As a parent, you can tell when your children have been spending time among different influences, even at a young age. Perhaps they begin to use different words, adopt new attitudes, or even like different things. These may be good influences—ending, perhaps, in vegetables eaten, bedrooms tidied, and homework handed in on time. Of course, they may not be so positive!
But have you ever noticed how you and I, as adults, are also shaped—for good or bad—by the people we spend the most time with? Perhaps our influence is a spouse, friend, teammate, or coworker. As the writer of Proverbs warns, it’s not just children who subconsciously imitate others (Prov. 22:24–25).
The Power of Influence
Of course, influences are not necessarily negative. The witness of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin leads the authorities to note their influencer: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Wouldn’t you love to be known through your courageous and countercultural actions as one who had been with Jesus? Click To Tweet
They’re only “unschooled, ordinary men,” yet the company they’ve been keeping has changed them. Wouldn’t you love to be known through your courageous and countercultural actions as one who had been with Jesus?
In Charles Spurgeon’s famous devotional, Morning and Evening, the 19th-century Baptist pastor writes beautifully of three specific traits seen in the lives of those who live near to Jesus: “Thus, there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus—humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to thee, Christian!” Let’s consider each one.
A life lived near to the One who—not in spite of but because of his divinity—humbled himself in love, pouring himself out to death for his people (Phil. 2:5–11), will lead us to lives of humility. Standing next to a Savior who died for us, it’s hard to be proud. Or at least, it ought to be. My problem, and maybe yours too, is that life can quickly become about me. Jesus becomes a shadowy bit-part player on the stage of my life, rather than the hero. Contrary to John the Baptist’s statement of humility (John 3:30), I’m too easily puffed up, acting as if I must become greater as Jesus becomes less.
And yet my Savior’s grace is more powerful than my pride. The miraculous wonder is that, in his abundant grace, the Lord comes near to us and humbles us (James 4:6a; 8a; 10). By the Spirit’s good work, being near Jesus can’t help but make us humble.
Followers of Jesus ought to be those who are happy—we should be people marked by rejoicing! Think of Paul in his letter to Philippi, bubbling over with joy despite opposition and pain.
I’m not discounting life’s frustration and brokenness, our need for heartfelt, honest lament, and our longing for the hope of Christ’s return. Yet, because we know the eternal Word made flesh, because we have sins forgiven and reconciliation with the God who made us and for whom we were made, we can be truly happy. Even in the worst of times, we get to enjoy the triune God who holds all things together. We get to commune with the Creator of the universe! Nearness to Christ transforms our perspective.
It’s always been God’s plan for his people to show a cynical world what he is like. We’re not supposed to blend in. Being holy is not optional; it really matters. Being holy literally means to be set aside for a purpose. It means that whoever we are, wherever we are, and whatever we’re doing, we can be different from the world and of great use to our Father. As we increasingly look like him, we become increasingly attractive, revealing ever more of our God’s beauty. Holiness—which grows in proximity to our holy Savior—brings with it such dignity and privilege.Being holy is not optional; it really matters. Click To Tweet
Are We Drawing Near?
“Thus, there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus—humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to thee, Christian.”
I’ve loved reflecting on those sentences from Spurgeon over the past few weeks, but I have to be honest—I often lack humility, happiness, and holiness. Reflecting on this leads me to ask whether there’s enough “nearness to Jesus” in my life. Perhaps my frequent activity and activism, or my often-shallow prayer life accounts for my stunted growth? What does this say about my priorities? Why is it that pride, grumpiness, and compromise can all too often characterize me?
Humility, happiness, and holiness shrivel when we’re influenced more by the world around us than by Jesus. We must intentionally strive to turn our eyes upon our Savior, gaze upon him, and draw near to him in faith.
Let’s take the time to consider and repent. We often don’t live near to our beautiful Savior in daily life—we’re too busy, too distracted, too self-sufficient. May our dear Lord Jesus, by his Spirit, slow us down and draw us close to himself, that he might shape and mold us to become more like him.