“Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”Colossians 3:2-3
There was a rest and a confidence about Jesus that ignited in those who met Him a hunger for such rest, such life. The confidence with which He spoke caused them to realise that there was so much more to life; there was a knowing of the Father beyond anything they had experienced. This knowing, Jesus called eternal life, and the way His life was illuminated by His knowing the Father caused every other life to be revealed as darkness in comparison. As the two disciples on the road to Emmaus put it, “Did our hearts not burn as He spoke?”
It appeared to everyone who met Him that He wasn’t striving to become someone. He was living totally at rest and at peace about who He was. He wasn’t looking to this world, or anyone in it, to tell Him who He was. In a world where everyone is trying to become someone better, a person totally at rest about who they are really stands out. Even the temple guards who were sent to arrest Jesus, were so awed by His confidence that they didn’t feel able to challenge Him. Later as they tried to describe that experience, all they could say was, “No one has ever spoken like this man.” This is the way the world is hungry for the church to speak.
There is a deep hunger in every human soul for rest, for it is the fragrance and breath of our Creator, the One who is not trying to become, but simply being. Only accepting His Word on us and to us – Christ – can bring us into His ‘being’, and that birth and growth, from a life of trying to become to a life of being, is the work of His Spirit. This metanoia of our thinking brings a transformation of our being, from a life of ‘doing for’ Him in order to become, to the life of ‘being with’ Him; a life where we draw our identity from our heavenly position, not our earthly record. Yes, our new life is ‘hidden with Christ in God’, but it was never to be so hidden that even the church can’t find it and falls back from being to becoming! As far as the whole of heaven is concerned Christ’s life, death and resurrection did exactly what He intended it to do. Believer, you are now in Him, just as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.
To be filled with His Spirit is to be filled with this reality of being with Him. To live in the power of that ‘being with’ life is to walk carrying the light of His presence in a way that disarms the powers of darkness at their source: the lie that He is withholding Himself from men and expects them to find life in themselves. In the same way that we do not know how hungry we really are until we smell food, so we have been given His Spirit, His very breath, that our lives would be so pungent with the aroma of communion as to awaken a world whose sense of smell and taste has been dulled by the virus of separation: sin. This aroma of Christ manifests as His peace (Greek, eirene, ’to set at one again’) in our lives, a confident assurance that only comes as we spend time acknowledging our being with Him and in Him.
I still remember encountering this aroma as my wife Nicola first began to speak to me of her experience with God’s Spirit. I had gone to church for years, but I had never heard anyone speak with such confidence about God before. I had got so used to the idea that He was unknowable that to hear my wife speak as if she knew Him sounded almost blasphemous to my religious ears. Yet her quiet confidence, and the peace she spoke with, only ignited in me a thirst to know Him as she did. I know now that this confident assurance radiating from her was a mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence in her life and is seen in the lives of all who are “being with” Jesus. I could not see the poverty of my own spirit until I saw the riches of hers, and the contrast was all the more striking because, at that time through a crippling illness, she had lost all the things this world puts value on. The great evangelist D. L. Moody once said, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” I had grown up in church culture that had threatened me with the rejection of God all my life, yet in the end it was not the threat of His absence but the reality of His presence that opened my eyes. Jesus never separated repentance from the drawing near of His presence, for in truth “no man can say Jesus is Lord, apart from the Holy Spirit”.
In an age where the church has grasped for the attention of the world concerning her needs, there must come a revelation that the communication of our faith has always become more effective, not through looking at what we lack, but through the acknowledgment of the good things we already have in Christ. If this season has taught the world to acknowledge so much in their daily lives that has been taken for granted, surely there is a stirring too in the church – the remembrance that all things are ours, for we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Let our hope cease to be our presence in the ‘corridors of power’, but rather be found in the power of His presence, to make a corridor through any darkness that confronts us. If the world is to hear our voice, then let them hear the voice of the Head, the sound of victory, the sound of a kingdom that is not dependent on this world’s approval to survive, but rather is thriving in the approval of the Father. It is only as this sound radiates out that darkness draws back, for a lie cannot stand in the presence of the truth. And the truth is that for every man in Christ the new creation has come, the life where we lack nothing, for our very being is found in Him and, in Him, we lack nothing.
