Legacy: Outlive your Life Community Group Discussion Guide:
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Sermon Summary:
Every one of us will leave a legacy behind when we die.  So the question is not "Will I leave a legacy?" But rather, "What kind of legacy will I leave?"  In his letter to the new believers in Thessalonica, Paul reveals three characteristics that produce a long lasting spiritual legacy:  faith, hope and love.  When these are at the very core of who you are, you will display works by faith, labor by love, and endurance by hope in Christ.  It is only when the legacy of Christ changes our character that we can begin to live and leave a lasting legacy.

Sermon Outline:
The three characteristics of a lasting legacy:
A. Faith (v. 3a)
     1. Produce works
B. Love (v. 3b)
     1. Prompt Labor
C. Hope (v. 3c)
     1. Inspires endurance

Community Group Discussion Questions:
1.  Share the story of someone who has inspired you through their legacy.

2.  Verse 1:3 of our text says that our faith produces good works.  What are some of the good works your faith has produced in your life?

3.  The verse also says that our love prompts labor (an intense, more difficult kind of work). This means that we should work to love people even when the situation is difficult or they have wronged us.  How have you shown love in this way?  Or how do you struggle to show love in this way?

4.  Lastly we learn that hope inspires endurance: relying on the promises and strength of Christ to persevere and finish this life well.  How strong is your endurance right now?  What kind of impact can finishing well have on others?

Sermon Notes

Good morning. It’s great to see you today and to be able to partake in God’s Word together. I’m thankful once again to our Senior Pastor, who continues to invest in his staff by giving us opportunities to grow in our preaching ministries.

I have seen others hog the spotlight for themselves, but you and I are blessed to have a pastor who is most concerned with the spotlight being on Jesus. Pastor Larry, Time has shown and will continue to show how your investment in your family, the church, and the lost will continue to affect future generations and the kingdom of God.

And this is what we are talking about today: How we can affect future generations for Christ. Our Legacy: Outliving your life. All of us have a life story that will continue on once we are gone from the world. So, the question is not, “will I leave a legacy?” but rather, “What kind of legacy am I going to leave?”

At the same time the Lord began to teach my heart through our Scripture for today, my wife and I were visiting our attorney to draft our will. We had to fill out paperwork outlining how our most valued possessions should be taken care of when we die.

If something would happen to both of us, Who will take care of our children? How will our material possessions be divided? Are there any special items that we would like to designate to a specific person? Do you want to leave a letter to your family members?

Whether you have a will or not, the things that you leave behind will be divided and handed down to others when you die? We all will leave a material legacy behind

There is something of great importance that we leave. A spiritual will. A spiritual legacy. This kind of legacy is the most priceless gift you can pass on to the generations to follow.

Material possessions, even if they are taken care of very well, will eventually fade to nothing. That house you owned will eventually rot or be taken by fire; the valuables will be sold or lost.

But a spiritual legacy is one that is passed down through the hearts of those who have been impacted it. It is not easily destroyed, and the gift of this legacy is more precious than any material possession that we could ever give.

Have you ever considered your legacy? Whether you realize it or not, you are writing one with your life. Have you ever considered how you will be remembered when you die? Because you will be remembered. How will you influence others? Because you are an influence.

Today I want us to look at God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3. Here we will find out how the legacy we leave behind can have lasting value. We are going to find out how we should live out our lives so that our legacy will out live our lives. But let’s pray before we read our text. PRAY.

1Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 (NIV)

In the first verse, we find that the Apostle Paul is writing to the church of the Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were citizens of the city of Thessalonica, which was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia with a population of about 200,000. Roughly half the size of Orleans Parish.

The Egnatian Way, the most important Roman Highway went through Thessalonica. The city also had a thriving sea port which made it another popular traveling destination for many. The city was host to people from all of the Mediterranean world and contributed to it becoming extremely diverse both culturally and religiously.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy arrived in Thessalonica around 50 A.D. This was Paul’s second missionary journey. Acts Chapter 17 provides the account of Paul going directly to the temple and attempting to persuade the Jews for three days to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

A small group of Jews believed and turned to Christ, but others became outraged and eventually started a riot, and Paul and his companions had to leave due to the intense persecution. They were chased out in a hurry.

So this group of believers were left without their founding pastor in an culturally diverse and religiously pagan environment that clashed with their new found faith. Can you imagine being maybe 5 or 10 out 200,000 that believe in Jesus.

