May 24 Sermon

John 17:1-11

Living a life worthy of a legacy!

A husband and wife who walked by faith and, consequently, left a legacy far beyond anything they could have imagined, lived in the early 1700s in colonial America. Their names were Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards felt God’s call to become a minister. He and his young bride began a pastorate in a small congregation. During the years that followed, he wrote many sermons, prayers, and books, and was influential in beginning the Great Awakening.

Together they produced eleven children who grew into adulthood. Sarah was a partner in her husband’s ministry, and he sought her advice regarding sermons and church matters. They spent time talking about these things together, and, when their children were old enough, the parents included them in the discussions.

The effects of the Edwards’s lives have been far-reaching, but the most measurable results of their faithfulness to God’s call is found through their descendants. Elizabeth Dodds records a study done by A. E. Winship in 1900 in which he lists a few of the accomplishments of the 1,400 Edwards descendants he was able to find:

  • 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school
  • 80 holders of public office
  • 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
  • 65 professors of colleges and universities
  • 30 judges
  • 13 college presidents
  • 3 mayors of large cities
  • 3 governors of states
  • 3 United States senators
  • 1 controller of the United States Treasury
  • 1 Vice President of the United States

So what kind of legacy will you leave? Will it be lasting? Will it be imperishable and eternal? Or will you leave behind only tangible items—buildings, money, and/or possessions?

The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to invest his life in faithful men who would be able to pass God’s truth on to the next generation. Where does God want you and your mate to invest the time you have been given?

What a legacy Jesus leaves behind for us!

The Gospel of John describes the relationship we have with God. Eternal life comes from a relationship with God. It begins now in faith, as people come to know the love of God. Jesus’ legacy for you and me today begins here in John chapter 17 in his prayer.

First, we know that Jesus glorified God on earth by finishing the work God gave to him. He honored God through his obedience! Jesus taught what God wanted him to teach, and performed the healings and other works that God wanted him to perform. Such faithfulness honors God. We know God’s power through Jesus.

Jesus made divine power visible by the miraculous signs he performed by turning water into wine at Cana (John 2:11); and the conclusion of his ministry by calling the dead man Lazarus back to life (John 11:40). This is our hope! This is the legacy Jesus leaves to us!

1 Peter articulates a hope of a future consummation as a point of orientation for daily life today. This glory that Jesus talks about and what Peter is referring to serves a beacon toward which we should orient our lives, and by which we can see more clearly the conditions in which we find ourselves. Hope. Glory. Future. Peter says, “Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering…Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).

A second element in Jesus’ prayer concerns the glory he will resume in heaven once his ministry on earth is over. Sharing in God’s love by giving us the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:7 Jesus says,

“It is not for you to know the times or dates God has set by his authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.”

And third Jesus concludes his prayer by asking that those whom God has given him may be one day be with him in God’s presence. To see the fullness of the glory that God gave to him in love (17:24).

The prayer traces a movement from glory on earth to glory in heaven-and like all of John’s gospel—connects glory to the crucifixion itself. When Jesus enters Jerusalem at the end of his ministry, he says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” and he compares himself to a seed that must fall into the earth and die (John 12:23-24). When Judas leaves to carry out the betrayal, Jesus says, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him (John 13:31).

In other words, if the signs reveal God’s glory by displaying divine power, the crucifixion reveals God’s glory by conveying divine love. The crucifixion completes Jesus’ work of glorifying God on earth by giving himself completely so that the world may know of Jesus’ love for God and God’s love for the world (John 3:16; 14:31).

By his resurrection and ascension Jesus returns to the heavenly glory that God prepared for him in love, and Jesus prays that his followers will one day join him in the Father’s presence to share in this glory and love (John 17:5, 24-26). Jesus truly lived a life worthy of legacy!

How do we apply this text to our lives today?  How do we develop our spiritual legacy in Christ?

David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary in Africa said, “I will go anywhere, as long as it is forward.” His legacy of showing God’s love still impacts us today.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Fear the Lord and Obey Him. Our legacy begins in our hearts, in our relationship with God. Psalm 112:1-2 reads, “How blessed is the one who fears the Lord, and who greatly delights in his commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth. The generation of the upright will be blessed.”  Everything in our lives-our hopes, our dreams and aspirations-we give everything to him. Psalm 68:4 reads, Sing to God, sing praises to his name…”

2. Recognize the world’s needs and respond with compassion and action. In Matthew 9:36 we read: “And seeing the multitudes. He [Jesus] felt compassion for them.” You and your mate need to leave a legacy by being committed to doing something about our world. Many Christians today are walking in the middle of the road; they’re so focused on what other people think that they are unwilling to take any risks in order to make an impact for Christ. In light of this, Jamie Buckingham wrote, “The problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”

John F. Kennedy, in Profiles in Courage, described the need for courageous people: “Some men show courage throughout the whole of their lives. Others sail with the wind until the decisive moment when their conscience and events propel them into the center of the storm.” If you want to leave a lasting legacy, you need to act with courage to reach out to those in need.

3. Pray as a couple that God will use you to accomplish His purposes. As recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10, Jabez prayed, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm.”

What did Jabez ask God to do? Bless him. Give him new turf and enlarge his sphere of influence. Keep him from temptation. Stay with him. Pray this prayer evreyday, and at the end of the year, see how different your lives will be.

Gaining a vision and a direction in life will yield significance to your life, especially if the omnipotent God of the universe has set that heading and direction. In fact, true vision, direction, and destiny can come only from the One who controls not only the present but also the future. By discovering your eternal destiny, you will begin to build lasting dignity in your lives. The internal awareness of that God-ordained dignity will enhance the self-esteem of every member of your family. What a spiritual legacy that we can leave.

The challenge is the same for all of us. Will we follow Christ and fulfill His call and vision for our lives? Just as we found spiritual life in no other Person than Jesus Christ, so we find a dignity like no other in the destiny He provides.