This is an excerpt from a series of devotionals called “40 Days of Doubt,” written by Rev. Eric Huffman, pastor of The Story Houston. This series is intended to speak to the questions being asked by the scores of skeptics, agnostics, and other nonreligious people coming to The Story.

Confession time: I like dark TV and movies. I like to share a bottle of wine with my wife over dinner. Sometimes I curse — just when I’m alone in my car.

Like anyone, if I had to choose between heaven and hell, I’d rather go to heaven. But if heaven is full of straight-laced Christians who don’t curse on the West Loop and who judge me for drinking a beer, and if hell is full of rock stars and rebels…well, I just don’t know. Why are Christians such a buzzkill?

When the Church was born, the first Christians threw the craziest parties. There were men and women eating and drinking, singing and dancing, and even if they came from different places and spoke different languages, they loved and understood each other. The first Church was so party-heavy that the very first criticism levied against Christians by those on the outside was, “They’re full of new wine” (Acts 2:13).

To be clear, “new wine” had higher alcohol content than regular wine. They could’ve said, “They’re full of wine,” but that wouldn’t have done justice to what was happening in the Church. Those Christians didn’t just look drunk, they looked really drunk. Of course they weren’t drunk…at least not on wine. God’s Spirit was moving in them, flying them high as kites. They were so elated to be in God, together that their church services looked like raves.

I don’t know when Christians stopped having fun. Most people look at the Bible as the problem. They see a long list of rules, followed by Jesus, followed by another long list of rules. But the Bible isn’t the problem; it’s less than 3% rules, and it’s 35% poetry, and it’s 100% story. It’s full of humor, family drama, suspense and romance. Try to read the Song of Songs without blushing.

So how did Christians get so… boring? The problem is religion, which is all about control. And when religious people get hold of something like the Bible, they twist it to control people. Does the Bible give people boundaries and rules to live by? Yes. But are those rules meant to manipulate people? No.

One time I went to hear a popular artist speak at a museum in Kansas City. She looked exactly how you’d expect a modern artist to look. Dreadlocks. Tattoos. Her skirt looked like a tablecloth from the Cracker Barrel. She was full-hipster. After her lecture, she took some questions from local art students. One of them asked her how and when she decides to begin painting.

And she said, “The first step in the creative process is knowing your boundaries. I’d love to paint the whole city, but I can’t. Before I paint I need a canvas, and I need to know its dimensions.” A light went off in my head. Freedom isn’t doing whatever you want. Freedom is knowing the size of your canvas, and being unafraid to begin.

That’s what following Jesus is all about: living a life on fire, fully alive, maxed out on joy. Because no matter your past or present circumstances, you’re free to begin, free to live. Christians, let’s learn to party again.

“Although you’ve never seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you trust him and so rejoice with a glorious, unspeakable joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith: your salvation.” – 1 Peter 8-9