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We worship God the Father through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But in order for this to work, He cannot be a distant Christ. Remember that in Christ God came near, God became our neighbor. We worship God through a close Christ, a near Christ, an indwelling Christ. The point of the message today—taste and see— requires that we serve God through an experienced Christ.
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:7-8).
Summary of the Text
A wonderful theme of this psalm is that God is the great Deliverer. God is the one who saves those who have faith in Him, and whose lives are living indications of that faith. That theme is very much present in the two verses that constitute our text. The angel of the Lord places the one who fears God in the midst of the camp, and entirely surrounds him. He delivers him (v. 7). This is a glorious promise, and anybody is invited to come in order to participate in it. The invitation is to taste and see (v. 8). What do we taste? The goodness of the Lord. We taste the blessedness of trusting in Him.
Notice also the parallel between fearing Him and tasting His goodness. And notice too that being delivered is the blessing that results from trusting Him. Tasting is fearing and blessedness is being delivered.
An Experienced Christ
We identify ourselves as evangelicals, but by this we mean historic evangelicals, or confessional evangelicals. This is to be distinguished from that pop evangelicalism that has commodified the whole thing in order to be able to print it on a T-shirt, available at a Jesus junk store near you. Jesus Himself said that the experience (which is absolutely necessary) is not an experience that we can successfully manipulate. We cannot bottle the wind of the Spirit. We cannot manufacture this because we are talking about the sovereign motions of the sovereign God.
At the same time, we insist that a man must be born again if he is to see the kingdom of God. As I have taught before, you don’t have to know what instant the sun rose in order to know that it is up. And neither may be conclude from the fact that we know that it is up that we have the authority to command it to rise.
God is Good
We serve the God who invites. We serve the God who summons, and who goes out of His way to summon. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Is. 55:1-2).
Apart from Christ, we feed on little bits of refuse. We bake bread made out of sawdust. We mix our drinks with used dishwater, and we sneer at those pitiful believers who do not know what it means to live the good life. We turn everything into gruel. We clutch at driveway pebbles, calling them diamonds. We collect wisps of straw to make an arrangement for the middle of the table. When God pronounces a woe on those who call evil good and good evil (Is. 5:20), more is involved than simply a mistake in ethics. It all comes down to what you have to eat, what you have to chew, and what you must swallow. And if you consume the meager pickings of self, you are in dietary training for the outer darkness.
Consistency and Variation
God is not locked into the same kind of tight strictures that we are. A vineyard in France, and one in California, and another in Louisiana, can all produce a bottle of Cabernet, and this is completely different than the effect you get when it is a diet soda bottling plant in all those same locations. But no one remarks on the terroir of the Diet Dr. Pepper. No one stands at the drink dispenser, swirling the plastic cup under his nose.
It is the same with the fruit of the Spirit—fantastic variation and remarkable consistency. Legalists want the experienced Christ to taste like it all came from one bottling plant. Antinomians want to pretend that there is no difference between a fine wine and stump water. Never forget that the triune God, who is growing us all up, is holy. And never forget that the triune God, who is growing us all up into a splendid array—of different kinds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control—is not a ball-bearing manufacturer.
A White Stone
A commonplace in Christian circles is the phrase “a personal relationship” with Jesus. However clichéd it may have become, there is an important reality there that we must preserve. We preserve it because it is precious.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev. 2:17).
God the Father, through the Lord Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, has a relationship with you that only He and you know. This is for the one who overcomes, and what is it that overcomes? Is it not our faith? The one who tastes, the one who sees—which can only be done by faith—is the one who knows the goodness of God as it has been evidenced in their relationship. Just the two.
Now this does not eliminate the need for the body of Christ. Every cell, every member, being alive is the prerequisite for living participation in the living body. You want to be a living finger, not a dead fingernail. Don’t be covenantal keratin.