This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak.
I have always enjoyed the Tuesday night Bible Study at the church. It started as a men’s Bible study twenty-five or thirty years ago and now it is for both men and women. A few years ago, we looked at the Temple as it was presented in the Old Testament and we wondered what it smelled like. Our sense of smell is a strong trigger for memory. For the Jews, the Temple must have smelled like forgiveness and like God, because that is where they went to meet Him. The Temple would probably smell bad to us, as it was a combination of animals being sacrificed, fat from the livestock that was being burned, and the burning of incense. I grew up on a farm and the smell of livestock reminds me of the farm. The smell of livestock being killed probably reminded the Jews of God. For us, animals being slaughtered would be the smell of death, but for the Jews it was the smell of God and of forgiveness. We don’t realize that death is the result of sin and there has always been a direct connection between sin, death and forgiveness. The natural smell of sin is the smell of death.
We live in a different era. Since Christ’s death, the sacrifice for sin has been completed and we live in the era marked by the resurrection of Christ. We live in the era of life. “In Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” In Adam, we have the aroma of death, but since Christ we have been marked by the aroma of life. To us, God has the sweet smell of life. The smell of forgiveness is the smell of honeysuckle along a country road or anywhere we sense the smell of life. The smell of life is the smell of forgiveness and of God. Since Christ has risen, we live in the new era, which is ruled by life. We will all live forever; it is only the nature of that life that is in doubt.
Paul tells us not to bring sacrifices of death, but living sacrifices. The presence of God is now about giving our lives to God as living sacrifices. God wants us to bring Him into all areas of our lives. We now worship by making a living sacrifice. Worshiping God is not a performance we enjoy; instead, it is living our lives for God. We do not just worship on Sunday mornings; we now worship with all of our lives. I have gone on many mission trips with teenagers and often have had to supervise their building or repairs. We started each day with devotions, but I encouraged the kids not to stop their prayers when the devotions ended. All the work they did should be a prayer to God. All that we do is a living sacrifice to God. It is about the way we mix concrete and the way we treat the people with whom we work. All of our lives have become a living sacrifice to God. No matter where we are or what we do, we need to see the reality of God in all we do.
I have been intrigued with Celtic Spirituality because seeing God everywhere was a strong emphasis for them. They sought to see God in all they did. They had prayers for the things they did each day. They would say those prayers while they did their normal activities. They had prayers for baking bread and for cleaning up after eating. God wants us to live that way. He wants our lives to be a living sacrifice to Him. We are to see God’s presence in all we do and not just as we gather as a church on Sunday.
I also struggle with seeing God in all I do. Sandy and I had a hard time handling our four grandchildren while Lynn was in the hospital giving birth to the fifth. I did not do a very good job of seeing God’s presence in the middle of our frustration and seeing what He might be doing with us and with them. As God’s children, we are to become “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Our life is now being lived for Him and we smell Him in all we do. There is no longer the need for the Temple where sacrifices were made. God is now present in all we do so that we have become the Temple of God.
Paul also tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Greek words that are at the roots of the words translated conform and transform are very interesting. The word translated conform is the Greek word skema and it refers to taking on the external nature of something. It has to do with how we look and act. There are many ways we do this. If people go fly fishing, there is a definite way they dress to do that and dressing that way costs a fair amount of money. They put on the skema of fly fishermen. There are also skemas about how we act. We may put on the skema of an intellectual or the skema of a redneck. Some even put on the skema of being a Christian. A religious skema can be used to reflect how our culture expects Christians to act and perhaps even to dress. Some may enjoy the apparent spirituality of a Christian skema. Paul says that there is a skema of this world and we are not to put on the skema of this world, even if it is the skema of looking like a Christian.
Paul tells us not to conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Greek word for transformed is morphe. That is the source of the English word, metamorphosis, which means to change our nature. It is the word that is used to describe a caterpillar’s changing into a butterfly. It means a change of what is natural has taken place. I went through something like that when I became a pastor. I did not grow up in the church and the skema of being a pastor did not fit very well for me. I struggled with that through the first ten or fifteen years I was a pastor. It took a metamorphosis for me to become a pastor. One day, I was complaining to a friend about how I did not want to keep being a pastor. We were walking and she actually stepped in front of me, stopped, and said, “Don’t you realize you have become a pastor? If you were put in prison, you would pastor the roaches.” God had changed my way of thinking so that I became a pastor, rather than just putting on the skema of one. That is the way God works on all of His people. He is turning us into His children. As that happens, our thinking changes and increasingly we start seeing things the way He sees them. A friend of mine wrote a line in a song that says he is coming around to God’s point of view.
Sandy and I have not watched television for over four years. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I do see how the lack of television is changing how we think. We don’t see the same things being important that we used to think were important. We have lost a good deal of our desire for things in general. Now, we go to a mall and wonder why the people there want what they are buying. We realize that they have been told by television what they should desire. They have taken on the skema of this world. Because we have been away from the TV, we don’t have the same way of thinking that most people do.
God wants to go down inside the depths of our souls and transform us so that we start to think like Him. He wants to bring total change into how we look at everything. He wants us to come around to His point of view. When we start to see things from God’s point of view, we will look weird to the rest of the world. We will start to act on our new way of seeing things. We won’t just be acting out our Christian faith, but will begin to become different beginning at the depths of our souls.
When we take the bread and grape juice this morning, it has the smell of forgiveness and of life. It represents the life of God that comes into us and begins to make us into His children.