Jesus saw a broken world and used his influence for the highest purpose, which is to seek and save what was lost. He constantly found a lamp stand on which to put his light. He used a boat, fish and loaves, a fig tree, a cross and finally a throne. He's telling us to put our lights on our lamp stands.
We talked last time about how God's influence is 3-D, meaning body, soul, and spirit. He wants us to see people and influence people 3-D as well. We are God's influencers/ambassadors with the ministry of influence, or reconciliation – to join the hand of people to the hand of God. And, we talked about how we all need Jesus to spit on our eyes and touch us again like he did that blind man in Mark 8 so we won't see people blurry, like trees walking. Instead, we will see them clearly.
You are a person of influence. There are no exceptions. I'll say it again. You are a person of influence. If you are breathing and interact with other human beings, you impact lives in very noticeable ways. It's easy to lose sight of this when we live in an era where celebrities, rock stars, politicians, athletes, etc receive saturations of television and media coverage increasing their influence. We mistakenly assume our influence is inconsequential. That's not true.
For example, you parents have a massive influence on the lives of your children. Teachers have far more impact on shaping a human life than realized. Someone last week told me in the presence of the middle school teacher the influence the teacher had on his life. Those of you in the work place influence people around you every single day. A spouse will influence the other spouse. A friend will influence a friend. Your attitudes, your behaviors, life choices, words, even facial expressions make a difference upon people every day, day after day after day. I only see most of you once a week, but I have influenced your life. Our Life Group leaders influence people. Our nursery workers, children's church teachers and student leaders influence your children and need to be applauded and thanked.
One day the most influential man who ever walked on this planet commented on our influence. Jesus was speaking to a very diverse group of people from many different positions of life.
Matthew 5:14-16 "YOU ARE the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. INSTEAD THEY PUT IT ON ITS STAND, and it gives light TO EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE. IN THE SAME WAY, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Jesus said YOU ARE influential and you can influence people to praise God. In his metaphor, he said to think about your influence in the same way you think about a light in your house. You wouldn't turn on a lamp and then cover it over. No. If you want the maximum influence of the light, put it on its stand.
Here is what I want us to see.Nothing changed about the light itself. It had the same candle power before it was put on the stand. The only thing that changed was the positioning of the light by using ITS STAND. The stand is what maximized the light's influence. When a maximized approach is taken, everyone is reached in your sphere of influence.
I think we all fall for the deception that we need to increase our "candlepower" before we can begin to influence. That's not what Jesus said. You have enough candlepower right were you are to bring light to people's lives.
I asked if I could use this story and was given permission. Many of you know Ruben Gaskey. He and Carl Hamilton work together and we asked Carl to totally remodel our men's and women's rooms. Ruben's been coming to church about a year, but Carl seemed far from God and seemingly not interested at all concerning anything in that arena. He'd had some bad experiences in the past with church. Of course, you would expect me to talk to Carl about the things of God and I did, but here's what happened. Every time I would talk to Carl about the things of God, he would say something like, "Yeah, Ruben told me that." Or, "Ruben said you said that." Or, "Ruben said this church was different." Or, "Ruben said…" That didn't happen just once. Unknown to me, and maybe unknown to Ruben, Carl's life was being INFLUENCED by Ruben. I would ask Carl to come to church and he would say, "Yeah, Ruben's been talking to me about that." I remember one day I drove into the parking lot. I noticed Carl's van. On the back of it he had placed one of our, "I LOVE MY CHURCH" bumper stickers. He pointed it out to me and I said, "Man that's great." I asked him again about coming and he said he was planning on coming. I went to Ruben and told him what Carl said. Ruben said, "Yes. He told me he would be here Sunday." Carl and his wife Nancy were here that Sunday and both responded to committing their lives to Jesus Christ. Here's my point. I didn't know Ruben had it in him. He's not a loud intrusive person like me. He's the opposite. He's very quiet, hard working, but he obviously put his light on its stand and maximized his influence on his friend.
How many of you think of yourself as highly influential people? We don't think of ourselves as influential. Say for example, you are standing in line say at Wal-Mart and you scan the tabloids. You see a Times magazine saying, "The 100 Most Influential People in the World." Do you grab it and open it to see if your name is in the list? I doubt it. If you're like me, you feel your influence is very insignificant. So, why should I do what Jesus said and spend time thinking of lamp stands I can use to maximize my influence? I think most of us fall into the deceitful trap of seeing ourselves as "just me," "little o me," "little o insignificant me." But, that's the very mentality Jesus addressed. That's putting the basket, or bowl, or blanket, whatever, over your light.
Jesus said YOU ARE a person of influence. You can influence your world! If you have any relationship with God at all, you have enough candle power to warrant spending a little time figuring out how to maximize it. Perhaps your "house" area is your family and a few friends. Then take some time and think about what you can PURPOSEFULLY use as a lamp stand. Maybe others have a little bigger area in the marketplace or school. Upon what can you position your light, what lamp stand can you PURPOSEFULLY use to cause greater influence? Your life matters. You say, "It's just too dark where I am." No. Actually, the darker the world in which you live, the greater the influence of your light. A single match in a huge dark room is massive.
