Rom. 1:16,17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.
This verse contains the mystery of the gospel. The revelation it contains shook the Roman Empire to its foundation and birthed the Protestant Reformation. In it we see that righteousness is not something we do but it is something we receive as a gift by faith. The message in this verse converted Luther and John Wesley, it is the very power of God to transform sinners into men and women of God. So what is this righteousness of God? It is not easy to describe but is clearly seen in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the only man that ever lived a righteous life. It is this righteousness, the righteous life of the man Jesus, that is credited to me when I believe that His death was payment for my unrighteousness. He died as my substitute and all who believe in Him receive righteousness as a gift by faith. Here is how R. C. Sprole describes it.
“As he was preparing his lectures on Romans and studying this epistle’s first chapter, he (Luther) found a notation from an ancient manuscript of Augustine defining the righteousness of Christ. Augustine said that when Paul speaks of the righteousness of God in Romans 1, it is not the righteousness by which God himself is righteous, but the righteousness that he freely gives to those who put their trust in Christ. For the first time in his life, Martin Luther, whose conscience had been wounded by the burden of the law of God that daily exposed his relentless guilt, understood the gospel of Christ. The doors of paradise swung open and he walked through, and it was from Paul’s teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith alone that Luther stood against the whole world in the sixteenth-century Reformation.”
So maybe you are stuck in the quagmire of trying to do better and be better to please God. Forget it, that is a hopeless treadmill that leaves you exhausted and frustrated. Righteousness is not something that we can perform or work our way up to, we are declared righteous the moment we believe in Christ, it is a gift we receive by faith. From that moment we are not only seen pure by the Lord, He actually begins to live a new life in us.