Two Kinds of Noses

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 | July 11 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
July 11
Two Kinds of Noses | 2 Corinthians 2:12-17
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Our Father, we ask as we do most Sundays when we gather that You would give us ears to hear, and more than that we pray that You would give us noses to smell, that we might smell the fragrant aroma of Christ, that we would have ears and eyes and noses to receive the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of our salvation, and it would be sweet to us, and being sweet to us, we would be eager to share it with others. Help us now, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

We come to our evening text from 2 Corinthians chapter 2. We’ll be reading these several verses, 12 through 17 of 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 12 through 17.

“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.”

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

I remember hearing years ago from D.A. Carson, you’ve maybe read his books or heard lectures or sermons from him. He was just here at RTS a few weeks ago teaching a course. I remember hearing him say years ago, and after teaching for decades, he said he’s learned that students don’t learn what you teach them, they learn what you’re passionate about.

I think that’s right. Now, of course, hopefully they learn whatever the decibel level, but his point after many years of experience was it isn’t just the mere transfer of information, it’s the arresting nature, it’s what you brig that people sense “this matters so much that I need to listen.” And you’ve probably all had that experience of on the one hand perhaps listening to people talk about the most grandiose things, perhaps talking about the greatest things of God and the Bible and I hope I don’t resemble this remark, but sometimes you can listen to people talk about those things and you say, “Well, how can you be so dreadfully bored with the things about which you speak?” and then you start to feel a little guilty because you’re getting very bored because this chap seems very bored with all this.

And on the other hand, when you find someone who’s absolutely gripped, they could be talking about carpet. Now if I talked about the color of the new carpet coming in here, oh, your ears would all perk up, but I’m not going to go there. It could be almost anything, and if they’re interesting, if they’re informed, if they’re passionate… One of the things when we come to a passage like this, now Paul is going to give us direct instructions, but to listen in and to ascertain from the Apostle Paul not just what he says, but what he cares about, what he’s passionate about, what matters to him.

Now this is encouragement and maybe some discouragement for parents out there, that we’d like to think that our kids just are just riveted to all of the instructions we give them. Many times I’ve said, “Children, gather around, it’s time for a dad speech,” and oh, just on bended knee, just leaning forward they are, so eager to hear another dad speech. No, what they pick up on is they can tell even more than sometimes what you say to them over many months and years, what do you care about, what animates you, what excites you, what discourages you, what really matters, and so when we listen in to the Apostle Paul speaking here to the Corinthians, we get to hear what he cares about, and it’s instructive for us in our own hearts in what matters to us.

My outline is very simple. In this passage, I see four sets of two’s, two verses of transition, 12 and 13; two metaphors for ministry; two kinds of noses; and then two challenges for your life. We’re going to look at each of those pairs.

So starting with two verses of transition. Now you see verses 12 and 13. It doesn’t seem to be very much exciting there, but when we read between the lines, there’s actually something quite instructive. For the last chapter and a half, Paul has been talking about his sufferings and, as we saw last week and the week before, why his visit to Corinth had to be delayed.

Then starting in verse 14 of tonight’s passage and carrying on into chapter 7, Paul is going to talk about the nature of his ministry, so we have several chapters of Paul saying this is what Gospel ministry is about, why my ministry has not been a sham even though I have not made it to Corinth yet, that was his point in this first chapter and a half, and now he’s going to say what my ministry is all about, and verses 12 and 13 connect those two themes: Why my ministry was not a sham, because I didn’t visit you, and now more broadly, what Gospel ministry is about.

Now why does Paul, look at verse 12, why does he mention Troas? He does so in order to show just how much he loved the Corinthians and how concerned he was about them. Here’s what Paul is saying, and then I’ll explain where I get this from.

What I think he’s saying is this: “I got to Troas,” which is in Asia Minor, Turkey today,
“and there was a great opportunity for me to preach the Gospel,” you see that in verse 12. “The Jewish leaders invited me to lecture in their synagogues, the Greeks in the market place wanted me to come back and explain who Jesus was. The Lord had opened a great door of ministry, but I couldn’t stay. My spirit,” verse 13, “was not at rest because,” why, “I had to go find Titus, and so I left Troas, I set sail for Macedonia, and I did this because I felt a burden to minister to you, Corinthians, even more than the burden I had to minister in that open door in Troas.”

