Father with Daughter

Have you ever noticed that we don’t really use the word “legacy” until someone is gone? Only then do we look back and reflect on what they’ve left behind. I did exactly that a year and a half ago when my grandfather died. In fact, when asked to lead his memorial service, I titled my mini-sermon “What Granddad Left Us,” and I tearfully shared many things I would always remember about Granddad – his funny stories, how he rode a horse to school when he was a boy, and even his role in WWII.

But as I went deeper into the enduring qualities of my Granddad’s life, 1 Corinthians 13:13 was what I really focused on: “faith, hope and love remain.” Through his consistent life and words, he had left his children and grandchildren an enduring inheritance that money could not buy and death could not take away. Granddad was gone, but his faith, his hope and his love remained.

According to the dictionary, a legacy is anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. On my flight home from the memorial service, I began to wonder what my children and grandchildren would one day say I had left them. What am I already leaving behind – good or bad – that is making a lasting impression?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “A righteous man is one who lives for the next generation.” We actually see in Scripture that this mindset has always been God’s plan for passing on His Truth from generation to generation”

• “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71:18
• “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done” Psalm 78:5
• “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD” Psalm 102:18
• “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:3-4

Paul had this outlook when he told Timothy, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:13-14). As Christian families, we too have been entrusted with a priceless treasure that God wants us to faithfully pass on through our life and our words, leaving a lasting legacy of righteousness. God’s design from the beginning was for the family to be the means for entrusting a heritage of faith to the next generation.

When this doesn’t happen, children may adopt the religion of their parents, but they will fail to follow the God of their parents. If you picture the Christian faith as a trunk filled with essential beliefs and values, kids frequently keep the Christian label on their trunk, but they either leave out vital convictions that define true Christianity or replace the content with unbiblical ideas. Simply put, they don’t know which beliefs to keep and why, and this drastically affects how they live their lives.

But more than passing on beliefs, parents must clearly model what it looks like to passionately follow Christ, stand in awe of God, understand their purpose, and possess a hope that goes beyond anything this world can offer. That kind of legacy allows them to confidently say to their children: “You…know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance” (2 Tim 3:10). Then those sons and daughters, in turn, are now equipped to pass their faith on to their sons and daughters.

At Pine Cove family camp this summer we have summarized this big idea into one theme: “Legacy – You Leave What You Live.” Regardless of your past or what was handed down to you, you can leave a lasting, godly legacy. Do you take your role seriously to faithfully ensure that your descendants have a Christ-centered inheritance? Though everyone will leave some kind of legacy, many will hand down a hollow belief system with man-centered values and time spent chasing the wind (Ecc 2:11).

Make no mistake, the legacy you leave will depend on the life that you live. Will yours move your children and grandchildren to love God passionately and people practically in the name of Jesus?

You Leave What You Live