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"Top Shelf Christianity" -
A handbook to becoming a Christian


"but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Jn.20:31



Chapter Two
Conversion - (It really is better to give than to receive)

…………................................................................ by ric justiss



The reputation you and I have among our friends and acquaintances is something that
is important to each of us.  We have been known to go to great lengths to try  and
control that reputation.  We all have one - it may be good, bad or indifferent, but we all
have  a reputation.

Jesus had one.  Jesus was a real person.  He was born in Bethlehem, raised in
Nazareth, and when he began teaching one of the things people said about him was,

"Is he not Joseph's son?  (Luke. 4:16-22)
 In effect they are saying, where did he get to
be so smart; where did he get his authority?  He is just one of us!  
Are not his brothers
and sisters living here with us, they asked?  (Mk. 6:3)
 They were not to impressed with
him.

And then years went by and many stories were told.   There are some stories about
Jesus that did not get into our Bible.  Stories that seemed a little bit to much to accept.  
There were stories that circulated after the death of Jesus that had the ring of not
being true.  One of them was that when Jesus was a little boy he was playing with little
children and they were making clay pigeons, so they made little birds in their hands,
but when Jesus made his bird, he looked at it and then it flew out of his hand.  Another
- as a young man he was working with Joseph, his father, in the carpenter business
and  Jesus was trying to work with a board that was too short, it would not fit what
they wanted it to do, but Jesus touched it and the board became the perfect size.  But
the stories like this were not accepted, they seemed to be fables, odd, strange, and
what difference would it make anyway?

The writers of the gospels included stories of Jesus that were unquestionably true.  In
Mark 1: 29-39, this is a time in Jesus life when people were brought to him sick and
they got well.  
V. 34 "And he healed many who were sick with various diseases."  
People would get well in the presence of Jesus.  This is a true story.  Although we may
tend to exaggerate our heroes, what we appreciate is the authenticity that seems to be
present in the gospels.

When Jesus went out to teach, what did he show as proof of who he was and the
origin of his message?  Jesus healed many people.  In the morning the disciples were
looking for him, they found him alone praying and said, Why are you here, people are
looking for you?  Jesus said, "I must go to the next town to teach," this is why I am
here, this is why I have come.

Do you remember how when John the Baptist was in prison, John sent one of his
friends to ask Jesus, are you the one?  
Matt. 11:3, "Are you the Coming One, or do we
look for another?"
 It's always been a curious thing to me why John has to ask the
question, but John wants to know and look what proof Jesus gives.  
"Jesus answered
and said to them, Go and tell John the things you hear and see:  the blind received  
their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are
raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them."

He said the blind can see, the deaf can hear, the lame can walk, the dead are raised.  
Personally, I think this was somewhat symbolic of the real changes that need to take
place in our lives.  Because what we desperately need in our lives is not physical sight,
but insight - not to be able to hear, but to have understanding - not to be able to walk
but we need the character to go in the right direction - not just life, but a life with new
meaning and purpose.  Jesus could of been saying, go and tell John the people have
been given insight, they are gaining understanding, they are gaining integrity and
character to go in the right direction, and they have new purpose....and finally the good
news is preached to the poor.

Yes, Jesus - people got well in his presence, but what he really wanted to do
apparently was to TEACH, to work with our minds and hearts and souls and help us to
grow and develop.  Jesus was a teacher.  The people were even astonished at His
teaching.  But he was more widely known as some sort of great doctor, a healer.

Jesus had a reputation.  Jesus became known as a healer.  People did get well in his
presence.  The people he healed, he wanted to heal.  But repeatedly when someone
was healed he would say, go and tell no one about this.  Your faith has made you well.  
Do not tell anyone about this?  Why?  He didn't want to be known as a healer.  He
didn't want sideshows, people gathering about Him everywhere he went trying to get
whatever problem they had cured.  But even though he told them not to tell anyone,
they did anyway.  They told others who had healed them, and it seems a bit
understandable.  If you had been sick, or lame, or blind, and suddenly you were
completely 100% healed, you would tell someone.  And maybe you should.  It seems to
be part of the healing.  You are so thankful to be healed, you just naturally want to
share the good news.

But Jesus said do not tell anyone that I healed you.  What he was saying was, your
faith made you well.  It is your faith.  It almost sounds like a compliment but it is not
intended that way.  You can have faith in anything in a radical way and it can work for
you for a while.  Here is someone who can stretch out on a bed on nails and the spikes
hardly touch him.  Your mind almost hypnotizes you.  Faith is important, but faith in
what?

Jesus healed people.  But his real purpose was to teach people, to change them.  You
remember the story of the 10 lepers.  Ten men with leprosy were walking down the
road and suddenly each was healed of their horrible disease.  And today, I can read
that story with more understanding than maybe a few years back.  Leprosy was a
terrible disease.  It reminds me of the AIDS disease today.  People who had leprosy
would live with other people who had leprosy.  The old law required that if anyone
approached you, you must shout out, "I AM A LEPER", so they could stay away.   The
utter ostracism of it all.

Luke 17, ten lepers were healed of their leprosy.  One, "when he saw that he was
healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face giving
him thanks."
 The idea is, how many men got well that day?  How many men were truly
changed?  One!   Ten recovered from leprosy, but only one was truly changed.

Jesus is concerned about the whole person.  I am sure if he were among us he would
touch us and we would have good health.  Maybe he would touch our wallets and
solve our money problems.  But what he really wants for us, for you and for me, is a
change that is inward.  Jesus healed people, but everyone he healed later got sick
again and died.  But he wants us to be loving and kind and generous, even when we
are sick or when we have problems.

