For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 48

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:1-11

Imagine.  Christ has been resurrected. The early church is multiplying rapidly. Thousands of Jews and even many priests were coming to faith in Jesus.  If the religious leaders who conspired to end Jesus’ movement at the cross were hot and bothered before the crucifixion, imagine their vile volatility after the resurrection! During this time, one man became the face, the hard charging spearhead of the anti-Christian attack- A man named Saul. 

Saul was a fast riser in the religious world and quickly went from being a supporter of the execution of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to the leader of the persecution and prosecution of Christians. After Stephen’s execution, “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”  Acts 8:3. Shockingly, the more Saul tried to destroy Christians and kill their faith, the more committed the believers became, the more the Gospel of Jesus Christ grew and the wider this fledgling church spread. 

Saul was relentless in his efforts to stomp out those who belonged to “the Way” by whatever means necessary. “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”  Acts 9:1-2. Saul had been given a license by his own religious overseers to perform atrocities and injustices in the name of God.  What would drive a man to such despicable depths? Saul had built the currency of his life on a broken and faulty system of religious value.

Saul, by way of his religious upbringing, had counted all of his religious resume and rigor as profit, or gain.  He was a “rock star” in his tightly wound circles of Pharisaical Judaism. Thus, in Saul’s estimation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, could only be assessed as “loss;” loss of life, loss of power, loss of values and loss of his very identity. This is why Saul dedicated his life to persecuting, arresting and even killing Christian believers.  Paul’s religious commitment to the law and circumcision, the pride of his family heritage as a member of the tribe of Benjamin and his passionate defense of Judaism were for Saul, great gain, the evidence of a self-made man of God.  Religious accomplishment was Saul’s currency, and his stock was sky rocketing.

The conversion of Saul to Christianity is one of the most staggering accounts of personal transformation in human history.  On the road to Damascus, in hot pursuit of a scattering Church, red faced with uncontrollable, yet calculated rage, Saul confronted Jesus Christ face to face.  With a blinding light and a commanding voice, Jesus obliterated Saul’s worldview and personal paradigm in one sweeping encounter. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul, petrified and perplexed, responded with a question, “Who are you, Lord?”  Saul knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was having a conversation with God almighty. The very same God that he thought he had given his entire life to serving and protecting from the revolutionary Rabbi and his redeemed riff raff. Picture the emotional implosion that was set off in Saul’s soul when he heard the answer to his weighty question; “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (see Acts 9:3-5). Saul’s currency crumbled and his conversion was certain.  Repenting of his sin, Saul became a believer, a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In the days that would follow, as the old life of Saul seemed further and further in the past, he changed his name to Paul and his conversion would be complete.  In the historical account of Acts 9 we witness the external expression of Saul’s conversion to Christ, but in Philippians 3 gain a greater understanding of the internal perspective of what that conversion meant to him. Philippians 3 reveals what was going on in Paul’s (Saul’s) heart when he came face to face with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Paul writes on a very personal level about how understanding the “surpassing worth” of Christ will radically challenge how we value the things that we once held dear.  Over the next few posts, we will come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of currency and conversion in Christ.  Like Saul, there may be personal paradigms that must come crashing down in order to see that what we once held dear, is now to be counted as loss in comparison to our Kingdom treasure.

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