Uncommon Fragrance of Jesus

I stop trying to be “wonderful” but let Him be the Wonderful One. “Be still and know …” “Seek first the Kingdom.” Stop trying to gain approval, be somehow impressive, be something I am not. But just be what He made me to be – just be. And as that happens His love can flow through me and I will carry the fragrant aroma of his sacrificial love with me wherever I go.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NIV)

The word translated equal in this verse is the Greek word hikanos (ἱκανός), which means sufficient, enough, competent, ample in amount or fit in character, worthy. Who indeed is sufficient, competent, or worthy for such a task? What an amazing thing that we could bear, spread, be the fragrance of Christ. Duncan Campbell has written,

“This surely is the ultimate reality and the supreme wonder of human existence, that God can be glorified in us. In other words–we are to be ‘living epistles.’ After all, the greatest contribution you or I can make to the cause of Christ, is the impact of our unconscious influence, and that influence impregnated by the life of Jesus. We will have failed in our object, unless we bring back to our schools, our colleges, our homes and our common task, something of the uncommon fragrance of Jesus. So let us yield to His indwelling that Christ may be able to express His loveliness through us.”—The Price and Power of Revival, Duncan Campbell [emphasis mine]

“[T]he impact of our unconscious influence.” Isn’t it even more amazing, that God could do all this through us – spread the fragrance of Christ’s love and life – and we be unconscious of it! That His Presence, living in me, indwelling me, goes with me and leaves a fragrance of Jesus, inviting, welcoming, attracting – or, sadly, repelling.

Paul says in the above verse that God is spreading this aroma through us. No one is competent or worthy or sufficient in themselves. Jesus is the sufficient, enough, competent, ample in amount, fit in character, worthy One. As Paul says a little later, “Not that we are competent (hikanos) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5 NIV). But rather it is Christ in me and you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) as we “yield to His indwelling” and follow Him in the triumphal procession, a willing captive, captivated by His love.

Godliness is the mark of a person whose life is centred in God – a person who has become a vessel of the presence of God. Wherever such a person goes, the atmosphere is permeated by a faint, but unique and pervasive fragrance. There may not be any preaching or other religious activity. Yet people become strangely aware of eternal issues. Teaching Letter No. 24: The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Derek Prince

It all comes back to the Presence. Abiding in the Presence, the Vine. He in me and I in him. My life centered in Him. My eyes fixed on Jesus, not on myself. I stop trying to be “wonderful” but let Him be the Wonderful One. “Be still and know …” “Seek first the Kingdom.” Stop trying to gain approval, be somehow impressive, be something I am not. But just be what He made me to be – just be. And as that happens His love can flow through me and I will carry the fragrant aroma of his sacrificial love with me wherever I go (Ephesians 5:2).

 “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”— they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon— all of these simply are as well— yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.”

The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.

If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him. –from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition, Oswald Chambers

Image public domain, Bureau of Land Management California

The Art of Remaining Present

God is always present with us – vehemently, passionately (for nothing that He is or does is wimpy or lukewarm). Yet, we struggle to remain present with Him. We fight against ourselves and the distractions of the world. 

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering (hupomone) produce a crop.  Luke 8:15 (NIV)

The Greek word hupomone (cheerful or hopeful endurance, constancy, enduring, patience, patient continuance or waiting, perseverance) comes from the verb hupomeno (remain, abide, endure, persevere). Hupomeno is from two Greek words – hupo (by, from, in, of, under, with) and meno. Meno (μένω) is a wonderful word and is the root, heart, and strength of persevering and producing a good crop.  Meno means to abide, continue, dwell, endure, remain, and – my favorite – continue to be present (I love this! You can be somewhere without being truly present).  Jesus used the word meno several times when he said, “Remain (meno) in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5), and also, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain (meno) in my love.  John 15:9.

Hupomeno means, then, to remain by, in, with, under – I like to think of it as the art of remaining present (continuing to be present), remaining with Him, by Him, under His wings, in the vine – remaining in the Presence. Because it is not from ourselves that the strength comes to persevere in trouble and suffering or even just in daily life, but from Him. It is only by remaining plugged into the vine that we can persevere – “apart from me you can do nothing.”

We know from scripture that God is always present with us. Jesus said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20) and Psalm 46:1 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present (or very present, exceedingly, with muchness, vehemently present) help in trouble.” The Merriam Webster dictionary defines vehemently as forceful energy, intensely emotional, deeply felt, impassioned. That is how God is present with us – vehemently, passionately (for nothing that He is or does is wimpy or lukewarm). Yet, we struggle to remain present with Him. We fight against ourselves and the distractions of the world.

Brother Lawrence wrote about this struggle as “practicing the presence of God”, and that we would meet with resistance from our flesh, but that we should persevere for the burden is light.

“He requires no great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.”[i]

Alexander MacLaren called it “the consciousness of being in touch with the Father, feeling that He is all round us”[ii] — passionately, continually.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23 (NIV)

My thirsty soul longs veh’mently,
Yea even faints, thy courts to see:
My very heart and flesh cry out,
O living God, for thee. (Psalm 84: 2, The Scottish Psalter)

 

[i] The Practice of the Presence of God. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1958.

[ii] Expositions of Holy Scripture. Hodder & Stoughton, 1900.