The Influence of My Life
by Dr. Tom Sexton
Pastor, Gulf Coast Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida
"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself."óRom. 14:7.
When we take our last breath, our opportunity to do something for God will die with us, but our influence will live on.
I believe one reason we do not go immediately to the judgment seat of Christ and receive our rewards is that the impact of our lives is not over until the end and the last trump of God has sounded. Then, when we stand before the judgment seat, we will rejoice over every opportunity God gave us to influence others.
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:16, "That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." He is going to rejoice in his opportunities, also in how the influence of a godly life impacted others.
The Bible tells us that none lives unto himself or dies unto himself. Every person has an influence.
I thank God for every opportunity He gives me; but the most important thing in my life is not the opportunities given but the influence I have on others. One day my life will be over, and I will go Home to be with God, but my influence will live on.
Bible Examples of Influence
The Bible gives us many examples of those who had influence. In Numbers 13 and 14 we read that twelve men were sent to spy out the land. These spies came backóten with a bad report and two with a good report. The ten persuaded the whole congregation to believe their report, thus influencing them to say "no" to God and not to enter the Promised Land. The influence of ten men cost the lives of several hundreds of thousands of people!
There is another example in the New Testament, in Matthew 12:24. The chief priests of Israel and the scribes decided to attribute the miracle-working power of Christ to the power of the Devil. The Lord Jesus had performed mighty miracles to prove that He was God, to demonstrate that He was the Messiah. He knew their thoughts, but they decided they were going to reject the Son of God (John 1). And reject Him they did!
But listen. They not only rejected Christ, they also influenced the whole nation to turn its back on God!
Probably many of the heartaches the Jewish nation has experienced in the last nearly two thousands years are the result of the influence of those ungodly men. And even though they are in Hell today, their influence lives on and still affects the lives of others.
The Bible reminds us, "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself."
Three Men of Influence
In preparing this sermon, I thought of three great men who influenced my life.
I thought about Dr. Bruce Lackey, my beloved Bible teacher who is now with God. Every time I open the Word of God in my study, I think of that godly man and the influence he had on my life to search and dig and have a hunger for the Bible.
I thought about M. J. Parker, a layman in a church, who was never on a church staff. His life influenced many a preacher, many a missionary, and many young men and women. I believe God has blessed my life because of his influence.
I thought about Dr. Curtis Hutson. I pray I never get away from his memory and godly influence upon my life. No doubt Dr. Hutson influenced every young person in this auditorium who heard him preach.
World Uses Influence to Sell
The world understands influence.
I heard this story about Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde wrote Henry Ford at Ford Motor Company saying that whenever he had a chance to steal a car, he preferred a Ford. They have kept that letter on file.
Listening to a Ford advertisement, I heard them read that letter. I thought, That sorry, good-for-nothing rascal died and went to a Devilís Hell (if he died as he lived), and Ford Motor Company is using his influence to sell their cars! Thatís influence!
A picture of Elvis Presley was hanging on the wall of a rib house. He had written on the bottom of the picture, "Thanks for the ribs." His influence was being used to sell ribs! Thatís influence.
Our influence lives beyond the grave. God has given us a great opportunity to build our influence: "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself."
You may take my opportunities from me but not my influence. With influence, God gives me another opportunity. Amen!
I want to give you four important facts about our influence:
I. WE CAN BUILD OUR INFLUENCE
"But if any man love God, the same is known of him."óI Cor. 8:3.
The way you build your influence is simply to live right, to be the kind of Christian God wants you to be. You canít build it overnight, but you can build it. Build the kind of life that God asks of you. Be the kind of Christian who is an example of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When my brother, Dr. Clarence Sexton, preached a message about sinning and rebelling against the Light, it stirred my soul. The Lord is the Light of the world, but a lot of people have rebelled against the Light. You cannot build your influence by rebelling against the light of the Lord.
The Gospel is the glorious light of Christ (II Cor. 4:4). You must not rebel against the light of the Word of God. The Bible says, "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in youÖand teacheth you of all things" (I John 2:27). The Holy Spirit of God is light to a Christian (Eph. 5).
The Christian life is a holy life. Christians are "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). You build your influence when you live in the Light. Too many are rebelling against the standard of Christian living.
God wants men to look a certain way. God wants women to look a certain way. Thatís right! Look right! Dress right!
Young man, young woman, build your influence by living right. When youíre away from the church house, out of sight of your Christian friends, still live right. Women, if you want to build your influence, dress right. The same goes for young men.
