Does becoming a Christian mean the end of my fun? That’s an interesting question and I think a fair one to ask. There’s a certain picture of Christianity that’s often painted. When people think of Christianity they think of different things. Some think screaming TV preacher, others think white guy in a suit or old black grandmother in a big church hat. Some think political conservatives or those people who don’t like science. But very few people think Christianity and think: hey, that would be a fun thing to do! Becoming a Christian doesn’t seem fun to people.
Christianity has gotten a reputation as a killjoy. It’s something for boring people and old people. One rapper in a song says, “If you scared, then go to church.” Apparently Christian churches are for timid, scared punks. People think becoming a Christian means you have to wear suits and long dresses, and listen to bad Christian music, and stop being cool. First of all, some of y’all aren’t cool in the first place, but that’s another story.
I just watched this Ja Rule interview yesterday. He was talking about his experiences with churches. In his experience churches always said come as you are, but never really meant it. He never felt welcome. And when people asked if he accepted Christ into his life, he said he wasn’t ready. He thought that meant he had to make gospel records now. The picture that he had been given of Christianity was one where you had to change everything about yourself; you had to stop enjoying everything you’ve been enjoying. As if becoming a Christian is the last thing you’d do if you wanted to enjoy yourself!
What is Fun?
Here’s how fun is defined in the dictionary. Fun is: A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure. There’s no question that becoming a Christian means your understanding and experience of enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure will change. If you’re wondering if it can stay the same, it can’t. There’s no doubt that becoming a Christian changes the way you see life.
Cov lus nug no puas yog: does it help or hurt your fun? Is Christianity the enemy of your enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure? Or does it help you experience enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure in their true sense? Has everyone in our culture gotten it right? Are Christianity and fun on opposite ends of the spectrum?
I think one of the reasons people talk about Christianity this way is because of the way Christians are portrayed in the media. Any Christian guy in a movie or TV show is the worst. They’re usually judgmental and corny. People unfairly caricature many Christians and give attention to the most ridiculous stuff.
The second reason is because some Christians and those who call themselves Christians give off that vibe. They contribute to the stereotype. Some Christians really don’t enjoy anything and they blame it on God, as if it’s HIs fault.
So what do I think? I have two answers to the question for tonight. Does becoming a Christian mean the end of my fun? My first answer is: Tsis muaj
Kuv. No – Becoming a Christian Does Not Mean the End of Your Fun
Yog hais tias koj yeej xav txog nws, it’s an odd question to ask. “Does becoming a Christian mean the end of enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure in my life?” It says something about God to ask that question. If being a Christian means following God through faith in Christ, then to rephrase the question it’s asking: Does God want you to have an un-enjoyable life? To answer yes says something untrue about Him. He’s the Creator of all life. Of course he wants you to enjoy the life that He created.
It’s like asking if Jay-Z or Kendrick Lamar wants you to hate his newest album. Did he want you to just suffer through it and hate it? Or like Steven Spielberg wanted you to hate his movie, or he wanted you to doze off because you hated Lincoln so much. Well of course not! They made it, in part, so that others would enjoy it.
Life is different, because it’s not just some form of entertainment, but there are similarities. What we know from Scripture is that God is a good God. He created life. He made us in His image and He wants us to live that life to the full. He wants us to enjoy life and praise Him for it.
There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that God does not want us to enjoy our lives. When you read the Bible that’s just not the picture you’re going to get. The way people talk about Christianity you’d think there was a verse where Jesus says, “If you follow me, you must be miserable, hate everything, and drag others down with you.” But you’re not going to find any verses like that.
Instead you’ll find God wanting us to enjoy our lives. I’m going to read a couple of passages that I think point this out.
People think God wants to keep us from good things, but that’s a lie. Listen to James 1:16-17.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:16-17)
God doesn’t try to keep us from good things; God is the Giver of all good things. He’s the source. That’s like the kids at an orphanage asking if the people who pay for their shelter and clothes want good things for them. They paid for everything so what do you mean? It’s an illogical question.
God created friendship and marriage. God created smiling and laughter. These are all gifts from God. So to act like he doesn’t want us to enjoy them is ridiculous.
What about Jesus? Does he have anything to say about this? In John 10, Jesus contrasts Himself with false teachers. These false teachers lead people astray; they were bad shepherds. Jesus calls them thieves.
“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
This goes directly against what people often say in our culture. They think God wants to steal. Steal our joy, happiness, and free will. That God wants to kill us and drag us down. But Jesus says, He came to give is abundant life or a full life. He wants us to live our lives to the full. We’ll talk more about that later.
In Psalm 16, David is talking to God and here’s what he says.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.” (Psalm 16:11)
So coming closer to God doesn’t lead to boring sadness, it leads to joy. Not just any joy but fullness of joy. And there are pleasures. Not five minutes or five years of pleasure, but pleasures forevermore.
I could go on for days with passages like this. Christianity is not the enemy of enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure. It’s actually the road to true enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure.
