In this sermon, one of our elders, Kym Steele, reminds us Jesus wants us to be more influential by faithfully being who we are and by faithfully doing what we are called to do: follow Jesus, show love to our neighbour as we would to ourselves, and serve others out of the grace and mercy we have been shown by God.
This sermon was delivered on Sunday, 14 January 2024.
I don’t know about you but when I heard the term “influencer” being bandied about on social media a few years back I was immediately suspicious and dismissive.
I thought to myself “what jumped up so-called know it all is going to tell me what to wear, what books I should read, what lotion I should put on my skin to make it radiant (although that one did arouse some interest)!”
I mean, you now have everybody who has an Instagram, twitter, tiktock account posing as experts in a field based on ‘likes’ or what they think they know. So called “celebrities” have been at the forefront because they have been seen by promoters as people who have gained respect and integrity (for the most part) and so have been engaged by marketing companies on behalf of multi-national giants to “influence” the market to purchase a product or a service.
You can ask my wife about my thoughts on social media in general including Facebook and she will tell you that to this day I have absolutely no interest in it. But, consider this –
- The soccer player Cristiano Rinaldo has 440 million followers through his online presence
- Look at the meteoric rise and fall of Bitcoin most of it based around what social media gurus were saying about.
- Social media only has to post a photo of Elon Musk with a frown on his face and the market reacts!
The Australian government went so far as to ban “influencers” who were offering financial advice via their platform because none of them had any recognised qualifications or approval to offer such advice.
Definition of an influencer: a person or thing that influences another (e.g. “he was a champion of the arts and a huge influencer of taste”)
A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media. “influencers can add serious credibility to your brand”
The story is told of a Christian writer being sent a letter by his publicist asking him for a list of “influencers” in his world. At the time he had never heard anyone call anyone else an “Influencer.” So he wrote to the publicist and asked what an “influencer” was and she said it is this, “Big mouths. When these people speak, others listen.”
She explained that influencers are people who lead. When they speak or exhibit a behaviour or buy a product, others follow. Think of people like Cristiano Rinaldo, Michael Jordan. Billy Graham or Bill Hybels or Rick Warren. So he sent her a list, and she wrote back, “I didn’t ask for your friends, I asked for influencers.”
In fact many publicists now refuse to take on clients who do not have an active, successful online presence which meets certain criteria set by them, no matter how good their writing content may be. Such is the shift away from traditional marketing.
Imagine having a product that researchers deem as something followers of Rinaldo would like – straight up they have potential access to 440 million of his followers if he endorses it.
So let me ask you a question – how many of you see yourselves as influencers – hands up.
We read in Matthew 5:13-16 the following:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:13–16
God has placed us exactly where He wants us to be at this point of history of our world. We should never look back with regret and wish that we had exerted our influence differently to what is going on around us today. For God has entrusted to us a certain level of influence.
Influence is the power to affect how someone develops, acts, or thinks. We’re going to look at how God, just like He has entrusted to us our treasure, talents, time, and the truth, has also entrusted to us our influence. We are to be an INFLUENCER for the Lord.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 known as the Sermon on the Mount how we are to be as Christians, then He dives into how we are to be an influence in this world. Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth (v.13) and the light of the world (v.14).
This means that we’re preserving the culture as we illuminate the gospel.
We need to recognize the influence that God has entrusted to us. When you and I don’t steward our influence, we can negatively impact an entire nation just like in Numbers 13 and 14. The entire nation of Israel was negatively influenced by ten spies. As a result, Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years until that generation was wiped out and a new generation arose.
Another example was Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 10:6-8) where he sought counsel from the elders but did not listen. Instead, he was influenced by the people that he had grown up with. The nation of Israel split and they experienced great and painful consequences. When we listen to the wrong influence, we can jeopardize our future.
The story of the Samaritan woman at the well interacting with Jesus is a story of an influencer – how? In conversation with Jesus she came to a realization of who He was and did what? Ran to her village and shared her experience with all that would
listen such that they came out to meet Him – she was an influencer!
Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?John 4:29
And then from v39:
Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what he said. And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”John 4:39–42
Even with her chequered past, she was an influencer for good.
WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT WE HAVE SPHERES OF INFLUENCE!
These can be roughly divided as follows:
Inner Circle – This would be your family, your closest friends, your spiritual family.
Intermediate Circle – This would be the people that you work with, your classmates, people who you share life with through your hobbies. People you have a good relationship with.
Outer circle – This is made up of acquaintances or dare I say it – social media friends.
Who are these people that God has entrusted you to influence? Whether we know it or not, every time we act or say something, we are either pointing people towards Jesus Christ or to the world.
Jesus says that we are the light of the world (v.14). You are so valuable because our world is in darkness and you have a purpose to shine in it. Light is seen even from a far distance and the smallest light can dispel the greatest darkness.
However, we have a choice. It is possible for somebody to actually put the light under a basket (v.15). As a follower of Jesus, you aren’t shining your own light; be an influencer for the Lord, not an influencer for yourself. Jesus tells us in John 8:12 that He is the Light of the world. Our world is in darkness and without Jesus we too will walk in darkness, stumbling and tripping because we cannot see.
To follow Jesus is to prayerfully ask “What would Jesus do or say in this situation?”. You will find the answer to that question in Scripture, and then to do it in His power. As we obey Jesus, He will be the light of our life, enabling us to see.