Bruce Lackey got up one day in class and said, "Iím shocked at you young men! Preachers should look like preachers; you should wear coats and ties. Iím shocked when I see some of you out trying to serve God and not looking like preachers!"
I said to myself, Iíll never step outside again without being dressed like a preacher ought to be dressed.
Build your influence. We have to live right and to continue to live right all our days. As Bob Jones, Sr., said, "Do right if the stars fall." Just do right! The Bible says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (I Pet. 1:16).
The Devil will attack our influence. He will do more to get us to compromise and to destroy our influence than he will to destroy our opportunities. He launches his attack upon the influence of our lives, because he knows that our influence is greater than our opportunities.
We can build our influence.
II. WE CAN BROADEN OUR INFLUENCE
John 14:12 really stirs my heart: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
The Lord Jesus said that if you have believed on Him, you will do greater works in life than He did! Thatís a powerful statement! What does it mean?
It doesnít mean that weíre going to have more influence than Jesus had; it means we will have more opportunities than He had.
Should the Lord Jesus tarry His coming, there are young men in this auditorium who will preach to more people than Jesus did. There are young people in this auditorium who will go to more earthly lands than Jesus did.
Opportunities will come, but itís our influence that concerns me. We shouldnít content ourselves with meager influence! We need to plan for a great influence with our lives. Broaden it day by day and year by year.
How do we do that? The way to broaden our influence is to identify with right things. Thatís why I like to be identified with the Temple Baptist Church and Crown College. Thatís why I like to be identified with the Sword of the Lord. It helps me to have more influence; it gives me more opportunity to reach people.
Identification helps to broaden our influence; it helps to identify what we are and what we believe. Because of that, we will have more opportunities to preach the Gospel and more opportunities to serve God.
I try to broaden my influence and the influence of our church because I believe the Lord Jesus wants us to do greater works and reach more people.
I challenge you to broaden your influence. Never give up. When you finish your education, thatís not the end. Be identified with the right things so as to build and broaden your influence.
Listen now! God is going to hold us accountable not only for the opportunities He has given us, but we will also be held accountable for our influence. Build it; then broaden it.
III. WE CAN BORROW INFLUENCE
There have been times when I have had to borrow influence.
I took a church in South Carolina that had a lot of problems. I thank God that I went there because I learned a lot of things about serving the Lord. That church had two black eyes, and it needed helpóand I needed help.
I wanted to borrow some influence, so I invited men to speak at our church. I invited my brother. I invited Dr. Curtis Hutson. I invited other great and godly men.
When those good men preached from the pulpit, we, as a church and as a congregation, were able to borrow their influence and to be identified with something. It helped us move out of the mud, out of a poor testimony, to another plane where we could be blessed and used of God.
Iím glad I knew some godly men from whom I could borrow to help us build and broaden our influence.
The Bible says, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple" (Acts 9:26).
You know the story of Saul. He got saved, but nobody trusted him. He wanted to live for the Lord, but he had to borrow some influence. He joined the disciples and borrowed their influence, and God blessed him.
Weíve had opportunity at Gulf Coast Baptist Church in Cape Coral to borrow influence. We went through some problems, heartaches and trouble when we started the church. We had some real difficulties. We went through some dark days and some fires. Now I thank God for it, and Iím glad for it. There were some days when my wife and I knelt down and prayed, and we did not know if we would be able to go on another week.
We had opposition not only from the Devil, but opposition from other churches. It shocked me! Someone said, "A lot of preachers canít tree a coon, but theyíll shoot a dog that can!" And thatís the truth!
We went through some really tough times just because we wanted to see people saved. I thought everybody would be happy when people got saved, but I found out that the Devil didnít like it, and neither did some Christians. All of a sudden we found ourselves in a position where we needed help, and I was glad for borrowed influence.
I asked Dr. Curtis Hutson to be with us on December 5, 1993. We were having great services and seeing people saved. God was blessing, but the opposition was building. We borrowed that godly manís influence. He brought with him not only his life and testimony, but the influence of the Sword of the Lord for revival and soul winning in churches all across America. When he preached the Word of God, Gulf Coast Baptist Church borrowed that influence and moved on to a greater height.
You can borrow influence!
If you are not a member of this church, I challenge you to walk the aisle and join this church when the next invitation is given. You need the influence of this church if you are going to serve God. You need these people. You need the influence of this place if you are going to do something for God with your life.
We tell new Christians and young people at our church to walk the aisle at the first invitation and join the church. They need our influence, they need to broaden their influence, and they need to build on it.
