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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a MESSAGE! (Part 2)

We began this series with a quote from Karl Barth who said that people come to church out of the expectancy that they could find the answer to the question ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, then certain conclusions follow. The conclusion we want to look at today is . .

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have a message for the world, a message which is both good news and bad news.

The “gospel” means good news. Is the gospel good news to you? IF the gospel is true, then it is the best news anyone could ever hear — forgiveness from the Triune God! A place in God’s family! A reason to live! A confidence about the afterlife! But the gospel isn’t only good news. [The first book I wrote is entitled The Other Side of the Good News].

What’s the bad news of the gospel? Eternal judgment. Separation from God and God’s people forever. Righteous condemnation. Eternity in hell. There is no worse news than that!

One biblical text has always gripped my attention. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 2 —

Please notice the olfactory emphasis in this text. We are an aroma. We smell. To some we smell great. To others, not so much. Our job is to “spread the aroma” of Christ everywhere.

Just a few observations:

1. We are to be aroma-spreaders . . . everywhere (v. 14).
2. This aroma is “of the knowledge of Him” (v. 14).
3. Our primary audience isn’t the human race, but God Himself. We read, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ” (v. 15).
4. There are two groups who catch our aroma: (1) “those who are being saved” and (2) “those who are perishing” (v. 15).
5. The aroma we are spreading isn’t benign. To those who are perishing we are “an aroma that brings death.” To those who are being saved we are “an aroma that brings life” (v. 16).
6. Our aromatic duty is overwhelming and should cause us to exclaim with the Apostle Paul “who is equal to such a task?” (v. 16).

Today’s Challenge:  Because the gospel is true, we have no choice as Jesus-followers but to bring the aroma of Him to the world. Everywhere. To everyone. Don’t be shocked when some turn up their spiritual noses at you or me. It comes with the package. Because the gospel is true.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2021 in gospel

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 6 (Conclusion)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. We continue our study of several verses in Chapter 2:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an olfactory impact on others! We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ. We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.”

We also saw, third, that our primary audience is GOD! We read, “For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of Christ . . .” (v. 15). HE is our “audience of one.” We smell like God’s own Son.

We then recognized that “we are a pleasing aroma of Christ” to two human audiences (v. 15). Amazingly we are told that we are a “pleasing aroma” to both (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. Wow. Those “who are perishing” might not think that our aroma is pleasing, but if our primary audience is God, it is HIS opinion that matters the most! What “those who are perishing” may regard as a terrible stench, God says is a “pleasing aroma” to Him.

In our last post we observed that, apart from God as our primary audience, we believers are “smelled” by two groups. Verse 15 describes one group as “those who are being saved” and the second group as “those who are perishing.” The Bible is quite clear that the wages of sin is death. We begin to die the moment we enter the world. And, while physical death is awful, spiritual (or eternal) death is the worst possible situation one might encounter. Those who have not trusted Christ are presently dying. This bifurcation of all of humanity into two groups is incredibly offensive to those who are not yet believers, but it is still true.

As we conclude our study of this amazing text, let’s notice that the believer’s aroma brings something with it. For those who are perishing, it brings DEATH. For those who are being saved, it brings LIFE. One would not think that a mere smell would produce such dramatic results, but our aroma stands for a personal, saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. Believers find that image fragrant and pleasing; unbelievers react to that image as some odorous and repugnant.

The logical question that Paul asks is “And who is equal to such a task?” (v. 16). What task? The task of representing Christ in this world and recognizing that some will literally and figuratively turn up their noses at the gospel of our Savior.

Today’s Challenge: What an image! As you move through today, ask yourself if you are faithfully representing your Savior — and don’t be discouraged when some turn up their noses at you!

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 5

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. We continue our study of several verses in Chapter 2:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an impact on others! What is that impact? It is not just visual. There is an olfactory impact — we smell! If Paul is staying with the triumphal procession metaphor, those captured and defeated enemies most likely smelled like battle. The spectators would hiss and boo them — and turn up their noses at their stench!

We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ. We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.”

We also saw, third, that our primary audience is GOD! We read, “For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of Christ . . .” (v. 15). HE is our “audience of one.” We smell like God’s own Son.

As we continued , we saw that “we are a pleasing aroma of Christ” to two human audiences (v. 15). Amazingly we are told that we are a “pleasing aroma” to both (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. Wow. Those “who are perishing” might not think that our aroma is pleasing, but if our primary audience is God, it is HIS opinion that matters the most! What “those who are perishing” may regard as a terrible stench, God says is a “pleasing aroma” to Him.

Let’s notice today that, apart from God as our primary audience, we believers are “smelled” by two groups.  Verse 15 describes one group as “those who are being saved.” Wait! I thought salvation was a one-time, past action in the believer’s life? There is a past, future, and present aspect to our being saved. Here the focus is on those who “are being saved.”

Notice the second group: “those who are perishing.” The Bible is quite clear that the wages of sin is death. We begin to die the moment we enter the world. And, while physical death is awful, spiritual (or eternal) death is the worst possible situation one might encounter. Those who have not trusted Christ are presently dying.

