Please read the appended article on The Aroma Of Christ by Zac Poonen. This message was an eye-opener and has brought tremendous repentance in my life. For those who want to download and hear this message, please click [url=http://www.cfcindia.com/tbsaudio/26_Principles_Of_Christian_Leadership/9_The_Aroma_Of_Christ.mp3]The Aroma Of Christ[/url]
[b]THE AROMA OF CHRIST by Zac Poonen[/b]
One of the things I keep asking myself is, Am I reflecting Christ correctly to others around me?
Doctrinally we may be right, and yet Christ may not be reflected in our lives. Jesus said that when the Helper, the Holy Spirit came, He would take all of His things and show them to us. One mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that we will be constantly seeing something more of the glory of Jesus from the Scriptures as shown us by the Spirit. In some passage that we have read for 25 years, all of a sudden, we will see something of Jesus there that wed never seen there before. And in that light, we will see our own need.
I dont believe that we should ever look inwards. That is not Gods way. We dont run the race, looking inwards at ourselves. Yet this mistake is made by a lot of Christians who pursue after holiness. But looking inward only brings depression, because nothing good dwells in our flesh. A spiritual man always looks upwards first and sees Jesus. And it is in the light of the glory of Jesus that the Holy Spirit shows him his own need. It is in His light alone that we are to get light on ourselves (Psa.36:9). That is Gods way. When we see our need like that, we will never get discouraged.
Looking inwards is what the psychologists teach as a technique for self- improvement. Non-Christian religions also have a lot of teaching of such self- improvement. Unfortunately, holiness for many Christians is nothing more than a self-improvement program. They look at certain weaknesses in their life and seek to improve. But that is not Gods way, for that brings heaviness, depression, and bondage - and very often, a lot of pride as well, that says, Im better than others.
Genuine holiness is the kind spoken of in Ephesians 4:24 - holiness of truth or a holiness that is no illusion. The holiness of many Christians is an illusion. They are holy only in their own eyes. And if theres one thing I fear, it is being holy in my own eyes. If we discover only at the judgment seat of Christ, that some of the holiness we thought we had was only an illusion, and not genuine Christ-likeness, it will be too late to do anything about it. We must know that now.
Paul said, Thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him, in every place.(2 Cor.2:14). There is an aroma of Christ that comes forth wherever there is genuine holiness. It may not be through anything we say or do. Its just an aroma. An aroma is like a perfume. When a lady uses a perfume, she doesnt have to say or do anything. Everyone smells the aroma. So too with the aroma of Christ. There is something about the bearing and conduct of a Christ-like man, the way he talks to you, the tone of voice and his approachability etc., that gives you an aroma and that is the aroma of Christ.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all exuding some aroma or the other. And like body odor and bad breath, we may not realize the bad aroma we are exuding. Other people however can smell our bad breath. But out of courtesy, they may not tell us about it. And most people wont tell us when they see something un-Christ-like in us either. How then shall we be saved from deluding ourselves with an illusory holiness?
Only by humbling ourselves before God and allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the truth about ourselves every day. If we can acknowledge, that despite all our Bible-knowledge, and our service for the Lord, we are still very unlike Christ, then there is hope for us. If we have the hope of becoming like Christ when we see Him, then the Bible says that we will not stop purifying ourselves, until we are as pure as Christ is (1 Jn.3:2,3).
A Spirit-filled man is one who has a passion to be Christ-like. His service for others comes out of his Christ-likeness. To be Christ-like does not refer only to ones character. It includes our witness and our service for God too for Jesus spent much of his time serving others, often ignoring His own personal needs.
We read further in 2 Corinthians 2:15, We are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved, among those who are perishing. That teaches us not to try to be a fragrance to other people. Some who hear this message may now try to be a fragrance of Christ to others. That can be superficial and artificial.
It says here that we are a fragrance of Christ unto God, first of all. God has to smell our fragrance first of all. And if God smells it, then those who are being saved will smell it too. But if we are eager for other people to smell our humility, our purity and our goodness, we will only end up as Pharisees. We have preached holiness in our church in Bangalore for 25 years now (1999), and it would not be an exaggeration to say that we have preached holiness more than any other church that I know of, in India. So I say to the brothers and sisters in our church, Therefore, we are more in danger of being Pharisees than anyone else in our land. Do you know how the Pharisees became Pharisees? By pursuing holiness. But it was a holiness of the letter. It was not a holiness that brought a fragrance to God.
