We must either attain to perfect righteousness by our own determination and efforts. Or it must be "imputed" to us, meaning that righteousness is accounted to us apart from any actions of our own.
If we have acted imperfectly at any time in our existence, we are disqualified from the former possibility. Our only hope, therefore, is the grace whereby the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is freely placed on our account.
"We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also" (Romans 4:9-11).
"Christ Jesus is made unto us... righteousness" (I Corinthians 1:30).
Because we have no hope for perfect righteousness, the God who loves us so dearly made a way to enrobe us with the pristine purity of the Lord Jesus. Christ Himself is the primary definition of righteousness in God's sight. We must either be exactly like Him in character, nature, and way. Or, we must have His merits freely imputed to us as the freest of all gifts. The former is impossible; the latter is the Gospel.
"And lest the shadow of a spot should on my soul be found, He took the robe my Savior wrought and cast it all around!" (Isaac Watts).
The more we know the extent to which we have been justified in the sight of God, the more our thoughts, attitudes, words, and deeds will reflect the glorious reality. We will be in expression who we are in the essence of our person. Our spiritual enemies are well aware of this dynamic of God's grace revealed through faith, and thus seek to hinder our knowledge and application of the redemption that God has already effected in the innermost depths of our being. "Now are ye light in the Lord" declared the Apostle Paul of our Christ-inhabited spiritual personhood. "Walk as children of light" adds Paul, that is, "Be in expression who you are in essence" (Ephesians 5:8).
There is no greater adventure or challenge in life than to increasingly believe and act upon the truth of Whose we are, and who we are. The world, the devil, and the flesh constantly array to do battle with every believer in the attempt to enshroud the bright flame of Christ that burns upon the candle of our spirits (Proverbs 20:27). Indeed, let us still ourselves and ponder for just a moment that the Lord Jesus is present and alive in our trusting hearts. God the Father looks at us, and through the weakness, imperfection, and foibles of our flesh, sees His Son united to us. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17). He made the Lord Jesus to be our righteousness, even to the degree that He "will not impute sin" to us because He imputed them all to Christ when He died on the cross (Romans 4:8). This we must know and believe, and this our enemies fight tooth and nail because they know the bludgeoning they will receive if we obey our Heavenly Father in reckoning ourselves to be "alive unto God" (Romans 6:11).
Long before we were born, the Lord Jesus had died in order to save us from our sins. Until we believed, however, we did not know or experience the benefits of the new birth that subsequently changed our lives. In the same manner, a life of authentic and vibrant godliness awaits our response to the truth that we are "accepted in the Beloved," and that the Beloved is dynamically present within us (Ephesians 1:6). As we believe and submit unto this fact of our redeemed being, we will more and more consistently walk out "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27). May God illuminate our hearts as the children of light we are, and may our steps be found revealing His gift of righteousness so freely given...
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."