I used to secretly believe that I could have been a talented musician. I do still believe that, just not secretly; I’ve gone and told all of you! I can keep a beat and hold a tune and I enjoy most genres of music. I like music not just for the joy it brings me, but for the intrigue of how the notes are put together. I marvel at the fact that music can cause you to feel sadness or excitement or joy – without lyrics. How does that work? I believe I am not a musician today because I never had the influence when I was young. Certainly, if I had grown up in a house full of musicians, I would have received the influence to learn and practice and grow in that direction. A major contributor to who we are, what we do, and how we act are the influences we grew up with. These are not always people. We can be influenced by experiences, memories, dreams, health conditions, ideologies, diet, fantasies, living conditions, habits, finances, pollution, etc…
We are the way we are because of the past. But, today we need to “play the hand we were dealt.” We might gain some insight by examining our past, but there is no sense dwelling on things we cannot change. We will become our future person because of the present. The influences that we accept today are forming who we will become. A good friend of mine would say, “Today is the day to practice who you want to become.”
An influence is something that has the capacity to affect a change in behavior. We are not bound to be changed by anything other than our own choice. I can influence you through my example, but that does not guaranty that you will change. The change is up to you.
In Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Israel was warned against being influenced by their loved ones to follow other gods. If someone tried to suggest that they worship idols, the corrective action was severe:
“So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you. (Deuteronomy 13:10-11)
Maybe no one ever was stoned to death for this, but we do know that “never again” didn’t really come to pass. We have at least one account of someone who did not follow this statute:
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (1 Kings 11:4)
Should Solomon have stoned his wives to death? How does this brutal advice apply to me today? The choice to follow an influence is mine; I need to make the right choice. Here is a real-life example… At one time in my life, I worked in an office with some cool guys and I was grateful to be accepted into their group as an equal. There was nothing bad or evil about them, but they did use profanity in their everyday language. They were an influence on me and eventually, I chose to change my behavior and I adopted some verbal patterns that I won’t repeat here. After a while, I was gracefully reminded that such speech is not godly, and I stopped. But, my point is, the people you choose to hang out with will naturally influence you. Choosing not to implement bad influences is never a challenge if you prevent those influences in the first place.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Prov 13:20)
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
The plan is clear then, right? Surround yourself with good people and your choices will be easier; the influences on you will be more righteous. Yes, I am thinking of our Savior, of course. He is the ultimate influence. Clearly, we would do ourselves good to imitate Him.
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
The list of positive influences you can find in the Bible is a long one, for sure. This is reason alone to spend time reading scripture. But, in real life, we sometimes get attracted by traits of others such as wit, looks, humor, wealth, charisma, passion, power, confidence, intelligence, etc., and we forget our need to exercise discernment of spirit in choosing our acquaintances.
Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
I think this proverb can be applied to any undesirable trait, not just anger. There is another man with an undesirable trait and a formidable influence that we need to be on the alert for – the old man.
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (Romans 6:6)
In this scripture, Paul is making a definitive assumption – that we, his readers, have already accomplished the goal successfully. That our old self is dead. But, for me, that is not really true yet. That guy is still able to influence me. Paul says in a different spot something that describes my situation a bit more accurately.
You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, (Ephesians 4:22) (NET)
“Being corrupted” is not in the past, but present. For this reason, we need to lay him aside consistently.
And let us not forget that we also are influences on others. Our words and actions will be witnessed by the others in our lives and they will be choosing whether or not to be influenced by us. If we are not careful, we could be jeopardizing our own character, wishing we were drowning with a millstone around our neck.
…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)
We also need to be concerned with how we influence others, not just little ones who believe in Christ, but letting our light shine before all men. (Mat5:16)
…in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)
If we allow Christ to be our primary influence in life by getting to know Him and imitating Him in every way, we will become influencers in the world that will lead others to choose life.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)
Peace to you and glory to God!