The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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          In his study of the Gospel of Matthew, Roland Q. Leavell labeled the focus of Jesus’ teaching in his “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Chapters 5-7 as “The Way of Life in the Kingdom.” Within this Kingdom-life focus, Leavell presented the Beatitudes as “The Kingdom Way of Happiness” (Matthew 5:1-12) and Jesus’ subsequent teaching employing the metaphors of salt and light as “The Kingdom Way of Influence” (5:13-16). Leavell asserted, “Desire for happiness and desire for influence are innate in the human heart. The happy Christian is an influential Christian, and vice versa. Few things are as contagious as radiant Christian living. There is a clarion call for the influence of sincere Christianity”.
          Recalling that an influencer is “someone who affects or changes the way that people behave” and an influencer can persuade others by…their credibility, authenticity, reach, and trustworthiness, Christians are challenged to live in distinction from the world. In addition, Christians can influence others by exercising their duty as “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-14).
          Striving to be influential as a Christian, however, is not without potential pitfalls, perils, or dangers.
Christians face the ongoing danger of losing their influence. How is this possible?  Through his use of metaphor, Jesus indicated that salt can lose its saltiness…become defiled with the result that the benefit and influence of salt to purify, preserve, and flavor is annulled…through contamination with the impurities of the world (v. 13). 
          Salt that becomes mixed with contaminants cannot function as intended and is useless and good for nothing “except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (v. 13). To be “walked on/trampled” points to judgment by the world (Hosea 5:11) toward those who profess allegiance to Jesus fall short in their role and responsibility (i.e. their duty).
          Christians who sacrifice their integrity through worldly decisions and actions in the areas of morality and ethics lose their saltiness and their influence. Christians seeking compromise with the world in an attempt to avoid ridicule and other persecution become defiled and are useless as influencers to retard moral decay and corruption in our culture. In order to have influence and be effective agents of redemption, Christians must be distinctive in their duty to permeate society and emulate Christ in every aspect of life.
          Like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and a lamp that is placed conspicuously to provide abundant light that penetrates the darkness, Christians are commanded to shine brightly and brilliantly. Light-bearing Christians not only can irritate the purposes of a dark world with their presence and illustrate the power of their influence through action and attitude, but light-bearers also illuminate the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that needs to see the gospel lived out clearly and completely.
          Christians, however, face the danger of hiding the truth of God from the world when failing to remain in contact, or plugged into, the divine source of power. Christians must not be guilty of hiding the light of the gospel. Neglecting to be light that shares THE Light when opportunity arises is one way to hide one’s light from the world. Being unconcerned for those who do not know Jesus as Savior also is tantamount to hiding one’s light.
          Beyond the danger of losing or lessening one’s influence, tremendous profit or dividends result from the exercise of Christian influence. Having a person come to faith in Jesus through the influence of a Christian who remains “salty” is a blessing or dividend. Influencing others to “praise your Father in heaven” is also a dividend of exercising Christian influence.
          Like undefiled salt, Christians who shun the charm of the world’s delights will function and have influence as intended. Furthermore, their light will shine before men in such a way that praise will be directed to God rather than to self or others (Matthew 6:1). In other words, Christians “shine” when those dwelling in darkness give glory to God when seeing a life lived in relationship with God and conduct (“good deeds” ) corresponding to such a relationship (Ephesians 2:10). 
         Quoting a wise yet unknown source, Dr. Leavell declared, “Not every Christian can build a city on a hill, but everyone can light a candle” and shine brightly for Jesus. As salt for a decaying world and light for a world filled with darkness, Christians must show up, stand up, and speak up. Why? Because Christians are important and influential people!


Dear Heavenly Father, may my influence encourage and strengthen others to live for and walk with you. May your presence in my life be reflected to the world through my actions and attitude in such a way that others will be drawn to you through me and give you glory. Amen.