On the Road to Damascus

By Francis Frangipane

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24-25).

There is a profound truth about spiritual growth hidden in Jesus' remarks.  He likens our growth to the same pattern seen in a life cycle of a seed.  There are two aspects to the seed: a husk and its kernel.  The husk is the harder, outer covering that protects the tender, inner kernel. Of course, it is the kernel, not the husk, which contains the power to bear fruit and reproduce.

However, once the seed is planted in soil and watered, the outer husk must break. Its completeness and usefulness "dies." Without the death of the husk, the seed will never produce fruit and will abide by itself alone, just as Jesus said.

Likewise, our spiritual development unfolds through a similar process that is sequenced through a time of breaking, dying and finally culminates in an inner rebirth. The Lord does not have to create difficulties to come against us; there are pressures, people and perplexities in abundance   even direct satanic attacks   that He can orchestrate to break the outer man, and awaken and release our inner self.

We fight against the idea, but brokenness and the death of our old self are integral parts of our spiritual journey. Our outer, husk nature must break.  It must experience death in order for our inner man to find true spiritual life with Christ. Every genuine spiritual advance comes because, in some way, our outer man breaks and our inner man is touched and made alive by the breath of God.  Beloved, every act of true faith comes because this inner man responds to the promise of God.  Genuine worship   that which exists only in spirit and in truth   is the product of God intimately loving the inner man, even at the funeral of the outer.

As it is written, "God {sees} not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7).  Even at this moment, our Father, who sees in secret, is looking at the inner man of your heart. 

A Christ Encounter
Paul is speaking of these two aspects of our identity when he writes, "though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16). Again, he tells us that he joyfully concurs "with the law of God in the inner man" (Rom 7:22). Finally, he prays that God would grant us "to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph 3:16).

If we do not suffer the death of the outer person, its husk nature becomes a mask that hides the corruption and selfish motives of our hearts. Without personal, first hand contact with our spiritual need of the Savior, we become Pharisaic in nature: trusting in ourselves that we are righteous while viewing others with contemp (see Lk 18:9). We may not wear the robes of a Pharisee, but we possess the attitude of one. To save us, Christ must confront us.

I'm thinking of Paul. Here was a man who was a "Pharisee of Pharisees," a man who was self-righteous, a persecutor of the church.  Paul hid his true character behind the religious mask of a Pharisee.  But when the Lord met him on the road to Damascus, Paul not only saw God's glory, he saw his personal corruption in Christ's light. His self-righteous opinion of himself was crushed; his outer man, broken.

Likewise, we too are on a journey.  We cannot help but come to God as we are. Yet, beloved, there will be a time when we meet Jesus in a new way.  It will not be goose bumps and chills; it will be devastating and liberating at the same time.  The Lord's goal will be to remove the falseness of our outer man to awaken love in the inner.  He meets us on the road to "De-mask us."

Yes, dear friend, our opinion of ourselves will be crushed; we will be more passionately humble.   Our need of a Savior will no longer be just a doctrine; it will become a desperate fact of our lives, as we meet Christ on the road to De-mask us.