Broken in two, red eyes glaring, it pulls itself along, pursuing its victim, until at last it is crushed to fight no more.

And yes, this is the final scene from the 1980s movie Terminator.

While I’m not recommending the movie for consumption, the conclusion of the film provides a helpful illustration of the fleeting power of indwelling sin. As Saint Augustine described the process of conversion, sanctification, and glorification: One day Christians will no longer be able to sin. We will one day live in the new heavens and earth, be freed from the sinful flesh, and celebrate the Lamb’s final victory over the Serpent. In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul provides a vivid depiction of the believer’s battle against the flesh:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:18-20)

John Piper provides the following commentary on this passage:

“Nobody should want to live this way. Or settle to live this way. That’s not the point. The point is, when you do live this way, this is the Christian response. No lying. No hypocrisy. No posing. No vaunted perfectionism. Lord, deliver us from a church like that – with its pasted smiles, and chipper superficiality, and blindness to our own failures, and consequent quickness to judge others. God give us the honesty and candor and humility of the apostle Paul. . . . The mark of the Christian is not perfection, but the fight of faith showing itself in imperfect love by the power of the Spirit and in the joyful confidence that God justifies the ungodly. So take Christ as your righteousness and fight to treasure him and his ways above all things.”

I believe the entire chapter of Romans 7 can be summed up in three words: fulfillment, struggle, and longing. The passage opens with an illustration showing that the law is like an apparently difficult marriage. A woman is legally bound to her husband as long as he lives. Similarly, we were enslaved to the law until it was satisfied through Christ. Like a teacher, it led us to him. But without him it would be only a cruel master. A marriage without love is like the law without grace. Through Christ we find comprehensive and inexhaustible satisfaction and fulfillment.

The Apostle then describes his present challenge against the flesh which wars against his spirit, illustrating that the Christian life is mixed with both struggle and longing. Paul writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). The Christian life is marked by a growing measure of fulfillment, struggle, and longing.

The poem penned by Isaac Watts and William Cowper provides a great response to these truths:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,I’ll sing Thy power to save,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save.