“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Romans 1:8, NKJV)
We can get caught up focusing on our personal condition, circumstances, and considerations to the neglect of others. One way to avoid self-absorption is to be thankful for others. The apostle Paul faced grueling opposition as he fulfilled his ministry. Yet, he took the time to be thankful for others. Here, he specifically thanked God for the faith of the Roman saints. Today, take time in prayer to thank the Lord for someone else’s faith. When you do, you will acknowledge the impact of their faith on yourself and others. And, by doing so, you will admit the nature of God-pleasing faith. Faith is not silent; it speaks. Faith is not dormant; it acts. Faith does not oppress; it influences. Faith is not invisible; it is seen (Jas. 2:14-26). The Romans’ faith was “spoken of throughout the whole world,” even as their obedience was known to all (Rom. 1:8; 16:19). “Faith that saves is faith that obeys” is not a cliché; it describes the essence of faith’s victory in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5). We thank the Lord for the countless brethren whose faith influences the world for truth and righteousness. Thank God we can find faith on the earth (Lk. 18:8). The world still has its salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). Thank you, God, for the faith of your people.
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:22–24, NKJV)
You likely have more influence than you know. Although the churches of Judea had not personally met Paul during the early years after his conversion to Christ, they knew of it and his work. The influence of a life previously given to the faithless destruction of Christians, but now given to preaching the gospel, was profound. The disciples honored God as a result of Paul’s faith and conduct. Here is an example of the growth and impact of godly influence. When your life seasons the world with grace, and when your words and deeds illuminate this dark world of sin with truth and righteousness, you will influence others to glorify God (Matt. 5:13-16; Col. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). You may never know how far your influence reaches. That does not matter, because we aim to honor God, not ourselves (2 Cor. 5:9). Be an influencer for Jesus Christ and His gospel in truth, justice, mercy, and faith. God sees and rewards faithful disciples, and that is enough (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13, NKJV)
Have you heard the expression, “he’s not worth his salt?” It comes from the days of the Roman Empire. “A soldier’s pay—consisting in part of salt—came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word salary. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt” (“A Brief History of Salt,” Time, March 15, 1982). Salt flavors and preserves food. It made a useful antiseptic before modern medicine. Israel offered salt in its offerings to God, perhaps as a token that their sacrifices were seasoned and preserved by the Sinai covenant (Lev. 2:13). Jesus said His followers are the salt of the earth, a timeless and easily understood metaphor. Christians (citizens of the kingdom of heaven), must be influences of righteousness in a world of sin and death. Our lives must flavor the world around us, influencing others to turn to God. We must guard ourselves against sin because it destroys godly influence. As contaminated salt lost its usefulness to flavor food and to disinfect was cast onto the foot trails (to avoid destroying fertile soil), the Christian who loses his godly influence is ineffective (even destructive) to the cause of Christ. A godly influence is needed and powerful. Protect your influence and season the world with righteousness (Eph. 4:20-24).
33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:33–34, NKJV)
Sin deceives, corrupts and destroys. The temptation to fulfill the lusts of the flesh immediately and repeatedly lures the naive to their own destruction, and captures those who are very familiar with the depths of Satan (Rev. 2:24). It is foolish to convince ourselves that evil companions have no impact on us. If light and salt influence the world for righteousness, then darkness and bitterness have their corrupting influence, too (Matt. 5:13-16). Being a Christian means having drastically different values and practices from those who do not follow Jesus. We do not live by the motto, “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” even though many around us do (1 Cor. 15:32). We must not define and measure righteousness by those who do not know God. The Lord does that for us in His word. Jesus commands us not to sin precisely because we know the truth (Jno. 8:31-32). We need to wake up and not sin. If we slumber and let the world influence us to sin, then we will die with the world (1 Thess. 5:5-10).
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (Acts 11:22–24, NKJV)
Do people get closer to the Lord or farther from Him when they are around you? Does the influence of your life preserve and promote righteousness, or does it distort people’s consciousness of God and knowledge of His truth? Are you genuinely the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)? Barnabas was. He was reliable, so the Jerusalem church sent him to Antioch to strengthen the new converts. He was dedicated to the Lord, to His gospel and to God’s people, so he encouraged them to remain faithful. He was a good man who lived by faith under the control of the Holy Spirit, so it was by his efforts that many souls were saved (“added to the Lord”). What an impact one godly person has on others. Be a Barnabas. Commit yourself to setting godly examples, to influencing others for truth and righteousness, to teaching the lost, and to bringing honor to Christ every single day of your life.
24 Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, 25 Lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul. (Proverbs 22:24–25, NKJV)
Just as good influences encourage us to reach greater heights of holiness, evil influences set traps that will endanger our souls. One such trap is the bad influence of the angry, furious person. Friendship with a person who does not control his or her temper will surely draw you into complicity and compromise with the fury. And, it can even begin to produce within you the same sort of anger actions and reactions. To resist the angry man’s wrath that he expresses toward others will sooner or later, make you the object of his wrath, too. Better to identify this evil influence and avoid it, rather than thinking you can befriend it without being affected by it. Why expose yourself to forces that hinder your holiness? If you are holding anger in your heart, release it through repentance, and replace it with the godly qualities of kindness, humility and love.
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8, NKJV)
Your life affects many others, and they also affect you. To borrow from the 17th-century English poet, John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Even more than being members of the human family, Christians are “members of one body” (the church). Our lives impact each other. Therefore, our choices must honor God as well as bless others. God does not teach us to isolate ourselves. Indeed, the very essence of brotherly love is outward-looking “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). In the body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer; when one is honored, we all rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). No one is an island.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Galatians 3:1, NKJV)
It is not enough to believe Jesus Christ died for our sins in order to be saved. His crucifixion has been posted like a billboard for all to see through preaching “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Yet, to be saved from our sins and kept in Christ’s blessed care Christians must faithfully run the race and “obey the truth” (see Gal. 5:7). The Christians in Galatia had fallen under an evil influence that convinced them they could be true to Christ yet not obey the truth. Many continue to be bewitched with the evil influence of salvation by a faith that fails to obey the truth. Genuine faith in Christ calls for our obedience, for He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). “Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” and by faith obey His truth (Eph. 5:17).
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Faithful, obedient living has a positive influence that reaches much farther than you think. To keep a good influence the Lord wants you to develop the ability to discern good and evil. God’s word teaches us the difference between good and evil. By obeying God’s word you show yourself to be wise. Furthermore, by doing so you will be innocent of evil and your obedience will encourage others to also obey the Lord.
Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.” (John 18:18, NKJV)
During the Passover meal before He was arrested and put to death, Jesus told Peter he would deny knowing Him three times before daybreak. Peter vehemently objected, and all the disciples joined in refusing to believe such a thing (Mk. 14:27-31). Later that night Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest to be examined. Peter warmed himself by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest (Jno. 18:15-16). Peter put himself into a situation in which he was influenced by unbelievers to deny the Lord. He could have rationalized why he was there. He was in the courtyard because he cared about Jesus and wanted to see what would happen next. He was by the fire because it was cold. Nevertheless, his decision to be there put him in a compromising (and ultimately sinful) situation. Learn from Peter to be wise and to choose carefully where you go and the people you will be around. They will have an influence on you. Will they influence you to honor Christ? Or, will they tempt you to deny the Lord?