In case you’re not familiar with it, this is the Personality Assessment Inventory, a 300-plus item survey designed to evaluate a person’s mental condition. Actually, it’s a little more clinical and technical than that, but the official definition of the P.A.I. contains enough psycho-babble to actually drive a sane person crazy, so I’ll stick to layman’s terms here. I’ve filled it out a couple of times, and I’ve been struck both times by the simultaneous depth and ridiculousness of some of the statements it contains.
The way the P.A.I. works is, a person is given a list of statements and then asked to rate them as “false,” “somewhat true,” “mainly true,” and “very true.” I’ve always thought the P.A.I. contained an excessive amount of questions concerning alcohol and drug use, but since I’ve never had a problem with either of these I may not notice their importance. There is one statement in particular, however, that always grabs my attention: I deserve severe punishment for my sins.
As a Christian, I feel as if I’m supposed to mark “false” based on the following reasoning: Christ died for my sins, and the punishment for them has been removed. I’m pretty sure, however, that both times I’ve filled out the P.A.I. I’ve filled in the circle for “very true.” To be honest, I’ve always felt like I was going to be one of those people who only got into heaven because I asked Jesus into my heart and God would therefore be required to begrudgingly take me in. When I saw the word “righteous” in the Bible, I knew it wasn’t talking about me; I was sinful, and I knew it.
Thinking this way can obviously suck a lot of the joy out of the Christian life. I constantly compared myself to others, judging my life based on what their lives appeared to be like. I didn’t know if they struggled with anything or not. They looked good on the outside, said all the right things, and knew all the right scriptures. I’ve always felt like an impostor, someone who would be kicked out and disowned if anyone ever caught wind of what was actually in my heart. Obtaining righteousness became a goal to me, and I could never quite reach it.
And then, for some reason, like a bolt from the blue, I realized something yesterday: I can’t reach it.
“For our sake, He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I could never do anything to attain the righteousness necessary to stand before God. His mercy and grace is a gift, and I could never earn anything from Him. If Jesus’ righteousness is standing in for me, then, and I could never do anything obtain righteousness on my own, wouldn’t it stand to reason once I had it that I couldn’t do anything to lose it either? Is it possible that because of Jesus I am actually made righteous by him, no matter what I do?
I’m not advocating sin here, nor am I trying to give myself a free pass for any transgressions I may committed. What I am trying to grasp is that I … am … righteous. Those righteous people the Bible talks about? I’m one of them. “There is now no condemnation…” Even typing this, I’m fighting it. “I deserve severe punishment for my sins.” Thing is, I actually do deserve it. Someone stepped in, though, and took it for me, and when God looks at me He sees the sacrifice, not the sin.
I’m only sharing this because during the countless sermons and church services I’ve sat through and the hours of programs and CD’s I’ve listened to, I never thought of righteousness this way before. I’m sure many of you are shaking your heads and saying, “Duh, I’ve known all this for a long time.” Well, I haven’t. I’m still not sure I understand it fully. I need to get this in my soul, though. One of the hallmarks of depression is guilt, and not understanding righteousness produces heaps of it. I’ll say it again: I need to get this.
I am righteous.
I am righteous.
I am righteous.