Have You Tasted?

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

(Psalm 34:8, ESV)

In reading through Isaiah chapters 43-44 this morning, I was struck by the fatherly tone of the Lord as he spoke to his people. There are words of comfort, words of encouragement, words of rebuke and correction, words of hope and words of instruction–all in the span of two chapters.

Pointing back to the centuries of his faithfulness to Israel, the Lord is lovingly calling his people back to himself. As I read these tender words, I was reminded of Psalm 34:8. Israel had tasted and seen that the Lord is good. In these two chapters, she was now being called upon by the Lord to live in a way that was consistent with her experience.

How was she to behave? Quickly I scratched out at least five ways the Lord was calling Israel to respond:

  • By not being fearful (43:1-2, 5).
    • Because of her disobedience, Israel had suffered greatly and Isaiah prophesied that Judah would be next. Severe starvation, exhile in a foreign land, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem would leave the people filled with fear and foreboding.
    • But notice the tenderness of the Lord’s loving words to his disobedient people: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1–2, ESV)
    • The Lord had not abandoned his people in their time of need. As a matter of fact, he was in control of everything. He had brought this trouble upon them in order to chasten them, because he loved them.
  • By being a witness to the nations (43:10, 12; 44:8).
    • The pagan nations around them could point to gods of wood and stone, but none could save. When Israel had replaced Yahweh with one of these gods, they suffered even more because they offended the Lord with their idolatry.
    • Because they had tasted and seen that the Lord is good, they were called upon to testify of the goodness of God before the world. He had saved them. Just as he claimed in v. 2, he had made them pass through the waters (Ex. 14), through the rivers (Josh 3), and would cause Daniel’s friends to pass through fire and not be burned (Dan. 3).
    • The pagan gods could not do any of this. The Lord called ISrael to produce any evidence of these idols foretelling accurately what would happen. They couldn’t do it. Which idol had brought victory in war? Which idol had provided for them in the wilderness? Which idol could compare to the Lord?
    • If ISrael would only stop and consider what they had tasted and seen, then they would not fail to be a witness to the faithfulness of the Lord.
  • By turning from sin and returning to worship (43:22-28)
    • If they had truly seen all that the Lord had done for them, then Israel was called to turn from their ongoing rebellion and return to worshipping the Lord exclusively as they should.
    • In favor of the gods of their neighbors, they had stopped calling out to Yahweh. They had become weary of worshipping the Lord (42:22). This attitude of the heart manifested itself in their worship.
    • Israel stopped bringing sacrifices, and offerings. Instead, they burdened the Lord with their sins.
    • If only they would remember that he is the God who can take their sin and blot it out. That he alone can bring total forgiveness. The false gods could not do this, and yet Israel had forsaken the One True God and turned to worthless pursuit of these empty idols.
  • By forsaking all idols (44:6-20).
    • If Israel had seen that the Lord was good in his gracious dealings with them in the past, would they also see how foolish idolatry was? How is it that the creation of human hands, so frail and weak, could somehow save the very men who had made it? They were blind to the obvious!
    • And as if that weren’t bad enough, the delusion had a devastating effect upon the nation. How could a stump of wood be expected to be a savior? Not only were these false idols lifeless, but they were also powerless to save and many had died under the deception that they could do anything for them.
    • And yet, here was their God pursuing them! He was calling his wayward people to turn from these false hopes and non-gods and to come back to him. “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.” (Isaiah 44:21, ESV)
  • By remembering the majesty of the Lord (44:21-28).
    • Finally, Israel would be able to testify to the goodness of God by remembering his majesty in his grace and willingness to forgive, in his creation of all things, in his fulfillment of prophecy which he declares through his servants, and through his building up and bringing low of Jerusalem and his people.
    • If Israel would remember, she would once again taste and see that the Lord is good–and majestic in his sovereignty.

