I once preached a children’s sermon on witnessing, where I brought in a bottle of perfume. I explained that when I sprayed the perfume in the air and the little droplets spread throughout the room. As we spread out into the world, we represent Him and are like him. Then I asked the children what we Christians are supposed to do in the world. They answered as one voice--“Smell!”
We Christians either bring the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere we go, or we will stink up the room. Without genuinely being transformed into His image, we just stink like a cheap knock-off cologne.
Being Christian isn’t something we do--it’s something we are. The kind of person we are is what people will think Jesus is. If we are loving, caring, gentle, kind, and thoughtful, then people will think that Jesus is the same way. If we are judgmental, angry, defensive, and proud, then they will say the same thing about Jesus.
Now suppose instead you opened the door of the church and the smell of death was here. How quickly would you want to clear out? You’d never want to come back again.
When a person finds Jesus, they are cleansed spiritually. They come to Jesus and willingly repent of their sins. They admit to their guilt and shame and realize that without Christ they are lost. Then, they are bathed in the blood of Jesus—in His sacrifice, all is forgiven. This process is what John means in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If you’ve had children, at some point you must have given them a bath. But children get dirty again. Christians are the same—once we are bathed in the blood of Jesus, we go back into the world and wrestle with the same pride, jealousies, sinfulness, anxieties, fears, and worldliness. We try to keep out of it, but we fail. So, we must be cleansed again. We love our children, clean or dirty. God loves us, clean or dirty. But He would rather us be clean. So we must strip off our pretentions of righteousness and perfections and humble ourselves to bathe again in the love of Jesus. If we don’t we’ll soon smell just as bad as we did before we met the Lord.
The purpose of Christian sanctification is not to make us acceptable to God. He already accepts us. It is not so that God will give us a reward for being “nice” either. The purpose of sanctification is so we don’t stink up God’s house. If we represent Jesus, we ought to smell like Jesus.
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem everybody liked to have this Jesus around, because he never made any fake passes and everything he said went and he helped the sick and gave the people hope. . .
“this Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who lived a clean life in Galilee.”
Sandburg was not a fan of the church, to be sure. But what did he think of Jesus? He spoke soft and gently. He gave people hope and helped the sick. He looked good, smelled good, and listened good. He threw out something fresh from his skin and his hands. In other words, he liked Jesus. It was just his people he hated, because to them, they stank.
If we live in a room full of decaying bodies and cigarette smoke, we will stink. But if we sit in a room full of flowers and perfume, we will smell good. If we sit with Jesus, we will take on his characteristics, but if we sit among those who are anything but Christlike whether they are in or out of the church, we’ll be that way, too.
1 Cor 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I imitate Christ.”
Paul makes two bold statements. The first is that Paul imitates Christ. He is bold enough to claim that he acts, thinks, feels and smells like Jesus. The second is that those who hear him should imitate Jesus, too. Be like me, because I am like Christ. The goal of every believer is to be like Christ in every way, so when people meet us, they meet Him.
Being a witness isn’t preaching, healing the sick, or feeding the hungry. It’s just smelling like Jesus. It is living in a way that the smell of us makes people hungry for Jesus like the smell of bacon makes us hungry for breakfast.
Missionaries can’t just preach—they must live among others as Jesus lives in them. They must embody unqualified love of others. We don’t go out in the world to save the world, but to be saved in the world, and to show people that we can live a different kind of life. We do not make pests of our selves any more than Jesus does. We do not lead off with rebukes and cynicism, but with caring for others. When others disagree, we don’t argue--we listen. We share the Gospel with grace, not force. When we see a person who is hurting, we don’t take advantage, but build them up, even if they are our enemies. When we see a person hungry we feed them; when they are lonely we befriend them; and when they are lost, we give them the gift of life.
His spiritual director noticed a difference in the tone of voice when he talked about this great mission and this slight difficulty with his friends. There was a joy in martyrdom, but a grim-faced determination in a slight, possibly imagined avoidance from others.
Barry made a profound point about this. Our spiritual condition isn’t revealed in our works or great sacrifices, but in the noses of those around us. We don’t grow in faith in grand gestures but in little acceptances. It is our everyday relationship that the true test of character is shown.
How much are you like Jesus in your homes? In the marketplace? In school? With the neighbors? That’s where your faith is really grown and tested, where people know it’s real, in the smell we give out every moment of every day.