And he wasn’t no fun after that.

I was either a teen or not far off from becoming one when I read a book that was something like a modern retelling of Brer Rabbit, only the main character was a human boy who delighted in tricking family, friends, classmates, and teachers.  He did atrocious things and figured out ways to do them always with a loophole so that he wouldn’t get punished.  He exacted revenge on those he didn’t like, outsmarted adults, and even figured out a way to con poor children out of what little money they had.

He was set up to be the villainous hero of the book.  His younger brother, who narrated the story, clearly had tremendous admiration for him and his schemes.  Suddenly, the book ended in an abrupt way, and the ending seemed to come out of nowhere.  The gist, told from the younger brother’s perspective, went something like this:

–He was a genius schemer and I guess he would of stayed that way, and the fun we had would of never ended, but that summer he went away to Christian camp, and he became a Christian.  He came home all changed.  He didn’t trick people no more and he started bein’ nice to everybody and he wasn’t no fun after that.–

The sudden ending couldn’t have been more than a page long, and I doubt it was that.  The whole book had been about the brilliant sins of boy who could get away with just about anything, and the ending was set up to be both anti-climatic and a clear poke at Christianity.  Tongue-in-cheek, the message was, Have all your fun now; become a Christian later.

As irreverent as this book intended to be, I do have to give the author something: he did understand that genuine faith in Christ changes everything.  And the author didn’t actually do a bad job of describing what a new walk with Christ looks like, from the outside.

The perspective, written from the little brother’s vantage point, isn’t inaccurate for how a nonbeliever often views the conversion experience of a friend or family member.

But the message is like the flute of a pied piper, and the worst part is, its stanzas are written for children.  I don’t know if the author of this book came to know Christ or not, but if not, he will be eternally responsible for the leading away from never-ending joy found within the melody of his book.

His idea wasn’t original.  The concept that Christians don’t have fun didn’t spring from his book.  For hundreds of years, Christians have been accused of not having fun.

From the unbeliever’s viewpoint, the list of don’ts and do’s is often seen as worse than eternity in Hell: no sex outside of marriage, no revenge, no bouts of rage, making restitution when possible, denying the porn and gambling industry its profits, dressing modestly, no gossiping, giving sacrificially to the poor, refusing to use or participate in the use of God’s name slanderously, treating others kindly even when wronged, etc.

So is it true?  Do Christians not have fun?

I think it is true of a Christian who is whole-heartedly following Christ, but there’s something here that non-Christians don’t (and can’t) understand.  This is that, when we strip our lives of sin-nature fun, we are able to wear the joy of the LORD.

In Nehemiah’s day, God’s people were really struggling.  Nearly all of them had been killed or exiled because of their idolatry.  God graciously reveals His Law once more.  The people are heartbroken when they learn how gravely they have broken their covenant with Him.  They want to give up their idolatry (sin-nature fun).  What is God’s answer?  That they will never have “fun” again?  Instead, listen to what God reveals through Nehemiah.

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

Sin-nature fun and the joy of the LORD don’t go together.  You can’t have both at the same time.  What’s more, you cannot even choose to have the joy of the LORD.  It’s a gift, a free gift, given only by God to His followers (to genuine believers).  No one could order God to give us joy, but He chose to of His own accord.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.   (Luke 2:10b-12, NIV)


As He sent angels to announce the birth of Jesus, and joy was poured out on all who believed the news, so He sends His Word to announce total forgiveness and grace through the sacrifice of Jesus, and joy is poured out on all who believe today.

If you aren’t willing to lay down your sin-nature fun to follow Jesus, you will not be able to receive the unspeakable joy He has to give you.

Is it fun to be a huckster?  Sure, in a sense.  Do you have the joy of the LORD as a huckster? No.

Is it fun to get revenge?  In a way, it’s fun.  If it wasn’t people probably wouldn’t do it.  But do you have the joy of the LORD when you get revenge for yourself?  Definitely not.

Is it fun to outsmart everyone around you?  For a time.  Do you have the joy of the LORD in your self-made so-called brilliance?  Not a chance.

Is it fun to be admired for your villainy?  From the vantage point of our sin nature, absolutely.  We got that trait from Satan, who seeks very hard to be admired for his.  Will you have God’s everlasting joy if the world admires (or even worships) you for your evil?  No.

Is the joy of the LORD worth giving up fun to have?  You can only know that for sure if you trust in Him and find out.  But the resounding answer from the testimony of believers around the world is yes.  Giving up fun to receive joy is like giving up gruel to receive a seven-course banquet.  Although, from the perspective of the sinner, it seems like a terrifying and costly loss, from the perspective of the redeemed, it is a delightful and astonishing bargain.

I remember a college student giving her testimony of how Christ had been working in her life.  She held out a strand of plastic pink pearls.  She explained that, as a child, she had been devoted to these beads.  She had clung to them and couldn’t imagine anything better than them.  They were like the sin in her life, the lesser dreams she had for who she could be.

When she became a believer, she at last surrendered her plastic pearls from her fisted hand.  What she had discovered–what every believer discovers when he or she does this–is that God gave her, in place of those worth-a-penny plastic wanna-bes, a beautiful, exquisite, irreplaceable pearl necklace in its place.  That is, the joy of the LORD.

An author can misrepresent and lampoon Christianity in fiction.  But the Author wrote our faith through His blood, and no make-believe can ever mar the reality of the new Life He gives us.

Is Christianity fun?

No.  Christianity is joy.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)


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