BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
We can only become Godly; we cannot become God. We cannot become Jesus Christ; we can only be like Christ. In our interactions with people and vice versa, there is the possibility of changing other people we are associated with, and the same set of people can change our perspective and perceptions. We have to be very careful that we do not allow others to change us negatively.
In Jeremiah 15, because of the suffering of Jeremiah in the hands of his persecutors and hatred everywhere he went, he accused God of not helping him. Evidently, the way the people of Judah treated him influenced him negatively. Consequently, Jeremiah spoke worthless words, and God asked him to repent if he must be restored to his office as a prophet.
God warned Jeremiah not to allow the people of Judah to influence him negatively. “The LORD replied, ‘If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak words that are worthy, you will be my spokesman. You are to influence them; do not let them influence you!’” (Jeremiah 15:19 NLT).
You must influence people positively; do not let them influence you negatively. If you do not take precautions, you may be surprised how much the people you interact with have changed you. It will amaze you that you have become a different person. Anyone who denies the possibility of being influenced negatively by the people he interacts with is only deceiving himself, and he will reap the fruit of self-delusion.
I want to share with you how people can change you negatively so that you can protect yourself and avoid becoming who you did not plan and desire to become.
In your Christian walk, you must recognize what are your distractions – do not let anything and anyone change you negatively. “Jesus said, ‘No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day’” (Luke 9:62 The Message). Focus on Christ and shun anything He disapproves of.
How people can change you negatively
1.People can change you through their instructions and teachings. Just as it is possible for you to change a person positively through instructions and teachings, it is also possible to change a person negatively through the same. Follow only godly instructions and teachings. Paul says in 1Corinthians 11:1, “I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, and that you are following the teachings I passed on to you” (NLT). What Paul’s statement means is that the Corinthian Christians would not be the same person they used to be because they followed his teachings. If they did not follow his teachings, they would have remained the same. Suppose Paul’s teachings were evil, he would have succeeded in influencing them negatively, because the same principle applied to the impact that both godly, and evil teachings and instructions could have on the people. Thank God that Paul’s teachings and instructions were of God – they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Beware of the instructions and teachings you receive and follow. Your life cannot remain the same – negatively or positively. Your life cannot turn out right if you listen to wrong or bad instructions and teachings. If you have a bad coach, you cannot amount to much in life. Do not let the devil’s agents be your instructors and teachers.
2. People can change you by their examples. Instructions and teachings are very powerful, but examples are even much more powerful. And this applies to both positive and negative ones. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (NLT). The principle from that scripture is that whatever you behold you become – both negative and positive. You will become the example you have set before yourself, or that is set before you and you are patterning your life after. It will never fail. If you have a bad example, your life will turn out bad. Therefore, if you want your life to turn out well, you must look away from all bad examples, around and before you, and focus on godly examples to imitate.
3 John 11 says, “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (NLT).
Paul considered himself an example, good enough to be emulated, and said, in 1 Corinthians 4:15-16, “For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. So I urge you to imitate me” (NLT).
What he was saying to the Corinthian church is that it is not every example that they could emulate. The same thing he told the Philippian Christians. “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth” (Philippians 3:17-19 NLT).
Anyone who follows such people in this verse will end with them in the same destruction. However, Hebrews 6:12 advises us to follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. If people will not change you negatively, you must follow God and godly examples. Imitate God and not the devil – there are people that represent both on the earth. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (NLT).
In 1Thessalonians 1:6, Paul also asked the Thessalonian Christians to imitate him and the LORD. If you will imitate God, and those who are godly examples, you cannot ever look like the devil – you will become like God. Do not forget that whatever you behold you become.
Wrong examples are patterns of life that are not in agreement with the Word of God. On the other hand, Godly examples have patterns of life that agree with the Word of God.
The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith” (Hebrews 13:7 NLT).
Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:27-28 NLT). He says again in John 12:26: “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me” (NLT).The question is: who are you following? Are they following Jesus? If they are not following the examples of Jesus, they cannot help you become like Jesus. Stop following examples that are not patterned after Christ. They will change you by the influences that they exert on you. Disconnect from such persons. “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2Timothy 2:22 NLT).
3. People can change you by their criticisms, comments and opinions. Sometimes, the greatest critic of a successful person is a failure! Some critics are envious of your progress, boldness and success. However, the truth is that you do not need everybody’s approval or opinion to succeed in life. Those who cannot stand negative criticisms and opinions of men often change – they want to please others and that means they will keep changing. Such persons will never become who God wants them to be, because they will be changing endlessly to become other people.
