In John 15:11 we read, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” However, in Proverbs 14:13 we read, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” One might be tempted to ask how scripture can contradict itself so openly. These texts are speaking about two different kinds of happiness; earthly laughter and spiritual joy. The first verse says “my joy,” referring to God’s joy and then speaks of our joy which must be in accordance with God’s joy. The second refers to the happiness that will have an end, earthly happiness. It is essential for us to understand that scripture expresses for us a definite separation between the world and the life of the antithesis. These two verses contrast the empty, momentary laughter of the world and the perfect, everlasting joy from God. Today we are going to look at these two types of joy under the subject, “What Are We Laughing At?” We will consider these three points; Worldly Laughter, Fleeing From This Laughter, and Heavenly Joy.
Laughter is an everyday thing for us; it comes naturally. It is also natural for us to sin and to have sinful thoughts. This makes it very hard for us to restrain from laughing at sin. Think about laughter for a minute. Literally it is to make an outward sound or motion to show that you are happy. We must be conscious about what we are laughing at. When we laugh at sin we are saying that sin makes us happy. We are not just saying this to ourselves either. We just said that laughter is also an outward reaction. This means that others can see and hear our laughter. Our laughter is our witness. If we are laughing at sin then we are witnessing that we enjoy being among the wicked and their sin. We must be aware of the seriousness of our sins; this includes watching out for them as well as fleeing from them. Next time you hear yourself laughing think about what was just said, and whether or not it was worth laughing about. Pay close attention to what makes you laugh; is it something that is actually funny, or is it something that smoothes sin over, trying to make it look okay?
Let us stop and consider this morning what made you laugh already today. Did you, perhaps, laugh at a comment that was made at the expense of someone else’s pain? Were you laughing at a joke about the actions of worldly people? Think about all of the jokes you know. How many of them are about sex? When you laugh at these types of things then you are either laughing at a spiritual thing in a wicked way or you are laughing at sin. Did we laugh mockingly? Was the person being mocked someone who should be respected? How often do we mock teachers, ministers, or even the elderly? How often do we find pleasure in the sins of drunkenness, drug use, or other such sins that defile the body? Do these sinful activities make us laugh and bring us joy? All of these things will make you happy, but do they last? When you wake up with a hangover are you still happy? Consider judgment day; is the world still going to take pleasure in its sin then? The world loves its sin and takes pleasure in wickedness now. Are we trying to smooth that same sin over by joking about it? The world laughs at sin believing that it has everything under control. But, worldly laughter is uncontrollable and empty. This is especially true as the world laughs louder. This type of pleasure is easily forgotten. We can’t remember half of the things that made us laugh yesterday. These sinful pleasures cannot satisfy. They trap you, pulling you deeper and deeper, making you want more, even after you realize that they will only hurt you.
When we confide in this laughter, we stop serving God and striving for his delights. We share the world in happiness when we follow wicked joys. We stand with wicked men who take delight in each other’s corruption; laughing and rejoicing in wicked conduct. This type of comfort is vain; completely empty. Sin may seem like it is benefiting you; the high you get off drugs and alcohol, or the 8th hour you get out of by lying. These actually lead to a much worse punishment than an 8th hour and far less satisfaction than what you can receive from satisfying your lusts. When we start joking about sin, and allow immorality to become entertainment or even a joke, we are holding the hand of the world. In doing this we are supporting the world and saying, “Come on, let’s help pull each other along.” The world will gladly pull us along, they like to see us sin. The devil also smiles as he watches another child try to leave the protection of God’s hand.
Going along with the world and acting like sin really isn’t that bad hardens us, we don’t see sin as such an offense against God anymore. Our consciences become callused and we don’t feel any more guilt. How many of us have experienced this with smoking? Nobody likes smoking the first time they try it. People usually cough and choke over it. As they continue to do it they grow to like it and become addicted to it. They naturally justify it and eventually believe that it really isn’t bad. These sins will totally ruin us and take over our lives if we do not stop them. We cannot just cover them up and live in hypocrisy. It is the believer’s responsibility to flee from the flesh and place his heart and complete trust on Christ. This is not done by ignoring temptations with entertainment, but doing the opposite of that sin. There are several things we can do to keep our minds on spiritual things.
