I remember when I was a child and heard the story of Noah for the first time. My first thought was how Noah fit all those animals on a boat. Then I remembered thinking about what life was like on the boat and that it must have smelled awful. Finally as we had finished the story I remembered being so thankful that God wasn't ever going to flood the earth again and how he gave a rainbow as a sign for us. Until recently that story has been just that, a story. But now I have come to appreciate that story for being a perfect illustration for our lives as Christians.
In Gen. 8:20-22 Noah made an altar to God and sacrificed animals for a burnt offering and when God smelled the pleasing aroma he said "I will never again curse the ground because of man for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done". God is saying that there is evil in man's heart even when he is young but there is also something he loves about mankind. When God smelled that sacrifice a deal was made and God said he would never judge all of mankind like that again. Does this sound familiar?
Paul uses similar language in Ephesians 5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." This same fragrant aroma was breathed in by God when his Son Jesus died on the cross. Because of this sacrifice Christians no longer have to bear the full judgment for our sin. How many times do we (the church) dwell on our sin and let it turn into guilt and shame? God is saying that the things of your past pale in comparison to Christ's sacrifice for you. We should spend more time looking toward the mission of Christ and less time worrying about our past. When we have this perspective we will truly be able to walk in love without the burden of guilt and shame weighing us down.