I love a good theological summary. Those pithy doctrinal statements that capture a truth in a unique and memorable way can serve the Christian well. To wrap up mankind's "chief end" as "to glorify God and enjoy him forever" is biblical and brilliant. John Piper's follow-up a few centuries later is another word we would do well to meditate on. He wrote, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." The five sola's of the Protestant Reformation are so strong I actually wear them as tattoos: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. I'm in favor of such theological slogans.
Preach the Gospel, Die, and Be Forgotten?
There's another slogan that's making the rounds again. I see it in blog posts, on Twitter, and as signatures at the end of emails. "Preach the gospel, die, be forgotten." I think there is a way to appreciate the sentiment behind the words, but I also want to us to think about it carefully.
These are words attributed to Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760) a bishop of the Moravian Church. He said words like this to his missionaries, encouraging them to follow God's call and enter the mission field with no thought of obtaining honor for themselves. They must be satisfied with preaching Christ, dying, and being forgotten. Obviously, this is sound counsel. It reminds me of John the Baptist who said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)
Preaching Jesus Leaves a Mark
But here's a little push-back. Any man set ablaze with a holy zeal for the glory of Jesus Christ is hard to forget. His mission and message leave a mark that can't be missed. Since we're talking about John the Baptist, consider him who said "I must decrease." Jesus says of him,"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11 ESV)
Why do we remember men like Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Bunyan, Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon and Moody? Precisely because they made so much of Jesus. Of course, most of us will have a circle of influence much smaller than that of the heavy-hitters of the faith, but those who make Christ known will leave behind a legacy.
You simply cannot blaze a gospel trail in the world, even just in your life, and not expect people to follow that path--and even thank you for it. Those who know the Savior intimately, preach the gospel boldly, love their neighbors, and serve the church will be remembered. Such people will certainly be remembered in the lives of those they have discipled. Zinzendorf was right; we shouldn't care to be remembered. But we shouldn't be able to stop it either.
May we all follow Jesus in such a way that leaves a legacy of light that continues to shine when we are gone. A light that shows others The Way even after we have died. But may others never be able to remember of us without also lifting their thoughts to Christ who is above all.