Saul was born in Tarsus in southeast Asia Minor. A strict Pharisee who was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, we first find him in Jerusalem, where he was present at and consented to the death of the Christian martyr Stephen. He then began a vicious campaign of persecution against Christians (Acts 7:58-8:3). As Saul was on the road to Damascus to extend his ravages, he suddenly saw a blinding light and fell to the ground, hearing Jesus speak to him. He was then led by hand, blind, to Damascus, where a Christian named Ananias met him. As God changed Saul's name to Paul, he was cured of his blindness, believed on Jesus, and was baptized (Acts 9).
Paul went on to do amazing things for the name of Christ, and he influenced the Bible in an astonishing manner. Through his missionary journeys, his imprisonments, and his challenges to churches, God truly used this unlikely man to change the world. In fact, 13 or the 27 letters in the New Testament were written by Paul.
In Philippians 3:2-11, Paul lays out his life and understanding. Paul had all the credentials to be a very religious person. He was circumcised, a Jew, from the tribe of Benjamin, a model Hebrew, a Pharisee, and a faultless follower of the law. But Paul counted all of those things as worthless dung in comparison to the relationship that he had with Jesus. He embraces the resurrection and the suffering of Jesus only through the power of the resurrection that is found in the acceptance of Jesus.
Too often, human nature pulls us into a Pharisee lifestyle. The Pharisees did what righteousness they did to be seen by men. They worked on fixing only the things other men would SEE, and ignored everything else - such as covetousness, greed, pride, and other qualities that are contrary to the nature of Jesus. We do the same things today. We let religiosity drive us. It is inauthentic. May God's kindness draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4, but read that chapter...it's pretty convicting in light of today's message!)