In the country where we live, incense is burned everywhere, everyday. There is no way to avoid it. Those of us who live in places like this understand the powerful imagery of incense. Look at Second Corinthians, chapter two, verses 14-16. Paul says we are spreading the knowledge of our Lord like a sweet fragrance of incense. Where incense is burning, no one can ignore it. It either draws people toward its source, or repels them. The incense of our lives is spreading among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost.
In the first chapter of Malachi, verse 11 there is a promise that is particularly powerful for those of us who are living in other cultures. It says that from the rising to the setting of the sun, in every place, incense and pure offerings will be brought in His name. His name will be great among the nations. Every day it is happening. In some new place, a new life is offering up new praise to Him. You have a part to play in this drama of the ages. What joy to spread this fragrance!
The Facets of the Fragrance
Exodus 30 gives the formula for the incense that was to be burned on the altar of incense. Like any fine perfume it was made up of several ingredients. The incense of our lives has several facets too. There is the fragrance of grace. Since we cannot earn it, we receive it as a free gift. Every time we share freely of our gift, we spread the fragrance of grace. As others see that we don’t give or help because they deserve it, but that we freely give from a heart of love, they sense the fragrance of grace in our lives.
Unconditional love is another part of this fragrance. The father freely received back the prodigal son, even though he had squandered what he should have invested. The father also freely loved his elder son who was rejecting his repentant brother. We have many opportunities when serving overseas to demonstrate unconditional love. People will not meet our expectations and standards, yet we can love them anyway. We share God’s unconditional love with them.
Acceptance and security blend with the other scents to make this incense particularly sweet. We live in a world where so many have been rejected and have no security. A troubled and skeptical girl recently hugged me tightly while she cried her heart out. I believe it was the fragrance of acceptance and security that drew her out.
The fragrance of holiness cuts through the stench of this polluted world. Sin in all its forms fills the atmosphere with the odor of death. Stinky thinking clouds the air. The fragrance of holiness is a life-giving aroma. Many are drawn to lives that demonstrate a practical, joyful purity.
All in all, God’s people bring the fragrance of heaven to earth.
Increasing the Fragrance
We increase the fragrance of the incense of our lives when we spend time with God. As the priests’ clothes smelled like the incense he had burned, our lives carry the fragrance of our time alone with God. Time learning about Him, speaking to Him, and quietly listening for His response leaves an unmistakable fragrance to our lives.
Our willing surrender to Him also increases the fragrance in our lives. From time to time, there is only one appropriate response of our hearts to God and that is surrender. Otherwise, our self-will and personal agenda will overpower the incense in our lives. When we let go of the things that we desire, He will meet those needs in His own sweet way. Surrender is a key to increasing the fragrance.
Our reaction to our experiences releases the aroma of our lives. Incense only gives off its scent when it comes in contact with fire. The hard experiences of our lives are like the fire. They release the powerful fragrance. When we go through hard times, times of disappointment, or pain, our response determines what others sense. Bitterness is a poison that pervades the air around those who refuse to trust God during the hard times. But when we respond to those times by opening our lives to the Lord and trusting Him, a sweet fragrance is noticed by everyone around us.
The Fragrance is Powerful
The fragrance of our lives is powerful. It creates desire in those who spend time with us. Our African students would sit patiently on our sofa, and seemed to just be soaking up the atmosphere of our home. Students often asked us questions about how we lived. They wanted to know why we said “please” and “thank you” to our children. They wanted to know how I was able to answer their questions as well as my husband. What they saw in our home, they desired in their home. Remember, it is not just what we do, but how we live that spreads God’s incense. Our lives can be like a sweet-smelling garden creating desire in others.
The fragrance in each of our lives is unique. It is the combination of our relationship with God, our own unique personality, the accumulation of our experiences, and the character we have developed. The aroma of my life will draw the ones He wants me to touch. The aroma of your life will draw those He wants you to touch. If we each touch the ones we are supposed to touch, we will reach this world with His love.
His fragrance is spreading around the world, life by life, nation by nation. What a privilege we have to share His fragrance!