Building the Legacy

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ETS - Nehemiah sought that his legacy wouldn’t be so much about what he did, but who he left behind.
ESS - We should live our lives in such a way that when we come to the end, we are survived by many whose lives have been positively impacted for Jesus by our words and actions.
“Legacy.” Once, I heard someone give a sermon on legacy, and it gave me great pause. What was said didn’t jive with what I was reading in the Bible. The summation of that message was essentially that we would all die one day, and we need to consider how others would remember us. So build your legacy! You don’t want to be forgotten, do you? Friends, let me be clear. This is not what the Bible teaches about legacy. We do all leave a legacy. It’s unavoidable. When your time comes to leave this earth, you will leave an impact behind that carries effect well beyond your life. Every decision you will have made will have had reverberating effects across the world that will continue long after you’re gone.
For some, this will concentrated on the work you’ve done. Perhaps others in the children left behind. Others in lives changed and impacted for the better. Others will be remembered for the awful things they’ve done. Think of historical villains: Mao, Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden, the list goes on.
The legacy part is unavoidable. What was wrong with the sermon on legacy that I experienced was that the focus was on US being REMEMBERED by our SUCCESSORS. Legacy, according to Scripture, is not about being remembered by people. It’s about being remembered by God and for God.
The question is, what will your legacy hold in the eyes of God?
As was just read, there at the end of the passage was a remembrance and a prayer by Nehemiah. Vv. 30-31.
Notice what Nehemiah does not mention... the wall.
At the very heart of Nehemiah’s life was his concern for Jerusalem. His concern for his people. Remember where Nehemiah started back in Chapters 1 and 2. He was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, and he had the wherewithal to cry in front of the king and request to go rebuild his homeland. Because he wanted to help the people of God to be everything they were supposed to be.
But for the people of God to be everything they were supposed to be, there had to be some things that were set straight.
Nehemiah 13:1-3
In this passage we see Nehemiah taking all kinds of drastic steps to make sure the people of God are right in the the sight of the Law. Nehemiah wanted his people to be a lawful, Godly people.
In vv. 1-3 we see a summary of what the people are doing and what God is doing in their midst.
Verse 6 serves as the preceding context for the rest of the chapter. So it turns out that Nehemiah is away for some time, and while he is away, the people go lax on their spiritual duties.
Nehemiah 13:4-9
Remember Tobiah? This was one of Nehemiah’s greatest enemies just a few chapters ago… And now he’s taken up residence in the Temple! Just making a storage room his own home. Where the items of worship should be, Tobiah is kicking his feet up. It’s just offensive.
So, upon his return, Nehemiah goes into the room, throws everything out, and had the cleaning crew come in and made everything right again.
Nehemiah 13:10-14
He also saw that people had stopped giving to the Temple priests, so that the priests had to go out and work the fields instead of attending to their duty as priests. See, this was a big reason why the Jews were to give to the Temple and the priests… They were busy doing the work of the Temple. To go out and farm their own food would take too much away from their Temple duties.
Nehemiah 13:15-22
The Jews have left the Sabbath behind. These are all likely chain reactions resulting from Tobiah’s evil. What started with Tobiah taking up residency in the Temple became became the Jews ignoring the Sabbath altogether. It was a slippery slope that the Jews jumped down headfirst.
Nehemiah 13:23-29
The Jews have gone back on the vows they set with Ezra to not marry foreign women. The issue is their paganism. We saw this in several places all throughout Ezra and Nehemiah. In one generation, a people’s culture and faithfulness to God could so easily be destroyed.
One person’s evil can destroy a good life’s work. It doesn’t take much to set the chain reaction of destruction off. And this is precisely what we’re seeing here.
Nehemiah was a man who cared deeply, greatly for his people and the name of his God. His actions showed that over and over again.
Tobiah was a man who who sought his own gain. He didn’t care much about the gain of the people of Judah unless his gain was also tied up in that. Eliashib was an immoral high priest, seeking the betterment of his family over the people of Judah, so Judah suffered as a result. These men were not so much about a legacy of correction… they had a legacy of corruption.
The people of Judah were the moral recipients of their leadership.
Each of these had a legacy they left. Something by which they were remembered. In leaving a godly legacy, there are two major actions that often take place. The first one is that…

Sometimes You Correct…

This is the example we see in Nehemiah’s life. Sometimes we are the people who correct those around us. Upon his return, Nehemiah spent his energy getting the people of God back in line.

