live generously. That's what Paul said down in verses 33 to 35. He said, "You know I worked hard. I served and worked and I lived generously among you for as the Lord Jesus said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'". That's the missing beatitude of our Lord that shows up not from the book of Matthew where the beatitudes are listed but given to us by Paul in the book of Acts. This is a beatitude of Jesus. It's more blessed to give than to receive. Blessed are the givers.
You know, we've heard it many times. Right? There are two kinds of people in life. There are the givers and the takers. There are the givers and the takers. And it's been my observation that the takers eat better, but the givers sleep better, because when you learn to give that's when you're happy, you're blessed, you're content. And so if you want to be a taker all your life, you'll never give much of a legacy, an example for others to follow. If your children, your grandchildren know you as a miser, they probably know you as being miserable, unhappy. But when you come to terms, as Paul did, he said, "you know, what I did in serving there, working there, I worked with my hands, I didn't do it for gain", he said, "because giving breaks the back of greed and covetousness".
We all are tempted with desire to acquire more and more and more. And the way we defeat this temptation in our lives, this test, because money is a test. Possessions is a test. But it also should be a testimony to use what we have to advance the Gospel. Because it's better to give than to receive. Happy are the givers! And so when we say goodbye to this world and our friends we will not only have invested in their lives, in the things that matter left here on earth, but we'll send it on ahead by laying up treasures in heaven. That's what Jesus said. Giving saves us from selfishness, from being a taker all our lives, as we become givers. So what are we to give? We're to give help, we're to give hope, we're to give life, we're to give love, to give what we have including our possessions, so that when we leave, if somebody stands up to preach your memorial service and mine, they'll talk not about how much you had, but how much you gave, how much you loved, how much you served. And people will weep because of the difference you made in their lives.