being', he concluded. How exhilarating to know that God is forgiving and gives people a fresh start.
Fourthly, Paul gains a sense of belonging. The world can be a lonely alienating place, but Paul describes being adopted into God's family, where he knows he's accepted and loved. And he knows that Jesus is with him through the Holy Spirit.
Finally, he knows that life in the here and now is not all that there is. He doesn't understand how ... 'somehow' he writes. But he knew that Jesus' resurrection was a foretaste of what awaited him.
Excitement for us
In our judgmental self-righteous world, our post modern increasingly directionless culture that denies there is any meaning to life save an illusionary meaning we may be able to make up for ourselves; in our blame society which insists we must pay for our mistakes, in the age of so-called scientific materialistism that insists that we are no more than cosmic dust with no future, the Good News that Jesus brought of unconditional acceptance by God, life with true meaning and purpose, forgiveness and a fresh start being always available, and a glorious resurrected future in a re-created earth, should be as exciting and exhilarating for us as it was in St Paul's day.
It is my prayer that we will all capture St Paul's excitement and take it out to a desperately needy world.
A complete change of heart
St Paul, in autobiographical mood, touches on the time before he became a Christian. He was an extremist, a zealot, totally committed to the Judaism of his ancestors. In Acts we read of him approving of the stoning to death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. St Luke tells us that Paul 'was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison...breathing threats and murder against [the Christians].' Paul was conducting a purge, a la Islamic State. He was a nasty piece of work.
But then, travelling to Damascus to carry out one of those purges, he meets the risen Jesus and everything changes. Knowing and serving Jesus becomes the goal of his life. And he regards that as a hugely positive change, so much so that all else seems of no consequence: rubbish as he describes it.
An exciting experience
For many of the early Christians, knowing the risen Jesus was thrilling and exciting. You can sense St Paul's excitement throughout his letters: 'I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...I want to know Christ ...becoming like him...I press on towards the prize of the heavenly call.'
What excited Paul so much?
In his letter to the church in Philippi, St Paul spells the reasons for his excitement. Firstly, he was excited to know that acceptance by God did not come from his own efforts but by faith in Jesus. He'd spent his early life trying to earn acceptance by God…hence early religious zeal. But now he knew he was accepted by God as he was and he found that thrilling.
Secondly Paul's life now had a new sense of purpose. He had a new goal, 'a heavenly call.' He now knows what God wants him to be and to do. He has Jesus to model his life on. He dedicates himself to becoming Christ-like.
Thirdly, Paul no longer has to feel guilty about his mistakes. Elsewhere he describes a life of trying to live by keeping the rules as a life of condemnation —the rules simply showed him how far short he was falling. T was a miserable human