World War 2 officially ended with Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945. But it didn’t end neatly. At its height, the Japanese Empire was more than 20 million square miles of land and sea. And some soldiers who were in isolated regions fought on for years after the surrender of Japan. Some were unaware the war had ended, others simply refused to believe. Some hid in the jungles alone, others fought in groups and continued to make attacks and conduct guerilla warfare.
As we have been talking about salvation these past several weeks, we have been looking at what God has done to save us from our sins. The victory Christ won on the cross was final and complete, but do not make the mistake of believing that sin is completely gone. In fact, just the opposite is true. Although the war against sin has been won on the cross, the battle still goes on until Christ returns and does away with sin as he creates a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, Christians still deal with sin. For although the guilt and power of sin have been dealt with, the pollution of sin still remains.
Though God’s people are forgiven of their sins and have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them so that they may live in right relationship to God, their sin natures have not yet been wiped out. Thus, the Bible talks about a process of sanctification. It’s the continual process of having actual sin removed from our lives, becoming more and more holy before God. The Christian has a new heart (Ezek 36:26), a new mind, (Rom 7:25; 8:26; 1 Cor 2:16), and new desires for the things of God (Rom 7:18; 2 Cor 5:2; Heb 12:18). But God’s work in this renewed heart is not finished (1 John 3:2). The mind cannot see as clearly as it will one day should (1 Cor 13:9,12), the desires can be entangled (Gal 2:11-13), and the will can’t fully do God’s will (Gal 5:17). The flesh in the believer remains unsearchable and deceitful. And so our experience can sound a lot like the apostle’s Paul’s experience in Romans 7 – “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (7:15, 19).
This then is the life of war for the believer – working to continually put to death more and more indwelling sin in our hearts. And if we fight against, the Bible promises we will take ground. We will make progress in holiness. We will grow in the image of Christ.