If you are fond of seeking people’s validation, you may end up a failure in life because people, out of envy, may never give you a fair and objective feedback you desire. In addition, their criticisms, comments and opinions may be such that will discourage you and make you quit, though you may just be on the right track.
Critics, commentators and opinion writers, are not always right! They may have a right to freedom of expression, but you also have a right to follow your convictions! Let us, again, learn this from Paul. “But then something happened! For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy! Then he revealed his Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When all this happened to me, I did not rush out to consult with anyone else; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. No, I went away into Arabia and later returned to the city of Damascus” (Galatians 1:15-17 NLT).
Writing on the danger of criticism, Paul says, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval” (Romans 14:4 NLT). Those condemning you can change you negatively if you listen to them. That is not to say that you are perfect. No one is perfect, including your critics and evaluators. The good thing is that even if their criticisms are true, but it is in bad spirit, there is no criticism of you that they want to make that God does not know already! Why are they writing the conclusion about your life when God is not yet finished with you? Negative criticisms, comments and opinions can cripple a person; do not let them cripple you.
4. People can change you by their lies, enticements and inducements. Many people have been changed by believing lies. They started acting the lies they were told, enticements placed before them and inducements dangled before them. Proverbs 1:10 says, “My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!” (NLT). Anyone who falls for enticement will change negatively. In actual fact, that is the objective of the enticer.
In 1 Kings 13, the young prophet was lured by the old prophet to act contrary to the Word of God by following him back home to eat. He told him a lie – presented a lie as the Word of God. The young prophet, who would not take anything from the king he had prophesied against, changed because the old prophet deceived him to do what he had said he would not do. He died prematurely because of this.
In Judges 16, Samson was enticed by Delilah to reveal the secret of his power, thus making it possible for the enemy to violate the oath of his consecration as a Nazarene.
Be careful of the lies, enticements, and inducements of people to change you negatively. In Colossians 2:4, Paul underscores the possibility of people being changed through well-crafted arguments. “I’m telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.” Many have fallen victim of such deceit. “A violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him in a way that is not good” (Proverbs 16:29 NKJV). Lies, enticements and inducements of men will not only change you, but can also put you in chains like it did the young prophet and Samson. Do not let men change you negatively; do not let them chain you!
5. People can change you negatively by their offences, provocations and persecutions. Men’s offences against you, their provocations and persecutions can provoke you to react in a way contrary to your usual self. Such reactions can turn you to who you are not. You are behaving in a way that you know is not the real you. Do not let men’s negative actions make you react negatively. Control yourself.
In Matthew 11, Jesus did not take offence at the question asked by John the Baptist when he was in prison. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the Messiah, or they should expect another one. Jesus simply told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me’” (verses 4-6 NLT).
Somebody else would have been annoyed and reacted negatively. Rather, Jesus went ahead to speak glowingly of John. He said John was a prophet, but more than a prophet, adding, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” (Verse 11). Jesus did not allow Himself to be changed negatively by John’s question, which was a contradiction of what John himself had said earlier before his incarceration. He had, before being thrown into prison, introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).
Persecution will come, but you must not allow it to change you. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (NLT). Jesus told His disciples in Mark 10:29-30 that everyone who had given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property for His sake and for the Good News would receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property along with persecution. Please take note of the phrase at the end of that last sentence – along with persecution. Whenever persecution comes, do not let it change you. Revelation 14:12 says, “Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus” (NLT).
Paul said he took pleasure in his weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that he suffered for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10). Did you see that? He took pleasure in persecutions and other negative experiences. He did not allow bitterness; he did not allow these negative experiences to change him negatively.
For instance, when he was beaten together with Silas in Acts 16, he was not complaining and angry at God for causing him to suffer, like a criminal because of the preaching .the Gospel. The Bible says, “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (verse 25 NLT). That means they prayed and sang loud enough for other prisoners to hear. Of course, the LORD responded with a great earthquake! The end of the story was that Paul and Silas, who had earlier been disgraced, were released with honour and dignity after being apologized to – in fact, they were begged by the authorities to leave the city.
