He is dead.
This was the second sentence of the sermon that was preached at our friend Henry’s funeral earlier this year. Henry had died by suicide. The words crashed into me like a ton of bricks nearly knocking the wind out of me as I sat in the back pew of the sanctuary beside my husband. “Did the pastor really just say that?” I wondered in horror, as my thoughts of what the pastor would say next consumed me. For a fleeting moment I thought that the words had been spoken for their shock value. And with that, I expected the good news and the resurrection hope that we have in Jesus to come in the next sentence or two of the sermon. Biblical hope in the face of death by suicide.
I waited…and waited…and waited…
We heard of fleeting hope. The type of hope that the world is dominated by and that is actually shielded hopelessness. We heard of Henry’s strong Calvinist character, his love for his family, and the outdoors, and his strong faith he had in this life, even though, according to his pastor’s sermon, his faith and character was weak in the end. We even heard about the sinfulness of death by suicide. But the good news of the gospel, and the resurrection hope that we have in both this world and in the next, we had to wait for.
The good news of Jesus Christ did come. In the last two minutes of the sermon. All the right words came flooding out of the pastor. And the words were so good, so reassuring, so full of truth and love, and …. hope. But, they came too little and too late. It was absolutely heartbreaking. The next day I woke knowing that the sermon I had heard would not have the last word about Henry. And a word came to me that has stuck with me ever since.
Henry’s legacy was not in his death, nor his manner of death. Henry’s legacy was in the life he lived. I woke that first morning knowing that I had to live my life as if I was living a legacy. Because I am. We all are. We are the living, breathing legacy of Christ. Christ left His legacy with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify” (John 15:26-27). Our lives are to be a testimony to Him. We are the legacy of the living Christ here on earth.
I love the song “Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns. Some of the lyrics say “All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won will crumble into dust when it’s said and done– ‘Cause all that really mattered. Did I live the truth to the ones I love? Was my life the proof that there is only One whose name will last forever? And, I don’t want to leave a legacy. I don’t care if they remember me. Only Jesus. And I’ve only got one life to live. I’ll let every second point to Him. Only Jesus. Jesus is the only name to remember.”
Am I living out the legacy of Christ in us so that His name is glorified and not my own? Or is my life so full that there is little time for margin? Have the little “unexpected’s” and “distractions” that are a regular part of most days become real distractions or annoyances? Or do I have enough margin in my days that they become God moments? Am I intentional in my actions and conversations? In my words and even my thoughts? We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (1 Cor 10:5).
Every part of our life is a calling to a greater purpose. Isaiah 43:7 says that we are created and formed by God, called by His name and for His glory. There is no greater purpose or calling in life than to live as the legacy of Jesus, pointing the world to Him through our “everyday ordinary life–[our] sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around lives” as an offering to God (Rom 12:1 MSG). For years, when I catch myself doing/saying something I shouldn’t, I ask myself, “Is what I’m doing glorifying God?” Perhaps I should start asking myself that same question at some point everyday. I’ve heard it said that we humans like to crawl off the altar that Paul tells us to place ourselves and our lives on in Romans 12:1. I wonder what it looks like for us to stay on God’s altar of love out of glory to Him, even though that legacy will mean surrender and sacrifice? I wonder what would happen in the Church and in the world if every Christian lived fully to the glory of God as though they were the living legacy of Christ every day and in every way? I wonder how I can live in and live out the legacy of Christ today?