The Cross Before Me; The World Behind Me :: By Emma Strickland

“We should be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.”

Before we are saved, we belong to the world, but once we have confessed that we are sinners, repented for our sins, and declared Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we now belong to Him (Romans 10:9). It is crucial that we stay ready for His return for us because, no matter what others think or what the world declares, He is coming back! We must prepare ourselves, as well as witness to others, because if we don’t do this as believers, then who will?

Salvation is not a reward for the righteous but a gift for the guilty. We are so unworthy and undeserving of God’s love and mercy, but He gives it freely anyway. While we cannot atone for our sins, He never asked us to in the first place. However, He does ask us to do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:6-8), which, if we are committed and devoted to pleasing Him, we will WANT to have these characteristics anyway.

Once we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are forever changed. And not only that, but we are also given the free gift of eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Revelation 21 describes Heaven by using phrases such as a place with “…no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All of these things are gone forever” (vs. 4), and “…the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass” (vs. 21). I don’t know about you, but Heaven isn’t a place that I want to miss out on – especially since it’s an eternal destination. But while we are offered eternal life, we must be willing to receive it, and we must be prepared to live a life on earth that is firm in our decision.

In saying that, this world is evil and corrupt, and Jesus warned us that there would be many wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). He warns us against the many false teachers who want us to falter in our Christian walks; and, sadly, if we don’t know God and His Word, we won’t know the difference between the right teachings versus the wrong. Those who don’t know the truth will be “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching,” and they will be tricked by those who teach false truths that sound clever enough to possibly be correct (Ephesians 4:14). But we must know better.

One of the most accepted false teachings in today’s time is that God will accept everyone into Heaven. While He doesn’t have favorites and He absolutely wants as many people to be saved as possible, each individual is responsible for accepting Jesus or rejecting Him. God has given every individual the choice of where they will spend eternity, which means that we are each responsible for our own personal decision. Just because we live “good” lives doesn’t mean that we’re going to Heaven. We must accept Jesus as our Savior – because He is the one and only way to receive salvation. And, trust me, that decision is the most important one you will EVER make.

Heaven is real, but so is hell. Hell is described as a fiery lake (Revelation 21:8), a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28), and it is an eternity spent in torment. There is no going back from it once a person is there. That is why it is so crucial and so critical that we make the right decision while we are still here on earth. And we can’t wait. The time is now! Too many people are waiting for “a sign for the right moment” or saying that they will accept Jesus when they “have time for Him.” I’m here to tell you that this is your sign! Don’t ignore Jesus when He is knocking on the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20)! There is no better time than the present – because we don’t know what next month, next week, tomorrow, or even what the next ten minutes hold.

We don’t have time to wait. We must understand what this decision means – because our eternity depends on it.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 tells us that we must stay alert and prepared for Jesus’ return. We are warned that He will come back “like a thief in the night,” and when it is least expected. God alone knows when this time will be (Mark 13:32), but in order to be sure that we aren’t left behind when He does return, we must get right with Him NOW. I can’t emphasize enough how important this decision is, and I pray that you understand the urgency and essentialness of it as well. Even if you have already accepted Jesus as your Savior, sometimes we can feel the need to recommit to Him. I can understand that, and so can He. We can be confident that God will be merciful and just according to how we approach Him and how we acknowledge His goodness to us.

As I’ve said before, we are all imperfect sinners in need of a perfect Savior, and He is more than willing to save us if we come humbly before His throne.

So many people want the “good luck charm Jesus” – the one that comes to the rescue in times of danger. But so few want the sacrificial Lamb whose death requires action. Too many people believe that Jesus is just a “get out of jail free” card that they can cry out to only in times of trouble. But we know that He is so much more. In saying this, we are the Church. We are the body of believers. We are those who must show others who Jesus really is. We are those who must commit to living a life of serving God and serving others – because if we don’t, then who will? We weren’t made to keep this Good News to ourselves; we must spread it like others’ lives depend on it, because they do. We have been called for a higher purpose, and we must each make the decision of whether or not we will pursue it.

