Acquiring the Taste of God
I took the spoon and did my best airplane impersonation with it. It climbed and zoomed and dived, and I even added some great sound effects (At least I thought they were great). But despite my unoriginal strategy, my 7-month-old daughter was not going to eat another bite of green beans. She eagerly ate the first bite, not knowing what the green goo was, but now she knew better.
The expression on her face said it all. She was utterly offended that someone she trusted would betray her. I tried to reason with her. “Green beans are good for you. You need this. Just trust me and eat it.” But presenting the nutritional facts didn’t seem to help my case. My daughter knew one thing: the taste was like nothing she had ever experienced, and it just wasn’t good.
Two days later, I came home from work to discover my wife feeding our daughter. I knew she was enjoying it because I saw her usual sign of approval: the food was all over her face. And the food was green. Green beans, to be exact.
I was hurt. Ok, not really, but I wanted to know my wife’s secret. This must be another example of her mom superpowers, or maybe she’s just a better spoon actor. Her secret? “She must have acquired the taste.”
Ah, that made sense. We have all experienced this taste bud phenomenon. When we first tried something, it was gross, but over time we learned to love it, even crave it. For me, my acquired taste is coffee. I remember taking a sip of my mom’s steaming cup as a kid. It was horrible. I couldn’t believe people actually drank that stuff. “Must be an adult thing,” I thought.
But as I got older, I tried coffee again and again, and each time it tasted a little better. Now I drink it twice a day, every day. I acquired the taste. It’s hard to even imagine myself disliking it, but upon first sip, I did.
In Psalm 34:8, David invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” But I think for some people, the Lord is an acquired taste. Not because of his lack of goodness, but because of our self-consumed palette. Their first encounter with him or his church just wasn’t very appetizing. The God of the Bible collided with their worldview like those green beans collided with my daughter’s taste buds, and they swore him off for good.
Maybe they initially had thoughts like, “How could God be good when I have suffered so much in my life?” “Won’t following Christ mess up my fun lifestyle?” “Do I really have to give up everything to follow him?” For many, their first bite was their last, and they walked away from God’s table.
According to scripture, this really shouldn’t surprise us. As sinful, self-centered people, many of God’s qualities are going to be offensive to us. The truth that a holy God punishes sinners like us with eternal damnation isn’t exactly a piece of chocolate cake. This is what Paul was talking about when he said in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” No one wants a second helping of foolishness.
The solution for some Christians is to pour some chocolate syrup on the truth. Let’s cover up the taste with something everyone loves. They attempt to sugar-coat God and make him seem more appealing. “Well the descriptions of hell aren’t literal. Those are just metaphors.” “God isn’t really angry at your sin. You must have read the Old Testament.” “Jesus doesn’t actually expect you to do those radical things. That’s just for missionaries and pastors.”
As badly as we want unbelievers to come to know Christ, sugar-coating the gospel is not the answer. Ever.
Another solution for some Christians is to add a few sprinkles on top of the truth. “Even though they won’t like the taste, let’s make it look delicious,” they subconsciously say. “Let’s have a pizza party before the service!” “Let’s play some current, popular songs they will love!” “Let’s give away some great door prizes!” This approach is called the ole bait and switch. The idea is to cover up the painful hook with some attractive bait, hoping the dumb fish will bite. Manipulation and bribery is not the solution either.
The solution to the offensiveness of the gospel is to invite people to keep eating. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I know that first bite seemed strange and new but take another one. Keep chewing. Swallow it. You need this.
Ultimately God is the one who changes our tastes. He removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). This is called regeneration. God miraculously moves upon our hard hearts so we can believe, repent, and trust in Jesus. But God doesn’t just change our hearts, he changes our spiritual taste buds. We begin to crave him, his word, and his holiness. Sin makes us gag now. The things that we use to eat for dessert are like stale bread compared to the richness of knowing Christ.
But the reality is, this doesn’t happen overnight. Developing a deep love for God is a process. It’s an acquired taste. I’ve learned this to be true in my own life. The painful repetition of memorizing scripture as a child has now become joyful meditation. Each time I recite the words, I taste a new flavor to keep me satisfied. Daily scripture reading is no longer like forcing down broccoli because my parents threatened to withhold the dessert. God’s word has become the dessert! And spending half an hour in prayer isn’t an impossible feat like I once thought. It’s now like a glass of water for my thirsty soul.
As hard as I worked on all those food references, here’s my point simply put. The more I seek God, the more I want to seek him. The more I pray, the more I want to pray. The more I love him, the more I want to love him. The more I read his word, the more I want to read his word. The more I go to church, the more I want to go to church. The more I taste and see, the more God changes my heart and increases my desire for him.
It hasn’t always been this way! There have been many times, and there still are times, when I don’t want to pursue God. I’m too stressed to read my Bible. I don’t feel like getting out of bed and praying. To be honest, sometimes I don’t feel like being a Christian. But praise God I don’t follow my feelings. Feelings are stupid.
In those weak moments when my sinful flesh rears its ugly head, I fill up my plate, sit down at the table, and I eat. I tell my soul, “This is good for you. You need this. Just trust me.” I taste and see that the Lord is good. And by his grace, I always walk away filled with his goodness.