There was a time in the history of Israel when a plot was planned to annihilate them as a nation. God had placed Esther as queen during that time (Esther 4:14-16). Mordecai through a messenger said to her –
If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”
Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.”Esther 4:14–16
Esther was confronted with a decision to be a light requiring much courage. Esther requested that prayer and fasting be done.
To be an influencer for the Lord, you always have to cover it in prayer because we’re influencing people for the Lord. Those prayers gave Esther the strength to make that decision to be a light to her people and their nation was spared. God delivered Israel through Queen Esther’s intervention to avert disaster for the Jews. When we act like light, we point people to Christ, our Great Deliverer.
Don’t just focus your time and energy on your outer circle of influence. The greatest impact often happens in your inner and intermediate circles. That’s where salt comes in. Light is something you see at a distance. Salt impacts when it comes into contact with the object. You have a direct impact in their life because they see you up close.
They can see and experience the joy, peace, faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit that is in your life. Salt preserves; it imparts flavour. When your life is “salty”, when you’re full of grace, truth, and humility, it attracts people just like salt makes people thirsty.
Your “saltiness” makes people thirsty for the Lord. God has given you exactly the influence you have so that you can exercise it for His purpose. How? Have meaningful conversations:
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.Colossians 4:6
The Bible tells us our speech should be seasoned with salt. We should be able to say what a person needs to hear during that time. To know what, how and when to say something is a “God thing”. So, you need to be in prayer; you need to be filled by the Holy Spirit to be salt in the world.
Never underestimate where God has placed you! Just like the girl in 2 Kings 5:1-3 who was taken as a captive and slave in a foreign land. She used whatever influence she had to point her master to someone that could heal him. God used her to heal Naaman physically and spiritually.
A word of warning in Matthew 5:13. Salt is an amazing compound but impurities can make it tasteless and useless. So don’t let any impurity enter into your life, otherwise you may lose your ability to influence people towards Christ.
How to Influence People for the Lord?
- Rely on the holy spirit
- Enter into their world
- Model authentic Christlikeness
- Continue to journey with them, walk beside them
- Don’t rush
We need to also ask though – Who is influencing you? What are you watching, reading, listening to? Where are you spending your time? Who are the people you are “following”? Who is in your inner circle?
We don’t have it within ourselves to be salt and light no matter how good we are as persons. But Jesus entered into our world. He entered as a human being. The gospel is that He paid for the penalty of our sins, so that He could be in the centre of our lives if we allow Him (John 3:16).
Maybe our inner circle of relationships is broken or you’ve blown it with your intermediate circle. You haven’t been a salt and light. You can change course by giving your life to Jesus.
If you humble yourself, admit your need to be forgiven of your sins, you can become a new creation because of Jesus. Surrender your life to Him and become an influencer to point others to our Saviour today. Repent and seek forgiveness for those times when you know you haven’t been an influencer for Jesus.
In closing, let me ask you a few of questions –
- Do you recognize your spheres of influence? Who are the people in your inner, intermediate, and outer circles?
- How are you influencing them? Are you pointing them towards Christ or the world?
- What do you need to do differently as a result of this Sunday’s message? How will you apply it in your life this week?
Matt 5:16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Jesus believes each and every one of us is an influencer. Not just pastors and leaders, but each of us. Preachers and Bible readers are agreed on one thing about “salt” and “light” in our passage: they might mean any number of things, but the one thing they do mean is that salt influences everything it is added to and light influences darkness. They make an impact.
Jesus doesn’t urge us to become influencers. He says each disciple, by virtue of being a follower of Jesus, already is an influencer.
Jesus wants us to be more influential by faithfully being who we are and by faithfully doing what we are called to do: follow Jesus, show love to our neighbour as we would to ourselves, and serve others out of the grace and mercy we have been shown by God.
The greatest influencer in the world had none of the trappings of social media – He was a carpenter from Nazareth and yet he changed history more than any other. Our calendar is based on his life. Our symbols of hope are based on his death but what does he offer us?
Since his birth he has more than 2.4 billion followers making Christianity the largest religion in the world and making up one third of the total population of this planet. The number is still growing so why is Christianity and the word of Jesus so popular even today? His key messages don’t date and have a lasting influence and relevance.
Ponder where you have an influence. What kind of influence do you have and can you have? How does the call to a steady faithfulness prompt you to see a long-term deepening influence? Where could you learn to have “more” influence?
You are an influencer, you are on the front step, you have a “product” that everyone needs and that’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The best part is that it is free – no gimmicks, no credit card details required, no sign-up to receive…., no scams.
Just the love, joy and peace of Jesus transforming them no matter who they are or where they’re from. You are an influencer!!
So let me ask you the question again – how many of you believe you are an influencer? Hands up.
Pray with me:
Our Father, I accept the incredible grace of being salt and light, however the influence is understood, and know that you have called me to extend the kingdom work of your Son into our world by being what you want me to be and doing what you want me to do – to be an influencer for you.
What a privilege to be captured into and for the your kingdom!
In your mercy awaken me and sharpen me as your instrument of love, justice, peace, wisdom and grace. In your mercy, hear this prayer, through Christ our Lord, Amen.