Why does this demonstrate Paul’s concern for the Corinthians? Because of this. As best as we can tell, Paul had sent Titus with the severe letter. Remember, that’s the letter we don’t have that went to the Corinthians and told them to get their house in order and said some hard things. Paul sent that letter, as best as we can tell, with Titus, and now his spirit is not at rest because he needs to find Titus and he wants to understand, “Okay, how did things go? What was the response? How did the Corinthians take it when they read my letter?” That’s what he’s getting at in verse 12 and 13.

Now, Pastor, that’s interesting, where do you get that? Well, turn the page to chapter 7, verse 5, 7 verse 5, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn, fighting without, fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.”

So connecting the dots, chapter 2 and chapter 7, it seems as if Titus was likely the one who carried this letter to the Corinthians, and Paul is so eager, “I have to know.”

You ever have that when you have to have a hard conversation with someone, and especially if you can’t do it in person, and you send an e-mail. Now, usually if you can do it in person, don’t send an e-mail, don’t leave it on voicemail, but if you’ve had no other choice and you do that, and you’re just sort of waiting, you’re apprehensive, ehh, how did that go down? I just dropped it there, what are they going to think?

That’s Paul’s mindset. He’s trying to communicate that he made his decision to bypass his immediate trip to Corinth, not because he forgot about them, not because he didn’t care about them, but actually because he couldn’t get them out of his mind. So he has this relational conflict, intense, personal struggle, and if you’ve ever had that with people that you love, isn’t it hard to just push that aside?

And I hope, incidentally, that we’re not the sort of people who just at the first face of conflict just run the other way. Oh, there’s conflict; go to another church. Oh, there’s conflict; go to another town. There’s conflict; you just run away.

See, there’s two big mistakes with conflict: The people who say, “Conflict? I like to run over people,” “Conflict? I like to run away from people.” Those are both errors.

Instead, “Okay, there’s conflict. I need to move toward people, I need to try to learn, I need to try to understand.”

And so Paul says, “I went to Troas. I had this great opportunity for the Gospel, but my heart was so beating for you, I was so anxious to hear how it went, that I left off there because I had to find Titus and I just had to hear how you responded.” And later we’ll hear in chapter 7 the good news that they responded with great integrity.

So it tells us something of Paul’s heart for these people, even his heart for people who hurt him. That’s one of the sure signs of spiritual maturity; do you still have a heart for people even when they’ve hurt you? Jesus would say, “Well, to love people who love you, even the pagans and the tax collectors do that. To like people who like you, to pat people on the back who pat you on the back, that’s fine. But when people that you’ve poured your life into, whether it’s in a church or a ministry or your own family, and they do something and they seem to let you down, then what do you do?”

Well, Paul’s human. He doesn’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt, that he’s not anxious, but he says, “I love you so deeply; I had to hear how this went. That’s my burden for you.”

Two verses of transition.

Second. Two metaphors for ministry. He uses two metaphors in this section, a military metaphor and an olfactory metaphor. That is, he talks about soldiers and he talks about smells.

Start with the soldiers. He says, in verse 14, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.”

You’ve perhaps done, some of you, maybe have done Bible studies on this or you follow notes along in a study Bible, and it’ll tell you something about this particular phrase. It seems to be something of a technical phrase, this triumphal procession. This would have been familiar imagery to the Corinthians. Over 300 triumphs are recorded in Greek and Roman literature, and the scene of a triumphal procession is depicted on ancient coins, medallions, paintings, statues, plays. After a general had won a decisive victory, he would at times be granted the right to make a triumphal procession through the city.

And it’s not hard to imagine what this might have been like, a kind of ticker tape parade that we have today, after your team wins the Super Bowl and people line the streets and the victors have returned, and people would watch as the general would ride through on his horse with the army in step behind him, and it would be a great show of fanfare and there would be shouting and celebration, the triumphal general and his procession has returned.

So Paul is likening Christ to the victorious general who leads His people in his train. He has conquered death, conquered the devil, marching through the world declaring His victory and His triumph.

Now here’s where the interpretation diverges in two different directions. Some commentators will argue that Paul is seeing himself as one of the soldiers in the triumphal procession, that he’s a part of God’s army and there he is marching in rank, and that’s possible. Paul uses the military language in 2 Timothy and elsewhere as being a soldier.

But I’m persuaded by the others who argue that this image of a triumphal procession does not mean here so much that Christ is the general and we’re His faithful soldiers behind Him, because there was another aspect to the triumphal procession. Not only would the army march with the general, but the general would show off his new conquered foes, his slaves, his prisoners, the rebels who had been subdued.

