How to Live for a Legacy

Topical Scripture: Genesis 12:1-9

The Winter Olympics end today. By its conclusion, there will have been 105 events in fifteen sports, the first Winter Olympics to surpass one hundred medal events. Nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries have been competing.

Through it all, the one common denominator for American television viewers has been Mike Tirico, NBC’s primetime host. He also became the main studio host for NBC’s coverage of the NFL last year. In both roles, he replaced veteran sportscaster Bob Costas, who hosted eleven Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Here’s what makes their connection so unusual: Tirico was the first student to receive the Bob Costas Scholarship at Syracuse University, Costas’s alma mater, back in 1987. Costas could have had no idea 31 years ago that a student who went to school because of his scholarship would one day succeed him on arguably the largest sports television stage in the world.

You cannot know the future, but you can prepare for it. You cannot define your legacy, but you can live in such a way that those who do are marked by the Christ who lives in you.

You can be faithful to God today and trust him to use your faithfulness tomorrow. As we continue walking through the Book of Genesis, this week we come to one of the greatest role models of faith in all of human history. Let’s learn from Abram how to trust and serve the God of Abram.

As we do, we’ll learn this fact: you cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.

Why Abram?

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (v. 1).

There is absolutely no indication that this future father to more than half of the world’s religious population did anything to earn this call on his life. He didn’t graduate from Harvard Law on his way to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or Yale Law, and years of political achievement on the way to becoming president. He didn’t win two Super Bowls on the way to being the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, or rise to become the best assistant in the league before being named the Dallas Mavericks’ head coach.

He has no resume, no list of achievements, no merit with God. Neither do we. Our lofty achievements can no more impress the omnipotent God of the universe than my singing voice will make me the next American Idol.

This man was in no sense perfect. Sometimes he lived up to his calling, as when he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah and offered Isaac to God. Sometimes he failed miserably, as when he tried to pass off his wife as his sister, or fathered children with her servant girl.

His is the pattern of Scripture. Noah saved the human race, then planted a vineyard and got drunk; Moses ran from Egyptian authorities for forty years before returning to free his people from them; Bathsheba overshadows Goliath on David’s resume; Peter denied Christ before he preached his gospel; Saul murdered Christians before he ministered to them.

I did absolutely nothing to warrant hearing the gospel when the bus ministry of College Park Baptist Church in Houston knocked at my door. I won no competitions for their attention, had no status in the community which would cause them to seek me out. I simply opened the door when they knocked on it.

What did you do to earn the right to be born in America and not Ethiopia? To have parents who loved you rather than abusing you? Were you any more moral than those who died on 9/11 or at Stoneman Douglas High School? I’ve flown on airplanes around the world and spoken at high schools around the country; the fact that I’ve never been harmed in one has absolutely nothing to do with me.

If God could call Abram, what’s to keep him from calling you?

How to be Abram

Why Abram? What did he bring to the table? Just this: when God said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (v. 1), “Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (v. 4). As Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” As the King James puts it, “he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

Why is such blind obedience essential to the blessing of God? Is it that this kind of unconditional faith earns God’s favor? No: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We do nothing to earn God’s call.

Why then? Because God honors the freedom he gave us and will not lead us where we will not go.

He will not make any of us leave Haran for a Promised Land. He won’t make you trust him with your dating relationship, or marriage, or money, or time. His will for your life is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2); he has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

What he said to Abram he says to you today: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (v. 2); “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (v. 3b).

A single day lived completely in the will of God bears eternal harvest.

When we give his word to our world, that word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). When you teach his word in a Bible study class, or speak it to a friend, or obey it in your personal life, it cannot fail to change the world.

When we perform an act of kindness in his name, we will one day hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34–36, 40).

These promises have no conditions. They do not depend on the money you make, or the home you own, or the status you’ve achieved.

The wealthiest man in your city is no more important to God than his gardener. Name the last five Nobel Peace Prize winners, or the Super Bowl champions of two years ago, or the World Series champions last year, or the monarch of Great Britain before Queen Elizabeth II.