As I thought about each of these, I considered how I too, have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Have I forgotten in times of fearful fretting? Have I forgotten in my failure to be a faithful witness? Have I been slow to turn from my sin because I have forgotten his lovingkindness and mercy? Has this made me slow and cold in worship? Have I continued to cling to my heart-idols because, like Israel, I have forgotten the sweetness of the Lord to me? Have I remembered that no matter where I am, no matter what my present circumstance, and no matter what this life has brought to me, the Lord in his perfect plan has decreed everything as it should be. He is majestic, and every hill and valley and curve in life is part of his plan.

Our Father in heaven loves us, even when we stray. He sent his Son to save us in the midst of our stubborn rebellion. We not very different from the people of Israel at times. The solution for them is the same as it is for us–turn to the Savior. He will never turn you away.

Theological Commitments of the Biblical Gospel: Preserving True Saints to the End

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Preservation of the True Saints

This doctrine will have an impact when we come across a person (whether inside or outside of the church) who says that they received Christ as Savior at an earlier time, but that they have “backslidden” or lost their salvation and need to be saved again (or similarly, “rededicate my life to Christ”). But as we are assured in Rom 8:28-39 and other passages (Jn 6:37; 10:27-29; 17:12; 18:9; 1Cor 1:8-9; Phil 1:6; 1Thess 5:23-24; 2Thess 3:3; 2Tim 1:12; 4:18; Heb 7:25), our assurance of salvation is based upon the bedrock of the gospel. This is primary.

But a close corollary that cannot be missed is the need to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4), bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8), renewing our minds to conform to Christ (Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:10), putting off the old self, putting indwelling sin to death and putting on the new man(Rom 6:6; Eph 4:2; Col 2:11; 3:9), walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Rom 8:4; Gal 5:25).

All of these together, and more, mean that a person redeemed by Christ is a new creation and should not walk in their former manner of life. If that has not happened, then that person may need salvation for the first time and has not come to grips with the fulness of the truth of the gospel. Another possibility is that they are a true believer, but they have been disobedient to the Lord for an extended period of time, are immature, and in need of loving correction and to be discipled.

The bottom line is this: many of those in America who profess to be Christians know little to nothing about the true gospel and are in need of salvation. Some have been “Christianized” through exposure to the church, but their lives demonstrate a rebellion to our King. They too must be evangelized.

Those who are sincere and broken will need further conversation and observation to conclude their spiritual state, along with many gospel conversations that will either bring them to Christ or bring them to stability and point them toward maturity.

Just Do Better…Tell that to Martin Luther!

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Is salvation merely a message of “do better?” Is Christianity simply a moralistic religion that teaches that all we need to do is obey God? That is what the self-righteous Pharisees thought, and it is what many people in churches think. To them, Christianity is a list of rules that can be kept–albeit with a lot of sacrifice. But is that what Jesus taught?

In Romans 1:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:17, ESV). This text traumatized Martin Luther before his conversion to Christ. Here was a man that sincerely wanted salvation. He had dedicated his life to holy living in a monastic community where he sacrificed on a daily basis. Yet his soul was tortured. Here are Luther’s own words, written a year before his death on March 5, 1545 following a long life of joyful blessing in true salvation through Jesus Christ.

I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was … a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], “In it the righteousness of God is revealed,” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteous wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ ” There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which [the] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Here a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.… And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. [Emphasis added]

The “gates of paradise” were opened up to Luther because he no longer depended upon his own law-keeping to satisfy the perfect demands of God. He saw salvation as a gracious act of God alone. Christ was perfectly righteous, fulfilling the whole law in our place. He died in our place and we are justified because of his perfect life and substitutionary death.

The hamster wheel of self-righteous deeds done in order to save ourselves is endless and endlessly disappointing. But the worst thing is that it does not end in heaven, but hell. The one who rejects the perfect finished work of Christ on the cross in favor of his or her imperfect works should expect nothing more, and will get nothing less.