For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How Do You Smell?

I read about a college student who needed a small two-hour course to fill out his schedule. The only one that fit was in Wildlife Zoology. After only one week of class, and one chapter in the text, the professor announced a test. He passed it out and it was a sheet of paper divided into squares; and in each square was a carefully drawn picture of some bird legs. Not bodies, not feet -- just different birds' legs. The test simply asked them to identify the birds from the pictures of their legs.

Obviously, the star of our story didn't have a clue. After a few minutes of frustration he gave up, stomped up to the front of the classroom, threw the test on the professor's desk, and said, “This is the worst test I have ever seen and this is the dumbest course I have ever taken.”

The professor was obviously displeased and simply said, “Young man, you just flunked the test.” Then the professor picked up the paper, saw that the student hadn't even put his name on the paper, and said, “By the way, young man, what's your name?” At this the student reached down, pulled up his pant legs, revealing his legs, and said, “Why don’t you identify me.”

Now, I would in no way condone the student’s disrespectful behavior, but I can certainly sympathize with his plight.  But I’m sure the point of the teacher’s test was that there are certain identifying characteristics that should have allowed the students to make a determination about the birds, right.  It may have been tough, but there must have been something there; some peculiarity; some distinction that would have given it away.

And the point I’m trying in a round about way to get to is that when it comes to the Christian life, there ought to be some distinctions as well; certain identifying characteristics that should make it easy for others to clearly see that we are followers of Christ. There should be no problem; no need for speculation; it should just be obvious.  The truly devoted follower of Jesus Christ should think differently, act differently, speak differently, live differently and even smell differently than the rest of the world.

Yes, smell.   I toss in the smell part as a bit of a joke sometimes, but there is a certain amount of truth to it, because I base it God’s Word.  Scripture tells us that we are the aroma of Christ; we are a fragrant folk; we are to be scented saints. Others ought to be able to sense the scent of Christ on us, just as our lives ought to also be a pleasing aroma to our God.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 the apostle Paul says we are the aroma of Christ, lead in triumphal procession before the world, spreading the fragrance of Christ.  Now, I won’t go into all the historical information about Roman triumphal processions.  You can Google it.  But as part of those parades, the victorious general would parade his captives in front of the people, along with priests carrying incense. So the victory would be a sensory exhibit before the people, with sights and smells.

And Paul’s point is that we ought to be that sensory exhibit before a watching world, paraded by a victorious Christ.  And that odor we give off is the smell of life to some, and the smell of death to others.

As the smell of life, our lives are fragrant to God in the sense that we are a reminder of His victory.  And to others around us, we are a reminder of that victory as well.  We are to be a reminder to our brothers and sisters of the great victory of Christ.  In short, when we gather together with our brothers and sisters we should give off the air of encouragement to one another; the smell of life.  The smell of Christ in a fellow believer’s life not only helps us identify one another, but encourages and supports and edifies and uplifts.  But it’s not all rosy, if you’ll pardon the pun.  

We are also the smell of death.  This isn’t nearly as an encouraging picture as the first, but it is none the less true.  To those who oppose God and the things of God, those who truly live for Christ are a stench in their nostrils.  We are an unpleasant odor that annoys them.

The sinner is quite happy in his sin, and the last thing he thinks he needs is a smelly Christian pointing out his sin.   The same aroma of Christ that encourages other believers, is a plague to the world living in sin. We are a regular reminder that those outside of the grace of Christ have nothing but death unto death ahead of them.  Physical death and then a final spiritual death which will play out for all eternity in hell. Is it any wonder the sinful world system doesn’t like Christian people? 

And Paul says that God uses us to spread this aroma of Christ, the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.   Everywhere we go, we spread the smell.  Reminds me of the Newsboys song that says: “Wherever we go, bluebirds sing, and the flowers bloom and the grass gets green . . .  Wherever we go, the bees behave, in the treetops squirrels smile and wave . . .Wherever we go, the dumb get wise and the crime rates drop and he markets rise.  Bullies make nice, crooks repent and the ozone layer shows improvement.”

Now obviously there having a little fun exaggerating, but the point still is that wherever we go, we should exude the aroma of Christ, and that will have an impact.  John Calvin writes that “wherever there is a pure and unvarnished proclamation of the gospel, there will be found there the influence of that odor.”

We ought to want to smell of Christ everywhere we go, to let the world know how glorious Christ is, how beautiful He is, how amazing His grace is.  We should want them to breath deeply of His glory and be drawn to Him.  And we do that by being a scented saint; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

So how do you smell? 

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