If you think that your value on earth or in heaven is tied to the world’s assessment, you’re mistaken. No human can bless “all peoples on earth” or make a significant difference in time and eternity. Only God working through us can do that.

Every one of us can change the world. But only if we seek his will and surrender to his voice. Only if we go out not knowing.

But he cannot lead you if you won’t follow. If you’re building towers to glorify yourself instead of altars to glorify God, he’ll tear them down. He will not share his glory, because that would be idolatry, the worst cancer of our souls. He loves us too much to let us trust and serve anyone but the one true God and Lord.


Where do we begin? Where Abram began. When last did you tell God you would “go out not knowing”?

I will be on an airplane again this weekend and have been thinking about that familiar experience as a metaphor for today’s message. You and I are on an airplane that’s ready for takeoff today. Who’s behind the controls? You are unless you’ve consciously turned them over to the true Pilot of the universe. Unless you’ve decided to let him fly the airplane anywhere he wants.

How can you turn the plane over to him?

First, meet the Pilot personally. He cannot fly the plane unless he’s on board. Ask him to forgive your sins and failures and invite him into your life as your Lord. You must know him before you can follow him.

Now, let go of the controls yourself. He won’t fight you for them. Admit the areas of your life which you’ve not surrendered to him—your time, ambitions, relationships, money, sins.

Give him the wheel at the start of every flight. Never take off at the beginning of a day without first giving that day’s flight to his control. Begin every morning by yielding that day to his Spirit. Ask him to “fill” and control you, to be in charge. When you push him out of the cockpit, admit your rebellion immediately and invite him back.

Living in the Lordship of Jesus is so simple that all of us can do it. And so important that all of us must.

Who is flying the airplane of your life and legacy today?

The Key to Being Pure in Heart

Topical Scripture: Matthew 5:8

There are three tame ducks in our back yard,
Dabbling in mud and trying hard
To get their share, and maybe more,
Of the overflowing barnyard store.
Satisfied with the task they’re at,
Eating and sleeping and getting fat.
But whenever the free wild ducks go by
In a long line streaming down the sky,
They cock a quizzical, puzzled eye,
And flap their wings and try to fly.

I think my soul is a tame old duck,
Dabbling around in barnyard muck,
Fat and lazy with useless wings.
But sometimes when the North wind sings
And the wild ones hurdle overhead,
It remembers something lost and dead,
And cocks a wary, bewildered eye,
And makes a feeble attempt to fly.

It’s fairly content with the state it’s in,
But it isn’t the duck it might have been.

I don’t want to be a tame duck. You don’t, either. You want your life to have purpose and passion, a reason for being which transcends the hum-drum routine, the workaday world. You want to believe that your life counts for something bigger than yourself, that you are more than a dot on the screen of the universe.

How do we escape the barnyard?

Choose to have a life purpose

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” our Teacher says.

Greek scholar Fritz Rienecker defines “heart” as “the center of the inner life of the person where all the spiritual forces and functions have their origin.” “Pure” here means to have integrity, to be consistent, to be of one mind.

So to be “pure in heart” is to have a single purpose to your life. Kierkegaard was right: “purity of heart is to will one thing.” To choose to have a single life purpose.

Not everyone believes you can. Many think that life has no real purpose or meaning.

Philosopher Martin Heidegger says you’re an actor on a stage with no script, director, audience, past or future. Courage is to face life as it is.

French philosopher and playwright Jean Paul Sartre titled his most famous play, No Exit, and his autobiography, Nausea. In Existentialism and Human Emotions, he ended the chapter titled “The Hole” with these words: “Man is a useless passion” (p. 107).

“Postmodernism” says there’s no absolute truth, which is itself an absolute truth claim. It claims life has no real purpose, just what you make of it. Life is chaotic, random dots produced by the coincidence of evolution and the chance occurrences of life.

Why not share this chaotic world view? Why seek to be “pure of heart,” to have a single purpose?

