Friday, August 29, 2014

Christian Influence

SCRIPTURE: Acts 26:25-29
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 29th, 2014

I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:25-29)
The power of an influential life is this: When others see us, they wanted to be just like us. The power of a Christian testimony is this: When others see us, they wanted to be just like the Christ they see in us.

Influence moves people. Those who have been touched by Mother Teresa will faithfully learn and work like her. Those who have been impacted by the peace efforts of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. will advocate for the peace Gandhi and King had preached. Those who have been transformed by the ministry of Billy Graham would be on the way to evangelize and to share the gospel, just like the legendary evangelist. We like to become the people we like. The essence of leadership is that people would desire to follow the leader. If there are no followers, what good is a leader?

Missionaries have been known to be powerful influencers of behaviour. The famous missionary to China, James Hudson Taylor once said this legendary phrase: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Such a statement has spurred the followers and members of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship to persevere with their faith-based ministry, never publicly asking for funds and fully trusting God to provide in God’s timing. Those who doubted will need to explain why the organization had been sustained for nearly 150 years. Set up originally as “China Inland Mission,” OMF members currently serve in more than 25 countries. Just like Taylor who learned the Chinese language so as to speak in the language of the people group he was trying to reach, there are many young Christians who pledged to do the same. Taylor dressed like the Chinese, spoke Chinese, and lived among the Chinese. I know of several friends who had gone to China and lands beyond based on the influence of this man of God.

John Geddie Memorial
In the late 1800s, a Canadian missionary named John Geddie arrived on the islands called New Hebrides, located West of Fiji. A memorial in front of his home Church summarized his ministry aptly: “When he landed in 1848 there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872 there were no heathen." Geddie influenced several men who subsequently volunteered to continue the mission.

Over in India, we have even more testimonies of great men of faith who let their lives do the talking. The Methodist missionary E Stanley Jones once faced a powerful obstacle to the gospel: the belief that all paths lead to the same god. Once during a 20-hour train ride, he actively shared the gospel with a Muslim man. In particular, he shared the Sermon on the Mount with full conviction. The Muslim man stuck to his guns and forced Jones to learn that not every outreach will be fruitful. What is more important is to be faithful. His granddaughter reflected on his life and learned that Jones’s willingness to adapt and to trust God for results in God’s time enabled his ministry to thrive. By not becoming easily discouraged, Jones left a legacy of faith and encouragement for many who came after him. Some of his teachings continue to influence people, including yours truly:
  • “Love me into loving and may I love others into loving.”
  • “Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God.”
  • “If I look in I'll be discouraged. If I look around I'll be distracted. If I look at Jesus I shall have peace.”
  • “If the Holy Spirit can take over the subconscious with our consent and cooperation, then we have almighty Power working at the basis of our lives, then we can do anything we ought to do, go anywhere we ought to go, and be anything we ought to be.” 
As one who had spent a lot of time with the famous Gandhi, Jones famously shared his key tip for evangelism: “When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ.

Christian influence is about letting Christ be the center of our inner lives, the forefront of our outer lives, the background of all our intentions, and at the top of our agendas. The life of Paul was an example of that. Having been brought before King Agrippa on the charge of inciting riots and religious unrest, Paul saw the court not as a place to defend himself but as an opportunity to proclaim Christ! He asked Agrippa to listen to his story, and faithfully declared how his life was turned from prosecutor to proclaimer of Christ. So much so that even Agrippa turned defensive: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 

Paul’s conviction went beyond that. He said aloud: “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 

Go get him, Tiger. 

The best thing a father can ever hear from his son, is to hear that the son wanted to be like his daddy. The sweetest thing anyone doing outreach is to hear a confession for Christ. The most encouraging thing for any Christian living like Jesus, is to have people wanting to be Christians because of the Christ they see in us. Here is the challenge I have for you my readers. When non-believers see us, will they long to join us? Will they want the same kind of faith that you possess? Will they crave to want to know your God? The gospel essentially means “good news” but how many Christians are bearers of good news?

The sweetest thing for me, is that when others see me, they do not want to live like me. They want the Christ I have in me also to be in them.

THOUGHT: “This is a reason for much of the powerlessness of the church today; we have converted men to the church, to our doctrines, to our projects and organizations—to almost anything but Christ Himself.” (Rick Joyner)


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