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Articles for Faith

Providing Answers and Reasons for Faith




Christ Died For Us

     Why did Christ die? A simple question, yes, but the answer is most profound.
     We might answer, as a Christian, "Christ died for me." But exactly what does this mean? Did He die merely to appease God's wrath against us? Did He die only as an example for us? What does the Atonement really mean? The understanding of this basic scriptural truth eludes many, but it is vital to the soul's redemption and to our spiritual growth.
     To understand this doctrine we must go back to the Old Testament and its sacrificial offerings. The blood of animals, in itself, was never efficacious to cleanse from sin (Heb. 10:4). Rather, the blood symbolized the element of life offered for the life of the sinner. God always intended that the entire system of sacrificial offerings be of expiatory significance (Job 1:5; 42:3, 9; Lev. 17:2-11). The alienation of man from God through human sin made necessary a reconciliation, and the form of that reconciliation was ordained to be a cross -- on which the ultimate sacrifice would be made.
      The Jewish sacrificial system with its "covering" offerings (the Hebrew word for atonement, kaphir, means "covering") made possible man's approach to the presence of a holy God. The sprinkling of blood upon the mercy seat in the tabernacle (Lev. 16:15-16) and the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb (Exod. 12:7) underscored the importance of substitutionary sacrifice under the Old Covenant made between Jehovah and Israel. In the New Testament, particularly in the Book of Hebrews, the significance of such sacrifices is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is pictured as both officiating Priest and atoning Sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-15; 10:10-12).
      The word "vicarious" comes from the Latin vicar, which literally means "in place of" or "a substitute." Isaiah 53 is a classic passage on the doctrine of the vicarious atonement: "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (vss. 4-6).
      Isaiah repeatedly stresses the vicarious aspects of the messianic offering when he states, "For the transgression of my people he was stricken...he will bear their iniquities...he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:8, 11, 12). Certainly, the vicarious atonement of the Messiah of Israel forms one of the great pillars upon which rests the entire structure of the Christian religion. The Old Testament points like a massive arrow to the consummation of all sacrifices, an event of immeasurable importance and worth.
     In the New Testament, John the Baptist declares, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). And our Savior Himself declares His flesh and blood to be the sin offering for the whole world (John 6:51). When coupled with Paul's declaration that the church of God was "bought with his own blood" (Acts 20:28), such statements give an incontrovertible answer to the question, "Why did Jesus die?"
     A key Greek word pertinent to understanding the concept of substitutionary atonement -- the idea that Christ died in our place -- is the word anti. In speaking of His substitutionary sacrifice, Christ declared, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for [anti] many" (Matt. 20:28). At the Last Supper, during which Christ emphasized the vicarious nature of Calvary, He said, "This is my body given for [anti] you" (Luke 22:19).
     Another key Greek word is huper. In contexts dealing with the substitutionary atonement, this word means "in place of." We find this word used in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for [huperemon] us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We likewise read in 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for [huper] the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
     What Christ has done for us is wonderful indeed! Let us resolve to draw closer to Him who loves us and loosed us from our sins through His own blood -- "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) -- Jesus of Nazareth, "the Son of the Highest" (Luke 1:32).


Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------




The Coming King

     As far back as the Book of Genesis, when man first fell into sin, God had provided a Redeemer. Scripture says in Genesis 3 that the "seed of the woman" would crush the serpent's head.
     Now, we know that the serpent symbolized Satan (see Rev. 12:9). And we know that the "seed of the woman" is a reference to the coming Messiah. This Messiah was to come through the royal line of David (2 Sam. 7:14-16). In direct fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus was indeed born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) from the line of David (Matt. 1:1; 2:1).
     Now, the early Jewish theologians in the time of our Lord had a great deal of difficulty in understanding Jesus' messianic office. The reason for this is that they were schooled to believe that the Messiah would come in the clouds of heaven to crush the earthly governments under His feet and establish Israel as the ruling nation of the world. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus came, presenting Himself as the Savior and as the sacrifice for sin, they could not accept Him.
     We must clearly understand that Christ's role in Scripture is twofold. He is both the suffering servant and He is the coming King. In Isaiah 53 we have recorded for us a prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus Christ in His first advent:
         He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:3-6).
      Clearly, then, Christ came the first time to suffer humiliation -- despised and rejected among men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But Christ is coming a second time as King. He who bore the sorrows of the world and who cried out in agony on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," will one day come again in great glory and majesty.
     In his great portrayal in the Book of Revelation, John the Apostle reminds us of this second aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming in terms of great, glowing beauty:
         I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron sceptre." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev. 19:11-16).
      The Scriptures point out -- in terms which few can fail to understand -- that time does have an end; that God will intervene in the world of men; that God has a destiny for those who are willing to trust and believe in Him; and that the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of humanity will judge the world and sift the sons of men.
     For believers there is a glorious destiny ahead. Scripture portrays it this way: "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it" (Rev. 21:22-24).
     Oh what a wonderful testimony this is to the sovereignty of the God of all creation, who alone can say, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son" (Rev. 21:6-7).
     Let us with confidence exult in what God will do for believers in the eternal state: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true'" (Rev. 21:4-5).
     Let us with great confidence "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
     Let us place our faith and our trust in Him, who alone could say: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
     And let us peer through the darkness of the future in the searchlight of God's Word, knowing certainly that "one day, one golden daybreak, Jesus will come; One golden daybreak, battles all won. He will shout the victory, He will break through the blue; One golden daybreak, for me and for you."


A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------





The Doctrine of the Trinity

     The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that within the unity of the one Godhead there are three separate persons who are coequal in power, nature, and eternity. This doctrine is derived from the clear teaching of Scripture, and is not a man-made doctrine as some (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses) have claimed. Let us briefly examine some of the New Testament evidences for this important doctrine.
     1. The Incarnation. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as described in the accounts in Matthew and Luke show that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a later invention of theologians. Luke records what an angel said to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
     Since other passages of Scripture reveal that the term "Most High" refers to God the Father, we have in Luke a concrete instance of the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son all being mentioned together in the supernatural event of the Incarnation.
     2. The Baptism of Our Lord. When Jesus Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit "descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22). In these verses we see the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending upon Him, and the Father bearing testimony.
     3. Discourses of Christ. In John 14--16 Christ speaks of the persons of the Trinity in His Upper Room Discourse. Jesus declared to the disciples, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). Our Lord here prays to the Father for the Spirit, and His emphasis on triunity is quite apparent. In John 14:26 and 15:26 Christ uses the same formula, mentioning the three persons of the Deity and indicating their unity, not only of purpose and will but of basic nature.
     4. Paul's Letters. The apostle Paul definitely taught the triune nature of God. He wrote: "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14). It would have been difficult for Paul to give this benediction if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not equal persons within the Godhead.
     5. The Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 the Lord Jesus commissions the disciples to go out and preach the gospel and to make disciples of all nations. He commands them also to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Taken with the other passages bearing on the subject, this becomes an extremely powerful argument for the Christian doctrine of the trinity.
     6. Creation. Although the Bible does not explain to us how the three persons are the one God, it tells us most emphatically that the Spirit of God created the world (Gen. 1:2), the Father created the world (Heb. 1:2), and the Son created the world (Col. 1:16). If you check the creation references in the New Testament, you will see that these particular references are bolstered by several others teaching the same things.
     The apostle Paul declared in Acts 17:24, "the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." This forces us to an irresistible conclusion. As creation has been attributed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit singly and collectively, they are the one God. There cannot be three gods. The Scripture declares: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22). Hence there is unity in trinity and trinity in unity.
     7. The Resurrection of Christ. A final instance of Trinitarian emphasis is that of the resurrection of our Lord. In John 2 Christ declared to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (v. 19). John hastens to tell us that Jesus was speaking of the resurrection of His earthly body (v. 21). Other Scriptures, however, state that Christ was raised by the agency of the Holy Spirit (e.g., Rom. 8:11). And Peter explicitly states that the Father raised the Son (Acts 3:26). So, again, God's Word affirms the triune nature of God. We may not fully understand the great truth of the Trinity. However, we can see the rays of light which emanate from God's Word and which teach us that, in a mysterious sense beyond the comprehension of man's finite mind, God is one in nature but three in person.


Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------




Does God Always Heal?

     First Peter 2:24 says of Christ, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
     One of the primary rules of biblical interpretation which must never be violated is context. What is the context in 1 Peter 2? Answer: salvation. There is no way to interpret it in any other sense. The verse is talking about Jesus on the cross dying for us, enduring punishment and bearing our sins, thereby providing salvation for us.
     When certain people get hold of this passage, however, they change the context from salvation to physical healing. Every time such people see the word "heal" in the Bible they assume it refers to the miracle of divine healing for the physical body, regardless of whether the context indicates otherwise.
     A number of times in Scripture the word healing has specific reference to spiritual healing. There are diseases of the soul that have to be healed -- and the primary disease of the soul is man's unregenerate state, which is rooted in sin. The good news is that God has provided healing for this disease of the soul. And that is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 2:24. He is not saying that physical healing of the body is guaranteed to every believer.
     Certainly, healing for the body is a benefit of Christ's death on the cross, a benefit for the church as a result of His atoning sacrifice. However, it is not -- it has never been in the history of the church -- a guarantee that God has to heal your body; He doesn't have to!
     God does say He will graciously entertain our prayers. He says that if we exercise faith, and if our request is in accordance with His will, He will hear us. But He never said that the mark of true spirituality is that you would never sneeze.
     Some within the church will try to tell you, "God's perfect will is that you are never going to be sick." Well, I'll tell you something: there are certain lessons -- if you are honest -- that you'll admit you never would have learned unless the Lord flattened you out long enough to get your attention. Sometimes God teaches us things through our suffering.
     Moreover, I must say that sometimes a person, after praying for a healing, may receive a no from God -- a benevolent no, a kindly no, a protective no maybe, but no nevertheless. Tragically, however, there are teachers -- in the Faith movement, for example -- who have the colossal gall to tell people that if they were more spiritual, if they had more faith, if they believed like they believed, they would be well. Such faulty teaching can crush whatever faith these poor people have.
     Now, I believe you should go to the Lord and believe Him for healing, and trust Him for healing, and pursue Him for healing. And I believe you should search your soul to make certain there is nothing in your life standing in the way of healing. But you must come to Him and lay yourself out on His conditions. The Scripture says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). If perhaps God intends to teach you something through an illness, He might not heal you immediately.
     So don't think you are being neglected by the Holy Spirit if you don't get healed. Don't assume that the Lord is against you. Don't conclude that you necessarily have an absence of faith or secret sin.
     Take a good look at 1 Peter 2:21: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." Circle the word example in this verse. Here we are told that Jesus suffered. And He left us an example. We are to follow in His steps.
     And what is the meaning of Philippians 3:10, which refers to "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings"? Let us be clear on this: suffering is an integral part of the fact of life, and is often used by God in the development and maturation of the Christian.
     The apostle Paul had a greater standing with the Lord in terms of his ministry than I have or anybody else has ever had. According to 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul requested healing from the Lord three times. And three times he got an answer back: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Translation: God said no to Paul's request for healing. And God had a purpose in saying no.
    Did Paul have lack of faith? Rubbish! Was Paul suffering from some secret sin that he was carrying around? Do you see how utterly absurd this is? Do you see how it plays on people's emotions and lives? Do you see how it undermines faith in the absolute authority of Scripture and transfers it to a human being whose experience becomes the criteria?
     This type of teaching eats like a cancer in the body of Christ and it must be resisted and opposed at every opportunity so that Christians will not have a cloud hanging over their heads all the time. Instead, they will realize that Jesus really does love them (despite their illness) and that any healing that may come is in His sovereign hands, not ours.