One answer is practical: greatness is only possible through commitment to a single purpose. Winston Churchill in June of 1941: “I have but one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby.” Brilliant scholar and author William Barclay: “A man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion. There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.'”

A second answer is logical: if the universe were chaotic, without purpose or meaning, you and I would never be able to know it or say it. Think with me for a moment. If reality were truly chaotic, there would be nothing we could “know.” Red today would be green tomorrow. Stand before a Jackson Pollock painting, splotches on the canvas, and tell me what it “means.” Or before a Mark Rothco, a canvas painted all a single solid color. Again, no meaning. Both artists committed suicide, by the way.

If the world were chaos like their paintings, there could be no objective truth, not even the objective statement that there is no objective truth. And we couldn’t speak of truth, for language could have no common meaning between us.

A third answer is biblical. Jesus made this statement about human experience: “No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

James added this command: “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). To purify our heart, we must not be “double-minded.” We must have a single life purpose.

A fourth answer is spiritual: we must be “pure in heart” to see God. Jesus’ beatitude makes this fact clear. Let’s explore here for a moment. We cannot see God with our physical eyes: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). But we can “see” God spiritually. Hebrews 11:27 says of Moses, “he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Exodus 33:11 states, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”

We can know God this intimately. But only if we are pure in heart. Hebrews 12:14 warns us, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” But Jesus promises: if we are “pure in heart,” we will.

Political campaign contributors will pay $10,000 and more for a table at a dinner, hoping just to meet the president or their candidate. Imagine knowing intimately the God who created the universe. You can. But you must be pure in heart. You must choose a single life purpose.

Choose the right life purpose

So how do we become “pure in heart.” Assuming that these practical, logical, biblical, and spiritual arguments are compelling, what do you do next? What single life purpose will lead us to “see God”?

We’re not the first to ask Jesus. Remember the lawyer’s trick question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). Which of our 613 commandments will you neglect, so we can convict you of breaking the law?

And remember his answer, summarizing all the law and the prophets, all the word and will of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (vv. 37, 39).

The two are one, Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s request for the greatest single commandment in God’s word. They are two wings of the same spiritual airplane, both essential for the soul that flies into the presence of God. Examine them for a moment.

Love the Lord “with all your heart,” by walking in the will of God. Remember that your heart is the center of your life, the origin of your will and actions. The Bible instructs us, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Flee evil, pursue righteousness. Walk in the will of God and you’ll be “pure in heart.”

Love the Lord “with all your soul,” by practicing the worship of God. With your spiritual life, your daily worship: “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). To “fear” God is to reverence him, to honor him, to worship him. The “undivided heart” is the pure heart. Love God with your daily worship, as you commune with him, walk with him, praise him. And you’ll be “pure in heart.”

Love the Lord “with all your mind,” by knowing the word of God. Know and obey his revealed truth: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth . . . love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Know and obey the truth of God’s word and you’ll be “pure in heart.”

And love your neighbor as yourself: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5).

Share God’s love by living your faith. As Francis of Assisi suggests, preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words. Share God’s love by caring for hurting souls. Show them God’s love in yours. Share God’s love by explaining your faith. Share with them God’s salvation and urge them to experience his grace.

And you’ll be “pure in heart.”


When a crash closed a road leading to the Denver International Airport, Google Maps offered drivers a quick way out of the traffic jam. However, the route it suggested took them down a dirt road that rain had turned into a muddy mess.

Some vehicles couldn’t drive through the mud and became stuck. About a hundred others became trapped behind them. They were sincere in trusting the app, but they were sincerely wrong.

Today’s beatitude offers us the only path to a life God can bless. So, choose to have a single life purpose, for practical, logical, biblical and spiritual reasons. Choose Jesus’ purpose: love the Lord your God with your heart through his worship, with your soul through his will, with your mind through his word. Love others as yourself. And you will be “pure in heart.” And you will see God.

Your soul can be a tame duck. Or it can be a wild eagle.

The choice is yours.