The Bible makes it clear that those who follow Christ are to smell like Him. No, don’t go running out to try to find a bottle of pure nard perfume to anoint yourself with (John 12:3). God is talking about a spiritual aroma and not a physical one. He tells us through Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?”
The sweet aroma of Christ emanating from us is supposed to compel people and attract them to God, but not everything coming from us smells good. Believe me… I was a plumber for two years. Spiritually, we stink it up some times, which repels people instead of compelling them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that if you’ll just get more the aroma of Christ, everybody around you will get saved. Many will be repelled by that sweet aroma. For some, the more you smell like Jesus, the more they’ll hate you. Don’t miss what God said in 2 Corinthians 2:16. To some, our aroma of Christ is an aroma from death to death. In other words, it’s putrid to them, and they’ll hate you for it. We shouldn’t be surprised because Jesus said that we would be hated because of Him (John 15:18-21). So, being more like Jesus will not make you popular, but for some, it’ll be a sweet aroma from life to life, and they’ll be attracted to God by you.
From our standpoint, although it’s heartbreaking for Jesus, the gospel, and personal holiness to repel people, that’s okay because it’s between them and God. However, it’s not okay for us ourselves to be the offense, and often we are, repelling people from Christ. When we are supposed to be putting off the sweet aroma of Christ, we all too often stink it up.
Here are seven ways we repel people by stinking it up:
1) Lukewarmness. We get “lukewarm” when our hearts get away from God and turn hard. Love for God wanes. Excitement for God is missing. Compromise to sin is rising. The Bible speaks against this stench in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” A hot drink is soothing, and a cold drink is refreshing, but a lukewarm drink is just nasty, making you want to spew it across the room. Lukewarmness is repelling spiritually because it communicates to those around you that God is really no one to get excited about, no one to give your all for.
2) Hypocrisy. You probably heard folks call church people “hypocrites.” A hypocrite is somebody who says they’re one thing but acts a different way. The Bible speaks hard against the nauseating odor of hypocrites in Matthew 23:13-33. I’ll just quote for you vv. 29-33, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell.” Hypocrisy is such a turnoff because it makes the whole idea of God look like a lie and misrepresents God.
3) A Holier-Than-Thou Attitude. This stink is given off when Christians come across as thinking they are more spiritual, smarter, or better than others. I once had a youth leader in a church I was working in tell me that he was concerned about the type of kids that were coming to our ministry events. He didn’t want his girls to be around those “type” of kids. His family struggled a lot with a holier than thou attitude, and man, did it reek! Jesus ate with and ministered to the dregs of society (Mark 2:15-17). Jesus let a prostitute, who was turning to Him in faith, wash His feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-50). The Pharisaic owner of the house was appalled that Jesus would allow such a person to touch Him, but Jesus wasn’t holier-than-thou. A holier-than-thou attitude repels people from God because it communicates to them that the Kingdom is not for them, that they are too dumb, dirty, or deviant to follow Jesus.
4) Legalism. This ideology says that you can earn heaven if you’ll just follow the rules. What those who put forth this disgusting scent are missing is that while the Law of God is good, for us sinners it leads to nothing but death (Romans 7:5). When we heap Law and rules on people and tell them to swim, we sink them to the bottom of the ocean. This stink repels people because they say, “I can’t do that.” The truth is that they are right. They can’t do it, and legalism falls short of saying what the glorious gospel says, “But you don’t have to. Jesus did it for you. Trust in Him!”
5) Traditionalism. We humans are creatures of habit and quickly come up with traditions. Traditions are not necessarily bad, but they so easily become man-made laws that repel people from God as Jesus demonstrated in Mark 7:1-8. He declared in verse 8, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” This stuff still happens all the time today. For instance, I know one family where the girls were made to wear long skirts and never cut their hair, and the boys were made to wear pants and always keep their hair short. They were told to do this to please God. That teaching is nothing more than a tradition of man and is not found in the Scripture. It’s perfectly fine and within their Christian liberty to dress and groom themselves that way but goes way wrong with that style is equated with righteousness. Unfortunately, many of the kids in that family to this day reject God because they equate that teaching with Christianity. That’s why it’s so dangerous. It confuses what God has said with what some fallen person has said and becomes a stumbling block on the way to God. Woe to those persons who lay those blocks in the path!
6) Arrogance or A Know-It-All Attitude. This one is really similar to the holier-than-thou attitude, but it’s a bit more specific. This stink is emanated from those who really think highly of themselves. They’re proud of what they’ve done while forgetting that every good thing comes from God (James 1:17). God bursts the know-it-all’s bubble in 1 Corinthians 4:6-7, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” The arrogant are too busy making themselves look good to try to help others see that God is good. Shew-wee!
7. Complaining. Christians who complain a lot repel people from God. Nobody wants to be around a negative person who always sees the bad in every situation. God tells us through Paul in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Too often Christians engage in fussing at God because they wanted this instead of that. It says to the watching world that God is either not as loving as He could be or is not able to do what He’d really like to do. What an odious odor!
Sniff… sniff… sniff. Is there hint of spiritual stench coming from you? Run to Jesus so that you’ll have His aroma before you repel those that Jesus wants you to compel!