In Isaiah 65:5 we read of certain people who said to others, Dont come near me, for Im holier than you. I dont think anyone would actually say that in so many words today. It would be rude and haughty to say such a thing. But it is an impression that we can give to others that conveys this message: I am holier than you. And when we give that impression to others, we make them feel small. Thats not the aroma of Christ.
And this is what I am scared of more than anything else - because this is what makes me a Pharisee. Im even scared to tell people what the Lord has done for me, or in me, lest I make them feel small. Weve got to be careful when we report to others what the Lord has done through us. We must speak in fear. We need to fear when we speak about dreams and visions and revelations that we have received lest we make others feel inferior to us. Jesus never made anyone feel small. He made Himself like His brothers in all things and kept quiet about things that would make others feel small. The question we need to ask ourselves always is: Am I giving others the impression that Im holier than them, or more used by God than them, or even more unworldly than them? That is not the aroma of Christ.
Do you see now why the sinners ran away from the Pharisees and came running to Jesus? Jesus was holier than all those Pharisees yet sinners felt comfortable around Him. Now, logically speaking, a sinner should feel more comfortable with other sinners, and not with a holy man. If my clothes are dirty, Id feel more comfortable mingling with others whose clothes are also dirty, rather than with someone whose clothes are sparkling white. Jesus clothes were sparkling white! There was not a spot of sin in Him!
And yet the filthiest sinners in town felt comfortable with Him. Why was that? Because He never made them feel small. He never gave them the impression that He was greater than them or even holier than them (even though He was). To me that is the greatest mark of genuine holiness.
It is interesting to see the expression the Lord uses here to describe those who have this attitude of spiritual superiority. They are a smoke in His nostril places - a fire that burns all day (Isa.65:5). We have all seen trucks on the road that belch out smoke. When I travel on my scooter behind such trucks, I keep a big distance from them. Its a terrible feeling to have smoke going into our nostrils. God says, If you want to know what I think of people who give others the impression that they are holier, the best example I can use is getting smoke into your nose the whole day long!! If that is how the Lord feels, then I say, Lord, I never want to be like that. I never want to make another person feel small in my presence.
Love never makes another person feel small. If our ministry is anointed and powerful, it is easy to get power over people through that. And with that power, we can make people do what we want them to do. We can make people serve us. That scares me, because I serve a Savior who never wanted anyone to serve Him. He came to serve others. But it is so easy when people respect us, to make them serve us or our family in some way. And when we do that, we have become big people. I fear that. I want to go down, and become small, because I am called to serve others, not to rule over them.
I remember a well-known preacher who came to stay with us for a few days in our home, many years ago. He was gripped by the message we were preaching in our church and he came to attend our meetings. And he saw how my wife and I moved closely with the people in our church, and he said, Brother Zac, you shouldnt move so closely with the people. Keep a little distance. Let them have a little awe of you. You and your wife mingle too freely with everyone. All I can say is that I felt sorry for him. What he was suggesting is the technique adopted by kings and queens, and film actors and actresses. They never get too close to people. They keep their distance, because that is how they keep people in perpetual awe of them. And alas, many preachers have made royalty their examples, rather than Jesus.
Jesus was never like that. He mingled freely with all people - all the time. Romans 12:16 tells us not to be haughty in mind, but to associate with the lowly. That means to mingle freely with the ordinary people as an ordinary man yourself. I love the title that Jesus used of Himself most frequently: son of man. What He meant by that was that He was just an ordinary man. He was not an ordinary man actually. He was God Almighty! But He lived on earth as an ordinary man. And the more I become like Him, the more I will be an ordinary man. Only thus will I be able to finish my earthly course with joy and fulfill all of Gods will for my life.
You dont have to preach well. Thats a gift that God gives to very few people. But if you can be gripped by the glory of Jesus and remain an ordinary brother, an ordinary sister not royalty or a star until the end of your days, youll finish your course with joy and be a blessing wherever you go. And even if you speak just a few words, God will take those words like arrows into peoples hearts and theyll never ever forget you.
You can never forget a real saint. You may argue with him, you may criticize him, but the memory of his life will go with you wherever you go - because you saw something of Christ in him. Thats how we are to live!