So, when and where is a great time and place to begin positioning your influence? How about after church today? I've passed out the "A Baby Changes Everything" cards. If you will notice, it has an invitation and map already on it. If you fold it in half it's like a small Christmas card. Many of you will go out to a restaurant and eat after church. What if you left a nice tip for your server inside your folded invitation card? Did you know that waiters and waitresses don't like to serve on Sundays because "church people" don't tip very well, if at all? Those "church people" put a basket over their light. Put your light on a stand. You could even double tip and write a sweet note like, "You are a good server, thank you." You've put your lamp on its stand and maximized your influence.
Some of you sit at a desk like I do hours every day with several people coming to see you. What if you simply folded your card and stood it up on your desk. At some point you will get to talk about the Sunday Christmas service here and invite someone to church you probably would not get to invite. You've taken the basket off your light and placed it on a stand.
Also, we have some larger mail out size cards. Judy does this nearly every year with results. What if you personally, in your own handwriting, wrote a little note, saying something like, "Thank you for being my friend," on the back and mailed it to someone you would like to come to church? You've put your lamp on its stand and maximized your influence.
I know many of you get our sermon notes every week to reread, but someone told me just a few days ago how he took his notes to work and talked to people about the lesson. Not many people talk about their church and pastor at work. If you do, people will take notice. They may never come to church here, but you have put your light on its stand and used your influence to shine into their darkness.
How about a simple smile? Have you ever met a cranky, crabby, ornery, gloomy Christian person? Sure you have. Think for a moment about that person. That's a person who's put a cover over his light. Now think about someone who is caring, always smiling, and full of life. I've always been a happy laughing person. Years ago when I attended college, I went to work after classes at what was then Big Apple grocery store. My boss had trouble saying my name, so he nicknamed me "Sunshine." It stuck. I asked him why he called me that and he said because you are always happy. Being happy will put your light on its lamp stand.
One of my grandsons, Michael Lance, is now 4. He's a bundle of energy, big smile, makes us all laugh, and is known for saying, "It's a beauuuttttiiiffuul day" no matter what the weather. I have a sister-in-law, who has several great nieces and nephews to love, and does, but she adores Michael Lance. You would never have suspected it, but he has an influence on her because of his energy for life, smile, and always positive approach to every day. She quotes him, "It's a beauuuttttiiiffuul day." My point is, a great place to begin positioning yourself to influence others is to smile, express energy to love life, and always find the beauty in every day and every situation no matter the weather. When people read you from a happy light, they take the cover off you and position you in their lives where you can give more light.
Another thing is express concern about people when you know something is happening in their lives. Simply ask how a sick relative is doing, or how a rebellious child is doing they have told you about. There's something you've overheard, or they shared with you of concern to them. I've learned that sending a text or an e-mail is very influential and means a lot to people. Do what you should do anyway and care. Pray with them if they will allow you, or tell them you will pray and then do it. Show mercy and remember how important that person is to God. Express some of God's love. You've just put your lamp on its stand and maximized your influence.
Maybe something else you can do to position yourself for more influence is help someone a little bit in some needful area. Perhaps you could help meet a need with a little money. If you can't do that, find some other way. When I talked to Carl about Ruben and letting me use their story for today, Carl said, "Yes, Ruben and I work together, but Ruben is a real friend. I could brake down and be broke in Florida. If I called Ruben, he would be on his way to get me. He is my true friend." Sometimes, just stopping by for a quick visit is great. It doesn't have to be huge. Try to help meet some actual practical need if possible. The smallest light when a person is experiencing a dark time is major. It's a stand on which you place your light.
God will use your influence in community service. I've been part of the ministerial association in the past. I've gone to community meetings and probably would have gotten more involved with governmental and political things if I were not already so involved with church. I don't do it as much now as I used to do, but at one point in my life, it seemed I had some sort of meeting every day or night either community related or church related. If you have an interest in community things, go for it. Let it become your lamp stand. Maximize your position of influence.
Sometimes you know you have influenced people. You know by the way they respond to you, or maybe they told you how important you are to them. They have given you a lamp stand. About that, Jesus was crystal clear.
One day Jesus was traveling the Jericho Road through Jericho. His influence – light –preceded him. There was a man who lived in Jericho, Jesus' influence had touched him and that man wanted to see Jesus. A problem was the guy was despised. He was a tax collector and took advantage of people. The road was crowded with people wanting to see Jesus and the man was short in stature. His name was Zaccheus. You've heard his story. He ran ahead and climbed a tree to have a view of Jesus when he passed. When Jesus saw this guy up a tree to see him, Jesus realized his influence seriously touched that man. Here is what Jesus did.
Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down IMMEDIATELY. I must stay at your house today."
When you look up and see you have influenced someone, stop and IMMEDIATELY do something about it. Put your light on its stand. Jesus took time, his precious time, and went to the man's house, which wasn't in Jesus' day planner. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he would meet his destiny, but when he saw the guy up a tree, nothing was more important. We've all seen people "up a tree," right? It's time to maximize our influence
Luke 19:8-10 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house… FOR THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE WHAT WAS LOST."
Jesus saw a broken world and used his influence for the highest purpose, which is to seek and save what was lost. He constantly found a lamp stand on which to put his light. He used a boat, fish and loaves, a fig tree, and finally a cross. He's telling us to put our lights on our lamp stands. How are you doing? Are you PURPOSEFULLY seeking anyone to save? Are you positioning your light to intentionally maximize your influence? It's the Christmas season and hearts are ready. Use the season as a lamp stand and maximize your influence.