The verb doesn’t mean “our triumph,” but that’s what Christ does. The verb here, as the ESV translates it, means “to be led in triumph, leads us in triumphal procession,” and to be led in the triumphal procession likely means you are one of the conquered rebels.

Why do I say that? The verb “thriambeuonti” is used only one other time in the New Testament, Colossians 2:15, which says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them.” It’s the only other time the verb is used, and there it’s clearly used, He is the victorious marching king or general who has triumphed over His enemies.

We have been conquered by Christ. Now, not for destruction like the demons, but conquered now to join in the ranks and join Him in service and worship. In other words, I don’t think that Paul is describing himself as some kind of bigshot, “Well, there’s the general and I’m a Lt. Colonel in the army.”

Christ leads in triumphal procession, but He leads Paul, and Paul, the persecutor of the Church, certainly understood that he was a conquered enemy; he was a rebel who had been subdued on the road to Damascus. We were enemies of God, hated Him, wanted nothing to do with Him, exchanged the glory of God of the glory of created things, but He always leads us in triumphal procession. He has quelled our rebellion. He parades us through the world as trophies of His grace.

It’s one of the phrases that has always stuck with me, and I’ll pray it often for people, especially as they’re maybe in a wayward path or seem to be moving away from God and His Word. I pray, Lord, would You make this person a trophy of Your grace, the sort of person, say, like the Apostle Paul. See what this person does? You see what this looks like? Because you know where he’s been, you know what he’s done, and now look. It doesn’t shine for his sake, it shines for God’s sake, a trophy of His grace in His triumphal procession.

And it leads us to ask the question, for me to ask myself the question, what’s more important to you, and to me? That Christ is the general or that you have a seat of honor in the procession? Do you need to be influential and important? Or is it enough to be a subdued rebel in Christ’s army? Is it enough to merely be in the parade? Do you need to be on the head float, waving to everyone as you go through the city? Or is it enough that you’re with Him and you’re in the procession?

So this first image of ministry has to do with soldiers.

The second has to do with smells. Paul says through us God spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, verse 14.

Is that what people get when you walk through a room? A whiff of Christ? Ahh, that sort of smells like Jesus. Now don’t think about what else you might smell like.

Ah, Trisha and I have been reading through this book, trading it back and forth, on gender differences and all the ways that boys and girls are different and, indeed, their biological, physiological chemistry is different from the womb. One of the points that this author, a physician, makes is just how many more cells that women have in their noses than men, and they’re able to smell things. He tells the story of this fight that a husband and wife were having because the wife kept saying, “Would you do something about that smell? There’s something that died here in the wall, in the attic,” and he said it about ruined their marriage, and it turned out there was like a raccoon that had died up in the rafters and finally got enough that the husband could smell it.

He also draws the important conclusion to young men, for personal hygiene and showering, that what you may not smell, young women may be able to smell. They have many more cells in their noses.

You never know when others may be taking a whiff of you. Hmm, what does that person smell like? Bitterness? Crankiness? Vanity?

Everywhere Paul went, God put a little Jesus under their nose. Can that be said of you? Of me? Wherever you go, it’s a little Jesus under somebody’s nostrils.

Paul is likely thinking of smells here because incense was usually part of the triumphant processional, so there’s a connection between military and this aroma, but more than that, Paul is no doubt thinking about the Old Testament. The Greek word for fragrance that he uses in verse 14, through us spreads the fragrance, “osmen” is the Greek word, the word for aroma in verse 15 is “euodia.” These two words put together, “osmen” and “euodia,” in the Old Testament are the phrase “pleasing aroma.” Over 40 times you find that phrase, “pleasing aroma,” in the Old Testament, and it’s always associated with sacrifice, some kind of offering, a grain offering, a food offering, a burnt offering.

Paul’s identity is on the one had as a conquered rebel now who has joined Christ’s triumphant processional, and also as a living sacrifice who emits a pleasing aroma, a whiff of Jesus to anyone who has the nose to sniff it.

Which brings us to our third pair. Two metaphors for ministry, two verses of transition, and two kinds of noses. Two kinds of noses.

You know, there’s a lot of choices that we have in life. There are many different people you might marry. Hundreds of places you could live and you can go to almost any supermarket or grocery store, find dozens and dozens of just shampoos that you could buy. We’re bombarded with choices, but the most important choice we have to make is what we do with Jesus. Do we follow Him? Do we believe Him? Do we find forgiveness in Him? What sort of person are we?

