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Light is the source of nearly all our energy on earth. Sunlight warms the earth and causes plants to grow. Animals eat plants for energy. We burn wood or wood products for heat and fuel. Light evaporates water that falls as rain forming rivers that we harness with dams to make electricity.
Light is essential to life. Besides providing energy, light is essential to growth.
Light is essential so we can see, understand, and function. Useful tasks usually require light, so most people work during the day and sleep at night. If we work at night, we need artificial light.
1 John 1:5 – God is light.
John 1:9 – Jesus was the Light that gives true light to men.
Psalms 119:105 – God’s word is a light to our path.
Jesus said Christians are the light of the world. This is a lesson about influence: the effect we have on others. Our influence is so powerful that Jesus compared it to the ultimate source of energy in the universe. Do we realize and appreciate the power of our influence?
Jesus said to let men see your good works. Jesus wants your light to shine for Him.
Many people know that elders, preachers, and teachers must set good examples. But some have a double standard as though the example of other members does not matter. Everybody has influence. Your influence matters.
Consider some facts about your influence.
No matter who you are or how long you have been a Christian, you have influence. If we went around the room and named every individual, young or old, men or women, everyone in the room has influence. You cannot avoid it.
You were born with influence! Even little babies have it. Consider a family that has no children, then the mother becomes expectant.
Even before the child is born: the mother’s youthful figure changes, her appetite changes, her ability to digest food changes. Plans for the future change. Furniture is rearranged.
After the baby is born sleep habits change, eating practices change, the frequency with which grandparents visit changes. Trip plans change: the car is half-filled with things for the baby. You must stop to feed the baby.
Sometimes the family even changes where it lives to have more room. People may become more responsible when they are parents. Some take spiritual matters more seriously.
If even a little baby has so much effect on the lives of others, do we seriously think that you and I have little or no influence? You do influence people around you.
Some people think they have little influence in the church, on their job, or in the community. If they do good, it will not help people much; if they do evil, it will not hurt people much.
We may even hope people will not notice what we do. We slip into the assembly at the last minute (or even late), try to be inconspicuous, and slip out right after dismissal (or even before). We hope nobody calls on us or gives us a job. If we do not come, we hope nobody notices and asks us where we were. We want to be members with little or no responsibility.
Matthew 5:14 – A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. You always have influence. If you are a Christian, people watch you. You may think your conduct does not harm or help anyone. But whether you like it or not, what you do does affect others.
2 Kings 5:1-3 – A little servant girl suggested that the prophet in Israel could heal Naaman’s leprosy. Sometimes women, young people, and surely slaves think they have no influence. She was all three! We do not even know her name! She could have thought no one would listen. But she spoke up, Naaman went and was healed.
That little slave girl had influence, not just on her master, but ultimately on everyone who reads the Bible! And you have influence too, no matter how humble your position in life.
When someone does wrong, we may say, “He just destroyed his influence.” No, you cannot destroy your influence. You can change it from good to bad, but you will always have influence.
Hebrews 11:4 – Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. He, being dead, still speaks. His influence still lives on.
1 John 3:12 – Cain killed Abel. Even years after Cain had died, his evil conduct warns us of the danger of hatred
We can easily see the influence adults have on children. Years after parents have died, their children often show the same characteristics the parents possessed. Some parents set a bad example and their children may never serve God faithfully. Some parents are faithful and zealous, and their children often continue faithful long after the parents die, maybe for generations.
One of our favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart. A man was down on his luck and said he wished he had never been born. He was taken back and shown how the lives of many people would have turned out had it not been for his influence. His life touched hundreds of people.
So, do not think that only leaders in the church need to set good examples. We all have influence. God expects us to set a good example to those around us. Let your light so shine that men may see your good works.
(Hebrews 6:11,12; 13:7; 1 Kings 22:52,53; Hebrews 12:15,16; James 5:10,11)
Some people talk about religion so you would think they were pillars of godliness. But then you see them do things that conflict with the zealous words they speak.