Today’s Challenge: Live today as if all of humanity is divided into two and only two categories. And, by God’s grace, seek to be a fragrance to both!

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 4

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. We continue our study of several verses in Chapter 2:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an impact on others! What is that impact? It is not just visual. There is an olfactory impact — we smell! If Paul is staying with the triumphal procession metaphor, those captured and defeated enemies most likely smelled like battle. The spectators would hiss and boo them — and turn up their noses at their stench!

We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ. We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.”

We also saw, third, that our primary audience is GOD! We read, “For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of Christ . . .” (v. 15). HE is our “audience of one.” We smell like God’s own Son.

Let’s continue our study this morning as we see that “we are a pleasing aroma of Christ” to two human audiences (v. 15). Amazingly we are told that we are a “pleasing aroma” to both (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. Wow. Those “who are perishing” might not think that our aroma is pleasing, but if our primary audience is God, it is HIS opinion that matters the most! What “those who are perishing” may regard as a terrible stench, God says is a “pleasing aroma” to Him.

In our next post we will think about the bifurcation of the human race. The what?!

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 3

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. We continue our study of several verses in Chapter 2:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an impact on others! What is that impact? It is not just visual. There is an olfactory impact — we smell! If Paul is staying with the triumphal procession metaphor, those captured and defeated enemies most likely smelled like battle. The spectators would hiss and boo them — and turn up their noses at their stench!

We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ.  We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” And please notice — this is not an aroma that fades or dissipates. We carry that aroma “everywhere.” We are permanently affected by this knowledge of Him.

Let’s move on this morning and see, third, that our primary audience is GOD! We read, “For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of Christ . . .” (v. 15). HE is our “audience of one.” We smell like God’s own Son.

When our daughter was 12, she and I were snuggling on the couch the way fathers and daughters ought to snuggle. I leaned over and remarked, “You smell terrific!” (I think she was using a new shampoo). She then sniffed and said, “Dad, you smell terrific too.” Then she sniffed again and said, “No, that was still me.”

This metaphor of scent is central in this text. The Father smells the Son in us, on us. And we bring that reality with us wherever we go. But before we notice its impact on the only two classes of human beings who exist, let’s not miss the point that our primary audience is God Himself! And He is pleased with what He smells.

Today’s Challenge: How do we smell more like Christ? We need to be with Him more to pick up His scent, to be impacted by His Person and character. How and when will you be with Him today, my friend?

 

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 2

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. Here’s my outline for several verses at the end of chapter two:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

We’ve noticed, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat! He has won our hearts and we are now captive to Him. And therein is true freedom! No wonder Paul says, “But thanks be to God”!

Notice also that God “always leads us as captives” in this procession. It is as if His parade is going on all the time. And we are lined up in it, letting the spectators gawk at us — vanquished and defeated enemies of God who are being shown to the world. We are captives on display — and should rejoice in our publicly-displayed defeat!

Please notice, second, that Christ not only leads us as captives but uses us to have an impact on others! What is that impact? It is not just visual.  There is an olfactory impact — we smell! If Paul is staying with the triumphal procession metaphor, those captured and defeated enemies most likely smelled like battle. The spectators would hiss and boo them — and turn up their noses at their stench!

We believers are carrying with us, on us, in us, “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” We smell like Christ. We read in Acts 4:13 that when the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” We carry with us “the aroma of the knowledge of him.” And please notice — this is not an aroma that fades or dissipates. We carry that aroma “everywhere.” We are permanently affected by this knowledge of Him.

How’s it going, believer? Do others smell Jesus on you? Or do you and I try to cover up that aroma with the perfumes of this world and its pleasures? Just a thought.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2020 in 2 Corinthians 2

 

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A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17) Part 1

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. Here’s my outline for several verses at the end of chapter two:

A Fragrance . . . or a Stench? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

For regular readers of my blog, this will be the third time I’ve touched on these verses! Way back on Dec. 23, 2018 we looked at I Samuel 27 and how David had become “obnoxious to his people” (v. 12). We looked briefly at 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, noticing that sometimes we Christians are a stench to others. On February 29, 2020 we talked about a couple of online friends who hate Christianity and how we are either a fragrance to those who believe or an odor to those who don’t.

Now, because we are working our way through 2 Corinthians, we get to look at this passage again! And I will be taking my time doing so. There is so much here!

Notice, first of all, the image of a triumphal procession (v. 14). We have been conquered by Christ! Oh, glorious defeat! He has won our hearts and we are now captive to Him. And therein is true freedom! No wonder Paul says, “But thanks be to God”!

Notice also that God “always leads us as captives” in this procession. It is as if His parade is going on all the time. And we are lined up in it, letting the spectators gawk at us — vanquished and defeated enemies of God who are being shown to the world. We are captives on display — and should rejoice in our publicly-displayed defeat!

Today’s Challenge: Have you been defeated by Christ? Do you see yourself as a vanquished foe, eternally grateful for the victory of His grace over your sin? Then don’t be embarrassed to be on display! Don’t duck the spotlight, but live this day as a joyful captive of Christ!

