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Speaker asks Southwestern students, ‘Are Christians aroma or stench to God?’

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–What do Christians smell like? That was the question posed by Raymond Spencer, instructor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during a Nov. 4 chapel at the Fort Worth, Texas, school.
“Today many are more interested in lining their pockets than being faithful to the truth of the gospel,” said Spencer. “How do you smell this morning? What’s your fragrance?”
Christians who stay true to the gospel present a pleasing aroma to the Lord, while those more concerned with worldly things become a stench before God, Spencer said.
In biblical terms, fragrance is an indication of the effectiveness of a person’s ministry, he said. Quoting 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Spencer referred to the apostle Paul’s praise to God despite all the troubles and burdens Paul described in the passage.
Spencer said Christians today are able to praise God despite their problems and afflictions “by always allowing God to take the lead. God has got to be the leader.” Alluding to the practice of Roman generals’ parading their victims in victory parades, Spencer illustrated the point, saying, “We’re captives of Christ.”
Effective ministry, he said, also emits a pleasing fragrance to God. He cited verse 15 in the passage in which Paul says believers are the fragrance of Christ to God.
Spencer also noted Christians play another role, this time comparing fragrance to the knowledge of God. “It is through us that God spreads his fragrance,” he said. In effect, he said, Christians are selling hope. “Although your life is dying and dirty and your back is turned to God, yet there is still hope.”
He challenged seminary students to consider how they were representing God to others. “What do people get when they come close to you? The aroma of Christ or the scent of sin?”
Though the fragrance of Christ that his followers spread through effective ministry is pleasing to God, Spencer noted it will not appeal to everyone and will bring division. “The fragrance divides humanity,” he said. “For some it is pleasing, for some it is death.” For those the fragrance pleases, he said, it leads to eternal life, while for those who reject it, it will lead to progressive hardening against it.
Spencer said it is not the believer’s duty to make people accept the fragrance but simply to distribute it. And what determines how effective this ministry will be depends not on form or beauty but on content. “What we say determines the effectiveness of our ministry,” Spencer said. “Those who seek the praise and applause of men are peddlers.”
Instead of that path, taken by those Spencer also labeled “hucksters,” he said Christians should stand by the Word of the Lord whether or not it is accepted by others. “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Preach it when they want to hear it. Preach it when they don’t want to hear it.”
Spencer also encouraged his audience that God has a way of turning defeat into victory. “The devil misunderstood Christ on the cross,” Spencer said. “He thought he said, ‘I am finished.’ He said, ‘It is finished.'”
Christ is always the victor. “Christ has never lost a battle. There’s not even a tie or a draw.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey