Each time I've come home the last couple of days I've tried to sniff it out. I walk through the living room, sniffing high, sniffing low. Wafts of it wander by, but I can't find the source. I continue the search, I check through the kitchen (the room voted "most likely to be the source" of our mysterious odor.) When I can't pinpoint it there I search the bathroom (where the kitten's cat food and cat box are currently located) I check the office where Max's cat box resides...nothing. The source remains a mystery.
Of course the biggest challenge to overcome is that the longer I'm in the house, the more accustomed to the smell I become. It gets harder to notice, and the source becomes even more elusive. I try to recruit the help of my family, but the problem is they don't have the same olfactory sense I do. (Their sense of smell ain't up to snuff... or is it up to sniff?)
As I sit here now typing this, I actually don't smell anything amiss at all. That would be good news, except I know we never found the source, so we couldn't have solved the problem. It's still here, I have just lost my sensitivity to it. We took out the trash, we emptied the dirty dishes out of the sink, we even cleaned out the cat box because those are all the things you're "supposed" to do to solve this kind of problem, but not one of those held the stench I've been smelling.
So as I have been trying to fight this battle, hunt this source of olfactory offense, the metaphor it so perfectly fits has not been lost on me. What metaphor is that, you ask? This stench completely reminds me of sin and the world we live in.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
...be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Like when I leave the house and fill my sinus cavities with fresh air (by comparison, it is after all Southern California), when I return to the place where the offense is, it stands out, it's obvious to me. But the longer I stay in the midst of it, the less it offends me. It's the same way when we allow ourselves to live by our flesh rather than by the Spirit of God.
Just being around sinful worldly things, it dulls the senses. If we stop and settle in to the midst of it, much like I have done here on this couch, it completely loses any impact to offend us at all. And if we surround ourselves only with others who don't have the spiritual sensitivity to it? Then they are no more help to growth in the Lord than my family with the poor sense of smells is to help me find the source of the stink in this house.
So how do we avoid settling in on "the couch" of the world? It has a lot to do with the choices we make about what we allow "in" our lives. The media bombards us with powerful inoculations to sin and worldliness and when bombarded by it, it no longer makes us as "spiritually sick" the way it used to. What I mean by that is that we build up a resistance, and where before it would have caused us to feel "ill," now our flesh fights it off, weakening our spirit's response.
The movies and television we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read: they all have the power to either renew our minds or dull them. We make the choice to either build up our flesh and weaken our spirit, or build up our spirit and weaken our flesh, and in the end, we live with the consequences. We either become so comfortable in our sin and in the world that those things that hinder our walk begin to become unnoticeable, or our spirit remains so strong we are sensitive enough to keep searching out the source of the spiritual stench in our lives so the "source of the smell" can be found and removed.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit, Who has the strongest of senses, longs to help us root out the spiritual stenches in our lives. But He is not intrusive, and if we choose to remain comfortable without the solution, He will not force the issue.
As believers, we have a responsibility to seek out the stenches of life and remove them. Not only for the sake of our own lives and walks, but for the sake of our witness. You see, the stench isn't just noticeable to us, but it's noticeable to those around us; and when those around us are younger in their faith, or worse don't know the Lord at all, we have to consider the trouble it brings upon them when the stink isn't dealt with. Imagine if you will, in my hospitality, I invited you to my home, and by appearances I had labored to clean it for your visit. If you walk into my home and it appears spotless, but the stink is overwhelming, you won't believe my home is clean at all. Likewise if we preach or exhort others to the power of Christ and live our lives no differently than the world, what power has our witness?
We must be transformed, people must see the difference in our lives, not in perfection, but in the catalyst toward growth and change. You cannot sit with your friend in a filthy movie on Saturday night and then invite them to church on Sunday morning with your bible in hand, praising the Lord, and preaching the gospel. It cheapens the truth, and ridicules Christ on the cross.
This isn't an act I'm talking about, it is simply making a choice to follow Christ. He promises if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.
I encourage you (and myself) move toward the Lord continually, move toward growth and change. If you call Him Lord, live it out. If you proclaim Him Lord, remember eyes are watching, live your life out loud for Him! Be in the world, but don't be of the world.
Let us not just talk the talk, but let's walk the walk and be the light of the world we have been called to be. He did not call us because we are equipped, but He will equip us because we are called.
No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen" Luke 8:15-18
Consider carefully how you live.....