For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:15, N.K.J.V.)
Donald Barnhouse was one of America’s best known preachers. He pastored Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church from 1927 until 1960 and was always in great demand as a speaker at Bible conferences. His mastery of the use of illustrations was legendary.
Barnhouse once told the story of a man who visited Paris and bought an expensive bottle of perfume. The man brought the bottle back home to his wife and she used the perfume freely. Even after the bottle was empty, she kept it on a table. On one occasion, when she longed to wear the scent from the empty bottle one last time, she placed a handkerchief inside the bottle and closed up the bottle so the handkerchief could absorb the remaining odors. After that even the faintest odors were gone from the bottle. By way of sermon application, Barnhouse said, “Many people in our churches are like that. As far as they are concerned, their bottle is empty. They have no life and fragrance of Christ.”
After the service Barnhouse was walking down the street to his hotel and happened to get behind a group who had heard his sermon. One of the women said, “I liked the story he told about the perfume bottle because it reminded me of a very expensive perfume that Frank brought me from Paris. It is a beautiful bottle, but I have never broken the seal. It sits right there on my dresser and the light shines through it. It is a beautiful amber.”
Seizing his opportunity for a second application for his illustration, Barnhouse overtook the group and let them know that he’d been listening in on their conversation. After a good laugh by all, Barnhouse said to the woman with the unopened bottle of perfume:
Don’t you see that the perfume was given to you to use? And what an illustration that is. Too many Christians have been given so much, yet they keep it tightly sealed in themselves. No one passing near would know for a moment that they have the life of God in them, for not the tiniest particle of the essence is allowed to come forth. The wonderful thing about God’s perfume is that as fast as we waft it forth He keeps filling the bottle; its fragrance may change and grow, but it is more glorious every time we send it forth. That is God’s way.
Christian, our text verse says that you are nothing less than the fragrance of Christ for not only your fellow believers but also unbelievers. But the question is: How much of the “perfume” that God has given you are you using? I’m talking about your talents, your skills, your abilities, your spiritual gifts, your opportunities, your time, your energy, your zeal, and your money?
Tell me, are you using all of that “perfume” to make the world a better place? Or, like that woman’s unopened bottle, have failed to even break your seal? Listen, God hasn’t give you all that He has given you just so you can sit back, take your leisure, and enjoy the good life. He’s looking for workers, people who will serve Him by serving others, especially in situations that are downright stinky and in desperate need of a fresh, sweet-smelling aroma. How are you doing on that?