Several years ago our son, Judd ran in the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.  Before entering the race he spent many grueling hours training for it.  It was a thrill for my wife to see him running in that race and making it to the finish line. 
  A Rat Race.  Life has been likened to a race, a rat race.  Each one scrambles and crawls over others as he tries to get ahead of the next guy to get the cheese.  Some die along the way and never get any of the cheese.  Is that how you feel?
  Recognition.  While our son didn’t win that race, he did finish it.  To me, that was quite an accomplishment.  It’s hard for me to imagine that people can run 26 miles.
  Roles In Life.  Most of us have had several jobs.  Perhaps you served in the military for a few years.  Some have been professional athletes.  Others have been managers of other people.
  Obituary. At funerals an obituary or eulogy is usually read.  It reviews the accomplishments of the deceased and evokes memories among the attendees at the memorial service.
  Last Words.  As the Apostle Paul sat in prison in Rome, he wrote a letter to his former traveling companion and fellow missionary, Timothy.  He was serving God as the Pastor in Ephesus.  Encouragement was in order, especially because of the intense persecution of Christians at that time. 
  Testimonial.  Using his own life as an example, Paul rehearsed for Timothy some of the things he’d done as a Christian.  He went into greater details for the Christians in the church at Corinth since some of them were questioning his credentials as an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:21-28).
  Soldier.  The Christian life involves military service for every Christian.  When the devil or a demon targets our minds to control our behavior, the Christian must submit himself to God, put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17), and then resist the devil in the power of God (James 4:7).  Too many Christians get defeated by demons because they rely on themselves rather than on God.
  Athlete.  Some athletes in other sports spend many hours training for an event that may last for a few moments.  Gold, silver, and bronze medals are given to the winners in the Olympic games.  But thankfully the others are not taken out and punished.
  Steward.  Most of us have never lived in a home with a steward.  His job was to manage the owner’s/master’s house and everyone in it.  He was to ensure that the members of the household received what they needed in life.  Perhaps you recall the story of Joseph in the Bible who served under Potiphar (Genesis 39:6).
  Been There. Done That.  The Apostle Paul had served God as a soldier, an athlete, and as the steward (household manager) of the “Dispensation of Grace” (Ephesians 3:2).  God used him to dispense to New Testament Christians our rules for living.  Paul wrote letters to local churches and to individuals to teach them how to live as Christians.  Other men whom God used included Peter, John, James, and Jude. They supplemented Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16).
  A Clarification.  Dispensations are not different ways of salvation.  They are the result of a normal, literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the Bible.  Three of the seven major dispensations are the Mosaic Law, Grace, and Kingdom. Failing to live according to the rules designed for you as a Christian can lead to confusion and a waste of your time along with a loss of rewards and praise from God.  (Our “Dispensational Chart” can help clarify this information for you.  It’s free.)
  No Fear.  As he waited in prison for his execution, Paul expressed no fear of death.  It would serve as a door that opened up to a much better life (Philippians 1:23).  Too many people hang on to their earthly life and spend their children’s inheritance because of their fear of death and what might be on the other side.  Do you have that kind of dread in your life? It’s totally unnecessary and debilitating.
  Viewpoint.  One Bible commentator wrote, “Paul did not think of himself as going to be executed; he thought of himself as going to offer his life to God.  His life was not being taken from him; he was laying it down.  Ever since his conversion Paul had offered to God his money, his scholarship, his strength, his time, the vigor of his body, the acuteness of his mind, the devotion of his passionate heart.  Only life itself was left to offer, and gladly Paul was going to lay his life down.”  William Barclay
  Looking Ahead.  On the other side of death lies eternity.  It will be spent either with God and other believers in fullness of joy or it will be spent in the Lake of Fire with the devil, demons, and all unbelievers in torment (John 14:1-3; Revelation 21, 22; Matthew 25:30, 41, 46; Revelation 20:11-15).  
  Ticket.  To get into heaven you need a “ticket.”  You and I don’t have enough money or good works to pay for it.  So we must rely on the wealth and good works of someone else to purchase the “ticket” for us.  That person is Jesus Christ.  As the virgin born, sinless God-man, He purchased a “ticket” for you and me with His own life’s blood.  This means that providing salvation for us wasn’t cheap.
  Wait.  Even though Jesus Christ bought a “ticket” for us so we could get to heaven, it won’t do us any good unless we come humbly to Him and reach out and receive it from Him by faith (John 1:12).  Pride keeps many people from accepting the “ticket.”  They want to contribute to their salvation. Is that your problem?
  Impossible.  By your trying to pay or work for your “ticket” to heaven you insult God.  He wants to give you and me a “ticket” with no strings attached.  Salvation (deliverance from hell to heaven) is a gift.  Will you accept it?  If you don’t, you are the one who will suffer in hell forever.  
  Don’t Blame God.  Even the people in the darkest corners of the world can receive this “ticket” from God.  First they must accept natural revelation.  Nature tells them that there is a God who is all powerful (Romans 1:20).  Then if they will ask God for further information He will see to it that they receive the Good News concerning the Lord Jesus Christ so they can believe on Him to be saved (Romans 10:13-15).  
  Atheists?  In my opinion, it takes too much faith to be an atheist.  He should say, “I’m an agnostic.  I don’t know if there is a God or not.”  I believe honest people will acknowledge that there is a God.  But since many of them don’t want to be accountable to Him, they try to dismiss Him from their thinking.  Beware!  God gives such people up to their vile passions that will lead them to their destruction (Romans 1:18-32).
  Methods.  God can use missionaries, the printed page, or the airwaves to get the Gospel to those who want to learn more about Him.  They need to hear the Gospel message and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ who died for their sins…and who rose again bodily from the dead if they are to be saved.  Their is no other person and no other way to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
  Not Enough.  It’s not enough to know the facts of the Gospel and agree with them.  You must transfer your trust from yourself and your good works to Christ alone if you are to be saved.
  Meet The Judge.  Judges have power over people’s lives.  Paul had encountered many unjust judges along life’s path.  Have you been an unjust judge?  God will hold you accountable to Him someday (Romans 14:12).  Paul was looking forward to meeting the righteous Judge Jesus Christ.
  Rewards And Crowns.  Even though the Christians already in heaven have to wait for the “Awards Ceremony” that will take place at the “Rapture” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10),  Paul knew that just being with Christ in heaven with other believers would be far better than having to live here on earth in this “vale of tears” (Philippians 1:23).  He knew that he would receive the crown of righteousness for loving Christ’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).  
  Anticipation.  Do you live each day in the light of Jesus Christ’s imminent return (John 14:1-3)?  If you are a Christian, it can revolutionize your life.  It can make you a happy person (Titus 2:13).  It can help keep you pure in a polluted world (1 John 3:3), and it can comfort you when a fellow Christian is taken from you to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:18).  If you are not a Christian it will affect you in a negative way whether you realize it or not.
  Choice, Not Chance.  You and I are given a choice.  We can accept or reject the “ticket” and God’s offer of deliverance from hell to heaven.  Those who receive Him as their personal Savior by faith can have assurance of salvation even before they die (1 John 5:13).  Do you have it?
  Help?  If you are still confused and unsure of your eternal destiny, we invite you to contact us at 805-238-3549 or visit our web page at where you will find other information to help you know God and/or grow in the sphere of grace.  We try to add new articles to our web log (Blogs) weekly that correspond to our Sunday messages.

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