I point out in Forgotten Hope that there were several posts that never got posted because they were the inspiration for The Hope Series. I decided to post this one because it actually gives you a “sneak peek” into all three books of The Hope Series. Also, it is my hope (small h) that it will inspire you to want to read the series. I also realize that, had the two groups addressed in this post read it and followed it when it was actually written (April 2019), 2020 would have looked a lot different. Maybe reading it now will help us change course in 2021.
I hope this inspires thought… and action.
More than once you’ve heard me reference the “good unbeliever.” This is where I want to start. I want to talk to the unbelievers out there. Those who know there is such a thing as right and wrong but still haven’t seriously asked where that “morality” came from. To you I say, “Set your standards High!” Be the best you can be. Love your fellow man and let your actions show it. Make the world a better place. Respect others and yourself. Don’t take what isn’t yours or horde what is. Don’t repress the opinions of others or suppress your own thoughtful words. Be helpful when you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you must. The world around you is only as good as you make it. If your contribution is lacking, then you should expect your experience to meet that standard. If you set the bar of your own outlook and behavior low, then you should not expect those around you to rise above it. As an unbeliever, this world is the only one you’ve got, so why not do the most you can to make it a positive one?
We’ve all heard it said that even criminals have a “code.” We’ve heard how the last place a child molester wants to find themselves is in prison, because once the “civil” world has declared justice and sent them there, the “criminal” world will administer their own justice. It’s also said that an “insanity defense” is the toughest and most rarely successful one a criminal can make. This defense requires them to show they didn’t know the difference between “right” and “wrong.” A nearly impossible task. Across the spectrum of the unbeliever, “morality” still exists. Why? Because, “Truth Is,” whether you believe it or not, like it or not, or understand it or not, the Creator built it in. A basic sense of right and wrong is programmed into our DNA and, though you may try hard to deny it, at some level it still whispers in your ears. Maybe you can ignore this Truth. Maybe you can remain an Unbeliever. Even if you can, why set your standard at the bottom? Why live down to your lowest instincts instead of up to your highest inspirations? Why not “Set Your Standards High?”
I’m sure a few “Believers” have already mounted your soapboxes. Come back down here where we can look eye-to-eye. Can an “Unbeliever” be a decent person? Of course they can, just as far too many “Believers” can be not so decent. The previous paragraph was not a case that we don’t Need God. It acknowledges that people who have not yet admitted the inevitable conclusion that all things, including “morality,” come from somewhere or someone can still make this physical world a better place. I also reference my point that “The Best unbeliever should be where Every Believer should start.” This is where we go now. So, have a seat on your soapbox, and let’s get started.
Vance Havner regularly said, “Give me a band of people who live as if Jesus died yesterday, Rose this morning and is coming back tonight.” While the “unbeliever” lives like “this is the only world they’ve got,” the Believer is supposed to know better. The Believer is supposed to know that, as M’Clure says, this world is but a “probation” for the one to come. The unbeliever lives “of the world,” while the Believer is supposed to live “in the world but not of it.” So, if an unbeliever can say “excuse me” when they walk in front of someone, why doesn’t a Believer? If an unbeliever “holds the door” for others, why don’t you? If an unbeliever donates to “good works,” why would God’s work ever lack support? If God says, “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” why is the best neighbor on the block an unbeliever? So, I say, “Set Your Standard High.” For the unbeliever, that standard should be as high as a life without the Creator will allow. For a Believer, that standard should never be lower than the highest standard of the unbeliever.
If we lived a standard in accordance with a belief that we are on “probation,” then we wouldn’t only be the best neighbor on the block, we would be the most respectful employee and/or employer. If we believed, we would be the most courteous drivers on the road and the most considerate pedestrians in the crosswalk. If we believed our time in the world was merely preparation for the entrance exam of the world to come, then we wouldn’t leave God at the threshold of the church on Sunday. We would be a walking advertisement prompting others to ask, “Man, where do you go to church?” If the Believer lived like they Believed Christ was coming back tonight, then the unbeliever’s “high standard” would be but a distant speck from the height on which we stand. More than that, what would the view of the unbeliever be? They would be stunned at our “Peace” through the storms and our celebration in wealth and poverty. They would likely be confused by the Joy we have when a fellow Believer goes Home.
Robert Boyle pointed out that the success of Christianity was itself a miracle proof of God. Christ Himself suffered and was crucified and His apostles met similar fates. But, on the road to this end, they continued to tell the world about a Great Offer. Saul lived a life of wealth, stature, pride, power, and comfort. When he became Paul on the road to Damascus that day, from a worldly view, the opposite became true. In fact, there may have been no one more ridiculed, tortured, and jailed then Paul. Yet, “Gentile” unbelievers became Believers because they wanted what he had. Why is that?
Acts 2:37 says that when Peter, a lowly fisherman, spoke, 3,000 “were cut to the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” In Acts 5 it says that the high priests and the Sadducees “rose up with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” When the angels freed them and they continued teaching of Christ, the high priests wanted to execute them, but Gamaliel advised them, “Leave these men alone. Let them go! For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Almost taking his advice, the apostles were beaten and released. Peter and “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Christ). Every day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Unbelieving Jews looked upon and listened to these jailed and beaten men and said, “What shall we do to get what you got?” Christianity spread. Why is that?
Something else Havner said comes to mind, an illustration: The True Believer lives like this, “I’ve got nothing, I’ve got everything. What’s the devil going to do with anybody like that. The devil says I’ll give you this and I’ll give you that, the Christian says, you can’t I’ve got everything. Then that makes the devil mad and he says I’ll take this away and I’ll take that away and the Christian says, you can’t I don’t have anything.” This is what the unbelievers saw in the Apostles. They saw a “Standard” set “Higher” than the world they knew. No matter what the devil put upon them, the world saw God in the men. In them they saw a world beyond. A world that gave them “Peace, Hope! and Love.” These men were a window into a Spiritual World the unbelievers had not felt “of (their) world.” The Apostles saw Christ Die, they saw Him Rise, and they lived as if He were returning tonight! Why did the Jewish and Gentile unbelievers want what Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles had? Because they “Set Their Standards High” and from up there the view was Breath Taking!
In Acts 10, an Angel appeared to Cornelius, “He and all his household were devout and God-fearing,” and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have ascended as a memorial offering before God.” So there’s the “How.” If you live your life as a “memorial offering before God,” you will have “Set Your Standards High,” the world will benefit, and you will pass the “entrance exam.”
© Scott A Caughel 4/02/2019