June 25, 1996
A recent issue of TIME magazine features an article identifying twenty-five of America’s most influential people. The lead person is Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics and a man with a vision of what the Internet can become and who developed of a software program (Netscape) that is making that vision a reality.
Others on the list include comedian Jerry Seinfeld, jazz musician Wynston Marsalis, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and author-speaker Stephen Covey. A shorter article goes on to describe the most powerful people in America. That list includes Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
Unfortunately, TIME left someone off their list. Thousands, perhaps millions of Americans know Him as the most significant change-producer, not only in their lives but for all eternity.
For example, Franklin Graham would put Jesus Christ at the top of the list. Franklin is the son of Billy Graham (who should have been on TIME’s list too). While growing up, his parents tried to influence him to choose Christ but Franklin had a mind of his own. For years, he resisted them and resented countless people who assumed he would take over his father’s ministry.
Franklin’s attitude was changed while running an errand in the Middle East for his father. He met two missionary women and through them, was encountered by Jesus Christ. From that time on, the direction of his life changed. Franklin now preaches the Gospel he resisted, even in the pulpit of his father during a recent Billy Graham Crusade in Australia.
Christ definitely has power to change lives in a way no other person can. Without Him, we are helpless to make God-pleasing changes. Romans 3 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Without Christ’s influence, we would not even seek God.
The Bible can make such strong condemnations against humanity because God’s standard of goodness far exceeds anything we call good. Sin has damaged our perception. We do not know God nor have the capacity to reflect His image as we should. We may think we can do it alone, but we cannot. We need a power outside ourselves and stronger than our resistance. We need an influence that tugs at our hearts and draws us away from our independence, pulling us to God.
For that, we must have a power that can give us new life through a spiritual birth. We need to be new creatures. Only Christ does that. When He influences a life, He enters the heart and mind, sufficiently and permanently changing the way we think and act.
2 Peter says: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
As individuals who supposedly have minds of our own, we are pushed and pulled from all directions. There is no end to influences. TIME left out art, music, media, advertising and a host of environmental and social factors. They also left out the inner pressure, that which 2 Peter calls “evil desires” within our own hearts.
Powerful men and women, our environment, and sin are tremendous shapers of behavior. However, Christians have another choice. We are influenced by our Lord and Savior. For us, the power of people like Jim Clark, or sin, or any other thing is not nearly so compelling. We know by faith and by experience that Christ alone can influence us for good and for God. He take us in a positive direction and can even make us a positive influence in the lives of others.