What does the Bible say about the importance of influence?
Feb 15th, 2009 / Salt and Light
Do not be deceived: evil company corrupts good habits. 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—NIV)
What is the lifespan of influence? Great men have influenced an era, a generation, or an age. What is the potential lifespan of the influence of a common man? Our text implies that your influence has the potential to be eternal.
Influence is the ability to produce an effect upon others. We all go through life receiving influence from and giving influence to others. Paul reminds us that both good and bad influences are operating all around us.
There is much truth taught in the first verse. It is common sense that you take on the character of those with whom you chose to associate. "Evil company" is descriptive of poor choice in friends, associates, and favorite haunts. Surprisingly, most people do not evaluate the quality of friends they expose themselves to, nor do they become missional about choosing better associates. Proverbs 13:20 states, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed."
Poor choices in associations lead to gradual forsaking of "good habits." The influential action of bad company causes corruption (pining erosion and wasting away) of moral virtue. Good habits or customs are the raw material for the enduring fabric of character. Proverbs 22:24–25 illustrates this principle, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul."
Paul was concerned for the Corinthian church that their associations with people who did not believe in the resurrection would corrupt them. Think of the influence such a belief would have (and, in reality, does have) on your life today. No resurrection means no eternal consequences for actions whether good or bad, and precious few ideals worth dying for. But certainty of resurrection and life after death creates a whole different scenario. It is one which rewards personal protection of moral virtue and rewards being a positive influence.
The second verse refers to the eternal influence possible for the average "Joe Christian." Paul challenges you to soberly awake from insensible, spiritual slumber and recognize the ignorance around you. There are people around you who spend their days burning daylight without the least thought of preparation for life after death and the eternal consequences of unpardoned sin. If a Christian provides the message of God’s grace offered through His Son’s death on Calvary and the Holy Spirit causes it to take root in a new convert’s heart, then that Christian has had an influence for not just an era, or a generation, or an age, but for eternity!
Do you jealously guard your heart from evil influence that will woo you away from complete obedience to God? Are you careful in your choice of friends and associates? Have you grasped and taken ownership of your role as an influence for God upon your generation? Are you daily begging God to use you to influence someone else to glorify God? Whom can you influence today? Trust and obey.