Wow? What’s That Smell?



“It’s all a lie! It’s all a lie! Man! I can’t win! I mean…I…just…can’t…win!” Carmen threw up her hands in anger, hurt, and frustration. She was in my office and was so angry she was pacing back and forth, like a caged lion.

I calmly asked Carmen to tell me more. She shared a sordid story of the definite, downward spiral her life took when late last year her father lost his job, they had to move from another state, and although she tried to roll with all these drastic changes, she dropped out–her Senior year of high school, and stopped attending her local church youth group. Against her father’s wishes and warnings, she began spending time with several neighborhood people who she thought were her friends. Several months and two felonies later, she realized that the “fun” they had all been chasing was nothing but a lie.

Carmen then looked me dead in my eyes and quietly said: “they all lied on me . . . I mean they totally threw me under the bus!”

On the night that Carmen got busted, the local police taskforce head detective showed each one of them, the video of them all caught in the act. He informed them all of the likely consequences. He gave them an opportunity to work out some sort of individual deal, but, this would be on a “first-come-first-serve” basis.

Carmen calmly told me “I ain’t no punk and I ain’t no snitch.  And I just assumed that my so-called ‘friends’ would do the same for me, too…but all of them…all of them said that what we did was all my idea! I mean how could they just do me like that?! I mean, my life is over! This has destroyed my dad! I could go away for a couple of years!”

Unfortunately Carmen learned, the hard way of the results of sin.

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:7, 8, NLT). Translation: sin will always result in stink!

Scripture describes the unpleasant smelling smoke in the Lord’s nostrils (Isaiah 65:5). John, in vision, when describing the actions of a group of people who willingly and wantonly sin, uses this description: “ ‘ . . . Get out, my people, as fast as you can, so you don’t get mixed up in her sins, so you don’t get caught in her doom. Her sins stink to high Heaven’ ” (Revelation 184, 5, MSG). Jesus, chastising the religious leaders of His day, called them “ ‘ . . . Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity’ ” (Matthew 24: 27, NLT). 

False Advertising

When confronted with an odor, people look like they are in physical pain. Then the commercials depict them spraying a product to make their environment smell better. As they administer the magic potion, they smile, and in one commercial, actually dance! Immediately life is perfect, tranquil, and serene.

Many in our world are living without Jesus, and their environment stinks. And they know that it stinks—that’s why they’re trying so hard to distract themselves with everything, anything! But here’s the crazy part: as followers of Jesus, we can actually make it stop stinking—or we can make it worse.

One fragrance brand brags that its product doesn’t temporarily cover up, but actually cleans the offensive odor. Just so, many in the world today use things to cover up the world’s stench—drugs, comfort food, questionable experiences, ill-advised relationships, etc. True, that for a while, everything smells great, but, in the end stuff still stinks!

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5: 19-21, NLT).

The clean up, this happens only through the power of God:  “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14, 15, NLT).

Stop the Stench

So how can we ensure that we are surrounded by a Christ-like fragrance? Here are three suggestions:

Stay connected with God. The next two suggestions won’t do any good if we’re not serious about this one. To positively affect our environment, we must connect daily with God. Christians derive their power, peace, and purpose through Him. Take time daily to interact with God through prayer and Bible study, and during the day meditate upon His Word. Interestingly, this first suggestion is 100 percent internal and private. Just as a tree with healthy roots produces healthy fruit, so lives governed by an intimate relationship with God produce “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).

Live a happy life. Even when we don’t think we’re being watched—trust me, people are watching. At the grocery store, at work, at the park, or at school, people are watching to see how we live; how we deal with difficulties and discouragements. This makes an impact, an impact they can’t easily disregard. This doesn’t mean that we have to be super positive all the time and see the world through rose-colored glasses. But we should, in the midst of all the stuff of life, choose to focus on praising God. The apostle Paul wrote: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20, NLT).

This suggestion is not internal and private, but external and public. We can consistently live the way God wants us to live only through God’s power. The results will be positive. A writer named Ellen White made this observation: “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity” (Gospel Workers, p. 122).

Finally, serve others disinterestedly. This last suggestion will be, for many, the most difficult and scary to do. But the most powerful way to sweeten the atmosphere around us is to serve others. As Christians, our goal is to be more like Jesus. He showed His love for God by serving others, even at His own expense. He told His disciples: “ ‘Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many’ ” (Matthew 20:26-28, NLT).

Smelling Good for God

With all that’s happening in the world, we Christians need to be focused on reaching others with God’s love. Our goal must not be just to draw close to God, live a happy life, and serve others. Ultimately, we should introduce others to God, the only One who can truly and permanently remove sin’s stench.
So the next time we use (or smell) air freshener, let’s remember that we can be God’s air freshener in our smelly world.

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