Last week, my wife and I went to see Gravity in IMAX 3D. You know they give you these big clunky glasses to put on. But what if instead of those glasses we brought our sleep masks from home? You know those things you put on like glasses that block out all the light? You don’t see anything but darkness.
Now what would have happened if instead of 3D glasses we put on the sleep masks? We’d miss the whole movie. But since we put on those 3D glasses it was amazing. It was like we were in the movie. I was holding down my drink so it didn’t float up in the air. Stuff was around us. Stuff was coming at us. The glasses brought that experience to life.
We treat God like he’s trying to hand us that sleep mask in the movies, when really he’s trying to hand us the 3D goggles. He’s not trying to block our joy, and leave us in the dark. He wants our joy to be enhanced and to the full. He wants us to enjoy life as it was meant to be enjoyed. Sadly we don’t always know what that looks like.
Our problem is we’re under the impression that fun means doing whatever we feel like in any given moment. But if we really think about it, all of us know that’s a bad idea. Who wants to be a slave to everything they feel like doing? We’re fickle.
My son wants to have fun and he thinks sticking his finger in the outlet is the best way to do that. He needs guidance from me. And if my son is going to have fun instead of dying he has to trust me. He thinks walking down the stairs looks fun. But as an adult, I know that he doesn’t walk well and he’ll tumble down.
God is the Creator of life and He knows. We would all acknowledge that we’re not all-knowing. There are things we don’t understand. And because we’re sinners, we value the wrong things. We have to trust God and His character.
Some people think, “that sounds nice but God has all those commands that tell us not to do fun things.” And you’re right; there are commands that forbid us from certain things. But is it so that our fun will be ruined?
That brings me to my second answer to this question. Does becoming a Christian mean the end of my fun? My second answer is: Tej zaum.
II. Tej zaum – Following Jesus Will Mean the End of Some of Our Fun
I don’t want to deceive you. Becoming a Christian does mean you will have to deny yourself. There are things that you enjoy that are bad for you, things that in the long run steal joy instead of giving it.
Drunkenness seems fun but leads to stupid decisions. Sex before marriage seems fun, but that deep level of intimacy was never meant to be enjoyed apart from that lifelong commitment under God. It’s the deepest way you can give yourself away to someone else. Sometimes lying seems like it leads to fun but it harms us and others.
As we’ve already acknowledged, God created all of life and He knows how it’s supposed to be enjoyed. His commands are for our good. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. And when we disobey Him, we are moving away from true joy. God doesn’t keep us from the good life; we keep ourselves from the good life when we disobey Him.
And as a loving act Jesus calls us to deny ourselves.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
What does it mean to deny yourself? Denying yourself means saying no to yourself. Refusing yourself. Rejecting what you naturally want to do.
This doesn’t sound nice and fluffy. You probably wouldn’t put that on a hallmark card. This isn’t very encouraging to the disciples. Is Jesus just being controlling and mean and insulting?
If we were perfect, asking us to deny ourselves would be ridiculous. If we were always good and wise asking us to deny ourselves would be strange. But if we’re flawed asking us to deny ourselves is loving. If we’re misled and messed up, asking us to deny ourselves is helpful.
You can’t always trust yourself. There are things that you enjoy that are bad for you. How many times have you made decisions that seemed fun, but you had to deal with the consequences later?
Jesus is saying if you want to follow me, you have to stop following yourself. It’s like asking someone for directions. If you realize you’ve been going the wrong way, and you ask someone to help you, you can’t keep going your way. Following Jesus is in one sense admitting that you’re lost and in need of someone to direct you. So Jesus is saying, let go. Give me the steering wheel. You’ve given yourself to me. I’m the Master. I’m the Leader. This is what it means to come after me.
If my wife said, if you want to be my husband you have to deny yourself and follow me. I’d be like huh? If my son said that… I’d really be surprised since he can’t talk. If the president of the United States said that, I would reject it. Even if my pastor said, deny yourself and do whatever I say no matter what it is, I’d go to another church. Ua li cas? Because I don’t want to give the reins of my life completely over to another sinful person. That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t help me. They can’t lead my life perfectly either. They have their own issues.
But Jesus Christ is not another sinful person. He’s holy, He’s my Creator, and He died so sinners could be reconciled to God. He’s trustworthy. He knows what my life should look like. He’s not being mean, He’s loving me. Being a Christian means that you sign up to say no to yourself sometimes.
If you’re not saying no to yourself regularly, you should ask yourself whether you’re really following Jesus. Because we’re wrong regularly and we need His help.
One of the realest books in the Scriptures is the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s probably written by Solomon. In it, he talks about how everything is meaningless. Since he had had a lot of everything, he speaks from experience. Here’s what he said.
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
So you could take this, as here we go. They hate everything, including money. God doesn’t want me to enjoy it. Or you could see it as God protecting you from chasing after something that will never satisfy you
Listen to what he says later:
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)
Is that a contradiction? Enjoy money? I thought he said it won’t satisfy you. God gives joy, not money. Money doesn’t satisfy you, it just makes you want more money. It’s dumb to live for it. You can enjoy something, without living under the false assumption that it will satisfy your soul. God is trying to protect us.
Our problem is that we want to worship the gift instead of the Giver, Creation instead of Creator. We want to worship the canvas instead of the painter, the pages instead of the author. We want to pursue money instead of the One who provides all things. And Jesus calls us to deny that and follow Him.
Christians are not trading fun for boredom, or joy for sorrow. They’re trading temporary joys, for everlasting joys. They’re trading deadly joys, for life giving joys. They’re trading fleeting, fickle joys, for stable, rock solid joys.
III. How Do We Enjoy Things Rightly?
We live by faith in our Creator.
We All Live By Faith
Whether we realize it or not, all of us are people of faith. Every human being. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists—all of us live by faith, we live in light of what we believe in any given moment. Those of you who are athletes practice really hard. Ua li cas? Because you believe it will make you better at your sport. Or how about this? Some of you put the address in Google Maps to get places. Ua li cas? Because you believed that your phone would give you the right directions. If you believed your phone would trick you, which I think mine does sometimes, you wouldn’t have used it. I could go on and on. But we all live by faith.
I think the good life is living by faith in a good God. He tells us how to enjoy His creation rightly. He leads us to joy.
Any time we treat anything other than God as an end in itself we’re not enjoying it correctly.
Fun’s Not Enough
But maybe you think, I don’t want that. I want to have fun. Being amused, enjoying yourself is not all life is about. If you think it is, you’re in for something scary. If you build your life on the foundation of fun, it’ll come tumbling down when life is hard. Fun, being amused, enjoying yourself right now is not enough. Why not go after eternal joy?
And it’s not enough to wait till later. Why wait to start living? Stop chasing the fake thing and start chasing the real thing.
It’s like ignoring the NBA, because you would rather play NBA 2K on PlayStation. Stop chasing the fake thing, and embrace the real thing that’s available. C.S. Lewis expressed a similar sentiment when he said this:
“We are half hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
I used to think life was all these fleeting pleasures. Then I became a Christian. There were things I read early on as a Christian that demolished my old picture of the good life. Here’s an example.
To Die Is Gain
All of us have heard people talk about death from time to time. We’ve heard people say, “Nothing in life is sure but death and taxes.” One popular rapper said, “I’m trying to beat life cause I can’t cheat death.” People understand that death cannot be avoided. But as a young Christian, I read a verse about death in the Bible that was like nothing I had ever heard before. The Apostle Paul spoke about death in a strange way. Paul didn’t just say death was certain, he took it a step further. He said, “to die is gain.” What!?
Death is when your brain, your heart, and your lungs stop doing their job. Death means the conclusion of life and separation from family members. Death means your life’s work is over. Unlike our other trials, death is, for the person who dies, literally “the end of the world”– the end of this one anyway. So how could death possibly be gain? I can’t make money when I die? I can’t increase my status when I die. It just didn’t fit with my old views of the good life.
Well in order for me to understand what Paul meant by these four words—to die is gain—I had to understand the four that came right before them. In Philippians 1 Paul explains why he seems to be ok with either staying alive or dying at the hands of his persecutors. He writes in verse 21, “To live IS Christ.” With those words, the apostle told me what life is really all about- not money, not my job, not even family- but Jesus. How could my self-centered, status-obsessed worldview survive next to that truth?
Life has no meaning apart from Christ, because Christ is what it’s all about. Therefore to enjoy things rightly, we have to enjoy them in a way that testifies to that truth.
Everything is better when enjoyed in the context it was meant to be. When we treat anything like an end itself it’s wrong. We should them as a means to the end of God’s glory.
Should we just have sex with as many women as possible? Or even just whoever you’re in a close relationship with? Sex Is best enjoyed in a marriage covenant. Two people committed to one another for the rest of their lives, not going anywhere. There’s no need for insecurity, no shame. Friendship is best enjoyed in this context. There’s humility, forgiveness, siab dav, hlub.
Money is best enjoyed when it’s not worshipped. Power is best enjoyed when it’s not worshipped. What happens when it goes away? Wine in moderation is better than drunkenness. And f course you can enjoy music and movies. But think about how they relate to the meaning of all life: Christ. Everything is best enjoyed when it’s submitted to Christ.
We are broken, and Christ came to put us back together. When we worship money, or friendship, or sex, it’s an offense to God. And we deserve to be judged for those offenses. But God sent Christ. Jesus didn’t have a problem with enjoying the wrong things, or enjoying good things in a sinful way. Yet Jesus took the punishment for our offenses on the cross. He rose from the grave and offers us eternal life.
If we’ll leave our old ways behind and cling to Christ we can be forgiven, and we can enter in to the joy of our Master. We will not live our best life now. But He’ll give us joy and pleasure forevermore.