Monday, October 19, 2015

Legacy: My Message to the Carolina Panthers

Last week I got the chance of a lifetime. I got an opportunity to partner with my brother, Aaron Cho, and preach a sermon at the Carolina Pathers' chapel service. About half of the 53 person roster showed up. A few coaches were in attendance as well. It was the perfect intersection of my passion for Christ and my passion for football. I was given about 15-18 minutes to present the sermon. As all sermon scripts go, I didn't follow this one exactly. I ended up feeling compelled to talk specifically about Christ's work on the cross and how surrendering to Jesus creates space for transformation. I also lost my place a couple of times because I got a little too excited.

Here are my notes:

The question before us tonight is not whether or not we will leave a legacy. We will all leave a legacy. The question before us is this: what kind of legacy will we leave? How do you want to be remembered?

All of us in here are MORE than the profession that we have chosen. Yes, being a pastor absolutely impacts how the world sees me. But I am more than a pastor.
I am a husband.
I am a father.
I am a brother, a child, a friend, and a citizen of this beautiful planet.
I’m a follower of Jesus; I just happen to have gifts and a calling that aligns with being a pastor.

I know that there are husbands, fathers, boyfriends, sons, and scholars in this room. You are not just a football player. Yes, you have worked your butt off for over a decade to be in this room, but at the end of the day, you are a child of the Creator of the universe who just so happens to have gifts, a calling, and a passion that lines up with being a professional football player.

So I ask you again, HOW do you want to be remembered?

My wife used to work for an executive business coaching firm based in Portland, OR. She worked with very successful business men and women who wanted to not only learn how to increase revenue, but they also wanted to learn how to be more present with their kids and their spouses.

The first exercise they would have their clients do is write their Eulogy. Yes, writing your own eulogy when you are decades away from death is very somber. But the point of this exercise was to help people figure out how they want to be remembered and make goals and live life accordingly.

The text Pastor Aaron just read is poem that was written by King David, the second king of Israel. If we were to write a Eulogy for David what one sentence would we inevitably include?

David, man after God’s heart.

I imagine that we would all like to leave this sort of legacy would we not?

Why is it that we remember David as a man after God’s heart?

In order for us to unpack this well, we really need to start at the beginning.
  • David rose from obscurity to become the most beloved and arguably the most successful king in Israel’s history. 
  • Do you remember, David was a shepherd. Shepherds were not very high on the pecking order of society. They were smelly, dirty, and poor.

But God says -
1 Sam 16:7
For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’

God saw something in David that nobody else saw. From the start it is clear that God does not operate in the same manner as us. The world may have said David was not big enough, tough enough, or manly enough to be a leader. Heck, if we were to choose a king we would choose the most obvious candidate. But God chose - David who was the youngest son. He was a mere shepherd… 
  •  1 Samuel 17 David takes out a 9ft tall man named Goliath without armor or a sword. Though he was small he was fierce. Nothing was going to get in his way. 
  • The king of Israel at the time loved David…how could he not. But eventually Saul becomes jealous of David. People were singing songs like “Saul has sleighed his thousands but David has sleighed his tens of thousands.” 
  • Saul tried to kill David multiple times. And David had opportunities to kill Saul. But David felt God was calling him to serve the king. So he remained faithful. It’s a remarkable story.
  • Eventually, in 2 Sam. 2 David becomes king. Now if this were a movie this is probably when the story would end. Our unlikely hero rose above the villain and, using honor, integrity, and hard work became king.
But that isn’t where this story ends.
  • In 2 Sam. 2-10 David’s power increases, he even starts building a temple 
  • In 2 Sam. 11 our hero takes a seemingly unforgivable fall. You probably know the story. He sees a woman bathing from the roof top, he ends up unable to control himself…he has sex with her, impregnates her, then has her husband killed to cover it up.David, a man after God’s heart.
There is a lot here that could be said in David’s eulogy. He killed a 9ft tall man. He rose to prominence out of nearly nothing. He was a military hero. And yes, he was a murderer and an adulterer.

Why on earth did God choose to use a man like this to further his kingdom? It just doesn’t make sense.

Ah, but then I remember the rest of the biblical narrative…
  • father Abraham 
  • I remember Noah 
  • I remember Jonah 
  • I remember the ragamuffin band of brothers also known as the 12 Disciples 
  • and then, I remember me.
No matter how holy, no matter how strong, we all have the capability of falling.

So what do we do with this tension? This man who committed murder is one of history’s most passionate pursuers of the living God. Why was he considered a man after God’s heart?

I want to read the passage again that Pastor Aaron read. This was a poem that he wrote as soon as he killed Bathsheba’s husband.

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Do you feel his pain? This song reveals what made David a great man. This highly successful military hero knew he was nothing without the living God.

Notice it says nothing about wealth, nothing about battles won, or his high social status. David was a great man because
  • God is a God of grace 
  • David acknowledged his brokenness and his sins.
  •  And David surrendered to the Living God. 
The truth...
The truth is, that each of us is capable of sleighing giants and sleighing good men.
Again, each of us is capable of sleighing giants and sleighing good men.

We wouldn’t be in this room if we weren’t courageous. We wouldn’t be in this room if we weren’t strong. But don’t let our success mask the reality that we are sinful people in need of a loving God. We are not as strong as we think we are.

I love the David story. I love the David story not because I’m so much better than him. I am David.

But that is not the end of the story. There is good news.

Pastor and Author Eugene Peterson says, “David’s story is the gospel story. God doing for David what David could never do for himself.”

You see this is the beautiful thing about the God that we serve. God’s grace saves us in spite of us. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you have been.

Your new legacy begins the moment you surrender to Jesus.

Gentlemen, your legacy, begins tonight.

1.     Will you be remembered as a man after God’s heart?
2.     Will you be remembered as a man who sacrificed for his family?

Tomorrow on the battlefield…
1.     Will you fight with tenacity until that last whistle blows?
2.     Will you make the most out of every down you are blessed to play?
3.     Will you play selflessly in order to make your teammates better?
4.     Will you play with character, with honor, with integrity? 
5.     Will you leave everything you have on that field?
6.     When you play, will you play as though you are playing for the Lord?

Your legacy begins today. So I ask you again, how you will be remembered?

The choice is yours gentlemen.

Let’s pray:
God, I praise you for the men in this room. I praise you for their desire to know you, to follow you, and to help others know you. Lord we know that much responsibility comes with success. So give them courage live with a confident humility. Give us the guts we need to acknowledge sin and surrender to you.
And tomorrow…
First and foremost we pray for protection. Protect their bodies Lord. Keep them safe as they play the game they love.

We pray for strength. Give them the mental and physical strength to play to best of their ability. Help them to think clearly, quickly, accurately…

Ultimately, we pray that you are glorified with every step, every play call, every throw, every tackle, and catch. We are yours…so be glorified as we live out the gifts you have given us.

We praise you for allowing us to enjoy such a beautiful gift.

I ask these things in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Now, go out there and rip somebody’s head off…for the Lord, of course.