And with that, two different ways to live, comes two different kinds of noses. There are noses that sniff the Gospel and it smells like fresh chocolate chip cookies. Now, I know, feel very sorry for you pastor, I can’t even eat them anymore. Well, my wife sometimes makes it with oatmeal and then it’s good. I actually prefer butterscotch and she doesn’t understand that, but most of you are normal people and you like chocolate chip cookies. Oh, just wafting through the room. Mmm, that smells good.

And almost everyone is going to recognize what is that? And some, science tells you that your sense of smell is so incredibly powerful, memories are connected to your sense of smell, nostalgia is connected to your sense of smell. It sends off all of these synapses firing. And for some people, that’s the Gospel. They hear about Jesus and you tell them about Jesus, and maybe even the first time they hear it, it’s chocolate chip cookies.

And this text tells us for some people it’s not chocolate chip cookies. It’s a dirty diaper. I speak as one who knows. And it doesn’t smell good. It smells like something dirty, something you wouldn’t want to be near.

Now Paul’s very important point for us is that the Gospel may go out in the very same way, from the very same person, with the very same content, and yet it may smell to two different noses very differently. Both sets of people smell the fragrance of Christ, and Paul says to some it is a fragrance of life, and to others it is the fragrance of death. Two kinds of noses.

You see verse 16? For those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to other a fragrance from life to life.

Same thing, smells very differently.

I have finally learned, it took me a lot of years as a husband, to learn not to try to buy my wife perfume because I just didn’t get it right. Now, she’s very gracious about it, but I would surprise her, I’d get something at some, you know, vastly overpriced in an airport from a trip, I’d buy her something for an anniversary, for Christmas, and inevitably I’d say, “This smells great.” She’d look at it, “I’ll never wear that. That smells like a boy.” Well, it was not boy, it was for girls, but she didn’t like it.

Very same thing, different nostrils. Different noses. Different sense of smell and what’s pleasing.

And this Gospel message, we must understand, goes out in the world and it’s not the fault of the one who speaks it. It’s not the fault, certainly, of the message itself. But the Gospel will smell to some like such great good news. Have you experienced this in your life? Maybe you’re just becoming a Christian, or maybe you can look back at some very decisive moment when you came to know Jesus and there was that moment. Maybe you grew up with the Gospel or maybe you heard it for the first time, but it clicked. You thought, “Wow, my sins can be forgiven. There’s a God in heaven. He loves me. He sent His Son to die for me. I don’t have to be afraid of hell, I don’t have to be scared of dying. I can live forever. This is incredible. This smells like life.”

And there are others, maybe even some here, maybe those you love, who can hear the very same message, and it smells like nothing good. You ever had that experience? Maybe a loved one you’re praying for, “Read this book, listen to this sermon,” and you think how could this not absolutely capture your heart?

Different nose. People may hear the Gospel and think, “Well, this is old. No one believes this anymore. Is there really a god?” Or “the church is full of hypocrites.” Or “the Bible’s just another book, the resurrection never happened. There’s no hell. I don’t need religion or some preacher to tell me what to do. This Christ of yours, that’s fine for you. It’s not important to me.”

The Gospel smells like death.

Do you see how serious this is for the Apostle Paul? He asks the question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” You see the end of verse 16.

Have you ever asked yourself that? I certainly do, as one commissioned to preach. Paul’s talking here probably first of all about those in official ministry capacities. He says in verse 17, “commissioned by God,” but by extension, any of us who have the opportunity to speak of the Gospel. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why should I be given this message to speak? This message that leads to eternal life or to eternal death.”

The next time someone asks you, “Who are you to judge?” you ought to say, “Well, no one, and I’m not the judge.”

Or if someone says, “Who are you to tell me that I need to repent and believe in Jesus or I’ll suffer an eternity if I don’t? Who are you to give me that kind of message?” And you ought to say, “You’re absolutely right. I’m not worthy to give you that sort of message.”

That’s Paul’s question here. Who is sufficient for these things? This is a heavy burden. This is a message of life and death. I hope you understand when you come to church on Sunday, we’re not here messing around. We’re not here to be playing games. There are eternal realities at stake.

That’s how Paul felt, “I’m not sufficient for this job of proclaiming the Gospel.” He’ll say later, in chapter 3, “not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant.”

In other words, we’re nobodies, but God’s a somebody, and He’s sending you out with a message and He will make you sufficient for the very things that in yourself you are not sufficient for.

