I firmly believe that God wants believers to live life to the full – and to enjoy it! You see, we have been set free from Religion – the compulsion to try to please God by following lots of rules and stuff – and instead to bask in the blessings He sends us.
What I am saying is this. If you love football, go and enjoy it. If you love swimming, go and enjoy it. If you love chess or card-making, go and enjoy it! Enjoy your hobbies and pastimes with a clear conscience, and all the while walking with your God. You see? There are so many religious people who think that if something is fun, then God can’t possibly approve. They are wrong, plain and simple! God made you the way you are, and He gave you the hobbies and interests that are part of what define who you are as a person.
To quote Don Francisco, ‘The Enemy wants us to believe that God is like he [the Enemy] is’. He wants us to believe that God is a giant Killjoy, up there in Heaven, who frowns most severely on anything that people find enjoyable. That’s not the God I know. The Bible says that God wants us to be ‘filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy….’ (1 Pet 1:8). The Enemy does not want us to be so filled; furthermore, he wants us to believe that: a) God does not want us to be; and b) that God is the One who is to blame for this.
On the contrary! Jesus said it’s actually the enemy who wants us to be miserable: ‘The thief [the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). How? by reversing the devil’s work: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work’ (1 Jn 3:8) One of the biggest scams in today’s society is that God gets blamed for what the Enemy does!
You see, belief in a Killjoy god will give rise to Killjoy Religion. There are people who like nothing better than to judge the actions of others and disapprove, usually in the name of the god they serve. They try to make people feel guilty about enjoying themselves…..these are the Killjoys – and Jesus knew them as, yes you’ve guessed it, the Pharisees!
Pharisees will try to suck the joy out of God doing great things. They even tried to put the dampers on Jesus’s ministry – if that were possible! – by instead of accepting the great things He was doing and offering, trying instead to trap Him and to get Him to condemn Himself by the things He said and did. How’s that for missing the point! At one place in the Scriptures, they even accused Him of being in league with the Devil…..talk about being killjoys! Here’s what happens with so many new believers: “Ok, you have come to faith in Christ, and that’s all well and good, but now here’s this set of rules we expect you to live by.” And that’s not the way it should be at all!
In Luke 11:46, Jesus said to these people who impose their rules on others, “What sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden!”. In Matthew 23:15, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are”.
However, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is a classic piece about no longer being subject to religious rules. Gal 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”. Be free!
In order to try to justify being Killjoys – and wanting to ‘ban’ certain pastimes – many Pharisees will quote the verse, ‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin’ (Rom 14:23) – but actually this Scripture means, if you read it in its context, that if your faith is not strong enough to believe that what you are enjoying is ok ‘with God’, then that’s when it becomes a problem. If you have a weak faith, and do not realise how much God wants to bless you, then your freedom of action, and freedom of choice, will be severely curtailed in terms of what you allow yourself to enjoy doing. The problem will be not so much with God Himself, but with your perception of how God sees you. In actual fact, those whose faith is weaker find it harder to be as free as God intended. Let’s put that another way: those who have all these laws and rules about what is and is not allowed actually have a *weaker* faith, despite appearing more ‘religious’! Think about that!
One word of caution: you need to exercise your freedom in a way that does not cause the weaker-faith people to stumble. ‘So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves’ (Rom 14:22) And pray that God will open their eyes to see what blessings He has in store.
Interestingly, some of the happiest Christians I know are people who have not been ‘brought up’ in a Christian environment. They’re maybe ex-homeless people, ex-addicts; that sort of thing. They have no preconceived ideas, given by their religious background, that God wants them to not enjoy life. They have been set free from some of the hardest, toughest circumstances that humans can experience – and they are filled indeed with this ‘joy inexpressible’….. They have come from the direst circumstances into the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21) and they are free to enjoy life as God meant it – good football, good coffee, good company – and all the while walking with God. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
Does that sound like a God who wants people to be miserable? So, go and play golf, go and fly your aeroplanes, go and watch the entire Lord of the Rings series (Director’s cuts, of course) back-to-back. Life in its fulness!
Go and enjoy it!
[Edit: There’s more on how people define ‘sin’ and how people try to control others in my blog post here]