Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
Even though our outer person is being destroyed, as Paul understood, that is the whole point.
Our troubles are meant to peel away the old man, the shell, like husk from corn. Remember what Jesus said to Peter in speaking of his coming denial? Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. Jesus said He was praying for Peter, not that the sifting would not occur, but that Peter’s faith would not fail. Do not fear the adversary. Let him do his job: separate the inner wheat from the outer chaff.
When Paul says the inner man is being renewed, he is not talking about growth in the sense of maturity. We require a daily renewal of the new man and a day-by-day shucking of the old man. The outer person is dead, but, zombie-like, he just can’t seem to grasp the concept. The Lord uses the trials, temptations, failures, and stresses of the daily grind to continually wear away the natural self, to reveal my hopelessness and vanity.
Does it sound like I have this all figured out? Do not be deceived. I am the world’s worst whiner most of the time. I completely lose sight of the truth on a regular basis. I am writing it down here in the faint hope that I might be reminded the next time – probably later today – that I run into something I can’t handle, something that humbles me, that forces me to acknowledge I am not “all that”.
What is it that the old man operates on? What is it that keeps him going? Why does he have to be knocked down day after bloody day? The life of the zombie has its own ghoulish rewards. We get recognition, gratitude, plaudits, and plasma TV’s -- feedback, positive reinforcement. The outer person can achieve a lot in the material world. The old man can have most anything if he is willing to work at it – except true peace and contentment.
It is this conflict, this continual stripping away of that which is dead and insensitive to the Spirit that confuses many people – both those who are seeking after Truth and those who are trying to keep as far from it as possible. Peter’s denial of Christ was not the end for him. It was merely part of the revelation he needed.
I say, if I could just find the right teacher I would be able to get it together. Jesus taught Peter for three years. You can’t do any better than that. Until he denied his Lord, Peter still relied on his own great strength, his own fleshly power to get things done. Yes, he had worked miracles through the authority of Christ, but he still argued with his wife; he still clung to his status among the other disciples; he still lost his temper because he did not realize that the outer person cannot be reformed by all the spiritual teaching in the world. A hog returns to the wallow. The failure of his most cherished virtue, his courage, was necessary to show him he had to let the old man go. He had to deny himself if he didn’t want to deny the Lord.
That’s how “our momentary light affliction” works for us an eternal reward, in part at least. If we are going to live in the light of truth and the overwhelming rush of reality as it is, the inner person has to be renewed, strengthened, and trained. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom. Caterpillar and cocoon must be left behind.