Not only that, but to have very close friends and fellow Jews hating you because you believed that Jesus was in fact the fulfillment of the Old Testament, that he was the Messiah. With those pressures, they must have been confronted daily with the temptation to recant, to say that they do not actually believe.

Some time after Paul left, he sent Timothy back to see how the new believers were doing. I don’t think anyone would blame Paul if he were doubtful that the believers remained strong in their faith. He only had a limited amount of time to invest in them, teaching them the truth about Jesus.

But When Timothy reported back to Paul what he witnessed while visiting the believers in Thessalonica, Paul wrote this letter to those believers. And Listen to verse 2.

2We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.
1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NIV)

It is clear that Paul received word that the church was still holding onto the truths that were first taught to them. They were still thriving! When he says here “We always thank God for all of you.” The word “all” shows that a significant number if not all of the believers had stood firm. They did not falter. And for this Paul says that he continually mentioned them in his prayers.

What was he so thankful for. What could he have heard about that when praying, he would continuously thank God for them and mention them in his prayers so often. It is in the next verse that we find out 3 things that those new believers were displaying that brought so much joy to Paul.

I believe that if we display these characteristics, the people that we know, love, and have built relationships with, will be thankful, grateful, and joyful when they remember us. These three characteristics are the foundation to leaving a lasting spiritual legacy. (Read verse 2 and 3)

2We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.

3We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

Now before we consider these three characteristics, we need to understand something about the structure of this sentence. It would be very easy to read the words “in our Lord Jesus Christ” and interpret that Paul is saying that only the endurance inspired by hope happens in our Lord Jesus Christ. But we would be wrong.

When I say the words to you, “I love, honor, and cherish my wife,” you do not think that I am only speaking of my wife as the object of the verb cherish. You understand that my wife is the object of all three words. This sentence here in the text is similar. The words “in our Lord Jesus Christ” is applied to all three actions.

Paul remembers their works produced by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, their labor prompted by love in our Lord Jesus Christ, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Keep this in mind because it is very important as we discover that these three qualities of christian character upon which a spiritual legacy is built, is not done so apart from Christ.

We see here in verse 3 that the first characteristic upon which a lasting spiritual legacy is built is faith.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy

A. Faith (v. 3a)

1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

In addition to this verse, Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that it is by grace that you are saved through faith in Christ Jesus. So when coupled with Hebrews 11:1, you could then say that we are saved by grace through being sure of what we hope for in Jesus Christ and certain of what we do not see of Jesus Christ.

Though we do not see Jesus, we are certain that he is the one true God and the only means for salvation. It is through this faith that we are saved by his grace. You cannot leave a Godly legacy without first having faith in Jesus. It starts right there.

But the legacy you leave does not just end with saying that you have faith in Jesus, or believing in Christ without any sort of change. Rather, it says here that your faith will produce works.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy
A. Faith(v. 3a)
1. Produces Works

The book of James supports this truth. Chapter 2 verse 14 says,

14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
James 2:14a (NIV)

26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James 2:26 (NIV)

When you look at this scripture in context, you will see that Paul is not specifically meaning manual work or labor, but instead, he is speaking of good works, good deeds that are produced by faith. We know this by looking further down in verse 8-9, where he says,

8The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,

9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
1 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (NIV)

In this culture that was largely pagan (against God), Paul found out that the believers were actually turning from idols (fleeing from idols they once worshiped) to serve (do good works) for the one true God.

The Holy Spirit was working in their hearts. When compared with Romans 12:2, they were no longer conforming to the patterns of the world, and were being transformed and renewed. Their faith produced good works.

Tragically, there are many people in this community and I would even assume that some of you sitting here today have the believe that works produce faith. You believe, or your actions prove that you believe, that good deeds produce faith.

You say, “If I do a certain amount of good things, then I will grow to have faith. If I come to church enough and never do really bad things then I will have faith.” And that is deception of religion. A Pastor by the name of Matt Chandler says this about the deception of religion,

Religion says,
“I do therefore I am accepted.”

Christianity says,
“Christ did therefore I am accepted.”

-Matt Chandler

Faith is not doing things to be accepted by Christ, but rather, accepting Christ and then allowing him to work through you. That is where your Christian Legacy begins.

My father’s legacy has been impacting me since before I was even old enough to understand. But his father, my Grandfather (Granddad to us), didn’t have a father growing up. The legacy that my Great Grandfather left behind to my Granddad was of a man who left his family.