It is not in rebelling and ranting that we are saved, but in repentance and rest. Our strength is not to be found in how loud we can shout, or how hard we can agitate, but in quietness and trust. There is a stillness of the soul that can only come from knowing Him. Why should the world believe the church knows Him, when she appears to be afflicted with the same restlessness as those who don’t? Only in His life, the life of ‘being with’ God, can our souls find their rest, and entering that rest of ‘being one with Him’ is not where our life ends, but where it must begin. The New Testament doesn’t say that Jesus chose His disciples primarily so that he could use them. Mark 3:14 tells us that “He appointed twelve that they might be with Him, that He might send them out to preach.” If the God you worship is a God who primarily uses people to achieve His great purposes, then you will see little wrong with using people to achieve yours. But that is not the way of the Holy Spirit. He has gently and patiently been ‘being with’ you for years, for He’s not looking to chalk you up as a convert, but raise you up as a child of the King!
What we do for Him must be borne from our being with Him. I believe that in this hour the primary challenge before the church is to recognise that so much of what we have been doing for Him has not flowed from our being with Him. Church has become a life of doing for Him, in order that ‘one day’ we can experience being with Him. Like Martha, we have become so engrossed in our own preparations, that we have deferred our being in His presence. The only problem is, hope deferred makes the heart sick and such sick hearts will eventually only speak the language of lack. To a wearied and worried church, the Spirit is still saying, “You are worried and distracted by many things, but one only thing is necessary”.
What we do for Him, must emerge from the life of being with Him, for fruit is borne by abiding in, not produced by striving for! Flesh can only give birth to flesh and the aroma of flesh has no effect on the souls of men, for that is their natural atmosphere. If we are continually rushing out from His presence to try and do things for Him, could it be because we have just not understood how much He has desired to be with us? Jesus appointed His disciples, primarily, that they might be with Him, for He knew that the confidence and authority He carried came from His being with the Father. The authority and the aroma that His body, the church, is called to walk in comes from the life of being with, not doing for.
In these days of physical restriction, it is good to remember that such a season may restrict our doing for, but it can release our ‘being with’ to a new level, for eternal life is knowing Him, and some of the greatest revelation of Christ flowed from the life of the apostle Paul every time he was locked up in prison or placed under house arrest. I am believing that the church has been in such a season of ‘being with’ Him, that we will carry an unmistakable aroma: Emmanuel, God with us! This is the aroma of the kingdom of heaven, the atmosphere in which men repent of their separation as they perceive a new reality: communion with God in Christ. This is the aroma that ignited whole cities, for those carrying this atmosphere were to some an aroma of death and to others life. This is the aroma of the hidden place with God and, for the new creation in Christ, that hidden place is the heavenly realm. We were born from above to live from above and carry the aroma of that place into this world, for Jesus never called men to repent apart from the power of His presence drawing near. We have been called and anointed to live from union in a world of separation. What better hour, then, for the hidden church to emerge, for before us lies a world more hungry than ever for connection, the life of ‘being with’.
 John 3:2; John 7:46.
 John 17:3.
 John 8:12.
 Luke 24:32.
 John 7:46.
 Exodus 3:14.
 II Peter1:3-4.
 Colossians 3:1-4.
 John 17:22-23.
 Genesis 3:4-5.
 II Corinthians 2:15-16.
 Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:1-4.
 Acts 4:13.
 Matthew 4:17; Luke 9:2; Luke 24:32.
 I Corinthians 12:3.
 Philemon: 6.
 I Corinthians 3:22-23.
 Ephesians 1:3.
 Isaiah 30:15.
 Psalm 46:10; John 20:19.
 Hebrews 4:11.
 John 15:5.
 Luke 10:38.
 Luke 10:41.
 John 15:4-5.
 John 3:6.
 John 17:22-24.
 Luke 5:16; John 5:19.
 John 17:3.
 Acts 13:42-45.
 II Corinthians 2:15-16.
 Matthew 6:6.
 Colossians 3:3.
 Matthew 4:17; Luke 24:15.
3 thoughts on “The Aroma of Christ: Living from Union in a World of Separation”
Great article Phelim, thank you! Many good quotable lines, maybe my favourite was, “He’s not looking to chalk you up as a convert, but raise you up as a child of the King!”
Like Steven, found many memorable quotes, but one in particular came at me ‘left field’ … “If the God you worship is a God who primarily uses people to achieve His great purposes, then you will see little wrong with using people to achieve yours.”
Take note, all leaders!
Fantastic stuff, as ever, Phelim.
Fantastic as ever Phelim! We are truly blessed to have you and your ministry as part of our network.