We’re currently living in a time when the ubiquitous influence of Christianity that under-girded Western culture for a millennia has become a thing of history. But I would be quick to add, this is not necessarily a bad thing, because what looks fallen down and ruined at first blush is often just the catalyst for a glorious restoration.
This may seem an odd beginning to a post titled, “Taste and See!” but bear with me, it will make sense as we go.
There’s been quite a stir about recent confessions made by pop Christian leaders, Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye“) and Marty Sampson (former worship leader and songwriter with Hillsong), and their departure from the faith. I don’t bring this up to pile on with everyone else, but to proffer it as a symptom to a much deeper problem (or opportunity for change).
I think these two phenomenon are very much related. The latter could be a result of the former. I’ve been pondering this for several years now and it is my belief that we’ve embraced a form of Christianity that is now broken at a systemic level. Possibly, it’s always been broken but the defect was just hidden in the warp and weave of cultural “Christendom” (see my post, “Christendom is dead…long live Christianity!“).
I believe it’s broken because, at a very fundamental level, we’ve made Christianity transactional rather than relational. So, in this particular case, I agree we should “deconstruct” some of our assumptions about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
I’ve said this before, but it seems we treat God a bit like an ATM machine. God, and us, like the ATM and the person wanting cash, are simply two separate parties in the transaction. We believe the right things and “do the stuff” for Jesus. God is primarily where we go when we need something, but there’s little or no real relationship going on.
This mindset can also lead to judging God’s goodness based on how well we think He’s keeping up His end.
And I’m not the only one saying these things. Here’s Graham Cooke:
“The difficulty is, when we’re not walking in the presence of God, our spirituality is nearly always functional not relational. So we want God to do stuff, but we don’t want to become somebody in Him. We want God to do things but we don’t want Him to change us. But He’s all about changing you.”
What’s confusing is that God does bless us, protect us, answer our prayers…but that’s not the main point of being a Christian at all. Christianity, at its core, is not a formula for success, an academic pursuit, or an argument or philosophy. It’s something we were meant to participate in.
Even the Old Testament taught us this, and now we’ve arrived at the main point of this post.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIV)
Notice these particular metaphors—taste and see. It doesn’t say, study doctrines and argue about who’s right. It’s also not about using spiritual gifts, how much faith we have, or even the depth of our self-sacrifice (didn’t we get Paul’s memo in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3?) God IS love, and His love is other-centered, which means it’s always about relationship.
The psalmist likens this divine invitation to a culinary experience than opens our eyes to something wonderful to behold…like the pleasure experienced when partaking in a sumptuous feast at a fine restaurant.
But here’s the thing. I can study the menu of the finest restaurant all I want, I’ll still never know anything about what’s being offered until I taste and see. I must experience its awesome flavors for myself, with my own taste buds…it must be ingested, it must become part of me. To experience it, I must open my mouth and take it in. Otherwise, I know nothing at all about it.
I like how the Passion Translation says it:
8 Drink deeply of the pleasures of this God.
Experience for yourself the joyous mercies he gives
to all who turn to hide themselves in him. (Psalm 34:8 TPT)
This agrees with Psalm 16:11:
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11 NIV)
Beloved, all these things were said under the Old Covenant. But we have “a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” (Heb.8:6). Christ has come to live in you. Pleasure and delight and fullness of joy lives in you!
As I said in a previous post, we are joy and pleasure-seeking creatures. So, I don’t think people will easily cast off continual joy and pleasures forevermore. In fact, Paul seemed to think “being hard-pressed on every side…perplexed…persecuted, abandoned, struck down”…were but “light afflictions” compared to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” working in him (2 Cor.4:1-18).
And glory is the goodness of God made manifest.
At its root level, our Christian faith is not based on doctrines, or arguments, or even theology. Like with God, all teaching in the New Testament is primarily relational.
Now, sound doctrines and theology are important things. Think of them as guardrails that keep you from veering off the path and driving your faith over the cliff, if you will.
For instance, if Marty Sampson would’ve had a good grasp of theology, he would never have said, “Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion.” Actually, science is not capable of addressing the existence of God at all (for methodological reasons), so this reasoning is fallacious and irrelevant.
Nonetheless, theology and doctrines are not our life in Christ. And while daily reading of the Bible is important, God’s Word is not a textbook; it’s a Person (John 1:1; 5:39-40). And it’s in this Person where we find life.
63 …The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63 NIV)
It’s heart knowledge, not head knowledge. I open my heart to Jesus’ love for me and experience joy and pleasure in His presence, and this experience opens my eyes to what is true…about God…about me…and about everyone else around me. Then, and only then, will the textbook we call the Bible shine its guiding light upon my path.
Notice what the psalmist says here:
5 Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.
Your faces will glisten with glory.
You’ll never wear that shame-face again. (Psalm 34:5 TPT)
This is why I see the time we’re living in, not as the slow and painful death of Christianity, but as the needed demolition before the upgrade; the “the removal of those things that are being shaken…that the things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb.12:27). It’s the rumblings of genuine reformation and renewal at work. Like with the restoration of an architectural wonder, the beauty and glory of the Master’s craftsmanship is being revealed underneath the years of religious overlay. I think you’ll see it, too, when you open your heart and taste and see that the Lord truly is good.