We Are The Aroma Of Christ

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We Are The Aroma Of Christ

II Corinthians 2:14-17


     I have attended a number of different churches over the summer and have noticed that a lot of preachers are not wearing a tie these days and so as I was preparing to come here, I was wondering if I should leave my tie at home. Then I remembered that your pastor even wears ties to picnics and I realized that my suit and tie would be in order. + or some other ice breaker comment + It is a privilege to share the Word of God with you this morning.

     We recently completed our ministry in Manitou and moved out of the house we lived in for the past 12 years. I miss the yard because of all the beautiful trees and bushes. In spring when the lilacs were in bloom, I was drawn to the lilac bush in our yard. I would go out almost every day just to smell the flowers. I am attracted to the smell of beautiful flowers.

     My mother lived in Arizona for a number of years and during spring break one year, we as a family went to visit her. It was the season of orange blossoms and we were walking at night in the golf course which was close to her place. Every once in a while, we could smell the blossoms on the orange trees. They also have a beautiful smell which draws you.

     Beautiful smells attract us and give us a pleasant experience.

     II Corinthians 2:14-16 says, “read.” September is a time of beginnings as school starts and church programs begin. My intention this morning is to challenge you at this time of year to make a new commitment to be the aroma of Christ – in school, at work, in relationships in the community and through the ministry of the church.

I.The Fragrance Of Christ In The World

     The world in which the New Testament was written was a world dominated by the Roman empire. The armies of Rome had conquered all of the world in which Christianity had its birth. When Roman armies conquered a nation, it was their custom to take some of the people who had been captured and lead them through the city in procession. The purpose of this was to display to the public that Rome was now in power and these captured people were subject to Rome. They were displayed as the trophies of victory.

     This is the picture which is behind the phrase, “God...always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” God took us captive when we yielded to Him by faith in Jesus. We could say that He parades us around in the world as the trophies of His victory. We are the evidence of the power of God which is able to take a person and redeem them from the grip of sin and death and free them to be a person who belongs to God. In this world, we are the evidence, the display of the redeeming, grace giving power of God. One writer puts it this way, “from justification to glorification the redeemed sinner is on exhibition as a trophy of divine grace.”  God has left us in the world to show the world His gracious and amazing handiwork.

     Some have suggested that in these Roman triumphal processions it was customary to release sweet odours from burning spices in the streets. It is possible that this is the reason for the introduction of the language of scent. Several times in this passage, Paul uses this language to convey a similar idea. We read in vs. 14, “through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Again in verse 15 we read, “we are to God the aroma of Christ.” And the imagery appears again in verse 16.

     The context of this paragraph is Paul’s discussion in 2:12-13 of the different directions which his ministry had taken recently. He speaks of going to Troas to preach the gospel. There was an open door there, but he went on to Macedonia because Titus wasn’t in Troas. But it didn’t matter where he was, whether in Troas, or Macedonia, God displayed him as a sweet fragrance of the power of the gospel. God’s grace was powerfully evident in Paul who had been taken from being a persecutor to being a faithful witness. Everywhere he went God demonstrated His power and love through Paul.

     Have you ever thought about this? Wherever we are, whether in Elm Creek or Winnipeg, at school or work, God has left us in the world to demonstrate the gospel to the world. Like a beautiful scent, we, by our lives and our words, spread the knowledge of the power of God for salvation to everyone we meet in every place we go. This is not a command, but a reflection of truth. We have not changed ourselves or redeemed ourselves, but God has done all of this and we are the evidence of what He has done wherever we go and the witness of what He has done in the world.

     What are the implications of that for us?

II.The Fragrance of Life/The Smell of Death

     The scent of flowers and the scent of perfume is intended to be attractive and to draw us. For many people, that is exactly what it does do, but there are some people who are allergic to this scent. It causes them to have allergic reactions like sneezing, stuffy noses or headaches. To them, it is not the pleasant experience it is intended to be.

