© April 20, 2017 | Schulter Etyang
I don’t like going to these places – hospitals, police stations, exam rooms, driver’s licensing centers and airports. I don’t like going to these places at all. Whenever I go to these places for whatever reasons, even legitimate ones, my body twitches, squirms, I breathe heavily, sweat, and I try to calm my nerves by reading through the books that I have on my Kindle app. Something about these places makes me apprehensive and nervous.
And the long queues? Even if seats are provided, the long queues just finish me off. And what about this? You could wait that long and when you get to the counter to be served you are informed that you don’t have the documentation they need to approve your application. You have to go back and sort that out. Wow… Now my blood boils…
So here’s what I have discovered makes me nervous about all these places. All these places have one common strand running through them. Here’s the strand. These are places where you are examined to determine whether you are qualified or incompetent, healthy or sick, a law-abiding citizen or criminal, accepted or rejected, and whether you have passed or failed.
Let’s talk hospitals. In a hospital, you go in to receive treatment. Seldom do we go to the hospital because of a good thing that has taken place, right? The best thing could be a mother and her newly born baby or someone that’s recovering and on their way out. We usually go to the hospital because we are sick or to visit someone else that is sick.
Have you ever noticed how quiet it is in the waiting room? Notice how everyone is in deep thought? Notice how almost everyone is on their phones?
Recently, I had to have a mandatory medical test for my visa application. I went to the hospital and sat with apprehension and fear because I didn’t know what they would find that was wrong with me. Then I looked around at the others waiting to be examined for the “wrongs” they have and their sad faces just killed it for me.
I have had to apply for a police clearance certificate. This is a certificate issued by the police that indicates whether you have committed any crimes. The process involves you going to your nearest police station, submit your fingerprints, and then take them to the police service center for processing. Whenever I have been at the police station, I usually find applicants seating and waiting. No one is joking or goofing around. Everyone is in deep thought. The look on their faces tells you that in their minds, they are taking a history lesson of where they have been, done or who they have been with and then try to figure out whether it was an offence or not. Sounds funny, right? Usually, there is this one person that is really mad. I believe many people get angry at the sight of cops because a cop usually makes them aware of a truth that they might have broken the law – that there is something “wrong” with them.
After you submit your fingerprints, the process usually takes 6-8 weeks. In the meantime; you sit and wait while they sift through the national database to see if you have committed any crime. These are usually anxious times. What if someone else impersonated you and committed a crime? What if someone else stole your identity and committed a serious crime without your knowledge? What if you have been put on a terrorist watch list or child porn watch list without your knowledge?
In exam rooms, you go in to do a test or exam. In this room, the exam or test will determine whether you pass the grade and move to the next level of qualification. No matter how well you are prepared for the test, the creeping sense that you may pass or fail is daunting. Even the most prepared person suffers from some bowel discomfort prior to an exam.
The driver’s license test center is another place I dislike. Usually, you sit in line as you wait for your eye test. Early this year, I did my eye test and actually failed. It was embarrassing. My eyesight was poor and rightly so. I shouldn’t be driving around without glasses. But I hated the whole experience of having to wait for hours and then eventually fail the test because of my poor eyesight. You should see how people sit in there apprehensive and anxious as they wait for the dreaded call, NEXT!
We love to travel. Jenny and I have done a few trips abroad and we just can’t get enough of the travelling. We also love airports. There is something about airports that just leaves us breathless. We are like kids when we are at the airport. Jenny more so because she gets to go to the perfume shops at the Duty-Free section. The buzz of different people travelling in and out of the country is amazing. You want to see humanity in its diversity; the airport is one such place.
But here’s the thing. We have to go through the immigration officers at the airport in order to get a stamp to exit or come back in. I don’t like the scrutiny that I have to face at the airport when I come back. The immigration officer looks for what is wrong or right with my travelling document. If it’s right, they let me in. If it’s wrong, they detain me and deny me access into the country. So as I stand before the officer, thoughts run through my mind. What if they don’t let me in? What if my passport or visa is fake? What if someone planted some drugs in my luggage?
Which brings me to my point. These places always remind me of the Law of Moses aka Ten Commandments. The Law was designed to show you up. The Law was given to show you how sinful you are – how wrong and bad you are (Romans 7:7). That’s the purpose of the Law. The Law is holy and good, but it cannot make you holy and good. The Law is perfect David says, but it cannot make you perfect. It actually makes you worse. (1 Corinthians 15:56)
And this Law has found itself in many churches around the world. It has morphed into principles, steps, keys etc. What the world hears is the same thing that the church hears. Do, do and do some more. Try, try and try harder. Apply, apply and apply. Tests, tests and more tests.
Many of our churches are full of what Martin Luther called the theology of glory. The theology of glory means that if you do this and that you will emerge gloriously. If you try, try and try harder, you will eventually get it right. If you keep this ten, you will become this or that or accomplish this or that or have this or that. It all depends on you. You are the main character in your story. This in itself is a form of the Law.