My Granddad was the youngest of six children and when he was three years old, his father left his wife and his six children to go and start a new life with another woman.

Granddad’s mother, my Great Grandmother was an uneducated French woman. She didn’t start to learn English until her children started going to school. She did whatever work she could, but it was never enough to provide for her family.

So, Granddad’s older brothers had to quit school and go to work to support their mother and family. Even Granddad himself started working in a rice field when he was ten years old.

He worked, providing support for his mother from the age of 10 until he was in his mid 40s when she passed away. It was only by the grace of God, the kindness of school teachers, and his hard work that he was able to finish high school (The only one in his family).

When he was in high school, he met my Grandmom. She was a sweet Baptist girl that Granddad used to pick on when they were younger. Nevertheless, she forgave him and they ended up falling in love.

He didn’t have much to spend with her because he worked so much, so he would spend all day Sunday with her family. She would take him to church Sunday morning, have him over for lunch, and then they would go to church on Sunday night. Granddad and his family could never go to church prior to this because they didn’t have a car.

So, it was there, at that little Southern Baptist country church that my Granddad first heard the Gospel and eventually accepted Christ as his Savior. He laughs when he speaks of how God worked despite his ulterior motives of going to church to be with his girl.

A couple of years later they married and two years after that my Grandmom was fighting to survive as she gave birth to their first child. After 24 hours of labor, the doctor had to use forceps to deliver the baby because the situation had become grave for them both.

Thinking that the baby was dead, the doctor just laid him to the side and continued to try and save my Grandmom. A few minutes later the nurse came over and realized that the baby was actually still alive.

Thankfully, he survived because I wouldn't be standing before you today. That little baby would eventually become my daddy. And both Grandmom and Granddad knew that God had plans for that little one and that he was going to be special.

Granddad looks back on all of that and says that he doesn’t know how people can go through situations like that without faith in God; that same faith and trust in God that helped him to become a godly father to his children despite not have one himself;

That faith in God that helped him to maintain Christian values and display Christlike actions; that faith that brought him through the financial difficulties of supporting his family and his mother at the same time; that faith to help others when he himself was struggling.

This is what the scripture means when it says “works produced by faith.” So, I ask you, With whom have you placed your faith? Is your faith in things that don’t matter? Are you just good works thinking that it will get in right standing with God?

Or, are you trusting him? Are you allowing him to invade your heart and help you live a life that means something; one that will continue to speak of Jesus once you are gone.

When I think of a Godly legacy, I think of my Granddad. But, it was only made possible by his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that faith has continued to produce righteousness in him ever since. He’s not perfect and he’ll be the first to tell you that, but he is working out his faith.

It has been said, “Wherever genuine faith is present, it works.” It will for you also if you have faith in Jesus. The second characteristic of a lasting legacy that we find in this scripture is love.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy

A. Faith(v. 3a)
1. Produces Works
B.Love (v.3b)

When Paul remembers the new believers in his prayers, he is grateful for their love. So what is love? Let’s take a look at 1 John 4:7-8 for the answer,

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

God is the author, the creator of love. You see, love doesn’t exist apart from God. To live in love is to live in God and to experience true love, you must experience God. But how do we experience God’s love? In the next verses 9-10 it says,

9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

We don’t have to do anything to be loved by God. God loves us, and he has already done what is necessary through the death of his son on the cross to display his love to us.

And in response to God’s love, we love him in return. It says here that we must live through him and rely on his love that was displayed for us long ago. This is love, but what does it produce.

In our text for today, Paul writes that possessing, experiencing, and relying upon this kind of love was prompting labor in those new believers.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy

A. Faith(v. 3a)
1. Produces Works
B. Love (v.3b)
1. Prompts Labor

It was causing a laborious type of love. When Paul spoke of of work by faith, he used the Greek word Ergon, which simply means works, deeds, or acts. But he used the Greek word “Kopos” for those works prompted by love.

Kopos, means labor, and specifically a more toilsome, difficult, strenuous, intense kind of work. The difference would be similar to a what a woman experiences during pregnancy.

My wife is pregnant right now and for 7 months she has worked hard to carry this child. But on March 28th, she is going to labor. She is going to work strenuously and intensely as she gives birth to our son.

