Romans 1:17 God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith, as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith. (CEB)
It is God’s righteousness that is revealed in the gospel message. God’s righteousness is His level of righteousness. It is the goal He has set for humans to achieve. God desires everyone to be as holy as He is and as righteous as He is. The only way to be in the presence of God is to have the glory that He has. Simply put, this goal is unattainable. It is not possible for a mere man to be as holy and righteous as God and to have the glory that He has because we are not God.
We cannot get to that level because we have sin and the sin nature in us. Because we have the nature of sin in our DNA, we fall short of attaining any level of holiness which means we are not righteous before God thus fall short of meeting the goal of the glory of God.
If achieving the glory of God is the reward for holiness and righteousness, then there should be a penalty for not achieving that level. The penalty is total separation from God and everything that He is. Imagine being in a state of consciousness that is deprived of everything that is the product of God. There is no light, no love, no goodness, and no pleasure. It is void of all that is good and filled with all that is anti-God. Evil, hate, darkness, despair, pain and suffering would be present continually and there would be no end of them.
Since we cannot achieve this goal, God has provided a solution.
God makes us righteous by looking at us through Jesus Christ. The message of the gospel is that God became a man and being God was Holy and Righteous. God then, in the form of Jesus Christ took on the punishment for our lack of holiness and righteousness. Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the only thing that can cover our inability to be holy and righteous. By accepting that sacrifice you have, in essence, achieved the goal that God set out for you. There is nothing else needed.
This plan of God cannot be understood with the mind. We, as humans, would logically conclude that we have to do something in order to get close to God but God changes it all and the only way to accept the sacrifice of Christ is by faith since there is no way to physically prove it. That is the goal of faith, to believe what you cannot see.
Righteousness before God begins with faith and leads to faith. First you have faith that God does exist. You have faith that He is Holy and righteous. Your have faith that the only way to get to God is being holy and righteous. You understand that you are not holy and righteous. You have faith that Jesus Christ is holy and righteous and received the punishment for your lack of holiness and righteousness. This leads to the faith that Christ’s sacrifice has made you holy and righteous before God.
This is only the beginning though, because once all of this takes place, since you have been declared righteous, you now live your life by this faith. This faith that Jesus’ sacrifice has made you righteous and holy before God should now be the center of all of your thoughts, plans, and actions. Every thought you have should emanate from the acceptance of this premise that you are righteous and holy because of Christ and not because of anything you have done or could do.
Your life is changed. Your thoughts change. How you process information becomes different because you now have a different filter through which you look at life. Jesus referred to this as being born again. It is from that moment forward that you live your life inside of Christ.
If you have not reached this understanding of the gospel, God considers you unholy and unrighteous and therefore unable to meet His level of Glory. You know what the consequence is. You know what the reward is. God gives you the choice to either accept or reject His offer. It is your choice.