What we need is a conversion in the mind.  It seems to me there is a type of tension
today between personal faith that works for you, and an understanding of the larger
idea of God that Jesus taught.  If I come to you and tell you how much money I have,
now, because of my faith - I tell you of how greatly the Lord has blessed me financially
- I can say I was broke and nothing was going right but now God has blessed me, I
have more money that I've ever had in my life, and faith did it - suppose I stand in a
ghetto and make that statement.  And they don't have anything.  Nothing to speak of
materially.  They have each other, locked in poverty and that is it.  What do you think
the mind of Christ would be saying to me?

If the Lord has blessed me with this wealth and I stand among people in need, what do
you think I will do?  Just brag on my faith and all that I have and how I was healed?  
With the mind of Christ I would want to help them through the blessings given to me.  
That is why Jesus said don't go telling and talking about your faith making you whole.  
Be a witness for compassion.  
Blessed are the merciful  - don't we need that?

What we are producing in America in the church world is a people who can testify of
what Christ has done for them individually and personally.  And that is good to a
degree.  I could tell you today of the many many many times I have been blessed by
the hand of God and it would sound so untrue I would almost need a miracle to back it
up.  But when you brag on your faith it alienates what God is longing for, for us to be
converted to the mind of Christ so that we can CARE.  
Matt.5, Blessed are the poor in
spirit, Blessed are the gentle, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are those who
hunger and thirst for righteousness.

More often than not we allow our reputation, what others will or might think of us, to
interfere with our doing what we believe to be the right thing.

Three points.

1.    Every last  one of us wants to have a good reputation.  We want to be liked.  To be
thought highly of.  We like to be bragged on.  We like for people to like us.  We like to
hear good things people say about us.  We are all this way.  Sometimes we are so
preoccupied with this, we try to control what people hear of us so they will think highly
of us.  It usually does not work out that way.

2.   Let's face it.  We are going to be criticized.  And not only when we do a bad job.  
Most of us are going to be criticized and misunderstood even when we are doing
some great work.   And criticism goes with the territory in being a Christian.

As long as our world is wrought with war, as long as we have race hatred that shifts
from one group to another, as long as we have prejudice, and long as we have greed,
as long as we have a jealous nature, as long as we have pseudo Christians who want
to be with Jesus and want Him to help them personally and hardly give a snap of the
finger about what is happening to the world out there, as long as this happens, if you
do a good job, you are going to get ridiculed.  And if you do it well enough you will get
ostracized and if you really excel you will get the cross.  I am not being prophetic, just
historically sound.  Get far enough ahead of the crowd and do a superb job - we will
get rid of you now but brag on you later. Lincoln, Martin Luther King, it's true with
everyone you can admire in history,  It is the way we are.  And it is time we realize that
if you really get out on a limb for what is right, your reputation is going to suffer.

It happens everyday in the courts, in business.  The vicious, conniving people move
ahead and seem to prosper while the honest and innocent are walked on, pushed
down and pushed away.  The good people are psychologically and personally, in a
sense, executed.  But in the long run, Truth has a way of coming back.  
Rev. 22:  12,
13, "Behold I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to give to each one
according to his work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the
First and the Last."  

Yes, we want to be well physically and we would like to have all of our problems go
away.  But once we receive these blessings, what are we going to do then?  Maybe
you need more money.  But what will you do with it if you receive more money?  Just
thank God and that is it?  We need two things - the faith that can help you personally
and the mind of Christ that can tie you on to society.  If all you have is the faith that
helps you personally and the world can go to Hell, you are just like the nine lepers that
kept on walking.  Don't tell anyone that I made you well.  Tell them what I have taught
you.  Blessed are the merciful.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness sake.  Doesn't the world need to hear that?

3.   What really matters in the long run is not what people say about you and me.  It's
what we basically are!  Who you basically are!

What God wants for each of us in our life is not simply to be healed.  There are times
when God wants us to have the strength to bear our cross.  And that requires much
more Faith than the Faith it takes to be healed.

God wants our minds and hearts to harbor a home for the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spoke a
universal idea.  It transcends the creeds and transcends the churches.  Love.  You can
see it in any land anywhere.  A little child may not speak your language, but they know
when you like them and care for them.  A universal idea.  That is what Jesus taught,
and lived and gave his life for.  
John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you LOVE
one another as I have loved you."

Jesus fame spread far and near as a healer.  They were following the great Emmanuel
("with us is God") for a small reason.  What he really wanted to be known for and
followed after for was what he taught about God, about life, about people and about
eternity.  
Matt. 22: 37  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul
and with all your mind."

Jesus was misunderstood in his own day. The people for the most part did not
understand his purpose or his message.  But he continued on, pressing forward,
doing the right thing, regardless of the cost, and with no regard to his reputation.

What we so desperately need is what he gave us then, not a testimony of what he has
done for us personally - testify of this,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Acts
20:35

May we each experience the change within us, the true and genuine conversion of the
heart.
Matt. 18:3  "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not
enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Amen!

____________________________________________________________________

Review:

Chapter 1 - Once we understand the grandeur of heaven, nothing will be more important to us
than being sure we have a home in heaven awaiting us at the end of this life.

Chapter 2 - If we want to go to heaven, we will have to change.  We have to change, or convert,
from living one way to living another way.
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