Our Works: Sweet Smelling Incense or Dead
By Gary Amirault (quoting a large section from Ray Prinzing)
I write this right at the time when many Christians around the world are attending a church to celebrate Easter. During this time the Jews are observing the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which follows Passover and ends with the Feast day of the Sheaf of First Fruits. Observant Jews prior to these holidays, according to Levitical Law, must remove from their houses all traces of leaven which often represents sin in the scriptures.
Speaking of sin/leaven, yesterday I found a big chunk in my own house (my life). I received a letter from a Christian in India who asked me to help support his new evangelistic ministry and cover some hospital expenses incurred through some operations his wife needed. I get many requests for help from around the world, many of which my wife and I are simply unable to fulfill. Many living in the third world think that all Americans are rich and that all American ministries are funded with millions of dollars. Not so.
I do not like these kinds of letters. Some of them are fraudulent. It is difficult to discern the real needful ones from the cons. And even if I had clear discernment, we wouldn't have the means to fulfill all their requests. To add salt to the wound, when trying to decide what to do with these kinds of letters, I am also fulfilling orders from Western Christians who often order great sums of materials and neglect to cover their own costs let alone help with the expenses of meeting third world demands. (At the time of this writing, we did not put prices on our materials.) As a result of the above, it is not uncommon for my order-filling days to be occasions for much grumbling, griping and ungratefulness — obviously, not ingredients which would produce a very sweet-smelling savour to the Lord, to be sure.
While I was going through my usual grumbling and trying to discern what do to with this letter for help from a person I do not even know, my wife was trying to scan a part of a book written by Ray Prinzing that she planned to send to someone on her email list. The book was entitled "Whispers of Expressing His Life. The chapter she wanted to share was entitled "A Living Perfume." While helping her scan those pages, a portion of that chapter grabbed my heart with conviction. Those couple of pages restored to my understanding of "dead works" a depth that I had forgotten over the years of "ministering." I hope this time I will smear it deeply into my life so that it lingers with me day by day. (Now that I'm confessing my stench, my wife will probably resurrect this article anytime I break out in grumbles on order-fulfilling days. And she'll probably rub it in deeply. I'm smiling as I write.)
A great part of Tentmaker Ministries material is focused on getting rid of dead traditions that inhibit a real living relationship with our Maker. We have a lot of material on grace versus dead works, especially religious dead works. The depth of these dead works in our hearts is really amazing. Only the Resurrection power of the Life of Jesus the Messiah can roll them back to bring forth New Life.
On Resurrection Day, a couple thousand years ago, the gravestone was rolled back to release the Fragrant Eternal Life of Jesus Christ. He conquered death and its awful smell of decaying flesh for all mankind. For thousands of years, mankind has been trapped by the works of the sins of the flesh (fleshpots of Egypt) and dead religious works (symbolized by Babylonian captivity). Mankind's attempt to attain righteousness through their own efforts is stinky self-righteousness. Both produce a stench in God's nostrils. And we, Christians, are just as susceptible to producing dead religious works (maybe even more so) as are our fellow human beings in other religions. Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of both of these types of dead and awful smelling types of works. May the lingering fragrance of this Resurrection Day writing touch someone's heart today and roll back that grave stone (stony heart) -- may it circumcise someone's heart that the eternal sweet-smelling savour of the life of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world might come forth. May the following words of Ray Prinzing be an instrument to release Resurrection Life this day. And may this message be rubbed deeply into my own life that my days of grumbling might be rolled back that I might exhibit Christ's Resurrection every day. And may this article bring to a deeper understanding one of the most powerful verses in the Scriptures, Ephesians 2:8-10:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:8-10, KJV)
(The following is a portion of the chapter "A Living Perfume" from the book "Whispers of Expressing His Life" by Ray Prinzing. P.O. Box 5822, Boise, Idaho 83705)
"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." (John 12:3).
There is a principle here which demands that we take time to ponder it. Mary was not going from room to room trying to spread the perfume, so that everybody would remark on how sweet she was, her talents, her works, etc. but Mary was ministering solely to the Lord - giving herself completely to these demonstrations of love and worship to Him - yet the result was that the whole house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Everybody present experiences the blessing of the fragrance, though it was poured out solely for the purpose of this act toward our Lord.
