The following excerpt from Martin Luther’s 1525 sermon (W.A. 17.1.155f) should be a reminder to would-be perfectionists and neo-nomians about the dangers of misconstruing personal righteousness:
This is the main article which we have to learn. It gives us authority, even if we feel the lust of our flesh or even fall into sin, to say: “Howbeit, it is my will to be rid of the Law, neither am I still under the Law or sin, but I am devout and righteous.” If I cannot say this, I must despair and perish. The Law says: “thou art a sinner.” If I say, “Yes,” I am lost; if I say “No,” I must have a firm ground to stand on, to refute the Law, and uphold my “No.” But how can I say it, when it is true and is confirmed by Holy Scripture that I was born in sin? Where then shall I find the “No”? Of a truth, I shall not find it in my own bosom, but in Christ. From Him I must receive it and fling it down before the Law and say: “Behold, He can say ‘No’ against all Law, and has the right to do, for He is pure and free from sin, and He gives me the ‘No,’ so that though if I look on myself I should have to say ‘Yes’ because I see that I am a sinner and could not stand before the Law, and feel that there is nothing pure in me, and see God’s wrath, yet I can say that Christ’s righteousness is my righteousness, and henceforth I am free from sin.” This is the goal, that we should be able to say, continually, we are pure and godly, for evermore, as Christ Himself can say, and this is wrought through faith.
Luther explains well why some of us find faith in Christ to be much more comforting than the terror that comes from pursuing righteousness as sin-bedeviled saint. (I hope you’re reading Doug and Richard.)