Wake Up and Smell the Ammonia

by Tad Lindley

Even as my dad was telling it to me, I made up my mind that I would do it. He warned me sternly of the consequences of disobedience, but something welled up within my four or five year old mind that took it as a challenge. I looked for my opportunity. It was not long before it presented itself. I was in the kitchen alone, with no chance of an adult walking in. I opened the cupboard beneath the sink. Among the bottles was one with a skull and cross bones. Though unable to read the labels, somehow I was able to discern which bottle contained the ammonia. Removing the cap, I placed it to my nostrils, and took a deep snort of it.

Instant repentance

If you have ever smelled ammonia up close and personal, you know what happened. It felled like somebody was jerking a chainsaw chain through my sinuses and nostrils. Instant repentance flooded over my soul. I made a covenant with my soul right then and there to never take a deep whiff of ammonia so long as I live. Without ever having to pray over the issue, I have managed over thirty more years without sniffing ammonia. God delivered me from all temptations concerning ammonia that very day so many years ago. Space will not permit, but I could relay a similar episode to you concerning Spic-N-Span™ flakes I taste tested once. I could tell of the time my dad talked to me about red hot cook stoves, and how I waited until no one was around. Those are sins of disobedience to my parents that I never have repeated.

What if all sin was like ammonia?

Imagine if the first time a person smoked a cigarette, they experienced the pain of losing their left lung. It would be a rare thing to find someone who had even smoked a pack in their entire lifetime. As it is, the pain of losing the lungs does not come until after the ten or twenty thousandth cigarette.

What about that first drink of alcohol? Many reading this will have taken that during the teenage years. Some of us have paid an extremely high price for it. What if in that first drink we experienced all the shame of a DWI, and the humiliation of our children seeing us in a stupor, and the failure of a divorce, and the confinement of handcuffs? Alcoholism would be unheard of and the Department of Corrections would have to lay people off.

Think about experiencing all the loneliness and shame of adultery after the first flirtatious glance. We might see a decline in the divorce rate.

Sin doesn’t work like that

Unfortunately for us, sin is not up front. Instead, it is seductive. Sin doesn’t stink in the beginning. In fact it might smell sweet. It is only after time, that sin begins to stink to us. By then it is too late to escape the price of sin. Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV) Sin draws us. Most people get steeped in sin slowly. Sin is fun in the beginning, but its payday is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is tricky. It desires to have each and every one of us. The Lord told Cain, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Sin has you trapped

Many who will read this article are trapped in sin. It has become a stink in your nostrils. Perhaps those temper tantrums from your toddler years still plague you. You fly into a rage when your spouse or your children disappoint you. Maybe those first exciting sips of homebrew in high school have turned to broken furniture, broken windows, and broken dreams in adulthood. At one time it seemed as if sin would make your dreams come true. Now it has turned on you and shattered them. Even God seems to have abandoned you.

The stink won’t stop Jesus

Even if your sin has caused you to commit murder, Jesus can help you. There is only one unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31), and you haven’t committed it, so keep reading. According to the Bible, our sins are forgiven when we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38). If you don’t believe me, read I Corinthians 6:9-11. It provides a list of sins that destroy the soul, only to say that the Bible church contained such people, and that they were washed from their sin. The sin that started off as such fun had bankrupted them, but when they heard about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they woke up and smelled the ammonia. In the end they came out smelling like a rose, and we can too!

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.