13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
In my first assignment as a pastor an circumstance arose where we had to make a decision without the benefit of a face to face meeting. I called each member who had a vote and explained the situation. Two of the individuals said they would vote according to what a prominent member's vote was. I was a little flabbergasted to say the least. In reflecting on the experience later I realized how much like sheep we are. We follow leaders. For some their leader is a parent or a respected sibling or a respected pastor or community leader. Manipulators know that if they can sway a leader they can gain a whole sector of support.
As the liberating, course altering, tradition testing truth of Jesus came to that synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia a resistance built up against it. Statistics tell us that in any group about 15% are always resistant to anything new. Another 15% are open to new things. The other 70% take the "wait and see" approach. This leaves the two groups at either end of the spectrum fighting for the support of the 70% in order to gain the majority and have their will prevail. Those resisting Paul and Barnabas knew they needed support. They had to find a way to get the majority on their side. How did they do it? They stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city. As patriarchal as that culture was apparently they knew how to use women when it was convenient. They also knew which women and which men to go after. If they could sway the respected ones, the rest would follow.
Whether you like it or not you are a person of influence. Your circle of influence may be large or small but it exists. Satan has mounted a resistance against God. He is looking for support. He is looking to sway everyone against the liberating, course altering, tradition testing, wall demolishing, border burning truth of Jesus. To succeed he must gain support. Wherever truth surfaces he must find ways to snuff it out.
Look at the election process in the United States right now. Each candidate is looking for endorsements from other key leaders. Look at how much ink was spilled when Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump. Gaining or losing the support of other key leaders is a big deal. The support of Bernie Sanders for Hillary Clinton was seen as crucial for uniting their cause. These are big moments in a campaign for supremacy because each influential voice brings with it a group of followers.
Parents your children are watching and listening. Teachers the same goes for you. Pastors, police officers, community leaders, politicians, anyone who has any position that causes others to look to you for any reason has influence. It may be coworkers or friends. All of us have a level of influence and Satan is seeking a way to sway you against Christ so that others will see and hear and follow.
I want to encourage you not to be a follower. Hear and see and decide for yourself. Don't hand your vote to someone to do your thinking for you. In all of human history there is only One Jesus. The evidence is clear. His character stands far apart even from the characters of His followers. Examine Him for yourself. Don't permit a prominent woman or a chief man to blind you to Him.
Note that the disciples who brought the truth of Jesus to that region left with Joy. They did not have joy because they were legally made to leave. They left with joy knowing that no legislation could prevent the person of Jesus from occupying the hearts of those who openly received Him. The one place you will always be free is inside your own person. Let a Jesus live there and rejoice no matter how the world reacts to Him. No one can take Him from you.