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East Lincoln Alliance Church

Taste and See

Taste and See
Ephesians 2:1-7

When someone is applying for a job, the employer usually asks for references and when thy contact those references they want to know about the skills and abilities of the applicant, but they also want to know about their character – are they honest, kind, fair, etc.? Similarly, as we’ve been studying the attributes of God, so far we’ve looked at attributes that describe his divine being – things like trinity, eternity, immutability, omniscience, and omnipotence. But now we are going to look at his divine character – attributes that describe his heart – what he’s like on the inside. And to begin we are going to look at an attribute called the “goodness” of God.

Throughout this week I’ve been paying more attention and I’ve heard people say “God is so good,” or, “God, you’ve been so good to us,” and I want to explore what that means because there can be times when it’s really hard for us to say those things. When bad things happen we can doubt the goodness of God. And some of us carry around wounds that may keep us from believing in God’s goodness. Yes, he may be powerful, eternal, and unchanging, and he’s certainly not evil, and he may be good to other people, but how can he be good to me with what’s happened in my life?

One of the times in my life when I struggled to see God’s goodness was about a year ago when Scott Marko suddenly died from a heart attack – 43 years old, beloved husband, father of 5, teacher and coach. He’s in the prime of his life when his family needs him the most, and he’s gone. Where is God’s goodness in that? In a similar situation I had a college classmate who became a youth pastor in northern MN and he took the youth group out on an event on the lake. They were swimming out in the lake when a storm suddenly came up and he went to help a kid by giving him his life jacket and he ended up drowning… Young youth pastor, married with 4 small children, and he’s gone… Where’s God’s goodness in that? It’s hard to understand his goodness when bad things happen.

Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and that’s what I want us to do this morning. I want us to see how the Bible describes God’s goodness so that by his grace we will be able to see it at all times in our lives and find security in him especially when bad things happen. We are going to look at Ephesians 2 where Paul describes God’s goodness toward us in a vivid way by using contrast. In the first 3 verses he paints the backdrop that is necessary for us to see to understand God’s goodness – it’s the backdrop of sin and evil.

Read Ephesians 2:1-3.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

So Paul paints a very dark picture of the state of the world that we live in. We don’t live in a good world filled with good people. That’s the way things were at the beginning, but that all changed when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Their sin brought a curse upon all mankind and the world in which we live. We look around us today – especially with access to world events through modern news coverage and we wonder “What’s wrong in our world?” We see pain, suffering and misery; fights, wars, murder and violence; families in turmoil, drugs, rioting, hatred, addictions, greed, sex-trafficking, rampant sexual immorality. What’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong is that the world is under the curse of sin and, as Paul points to, is under the jurisdiction and influence of the prince of the power of the air. Unseen spiritual forces of evil are at work, seeking to destroy.

Furthermore, we have an enemy within our very bodies. Just like Paul describes, people live in the passions of their sinful flesh, carrying out their corrupted cravings and ideas. Romans 1:24-32 says that “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… to dishonorable passions… to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” And we see the fruits of this all over in our world today. And because of sin, people are by nature children of wrath – deserving of the righteous judgment of God.

But the point Paul’s making in these verses is that doesn’t just describe the people we would refer to as “the bad people,” that describes us… That’s who we were – walking in trespasses and sins, following Satan and the course of this world, carrying out the cravings of our bodies and minds, and children of wrath like the rest of mankind. Creatures who fell far, far short of the glory of God for which we were created.

We need to let that sink in… I know it’s an unpleasant, discouraging, and awful way to see ourselves, but we need to see it or we’ll never know what God’s goodness is.

When I was a kid, there were a couple times – I’m assuming unbeknownst to my mom – that I and one or two of my brothers ended up playing in the swamp near our house. It was nasty, stinky, knee-deep sludge that had formed over decades because of rotting organic matter. Totally disgusting when I think about it today, but we loved it. We loved the mud; getting dirty; playing in the cesspool. And whether we like to think about it or not, that’s how we once were in our sins. That’s the state of our world today and of humanity before God.

The offensiveness of this is heightened when you think about the glory and majesty of the Creator whom we have rejected and the height from which we have fallen – creatures made in the image of God – created to be his people who would glorify and enjoy him forever – and we turned our backs on him to go our own way.

If you’ve ever created something and that thing utterly fails to do what you created it to do, what would you do with it? You’d throw it away. Get rid of it. That’s what you’d expect a holy God would do with a people who gave themselves over to sin and death. It would be the righteous and just thing to do. Just leave them to be punished – turn your back on them and let them wallow in their squalor and misery.

The problem is, God has this unshakable attribute called “Goodness” that is part of his very being. It’s an attribute that doesn’t allow him to feel neutral toward us and discard us as if we were nothing to him. A.W. Tozer writes: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.” Even though we were sinful and undeserving God was compelled to act on our behalf because of his goodness and Paul explains that in the next several verses.

Read Ephesians 2:4-7.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

So rather than leaving us to wallow in our sinfulness, God was compelled to act and his goodness shined through. The fruit of his goodness is seen all throughout these verses. It is seen in mercy – he didn’t have a hard heart toward us in our sin, but a heart of compassion for us in our misery and distress. It is seen in his love toward us – that even when we were dead in our sins, he gave us new life in Christ and seated us with him in the highest place of honor in the heavenly places. It is seen in his grace toward us – though we deserved only punishment and wrath, he gave us eternal blessing instead. And it’s seen in the kindness that he will show us in the coming ages when he demonstrates the immeasurable riches of his grace to us.

In our sin we deserved nothing but judgment and wrath, but we were given unfathomable blessings instead. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” That is a goodness that is hard to even imagine. When one of my kids is being really naughty, I can tell you what I’m compelled to do, and it’s not shower them with blessings. But that’s what God has done for us. The reason we don’t remain in a pit of despair and misery is not because we’ve pulled ourselves out of the pit, it’s because of the goodness of God. And that goodness doesn’t just stop at removing the despair and misery, it pushes on to showering us with blessings in this life and in the life to come.

Does that change when bad things happen? No. That never changes. Bad things happen on earth – painful things, purely evil things that we shudder to think about because we live in a world that is still bound by the curse of sin. And sometimes those things happen to us. But that doesn’t mean anything has changed about God’s goodness. So often when bad things happen we let those things define what God is like and we can no longer see his goodness. That’s exactly what Satan wants us to do. But those things have nothing to do with God’s goodness. They are just bad things. And in this life we probably are not going to understand why God let them happen to us, but that doesn’t change God’s goodness. So instead of looking to the bad things, we need to look at what we’ve seen today – all that God has done for us in spite of our sin and rebellion against him. That’s his goodness and that never changes. And when bad things happen we can look to him with confidence to fing grace and mercy and help. We can know for sure that he is for us and is working to give us everything we need. And we will be able to see his goodness in big and small ways if we are not blinded by the lies of the enemy.

Paul proclaims the extent of God’s goodness for us in Rom. 8:28-32: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

The promise is that God will work for our good all the way to the end, and the point Paul makes is that if God went so far as to give up his own Son to suffer and die for you, he isn’t going to hold anything back in his goodness toward you. We can trust him and depend on him and find security in him especially when bad things happen.

As we close I want you to listen to the words of a familiar Psalm – a song written by David who had all kinds of bad things happen to him. But through those times, this is who he knew his God to be…

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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