Christ’s Lingering Fragrance
by Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NASB 1995)
Over a month ago, my daughter wore a new shirt, one with tiny, sparkly sequins sewn throughout the fabric. Today I opened my dresser drawer and something shiny caught my eye. You guessed it! A gold sequin from my daughter’s blouse nestled among my jeans.
That’s not the only place I’ve found the sparkles. I spotted them on the front porch, in the silverware drawer, on my car seat, in the clothing hamper, and even in my shoe. Though I’ve cleaned my house (I promise, I do vacuum regularly), they keep gleaming from my area rugs and winking from the hard surface floors. And let’s not even talk about the collection I’ve discovered in the washer’s rubber gasket and the dryer’s lint collector.
It’s a wonder there are any sequins remaining on the shirt. And all that was from just one wearing. I wonder if our lives should be a bit like those shimmering sequins reflecting the light. Does evidence of Jesus keep shining in the places we’ve been? Have we influenced anyone for Christ by our presence?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul compares this idea of lasting influence to fragrance. First and foremost, he says, we need to pass the sniff test with God. Does a “Christ-like” aroma emanate from us? Research reveals that mothers recognize their own babies by scent.1 Likewise, God knows the aroma of His Son, Jesus. If we’re sticking close to the presence of Jesus, His glorious fragrance rubs off on us. This pleasing aroma then rises from us to God.
But anyone who has ever baked chocolate chip cookies knows that smells also permeate every bit of airspace in your home. In the same way, the sweet aroma of Christ wafting from us should infuse the atmosphere wherever we go. Paul says those we meet will sense Jesus in us and respond.
Responses to the fragrance of Christ will vary. “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume” (2 Corinthians 2:16 NLT).
Who wants to smell like death? I don’t think that perfume will ever be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue. But apparently, that’s what some people will discern from the presence of Christ in us. His righteousness is an affront that spotlights the doomed state of their souls. Others, however, will bask in Christ’s life-giving perfume. They will deeply inhale the scent of life and be saved.
We do not control the perception of our Christ-like fragrance. Instead, we focus solely on faithfully disseminating the aroma of Jesus.
And what is the aroma of Jesus? A hymn writer once wrote that if the ocean were filled with ink, we could exhaust its supply just by writing about the love found in Jesus (The Love of God, 1917)2. But Philippians 2:8 distills Christ’s character into two words: humble obedience. Jesus, though He was God, chose to allow His Father to lead every thought, word, and deed.
We have the same mandate. As we yield in submission to God’s Spirit in us, our characters reflect more and more of Jesus. We will desire and be empowered to obey God’s directions. His character, His fragrance, will cling to us and penetrate the senses of everyone we meet.
In Ephesians chapter five, Paul provides some practical ways the Spirit, in cooperation with our submitted will, helps us exude Christ’s fragrance. Our speech, Paul says, must transform from foolish and coarse talk to thankfulness (5:4). He also explains that we must reject greed, which leads to the worship of false gods (5:5). In this chapter, you can read many other examples of fragrance-producing attitudes and actions that are pleasing to God.
I don’t know how many sequins were sewn onto my daughter’s glittering blouse. Though it’s hard to imagine, the sequins will eventually run out as she continues to shed them.
Fortunately, we need never conserve the fragrance of Christ. His supply is limitless, so we can liberally soak ourselves in it every day. When we do, His cloud of sweet perfume will rise pleasing to God and life-changing to people.
1 Kings 10:8-9 8How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.”
The Queen of Sheba had heard of the wisdom of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD. We often overlook her interest in Solomon’s relationship to the name of the LORD. The LORD’s name is the sum of all His attributes. The LORD is all-wise, but He is also faithful, merciful, loving, just, true, holy, etc. She came to see it all in Solomon. All men are a poor reflection, but Solomon was one of the best in the world at that time.
After spending time asking questions, hearing his answers, and seeing the wealth and splendor of his royal court, she burst into the praise of verse 9. Once again, we have an expression of just why it is the LORD bestows His favor. Why did God place Solomon over Israel? It was because of His eternal love for her.
Have people ever come to visit with you because of your relation to the name of the LORD? They may have without your awareness of the real reason for their visit. If we are truly walking with the LORD, in His Spirit, the seekers will be overwhelmed too. It is not you they are overwhelmed about, but the LORD whose life is expressed through you.
Why has God placed you where you are and have you doing what you do? It is because He loves the people around you and desires for you to be an example of Him in that environment.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me express Your wonderful character in my daily life that others might come to know You.
The Answer to Prayer – Streams in the Desert – June 16
- 202216 Jun
Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence. — Ps 62:5
Our too general neglect of looking for answers to what we ask, shows how little we are in earnest in our petitions. A husbandman is not content without the harvest; a marksman will observe whether the ball hits the target; a physician watches the effect of the medicine which he gives; and shall the Christian be careless about the effect of his labor?
Every prayer of the Christian, made in faith, according to the will of God, for which God has promised, offered up in the name of Jesus Christ, and under the influence of the Spirit, whether for temporal or for spiritual blessings, is, or will be, fully answered.
God always answers the general design and intention of His people’s prayers, in doing that which, all things considered, is most for His own glory and their spiritual and eternal welfare. As we never find that Jesus Christ rejected a single supplicant who came to Him for mercy, so we believe that no prayer made in His name will be in vain.
The answer to prayer may be approaching, though we discern not its coming. The seed that lies under ground in winter is taking root in order to a spring and harvest, though it appears not above ground, but seems dead and lost.
Delayed answers to prayer are not only trials of faith, but they give us opportunities of honoring God by our steadfast confidence in Him under apparent repulses.
SCRIPTURE READING — GENESIS 28:10-17
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. . . . How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God.”
I often pray that God would give me more clear examples of his presence and beauty in my life. I hear about Christians who have a vibrant prayer life, or who feel the presence of God so surely, and I wish that I had those experiences more often myself. I pray that God would show up more in my life.
Those are good desires to have and good prayers to pray. But I could also pray for the ability to see God’s beautiful salvation that is already present in my life and in the world.
That’s what Jacob was able to see. He had a dream about a stairway with the angels of God going up and down on it. God spoke directly to Jacob in that dream, reminding him of God’s promises to love him and to care for his family. When Jacob awoke, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” The beauty of God’s salvation had been with him all along.
That doesn’t always happen in dreams, but God does assure us that he is true to his promises. I am thankful that God’s presence is always with me, whether I recognize it or not.
I pray that God will be near, and I also pray that I will be able to recognize God’s presence and beauty all around.
God of Jacob, I praise you for your presence in my life. Thank you for the times when I am surprised by your beauty and your loving presence, assuring me that you are always with me. Amen.