IT WASN’T too long ago that I was going down a one-way street, and I noticed somebody coming the other way. Obviously there was a problem. That car was going the wrong way. As I kept driving, I heard sounds all around me. After awhile it became clear that all these chorus of voices were trying to get my attention, trying to confront me with the reality that I was wrong. You see, I thought stuff was wrong with everybody else, when the problem was with me.

I suspected that there were two reasons for their concern. One is the damage that I could do to myself. The other is the damage I could do to others. They could have simply ignored it, and said, “That’s his business.” Or, they could do what they did, which is try to get my attention, because they understood that when you’re going the wrong way, somebody needs to confront you, so that you can reverse your direction.169

Now, this wasn’t about Nehemiah being right. This was about the Lord being right, and Nehemiah trying to get in line with that. Nehemiah’s corrections did not come from a place of self-righteousness. It came from a place of his righteousness. Now, he may have been accused of being self-righteous. To the person caught in sin, all righteousness looks like self-righteousness. I’m sure Nehemiah had many accusations like this thrown at him.
The point of correction is to make all of us better. That’s why there’s a thing called, “constructive criticism.” In the Christian life, that’s the only criticism that should come from our mouths. Constructive criticism does not seek its own gain… It seeks the gain of others. So when you approach someone with a critique, consider whether it’s to make them better, or to manipulate the situation to get what you want.
Criticism should really only be informed by agreed-upon standards. For Christians, that’s scripture. Perhaps in your job, that’s your employee handbook or a recent meeting decision. Oftentimes, we try to hold the world to a Christian standard and we are sorely disappointed. Don’t go there.

Sometimes You’re Corrected

On the other hand, we’re not always Nehemiah in these situations…
Put it this way:

IF YOU walk a dog on a leash and come to a post, and the dog goes to one side of the post and you go to the other side of the post, you will both be stuck. Although both of you are going in the same direction, you will not be able to move forward. So you will have to back up and pull the dog in the opposite direction in order to get him going the right way.

That’s how it is with life. God will pull us back sometimes to move us forward. He’ll jerk us back. He’s not trying to be mean. He just is the One who knows how to get us going forward in the right direction.175

And sometimes, he’ll use people to correct us.
Now, here’s the part we don’t like to hear about. Because we’re not always the Nehemiah in these situations. Sometimes we’re the people of Judah.
And guess what. We don’t really like being the people of Judah, needing correction. Especially not from someone else, and especially not when we’re actively engaged in doing wrong.
But we have to remember the Good News of Jesus… That while we were sinners, while we were against God, He chose to come and make us right with Him. So it’s not our idea that we got right in the first place. It’s the fact that Jesus has saved us. And we’re dependent upon Him!
Because, if you truly think about it, the Cross is a criticism of humanity. God said, “You can’t do it. Allow me to do it for you.” It’s a true critique, and that’s what we base our faith around. So when you are fairly criticized, and I know it hurts, how can you receive what was said in agreement through the Cross? “Yes, I am very much inadequate, I know.” To say otherwise is, honestly, do disagree with God about us. Of course our flesh is inadequate! Of course our flesh is wrong!
Receive criticism better. Of course, you don’t have to receive criticism when it seeks to manipulate you. As a matter of fact, I would encourage you not to let that form of criticism room in your thoughts. However, the loving, constructive criticism of someone like Nehemiah may feel like you’re receiving a beating, a la verse 25. Humbly ask yourself if it is a result of their criticism or your pride causing as much pain.

What Kind of Legacy Will You Leave?

At the end of our lives, we will all be called to give an account for what we have done with our lives. Nehemiah’s one request comes in v. 14 and repeated in v. 31b.
Nehemiah 13:14,31
Our legacies come about through our influence. If you think about it, influence is a form of correction of those around us. Or a form of corruption of those around us like that of Tobiah and Sanballat. God will measure that legacy.
So what will it be? You know, I’m convinced of something… So much of our lives are driven by our beliefs. So what do you believe about your mission here on earth? I’m convinced… If you live your life with a genuine concern for God and others, and a will to do something about it, you will leave a Christlike legacy.
What is it you will leave behind you? Will you be remembered as the person who lived down the street? The person with lots and lots of money? Or perhaps the person who gave their all for Christ? The person who just wanted to know God even just a little bit more all the time? The person who impacted lives for the better?
Now… Beyond all of this, there’s an important distinction to be made. Without Christ, your legacy is destruction. With Christ, He gives you a new legacy based on His legacy.
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