People may meet us and go away. But even 40 years later, they wont forget us, even if they never see us again because they saw something of Jesus in us once, which they cannot forget. This is what Jesus meant when he said that we were to be witnesses unto Him. That calling has been so devalued now. We have Bible schools and plenty of Bible-knowledge. Thats good. But if we dont reflect Christ, if His aroma doesnt come forth from us, all our knowledge and preaching is worthless it is only garbage, fit for the garbage-bin.
You may not be a preacher like me, but you may have a strong personality and your soul may have a lot of power in it. That doesnt depend on how big you are physically, or how clever you are. Human soul power is something in your personality. And if you have a strong personality, it will be easy for you to dominate others in the church who are weak personalities and make them feel small. A rich man also can likewise make others who are poor, feel small.
In Luke 22:24, Jesus said to His disciples, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors. A benefactor is one who does good to people, a very rich man, who helps poor people. Yet the Lord said, Dont be a benefactor. What does that mean? It means that if we help poor brothers, we must do it in such a way that they dont feel obligated to us in any way. We are not to make them feel small when we help them. We must not rob them of their dignity as human beings. If we help people and in the process rob them of their dignity as human beings, then we have been their benefactors, not their brothers.
I have met many missionaries in India during the last forty years and I dont want to judge them. But my honest opinion is that 90% of them were benefactors. I hope Im wrong, but I am afraid Im right. They certainly did a lot of good for the people of India. They sacrificed much, gave money, built hospitals, and did many other good things. But most of them did not make themselves equal to the brothers they came to serve. They were benefactors. Its not easy to be a brother. I can act like an equal and talk like an equal, but my aroma gives me away. The aroma of humility is different from acts of humility and talking in a humble way, etc., You cannot duplicate the humility of Christ. You have to have it inside you. And that depends on what you think of yourself in relation to those other people. It depends on whether you believe that all human beings are equal before God, irrespective of race, religion, color, intelligence, education, wealth etc.,
The most important principle of Christian service is that which is written in Hebrews 2:17: He (Jesus) was made in all things like His brothers. It says about Ezekiel, I sat where they sat
Jesus was made in all things like His brothers. He was no benefactor. He was an ordinary man. It is not easy to be that always.
Dont assume that you are like that. If you assume that it is so with you, you will deceive yourself. It is far safer to assume that youre not like that. Start with the assumption that you are a benefactor, and then say, Lord, I dont want to be a benefactor. Help me, to be in all things like my brothers, so that the least and the lowest among them will feel comfortable around me. Help me, that, even when I reach the heights of holiness in my inner life, and the heights of what I think is Christ-likeness, that the filthiest sinner in the world will still feel comfortable around me; and that above all, You will always smell the aroma of Christ in me, and not the aroma of a self-made holiness.
We need to take these matters seriously if we want to go on with God. We can come up to a certain point in our walk with God and then spend the rest of our life congratulating ourselves and comparing ourselves with other believers around us. With so much decay and corruption in Christendom in our day and with hardly any distinction nowadays between the lifestyle of so-called, Spirit-filled Christians, and that of the world, its not difficult to be better than such third-rate Christians. Then we can begin to think, Our church is better
Our sisters are more modestly dressed
..We dont do this and that in our church
We dont have this and that in our home... We are like this
We are not like that
We can put such a burden on our children by making them behave like tin soldiers who have to always behave in a certain way before others. A lot of Christianity today is like that window- dressing like a shop-window that displays something attractive for passers-by to see and be impressed by. And if one of our little tin soldiers does not behave in the way he or she should, we are disturbed - not because a sweet aroma is not going to God, but because of what those visitors would think of our shop-window!!! This is just seeking honor and glory from men for ourselves and for our families - and it is a stench in Gods nostrils. He detests it.
If theres anything we need to fear in the pursuit of holiness and being separated from the spirit of the world, it is seeking the honor of men - trying to become a fragrance to men, instead of a fragrance to God. We must not make others feel small in any way. I may be preaching holiness and doing a lot of good to people. But if I am on a pedestal and make others feel that they are below me, then I have failed to be a witness for Christ. I certainly must not compromise in any area. But I must sit where the others sit. That is how Jesus was. He embraced the lepers whom the Pharisees wanted to keep outside the city. He sat where they sat and loved them and made them realize that they were valuable to God.