     As we go around in this world being the aroma of Christ, it does not invoke the same reaction in everyone. We consider the knowledge of the gospel to be lifegiving and a word of peace and hope. For some people it is and they are attracted to the scent of Jesus and are saved, but for many it is quite the opposite. This is what the text says in verses 15, 16. “read”

     That has an impact on us whether we want to admit it or not. Because we know that some people will hate what we represent and hate what we say about the gospel, we sometimes become shy about speaking about and representing Jesus. We want to hide the aroma of Christ.

     Because I know people who are allergic to the scents in perfume and after shave, I have stopped using after shave and just use rubbing alcohol after I shav. I don’t want to be a cause of someone having a headache on Sunday morning because of my aftershave.

     When it comes to the gospel, we can’t do that. We can’t back off from being the aroma of Christ just because people are offended by the gospel; just because, as Paul says, it is the aroma of death to them.

Yet sometimes we do that in our lifestyle. A few weeks ago, I was in Illinois with a friend and we toured an area where there are Amish people. You can recognize who they are by their outward appearance. It is hard to recognize us as Christians by our outward appearance because we look like everyone else. I do not advocate that we try to look different outwardly, and yet in our lifestyle and our values, people should be able to smell the aroma of Christ on us. We must not hide the aroma of Christ. Every aspect of our lifestyle – our values, our deeds and our attitudes must clearly smell like Jesus Christ. No matter how people treat us because we belong to Christ, I want to challenge us to be open and to allow the fragrance of Christ to eminate from us at all times in our lifestyle.

     Sometimes, we hide the aroma of Christ by failing to speak about Jesus because we don’t want to get people angry or offend them by the words of the gospel. I know that I have had this fear many times. Even recently when community people in Manitou asked me why we were leaving, I sometimes failed to tell the truth that we believe, after prayer and consultation, that God lead us in this direction and instead I simply said, we think it is time. We can’t do this, we must allow the fragrance of Christ to eminate from us by the words of witness we speak with beautiful words that proclaim the power and grace of what God has done for His people.

     As God’s people, you are the fragrance of Christ in this community. You have a tremendous opportunity. You are known as believers, you are the aroma of Christ. I want to challenge you not to hide that aroma, but to allow it to emanate from you as the beautiful scent of the life giving gospel. I want to encourage and even urge you to not allow the fact that people may reject the gospel to hinder you from proclaiming Jesus. Let people smell Jesus on you!

III.Who Is Equal To Such A Task?

     As we read on, we read a very relevant and challenging question when Paul asks, “who is equal to such a task?”

     God called us to a high and holy when He called us to be the aroma of Christ in the world. Do you and I always give off the pleasing aroma of Christ?

A.Sometimes We Stink!

     Not every odor is a pleasant one. This is the season of dead skunks in the middle of the road. I must admit that I am not attracted to that smell. Nor am I attracted to the smell of someone cleaning out a pig barn, even though pig farmers claim it smells like money, frankly, it stinks.

     As Christians, who are the aroma of Christ, we don’t always smell beautiful, frankly, sometimes we stink. Paul accuses the Jews in Romans 2:24, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” It is sad that sometimes the name of Jesus is blasphemed because Christians stink.

     We stink when we lack integrity in our business dealings in the community. My brother works in accounts receivable for a construction related business. He tells me that many businesses make it a practice not to pay a bill until he phones and asks for it to be paid. This, of course doesn’t happen until it is past due. When companies which are run by Christians do that, I think that stinks.

I have heard of Christians who buy a car or machinery who are so shrewd in their dealings that those they do business with hate to see them coming. They are demanding and unkind in their attitudes to others and try to get the best deal at all cost. Such actions lack Christian integrity and stink. They are not the aroma of Christ.

     We stink when our testimony is not clear. II Corinthians 6:14 warns us not to be yoked together with unbelievers and Ephesians 5:11 tells us not to have anything to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. If it is not clear which side we are on, whether on the Lord’s side or the world’s side, we stink. When young people give an unclear signal by a willingness to date non-Christians, when we sneak away to play VLT’s or gamble or when we rent movies whose content is clearly evil, we are not the aroma of Christ, but some other stench.