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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UNFORGIVENESS — “One of the Best Weapons in My Arsenal!” (Satan) (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. Here’s my outline for several verses in chapter two:

UNFORGIVENESS — “One of the Best Weapons in My Arsenal!” (Satan) (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

What does it look like to be outwitted by Satan? When we make choices for our happiness that ruin our holiness, he wins. When we follow our own priorities and lose our passion for Christ, he wins. When we immerse ourselves in everything but God’s Word, he wins. When we live for our own comfort and choose not to risk anything for the gospel, he wins. When we settle only for what we can provide for ourselves and forget to pray, he wins. When we fudge the facts, turn away from honesty, and engage in lies black or white, he wins. When we are determined to keep a grudge going, to steadfastly refuse to forgive another, he wins.

In our passage this morning, the context is UNFORGIVENESS. The Corinthians had a lot to forgive, didn’t they? This man who was sleeping with his mother-in-law disgraced them. Now they needed to forgive him.

When we choose not to forgive, we have been outwitted by the Devil himself! He is somehow invested and involved in our conflicts — and unforgiveness is his primary goal. When unforgiveness is the result, love dies — and he wins.

Today’s challenge: Anyone you need to forgive? We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Col. 3:13). For the sake of God’s people, in the sight of Christ, choose to forgive that other person. Today. Right now.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in forgiveness

 

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A Stench . . . or a Fragrance?

I’ve recently been corresponding a bit with a couple of people who hate Christianity and have attacked me. Some of the things they have said about Christians are true. We often come across as holy know-it-alls. We are guilty at times of trying to manipulate conversations to spiritual things. And the “friendships” we develop with “lost” people are conditional and sometimes shallow and end when the other person refuses to become a believer.

I’m not sure any of us do anything out of 100% pure motives. But that’s no excuse for not loving others the way Jesus loved them. But I think if Christians were almost perfect in their interactions with those not yet in God’s family — they would still be criticized and hated. Which brings me to 2 Corinthians 2 which reads:

Just a few observations on this incredible passage:

1. Notice that God uses the believer “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (v. 14) Are you aware, Christian, that you carry with you a smell, an “aroma,” wherever you go? You can’t wash it off — nor should you want to. But one man’s aroma is another man’s . . . stench!

2. Notice also that we are “to God” a pleasing aroma. He is our primary audience. Others may “smell” us, but His “nostrils” are the ones that really count.

3. Our aroma is a pleasing one to God whether it is among those who are being saved or those who are perishing (v. 15). Interesting that all of humanity is divided up into two categories: (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pe. 3:9), but He is glorified even by the death of the wicked.

4. Notice that we are an aroma to two audiences: (1) to the one an aroma that brings death; (2) to the other an aroma that brings life (v. 16).

The bottom line is that the Christian is both! I would prefer to go through life as a fragrance rather than as a stench. You?

“Lord, help me to be faithful in representing You to a watching — and smelling — world. And help me not to take it personally when people turn up their noses at the gospel — and at me! In Jesus’ name. Amen.”


 
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Posted by on February 29, 2020 in evangelism

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 27) A Fragrance or a Stench?

Yesterday we read in I Samuel 26 – “25Then Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned home. There was no reason for David to trust Saul — and he doesn’t!

David makes plans to escape from Saul, convinced that one day Saul will destroy him. So he and his 600 men go over to Achish son of Maok king of Gath. David had already fled to Achish back in chapter 21 (when he had pretended to be insane). Gath, of course, was the hometown of Goliath!

David’s plan worked. He and his men settled with their families in Gath with Achish. David had his two wives (Ahinoam and Abigail). And Saul stopped searching for David (v. 4).

David humbly asks Achish for a country town to live in, saying, “Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?” (v. 5). Achish gave David Ziklag and David lived in that Philistine territory a year and four months.

Raiding various people groups, David and his men killed all the men and women but took the plunder of their victories (vv. 8-9). Upon request David would report to Achish where he had raided, being careful not to leave a man or woman alive who could report to Achish what David did. This was David’s practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory. Achish trusted David (sounds like he should not have!) and said to himself, “He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life” (v. 12).

What’s going on here? It appears to me that David asked for a country town to live in, away from the royal city, so he and his men could raid various people groups without Achish knowing about it. David describes the groups they raided as if they were Israelite areas (“the Negev of Judah”, etc.). This causes Achish to say that David has become obnoxious to his people.

Some takeaways for me:
1. Spirituality does not equal gullibility. David makes plans to get away from the murderous efforts of Saul to separate his head from his body!
2. In a broad sense, church leaders are to have a good reputation with those who are “outside” the church. David is on good terms with Achish and that relationship provides David and his men somewhere safe to live.
3. The believer in Jesus is both a fragrance and a stench. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians2: “14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”  This is an amazing passage, for all of us would prefer to be a fragrance, rather than a stench!  We will have an olfactory impact on all we meet today — to some as a fragrance of life, to others as a stench of death!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2018 in I Samuel 27

 

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