Ive said to the brothers and sisters in my church, If you see a brother in need in the church and you want to help him financially, thats a good desire. Its good to have a generous heart. But you need tremendous wisdom, if you are to be a brother to him and not a benefactor. So dont go and give him any money yourself. Because then hell feel obligated to you. And you would have robbed him of his dignity as well, because you reminded him of his poverty. Instead, put your money in an envelope, write his name on it and drop it in the offering box. Then he wont know where the money came from. And if you want to help him next month, an envelope of another color, use a pen with a different color of ink, disguise your handwriting, change the amount of the money you put inside, and drop it in the offering box again. And if you want to help him again, dont do it at regular intervals, but at irregular intervals. Then he wont even discover that all of that money came from the same source!! Love is inventive. If you want to hide yourself, youll have to be inventive.
We all want to be like God. But one characteristic of God is that He hides himself. It says in Isaiah 45:15, You are a God Who hides Himself. See how perfectly God has hidden Himself in this universe that atheists can say, There is no God!!! And when He answers prayer, He does it so well, that even believers say, We were healed because we used this new antibiotic
., or because we went to such-and-such a hospital, or because we went to such-and-such a doctor
etc., etc., It was God Who healed them. But He hid Himself so wonderfully that someone else got the credit each time!! That was how Jesus lived too. He would heal the sick and disappear from the scene.
The more I become like Jesus, the more I will want to hide myself and disappear after having done good to others! Jesus would heal the sick, and then tell the healed person, Dont tell anyone that I did it. Just go home and glorify God. Do you see that spirit in any of todays healing evangelists? No. Ive never seen it. And thats why I say, they do not have the Spirit of Christ. It cannot be the Spirit of Jesus, because Jesus hid Himself after healing people.
Have you observed the way servants work in our homes. A good maidservant does all her work in the background. She washes the clothes away from sight. She cooks the food in the kitchen. She sweeps the floor when no- one is in the room. But the results of her actions are seen by others - theres a good meal on the table, the clothes are neatly washed and ironed, the house is spick and span. But you dont see the person who did all that work. A visitor to that home may never see the servant. He will only see the master, the mistress and the sons and daughters of the house. Ive meditated on that because that is how I too am to be a servant of the Lord. Ill be successful servant of the Lord, when I am like that maidservant doing everything secretly just to please my Master. Where does that maidservant get her reward from? Not from the visitors. No. She gets it from her master. Shes not bothered what the visitors think about her. And I too should be satisfied with the approval of my Master alone. Why do I want anyone else on earth to know what I did for the Lord? Why should anyone know that it was I who brought that person to the Lord?
Are you happy for your Master alone to be happy with you? The devil is using both money-power and soul-power through Christian preachers nowadays. Just like a rich man can make poor people feel small, an intellectual can also make others feel small. Human soul power is a tremendous force. Many intellectual Christians mingle only with those of the same intellectual ability. I live in Bangalore where many people are intellectual. But about 80% of our churches are in the poor villages where most of the people have not even finished high- school. I visit these churches often every year and those brothers have been my salvation. They have blessed me without their even knowing it because they show me constantly that spirituality is not a matter of the intellect at all. They bring me down to earth.
I thought of the aroma of Christ when I was at a conference last weekend where I saw a number of mentally-challenged (retarded) children. I believe that all of those children are members of Christs body and will be in Gods kingdom. Because they are saved just like I am not by works, but by the righteousness of Christ being put to our account freely. Now we know that every member in Christs body has a function. So these little children must be having a function too, by which they bless the body of Christ! How do they do that? What do you feel when you see such a child? A little compassion. And that makes you a little more Christ-like. But that child did not even know that he had blessed you in that way? It was blessedly ignorant of the fact that he made a hard person like you a little more compassionate!! Thats how God does His work in Christs body, so that no man gets the glory.
In the final day, no man will be able to boast before God. Well see that God used so many people like even these mentally challenged children and sick people to bless us without their knowing it - to soften the hardness of our hearts, and to make us more Christ-like. We may discover in the final day, that some of these weak children blessed us much more than many of the sermons that we heard.
God will never share His glory with another. No preacher will be able to stand before Him in the final day and boast that he was the one who had blessed so many people. Youll be surprised when you see the type of people and children whom God used. It behooves us therefore to be humble, and to recognize that we are nothing. Make sure that you dont make other people feel small by your wealth or your intellectual ability. The truly Christ-like person makes everyone feel equal to him. When I am with little children, I talk to them at their level. And when I am with young people, I talk to them at their level, and try to use their language, so that they will feel comfortable with me. This is Christ-likeness, and this is true holiness.