Two kinds of noses. And until we realize that the Gospel message is going to go out in the world, going to go out from this pulpit, going to go out from your lips, and it will smell different to different people and it won’t be anything wrong with the Gospel, we won’t have the courage to share it, and we’ll think that something has gone wrong and God has failed us, until we realize there are two sets of noses and God must give us new sniffers. Pray that for people in your life. God, give them a new nose, ’cause they’re not smelling like they should.

And then here’s a final word for us. Two challenges. Two challenges for us.

You see it here. Again, Paul’s speaking most directly about himself and those commissioned in a formal way, but by extension for all of us. You see in verse 17, two simple challenges. The first is to speak God’s Word in sincerity. You see that? “We are not like so many peddlers of God’s Word, but men of sincerity.”

They didn’t have movies in Paul’s day; they didn’t have podcasts, of course. They had theaters. They had orators. They didn’t have rock stars, but speakers were the rock stars. They knew how to draw a big crowd with their rhetoric. And certain men could entertain the masses with their intellect, with their delivery. They were the movie stars, the rock stars, the sports stars, of the ancient world, and if you were good enough at it, you could get fame and fortune, just by being a great speaker. It’s a sort of entertainment of the age.

Paul says, “We’re not trying to entertain people. We’re not peddling.”

Paul wanted the Corinthians to be absolutely clear on this point: “I preach the Gospel,” he says, “because I’ve been saved by the Gospel, and I speak to you with sincerity.”

Because it was so easy in the ancient world, and it’s still easy today, to go out with this message and use it as a way to make a name for yourself, to build a platform, to build a brand for Apostle Paul Ministries.

But he was concerned that he would not look like a peddler, someone who’s just in it for the money. He wanted everyone to know he preached this message as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, in the name of Christ, and he didn’t preach it for his own gain, he was sincere.

I’m sure I’ve told you the story before. It’s one of those stories if it’s not true, it should be, but the story about Benjamin Franklin going to hear George Whitfield preach, the great evangelist. And of course, Benjamin Franklin was not really much of a Christian, but he was friends with Whitfield, and always curious, and he wanted to go and he developed a relationship with Whitfield, and Franklin was going to hear Whitfield preach one day when somebody asked Benjamin Franklin, “Why do you go to listen to this man? You don’t believe anything that he says.” To which reportedly Franklin replied, “I know. But he does.”

The very fact that George Whitfield was so earnest, so sincere, arrested the attention of even a skeptic, or a very marginal Christian, like Benjamin Franklin.

Does anyone sense from your life, from my life, that the Gospel matters that much to us? That people, whether you ever know it or not, are taking notice, are sitting up straight, to say, “Hmm, I’m not going to admit it to them, but man, I can see that this Gospel means everything to these people, and it means everything. I can see it in their walk, in their talk, and in their lives, in the way they conduct themselves, the way their kids are, and I can see it. And I don’t believe it, but I gotta find out more about this, because it means so much to them.”

We speak with sincerity, that’s the first challenge.

Here’s the second challenge, and it’s even simpler than that: Speak.

See, the very last thing Paul says, “We speak in Christ.” Nothing in this passage makes sense unless Paul is speaking about Jesus. He says at the very beginning, he had an open door in Troas; only the love for the Corinthians could pull him away. Then Paul spoke about Jesus and he says, “I was going through the Roman Empire and I was a fragrant offering,” and some people like what Paul said and others didn’t.

You can read through the book of Acts and everywhere that Paul went there were these two diametrically opposed reactions, half of the people saying, “Would you come? Would you teach us again? We have to hear more” and other people saying, “We gotta kill this man.” He was a fragrance of life to some, of death to others.

Everything in these few verses is presuming that Paul speaks.

So even though we are talking about smells, Paul mixes his metaphors here, so take heart if your English teacher has ever knocked you down for mixing your metaphors. Paul does it. Because the way we smell is usually by the way we speak.

If you’re a Christian, you have the world’s most precious fragrance, the world’s most precious perfume.

I read a story years ago about some perfume somewhere in Europe and it was like $10,000 an ounce just to put this thing on. Boy, my wife better like that one. You and I, if you know Jesus, have the world’s most precious fragrance. Are you taking it out of the bottle? Are you letting people sniff some of Jesus?

