Every human being has influence, whether for good or bad. We are never without it. It goes where we go, stays where we stay and lingers when we leave. Each faithful New Testament Christian stands as a living example of the power of a good influence. Most can reflect back in time to individuals that have played key roles in their spiritual development. Their examples, along with our acceptance of the word of God, “flowed into” (influenced) our lives to help bring us to the present. This is just as Jesus said it would be. To His disciples, He declared,
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)
In calling His disciples “salt” and “light,” Jesus emphasized their potential to influence the world for Him. The power of salt is in its innate ability to preserve from putrefaction. Through the centuries, before refrigeration and chemical methods, salt was the means used to preserve meat for human consumption. We also benefit from its ability to enhance the flavor of food. Light is that power that dispels darkness. A spiritual application of these truths is vividly seen in the power of God, His word and His kingdom to preserve this old world from the corruption of sin, ignorance and error and enlighten man concerning the things that God has prepared for them that love Him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-10). The church, the kingdom of heaven, was designed and built by Jesus to serve as a leavening influence of salvation from sin’s pollution (Matt. 16:1-19; 13:33). Through preaching the gospel, practicing good works and living pure lives, Christians influence the world in which they live for Christ.
The greatest influencer of all time is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In John 8:12, He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Embodied in Christ is the radiant and blazing light of divine truth, holiness and mercy that have powerfully penetrated the midnight darkness of falsehood, sin and corruption. Every soul who follows this saving radiance does “not walk in darkness,” but has “the light of life.” This life—spiritual life—is the saving union with God, who is the origin, essence and preserver of all life. Lenski observes, “God who is life and light, sent his Son Jesus as the source of light and life to all the world, to fill each individual soul with truth, holiness, and blessedness, and thus to give it life eternal.”
Two thousand years of Christianity have verified the claim of Jesus, as He has influenced millions of individuals to turn “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith” in Him (Acts 26:18). Faithful disciples carry His message to every creature, just as Saul of Tarsus did when he fell under the compelling influence of Christ’s love and sacrifice. Saul (or Paul) declared, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Philip Schaff was on target when he said:
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today Jesus is the centerpiece of the human race, and the leader of all human progress. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that have ever sat, and all the kings that have ever ruled put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth like this one solitary personality. All time dates from His birth, and it is impossible to understand or interpret the progress of human civilization in any nation on earth apart from His influence. Slowly through the ages man is coming to realize that the greatest necessity in the world is not water, iron, gold, food and clothing, or even nitrate in the soil; but rather Christ enshrined in human hearts, thoughts and motives.
While our discussion of the power of influence has emphasized the positive aspect of Christ, His disciples, His word and His church, already we are aware that the power of influence has a dark side. The power of evil is very great. It deceives, destroys and damns. Sin causes men to love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. Some men are so influenced by darkness that they hate the light and will not come to it, lest their deeds be reproved (John 3:19-20). Even our English word “influence” originated in the darkness of evil minds. From the Latin, it literally means “to flow into.” “Influence” was held to be a cultic power, an ethereal fluid that flowed into men from the stars to affect the actions of men. (See Webster’s Dictionary.) Astrology still has an impact on man’s beliefs today, even the wife of an American president. Such beliefs have always been condemned by God.
Locked in a terrible struggle with Satan to win the minds of mankind, we must marshal the whole of God’s armor and take our stand (Eph. 6:10-18). Elders must be good examples before the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). Preachers must live holy lives as examples in word, manner of life, in love, spirit, faith and purity (1 Tim. 4:12), in all things showing ourselves to be a pattern of good works. In doctrine, we must show absolute incorruptness, gravity and sincerity. Sound speech that cannot be condemned must flow only from our lips (Titus 2:7-8) that we might save ourselves and those that hear us (1 Tim. 4:16). Every Christian must set forth the influence of a good example before each other and all men (Matt. 5:16; Rom. 14:21), rather than one that corrupts (1 Cor. 5:6-7, 15:33). Wives (and husbands) are properly to influence their unconverted mates (1 Pet. 3:1-7).
As the light, leaven and salt of the earth, every Christians must use the power of influence.