     In the work of the church, when we use political means of power to accomplish God’s work instead of the means of the Spirit and prayer we also stink. I have heard about churches which have used political pressure to get a zoning bylaw changed so that they could put up their building. In church business meetings, I know that decisions are sometimes made by the use of pressure and politics instead of prayer and love. These methods stink and are not the aroma of Christ.    

B.Sometimes We Smell Good!

     Fortunately, there are many examples when Christians smell good.

     When we demonstrate love to others, a love that is not discriminating, but is demonstrated in action for enemies and friends alike, a love that sacrifices and is concerned for the other, then we smell like Jesus. Then the aroma of Christ emanates clearly from us.

     I heard that recently at Williams Lake they had a speaker come in and speak about stewardship. At the end of the seminar, they took an offering that was a first fruits offering to the Lord and the offering that was taken was about 20 times what a normal Sunday offering was. They decided to give the offering to the church that had been the first evangelical witness in Williams Lake simply as a way of blessing them. That is love and that smells like the aroma of Christ.

     When we walk in holiness without self righteousness, then we are the aroma of Christ in the world. Jesus walked in holiness and Paul says to us in Romans 6:13, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, ...offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” People who are holy like Jesus was holy represent a pleasant smell, as long as they are not self righteous when they do it.

We eminate the aroma of Christ, when we live by grace. The way to live in holiness without self righteousness is by living with grace in our lives. Our care group studied Philip Yancy’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace” this past winter. It is a challenging and wonderful book that helps us understand that God acts towards us with grace and we ought to act the same way towards others. We have been graceless and in fact manifesting ungrace too often and when we do this, we stink.

     In the middle of June, the Anglican church in Manitou planned a Family Fun day in which all the people of the community and particularly all the churches were invited to come to a barbecue, baseball games and children’s games. In my mind, it was a day of grace in our community. We don’t agree on every aspect of theology but we could still manifest grace by being together and celebrating that we all are God’s children in Christ. As I watched the way the day happened - old and young playing together, people visiting together across church lines - I saw a day of grace. When we demonstrate such grace, people who do not know Jesus, will smell the aroma of Christ. When in the church we welcome young and old, rich and poor, friends and outsiders and welcome them to the fellowship fully, we demonstrate grace and we eminate the aroma of Christ. I understand that John is inviting a church that is closing to come and join you. How will you be the aroma of Christ in that invitation?

     As we ask ourselves these question Pauls question comes to us again: “who is equal to such a task?” We realize that it is hard to answer this question. Do we stink or are we the aroma of Christ?

Paul answers the question for himself when he compares himself to those who proclaim the message for their own gai. In part, he says that his competence comes from the sincerity and integrity with which he proclaims the gospel. In part, we have to answer that we are competent when we make the kinds of choices that will smell nice. 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” We are equal to the task when we choose to live lives that don’t stink but smell beautiful for Jesus.

     But Paul also answers his own question a few verses later when in II Corinthians 3:5 he says, “our competence comes from God.” How thankful I am that the answer to the question, “who is equal to such a task” does not come from me alone. I rejoice that God has taken the stench of death which is on every one of us and replaced it with the beautiful smell of resurrection. Because He has done this, He makes us able to be the powerful and beautiful smell of Christ! Will we allow that to be evident in us?


     Have you ever seen the Mr. Bean video in which he is to meet the queen and he tests his breath to make sure that it smells good? Mr. Bean is funny because he exagerates what all of us do. Let’s be honest, we all find ways of testing to make sure we smell good. I remember one time when I did such a test and failed it because I had eaten horse radish and garlic. I went to find my tooth brush and went out and bought a roll of breath mints. I didn’t want to be caught smelling bad.

If you were to do a self test on your life as a Christian, what would it reveal? Does the aroma of Christ emanate from you or do you stink? If you stink, what steps will you take to smell nice?

     As you continue to serve the Lord in this community and particularly as you begin a winter of ministry in Elm Creek, my challenge to you is this: Do not hide the fragrance of Christ, but allow it to be experienced by all you meet. Furthermore, do not stink, but instead allow the wonderful fragrance of the gospel to emanate from you by your words and your deeds. In summary, my challenge to you is to smell nice!

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