"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

My Influence – A Solemn Responsibility

By J. Stuart Holden

    "And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law…and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law" (Gen. 19:14).

    These words form part of the record of those great happenings, to which our Savior Himself gave attestation, when He spoke of the example of "the cities of the plain," and urged upon the men of His own day their obvious lesson. Lot, who had been visited by the angels, to whom a disclosure of God's mind had been made, and upon whom the very terror of the Lord had come, sought, in obedience to the divine command, to bring forth from the city – the destruction of which was even then impending – those of his own household and kinsfolk.

    But of all the tragic happenings of that tremendous tragedy, this was the greatest. It was not that Lot had lost all that for which he had striven, it was not that he had lost his wealth and his home. It was that when he spoke to those who knew him best, and when he urged them to flee from the place of destruction, "he seemed as one that mocked'' unto them. They did not take any notice of what he said; he had lost his influence; they just shrugged their shoulders, and took no notice of his warning. It is true that Lot himself was saved, but only as by fire.

Tragedy of Poor Influence

    Now if this were just an ordinary story, if it merely concerned Lot and the city of Sodom, there would be very little justification for our dwelling upon it. But it has just as much to do with us today as it had to do with the men of that day. There are professing Christians, who assume the responsibility of Christian discipleship, but who are regarded in their own family circles as hypocrites. There are those who cannot speak to others about the supreme things of life because they know that their words would be foredoomed to rejection because they themselves are not taken seriously.

    The greatest tragedy in the life of the church of Christ today is not only the unbelief of some of its teachers, but the discrepant lives of some of its members, the lost influence of those who still retain a form of godliness, but whose lives are a practical denial of its power. We are either God's proof or disproof of all that He came to be and to do. The solemnity of living as Christ's disciples in the world is just this, that men take their measure of the Son of God by what they see of Him in the lives of His people. What, therefore, is our influence upon others? What kind of influence are we exerting upon those who know us best?

    Let us try to picture the scene. Here is a man who is very much in earnest. If ever Lot was in earnest, he was in earnest then. The touch of the angel messenger was still upon his hand. The word to which he had listened was still like a fire in his heart. He urged upon his sons-in-law the need of uniting with him in leaving that God-condemned place. He was not mistaken in anything that he said; the message of God to him had been too plain to admit of any mistake. He sincerely desired to help his kinsfolk out into a place of safety, but he was absolutely powerless to do it. "He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law."

    They knew him so well that they had ceased to regard what he said as of any importance. They had had experience of his poses before. They had doubtlessly seen Lot at his worship, and they had also seen him in the market. They had heard Lot's profession of the faith in which he had been brought up, but they had also heard his conversations at other times. They knew something of the secularity of his life; they knew his moral shallowness. And when he really had a message from God to give them, his own past reputation disqualified him from giving it…He contradicted in his own life the very things he professed and believed.

Judging Ourselves

    Let us now leave Lot and think about our own lives in this connection. It is startling to find how small and seemingly negligible are the things that really destroy our influence. After all, influence is not made up of big things, but of an aggregation of small things. It is not the big moral faults and mistakes of men that most mar their influence; it is usually something that seems too small to pay any attention to.

    You have a perfect right to say, "People ought not to be influenced by the trifling things of my life.'' But we live in a world, not of ideals, but of actual facts; and the fact is that they are so influenced.

    For instance, there is the trifling insincerity of speech, the deviation from absolute truth, often in order that we may live in harmony with current convention. There is a devotion to the world, as in the case of Lot; and there is sometimes manifested a rudeness of manner. Who is going to listen to such a man when he urges others to become Christian disciples? There is the untamed temper; the unsanctified tongue, the speech which is bitter, and cynical, and unkind, and insincere, on the part of professedly Christian people.

    These are some of the things that cause those who know us best to despise, not only us, but the religion that we profess. The tendency of life and character is infinitely more important than mere orthodoxy of belief, for the one reacts upon the other.

    Let us search our hearts, and judge ourselves, lest we be judged of the world, and before God. May God have mercy upon the man whose conduct is morally hardening the hearts of his employees and subordinates. Lot stands out, surely, as a self-complacent man, one who thinks that he of all men has solved the problem of living successfully in two worlds, and making the best of both; reconciling the stern, urgent demands of Christ's truth with the smooth, easy conveniences of a world that flatters the Master only to crucify Him.

    It is not difficult to imagine Lot talking about those around him, and saying how worldly, and careless, and indifferent they were, and how that all their thoughts were centered on material things. After all, had it not been for Lot himself, these sons-in-law of his would never have been in Sodom. It was his own choice of "the cities of the plain'' that brought them there. If the cause of the indifference of others in regard to spiritual things is in us, may God reveal it to us; and though it be the bitterest hour we have ever spent, let us confess it before God and before others.  

    The question for us is this: Are we making it easier for men to believe in Christ, or are we making it almost impossible? If I have a pen that will not write, if I have a watch that will not keep time, if I have a lamp that will not burn – I cast them to one side. And if there is a Christian man who is not commending his Lord and Master; if there is a Christian man upon whom there rests nothing of the radiancy and beauty of the Lord's own character; then that man, no matter how highly placed he may be, or how lowly, is not fulfilling the purpose of his redemption.

    I believe that God, in His fatherliness, often broke in upon Lot before that eventful day in order that He might reveal to him what was the trend of his life, open his eyes to realities, help him to face facts, the fact of his own influence upon others. But as is so often the case, the love of God was defeated upon the moral battlefield.

    Men who become successful are apt to become self-satisfied. With the growth of self-importance, there is a growth of imperviousness to the influence of God's Spirit. It was only some terrible crisis, such as this, which served to open the eyes of Lot to the fact that he had lost his hold upon the very people he should have been able to influence, and this was because he had lost his hold upon God.

Repentance

    If perchance, we are in any degree under this same condemnation, is recovery possible? There can be only one answer. Yes, it is possible; but it is always with pain and with shame that such restoration and re-creation is brought about. There are no short cuts for any one of us. In order to renew fellowship with God and recover the confidence of our fellows, there must be a double adjustment of life, first with God, and then with those whom we have wronged by our influence.

    It means, first of all, sincere penitence before God. It means also confessing our weakness and failure to those against whom we have sinned. It means, further, not only getting right with God and with man, but it means the making of a covenant with your own conscience. It means getting away from all engrossments, and communing with your own soul; and then, by the grace of God, coming out into the open, where every eye is upon the man who professes to be guided by the pole star of faith in Jesus Christ.

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