Years ago I remember being a conference and it was, the theme was something about being missional, not my favorite word, but it’s fine, they just meant it in a good way, being about missions, so being missional and being Reformed. And the gist of the conference was that Reformed Christians must celebrate all this great theology that we have and reach out to others. Makes sense.

I remember two of the speakers told how they came to the Lord later in life. Didn’t have the story like I have and some of you have of being raised in a Christian home, which is a wonderful testimony to have. I want my children to have that testimony. But both of these men, who had come to know the Lord later in life, said something that absolutely stopped me. They said, “How come none of you ever put a Gospel tract in my face?” And they went on. They said, “Why didn’t I hear the Gospel from the Presbyterians? And the Reformed folks telling me about Jesus? How come I heard it from the Arminians? It was the Baptists.” Now we love Baptists and there will be Arminians in heaven, so this isn’t about denominational privileges, but it is to make the point that these speakers, both of whom were Reformed, was saying, “Look, we have, we believe by God’s grace, the fullest, richest, deepest, best theological tradition anyone could have and we are absolutely committed to getting the Gospel right, and we always should be, and we must absolutely be committed to getting the Gospel out.”

Might it be that there would be a new sort of reputation. Oh, those Presbyterians, they love the truth. Amen. Don’t diminish that one iota. They love their doctrine. They got it right. And you know what? They love to tell people about Jesus.

You’ve heard the story before, I’m sure, of somebody criticizing D. James Kennedy about Evangelism Explosion and the two questions, and some of you don’t know what I’m talking about and others of you cut your teeth on that, you know, “Would you go to heaven and why would God let you into His heaven?” And somebody was criticizing Kennedy on his evangelistic method, and his reply was, “Well, I prefer my way of doing evangelism than your way of not doing evangelism.”

Fair enough. Maybe there’s a more sophisticated way, maybe there’s some other things that we need to put in the tool belt, but get the Gospel out.

Now listen, if you’ve been in the church for any length of time and many people on a Sunday night have been, you’ve heard messages before about evangelism, and it’s sort of like prayer or like tithing, yeah, okay, I should do that more.

Let me leave you with one very practical, simple, easy step that you can take, I can take. There’s a few of you here who are really gifted evangelists. It’s really easy for you to speak about Jesus. You don’t go to a restaurant and pay your bill before that server has heard something about, or at least had an opportunity to ask you a question, or you asked how you could pray. Some of you are really, really good at it and you have gifts in it and it’s second nature.

And for the majority of people here, it’s difficult, and it feels like God is calling us on top of everything else we have to do in life, that now you need to go be a dynamic insurance salesman. You need to try to push your product, not that insurance salesmen do that, you need to go and you need to, you know, I’m sorry, can I commandeer this conversation now? Enough about what you want to talk about, here’s what I want to talk about. And it just feels to us like an awkward, rude sort of proposition that’s really good for extroverts and super outgoing people, and for most of us it just won’t happen.

So here’s one very simple thing that all of us can do. Would you put it down on your daily or weekly prayer list. I hope you all have some things that you’re praying for. I have some things I pray for on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, and some things I try to pray for each day. So if you can, put it on your daily; if you can’t, put it on your weekly, and just pray this simple prayer: “God, would You give me an open door to speak of Jesus this week?” Or, “Would You give me an open door to speak of Jesus today?”

Not only does that set your mindset looking, because sometimes there’s doors open all over and the head’s down, don’t want to go there, but God also honors that prayer. You notice, Paul wasn’t elbowing people into submission, taping them to the ground, “Now you’re going to hear about Jesus whether you like it or not.”

No, he says, “I came to Troas and there was a door open for me.” There was an opportunity. People had said, apparently, tell us more.

Simply put down on your prayer list, “Would You give me this day, would You give me this week, an open door to speak of Jesus?”

You’re not a peddler, you don’t have to be salesman of the year, you simply have to speak about the One you know, about the One you love, about the One who saved your soul, and know as you speak, some people will smell Christ and they’ll choke on it and they’ll want nothing to do with it, but some people may just smell chocolate chip cookies and they may want you to share even more. And some, in time, will savor it and repent and believe, and they’ll take place alongside the rest of us, conquered rebels, in the triumphal procession.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your grace to us, for all of us, at some point if we’re true believers, You conquered our hearts, even if we don’t know a day, even if it happened from an early age or in the womb, You did this miracle to give us a nose that smells the Gospel, as it is. So help us to be the fragrance of Christ everywhere. Give us an opportunity to have an open door and be ready to walk through it, and simply to speak of Jesus. Amen.