The Scent of a Christianby Ed de la Cour on May 5, 2015
2 Corinthians 2: 12 – 17
April 26, 2015
“THE SCENT OF A CHRISTIAN”
Do you realize that God is at work in your life today? God is working in your life, working even through the circumstances of your life, as difficult and as painful as they may be. In fact, when we as a church start feeling down and depressed about all that isn’t going as we had hoped, do you realize that, even so, God is doing a mighty work in our church? Even though we struggle financially, even though we have a hard time doing all the things we want to be able to do in our ministry, God is still doing above and beyond all that we can imagine!
In the passage we just read, Paul stated that he obediently obeyed God’s invitation to travel to Troas to preach the Gospel. He was responsive to God. He did what God asked him to do. In fact, Paul said, “the Lord had opened a door for me.” That’s a real and fertile opportunity to preach the Gospel that opened up for him. Paul stood on the verge of ministry success in Troas. He said, though, that he was troubled in his spirit. He had“no peace of mind” because he did not find Titus among the believers there. Apparently, Paul really needed to have Titus with him. He felt the presence of this friend and brother was essential to his ministry. His absence made staying in Troas untenable. Like Paul, we often lose our peace of mind because a situation develops that we find impossible. Titus was important to Paul, and his not being there was disruptive to Paul’s sense of well-being.
Even so, and even though Paul was unsettled, God was at work. Even though you are living through setbacks in your life, even though you are living through what you perceive to be negative experiences, God has not abandoned you. God has not forgotten you. God is working out His purpose in your life. God is accomplishing His will for your life. Philippians 1: 6 says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The mature Christian knows this truth. The mature Christian finds his rest in God, but the immature believer will tremble in fear. The underdeveloped believer does not know if God will sustain his life or if everything might be lost. The mature Christian knows he carries “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” who saved us. Even though you are struggling just to have peace of mind, even though your life is not going the way you’d expected or the way you hoped, God is still working.
Paul says that even though he was disturbed in not finding Titus, nevertheless, he made a point of saying God “always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” God leads the church the same way God led Paul. The life-altering truth behind this passage will impact your life. Life is not all about you and it’s not all about me; life is all about Jesus.
The triumphal procession God is leading does not celebrate you and me. God is not dancing around because we are awesome. This parade has one purpose and it is to praise Jesus, and to exalt Him before the world. This procession is to rejoice in His finished work. It is a celebration of the millions who have been released from the dominion of the devil because the blood of Jesus was shed for them. The wrath of God against their sin was fully and finally satisfied. That’s what God has done in Christ and we are His trophies.
We are so caught up in our own stories. We are distracted by our own troubles and sorrows. Our busyness makes us focus on ourselves. We are completely consumed by our own selfish concerns and desires, but in the Church of Jesus Christ we are set free. As I relate to others, as we minister to others, we are helped to realize that life is larger than me, and it’s larger than you.
Are we important? Certainly we are important to God; after all, we are in the parade! We are in that triumphal procession. Every day God is leading us in victory! Think about that! We are among the millions who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. That procession speaks to the fact that God is using every single one of us in every single way and in every single day to spread the Good News of redemption, the Good News of forgiveness, and of the transcendent love of God. As we march along in life and in triumphal procession, we are more and more aware that this life is larger and about so much more than just my story. The story of our redemption in Jesus Christ is as long as human history and it is as deep and wide as the Kingdom of God.
This is a very different procession than the kind we might see marching down Main Street. As participants in this parade, God uses you and me to spread “everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” There is something palpable about the presence of God in the life of a person who is trusting in Him. Paul says it’s a fragrance. He says it’s an aroma that brings the presence of Jesus home.
Whenever you are traveling around the area you will see signs for all kinds of businesses. Since we all enjoy food, let’s think about restaurants. Here’s an Italian restaurant, there’s a steak house, and around the corner there’s a Chinese restaurant. If you close your eyes, you can tell where you are because of the cooking aromas that surround each place. Every restaurant gives off a distinctive smell. If that smell is unappetizing to you, you are repulsed. But, if the smell stimulates your hunger, you’re drawn in to enjoy a meal.
When I was a boy, our home had a kitchen fan that Dad installed. When Mom was cooking dinner, you could stand outside and know what was being prepared. I’ve never been able to duplicate the way my Mom made a roast pork, but the aroma that was pulled through the fan, the aroma that wafted to the outside, made my brother and me stand by the back door, just waiting impatiently for supper. We suffered the same fate when she was making spaghetti sauce, but not so much when she was cooking liver.
It’s the smell that helps create the appetite. It’s the aroma of cooking bacon that absolutely makes breakfast what it is. It’s the aroma of wonderful food deliciously prepared that causes us to be attracted to the dinner table. It’s the smell that creates the appetite. It’s the fragrance; it’s the aroma of Christ that causes people to hunger for His presence and His love in their lives.
