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Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. — Philippians 3:8-9

During the tense and bitter days of the Vietnam War, Cassius Marcellus Clay, the brash young heavyweight boxing phenomenon, announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam and had changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He refused to submit to induction into the Armed Services, claiming exemption on the grounds that he was a minister of religion. As a result, he was stripped of his boxing titles and was convicted under the Selective Service Act.

At first, many people thought that Ali’s action was just another way of dodging the draft, that no genuine conversion had taken place. But decades later, he still professed allegiance to Islam.

Dramatic as Ali’s conversion was, it pales into insignificance beside the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He, too, experienced a name change—from Saul to Paul—but that was the least of the changes he went through.

By birth, heritage, and training, Saul was a proud, brilliant, and intense Jewish Pharisee whose convictions led him to become the arch persecutor of the fledgling Christian church. In his own words, he said, “I am a real Jew if ever there was one!… I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault” (Philippians 3:5-6).

Saul’s conversion meant that he completely changed his mind about the most important things in his life. The main issue in his mind was, what is God’s way of “making us right with himself” (3:9)?

Traditionally, he had been taught, and he fervently believed, that rightness with God was achieved through keeping God’s law. This was something that was dependent on his “own goodness” and “ability to obey God’s law” (3:9). That was why Saul was so fervent as “a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (3:5).

But when he grasped that Jesus was the Son of God who had died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, he recognized that instead of working to secure his own salvation (an impossibility!), he should “trust Christ to save [him]” (3:9).He himself testified, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done” (3:7).

Salvation, he recognized, was not based on his own efforts but on Christ’s action. Not surprisingly, Saul renounced a religion that ignored Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, and he embraced with all his heart the living Lord Jesus and His cause.

When a man is truly converted to Christ, his life is changed and he changes his world.

For further study: Philippians 3:4-11

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.