1 Peter 2:12 – Have your conduct seemly so people may glorify God by the good works they behold. To help people solve their spiritual needs, it is not enough to talk about God’s word and prove they are doctrinally wrong. Our lives must show the way God wants His people to live.
Titus 2:7,8 – Show an example of good works and sound speech. Sound speech is essential, but we must combine it with a good life. God’s people sometimes wonder why we do not convert more lost souls. Some people may simply resist the truth. But could it be that some of us are trying to attract people by good words without setting a good example?
Matthew 25:21,23 – The basis of our reward in judgment will be “well done,” not “well said.” Someone said, “Well done is better than well said.” Some people know what is right and talk enthusiastically about it. But living it is another matter.
Sound takes 1936 minutes to travel from sun to earth, but light takes just eight minutes. What people see travels faster than what they hear. If they can see us living a good life as well as teaching the truth, the message gets through much quicker.
(1 Timothy 4:12; 5:10; 1 Peter 3:1,2; Acts 9:36-43; 1 Peter 2:21,22; Matthew 25:21,23)
Matthew 23:3,4 – Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites because “they say and do not do.” They did not practice what they preached.
Romans 2:18-21,23,24 – Jews knew God’s will and thought they could tell other people how to live. Yet, they themselves dishonored God because they did not obey Him.
Charles Dickens once said some people are like a road sign: they tell everyone else which way they should go, but they never go anywhere themselves.
We sometimes study with people who promise that they intend to correct their lives someday. Some attend some church meetings. Some even profess to believe and even confess and be baptized, but soon they are gone. Talking good religion is much easier than practicing it.
Some pray about the importance of knowing God’s word, but they may often miss Bible class or come having never studied their lesson. Some pray for God to help us spread the borders of the kingdom, yet they rarely talk to the lost or try to set up Bible studies.
Jesus said live so men see your good works, not just hear your good words. Talking a good life is easy. Practicing it is much harder, but it is the only way to have an influence for good.
(Matthew 21:28-31; 1 Samuel 15:13-23)
Everyone has influence. And influence can be either good or bad. No one is a neutral influence. Jesus wants us to be a good influence, not bad.
Genesis 3:6 – Eve ate the forbidden fruit then tempted Adam and he ate. Eating a piece of fruit may seem so insignificant. Surely Eve had no idea of the future influence of her act. But from that act came all the suffering, sorrow, and shame throughout the history of man: the pain of childbirth, the frustrations of working for a living, and the sickness and pain that leads to death.
Joshua 14:8 (Numbers 13:25ff) – Ten of the men who spied out Canaan brought back an evil report that “made the heart of the people melt.” As a result, the people refused to take the land. So, the whole nation wandered forty years in the wilderness till that generation died, except for the two faithful spies. All this began because of evil influence.
2 Samuel 11:2-4 – Bathsheeba was bathing where she could be seen. David, king of God’s people, saw her, wanted her, and committed adultery with her. That act resulted in conception, the woman’s husband was killed, the baby died, and David’s family endured continual conflict within the family and war with his enemies.
All this started from the influence of an improperly covered woman. Never belittle the power that the appearance of a woman can have. Some women think no harm will come if they wear swimsuits, short skirts, tight skirts or slacks, shorts, or halters where men will see them. Even if no physical adultery results, remember that God says lustful thoughts are adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28).
Proverbs 5:15-19 – Ladies, hear what God says about your body: A man should “rejoice with the wife of your youth … Let her breasts satisfy you at all times.” This is for the pleasure of no man but your husband: “Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you.”
Ladies, your anatomy is God’s gift – and your gift – to your husband. No other man should see any part of your midriff, thighs, or cleavage. Examine what you wear. Sit in front of a mirror; cross your legs. Stand up, bend over, and move around. If you see even a hint of anything that should be private, before you go out in public, fix it.
If a woman’s appearance could influence a godly man like David for evil, why should we doubt that immodest apparel is a problem today? God wants our influence to be good, not harmful.
