September 2, 2014

Wanted: Dead and Alive

--reflections on the stench of sin and the aroma of Christ--


We’ve been away enjoying a last piece of summer with family whom we don’t see often enough.  During these stretches of broken routine and the clamor of busy little people my mind seems to go into hibernation and ponderings freeze…thus the absence of a post last week. Sorry.  This morning I offer just a snatch of a pondering not yet completely digested, for your perusal…

The day after we had returned home and were once again on the tandem pedaling off Grandad’s cream puffs…my mind began pondering again.  This time an unlikely topic: Roadkill!

We couldn’t see it but Peeuuw!  we cycled through the zone of something dead.  And the thought flashed across my mind.  What if we smelled this stench when the ‘works of the flesh’ were present? What if we were as repulsed by sin as God surely is—as repulsed as we are by the stench of  this dead flesh that rots by the roadway…

I set myself to memorize Romans 8 over a year ago so I’ve gone over and over those verses about the flesh…

‘to set the mind on the flesh is death…the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God…For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live’.

But still sometimes it seems a little nebulous what the ‘works of the flesh’ are.  Not so this roadkill. We know it’s dead.  We smell it!  Why are we not so clued into the works of the flesh?  I flip over to Galatians, (not while I was on the bike, mind you, but right now) and I read that the works of the flesh are evident—then commences a sampling: sexual immorality, impurity, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, and it gets more obvious suddenly culminating with drunkenness and orgies, readily visible things.  (Gal.5:19-21)

These are juxtaposed with the fruit of the Spirit—those sweet-smelling things in our lives that evidence God’s transforming presence in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Ahhh….a beautiful list.  No stench here! Who doesn’t want to be around someone bearing this fruit?

I’ve just finished preserving (and giving away) a bumper crop of Italian plums from our little tree.  Ten overflowing ice-cream buckets worth.  A fruitful tree is a great blessing.  This is what I want to be.  The alternative gives off quite a stench. 

And now that I think of it, perhaps the works of the flesh are evident, to everyone but ourselves when we’re caught up in them.  There were moments this past week…where my aroma was not good.   Fits of anger. Hmm… Dissensions.  Hmm… heated words, sullenness, resentment…When I’m embroiled in these things I may not recognize the scent.  But everyone else does!  While I’m busy justifying my right to be angry, my need to vent, and the legitimacy of my brooding, others merely smell the stench of dead things.  None of these stem from faith. “Whatever is not of faith is sin”.  Sin stinks.  Can we smell it? 

The works of the flesh reflect a self-defensive agenda rather than a willingness to die to self and live to Christ. Because they are not driven by God-confidence they are void of the good fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace…

So the week is past.  The stench has faded to a memory.    And I am thankful for the Spirit’s working through the Word to remind me what flesh smells like and what Spirit smells like, and calling me to fresh repentance and confident faith based on what God has done for the likes of me!

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Rom.7:25

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I have been set free from the law of sin and death by Jesus own sacrifice of Himself, ‘in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in [me]’. Rom.8:3-4NIV

Because Christ is living in this ‘body of death’ the Spirit grants me life by His indwelling.  His fruit becomes visible as the misdeeds of the body are put to death.  Theoretical realities these.  I lose sight some days and the stench rises, but realities they are, and by faith I am filled with hope that God is at work in me to fashion me into the image of His Son.  He gave Christ not only to die for me and save me from sin’s penalty, but also to live in me and so save me from myself!

I commend to you Romans 8 as a memorization project.  I find that committing a passage to memory gives endless opportunity for meditation and internalization of truth.  You just never know when the Spirit will use it to speak words to your heart that you most need to hear.


When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Ps.65:3

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Gal.5:24 

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom.6:11

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” II Cor.2:14-16


P.S. Oh, and almost forgot—I’ve just started reading a Puritan Classic by John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation—by invitation of a pastor blogger who hosts regular reading projects.  The idea is to read a chapter a week, then to join together in discussing it on Thursdays via the “Comments” section of his blog. 

I’ve not done this before and the book is a hearty chunk to digest, but I’m up for the challenge.  Would you care to join me?  The details are here  The first post/discussion will be September 4, 2014. 

And the book is available free online or as a download for your e-reader here: 
Or in paperback from conventional sellers. 

Grab your copy and drop by!


Val said...

Simple but clear and challenging and a good picture to keep in mind....I will check out the book....I am late to join the discussion though! :-)

Linda said...

Sometimes the simplest things stump us, don't you find? We're always looking for something more mysterious...

And say,
It's not to late to join. Today's the day! Read a great summary of chapter one here and jump in for the next chapter. (Chapter one was quite short...and worth the read!)I'm heading there now to comment... [Copy and paste this URL:]

MKF said...

Great post, Linda. Your word pictures really hit home. Too often I have either felt sorry for myself in my sin, or simply not recognized just how bad it is.

Linda said...

Precisely. I can certainly relate. When sin hurts me I feel it. When it hurts others I may think it nothing. How broken is that?