Elihu told Job No fear of me should terrify you, nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you (Job 33:7). All of us need this verse but especially preachers. People can be afraid of us preachers but they should not be. Even if we are like lions in the pulpit, we must be like lambs when we come down from there. No fear of us should terrify anyone from coming near us whether we are parents or older brothers and sisters.
Our pressure should not weigh heavily on our children or on brothers and sisters who are younger to us. Examine yourselves, dear brothers and sisters. Does your pressure weigh heavily on anyone? Do you make people feel small? When they look at your life, do they feel discouraged and say, I can never be like him. Or do they feel encouraged and say, He seems to be a person with weaknesses and struggles like me. So, if he made it, I can make it too.
Are you happy when others admire you? To tell you the truth, Im scared when people admire me. Because I know that theyll be discouraged then. Im scared when other people admire my family life or my children. That can easily discourage them. So I say, Lord, Im not here to be admired by anyone. Even You did not tell people to admire You. You only told people to follow You. I want to be like You.
Sinners like John the apostle could lean upon Jesus chest. What freedom Jesus gave John. Do we allow brothers to come close to us like that? Or are we such holy people and such great men of God that others cannot come near us? Do you think that keeping a distance from people is holiness? If so, may God have mercy on us. I can imagine Jesus even playing games with His disciples. Does such a thought horrify you? Do you say, Oh, Jesus would never do that! Wouldnt He?
Perhaps you have a wrong picture of Jesus. Do you think that always being serious without any humor at all, is the mark of true holiness? That is counterfeit holiness and there is a lot of that in the world. No-one feels comfortable around such serious, holy people!! We cant get close to them. We wont know whether were saying the right thing or doing the right thing, around them. I have seen such people and I have prayed, Lord, dont let me ever be like that. I dont want anyone to feel that he has to behave in a certain way when he is near me, or in my home. Everyone is free to be just himself with me. He does not have act in a special way or fear that he may say or do something wrong around me. He cannot say or do anything wrong. I will accept him just as he is. He is free to be himself.
An Arabian proverb says, True friendship is one where I can pour out everything that is in my heart to my brother and know that he will sift the chaff from the wheat and keep only the wheat. Can we give others the freedom to talk to us like that? Or do they have to be careful when speaking to us? I know that with certain people, I have to be very careful about what I say, because they will analyze every word - and that can cause problems. How good it is when you have a good relationship with your wife. You can speak to her without carefully weighing your words and you know she understands you fully and will never misunderstand you. That is true fellowship. And that is how it should be in the church.
Holiness without fellowship is a deception. If there is genuine holiness in two brothers, they will have deep fellowship with each other and they will feel totally at ease around each other. Jesus never tolerated sin, yet sinners felt comfortable around Him. That was because He created such an atmosphere around Him that enabled sinners to be free with Him. Only the hypocrites were uncomfortable around Him. Thats how it should be in the church too.
Isaiah 33:14 says, The hypocrites tremble in Zion. A hypocrite must never be able to sit comfortably in our church. But repentant sinners (no matter how deeply they may have fallen) must always feel comfortable in our midst as they did with Jesus.
Does your pressure weigh heavily on some people? Ive met a number of believers like that. Theres a weight about them. I dont mean physically!! They can be small-built. But as soon as you meet them, they make you aware of how big they are. There are many husbands like that who constantly make their wives feel small. Does your wife feel scared to make a mistake in your home? If youre like that, theres something you need to cleanse yourself from. We are told to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor.7:1). It is fairly easy to cleanse ourselves from the filthiness of the flesh because that is easily noticed. But filthiness of the spirit is more subtle.
In the same way there are fathers whose pressure weighs heavily on their children. Are your children scared to make a mistake at home? Do you expect them all to be perfect tin soldiers? You can keep up that pretense for a long time and fool others that your children are all spiritual. But God sees through all that. And a spiritual man will see through it too. But since 95% of the people in the church are not spiritual, you can fool all of them and get away with it.
