What is your aroma?
Not your physical aroma, although many of you reading this probably smell really good. But your spiritual aroma?
As Christians, we wear the aroma of Christ, and when someone smells it, it sends a message.
What does yours send?
What does yours reveal when you are struggling?
When you are happy?
This might seem like a weird question, but I am hoping by the end of this writing, you will have an answer.
Whether we realize it or not, we each have a unique, God given aroma that God can use to reach unbelievers.
In this post we will be focusing on 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17.
Before we dig in, Let’s get some context of this passage in 2 Corinthians.
I really like how one commentator describes the setting that Paul is describing, he writes:
"Picture the long procession, the victorious general in his chariot with its white horses, the laurelled soldiers, the sullen captives, with suppressed hate flashing in their sunken eyes, the wreathing clouds of incense that went up into the blue sky, and the shouting multitude of spectators. That is the picture in the Apostle’s mind here. The Revised Version correctly alters the translation into ‘Thanks unto God which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.’
Paul thinks of himself and of his coadjutors in Christian work as being conquered captives, made to follow their Conqueror and to swell His triumph. He is thankful to be so overcome. What was deepest degradation is to him supreme honour. Curses in many a strange tongue would break from the lips of the prisoners who had to follow the general’s victorious chariot. But from Paul’s lips comes irrepressible praise; he joins in the shout of acclamation to the Conqueror.
And then he passes on to another of the parts of the ceremonial. As the wreathing incense appealed at once to two senses, and was visible in its curling clouds of smoke, and likewise fragrant to the nostrils, so says Paul, with a singular combination of expression, ‘He maketh manifest,’ that is visible, the savour of His knowledge. From a heart kindled by the flame of the divine love there will go up the odor of a holy life visible and fragrant, sweet and fair.
And thus all Christians, and not Christian workers only in the narrower sense of the word, who may be doing work, have set before them in these great words the very ideal and secret of their lives."
Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 with this in mind and then let’s pull it apart and make some application.
The first application I would like to make is:
1. Just because the ingredients to your aroma may seem small, does not mean they are insignificant
Have you ever made potpourri? I was curious about recipes of potpourri, so I googled a cinnamon one (Lukes fav) and I saw that it contained the ingredients of oranges, cinnamon, and clove. If we were to compare oranges and cloves, it might look like this:
- Oranges are bright and vibrant and big and they smell fresh
- Cloves are small and dark in color and smell sort of musty
- Many people may prefer the look and smell of an orange
- But does that make clove insignificant?
Absolutely not. Although small, Cloves have significant value such as:
- Improvement of digestion, regulating blood sugar, fighting inflammation
- They also have antiseptic properties, I even used clove oil on a girls tooth in india for pain!
God takes seemingly small things, and gives them importance.
- Take White blood cells for example. You cannot see them, but without them, you will die.
Sometimes in the Lords church, when we look around and compare our ingredients to other sisters in Christ, we may become discouraged. But I want to encourage you not to do that because when satan can convince you to compete, he prevents you from uniting. If he can make you discouraged through comparison, he wins. And as a result, he often puts you in a state of complacency. A state of inaction caused by comparison.
It sort of reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12:15-27
- “ For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body."
Often women tend to look at what their sister is doing and think, "Since I cannot do what she does, I do not want to do anything..." (Because I am not an eye... I do not belong in the body) When this happens, Satan wins.
I want to remind you that just because we are given different ingredients and play different roles in God's Kingdom, does not mean we are “less than” our sister. We cannot allow this to put us in a state of inaction. Your God given ingredients matter. They are significant and God will work through them to diffuse the gospel if you allow Him.
Let’s go back to our text:
Paul says here, WE are the aroma of Christ… Not just some. But WE.. all of us.
I am sure people in scripture felt small, take the woman at the well for example. But through her, Jesus converted an entire village. Through her willingness to diffuse the fragrance of God, an entire village was converted.
Sisters, again, just because your ingredients may feel small, does not make them insignificant.
2. The second application I would like to mention, is that sometimes we may need to purify our ingredients.
I used to be a smoker, and I would cover up the smell with a bottle of perfume. I knew if my parents caught me, I was in trouble. So instead of quitting, I covered it. I would basically pour an entire bottle of perfume on myself. I would even smoke with gloves on to avoid my fingers smelling like it. I think a lot of us can be like that with our sin.
Instead of purifying ourselves of certain sins, we just cover them up with our Sunday's best.
But this can be so dangerous (See my post on spiritual heart disease)…
And I believe the Bible tells us a way to purify our aromas.
Jeremiah 4:3 says, "break up your fallow ground!"
Fallow ground, is ground overgrown with thorns And if you try to plant something in it, it will not grow.
Sometimes our Christian lives become overgrown with thorns of discouragement and past hurts, and we like to just cover them up and build on top of them. But this leads to a bad foundation and soil for our ingredients. It dilutes our fragrance. It creates a polluted fragrance… And people of the world are often confused when they smell the fragrance of our lives.