(1 Kings 21:25; 2 Kings 17:22; 21:9; 2 Chronicles 22:3,4; Proverbs 28:10; Mal 2:6-9; Matthew 14:6-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Romans 2:23f; Matthew 18:6-9; Luke 17:1f)
John 13:34 – Jesus commands us to love one another as He loved us. One of the best ways to learn to love is through the example of people who loved. The best example of love is Jesus.
Jesus loved so much He gave the supreme sacrifice: His life (John 15:13). His example has changed millions of lives throughout history. Selfish, sinful people have become loving, dedicated servants of God. If we imitate His example, we too will have great influence for good.
Acts 9:36,39 – Dorcas was a woman full of good deeds. When she died, widows wept showing the garments she had made. Sometimes women think that, since they cannot preach publicly or be church officers, they do not have much influence. Consider the influence this woman had simply by doing good.
Amazingly, some women, especially those whose children have left home, seem to have trouble finding ways to keep busy. Yet many people, especially other women, need the influence of godly women.
Pick some other women – young women or new converts – call or visit them once a week, study with them, advise them, help them be better wives and mothers. Visit elderly people and widows. Cheer them up and help them. Study the Bible with a neighbor. Why should anyone be bored when there is so much to do?
The example of Dorcas shows the good that can come from the influence of a godly woman.
The story is told of a young girl who died. Other children wanted to write an epitaph for her tombstone. They wrote: “It was easier to be good when she was around.” This is what it means to let men see our good works.
What about your influence? When you are around, do you make it easier for people to be good? Are other people encouraged to be better people when they observe your life?
(1 Timothy 5:9,10; Proverbs 22:1; 1 Timothy 4:12; Philippians 2:15; 2 Kings 15:3,34; John 13:15; 2 Corinthians 8:21; Titus 2:7,8; 1 Peter 2:12, 21f; Hebrews 10:24; 11:4; 1 Peter 3:1,2)
Matthew 6:1 – Some people do good works only when it leads people to praise them. We must do good but for the purpose of pleasing God (verse 1).
Verses 2-4 – Some people give money only if people will honor them: a building named after them, a plaque on the wall, or their picture in the paper. Jesus said do not let one hand know what the other does. If there is no good reason for other people to know, keep it quiet.
Verses 5-8 – Likewise, some people pray only in church meetings or other places where people can observe them; then they pray a long, eloquent prayer. Is the motive to glorify God or to receive praise from people?
The same is true for all good works. If a work needs to be done, do we do it even if few people will know? Do we try to help others find out what good we do? If others do find out, what makes us happy: that people praise us or that God is pleased and people give Him glory?
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. If you live right, people will know. You do not have to tell them. If we do not live right, people will probably find that out too.
2 Samuel 12:14 – David’s sin with Bathsheeba gave God’s enemies cause to blaspheme. The same is true of our conduct.
1 Timothy 6:1 – Servants should count masters worthy of honor that the name and doctrine of God not be blasphemed. When Christians on the job are lazy, disrespectful, complaining, trying to get by without working diligently, people think, “He says he’s a Christian, but you’d never know by the way he acts.” But a loyal, hard-working employee leads people to appreciate the value of being a Christian.
Romans 2:23,24 – When Christians tell others what to do but do not live the life themselves, God is dishonored and His name blasphemed. When people have witnessed such a member’s life, other Christians will find it almost impossible to convert them.
1 Peter 2:12 – On the other hand, if we do live good lives, people may try to find fault; but when instead they see our good works, they will be led to glorify God.
You do have an influence, either good or bad. When people see your conduct, are they led to glorify God and want to serve Him better, or are they driven away from God and led to think they are just as well off in sin?
(Titus 2:4,5; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Isaiah 52:5)
Runners traditionally carry the Olympic torch as it burns. This practice originated in a race in ancient Greek. Men ran the race carrying lighted torches. To win the race, a runner not only had to cross the finish line, he had to cross with his light still burning. Many Christians start out serving God with great zeal but they let their light burn out.
Sooner or later all of us will cross the finish line of life. When your time comes, will your light still be giving glory to the Father?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2022; www.gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.