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My Eternal Influence

previously published in June 2004

Phone call
“Hello?” T. answered the phone.
“Hey T., it’s me. How are you?” I smiled.
“Wow! Jed? Is that you? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
“Yeah, well, you know how things go.”
I hadn’t been associating with a group of my friends recently. I had made progressive decisions where I could not associate with them in the same way I used to. Still, the last time I met with T., I gave T. a personalized copy of THE GREAT CONTROVERSY.
“Anyhow, I was just wondering if you had any time this evening?” I ventured.
“Why? Did you want to get together or something?” T. sounded cautious.
“Actually, that’s what I was hoping for, if that’s okay.” I paused, “Are you alright? There’s trepidation in your voice.”
“Ugh, you’re too darn perceptive,” T. groaned.
“Well, it’s not like you’re a complete stranger to me, T. Come on; tell me, what is it?”

Flashback
I met T. five years ago. T. was one of those people who knew someone I knew and we all happened to go out together one Friday night. Yes, you heard me right. A Friday night; this would technically make it Sabbath, especially for us Seventh-day Adventists and Jews.
There was a point in my life when Christianity, much less evangelism, took an extremely low (if not non-existent) priority in my life. Despite my godly parents and upbringing, after leaving the nest and venturing into the world, I found myself conforming to the world instead of standing up in it. 1
T., like the myriads of people I associated with, vaguely knew I was a Christian of some sort – I didn’t talk about it much – at least a strange sort if not a normal one. It was of the sort that influenced my diet to be vegetarian and explained my attempts to attend the 11:00 church service on a Saturday morning after a night of revelry.
My church attendance was a shabby veneer over my empty spiritual life. The true religiosity I displayed was in going out six nights a week – not in any Bible reading or prayer or personal evangelism.2
I don’t really remember the first time I “broke the Sabbath” or “engaged in debauchery.” However, I still vividly recall the beat my heart skipped when T. and a few others asked, “Isn’t this against your religion or something?”
Almost inaudibly, I’d mutter, “Aw, it’s not a big deal,” and with casuistry say in my mind, “at least, not to me.”
After all, the only person affected was me. How could my personal spiritual life, or lack thereof, have any bearing on T. or others?

Holy Place
Being born into a Seventh-day Adventist home predisposed me to certain things: of these, one was the education in Biblical truths. Very much like the Jews of old, I knew how to prove Biblically what day was the Sabbath; what the Sanctuary service was all about, etc. But knowing it and living it are two very different things.
James tells us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”3  And later, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”4  Was I convicted? Was there something I knew to do but did not do? To answer, allow me to use Sanctuary’s Holy Place.
When we look at the Sanctuary service,5  we see within the Holy Place three things:
1. the table of shewbread6 
2. the altar of incense7
3. the seven-branched candelabra8
See how the bread represents the Word of God. The incense represents our prayers. And the candlesticks, our witness. As in our physical life, it is essential for us to eat, breath and exercise; as Christians, to have a Holy Place experience, we must read the Bible, pray and witness. If even one component is missing, we are living an unhealthy spiritual life.
Thus, if I am not actively involved in personal evangelism, or soul-winning, more than likely, I’m neither reading my Bible nor praying. Rhetorically put, how can I exercise if I don’t eat or breathe? But, you protest, it’s not fair to equate active personal evangelism as indicative of a healthy spiritual life. But consider, what happens if all I do is eat and breathe? So too, many of us have become spiritually obese. To be physically healthy, regular exercise is important. Likewise, spiritual exercise or witnessing is paramount as well.
As a child, I sang in Sabbath School, “Read your Bible, pray everyday…, and you’ll grow, grow, grow?” While the lyrics don’t include the witnessing component, it should be self-evident that when I read my Bible and pray everyday, I will naturally be inclined to share this experience with others. Allow me to illustrate:
Remember meeting that wonderful, significant other? How excited were you to tell your family and friends about this beautiful person? It’s probably a safe bet to assert that some of your family and friends were rather tired of how much you gushed on and on about this significant other. In many respects, our love relationship with God should be the same way. Communicating and maintaining a relationship with God is essentially accomplished by reading the Bible and prayer. Should I do these, I’ll “gush” about God to others – naturally, automatically.

Postlude
I waited for T. to speak. The lengthy silence was broken by the barrage of words demonstrating confusion and acrimony.
“Well, to be honest, you’re not the same Jed I used to know. The Jed I knew used to…” and the descriptions of various activities flowed.
“Lately, however, you’ve been acting different. You don’t hang out with us anymore,” T. demanded, “What gives? Is it that religion of yours? What’s changed? I mean, it’s not like your religion prevented you from doing all that stuff before, right?”
I admitted sheepishly, “Back then, I wasn’t really living righteously. If you’d like, I’m willing to talk about it though.”
“Well, if you want to meet with me to share stuff about your religion,” T. continued, “I really don’t want any of that. To be honest, I’m bothered by all the hypocrisy that you Christians have.”9
And though that was pretty much the end of our conversation, I continued – deeply pensive, slightly agitated. Was T. the only person I may have turned off from Christ because of how I used to be? All the things in life that I discounted, claiming, “Aw, it really doesn’t matter.” When I wasn’t actively in God’s service, whose service was I in? God forgive me for my past! And as I continue to live, help me live a life that calculates what kind of eternal influence I am exerting on those I come in contact with.
A poignant church sign reads, “Witness for Jesus everyday, use words if necessary.” Everything I do has an eternal influence.

1“As disciples of Christ we shall not mingle with the world from a mere love of pleasure, to unite with them in folly. Such associations can result only in harm. We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. Wherever we go, we are to carry Jesus with us, and to reveal to others the preciousness of our Saviour.” White, Ellen G., THE DESIRE OF AGES, p. 152.
2  These three components to a healthy spiritual life will be discussed later.
3  James 1:22 (ESV)
4  James 4:17 (ESV)
5  “The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative Judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God.” White, Ellen G., THE GREAT CONTROVERSY, p. 488.
6  Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5:6; Exodus 40:4
7  Exodus 30:1-5; Exodus 40:5
8  Exodus 25:31-40; Leviticus 24:2-4; Numbers 8:2; Exodus 40:4
9  Please pray for T., who recently emailed me, “I do have to say you are a brave, brave man for giving me that book. I hope it will help me understand you better.”


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