Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
The Believer’s Confession of Sin (Psalm 51)
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved. 2 Corinthians 2:15
Hot and dusty, Bob dismounted from the bus he had ridden to a city far from home. He was tired from a long day of travel and grateful that he would be able to have dinner with friends of friends who lived in the area. They welcomed him in, and he immediately felt a sense of peace. He felt at home, comfortable, safe, and valued.
Later, wondering why he had felt such peace in an unfamiliar place, Bob found an answer in 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul describes people who follow God as having the “pleasing aroma of Christ.” “That’s exactly it!” Bob said to himself. His hosts had “smelled like” Christ.
When Paul says that God leads His people in Christ’s “triumphal procession” spreading the fragrance of His truth, he’s referring to a practice in the ancient world. Victorious armies would burn incense as they marched through the streets. For their supporters, the smell brought joy. In the same way, Paul says the people of God carry a pleasing fragrance to those who believe. It isn’t something we create on our own but something God gives as He leads us in spreading the knowledge of Him.
Bob is my dad, and that trip to a faraway town took place more than forty years ago, but he’s never forgotten it. He’s still telling the story of the people who smelled like Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for leading Your people in triumph and spreading the fragrance of Your truth through us.
Who smells like Christ to you?
The phrase “pleasing aroma” or “aroma pleasing” occurs thirty-nine times in the Old Testament—once in Genesis when Noah made a sacrifice to the Lord after the flood (8:21) and three times in Exodus (dealing with the consecration of the priests in chapter 29). The remainder are found in Leviticus and Numbers, most of which provide details about the various sacrifices or offerings the Israelite people were to bring God, such as burnt (Leviticus 1:13), grain (2:9), fellowship (4:31), drink (Numbers 15:10), sin (v. 24), and food (29:6). All of these offerings and sacrifices, when given in the prescribed way, were an “aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 3:5). Two of these sacrifices were required: the sin offering and trespass offering, which were to atone for sin.
In the New Testament this phrase appears only once, here in today’s passage: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). No longer are sacrifices necessary, for Jesus paid the sacrifice for our sins. When we follow Him, God is pleased with us because of what Christ did on our behalf.
One of the greatest challenges to God’s rule in our lives is money. When we experience a great season of financial blessing, it becomes easy to feel self-sufficient, thinking we do not need the Lord for our success. In those times, God may have to get our attention in a painful way.
We see this in today’s passage. The people of Israel had become unruly and turned away from God. Therefore, He got their attention by touching them where He knew they’d feel it: in the way they provided for themselves. Specifically, He allowed hostile nations to completely ruin Israel’s livelihood—their crops—for seven years. This aggression all but destroyed their way of life.
What was the result? Judges 6:6 reveals, “The sons of Israel cried to the Lord.” That is, they turned back to God and pleaded for their relationship with Him to be restored. And what instigated this repentance? It was the Lord’s direct maneuvering and interruption of their finances—a reminder that they were dependent on Him.
Over the years, I’ve talked with many people who have gone through a similar experience. God granted them great success, but then they turned away from Him. So He removed the obstacle: their money. And more often than not, the result was a renewed passion for knowing God.
Remember, our Lord is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5-6). He will not allow even His own blessings to draw you away from Him. Prayerfully consider your priorities today. Ask God to reign supreme over your finances, and request the wisdom to manage your money with humility and His direction.
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law . . . turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:7)
God expects His appointed leaders to cultivate both inner and outer strength.
God’s leaders must have both physical strength and spiritual courage. These comparative terms are cited together in 18 different passages of the Old Testament—always to emphasize the need for both. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:14). “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24). Although bodily exercise is of little profit (1 Timothy 4:8), our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be kept strong for God’s work (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Spiritual courage tends to be weakened when the physical body is weakened.
God’s leaders need both strength and courage to obey God’s call and be successful in the ministry. The apostle Paul was shaken by such physical torment that “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: . . . but God . . . delivered us from so great a death” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Human weariness can rob us of the “well doing” that would otherwise reap success (Galatians 6:9). God is certainly the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)—including our physical strength. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). HMM III
We shall still follow Paul in his missionary wanderings. Silas and Timothy continued with him.
The apostle’s custom was to reason from the Scriptures, and surely there is no weapon so powerful as that which is taken from the armoury of inspiration.
Acts 17:4, 5
On a former occasion Satan employed the honourable to disturb the apostles work, now he summons the low fellows of the markets; little does he care what tools he uses, so that he can compass his ends. The mob attacked Jason’s house, supposing the preachers to be there. The story reads like a tale of the early Methodist times.
Acts 17:6, 7
Earnest Christians have often been attacked with this handy weapon—they are innovators, and, of course, are the enemies of “our glorious constitution,” causing infinite disturbance by their newfangled ways. Verily, church history repeats itself.
Acts 17:8, 9
Honoured indeed was Jason to be surety for one against whom the world was enraged, but of whom the world was not worthy.
See how they persevere, they are at their old work again.
The candour of these Bereans was their nobility, they did not condemn unheard. Knowing the Old Testament to be the word of God, they tested the gospel by it.
They proved all things, and then held fast what they had tested.
Earnest saints have earnest enemies; pleased with their success at Thessalonica, the Jews used the same tactics at Berea; yet they only gave wings to the feet of the missionaries and kept the light moving on.
What Berea lost Athens gained, for Paul arrived there all the earlier. Let Satan do what he may, he only speeds on the cause which he desires to hinder. To God be all glory, for thus vanquishing evil with good.
Oh, how restless is the foe
Jesu’s kingdom to o’erthrow!
Shall not we as zealous prove
To proclaim redeeming love?
Let us publish saving grace,
Scatter life in every place;
Dare the world’s and Satan’s frown,
Turn his kingdom upside down.
Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
A fear-stricken church cannot help a scared world; and it needs to be said that surely a fear-ridden Christian has never examined his or her defense!
No one can blame humans for being afraid. Beyond the continuing times of crisis and terror and violence, God has also warned that the world is in a baptism of fire, sooner or later. God has declared this by the voice of all of the holy prophets since time began—there is no escaping it!
Bible-reading Christians should be the last persons on earth to give way to hysteria. We have been given a prophetic preview of all those things that are to come to pass upon the earth. Can anything take us unaware?
We who are in God’s secret place of safety must begin to talk and act like it! We, above all who dwell on the earth, should be calm, hopeful, buoyant and cheerful. We will never convince the scared world that there is peace and assurance at the Cross if we continue to exhibit the same fears as those who make no profession of Christianity!
Happy is the man that feareth alway. Prov. 28:14
The fear of the Lord is the beginning and the foundation of all true religion. Without a solemn awe and reverence of God there is no foothold for the more brilliant virtues. He whose soul does not worship will never live in holiness.
He is happy who feels a jealous fear of doing wrong. Holy fear looks not only before it leaps, but even before it moves. It is afraid of error, afraid of neglecting duty, afraid of committing sin. It fears ill company, loose talk, and questionable policy. This does not make a man wretched, but it brings him happiness. The watchful sentinel is happier than the soldier who sleeps at his post. He who forseeth evil and escapes it is happier than he who walks carelessly on and is destroyed.
Fear of God is a quiet grace which leads a man along a choice road, of which it is written, “No lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon.” Fear of the very appearance of evil is a purifying principle, which enables a man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep his garments unspotted from the world. In both senses he that “feareth alway” is made happy. Solomon had tried both worldliness and holy fear: in the one he found vanity, in the other happiness. Let us not repeat his trial, but abide by his verdict.