Wineskins Archive

January 22, 2014

And They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Scent (Jul 1992)

Filed under: — @ 12:50 pm and

by Jeff Nelson
July, 1992

A wolf prowled along the edge of the flock and killed a sheep and a lamb before the shepherd could stop him. This tragedy left a sheep without a baby lamb, and a lamb without a mother. Both had a great need for each other, but the sheep would not touch the lamb. The tender shepherd poured the blood of the slain lamb over the orphan lamb. Smelling this familiar scent, the mother sheep took this little lamb as her own. The shepherd took great delight in observing “the rebirth of life” he had given.

In worship, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting are as relevant to our spiritual being as the five senses are to our physical being. The vocabulary of the senses in worship usually describes what we experience. However, smell seems to be the one sense that God experiences in our worship as a “sweet fragrance in his nostrils.” Smell is one way God receives a part of our worship.

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma …” (Genesis 8:20,21).

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Why would smell be important to God? Why would he make so many references to aroma, smell, incense, nostrils and fragrance? Good smells are welcomed. Bad smells are rejected. At least that’s how we deal with smells.

Is smell important to you? Try thinking of fond memories from the past without certain scents coming to mind – smells so vivid you think the aroma is actually present. Do any fragrances come to mind when you think about Thanksgiving dinner? Mowing the lawn on “family day”? Riding the baler during a hay harvest? The smells of home.

Is it possible that God may be reminded of the sweet aromas of worship through the ages because they linger in his presence as incense does even after it’s burned? Does the aroma of a ram being sacrificed in the place of a boy named Isaac ever waft through the corridors of the throne-room and bring a smile to the face of a proud Father? Just as I believe a prayer, once uttered, echoes in the caverns of time and space for eternity, so I believe the aromas of true worship linger in the presence of the Lord forever. What we offer in worship today perfumes God’s eternity.

Not-so-pleasant thoughts are attached to not-so-pleasant smells. I don’t spend much time reminiscing about pig pens, septic tanks, or dirty diapers. But a pleasant aroma lingers after true worship. False worship stinks and fortunately doesn’t last. God would not want to taint his heavens forever with smells that turned his stomach.

The Lord has a keen awareness for distinguishing the smell of true or false worship. He knows which lambs are his – made his, because they are washed in the blood of the Lamb. In Jeremiah and Amos, God is repulsed by what is being offered as worship. God can smell false worship a million miles away. He can sense insincerity befoe one word escapes from the lips. Even the strongest spices can’t hide the stenchof spoiled meat. As Lady Macbeth stated accurately, “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

When God required a burnt offering he knew if the sacrifice had been made according to the law. When he asked for a broken and contrite heart in place of a burnt offering he knew if the sacrifice was pure. Nothing is sweeter to the nostrils of God than a heart offering its purest form of praise. We know in our hearts what pleases God.

Human nature produces some rank odors – odors we try to hide. We use mouthwast to hide bad breath. We “deodorize” body odor. And, according to the money-motivated marketers of Madison Avenue, perfume promises the ultime experience: sex, success, and satisfaction. But what smells good to us and what smells good to God may be distinctly different.

When my family lived in Denison, Texas, we lived close to an olive-packing plant. I don’t know what was in the olive-packing process that smelled so bad, but it produced an offensive odor. For the people who worked there the odor meant income and security. For me, however, it was just offensive.

We cannot judge what aroma God receives from others. The most distinct scent would be the smell of the cross. The aromas were anything but pleasing – dried blood, perspiration, the emission of body fluids, vinegar, etc. Yet, this sacrifice offered the sweetest aroma ever released from the earth. The heavenlies smelled eternal victory. Hell reeked with the smell of eternal death and defeat.

The smell of our spiritual sacrifices cannot be manipulated. Each of us has a distinctive scent to God. There is no perfume except the fragrant blood of the Lamb that can cover the sickening smell of sin in the presence of God. We cannot think that God could really accept our sacrifice if all we do is “put on perfume” and “go to church.” This is why a lifestyle of worship is so vitally important in our relationship with him. This is why we are encouraged to make our bodies, our whole selves, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which IS our spiritual worship. Our scent doesn’t change on Sunday from what we smell like all week.

Our living testimony is the worship God smells. Just like the sheep smelled the blood of the slain lamb and cared for it, God smelles the blood of Jesus on us and claims us as adopted sons and daughters. We’re part of the family because we remind him of Jesus.

Can you sense what God expects from our worship when he says we are to him “the aroma of Christ”? What is the aroma of Christ? It is the smell of purity touching the stench of disease, the hand of a saint blessing the head of a sinner. It is to continue allwoing the manifest presence of Christ to be lived out in our lives of service. So what God smells is not always pleasing to the nostrils of people, but because it smells like Jesus, it is pleasing to the Father.

When I was a small child, my dad preached in Bynum, Texas, a small town outside of Waco. The owner of the cotton gin, Ennis Smith, and his wife would invite us over after the evening service, but my parents, having school-age children, usually said no. One night Mrs. Smith, who happened to be very fond of this four year old, put me in her car and took me home, knowing my parents would have to come by for me. Hot Dr. Pepper with lemon was a popular drink at that time, and she knew the aroma of this boiling beverage would entice anyone to stay. If we could just get the scent in the air before my parents arrived. Sure enough, when they arrived the smell filled the room. The presence of a convincing aroma changed a decision that had already been made. When others get close enough to smell the aroma of Christ coming from us, it can influence a life-changing decision.

It would be wonderful to know for certain that what we offere is being received as a sweet aroma to the nostrils of God. Can we know? I believe so.

First, our offering must be pleasing to us. If we don’t enjoy making the sacrifice, God certainly won’t enjoy receiving it. Sacrifices are not to be offered out of obligation, but out of joy in response to the love that has been given to us. “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Second, our offering must be the best we have to offer. God gives each of us good gifts. We should in turn worship him by using those gifts to the best of our ability. Some are gifted in singing – sing your heart out! Some are gifted in teaching – teach, study, and then teach some more! Some are gifted in artistic expression – put your heart for God on the canvas of life! I have a friend, David Harwell, who is doing just that. He is painting what he sees after reading the Word, sensing a conviction from the Lord, and wanting to share with others in a way that God would be glorified.

Finally, accept the freedom you have to express yourself. Sometimes our best is prohibited by restrictions placed on us by others. When we find the freedom to offer God unrestricted praise, the aroma is all that much sweeter to him. One Sunday morning a young woman sang a solo to set the focus of our hearts and minds on the theme of grace. As you might guess, the song was “Amazing Grace,” and even though everyone was familiar with the song, I don’t believe anyone had ever heard it like this before. She sang with such conviction and sweetness in a moment of worship that seemed isolated from time. Tears were flowing freely in her eyes as well as most others because she knew what grace had covered in her own past and was acknowledging the same for the rest of us. I believe a good part of heaven to this day smells a little sweeter.

Recently, several of us were involved in a “March for Jesus” in downtown Dallas. There were over 100 cities across the nation that participated in this event on the same day. Earlier tht same morning over 60,000 had marched through the streets of Berlin. Moscow had a march also. Dallas had approximately 10,000 marching through downtown streets singing praises to God and proclaiming Jesus as Lord of All. Christians from all parts of te city participated. Fifteen different ministers representing many churches led an hour-long prayer for our nation, cities, families, and churches. As I stood with thousands of others in front of city hall, I pondered what a wonderful aroma this must be to God. If the motives and hearts are pure in offering a sacrifice of praise, time and place are irrelevant. God receives worship when worship is offered.Wineskins Magazine

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