Soul power is a very subtle thing. You can have all your doctrines right, and preach well, and do many other things well. But your soul-power can make others feel small. Jesus was not like that. People should not be afraid of us. They should fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 (the verse I just quoted) goes on to say that, holiness is perfected in the fear of God - not in the fear of man. No-one can perfect his holiness through fearing any mans opinion. Every brother in my church should be able to say concerning me, I dont fear brother Zac. I can go freely to him at any time. If however people live in awe of us, we are a stench in Gods nostrils.
I knew a brother, a brilliant man, who was very orderly in his thinking, and neat and tidy in all his ways. His mind was programmed like that. And in Gods wonderful wisdom, he got a wife who was thoroughly disorderly. Such a marriage brings salvation to both!! Such marriages are almost certainly ordained by God. Because God is more interested in our sanctification than in neat and tidy homes. I hope you know that. A tidy home is good, but it is secondary to sanctification, love and fellowship. This brother would help his wife wash up the dishes in the kitchen every day and he had great wisdom. His wife would put back the plates, forks, knives and glasses in a haphazard, disorganized way on the shelves. That was not the way this brother would do it. But do you know what he did? He would put away the plates, forks, knives etc., in the same haphazard way that his wife did. Why? So that his wife would never feel small by seeing a neatly, perfectly arranged kitchen, that she could never match!! So their kitchen did not look very neat, but they had a very happy marriage! What a wise man he was.
Which do you want - a neat kitchen and tension at home, or an untidy kitchen and peace at home? Be wise, dear brothers and sisters. Dont make foolish demands on each other, and on your children. It is possible that you may not be realizing how heavily your pressure weighs on your partner. But God can give you light, if you seek Him.
The time has come for judgment to begin the household of God. And it begins with us first
(1Pet.4:17). How do we know that we are the household of God? Here is the mark. Judgment begins with us first. If we judge ourselves constantly, we are the household of God. If we spend our time judging others, then were not the household of God, but probably the household of the devil, the accuser of the brothers.
Jesus Christ came to turn the world upside down or rather right side up, because the world has been upside down, ever since Adam sinned. Jesus came to straighten man up. People thought that Paul was turning the world upside down when he preached (Acts 17:6-KJV). Actually, he was only turning the world right side up.
The race of Adam, has one unique characteristic; They put themselves first in everything, except in the matter of judgment. In that, they always put the others first!! When God asked Adam whether he had eaten of the fruit, he immediately blamed Eve and said, This woman, whom You gave me
, indirectly blaming God as well for his sin. In everything, the children of Adam ask themselves, How will this help ME?....What can I get out of this?.... Will this enhance MY reputation, etc., etc., But in judgment, they all say, Not me first, but the others first.
Jesus came and turned this upside-down world, right side up. And He tells us now to live by His new principle: Put others first in everything, except in judgment. In judgment, put yourself first. Do you want to build the household of God? Then begin by judging yourself first. Cleanse yourself from the filthiness of spirit that makes you judge others, put pressure on them and make them feel small.
It must have been so pleasant for people to be with Jesus. He never made anyone feel small. He never made anyone feel unimportant. He never made anyone feel that He was so busy, that He had no time for them. Nicodemus went to see Jesus in the middle of the night, and Jesus had time for him even at that time. He always gave people the impression, You can come and disturb me at any time. And Nicodemus just walked in, without making an appointment. Jesus made Himself a nobody in order to serve us. I want to have the same attitude towards people that Jesus had.
It says about Jesus that he was so busy serving people once, that He did not have time even to eat (Mark 3:20). People came to His house and wanted to meet Him and to talk to Him. Somebody would want prayer for healing, someone else needed advice concerning some problem. And in helping all of them, He had to miss his meals on many days. When His relatives saw this, they grabbed Him thinking He had gone off His head (Mark 3:21). No-one would have considered Him mad, if he had missed just one meal.
But this was becoming a habit! Thats why they considered Him insane. Has anyone ever considered you insane for allowing people to take so much of your time that you didnt even have time to eat? Are you serious about wanting to be like Jesus? Theres a price to be paid to be like Him. If you dont want to be inconvenienced or disturbed by others, you might as well forget about becoming like Him.
People were most important to Jesus. He did not come to earth to fulfill His own agenda. He came to bless people and He loved all of them. He was not engaged in a ministry!! What a lot goes under the name of ministry these days that has nothing of Christ in it!! Jesus loved sinners, because He had come to save them. They had a right to make demands on His time, His life, His convenience and even on His meal-times Jesus was different from the run-of-the-mill preachers that the Israelites had seen. He was sensitive to peoples needs.
