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Smelling Good

• Greg Boyd

This week’s message on “Smelling Good to God” was drawn from Luke 1:8-10. Greg used this text as an opportunity to show how the Old Testament temple structure and worship offer insights into the language and imagery of the New Testament. A significant part of Greg’s message centered on the new reality of us, both collectively and individually being the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Collectively, as the community of faith, we are the Body of Christ, and the temple of God. The Holy Spirit dwells within us. So, what then does this mean? Since we are all now priests of God, we also share the responsibilities of priests. If we feel that our lives are not very dynamic and exciting in terms of our Christian walk, we may want to accept this challenge! God wants all of our lives. As we yield more and more to God, we will experience the peace that comes from drawing on the true source of Life.

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Today’s message on “Smelling Good to God” was drawn from Luke 1:8-10. In this passage Zachariah was chosen by lot to offer the incense sacrifice to the Lord in the temple. Greg used this text as an opportunity to show how the Old Testament temple structure and worship offer insights in to the language and imagery of the New Testament (based on Hebrews 8 & 10 where the Old Testament is described as a shadow of things to come). As you may recall, the temple is made up of the outer court, the inner court, and finally the inner-most part called the “Holy of Holies.” It was such a sacred and terrifying privilege to enter into the Holy of Holies that when a priest did go in, they had a rope tied to them in case they died in the presence of God at least they could be removed without endangering others. A significant part of Greg’s message centered on the new reality of us, both collectively and individually being the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19).

Collectively, as the community of faith, we are the Body of Christ, and the temple of God. The Holy Spirit dwells within us. We may be too used to this thought if we are not totally amazed at it! The Creator of the Universe has chosen to dwell in the community of faith here on Earth. No longer does God reserve the most intimate contact with humanity for the innermost part of the temple, but we are all able to engage God in that immediacy when we come together as the Body to worship. This is a truly radical thought. In the Old Testament, it was very clear who could draw near to God and who could not. These barriers are done away with by Christ’s work on our behalf. The curtain in the temple that once separated the Holy of Holies from the inner court has been torn in two and now all are able to enter the deepest intimacy with God. There is no longer a division between people as there once was. All are priests of God, all have access.

So, what then does this mean? Since we are all now priests of God, we also share the responsibilities of priests. We are to do today what the temple did in the Old Testament. Make sacrifices. We offer ourselves up as sacrifices to God. We offer our lives, our time, our resources, everything to God as a burnt offering of incense would have been offered in the temple. There are dozens of references in Scripture to God enjoying the odor of sacrifices offered rightly to God. The importance of odor is diminished today because our technological and pharmaceutical advances have eliminated most of the offensive odors common to society. As Greg so colorfully illustrated, the animal droppings, the archaic strategies for dealing with sewage, the lack of modern deodorants, etc. made for a society that had many more strong smells present nearly everywhere one went. Of course, access to modern showers makes frequent bathing practical, but this was not the case even just a century ago much less thousands of years ago. In light of this, things like incense and perfume that cover offensive smells were coveted and frequently offered up to God in worship as a sacrifice. Consider just a couple of passages that illustrate this: Micah 6:6-8 and Eph. 4:30-5:2. It is our goal then, to smell good to God! We know that what smells good to God is justice, sacrifice, love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. as described in these passages. As we live in love and imitate Christ with our lives, we will be offering up sacrifices that are pleasing to God. Greg’s challenge to us was that if our sacrifices are not affecting our lifestyle, its not a sacrifice. He made this correlation: the more we offer of ourselves the better our lives “smell” to God and others, the more Kingdom power there will be in what we do, the greater sense of blessing, empowerment and freedom we will experience.

If we feel that our lives are not very dynamic and exciting in terms of our Christian walk, we may want to accept this challenge! God wants all of our lives. As we yield more and more to God, we will experience the peace that comes from drawing on the true source of Life.

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Topics: Community, Presence of God, Sacrifice, Worship


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 1:8-10

    8 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

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