The Smell of Success / Ephesians 4:17–5:2 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 8th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 8th 2021: Season of Pentecost / Ephesians 4:17–5:2 "The Smell of Success"
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;” says the LORD, “I was ready to be found by those who did not seek Me.” I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke Me to My face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig’s flesh, and in their vessels is broth of tainted meat; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.” This is a passage from Isaiah and it has a couple things in common with our Epistle reading today.
For example our Epistle from Ephesians ends with St. Paul describing the life and death of Jesus as “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” because Jesus “loved us and gave Himself up for us,” His sinless, innocent and holy life was fragrant, by contrast sin is a different kind of smoke: Christ is like a fragrant incense sin is like a stench. Sin and the sin of the self-righteous, the arrogant, the self centred who plays at holiness in the public eyes of the World is a rancid stench, the smell of rotting death and decay, of mildew and mold, the kind of smell which is like the festering clogged grease of a sewer in the nostrils of God the kind of smell that induces vomiting and nausea. St. Paul describes Jesus as the exact opposite of this in our Epistle today.
St. Paul teaches us to stay in the faith that we have graciously received from God and not slide back into the ways of the World, to not re-embrace the ways of the World which we have been drawn out of by the working of the Holy Spirit. A World Paul describes a callous, dark, ignorant, heartless, and obsessed with sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity and as a result alienated from God. We are being encouraged to live virtuous lives in Christ Jesus. And such a Christian life of virtue, such a call to Christian virtue invites a struggle against sin, an honest repentant wrestling against all the festering greasy rancid rotting decay of sin that that World calls sweet, that the World sells you as fragrant.
Saint Paul advises you to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Dear ones as Baptised Christians, the Old Adam that is in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, this is what we learn in our catechism and it is what Saint Paul writes here in Ephesians: and with that old self drown in the waters of Baptism the new self should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever to face the temptations of the World and the flesh and the devil head on.
But how is this to be done? What can I look to for help in this? By the grace of God and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul provides some examples of what you need in order to wrestle with sin and because our catechism is a good and right exposition of Scripture we have guidance there too. First Paul says, “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another … let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Listen now also to the Eight Commandment in the Small Catechism “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”
Again Saint Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Listen now also to the Seventh and Fifth Commandments in the Small Catechism, “You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income,” and, “You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”
Saint Paul doesn’t give us the whole of the 10 Commandments here in our epistle from Ephesians but what he does gives us teaches us how to let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from us, along with all malice. It teaches us how the Christian is to be kind to one another and to their neighbour whoever they may be, to be tenderhearted, to be forgiving of one another, as God in Christ forgave us, as God in Christ forgives you. The 10 Commandments in the Small Catechism provide the same kind of teaching and following that teaching is God pleasing. It is not however pleasing to the World. The World wants you to follow after its ways and it will not encourage you towards virtue, it will provide a counterfeit false virtue, a self centred virtue that provokes God to His face continually, producing a stench in His nostrils.
What does this look like in the World today? Many people turn a blind eye to their Christian family members engaging in fornication before marriage and even outside marriage, they keep quiet when it comes to living together before marriage and having children out of wedlock because they want to keep the peace and they are afraid of upsetting their children or grandchildren. Murder by abortion is enshrined as a right. Doctor assisted suicide/or just plain suicide is often erroneously considered or promoted as courageous or brave. Feelings of sexual confusion are lifted up as virtues. Anger and violence is excused if the cause is deemed to be on "the right side of history." People live in fear of being "canceled" for their sin because forgiveness is not taught or practiced. Hating your enemy is justified by the World which loves to put wedged between people who should be friends and the Christian idea of loving your enemies and caring for them is looked at as absurd. Most everything considered honorable is being eroded culturally before our very eyes because generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety require effort and selflessness. Many of these qualities and virtues have been downgraded in our culture and people are not encouraged to embrace them or struggle to keep or maintain them in their life. This is what Saint Paul is doing here, he is encouraging us to no longer walk as the Gentiles do, as the Pagan, none Christian World does, to no longer walk in the futility of their minds and to avoid joining them on that path, a path that will only lead to death and destruction and eternal death. Paul testifies this in the Lord, Martin Luther in writing the small catechism testifies this in the Lord, faithful preachers and teacher of the faith have testified this in the Lord and continue to. Now I know some of those things I mentioned may sting and smart because you have failed to live in a virtuous manner. Take heart. Listen and learn. When it is hard to follow God’s Law don’t give up. Make the hard choices; make the sacrifices of your time, talents and treasures even if the World thinks you’re nuts for doing so, remembering God won’t think you’re crazy, He will see your faithfulness because He stands at the ready, prepared with forgiveness.
Consider again what I began with today from Isaiah, where we hear the nature of God toward those mired in sin. When the stench of sin like smoke from a burning garbage heap rises up into His nostrils, when the stench of sin floats up like rancid gasses from an open sewer up into His nostrils what is His attitude towards those who are lost in their sin and debauchery? “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;” says the LORD, “I was ready to be found by those who did not seek Me.” I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.” Dear ones Jesus spreads out His nail pierced hands all day long to the rebellious who walk in a way that is not good. As Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him, [in Christ Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” At the cross Jesus took upon Himself all the sin of the whole world, all the sin of all people past present and future, He took on your sin and by His holiness and His sinlesses, His faultless life like a charcoal filter the stench of your sin is trapped, Jesus casts it out and when His heavenly Father turns toward you He smells the fragrant sweet smell of His beloved Son Jesus and He doesn’t smell your sin.
People who desire to go their own way; who refuse to walk in the way of the Lord, who believe that they have been good enough, that their virtue real or imagined is somehow pure and holy enough, sinless enough to present to God as a fragrant offering will be dismayed, they are blind. You could say they are nose blind. They have lived so long with their self-righteous that they cannot smell the sink of it. Do not fall into this trap. Turn always and only unto Jesus, rest in Him, call upon Him in prayer and for the forgiveness of your sins and He will evaporate your sin and give you His righteousness in exchange for you sin. He stands ready; He stands ready for you and for all people. Share this love, this willingness of God to those around you. You are not expected to save yourself from the stench of your sin, Jesus is the one who saves you and presents you as one who is sweet to the smell before His heavenly Father.
The World without Jesus stinks, Jesus does not stink; remain in Christ Jesus who is fragrant pure and holy, walk in His ways not in the ways of the World. Be ready to reach out and help your friends, family and neighbours just as God stands ready to receive those who at this moment are not seeking Him. Be encouraging, be kind to one another, and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Isaiah 65:1–5
 Baptism, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg 24
 10 Commandments, Luther’s Small Catechism, Pg 14-15.
 2 Corinthians 5:21