Here are some great quotes from the book I'm now reading, The Happy God (by Benjamin Dunn). It's a wonderful book reminding me that God is happy with the finished work of Christ and happy with us, His children!
At the beginning of the book, he defines some common Biblical terms. Many of these are words that I have misunderstood or taken in a more "performance" way than a "grace" way. I wanted to share some of those definitions here:
Gospel - I always knew it meant "good news," but I didn't know how really and amazingly GOOD that news is! I thought it was mainly about forgiveness, sort of giving people a second chance (and we better not blow it this time around!) and going to heaven when we die. But it is so much more! Ben Dunn says the Gospel is "the glad-message of the glory of the happy God; the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifested and pledged in Christ." It's about the revealing of God's grace through the work of Jesus, to free us from sin and shame and put us safely in His arms forever! It's the message that we are right now reconciled with God and called His friends, and that He's not holding our sins against us, for they've been taken away by Jesus on the cross. This message reveals that God is smiling on us - what a happy God!
Grace - here's another word that I felt clueless about when I tried to define it. I guess I used to think it meant forgiveness. But discovering what grace really means has literally changed my life! Ben Dunn defines it as "total, undeserved divine favor, by which a man is saved. Grace is not just the kindness or mercy that is shown by the Lord when one is in a fallen condition, but Grace is also the influence that keeps one from falling." I love that! Grace means salvation is a completely free gift. Grace means we are favored for free, without having to deserve it, and grace means our salvation is secure, for He will keep us from falling. We didn't have to do anything to get this favor and acceptance, and there is nothing we could do that would cause it to be lost!
Faith - I'm still learning what this one means, for so often in the past I turned faith into a "work," focusing on it as something I must somehow "do" to "get" God to give me good things or be on my side. But that isn't what faith is, for it is the opposite of works! Ben Dunn says it is "a firm persuasion produced by God's infinite goodness. A childlike response to God's wonderful love and works. It is also a gift." Faith is just the natural response when we hear the good news of God's love for us in Jesus. Faith isn't focused on me but on Christ! It's not something I "do;" faith is when I stop my "doing" because I see that Jesus already DID it all! And it's not something I muster up - it's a gift from God, so it's actually Christ's faith in us! Now that's perfect faith..
Flesh - Here's another word that has been tricky for me to figure out. I guess I always thought it meant "the real me," in that I thought of myself as truly bad at the core. Well, that is what the real me WAS, but not what the real me IS NOW, since I've been newly created in Christ! Ben Dunn says flesh is "the unregenerate state of men that was destroyed or cut away by Christ at salvation. "The flesh," "Old-Man," "Sinful-Self" and "Sin-Nature" are all different terms to describe the same unregenerate state." That unregenerate state doesn't exist for us anymore as His children, so none of those terms describe us anymore!
Righteousness - Here's a word that I was also confused about (boy, have I been really confused! Sometimes I still am, but that's okay, because HE isn't confused about our relationship and says it's perfect, keeps it perfect!) I always thought righteousness meant basically doing everything God commanded, and how could I ever think I was totally doing that? So I never felt righteous. I never felt righteous, so I figured I wasn't. And this left me feeling that God wasn't pleased with me, and that it was impossible to please Him. Here is Ben Dunn on what righteousness is: "uprightness and right standing with God. The state of him who is as he ought to be." This is what Christ has given us as a gift! Salvation is simply the deliverance from being un-right with God and being given the gift of being right with God. We're He's truly happy with us because He remade us righteous and acceptable to Him in every way in Christ. We're now rightly related to God with nothing amiss or lacking in that relationship. We are as we were always meant to be, in perfect, right relationship with Him, with absolutely nothing between us!
Justified - This is similar to righteousness, coming from the same Greek word. I never really knew what this word meant. Ben Dunn says to be justified is to be "declared or rendered righteous apart from the works of the Law or self-works." In other words, made right and acceptable before God as a gift, apart from any works needing to be done on our part! My whole life it seems I've been searching for acceptance from God. I never felt really accepted, always felt He was looking at my ways and that I was coming up so very short in His eyes. Oh, how I longed to know He accepted me! And then He started showing me that grace means favor and ACCEPTANCE, and that being righteous or justified (which is basically the gift He gives us at salvation) actually means being ACCEPTED by God, made ACCEPTABLE in His eyes! All along through my whole Christian life, I'd been accepted by God and had been since the moment I'd first believed in Jesus, yet I hadn't known it. I'd been longing for Him to accept me, trying to clean up my act so He would, when He already had! What a wonderful revelation..
God - how do we define God? I guess the way we see Him determines so much about how we relate to Him, ourselves, other people, and our circumstances. I have seen Him as more of a Judge in the past, a very serious and unsmiling person looking at my works and shaking His head in disappointment. I knew or at least heard that He loved me, but it was hard for me to get past the fact that I felt He was requiring me to do things that I was failing at. I always felt He was saying, "do better, why can't you just do better?" But to start to meet the real God has been the greatest joy of my life! He is so loving and happy with us! He is so good and so kind! He isn't looking at our works but at the perfect work of Christ for us. He was literally dying to be with us, and became a man and died to make that union with us possible. He loves, absolutely loves, being with us and spending time with us in fellowship. What a wonderful God! He shows off His glory for all time through Jesus and His work in us - He shows off how wonderful and loving and good He really is! Ben Dunn has a quote in his book about God that describes Him as "the Good Being, a fountain of infinite benevolence and beneficence towards His creatures..In a word, a Being who, from His infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived; and who, from His infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, right, and kind." What a wonderful God!