When we catch ourselves laughing we should consider who we are with, or where we are at. If this same thing happened or was said at church, would you be laughing? Who is laughing with you? Would your parents, teachers, or ministers laugh? Think about why you started laughing in the first place. Is it something nasty or demeaning that came to your mind?
If this is true, then where is your mind? We are called not only to stop our sins, but also to flee from them and to do the opposite. When you do good, and follow after Christ, he will keep you away from evil. For example; if we regularly listen to godly music we will be less likely to turn the radio to worldly music that praises sin rather than God. Look at your mindset right now. Do you find yourself making excuses? Are we thinking I’m basically a good person, I try to be nice to everyone, and I’m not as bad as so and so? Do we think that since we are teenagers we are free to live how we want because some day we will be mature and then we’ll know better? Our youth is not a time to enjoy sin. We are not made free in sin. Sin is actually the worst kind of slavery, it is the bondage of the will. We are not free in choosing which sins we will partake in and when. We have a conscience now, we know right from wrong. Let’s turn to true freedom and lead a life that is pleasing to God.
Ephesians 5:4 reads; “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”
As Christians we must have courage to fight against our personal sins. The Holy Spirit gives the elect the obligation to live righteously. We are called to remove our habits of sin in our old man and to take up the cross of Christ, making godly habits. First we need to start out with separating ourselves from poor company. Distancing yourselves from these people is rejecting their sins and their lifestyle. Do we think if we sin just a little, it is not so bad? There is no such thing as a little sin. Christ had to suffer for every sin in the lives of his people, no matter how small they seem to us because they are still offences to God. We may not think sin is only slightly wicked. When something indecent and shameful is said or done, we should blush and feel out of place rather than laugh. Laughter shows that we love this pleasure so much that we are willing to disobey God, the heavenly Father. Courage to fight against our sins comes from this Father alone. Only if we turn to him will we have strength to overcome the temptations of the devil.
How do we receive this help? Prayer; prayer will keep you in the right mind and far from sin. Through prayer God grants the grace and comfort necessary for every battle. Our prayers should be for deliverance of covetousness; to keep us from being selfish and desiring the things which give us worldly comfort and joy.
(Mr. Van Uffelen told me about an article in the last Beacon Lights called “A Reminder Past Due.” This article ties in very well with this speech and I think it would be good for all of us to read it. In this article Stephen Griess says, “The vain and sinful things we laugh at and talk about are just our selfishness that has crept from our hearts to our mouths.” This is the selfishness we need to leave with our old man.)
We cannot depend on prayer alone. Asking without taking any action is faith without works, which is dead. Our works should be the searching through the Holy Scriptures. By better knowing the word of God we can withstand temptations as Jesus did. In Psalm 101 David says, “I will not know a wicked person; him that hath an high look and a proud heart, will not I suffer.” Can we say this with him or do we know the blasphemous jokes, or sayings and people from movies better than the books of the Bible, and the names of the prophets and the apostles?
Although Christians are called to be holy, they still fall into sin. You will not be perfect until you reach the final glory in heaven. Our sinful nature causes us to fall into temptations and to enjoy them until our conscience pricks us. But the true child of God will always have a way out of temptation. God will always give us a way to escape. This is why God, in his justice, must prick our hearts when we fall into grievous sins. A true child may even fall away from God for a time, but God will always draw him back.
The temptations of this world really aren’t so difficult when we remember that we are only pilgrims and strangers in this world and do not have the expectations, goals, and values as if we are the citizens of it. Your citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven; you don’t need to find satisfaction in this strange, desert land. This is abiding by the antithesis and living according to the lines that God has drawn for us, not our own boundaries, which we tend to stretch. Our lines should match with God’s and should be very definite and clear. Psalm 16 speaks of these lines; saying that they are good and are in places large and pleasant. This psalm also says that they are marked out carefully by your Father who shall never move.
