It didn’t take long to decide who the first inductee into The Hall of Influence should be or to settle on making Him the one and only person in the inaugural class. It would just feel wrong to include any other human being, be it actor or writer or purveyor of the public good, no matter how immense their accomplishments and influence upon my life may be. Sometimes a being is so special, so unique, so remarkable that they deserve the spotlight all to themselves. I can think of no one who fits that description better than Jesus Christ.
He is known by many names…..Jesus of Nazareth, The Alpha &Omega, Messiah, The Son of God, Our Lord & Savior, Lamb of God, and The Way, The Truth, & The Life. Whatever particular verbage one chooses to utilize though cannot possibly capture who He is and what He has meant to the world. I am hesitant to even write about Him because there is no way I can even come close to doing Him justice. But I suppose I’ll give it a whirl.
I am by no means intolerant or arrogant, something that we Christians get accused of often in 21st Century America. However, I’m not a big fan of the term “tolerance” because I believe it to be a politically correct buzzword that means much more than just its surface definition. When folks talk about being “openminded” it often has a subliminal meaning. I consider myself to be pretty flexible and understanding, but on the other hand I believe what I believe and know what I know. Some things are black and white. There is right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. When being openminded in essence means “anything goes” and “whatever feels good do it” then I begin to no longer have an open mind. If that makes me bigoted or insensitive in some peoples’ eyes then so be it. When it’s all said and done I know how things will end.
I was a simple churchgoer for the first 25 years of my life. I sat in Sunday school, I listened politely to the sermons, I sang the songs. But after church…in the 6 ensuing days…I lived life pretty much how I darn well pleased. I think most folks perceive me as a nice guy…friendly, raised by a good family, a lifelong church member. But believe me…I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life. I’ve done things and acted in ways that I’d be ashamed for anyone to find out about, especially family and friends who have that “good person” perception. There is a vast difference between now and about a decade ago though…..and that difference is Jesus Christ.
I wish I could say that I was one of those that was instantly transformed, that a warm feeling overtook me, a heavenly light glowed, and I have been a perfect person and not done anything wrong since I accepted the free gift of salvation. However, that would be a lie. And to be quite honest, I am not sure that very many people actually see such instantaneous change. The Bible talks about justification and sanctification. In the simplest terms possible justification is that moment when we ask Jesus into our heart and we are washed in the blood of The Lamb, while sanctification is the growth that takes place afterward. The first part is pretty easy and effortless. It’s the sanctification…the growth…that is a lifelong process. I am learning more and more and it’s becoming clearer every day that the process, if it is to be successful in the long run, requires today’s subject – Jesus Christ.
We live in an interesting world. It’s a world of instant gratification, of having answers to almost anything at our fingertips via the Internet and other technology, of experts (atleast in theory) on almost any subject. Isn’t it odd that many will turn on Oprah every afternoon, bounce from doctor to doctor, keep Barnes & Noble in business by spending loads of cash in the self help section, or try to alter their state of mind through alcohol and drugs, all in an effort to seek elusive answers to complex questions?? I am not casting aspersions on everyone else because I too have been guilty of embarking on fruitless quests for a quick fix. What I have learned though is that even though some of those things aren’t all bad…doctors have their place and occasionally one will find a book with some unique and helpful insight…ultimately there is only one answer to every question, one path to true peace, one entity who will be there without fail and who is more faithful and reliable than the most cherished family member or the closest friend. That answer, that faithful and reliable being, is Jesus Christ.
As I mentioned, I’m still not the person I want to be. I still make mistakes…..daily. But the difference now is that I have the sincerest desire to improve, and also when I do head down the wrong road I know it a lot quicker than I used to. In many cases I realize it almost immediately, or atleast soon enough so that my error in judgment doesn’t actually turn into anything tangible. It’s called the conviction of The Holy Spirit. I am a sincere believer in The Trinity…..the three pronged being of God, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. The conviction of The Spirit is that little voice inside one’s head…or heart…that says “don’t do that”, “don’t go there”, “this is wrong and you know it”, and various other related messages. It also works in a more proactive way, pushing us toward knowing the right thing and actually doing that right thing, regardless of whether it’s the easy thing (which it usually isn’t). I will never be perfect, but being Christ-like is something I desire and work toward.
The voice, the connection with The Spirit, grows stronger by developing a relationship with Christ. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t really understand what that meant. It was just some fancy language that the preacher spouted off about on Sunday morning. But like a lot of the things related to being a Christian it’s really a lot simpler that we realize. Think about your parents and grandparents, your best friends, your co-workers, your spouse, your children…..all of which you have some sort of relationship with. What does having a relationship mean?? A relationship is a significant bond or an emotionally close camaraderie. By definition there is involvement. You know things about one another…..likes, dislikes, desires, what makes someone happy, what makes them sad. You hang out together, spend time together, do things, and engage in activities. That’s what Christ desires with us…a relationship. How do we develop a relationship with Jesus?? Pray, study The Bible, communicate with Him. If you’ve got a problem don’t read your horoscope, write to Dr. Phil, play the lottery, take every newfangled prescription medication that comes down the pike, or visit a psychic. Matthew 7:7 says “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Now does that mean that Jesus is Santa Claus and He will grant your every wish?? No. Sometimes we, in our humanity, cannot see the big picture. Satan tempts us with a lot of things that look good, taste good, feel good, and seem…well…good. However, as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. The only way we can develop the power of discernment is to have an open line of communication with The Holy Spirit. Communication is a reciprocal process. Too often we don’t develop our relationship with Christ, only calling on Him when we’ve really stepped into something deep and have exhausted all other options. But isn’t it a little selfish to only call on someone infrequently and only when we have no other choice?? I know a lot of polite folks who wouldn’t dream of bothering or using a family member, neighbor, or co-worker like that…..yet many of us don’t hesitate to use The Lord like that without giving it a second thought. I am thankful that He doesn’t treat me like I treat Him sometimes, otherwise I’d be in big trouble. What I am learning as I travel the pathway of life is that it is much better in the long run…and so much more fulfilling…to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus. And I am quite sure He would agree.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice to say that Jesus should be the most influential person in my life, and that’s coming to fruition more each and every day. Therefore He is far and away the obvious inaugural inductee into The Hall of Influence.