Now, Not Yet
The present age of Christianity is not the age to come (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:21; 1 Tim 4:8; Titus 2:12). Yet, Romans and other Scripture passages present a picture that effectively states the Christian should be living as though the future were an accomplished fact. The future is guaranteed by God, but it is not yet here (Romans 8:29-30). How then should this view of the future affect the present for a Christian?
The problem, mentioned above, is that time is not linear in the plan of salvation. There is a tension that exists in God's plan between the manner in which sin has been dealt with at the Cross and the manner in which sin will be dealt with at the end of the book of Revelation. The picture is that, as with all spiritual things, there are only two views. The old view is being "in Adam" where sin reigns. The new view is being "in Christ" where sin is not present, does not reign and has no part.
But, as we all know, we live in an "age" where both elements are true. God has chosen not to immediately deal with Satan. Rather, Satan runs loose on earth with his demons. Many unsaved sinful men rule the planet. And in the midst of this sits the Christian. Salvation time is, thus, not linear. With regard to our life here and now, there is no line where in Adam ends for all time and in Christ begins for all time. This line is in the future. So, salvation time is an overlap.
The Christian lives in a period where both sin and salvation exist. This creates the tension of the moment discussed by Paul in Romans 7.
The picture looks something like this:
There exists a tension for the Christian. The "Already" is the time of present salvation. The benefits of being a Christian, the relationship with God, the forgiveness of the penalty of sin, and the power to overcome sin through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are ours to enjoy. We have the fruit of the Spirit. But, as seen in the above referenced verses, there still remains a "Not Yet." The Not Yet is the time of completion of salvation, a time when we have truly over come all sin and have been removed from the presence of sin. This is the time of our glorification.
Peter talks in his letters of the hope of the future and the joy of suffering in the present. This is a good picture of the Already/Net Yet tension of Christianity. The goal for the Christian is to understand the teachings of Scripture with this knowledge of our position squarely in mind. We have not yet achieved all of the benefits of salvation, but we have arrived at a salvation point where many of the benefits are available to us so long as we abide in Christ.
So, we grow, then we slip and fall. Maybe we slip back a little. But, we pick ourselves up, and keep going. If we could truly look back on our life as a Christian, we would discover we continually grew as we persevere. The picture, though, probably looks like a cylinder or cyclone. We grow, but in an upward, uneven spiral. This is not the picture Scripture paints for us to follow, but it is probably an accurate picture of the method and manner of most of our Christian growth, as demonstrated by Romans 7.