You are not here just to get an education; you are here to build and broaden your influence. In order for God to bless you, you need a tremendous amount of influence. If you come with influence, you can do something for God!
I know Christians who need help. They are going through the fire of heartache. Sometimes they have to borrow our influence.
A young man who got into trouble wanted to get his life right. He said, "I donít know if I can go on."
I said, "Iíll tell you what you can do. You can come to church; you can get your life right with God and hang around me. You can talk to me before and after the services. You can walk in the door with me and walk out the door with me, until you can walk in and leave by yourself. But until you reach that level, I will let you borrow my influence."
I wish that young man had taken advantage of my offer.
Let me also tell you this: Some wicked people want to borrow your influence. Listen now!
IV. WE CAN DESTROY OUR INFLUENCE
"It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment."óProv. 18:5.
Iíve spent years borrowing and building and broadening my influence, but I can destroy the influence of my life very quickly. How? By not protecting it.
One thing this nation needs is righteous judgment. But righteous judgment in America is overthrown when we elect and accept a president who is not righteous. Many things are destroyed when we let that happen.
A business can destroy its influence by not doing things right.
A church can destroy her influence by accepting the person of the wicked.
Christians can destroy their influence by not standing for right.
What if a preacher were critical of my brotherócriticized him and was negative about him, Temple Baptist Church and Crown College?
Letís say I took a meeting with him. (Knowing me, he would never criticize my brother in my presence.) What would other people think about my identifying with a preacher who was critical of my brother? They would have in their camp of criticism the influence of my life. I would strengthen the wicked person by accepting the person of the wicked; and in some aspect, I would overthrow the righteous in judgment!
I challenge you young people: When you leave this place, donít everónot everóaccept the person of the wicked and overthrow the righteous in your life!
It breaks my heart to see young men with whom I went to Bible college, who had opportunities to serve God as independent Baptist preachers but now are pastors of Southern Baptist Convention churches. They took the influence of the school that I attended with them to something that was not right with God, and they overthrew the righteous in judgment by so doing. My life has been hurt; my testimony has been hurt.
Sober up and realize that God holds us accountable for our influence!
I decided a long time ago that I am not going to set foot in a place that is not in tune with God. Iím not preaching on platforms for men who donít believe like we believe. I will not take my influence and put it in that place! I am an old-fashioned, independent, Devil-hating, sin-chasing Baptist! I will not be identified with anything but that!
We live in a compromising day. We will be challenged all of our lives to come and join some kind of group.
I got a letter from a ministerial association in our city. I usually just trash their letters because I am not interested. Iím not mean to them; I just donít mess with them. But this time one of their guys called me and said, "Reverend Sexton, weíre having a meeting of the clergy, and we want you to come."
I said, "Well, Iím not interested in that."
He said, "Let me explain. We want you to bring six of your men (or lady deacons if you have them). We are asking all of the churches in town to bring six of their officers, and all of the pastors and priests are going to cook a meal for them. We will serve them, then mix them around and have a discussion. A group leader will bring the suggestions to the pastors in the meeting and tell us how we can better run the church."
After listening to him for a few minutes, I thought, Now this is interesting! I said to him, "What are you going to do with the suggestions?"
He answered, "We will implement them as quickly as we can."
I said, "I have one problem with that. My Bible tells me how to do it, so Iím not interested in doing it another way!"
Can you imagine what would have happened if I had joined that?
I had the privilege of preaching last year at the National Sword of the Lord Conference. A man I had gone to Bible college with came up to me after the meeting and said, "Brother Tom, Iím so glad youíre here! I was really encouraged by your message. I wonder if you would come and have a soul-winning lecture at my church."
I said, "I would if I could. Where are you?"
He told me where he was and the kind of church he had; it was not independent Baptist.
I said, "Iím sorry, but I canít do that. Iím accountable to too many people with my influence. I canít do it. I will not accept the person of the wicked and overthrow the righteous in judgment in my life."
He didnít understand my answer.
I believe with all of my heart that I must do what I can to build my influence, to broaden my influence, to borrow influence, and to guard my life so I will never break what God has allowed me to build. When I die, my influence will live on and affect other people. I want to stand at the judgment seat of Christ and rejoice that my life was not in vain. I want my life to count for God!
"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself."óRom. 14:7.
Thank God you are identified with the right crowd! Donít ever compromise, and your life will have influence. Build your influence, and God will bless you. Purpose in your heart that you will do everything you can to build your influence in the right way.
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