Sacred Fragrance

Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. (Exodus 30:31-32, NIV)

Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. (Exodus 30:37, NIV)

It is surprising to read “Do not make any for yourselves,” in the middle of these instructions. If we like it, why would God restrict us from using it? The scent of perfume and incense we use seems like a small matter that should be unimportant to God. We can be tempted to interpret these — and other commands from God — as controlling, mean, or selfish. But He did not restrict them to limit us, rather He did it to give them importance. He has declared those particular scents as sacred or holy. Set apart. Special. Separate to God. They have a specific purpose.

When I was a young wife, decorative towels were popular. The young husbands in our circle of friends did not understand why their wives hung up “no touch towels”. From the men’s perspective, all towels served the same purpose: a tool for drying something. But to the women, the embellished towels were set apart as special and should be admired but not used. The goal was to protect them from being soiled with use or faded with repeated washings. We did not want to prevent our husbands from drying their hands, we wanted to give some towels a different, decorative, purpose.

Many people have some items they consider “everyday” and others they consider “good”. Clothing and dishes come to mind immediately. We wear good clothes to weddings and funerals but have everyday clothes for mowing the lawn or jobs that will be hot and sweaty. We may have dishes that are only used for holidays or when serving guests. Like God, we have set some things apart as special.

Why would God set apart perfume and incense? Science tells us that scents are powerful. They evoke memories. They allow us to recall details otherwise forgotten. They can also set a mood. So it may not be surprising that God wanted the scent of one particular oil and incense to be associated exclusively with His house. Perhaps He wanted that scent to build a connection between His people and Himself. A reminder of His holiness. An invitation to offer Him praise and worship. A prompt to remember His provision, protection, and promises. A signal to lay all else aside and focus on Him.

But oil and incense are not all that God considers holy and sacred. There are several Bible verses reminding us that people fall into that category as well!

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself…(Psalm 4:3, NIV)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession… (I Peter 2:9, NIV)

If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, God looks at you differently from people who have not. He sees you as holy and blameless. He has set you apart. He considers you His special possession. He also has given you some specific instructions for life, including these:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil… (James 4:7, NIV)

Honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV)

Fill your mind and thoughts with God’s wisdom. Seek righteousness and what will expand God’s kingdom. Submit to God and resist the temptation to sin. Use your body to honor God. God did not give these commands because He is mean or controlling. Instead he gave them so we could experience far more life! They restrict us in order to set us apart. His purpose for us goes beyond existing or surviving on this earth. He wants His children to be special. To be noticed. To be a reminder of His holiness, power, and grace.

While Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ended the need for us to burn a particular oil or incense to honor God, the book of Revelation describes a scene in Heaven where something we do produces a scent that is special to Him:

Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8, NIV)

This is hard to imagine, but the prayers of God’s children are a pleasant fragrance to Him! When we talk to God, share our thoughts with Him, give our adoration, seek His guidance, unload our burdens, declare His praise, or cry out for His mercy and grace, it is a sacred act. Praying to God is a sacred privilege. Those prayers are set apart for Him alone. They are valuable to Him. They connect us to Him. They are special.

You, your life, and your prayers are set apart. You can make them a sacred fragrance to God.

Sisters,
Do you have a scent or fragrance that has special meaning? Of what does it remind you?
Where in your life do you make distinctions between the “everyday” and the “good”? Do you feel differently about them?
Do you think God’s commands restrict you or set you apart? Why?
How do you feel about being sacred to God?
Fill heaven with a sacred fragrance as you thank God for far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Perfectly Imperfect

We face so much pressure — within ourselves and from others — to be perfect. To never make a mistake. To know all the answers. To always make the right decision. Even in areas where there is not a right or wrong choice. Or areas where we have no experience. This pressure can be immobilizing. And we struggle with guilt and shame over our wrong choices. Does God expect us to be perfect — is that far more life? The Bible says:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)

According to this verse, when we seek perfection we are working for something Christ has already attained for us! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and return from the dead paid the penalty for our sin. Those who accept Christ become perfect in God’s eyes; He sees us wrapped in Christ’s righteousness. Being perfect means we are forgiven. We don’t have to work to be perfect, it is a gift that God offers us!

But this does not automatically make us sinless. In addition to being made perfect, God wants us to be made holy. Once we are in Christ, our position with God is secure despite the many wrongs we commit. But these wrongs do have negative impact on us; they keep us from reflecting His flawless moral virtue. God wants us to keep growing in understanding and living out His holiness so we become more like Him. Not because that earns us His favor, but because it reflects the new creation we become in Him. And because being holy is living far more life.

God knows we will spend the rest of our lives on earth growing in holiness. In the process of becoming holy, God allows us to be perfectly imperfect. He knows we are sometimes fooled by Satan, our past experiences, and the hurts we bear; they lie to us about what is best and convince us that holiness is not possible or not a worthwhile pursuit. God is not surprised by our sins and mistakes. He is patient with us and does not judge or criticize us when we are slow to recognize our sin. He sees each person’s heart and knows who is loving and following Him to the best of their ability. (He also knows when His children have rebellious hearts and still loves and forgives them.) He clearly sees who we were before we joined His family, who we are today, and who we become in the future. He knows being perfectly imperfect is simply part of our individualized holiness journey.

As God’s obedient children, never again shape your lives by the desires that you followed when you didn’t know better. Instead, shape your lives to become like the Holy One who called you. (I Peter 1:14-15, TPT)

Before we come to Christ, we pursue counterfeit perfection. We believe that doing the right thing — performing perfectly — leads to the acceptance, security, and significance we desire. We think perfection protects us from pain and leads to a satisfying life. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t be perfect. So we work harder. And fall short again. By depending on ourselves and our own efforts, this vicious cycle actually leads us away from the perfection God offers us through Christ. Away from far more life.

When God comes to live inside of us, He gives us a new desire: holiness. We understand that acceptance, security and significance come from Him, not our performance. We want to BE the right person, not just DO the right thing. We want to be like God in our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and values. We desire to know God and His perspective. Pursuing holiness gives us courage to examine our motives and admit when we are wrong; we don’t have to hide behind a perfect image to feel acceptable. We act from love rather than fear or obligation. But we don’t always get it right; we resort to old patterns of thinking and acting more often than we would like. But this does not bring condemnation; instead we are free to be perfectly imperfect. Not because we are happy about our sin, but because sin does not define us. We know God loves us unconditionally. And we know He gives us the desire and power to overcome our sin and live far more life.

How do we grow in holiness? I think it boils down to 5 steps:

  1. We discover who God is by studying His word.
  2. We are alert to areas where our thoughts and actions do not reflect His character.
  3. We prayerfully search our heart to uncover the beliefs which motivate our unholy thoughts and actions.
  4. We seek truth from His word to replace our false beliefs with His beliefs.
  5. We enjoy the benefit of this new step of holiness as we rest in God’s unconditional love!

As we make pursuing holiness a lifestyle, we are free to be perfectly imperfect without being stuck in sinful habits. And we live far more life with each step of the journey! 

Sisters,
How have you been pursuing counterfeit perfection?
How do you feel about being perfectly imperfect?
If you have accepted Christ, how have your desires changed? What were your desires before? What are they now?
Do the steps to growing holiness look helpful or intimidating?
(If you have questions about them or want support on your journey, please reach out to me at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
-Shari
 

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso