It’s the idea that God, and anything having to do with God, is boring; that “fun” and “Jesus” can’t go in the same sentence; that talking about the Bible and discussing theology together is for old people who have nothing better to do.
I don’t know if I’ve ever actually heard anyone say this out loud to me, though I’m sure some have. What disturbs me, then, is not the outright accusation that godly things aren’t pleasurable, but a hidden idea within the heart of many Christians. It was expressed to me one time when I had a good time discussing a chapter in the Bible with a couple friends for an hour or so. At the conclusion of our conversation, one person said, “Well, now that all the serious stuff is done, let’s have some fun!” I was somewhat shocked, because I had just had a fantastic time.
But perhaps you don’t believe me, or you just think I’m weird, so you dismiss my thoughts. That’s fine, because I don’t want to appeal to my personal experience primarily to prove that the things of God are fun and exciting. I want to appeal to the Word.
First, I want to differentiate between fun and pleasure and the biblical idea of Joy. C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are substitutes for Joy.” There are the pleasures of food, sex, music, games and many other things that we can experience, none of them bad in themselves. But none of these are joy. To know God is to know joy; joy is supreme delight in the Holy One and we, having tasted the Living Waters of Life, are satisfied, yet ever longing to know more. I think joy will result in supreme happiness here and now, but even when the temporal happiness fades, joy shall continue to abide.
We are commanded in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice.” That wouldn’t be very exciting if God were boring, i.e. not something to rejoice in. In Proverbs 8: 30-31, we get a picture of the delight of God in the personified wisdom: “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men (emphasis added).” God, speaking through His prophet Isaiah, tells of what is to come for Israel when they are restored: For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee (Isaiah 62:5, emphasis added).”
Have you ever seen a man rejoicing over his bride? I have. A couple months ago, I had the privilege of attending my friend Paul’s wedding. It was a beautiful thing to see, for when his bride came around the corner into his sight, he began weeping from happiness. It was pure, holy bliss, straight from heaven. That’s the type of joy God has over His bride and His beloved.
In 2 Samuel 6, the Ark of the Covenant, symbolic of the very presence of God, is being brought into Jerusalem. It is perhaps one of the most joyful days in Israel’s history, and King David celebrates it by dancing wildly, taking off his outer garments in order to do so. Not only do these actions seem approved of by God, but when David’s wife Michal despises him for it, she becomes barren for the rest of her days. In despising David’s rejoicing before the Lord (and perhaps the fact the he had taken her father Saul’s place), Michal despised the Lord Himself. I think of God approved of the strong rejoicing of David, He Himself rejoiced that day.
Finally, Luke chapter 15 shows Jesus Himself speaking of what makes God rejoice, through analogy and parable. On the former, Jesus says, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:4-10, emphasis added).”
One idea about the parable of the prodigal son oft overlooked is the extreme joy of the father over finding his lost son: But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. […] And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Luke 15:22-24, 31-32, emphasis added).”
It is a miraculous thing when a sinner comes to the Lord and their life is radically changed. In this, God rejoices with all the angels in heaven, and may our response be, “Hallelujah!”
I’ve often laughed the hardest with the friends that I have worshipped with the most. I remember smiling and discussing doctrine over coffee with my good friend Mike, both of us laughing and having a good time. I remember the absolute sheer joy I have felt while worshipping God. Some of the happiest, most memorable moments of my life were in the context of godly discussion, meaningful worship, deep prayer, and close fellowship. As C.S. Lewis says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. 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.” Why must we, as Christians, turn to the world and worldly things for our pleasure? Is not the Lord enough? Why must we joke and banter about pointless things, never going deeper in the Word, the Lord and in fellowship?
As Psalm 16:11 says, “… In Thy presence in fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” The only question that remains – do we believe it?
Though I don’t necessarily agree with everything Mark Driscoll says, he makes a great point in this video titled, “Was Jesus Funny?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHLlHLhinPA
Many of the C.S. Lewis quotes I found were in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. It’s a fantastic book, and I recommend it highly.