Once, when Jesus and His disciples were walking from Judea to Galilee, He deliberately chose to go through Samaria (Jn.4:3). He was prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. He reached Samaria weary from the journey (Jn.4:5), but not so weary that He could not listen to the Holy Spirit. He was always alert to the voice of the Spirit. Jesus and his 12 disciples were all hungry. I have traveled with other brothers to different places and I know what we do when we are hungry. We all go together to a restaurant and eat. I never sit by the roadside and send the other brothers to the restaurant to bring me food. Wasnt it unusual then that Jesus did that at Samaria? There was only one reason why He did it. He sensed the Spirit saying, Let them go by themselves this time. You stay here. He obeyed the Spirits prompting and sent His 12 disciples to the town, while He sat by the well. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit had a reason for prompting Jesus to do that. Along came this woman at noontime.
In all villages, the women normally go to draw water from the village-well in the mornings, because they need water for the whole day. But this woman wouldnt go in the morning because she was constantly mocked at the well, by the religious women of the town for her immoral lifestyle. Holy people wouldnt go near her, because she had been divorced five times, and was now living with a man whom she had not married. You dont go near such people do you? Holy people keep clear of such women, right?? She had seen that attitude and so came to the well at a time when no-one else would be there. But today Jesus was waiting for her there.
I want to be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit like that. That is the way to be a blessing to others in our brief lifetime. If you are alert to the still, small voice of the Spirit, God will use you to minister to needy people everywhere. Jesus didnt preach a message on Divorce and remarriage to that Samaritan woman. No. He asked her for a glass of water. He went to her with compassion, and not with a doctrine. And she was amazed that a high caste, holy Jew would ask a Samaritan for water, for the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. We can be callous like those Jews too. Our attitude can be, Let these divorcees go to hell. We will have no dealings with them, because we are holy. But Jesus cares for divorcees. He died for them and He wants to save them.
So Jesus began to talk to her, and probed her to find out how honest she was. Go and call your husband, Jesus said (Jn.4:16). The woman said she had no husband. She thought she could get away with that answer. But Jesus replied, Youve said well. Because youve had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband ((Jn.4:18). Embarrassed, she immediately changed the subject. She said, Lord, can you tell me something about worship? Our fathers worshipped at this mountain but you Jews say that we must worship in Jerusalem.
Which is the right way to worship God? It is so beautiful here to see that Jesus did not embarrass her by probing her private history any further. He changed the subject and spoke on worship. I love to see that. Jesus never made anyone feel small. He never came back to the subject of her marriage again. He just ignored it. Let us learn from Him.
Jesus went on to explain to her what true worship was. The most profound statement on worship in the entire Bible was spoken by our Lord to a five-time divorced woman. In our way of thinking, that would be the last person on earth to whom we should be explaining worship. We would want to explain the seriousness of divorce and remarriage to such a woman. But Jesus was so different from us! He was compassionate and understanding. The Holy Spirit shows us the glory of Jesus here. And He wants to make us like Jesus.
Amazingly, the woman got convicted - and got converted. And she became a witness. And there was a revival in this city. Just consider this : If Jesus had continued to probe her marriage, she would have felt uncomfortable and squirmed inside, and gone away. Thats how we drive sinners away from us. We act holier than them. That is not the aroma of Christ.
I used to read the gospels as stories at one time. But now the Holy Spirit shows me the glory of Jesus in the gospels, and I am challenged to be like Him - sensitive, thoughtful and considerate.
Let me turn you to another passage of Scripture, Luke22:24: There arose a dispute among them as to which of them was regarded to be the greatest. Jesus knew what they were arguing about. And I see His gentleness in the way He dealt with them. We would imagine that He should have said something like this to them: For 3½ years Ive talked to you about humility. And Im going to be crucified tomorrow morning. Yet all that you can discuss among yourselves is who will be the next leader. Im sick and tired of all of you. But He didnt say that. Instead He said, Worldly rulers seek for position. It should not be like that among you. His approach was so gentle. And then He encouraged them with these words: You are those who have stood by Me in My trials(Lk.22:28). To whom did He say those words? To those who He knew would run away and leave Him alone, in just a couple of hours!! And He went on to tell them, Ive appointed a kingdom for you, and you will all sit with Me on My throne one day. Such is the Lords way. Let us learn from Him.