Sometimes we need to break up the fallow ground, remove the thorns in our lives, and build on a new foundation. I cannot tell you what this looks like in your life, but I know what it looks like in my life.
And I can tell you that it may be painful, but growth is never consistent with comfort.
One challenge I have for you, is to check your aroma with Ephesians 5:1-10. In these verses we are told ways to keep our aromas pure
- Be imitators of God
- Walk in love
- Put away fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting,
Another good one is Philippians 4:8, when we immerse ourselves in God’s word, our speech will change. Our lives become pure and we become a pure fragrance God can use to diffuse His knowledge among unbelievers.
One additional way that I keep my ingredients pure, is by giving someone permission to hold me accountable. Now, ladies, the problem with this is that everyone wants an accountability partner until it becomes time to be held accountable. We often become defensive, but you cannot change while you are in a defensive mode, so one thing I would encourage you to do is put down your defenses and allow someone to keep you accountable. I have a small group of individuals I allow to do this in my life… I trust them to give Biblical counsel. But I am picky with who I choose to do this. Be picky. Pick someone mature in the faith who you know will uplift, challenge, and encourage you.
3. The third application I believe we can make is to understand that not everyone is going to like our aromas.
Let’s go back to our text: 2 Corinthians 2:15“ for we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To one we are the aroma of death leading to death, to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”
The victors; to those who refuse it, it is the perfume of death, as it was to the vanquished.”
Paul in our text writes that the fragrance we offer will be one of death and life. During the Roman procession, the prisoners who smelled the incense were reminded of their defeat, but the soldiers who smelled it, were reminded of their victory.
To the world, we might smell like death and discouragement because light uncovers darkeness…
When I became a Christian, the majority of my friends stopped hanging out with me. I had quit drinking, I quit smoking, and I quit talking a certain way. And I never judged them for it...
But the truth is, my simple presence made them feel judged. Light shines on darkness, and sometimes we don’t even have to say a word for people not to want to be around us, they are ashamed of their own actions, and we are the fragrance that reminds them they are not living as they should.
So knowing that people sometimes will probably not like us, what do we do?
In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul gives us the answer. He says first, that we are NOT peddlers of God’s word
The word peddling has the idea of “Adulterating” or “watering down” for gain, like a wine seller who would water down his wine for bigger profits and to make more money. Peddlers would dilute their aromas
Sis, do NOT be a peddler of God’s word
Do NOT peddle your aroma so that people will like you.
We need Christian women without watered down aromas. And we can be those Christians when we get our confidence from God’s word and from each other.
One of my favorite quotes is, “you can be the ripest, juiciest peach of all peaches, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.”
We need to come to terms with the fact that as Christians, not everyone will like us. But instead of this causing us to shrink back, we need to rejoice in it!
4. The last application I want to leave with you is: Your aroma lingers
I remember getting a new job and being super nervous, but on my first day, I smelled a familiar smell, it was my mom’s perfume. And I was instantly comforted. Her aroma lingers still to this day.
As Christians, our aromas linger.
No sense remains in the memory like scent. There is nothing we remember more strongly than pleasant smells, except perhaps unpleasant smells...
In our text Paul continues and says, thanks be to God who ALWAYS leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” Not sometimes, but ALWAYS. Every place we go, people should know that we are Christians. Our aromas should linger and draw people back to God.
So what type of impact is yours having? Does your aroma say, “I want what she has!” and allow you to point to Christ when people ask you where you get your ingredients? Or is a dreadful aroma that turns people away in disgust?
I have a lot of people who asked me how I maintained a positive, joyful aroma through cancer. And my answer is always, “because God’s glory was at stake.”
Sisters, souls are at stake.
Wearing a an aroma that demonstrates that you are content with a life of pain, trials, and discomfort, as long as it brings God glory, makes us look crazy to the world. Paul experienced this first hand, check out 2 Corinthians 5:13.
But look what he says In verse 13, he basically says it’s okay if you think I am crazy, because I am not motivated by your thoughts, I am motivated by my love for Christ.
I stayed joyful through my walk with cancer, because I knew that my aroma of hope, had potential to impact a nonbeliever. It had potential to turn someone to Christ. Whatever you face in life, you have the ability to turn it into something that can be used for God to diffuse His glory.
The aromas that we wear while we are in these bodies, have the potential to be life changing. But we have to take measures and be confident in our ingredients, and purify our aromas.
We can show that just because we are small ingredients in God’s big design, does not mean that we do not have a powerful job to do.
We can demonstrate how to purify our lives, and that we have the courage to do so
In a world that is overcome with insecurities, we can radiate confidence knowing that we are part of a victory.
And we can create an aroma that will linger for a life time.
Paul closes his letter in 2 Corinthians 13 with saying, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know that yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you.”
I want to both encourage and challenge you today by leaving you with the question, what does your aroma say about you and more importantly, what does it say about God? What type of fragrance are you diffusing around you?