“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Example and Influence (Tom Edwards)
Example and Influence
Whether for good or bad, everyone is an example! Even when not trying or realizing it, our influence can affect those around us in one way or another. For none of us are invisible, and the way we communicate and act can have an impact on others.
But though someone once said, “No man is completely worthless. He can always serve as a horrible example,” I don’t think that many would want to be of that classification — but, rather, of a much better one!
In the Bible we read of a daughter-in-law named Ruth who, apparently, had been greatly influenced by Naomi, her mother-in-law. Even after the death of Naomi’s husband and her two sons, Ruth felt compelled to remain with her – and even though Naomi had strongly advised her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their own people in the land of Moab, while she would then head back to the land of Judah, since its famine was over. But Ruth, who would not depart from her, declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Surely, Naomi’s good example and influence had much to do with Ruth’s feelings toward her –- and even toward Naomi’s people and toward her God!
Setting forth the right example can be motivational. It is said that when Benjamin Franklin wanted to see his city of Philadelphia start using street lighting, he did not merely talk about it. Rather, he placed a beautiful lantern on a long bracket in front of his own door. He kept the lantern polished and its glass clean, and every evening he lit its wick. Soon, his neighbors were doing the same; and not long after that the entire city took enthusiastic notice of its benefit. Today, Franklin is regarded as the one who introduced street lighting to the entire U.S.
Examples can be helpful – and Jesus often used them. He spoke of people (Noah, Abraham, Lot’s wife, Moses, David, etc.); of places (Sodom and Gomorrah, Chorazin and Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, etc.); and of things (the temple, the sparrow, the seed, the lily, etc.). Are not the parables of the Lord also examples? They compare one thing to another – an earthly thing to a spiritual principle.
The Scriptures have much to say about examples – and sometimes refers to them as “ensamples” and “patterns.” The Bible gives examples of not only those who lived righteously, but also of those who lived to the contrary, that we may learn how and how not God wants us to be.
Hebrews 4:11, for instance, says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.” Some of these examples of disobedience can be seen in 1 Corinthians 10: “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (vv. 6-11).
These examples go back to the period of the Exodus and the early Wilderness Wanderings. But we can still learn lessons from them of what we should not do in our time. For we should not “crave evil things,” “be idolaters,” “act immorally,” “try the Lord” (in the sense of testing and exhausting His patience), and “grumble.”
The Lord wants us to consider these examples of the past and others as well: “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:10,11). And the greatest example of all is that of our Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21).
The Bible is silent when it comes to most of the years that Jesus was on earth, prior to his three-year mission. But one thing we do know – He was always obediently pleasing His Father! For when God said of Jesus at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17), God did not say this because of His Son’s triumph in the wilderness over Satan — for that was still to come! Nor did He have reference to Jesus’ determination in Gethsemane or His supreme sacrifice at Calvary – for they were also future events! But this must have been said with regard to Jesus’ earlier days on earth, while growing up. Luke sums up that rather silent period of the Lord’s life by simply stating that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
We know that during some — and probably many — of Christ’s silent years He had worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). For that was what His earthly father Joseph had been (Matt. 13:55); and it was common for the Jewish father to teach his son the same trade. For to grow up not having been taught a trade was actually a shameful thing. So Jesus was a good example in this aspect of his life as well.
As we think more of the kind of influence we might have on others, I imagine you’ll easily understand why this following poem by C.C. Miller is entitled “The Echo”:
‘Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away,
In the parable Jesus told;
A grown-up sheep that had gone astray
From the ninety and nine in the fold.
Out on the hillside, out in the cold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought,
And back to the flock, safe to the fold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.
And why for the sheep should we earnestly long,
And as earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger, if they go wrong,
They will lead the lambs astray.
For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray;
When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long
‘Till the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so with the sheep we earnestly plead,
For the sake of the lambs, today;
If the sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
Some lambs will have to pay!
Note some of the things in which Paul specified to Timothy to be a good example in: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).
To some, our heart has been viewed as a pulpit. Our life is the message. The world is our audience, and every day we are giving a sermon to it.
What does the world see in our lives? If we are the pattern to them of what other Christians are like, are we giving them the correct impression? Do they see us standing for the right things? Does our lives bring honor or reproach upon the church of our Lord and His worthy name?
May it be our desire to always set the proper example for others around us. For as the song tells us in the lyrics written by Annie Johnson Flint, “We are the only Bible the careless world will read. We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed; we are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word, What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?”
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he instructs them about many of their spiritual problems, apparently, helped them change for the better. Notice, for instance, what he later wrote to them: “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
May we always be the right example for the cause of Christ and for the good of others — and may that kind of influence be contagious toward all!
(All Scriptures from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)