Paul is saying that this labor of love is loving others when it most difficult; those situations when you give of yourself and get nothing in return: When that son or daughter has gone astray, when that person is living a lifestyle that you don’t agree with...

when that friend stabbed you in the back, when that coworker threw you under the bus to get the promotion, when the addict just cannot quit, when those imperfections become blatantly obvious in your marriage. It is more intense and difficult to love people in these situations

Remember who Paul is speaking to - believers who have had friends turn their backs on them. Now, they are even experiencing harsh persecution. What a testimony of their love that Paul boasts in them not giving up but laboring with love through those difficult circumstances.

The greatest labor of love that my Granddad has lived with is the ability to forgive his father. It was only a few years ago that he was able to do so. And it was only through Jesus that it was possible.

But please don’t hear me saying that you should love blindly, or without discernment, or without caution in certain situations. But, life is too short be consumed with bitterness and hatred toward those in our lives who are difficult to love. God’s word says to love your enemies and pray for them. And in 2 Timothy 2:25-26, it says,

25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,

26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV)

We all have these kinds of relationships. I want you to think about that person right now, how you have poured so much of yourself into him or her with nothing to show but anger and frustration.

I want to encourage you to start asking God today to help you show his love to that person; thinking of their good as Christ has thought of yours; praying for their best as God has given you his best.

A legacy of love, given even to those who don’t deserve it, is one that is honoring to God. Because that kind of love is where the Gospel has the greatest opportunities for impact. Love is a legacy that we all should want to leave behind, especially the labor of love. The final characteristic of a lasting legacy is hope.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy

A. Faith(v. 3a)
1. Produces Works
B. Love (v. 3b)
1. Prompts Labor
C. Hope (v. 3c)

In the last part of verse 3, Paul says he remembers before our God and Father your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christian works and labors by faith and love, but it is all done with the expectation that the salvation Christ provided through death on the cross, and his resurrection, will sustain us throughout this life and usher us into eternity when he returns again. John 14:3 says,

3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:3 (NIV)

Acts 1:9-10 says,

9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
Acts 1:9-10 (NIV)

So for the believer, this is not some half-hearted hope, but our hope is sure. Jesus is coming again. He promised it. People witnessed the risen Savior and his ascension into heaven. Our hope can be sure, and it provides something amazing for us in the meantime. Paul says it inspires endurance.

Characteristics of a Lasting Legacy
A. Faith(v. 3a)
1. Produces Works
B. Love (v. 3b)
1. Prompts Labor
C. Hope (v. 3c)
1. Inspires Endurance

The hope of the new believers inspired them to endure the persecution and struggles, and to live out their faith in a pagan world. In the same way, we endure our present circumstances, keeping our hope fixed on the promises of Jesus.

In his commentary, Herschel Hobbs compares this endurance to that of “an athlete or soldier who could endure his opponent’s attack, yet possess reserve strength with which to countercharge to victory.” We know that victory belongs to Jesus both now and at the end of the age, so we rely on his strength to get us through.

The odds were against my Granddad to succeed in breaking the legacy that his father left him. But Granddad was faithful and has continued to work out his salvation even in those situations that require a labor of love.

With tears in eyes, he shares with joy and gratefulness how God has used him to impact his family. His two children and their spouses, five grandchildren and their spouses, and one of 5 great grandchildren all know Jesus.

A majority of his family is involved in ministry. His son (my dad) is a pastor and professor at the Seminary in New Orleans; his daughter married a pastor; his grandson (my brother) is a deacon, and somehow even I ended up as a pastor as well.

Granddad is in his 80s now, and my Grandmom, his wife of 60 years just passed away last year. I asked him, “Granddad, how is your endurance right now?” He replied, “The living have to keep on living. I know God still has work for me to do.”

I asked if he would be here today and he said that can’t because he is teaching his Sunday School class. Even to the very end of life, he is finishing well.

His endurance is inspired by his hope in Jesus Christ. His legacy has already been passed down three generations. But Granddad is quick to say, that its not his legacy, but rather, the legacy of Christ that has impacted him and that is passed to future generations.

Faith, hope, and love. Jesus is the author and perfecter of these characteristics. He has given us this legacy and we pass it on by our works, labor, and with hope in him. Ben Franklin is quoted as saying,

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

- Benjamin Franklin

I believe the word has spoken to our hearts today and it declares that there is nothing else in this world that even comes close to a life lived for Jesus. The only way that you can outlive your life is to have faith in the Giver of life. The only way to leave a lasting legacy is to trust and walk in the everlasting legacy of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.