Make sure that your lines never move. The devil is working very hard and very subtly. He will try to get us to stretch our lines until they burst. The devil is working particularly hard on us as young people. He knows that you are the future church. Be on your guard. Where were you last night? Where were you last Friday night? Where was I? Were we unequally yoked with the world, in their entertainment and laughter? Were our lines in the midst of the world, or were they even fading, and almost erased like the world who believes they are free in their sin? If this is so then we are not delighting in God. Even by putting too much delight in basketball and TV programs we are saying that we don’t care about God anymore than the wicked do.
Some of us have already made a confession of our faith and many of us will make this confession soon. But are you making this confession because you are expected to since you are nearing the end of catechism? Are you thinking about what your confession means? This confession shows you to be a mature Christian who lives in accordance with your confession because it is heartfelt. This confession shows that you have a mature faith to trust in God for grace. Living this true confession will and should turn the world away from you. You must be ready to be spit upon as Christ was. He suffered much more than we ever will, physically and spiritually as he delivered you from eternal damnation.
Does this mean that your life may only be suffering and trials? Is the Christian unable to have fun in this world? No. Actually, Christians are the only ones who can enjoy life. What do we find to be joyful and what brings delight to us in this life? You find joy in a life of thankfulness to God for salvation. Are we trying to walk in all good works and striving for this holiness in order to make ourselves happy? This is not thankfulness or submission to the will of God.
We make these excuses because our human nature does not want to get rid of our fun. We can easily point out the faults of other people, and sometimes we like to do this because we think that it makes us look better. But it’s hard to look at our own flaws and see our own sin. How many of you are laughing at this message right now? I don’t like to hear this, but I need to. We are called to examine ourselves, not our neighbor.
We need to get rid of our excuses and hindrances. These hindrances may not only be those things which are wicked in themselves; we also need to be careful that our own lives don’t get in the way. Anything in our life, even if it is legitimate on its own, can turn you away from God if you let it out of place.
What is your hindrance? Is it the music you listen to, the movies you attend? How you use your time, partying, perhaps? Or the wrong friends? Do your friends help you to be kind, respectful, and fear God rather than man? Or do your friends cause you to mix with the world so that you have carnal views and are self-centered? We should be willing to keep the Sabbath Day even though we won’t make as much money. We should be willing to stay away from foul language and laughing at dirty jokes even though this will cause us to be the one laughed at. And we should be willing to strive to keep the truth even though we are surrounded by the lies of the world.
So what should make you happy and what should make you laugh? Salvation. Salvation is your comfort and should make you jump for joy. Christ’s atonement for your sins should make you burst with songs of praise and laughter. This laughter is your joy, this laughter is good for you. Your joy should also be in making God happy. God is well pleased when you obey and strive after what is right. Find joy in keeping his commandments and love his law. III John 1:4 tells us that God has no greater joy than to hear that his children are walking in the truth. If you find your joy in this promise of salvation and the return of the Lord then you will have the incentive for holy living.
Proverbs 28:20 tells us that only the faithful receive God’s blessing. And Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Spirit works in you both this will and the doing of such good works that will please your Father. In this alone can you find true, everlasting joy; the joy that grows from the union with your Father and comes from within, the joy that completely satisfies and does not need the support of man.
This joy is deep and sure, it may have an outward appearance of sorrow because of the trials on this earth, but it is far richer than an outward joy skimming over deep sorrow and pain. This deep sorrow and pain is so deep because it has no comfort. Your earthly sorrows are comforted by the sure and amazing promises of God. He is faithful and he preserves you as his witness. He gives you strength to withstand temptations and the struggle of trials. He will bless your troubles and cause them to work together for the good of your salvation.
Joy in God is a very important part of your lives. This joy is the power which will keep you from sinful delights. This is the true joy of God’s grace in you as a condition in your heart because it is given to you and worked in you by the Holy Spirit. This is true for every elect child. This gives you reason to live in joy no matter what your circumstances are and reason to do all to the glory of God. Your joy is shown in a godly attitude and a holy conversation.
Is God your pleasure, joy, or satisfaction? Do you have so much joy in God and everything that he is, has done, and does for you that you overflow with joy, rejoicing and singing praises? This is the joy God provides so that you may witness. This is the joy God delights in. This is your joy.