Monday, October 22, 2012

"You Smell So Sweet!"

A Fall day in Wisconsin
     Shortly after my husband finished professional school, we moved back to his hometown of Defiance, Ohio.  He planned to set up his practice of optometry there, and since we did not have a home, we moved in with his parents temporarily.
     His parents had an extra bedroom they had prepared for us.  When we arrived, we were glad to unload our cars and find rest after a busy day of moving our belongings from Columbus, Ohio.
     Climbing into bed that night, we both noticed a strong perfume smell coming from the mattress.  In fact, the fragrance was so strong that we decided we should keep a fan on during the night.
     In the morning, my husband went downstairs to have breakfast before showering and his mother greeted him with these words, "Why Son, you smell so sweet this morning!"  He told me later that it was at this point he decided we needed to purchase a plastic mattress bag as he didn't intend to smell like a cologne factory every day.
     Later, we learned that the mattress in question had been in storage for a while.  So wanting to freshen it up for our arrival, his dear Mom had poured a bottle of her favorite cologne over the mattress before putting on the pad and sheets.  Needless to say, this is why we had such a very strong odor emanating from the bed that night.  We did get the plastic mattress bag and that helped considerably to dull the strength of the fragrance.  In looking back, we most likely could have gotten away without showers for several days and no one (but us of course) would have known for the strength of the cologne.
     Thinking about this incident brought to mind the many times that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in the New Testament.  These men were Law keepers to the max.  They carefully followed tradition and the rules so that they might look and smell really good before God and others.  However, on the inside, their lives were empty.
     Mark 7:6-9 says:  "And He said to them, 'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'  Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.'  He was also saying to them, 'You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.'" (NAS)
     To outward appearances, the Pharisees were sterling examples of piety.  They kept the Laws, prayed on street corners, kept the holy days and festivals and knew the Scriptures.  But they did not know the One true God in their hearts.  Their religion was dead and empty.  They smelled sweet on the outside, but they were dirty on the inside.
     Jesus' confrontation with them was offensive as they felt they had arrived.  He was upsetting their traditions and way of life.  It was far more comfortable to keep God at a distance than it was to allow Him to bring changes in their hearts.  They could follow religion and a set of rules, but it was unnerving to think of just trusting God and following His Spirit.  Because of this type of thinking and their stubborn expectations for what Messiah would be, they missed the very One for whom they waited!
     How much are we like that?  Even as Christians, we can get caught up in rules and game playing.  If we do this or don't do that, we will earn points with God.  However, when we buy into this thinking, we are negating grace and elevating works in order to get us in right relationship with God.
     Dependence on God means that each day we will do a daily moral inventory and allow God to examine our hearts.  When He reveals sin, we will be quick to repent and seek His cleansing not leaning on our works to keep us in tune with Him.  Vulnerability, openness, and a heart that desires to please Him is really what He wants to see in us.
     My husband and I may have smelled good the day after we slept on that mattress, but eventually, people would have noticed if we hadn't showered.  In the same manner, as Christians, if we try to cover over our sins with the fragrance of works, we will fail in our attempts to be clean on the inside where the Lord sees all.
Ducks on a Fall Day in Brookfield, WI
     Each day, we need to being with prayer and the bathing of God's Word so that our minds and hearts will be renewed.  Only as we walk by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, can our lives have a fragrance that comes from the inside.  Paul the apostle said in 2 Corinthians 3:6: "...who also made us adequate as servants of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."  May we seek to live by the Spirit and not by the traditions of men.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this topic.  How do you keep yourself smelling spiritually sweet?


Christina said...

Welcome back dear Barbara! I hope you had a wonderful & refreshing time away!!

I LOVE this devotional!!! As I was reading it, I couldn't help but remember a book I read by Jerry Bridges called, "The Gospel for Everyday" (or something like that!!!) The Gospel is not just a 1x event -- it is for everyday and we must learn the habit of preaching it to ourselves minute by minute. The temptation will always be there to cover our sin with "the fragrance of works". May we walk by faith reminding ourselves daily of the great grace that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Love you dear Barbara and I thank God for you!

Barbara Thayer said...

Great insight Christina. Thank you for sharing that. Indeed, we do need to preach to ourselves every day and remember the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! You always share such encouraging words!

We did have a wonderful vacation time and fellowship. God is so good to us!