Contrary to the opinion of some, our God loves fun! In eternity past the three Persons of the Trinity all enjoyed intimacy with each other. It was a private party among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There, before the foundation of time, God determined to host a huge party. He would create man for the purpose of sharing His life with him, thus bringing him into the eternal party taking place in heaven. The Holy Spirit has been sent to extend the invitation to the party to us today. Christianity is nothing less than a party celebrating Jesus Christ and we've all been invited to participate by dancing to the music of His grace.
There is no bigger party pooper than legalism. It causes people to relate to others with a condescending attitude, judging them by the standard of their own lives. A legalist's performance may look good, but inwardly he is wasting away because his rules-driven lifestyle has robbed him of authentic joy in the Christian life. He has no time for music and dancing; there’s work to be done! The devil never takes a break, why should he? A legalist is never a genuinely happy person. When he sees others dance to the music, he can’t stand it.
The older brother of "the prodigal" bore the chief characteristics of a legalist. First, he separated himself from his brother because the younger brother didn’t live up to the standards embraced by himself. He refused to be involved in the same party as his brother, but resolved to “come out from among them and be separate.” Second, his whole relationship to his father revolved around doing the right thing and not breaking his commandments. He said, “For so many years I have been serving you, and I never neglected a command of yours...” (Luke 15:29). He knew no intimacy with his father because his whole focus was on behavior. Finally, he resented the grace which his father showed to the prodigal. He pointed out his own faithfulness and said, “but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” Legalists sometimes find it hard to even call one a brother who doesn’t conform to their own standards. The elder son called him “this son of yours.” He probably believed it would be liberal to unconditionally accept a sinning Christian. After all, he might think you are condoning his behavior!
The heart of the prodigal’s father seems to parallel that of our Heavenly Father. He loves a party! Faith and fun are not in opposition to one another. Even under the old covenant, God made provision for the people to celebrate.
"And you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of all your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household" (Deuteronomy 14:23, 26).
The father of the prodigal said, “But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live . . .” (Luke 15:32). When a dead person comes alive to his inclusion in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that’s a reason to throw a party!
The activity of the early church revolved around fellowship. The Greek word is koinonia. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to use the word "party" as a contemporary paraphrase of the word. Many contemporary parties celebrate life. A birthday party celebrates the years one has lived. Anniversary parties celebrate a couple’s life together. A graduation party celebrates the start of a new life for the graduate. Parties are focused on and full of life.
Doesn’t that description describe New Testament Christianity? It’s essence is a celebration of divine life. You are alive in Christ! It’s appropriate to “shout joyfully to the Lord” and to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:1-2). In other words, it’s time to rise up and have a party! Since we are immersed in Eternal Grace, celebration is the order of the day.