I am from the charismatic tribe or company (the tongue talking, bible quoting, demon casting, name and claim it, mark everything with the anointing oil, start the year with a 21-day fast type) and we also have our own “tests”. Millions and millions of charismatic believers are rigorously trying to do these tests in order to be blessed, accepted, and favoured by God and by their leaders. Are you familiar with these tests?
- The “submit to your spiritual father” test
- The “tithe” test
- The “serving” test
- The “soul-winning” test
- The “submit to your husband” test
- The “put your house in order” test
- The “giving over and above” test
- The “leadership” test
- The “loyalty” test
- The “pre-marital and dating” test
- The “don’t wear a low cut top” test. Too much cleavage…Nah
- The “singles don’t laugh too much or you won’t get a hubby” test
- The “single lady you are getting too old, just get someone” test
- The “fasting” test – 21 days, 40 days or 3-day dry fast?
- The “devotional” test – what time is your morning glory? How many scriptures or books do you read?
- The “long prayer” test – how many night vigils a month have you attended? How effective is your prayer life?
- The “sex out of marriage” test
- The “vision” test
- The “no drinking or smoking” test
- The “deliverance” test
- The “speaking in tongues” test
- The “name it and claim it” test
- The “sufferings and experience” test – how well and long you suffer, the greater the glory or promotion
- The “events” test – how many conferences does your ministry run in a year? How many conferences, seminars and conventions have you attended this year?
- The “who’s who in the zoo” test – what do you do? Your title? Your achievements? Your credentials? Your background? Your status?
- The “do not forsake the assembling of ourselves” test – don’t stop coming to church. You will backslide if you do.
- The “join a connect group” test
No wonder a generation has fallen out of church because of the vicious cycle of tests they have had to endure. I also suspect the reason why most Christians don’t perform well at work or engage with the culture effectively is they are so encumbered with tests that leave them exhausted to do anything worthwhile. Eventually, they run away from one of either. Most usually, they run away from the church because at the least their work helps them pay their bills.
The Holy Spirit
The work of the Holy Spirit has also been cast in a negative view. Have you heard that the Holy Spirit is the ding-dong bell meant to alert you when you sin or do something bad? Ever heard of that? John 16:8-15 has been used to depict that notion that the work of the Holy Spirit is to examine you and point out to you what is wrong with you – convict you of sin. If that particular verse of scripture is to be interpreted in light of Jesus’ finished work on the cross for us, then the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sin. Why? Jesus on the cross took all of God’s wrath against my sin, was punished for it, and paid the penalty for it. Now sin is no longer an issue. It’s been taken care of. Now the Holy Spirit comes to convince me of the righteousness that has been imputed to me because of what Jesus did and is doing for me (Vs. 10). That’s his work.
If we continually hear that the Holy Spirit is the ding-dong bell that warns us when we are in sin, then it’s not different from the world that keeps telling us we haven’t done enough to measure up. Both are doing the same thing, albeit from different perspectives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The church is a place where the echo of John 19:30 is to be heard again and again. FINISHED! DONE! KAPUT! MIC DROP! We should run from the tyranny of work, hospitals, prisons, exam rooms, homes, and license tests to the safety of the church that declares THERE IS NOTHING FOR YOU TO DO. JUST SIT, AND LISTEN TO WHAT JESUS HAS DONE FOR YOU.
Grace says it’s DONE. Jesus took the test for you and passed with high flying colours. And then the test results were credited to your account. You don’t need to sit there anxious and apprehensive wondering whether you are ready for the test or not. What Jesus did in fulfilling the Law gave you an A+. This is what we should be proclaimed from our pulpits to the whole world.
Jesus has already fulfilled the law and the results have been credited to your account.
Abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness
Grace received enables people to reign in life (Romans 5:17) The tense in Romans 5:17 is the present tense meaning that grace has to be continually received. Yes, it is a one-time gift when you receive Jesus as Saviour, but also it is a gift that keeps on giving.
What would happen if we get to hear DONE every single Sunday? People would be empowered or enabled to face the tests of life. People should leave our churches with the sense of “I can take on this week because all that I need has been made available to me by the work of Jesus on the cross.
When Jenny and I pray in the morning before we start our day, we always say this –
Because of what Jesus did for us and what He does for us, Jesus has already made available to us everything we need to successfully accomplish what we need to do. We have all the favor, power, wisdom, health, strength, patience, love, peace, righteousness, abundance and much more. Jesus has made all that available to us.
When people leave their jobs and come to church they should be coming to a safe haven. They should be coming to what will comfort and fortify them for the week ahead. They should come to a sort of strong tower to find safety from the barrage of tests they have encountered during the week.
Grace proclaims the good news and is not an examiner of the Law. Grace proclaims what has been done for you instead of what you need to do. Grace declares to you what is right with you instead of what is wrong with you. Grace and righteousness received enable you to reign in life.
Grace is that cop that gives you the clearance certificate that indicates you have no criminal record.
Grace is the doctor that informs you that you have a clean bill of health
Grace is the examiner that tells you someone else did the exam on your behalf and you passed with an A+
Grace is the immigration officer that lets you in because your passport or visa is real.
Grace is the employer that gives you a bonus or even days off without the need to see your performance index.
That’s what grace looks like