I intended to end this phase of the Aniblogger Testimonies project several weeks ago, but I’ve been blessed with recent contributions from writers that I admire. One of these anibloggers is Tommy of Anime Bowl, whose piece is below. His is the thirteenth post in the series, joining the others written by Lauren Orisini, R86, Nikko, Arianna, Ed Sizemore, Canne, an anonymous blogger, Annalyn, Zeroe4, Michael Huang, Kokoro Hane, and Charles Dunbar.
One of the biggest enemies of the gospel message is the message of works righteousness – the idea that we have to save ourselves by our own good works. Sadly enough, despite putting my faith in Christ at a young age and believing Ephesians 2:8-9 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”), I found my faith slipping further and further as I was taught more and more works righteousness.
I went to an extremely legalistic Christian school, where maybe only 15% of the students who graduated from there are still walking with Christ, thanks mainly due to the Pharisee-esque pile of rules that was dumped upon us. Following a strict dress code – one where your clothes were measured to the last centimeter –was considered of prime importance. Bizarre teachings – such as one that told us that you could only be saved if you saved someone else by the age of 18 – caused many to become disillusioned with Christianity. Jesus spoke against such very things when He told the seven woes to the Pharisees – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)
Things did not become any better once I graduated high school and went to the same church as my friends. The style changed from a legalistic one to an inviting one, but the ultimate message remained the same: works righteousness. As my family went into bankruptcy and risked losing our house, my millionaire pastor preached that it was necessary to give more than 10% of your income to his church. Never mind the fact that Paul clearly teaches that Christians are not under the compulsion of the tithe of the Mosaic Law – “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
As the false teachings piled up, so did my guilt, and my depression. God was made out to be a ruthless God, with his arms crossed, just waiting for me to get my act together so that then He could bless me. Clearly all the pain and sorrow in my life was due to my sin; if I could just stop sinning and keep the Law, I could please God! (This of course went against Hebrews 11:6, which says that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”) And maybe if I could prove to God that I only broke certain commandments – and not all ten of them – then maybe I could stand up on my own righteousness before Him. Never mind that James 2:10 clearly teaches the opposite! (“For whoever keeps the whole law but falls in one point has become accountable for all of it.”)
I found myself like Edward Elric, thinking that somehow by my own good works I could make up for my mistakes of the past. But no equivalent exchange I could make would be enough to take away my sins. And like Shinji Ikari, I tried finding favor with my Heavenly Father by sheer obedience. But no matter how hard I tried to obey, it was no good. Breaking even one part of the Law was enough to break all of it.
Thankfully, last year I found an Internet radio station (known as “Pirate Christian Radio”) which has Christ-centered, cross-focused teaching, and it only took several hours of listening to it to realize how far off the teaching I had received had been. By correctly teaching Law and Gospel, sin and grace, I realized that God is not a “quid pro quo” God. Instead, I realized that I was born dead in trespasses, and I had to come to the realization, that like Paul, all my good works and self-righteousness was “rubbish” that I may gain Christ’s righteousness, which comes through faith in Christ.
I wasn’t lost all these years, but I was certainly confused, and I was pushed to the point of suicide many times, knowing how helpless I was at trying to keep the Law. Now realizing that not only have I broken the Law, but that I have broken all of it – I also have my faith in Christ for the forgiveness of all of my sins. Instead of trying to walk in my own righteousness, I now walk in Christ’s righteousness.
It is the stark realization that the American church is awash in false teaching that has led me to completely throw out everything I had planned in my life. Indeed, at times in my life I had planned on being a computer scientist, a journalist, a writer, a historian, or a teacher. None of those plans have worked out for me. I now plan on going to seminary, so that I may be able to help others avoid the false teaching I received, by giving them good cross-focused, Christ-centered teaching. Over and over again, 2 Timothy 4:2-4 has been brought to mind – “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passion, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”