6. People can change you by their commendation and flattery. Commendation is positive; flattery is negative. Commendation has to do with praise for a good work done. Flattery involves exaggerated praise. Do not meditate upon flattery. Do not let commendation or flattery give you a false sense of importance. Do not become proud thinking of yourself more highly than you are, and that does not mean you despise yourself.
Do not believe people’s flattery that you are the best thing that has ever happened, or it is either you or nobody else. It is a lie. Do not engage in comparison – it is one sure way to unhappiness in life. There is always somebody better than you. Nonetheless, you are also better than some people. Better still, you are GOOD – God created you good. So find your true value in God, not in comparison with others. Paul said, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 KJV).
Nobody is indispensable in the Gospel ministry, business, profession or any human endeavour. Those who are flattering you have an ulterior motive. Do not listen to their flattery. Do not be like Herod. “Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, ‘It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!’ Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died” (Acts 12:20-23 NLT).
Receive any commendation with humility. Let God make you big; do not begin to act bigger than you truly are. Your response to praise is a test of your character. “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised” (Proverbs 27:21 NLT).
Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattering words cause ruin” (NLT). God hates flattery because of the negative consequences it can have on the recipient. Flattery has the capacity to corrupt the person it is targeted at. “Those who doeth wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery” (Daniel 11:32 KJV).
Consider anyone flattering you as your enemy; he will ruin you. So be careful that you do not begin to act strangely because of their flattery meant to boost your ego. David said, “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery” (Psalm 5:9 NLT).
Your enemies cannot be far different from these enemies of David. Flattery is one of the subtle weapons of the enemy that will cause a person to begin to act strangely in arrogance. It will cause a person to be proud. Do not develop a big head because of what people are saying to you or about you. A flatterer has no credibility so do not believe him. Therefore, you must know how to avoid such people or when impossible you should know how to deal with their flattery. Proverbs 6:24 says, “[For the commandment is a lamp] to keep thee from evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman” (KJV). May the LORD cut off every flattering lips that seeks to change you to what God has not destined you to be (Psalm 12:3).
7. People can change you by their abuse. Abuse is defined as the use of something in a way that is wrong and harmful, unfair, cruel, or violent treatment of somebody.
Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28 say you should pray for them that despitefully use you – cruel to you. That tells us that human beings do not always relate properly with others. They abuse or misuse others, either because they feel they are at present disadvantaged or they are superior to them. Such abused may turn out a negatively changed person. Their self-esteem is often bruised, and they are emotionally injured– they usually require emotional healing to be made whole again.
It is strange that a human being can subject a fellow human being to abuse, just because he has relative power over him. Even God, who is the All-powerful, does not abuse humans that He created in His own image. “God is mighty, but he does not despise anyone! He is mighty in both power and understanding” (Job 36:5 NLT).
It is possible for superiors in the workplace, ministry, business, school, etc. to abuse their subordinates. Many subordinates have been called good-for-nothing, failures, empty, and they have come to accept such negative labels. That is a lie of the devil! If you are such a victim, never allow anyone to describe you from his or her small mind! You are too big for such a mind! They are myopic! Because they cannot see your glorious future, they are describing you by your present state in life.
Begin to see yourself through the prism of the Word of God and not their myopic eyes. Your destiny is great in God. They may abuse you, nevertheless, see yourself better than the negative treatment. Paul had to tell Timothy not to allow anyone to despise his youth (1 Timothy 4:12).
Conclusion: If you connect some of the points I have discussed, that means you should not allow yourself to be flattered or be immature in receiving commendation such that it results in pride. You also must not allow anyone to treat you in a way that makes you feel useless about yourself. You are not a nobody; you are somebody! You must have a robust, healthy self-esteem deeply rooted in God’s love for you. Stop looking for people’s validation or commendation. Do not be troubled by their criticisms, but extract what is true from the criticisms and make necessary adjustments.
Do not be moved by their commendation; do not respond to their flattery. What is most important is you knowing who you are in God and becoming who God wants you to be.
Do not let anyone’s behavior or actions or inaction transform you to a creature different from what God’s Word expects of you. Do not deny the ability of people to influence you to behave in certain ways even without you knowing it. It could be unobtrusive.
That is why you must reflect on your behaviour regularly and compare it to the Word of God and honestly adjust your life wherever you notice discrepancies. That is what the Bible calls renewal of your mind which is an on-going process till Jesus will come. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).
If you are not born again, you need to make yourself ready for eternity. I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life.*As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible -teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing and Bible teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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