We cannot be divided between God and the world (James 1:6-8). We must choose to reject all of the evil pleasures that the world offers because it will soon all pass away. We must store our treasures in Heaven (1 John 2:15-17) because those are eternal. While we will face mockery and hostility because of our beliefs, we must remain firm in them. 1 Peter 3:13-18 tells us that we should be prepared to suffer for doing good and that we must take a stand for righteousness. We must keep our minds focused on an eternal perspective (Colossians 3:2), and we must choose a side. We must be all-in. We are warned against having a lukewarm faith in Revelation 3:15-16 because this state is extremely dangerous. We can’t be “neutral” on this matter; we must choose whether we will be on the side of good or evil.

We cannot be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16), and we must seek the approval of God above others (Galatians 1:10). If we acknowledge Jesus here on earth, He will acknowledge us in front of the Father; but if we deny Jesus here on earth, He will deny us in front of the Father (Matthew 10:32-33). It’s easy to accept Him when we are in a comfortable crowd, such as when we are with close friends or our youth group, but are we acknowledging Him in front of those whom we don’t know as well or to those who don’t have the same beliefs as us?

As it says in Romans 8:34, Jesus Himself is pleading for us in Heaven, which means that He, too, wants for us to be saved so that we can live in eternal paradise with Him; but are we willing to live our lives on earth for Him? In Matthew 7:13-14, it says that the road to destruction is broad, and many will follow it, but the path to life is narrow, which means that the path less traveled is unpopular in this fallen world. Which way will you choose?

Many people view these concepts as scary and depressing to think about, especially when they read the book of Revelation. However, if you are right with Jesus, there is nothing to fear as a believer. Revelation is, above all, a book of hope. That sounds crazy, right?? Read a few chapters in Revelation, and you may doubt that statement. But, think about it this way: Revelation is a book that reassures the believer that no matter what happens here on earth, God is, and will always be, in control. It promises that evil will not last forever, and it depicts the wonderful reward that is waiting for those who follow Christ. If we put our hope in Jesus, we will have absolutely nothing to fear.

While there are dark days ahead, we, as believers, have an eternal hope in knowing that our God has already claimed the victory and that we have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

If we are saved now, we have so many things to look forward to. The Rapture is coming (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10), and we can be confident that we will one day live with Christ forever, as long as we accept Him and live for Him now. So, until Jesus returns for us (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18), we must pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11-12). Let’s keep fighting the good fight, keep cheering one another on, and hold tightly to the eternal life that has been promised to us as believers. Through it all, He must become greater and greater, and we must become less and less (John 3:30).

Final Thoughts

The world tells us to “do what makes us happy,” to “love ourselves first,” and to live how we want to because “we only live once.” However, these are empty, selfish pleasures that the world wants us to pursue. The world wants us to believe that we can find happiness “within ourselves” and that the only way to achieve happiness is to think entirely about ourselves. These are all lies. I don’t want happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances, those which we sometimes can’t control. I want to choose joy. I want to be joyful in all circumstances of life. I want to pursue holiness instead of pursuing happiness. I want to love God first and love others second. I want to glorify God in all that I think, say, and do, and I want to be a light that shines God’s love and goodness for others to see through me.

While it’s true that we only have one life, we are living for a purpose. We are to stay Kingdom-minded because we are pursuing eternal life. We are to live for Christ, and not only that, but we are to spread the Good News to the world.

The only happiness “within ourselves” is from Jesus Christ living in our hearts.

We are only human. We are imperfect, incapable, unworthy human beings who are servants to the perfect, faithful, almighty God who calls us by name and who has redefined us as His precious children. Worthy. Accepted. Loved. I am the daughter of the King of the universe. And I was created to serve and worship Him – and so were you.

Emma Strickland