From Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013), 62-64:
While we journey to glory we should learn to trust the path laid before us. Sometimes, no doubt, we find that the path is of our own making. Our natural affections have turned us off course onto other things we find beautiful. But, broadly speaking, grasping the path of glory is really just grasping onto Jesus. By focusing our attention on Jesus and the “Jesus Way,” we come to gain a “taste” for this way over others. Some of the fleshliness that used to taste so good is now bitter. We are walking a path of putting to death our sin by slowly conforming to God’s glory and beauty. In doing so, the sin that still wages war within us begins to die.
In Christ, our sight, hearing and taste are now sensitized to a different world, and therefore they help us trust in the way of the Lord. Many people saw Jesus but did not follow him. What did they not see that the disciples did? Why were the disciples affected by Christ and not so many others?
To explain this, Edwards turns to taste. The Spirit of God works within one’s heart to give them a divine taste—a taste of the ways of God. It is in this vein that the psalmist would say, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps 119:103). Without it, people cannot recognize God and his way as beautiful, “no more than a man without the sense of tasting can conceive of the sweet taste of honey, or a man without the sense of hearing can conceive of the melody of a tune, or a man born blind can have a notion of the beauty of the rainbow.” The disciples were given a divine taste, and so they sought to satisfy their longing by following Christ.
Edwards offers an illustration of two men, one of whom is born without the sense of taste. The man with the sense of taste loves honey, and he greatly delights in it because of its taste. The other man also loves honey, but, not having the sense of taste, he loves it because of its color and texture. The excellency and sweetness of honey is in its taste, Edwards argues, therefore the man who loves the honey because of its taste builds upon the foundation of honey’s true beauty. If you don’t “know” the taste of honey, you don’t truly “know” honey. Likewise, to know Jesus is to develop a taste for who he is and what he is about. If we return to our hiking analogy, we can say that a “taste” for the destination drives your journey. You hunger for it (Mt 5:6). Others may travel with you who only share your actions, and not your taste for the destination. They have the form but not the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). A taste of God is prioritizing God above all else.
For true religious affections, the object, God, is primary, and I am secondary. With false affections, the focus reverts to me. The one who seeks Christ alone will know the delight that only he can give.
One who goes looking for self-fulfillment will never find it. In other words, having a taste of divine things is what allows the heavenly destination to captivate your heart. Without that taste it is impossible to will God, and therefore it is impossible to actually walk the path to glory. This taste is the taste of heaven and is the taste that calibrates our souls to glory and beauty. This taste creates a hunger for divine things. This taste is not given in its perfection, but is a seed of
grace in the soul. Cultivating this taste should lead to a deeper and deeper hunger for God and his glory. The ways of God, the calling of the church, the Word of God and the ordinances of God should all be tasty aspects of life. Ultimately, our taste should be oriented by God and his life of love, and therefore the hunger of our flesh should begin to be killed off. In this sense, our taste is similar to the compass whose needle seeks north. We can say that the needle has a taste for north. Around that taste all our other affections should fall into place—the west, east and south of our soul should be oriented by the true north of heaven—God and his life of love.
David, in Psalm 34, proclaimed, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8). In a sense, Edwards’s description of religious affection is a call to taste and see that the Lord is good (and continue to do so)! The light of God’s beauty and glory is given so that believers can actually see that the Lord is good. But sight alone does not comprehend the depths of the Christian experience. For that, Edwards turns to taste. Tasting and seeing that the Lord is good entails having the whole of one’s heart made alive to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit—it is communion with the three-personed God.
Tasting and seeing are the kinds of things that beget more tasting and seeing. Tasting and seeing beget desire. It is this desire that turns the Christian more and more fully to her Lord who is beautiful and glorious. It is a journey we will continue for eternity.