When Apostle Paul wrote His first letter to the Church in Corinth He spoke to them about the things that influenced their lives before they become followers of Jesus:
1 Corinthians 12:2(NIV)
You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
The truth and reality is we all have influences in our lives, things that influence us one way or the other. You may dress a certain way because of your friends, you may talk a certain way because of the kids at school, you may vote democrat or republican because that's what your daddy votes, you may be a Catholic or a Presbyterian or an Atheist because of the way you were brought up.
There are things, people, places, situations, and circumstances that influence us in a variety of ways from the way we spend our money to our hobbies, to our faith or lack thereof. Think about it, what types of things have influenced you throughout your life? Here is something to also keep in mind, not all influences are positive, some are negative. Not all influences are healthy, but some are unhealthy. Not all influences are correct, but some indeed are wrong.
Think about the friend or relationship that was hurtful to you not helpful. What about the influence of abusing alchol or drugs or our bodies? What about growing up around a person who was a racist, or a bigot, or selfish? Not all influences are good. My point being today, is we really need to think about the way we believe, act, behave, our attitudes, and our convictions. We need to be careful that our character isn't based on bad, false, or negative influences that are incorrect or unhealthy.
Don't vote republican just because your whole family is republican but vote because you know the facts and differences between the parties. Don't smoke or drink because your parents did. Don't be dishonest and a liar because you hang out with the wrong crowd and your so-called friends are that way. Don't dress, talk, or wear you hair a certain way because that's what the person next door is doing. Most of all don't base your faith or lack of faith or your anti-faith on things that are false, not accurate, or not truth.
Too many people are gambling with their eternity because they are trusting in sources that aren't true, reliable, or factual all because of the influences on their lives and they've never taken the time or made the effort to seek, study, or figure out what is truth and what isn't truth. We are each responsible for our own selves.
If you don't believe in God is that based on truth or opinion or some influence that's been in your life? If you consider yourself a religious person and you think everyone goes to heaven and you don't need to go to church to be a Christian, what are you basing that on? If you are part of a certain religious group, denomination, or church group is that because of the way you were raised or brought up or influenced by some friend or person or is it because you've picked up the Bible and studied and examined it?
I'm not trying to cause anyone any doubts, but what I am trying to do is cause you to ask yourself some questions, because in this life, we have one shot, there are not do-overs. We've got one life to figure out eternity and life after this life and why we're here on this earth. This life we live is precious and valuable and the gifts God has given us are too precious and valuable for us to squander, waste, misunderstand, or be misrepresented because we allowed ourselves to be influenced with bad, wrong, or false information?
As a preacher, I want people to trust me, but I want them trust in God and His Bible more than me. I want them to read and see what I preach or teach matches up with God's Word. I do not want to influence people for Jason, I want to influence people for Jesus. I want people to seek and study on their own to how to be saved, not relying on some person or church or religious doctrine to save me. I want people to know what it means to be a Christian and what it means to a church member that is found in the Bible, not just go through the motions at their local church and think life is all about doing the same things the same ways over and over again until Jesus comes back.
There is so much more to Christianity and Church than having church services on Sunday morning and evenings and Wednesdays. There is more to it than just calling yourself a Christian or a Church member. Do not be influenced by this world, sin, satan, or anyone who tried to take you away from the truth of Scripture or mislead you intentional or not.
My challenge is to let God be your influence. Let the Holy Spirit of God be your influence. Let the Word of God be your influence. Let these things influence your faith, but also all areas of your life, so that you are not led astray, easily fooled, confused, or stop caring.
May God always be our guide. Know why you do what you do. Know why you believe what you believe. Know why you know what you know. Let God influence you.
I like Paul's other words to the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.