Influencers have always been around. Human society has always had those among us, who for whatever reason, seem to have a disproportionate amount of weight given to their choices, opinions, actions and words. With the advent of social media, these have actually been given this very title – “Influencers.” The internet especially, (but in reality all media) is rife with them. They appear as spokespersons for everything from computers and cars to underwear and lipstick. They hold sway regarding medical advice, political positions, social movements, local, regional, national and global events – you name it.
We’ve been getting here for a long time. 1960 marked the first ever televised Presidential debate. It was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. And it is no secret that in the analyses of that debate, far and away those who saw it televised said Kennedy was the clear winner. Conversely, those who only listened by radio, far and away said Nixon won handily. And the phenomenon of media influencers was fully born.
Now why any of us choose to listen to one influencer over another is far more complex than I could even pretend to analyze. For some, it is pure personality. For others, real or supposed credentials. For still others, communication skills. There may even be such basic factors as haircuts, clothing, tattoos, vocal accents, and recommendations from others. But the point is, you and I choose who it is we listen to. Opinions and viewpoint to do not come to us magically abstractly or in isolation. For our own reasons, conscious or not, we give weight to the opinions, to certain ones WE choose. With this qualification – Scripture tells us of an invisible and ubiquitous influencer in Ephesians:”And although you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the domain of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:1-3 NET)
Now I hope you really got that. Before men or women are born again, we are influenced by the prevailing “atmosphere” of this world. An atmosphere – a thought-context – directly influenced by the enemy of God. A tide of sometimes differing but always prevailing waves of social thought and opinion which are thoughtfully directed at baiting us by ever appealing to our personal desires. Be those merely physical pleasure, or more intellectual, material or emotional.
It isn’t until we are set free by the saving grace of Jesus Christ that we can finally choose to be influenced otherwise. And make no mistake, here is one of the most important places where the renewed will of the redeemed individual finds its freedom and responsibility; To consciously reject the thought processes we used to live in without consideration. To choose to be influenced more by the Word of God, and the newly birthed influences of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, which is always drawing us toward holiness and seeking after the plans, purposes and glory of God in Christ.
If I might co-opt a text out of context but with no less reasonable application “choose this day whom you will serve.” (Josh. 24:15b) The Christian alone gets to make this choice. Those born again by the Spirit of God are the only ones among humankind who have the option to choose who and what influences our choices, opinions, desires and values most – with their eternal implications. And the choice is totally binary. We either choose the Word and Spirit of God, or we choose to listen to the spirit of the World. There is no third option. Freedom in Christ isn’t “freedom” to live as though we can trust ourselves as the arbiters of what is good or best – but the freedom to be given over to the truth of Scripture versus the influences of the World or our own reasoning, and the influences of The Spirit over and above our natural inclinations.
Make no mistake – you are constantly under pressure to be influenced. But as a Christian, it is your privilege and responsibility to choose who influences you. Who and/or what will it be? Will you have your mind transformed by the washing of the water of The Word? Or will you just go along without it? If you choose The Word, then you will have to give yourself over to the consistent, systematic, prayerful study of it according to sound principles of interpretation. You will have to let it inform your opinions and understanding above your own or the World’s. You will have to submit to it. Otherwise, you will be, as Paul writes: “children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.”