In the second half of Romans 7, Paul expounds on the internal struggle of those who are in Christ.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:19,23,24)
A war is raging inside of every follower of Christ. It is a battle between the new man and the old self (2 Cor 5:17). This war within is the experience of becoming more like Christ (sanctification). John Piper writes, “To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead…sin is alive, and will live. If you are fighting sin, you are alive.” War may not feel right to a believer, but they can be comforted that if there is no war within a person it’s because they are a prisoner to death. The experience of war is affirmation a person is alive to Christ and fighting sin. Only someone who is alive can fight, it’s the person who doesn’t feel the agony of battle who has ceased living or never has.
After George Washington and the continental army famously defeated a British regiment by crossing the Delaware, their enemy was on the run and Washington decided to pursue them. David McCollough describes the scene:
More Americans rushed forward, many of them Pennsylvania militia with little or no training, who refused to yield, as Washington, Greene, and Cadwalader rode among them to lead the way. The sight of Washington set an example of courage such as he had never seen, wrote one young officer afterward. “I shall never forget what I felt….when I saw him brave all the dangers of the field and his important life hanging as it were by a single hair with a thousand deaths flying around him. Believe me, I thought not of myself.”
When I think of those who have been saved by Christ and are now struggling to be more like him I think of these continental soldiers pursuing the enemy with their fearless leader leading them.
People often think becoming a Christian means going from bondage to heavenly bliss. However, though a person is freed from bondage when they believe the gospel, they are awakened not to bliss, but to war against sin within them. It’s not sleeping beauty awakening to beautiful surroundings and celebration. It’s a captive who is set free from bondage and handed a sword to fight his way out of the enemy’s fortress. They are free, joyful, alive, breathing fresh air, filled with new hope, but find enemies everywhere and must fight with all their might until no more enemies can be found. They are scared and at times doubtful they will ever escape, yet to their right and left they find other warriors who have been set free and who with them stumble, fall at times and bear the marks of battle, but are still running with fire in their hearts. They were all in filthy rags in their prison of death, but now they find they’re clothed in white and in the full armor of God. Most comforting of all is their leader who rides in front of them on a white horse wielding a mighty sword and calling to each one, “Take heart! It is finished! I have overcome this enemy!”