Moses called the people of God together to leave his legacy in words. As he did this, he called the people of Israel to choose to leave a legacy of life.
Knowing that it isn’t always easy to see from just one perspective, he provided them a legacy sandwich: here is the right way to build a legacy, here is the wrong way, and again here is the right way. [Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20]
Tonight, I’d like us to consider the wrong way to leave a legacy. You see, Moses provided this description of the wrong way to serve as a warning to Israel. While there are a variety of ways to break the warning into pieces—I do see five warning signs.
Sometimes we need the warning signs that let us know we are heading into danger.
So, here are five warning signs that your legacy won’t last … and what you can do about that.
This warning is for when we say in word or deed, “Give us another God” – we actively choose to walk away
Consider the people of Israel at Mount Horeb—Moses had only been away 40 days when …
When we find ourselves at this point, the warning sign reminds us:
We leave the right legacy when we choose to love Him first and foremost.
Deuteronomy 6 - Love the lord (teach your kids) & all day long
Hebrews 12:1-3 Fix your eyes (and don’t lose heart) & all day long
This warning is for those situations when the will of God is clear and we choose to say NO. This warning is for when we say in word or deed, “No! I don’t want to. I’ll do it my way.” In some sense, this is our quiet or loud temper tantrum.
Disobedience says, “I know better.” Or it says more aggressively, “I have considered your judgment and found it wanting. Or, You simply don’t fully appreciate my situation. I know what is best for me.”
I have two daughters. Believe it or not, they have disobeyed me. There have been times when they have simply forgotten instruction. There have been times when they haven’t heard in time. But, there have been a few times when they have looked straight at me, acknowledged the command with their eyes, and moved to amend the command by substitution with their bodies.
When we find ourselves at this point, the warning sign reminds us:
We leave the right legacy when we choose the way of God.
We’ve worked through those moments. They’ve said I’m sorry. But I will tell you, as I’ve told them: As a dad, I value their obedience far more than their apology.
God himself, said “I value obedience more than sacrifice.”
This warning is for when we say in word or deed, “Well, I like my way,” or “There has got to be an easier way.” or, “I just know a better way to get this done.”
Just this week, my youngest was trying to rock her high chair. I don’t think she understands that the kinetic energy she adds to the physical system represented by her high chair could let the chair escape its potential well. Let me say that differently, I don’t think she understands that rocking the chair will knock it over (and send her, trapped, toward the floor at high speeds).
Well, I told her to stop. She didn’t. I took her hands, set them on the table, and told he she had to keep touching the table. She obeyed. But her eyes said “I don’t want to.” Her body tensed. Her face turned red. Everything about her said, “I’m sitting on the outside, but I’m rocking with vigor on the inside.”
My desire was for her good. But she did not like it. Her desire was about to draw her away from what was good. Had she replaced her desire for rocking with my desire for her staying safely inside the potential well, she would have be happier – and much less likely to be drawn away.
When we find ourselves in similar places, the warning sign reminds us:
We leave the right legacy we choose that which pleases God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 – God will tell us what pleases him
Isaiah 58:13-14 —If you set aside you own pleasure, and substitute what pleases God, you are not being drawn away
Galatians 5:22-23 – fruit of the spirit
Philippians 4:8-9 – whatever is
Romans 12:9-21 – what does the walk look like?
This is the warning for when we say, “Don’t worry God, I’ve got this one covered.”
Yes, there were times when the Israelites completely forgot God Almighty – but much of the time their problem was trying to worship God AND other gods. When times became tough, their faith in God’s good plan for them wavered. Instead of waiting on God and relying on His strength, they started casting about for options to strengthen their position. They wanted to do everything they could to strengthen their destiny – instead of trusting God, they trusted their ability to discern the strength of other gods, and call on the right ones for help.
We may not blatantly cast about for the temples and high places of other gods, but there are times when we choose to say, “God, I don’t really believe you’ve got my back. I’m going to do everything in my power.”
When we find ourselves there, the warning sign reminds us:
We leave the right legacy when we choose to humble ourselves before God.
Every warning sign we’ve seen so far is important. However, this warning sign is probably the most important and most applicable sign to those of us who reside in the U.S. and Canada. Our badge of honor is “We’re so busy.” We are the recipients of a Protestant Work Ethic that has been so warped through the years that many of us feel guilty or at least talk as though we feel guilty about taking time away from our paid job.
Even for those who don’t get paid, it seems as though we’ve only found ways to place value on life and is if we can point toward some kind of productive activity.
Things press in on every side – and we are tempted to derive our value from the things we do – and it turn, we begin to serve for the sake of the value we derive. [This is different, but not all that different, from the purpose of worshipping those other gods.]
When we find ourselves hemmed in on every side, discovering that we are subservient to the jobs, to the causes, to the sources of identity in our life: this warning sign reminds us:
We leave the right legacy when we serve God – that is, when we honor him and choose to stick together with His people and spur one another on to love and good deeds.
His legacy was embodied on in God’s people: Israel.
If you leave the wrong legacy, it shall certainly perish. But when you leave the right legacy, it will last forever.
For I am convinced that neither … will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
This is God’s legacy. He calls us to leave our legacy in His Body: His Church. To leave this legacy, heed the warning signs and then:
And as active participants in His church, He uses us to demonstrate to creatures in heavenly places how great He is. [Ephesians 3:8-10]
A desire to leave a legacy is not wrong—God used that kind of desire to motivate his people from time to time.
It is not even wrong to desire to leave a name that will last forever. We just have to pick the right name.
Whose legacy do you choose to leave? Leave a legacy for God, it will last.