People come to our church-meetings, beaten in lifes battles, having financial difficulties, and facing difficult situations in their homes with difficult husbands and wives, and rebellious children. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet. They come to church to get a word of encouragement. But what do they get? Very often, a hammering!! May God have mercy on us for treating His people like that.
Jesus was a great encourager. He was not afraid of praising people, publicly. He didnt think as we often do: Oh, if I praise him, his head will get swollen. So I better not do that. Let me keep him humble, by criticizing him. We are so unlike Jesus. When a Roman centurion came to Jesus, and asked Him to heal his servant, Jesus replied that He would come to his house. The centurion protested saying, Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But speak the word right here and my servant will be healed. Because I too am a man under authority and when I say to one of my servants Go he goes and when I say to another Come he comes. Even so, Lord, I believe that You are under the authority of God and if You say to a sickness Go, it will go immediately. I believe that! When Jesus heard this, He marveled. Isnt is amazing that the Son of God marveled at something? He immediately said about this centurion, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Jesus said that publicly in the centurions hearing. And He was not afraid that the centurions head would get swollen with pride. No. He wanted to encourage that man. The Jews looked at the centurion with a holier than you attitude. And Jesus showed the Jews that that Roman was better than every Jew in Israel. Jesus cared for divorced women and prostitutes and Roman centurions who were not allowed to enter the holy Jewish synagogues.
Can you imagine how that centurion must have felt when He heard these words from One whom he respected as the greatest Man on earth? He must have been so encouraged. I am almost certain that he would have become a disciple of Jesus and lived for the Lord thereafter. That is Gods way of making disciples.
What amazing things one word of encouragement can accomplish. And yet we are so unwilling to give it, most of the time. We dont speak words of encouragement to our children or to our wives who struggle and slog away for us in our homes. Instead, we are quick to point out their mistakes, some fault in the food or something not put in its proper place, etc., etc, How unlike Jesus we are.
What is the aroma coming forth from you, dear brother, sister? How much effort does it take to speak a word of encouragement to you wife or child? Why dont we do it then?
Ill never forget what an older brother once said to me when I was a very young man. I was seeking to serve the Lord, but I was often discouraged. This older brother did not even know me. But he put both his hands on my shoulders and said to me, Brother, God has a great purpose for your life. I havent forgotten his words in all these 35 years and I dont think I ever will. I didnt get puffed up with his words. I was greatly encouraged. Theres enough in this world to discourage people. We dont have to add to that. We must sit on the other end of the see-saw, and encourage our fellow-believers. People come to church to be encouraged, not to be beaten up and hammered.
Let us turn now to Hebrews 3:13: Ive read this verse in two translations. In the King James Version it says, Exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. But in the New American Standard Bible, it says, Encourage one another daily
The translators of these versions were great Greek scholars. So the original Greek word parakaleo must have had these two possible meanings: exhort and encourage. This is also the word from which we get the word Comforter or Helper that Jesus used in John 14, to refer to the Holy Spirit.
Now, which of these two translations do you prefer exhort or encourage? I think we need both. How can you save someone from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? Perhaps you have exhorted him plenty. It may be time now to start encouraging him. You can save Him from being hardened by words of encouragement. Actually we should be balanced in both encouraging and exhorting. But if you find yourself always leaning towards exhorting alone, then you are not like Jesus. His aroma is missing in your life.
I find in my own church, that Ive spent so many years exhorting the people there, that I now feel the need to balance it out by spending many years just encouraging them. Some of you may be in the same boat as me. Youve only exhorted people all these years. And perhaps the people are still hardened. The fault is not theirs, but yours. Try encouraging them for the next few years and see the difference.
Perhaps it is your children or the young people in your church who need encouragement so that they dont get hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Those young people may have slipped up and fallen into sin. But didnt you slip up in your younger days too? Have you forgotten what you were like at their age? Why then are you so hard on them?
Christ is coming soon. Let me close with Pauls words to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfill it (Col.4:17). And I say to you also in the Name of the Lord Jesus,
Take heed to the ministry that YOU have received in the Lord. Fulfill it before you leave this earth. Go forth and speak words of encouragement to everyone around you. Fulfill that ministry faithfully and you will have a glorious entrance into Christs kingdom one day. Let us spread the aroma of Christ everywhere we go.
He who has ears to hear let him hear.