That simple truth helps us more easily understand what the Bible means in our preaching text today. Paul is saying we are like mobile restaurants, if you will. We are carrying around with us the scent of Jesus. It’s a fragrance you can’t help but carry. If you are trusting in Jesus with your life, you exude the fragrance of His presence.
The scent of a Christian is Jesus. It’s not so much a smell as it is a sensation, as it is a sense. When you visit someone’s home and you sense there is tension or upset in that house, or you sense a nice comfortableness about the place. You might not be able to put your finger on exactly what prompted your awareness, but there it is. The scent, the sense of what’s real, of what is in the air when you enter a room, a home, or come into the presence of another person. There is the fragrance of God in the lives of His people. The fragrance of Jesus is the scent of a Christian.
“The fragrance of the knowledge of Him” is not Bible trivia, not little known facts, or verses memorized, or doctrines understood and correctly espoused. It is “knowing” Jesus. Knowing Jesus has an effect on the believer and on the Church to which the believer belongs. We know this is a church thing, because of the language Paul used. He never said “I” or “me” when talking about this triumphal procession or about the aroma of Christ. Instead, Paul used the inclusive language of “us” and “we,” meaning the Church, the Body of Christ, you and me. It says we are to God the aroma of Christ. We smell good to Him!
In verse 15, Paul speaks a hard truth. He says there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who are being saved and there are those who are perishing. The truth is every one of the people who are being saved used to be among those who are perishing. In John 5: 24, Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” By the knowledge of Christ, you went from perishing to living. You were moved out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. It is by knowing Jesus that you were transferred out of death and into life. That’s what Colossians 1: 13 says: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” The fragrance of your life now speaks of God’s life, and no longer is there the smell of death about you. You’re alive to God!
And so, those who are being saved have the fragrance of life. It is an aroma those who are seeking God, those who are hungry for God, find irresistible. Those who are perishing find that aroma of life repulsive. They cannot abide in its presence. To us, that aroma speaks life, but to them it smells of death. There is a smell of decay and decomposition that is undeniable. Those who are perishing actually seem to prefer death to life because we smell like death to them. Let me ask you, does your life give off the fragrance of the life of Jesus, or the stench of death?
Death is the consequence of sin. Romans 6: 23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” We die because we sin and we die because our father Adam sinned. Death touches us all and it is inescapable. Every person in every community and in every nation on earth is engulfed by the prospect of death. It is into that context and into that frame of reference that the Church of Jesus Christ comes bringing the fragrance of the life of God.
Truthfully, every morning we get up and enter into life. Every day we face death. We stare into its angry mouth, and we stand opposed to its hungry appetite for souls, and we declare the life of God has victory over the grave. Every day we speak words of life to folks who are struggling to find any hope for their future. Paul asked the question in verse 16, “And who is equal to such a task?” Clearly, we are not equal to this task. In this job, we are in well over our heads. There is no way we can successfully confront death. Every word we speak and every prayer we offer is voiced in the hope that God will honor His Word because we have no power in ourselves.
We can see the struggle between death and life working out in the ministry of Jesus. In Luke 7: 11 – 16, Jesus came across the funeral of a man who was the only son of his widowed mother. He was her sole source of supply. Verse 13 says, “When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her.” Jesus then approached the coffin and he spoke: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” That day the fragrance of life came against the smell of death and the life of God won!
As the Church of Jesus Christ, we are not supposed to be about bake sales and rummage sales. We have something far more important on our plate than food and clutter. The everlasting God has called us to spread the aroma of life. He has summoned us out of this dying world to share the fragrance of the life of God in Jesus Christ. That is what we are all about.
And it’s not just speaking and preaching and proclaiming that causes the aroma of Christ to flow. The best sermon we’ll ever preach is the one where our mouths are shut and our hands and feet are busy loving the way Jesus loved. It’s not so much as we speak, but as we love that the fragrance of Christ oozes out of our pores and fills the atmosphere with the sense of His presence. Remember, if you are living for Jesus, the fragrance of His life cannot be stopped. Jesus will pour out of your pores!
When you look at the institution of the church, sometimes it’s hard to see what God might be doing. Last Sunday night at our worship service at the Senior Residences, we sang “The Church’s One Foundation.” I was struck with the line in the hymn that reads, “By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed.” In recent days, the church has been ripped by sex and money scandals and by preachers espousing all sorts of wild and unbiblical theories. Many churches are simply social clubs or social work organizations. Many churches and church people seem attracted to a weak gospel of warm and fuzzy love, but without the Cross of Jesus. Not many churches seem to encompass a Biblical worldview or be focused on the business of winning souls or caring for the broken people of this world. Not many, perhaps, but God has always had His Remnant, people who love Him and who love His appearing. That is why we can say with confidence, even so.
Even so, God is at work in the Church of Jesus Christ. Even so, God is leading the Church – His Church,this church – in triumphal procession, and as the Church of Jesus moves forward, the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is spread everywhere.
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