There is something unique in the fact that the more your life is poured out unto the Lord, with all your worship directed solely to Him, to magnify and exalt Him, yet all the more will its blessings reach out to everyone around you - for as A LIVING PERFUME, HE takes that worship-offering which flows from your heart, and causes it to be a sweet odour to bless many. HE MUST HAVE PRE-EMINENCE! Our worship must be directed Godward. Whatever follows can never take the place of this highest priority. And when we have poured it all out unto Him, then we can go on to find that on a lesser level, we an follow up with a ministry to others.
Paul wrote to the Philippians that the things they sent to him, to minister unto his needs, were as "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing unto God." (Philippians 4:18). Following what we might term that vertical offering to the Lord, then comes that horizontal offering that is given to others, which retains the sweet fragrance of the perfume. You cannot reverse the order! You cannot seek to serve mankind first, and then end your service with a token of worship to the Lord for it all comes out smelling of flesh. A doing to be seen and heard of men, and then a hope that God will accept it all and bless it. The sorrow of such is that more and more we end up serving others in our flesh, taking on even a martyr-complex, and find we have little time for God at all. But when first we give ourselves totally to Him, to worship Him, then HE anoints us to serve one another, and it retains the sweet perfume of His anointing, and HE is glorified - it is well-pleasing unto Him.
When HE fills our life, then even the ministry towards others remains as TO HIM. "For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: l was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. - Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).
Paul reaffirms this truth over and over again - that ministry to others is to be unto the Lord. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." (Colossians 3:17). "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:32). Do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." (Colossians 3:23). A ministry to others that is the outflow of our ministry to Him!
"And walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour." (Ephesians 5:2). How essential that we WALK IN LOVE - not the self-absorption love of the flesh, that gives only in the thought of how it shall receive, but in that self-sacrificial love of God, as demonstrated in our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a love bespeaks a GIVING OF HIMSELF - a giving of ourselves, in such surrender that He might use this offering as HE WILLS, for whom He wills, and we joyfully continue in the giving.
Furthermore, there is something unique in the spreading of the perfume, that if it is liquidized and poured on someone, it would submerge them in an overwhelming heaviness, more than they can receive, it is over-powering. But let it be gently diffused (spiritized) and it will penetrate without force or strain, and refresh ever so many around us. God knows just how much to pour out - that's why our offering is UNTO HIM, for Him to dispense as He chooses, on whom He chooses, at the time He chooses. We are prone to flood people, according to our time-ideas for them, and often they are not ready for such a dosage. The Father knows how and when to draw all men.
Paul gives us insight when he writes, "THROUGH UNION WITH CHRIST, (then) everywhere through me keeps spreading the perfume of the knowledge of Him. Indeed, l am the fragrance of Christ to God..." (2 Corinthians 2:14-15, Williams).
Praise God! It becomes the unmistakable scent of the freshness of His life, ministered by the Spirit, through our UNION WITH HIM. This blessed ministration of the Spirit far exceeds that of the old covenant of the law, where it was written upon tablets of stone, and those who did not obey it were STONED. Now HIS LOVE gently distills the truth, to fall as the dew, to enhance and enrich, and to irresistibly draw to Himself. The more the message and the messenger become one, so that our state of being is the message - and then the whole becomes as a LIVING PERFUME, this becomes an expression of Christ to mankind that is precious, yet victorious. There is no escaping the powerful influence of the ointment, when its odour fills all the house. —endquote
Lord Jesus, help me and my friends and our enemies be able to produce and exude a pleasing aroma which fills this earth with your love, joy and peace — qualities that Jesus said would be signs of your believers. Anoint, smear our being with the reality that life is truly all about You and not about us. Remove from us the lie that we can perform works pleasing to you that come from our own flesh, our own life apart from You. Help us to see that when we are grumbling and griping while we are ministering, that we are NOT doing them in and by your Spirit. Cause us to see that only works done in YOUR Spirit are pleasing to you. Deliver us from complaining and condemning. Cause us to learn to judge righteously. Amen.