A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------





The Do's and Don'ts of Witnessing to Cultists

      There are both do's and don'ts when it comes to witnessing to cultists. Following are a few that I've learned over the years.
     The first do is, do identify with the cultist. Convince him (or her) that you consider him to be a person in his own right -- worthwhile, basically honest, and not trying to put something over on you. Cultists are people before they're cultists. They have families, they have children, they have needs, they have frustrations and fears, and they are brothers and sisters in Adam, though not in Christ.
     In Acts 17 we are told that all people are God's offspring. This means that in Adam, all of us share a common heritage. So let's talk to cultists from the family-of-Adam perspective, prayerfully hoping to bring them to the family-of-God perspective.
     Second, do labor persistently with cultists. Never give up unless the cultist decisively refuses further contact. Until they pull the plug, we need to hang in there -- remembering that the Lord blesses His Word. The Scripture says, "My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:11).
     Third, do exhaust every effort to answer the questions of cultists. After we communicate the Gospel to someone, it's important for us to be prepared to give them reasons why we believe in it. The apostles were apologists as well as evangelists. They not only proclaimed Christ, but when they were questioned, they had good, solid reasons for their faith. That's why Peter said, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pet. 3:15).
     Fourth, do allow the cultist to save face. When you're witnessing to a cultist and you've won the argument, you have an opportunity to present the Gospel to him in a very loving manner or you can come on so strong that the person will end up fighting you even though he knows in his soul that he's wrong. When you sense that the person -- a Jehovah's Witness, for example -- has lost the argument and is deflated, that's the time to be magnanimous and say to the person, lovingly: "I realize that we can get awfully uptight in these areas if we let ourselves. Let's just forget that you're a Jehovah's Witness and I'm a Baptist (or whatever you are). And let's just think of ourselves as two people who want more than anything else to know the whole truth and the whole counsel of God. Right?" I haven't met a cultist yet who wouldn't say "Right" in response. Then you can say: "You know, it isn't your fault." That is an important point to make. Because the real fault lies with the organization that's deceived the person, not with the person who's been deceived. The person you're speaking with may have bought the deception, but the Watchtower deceived him. Fix the guilt upon the organization. Then, as you continue sharing the Gospel, you may find that the person is a lot more open.
     Now, there are also a few don'ts I want to mention. First, don't approach a cultist with a spiritual chip on your shoulder. A spiritual chip is the communication of the feeling that you are looking down on the cultist because you have something he or she doesn't have. Such an attitude will turn them off as fast as anything you could imagine.
     Second, don't attack directly the founder of any particular cult. When I lecture on Mormonism, I do not attack Joseph Smith as a person. When I lecture on Christian Science, I do not attack Mary Baker Eddy. I criticize the theology they taught. Remember, if you deal in personalities, people become instantaneously defensive.
     Third, don't lose your patience, regardless of how dense a cultist may be. Remember how dense you and I were -- until the Lord managed to break through. Because cultists are bound in the chains of slavery to sin, you need to be patient. And being patient means being willing to go over something ten times if necessary, believing that the Lord will bless your efforts.
     In closing, let me say that after all is said and done, the way we most effectively communicate with cultists is through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Remember, it is He who touches their souls; it is He who convinces them of sin and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). And we become in His hands the vessels which by grace have become fit for the Master's use.


A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------





Insights on Spiritual Warfare

     Christians need to recognize the reality of spiritual conflict and warfare. We are born in conflict -- against the world, against our carnal natures, and against the Devil. And if you do not know the nature of your enemy -- if you do not know who your foes are -- you can't fight. It's only when you realize what you're up against that you can be victorious.
     The Bible says we must stand against such foes as Christian soldiers (2 Tim. 2:4). When God calls you into the church of Jesus Christ, you have enlisted in the army of God. You can truthfully sing, "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war," because you are at war.
     The moment you enlist in the army of God, you personally become a target. You need to remember that if you're living for and walking with Jesus Christ, the powers of darkness are aligned against you. You are on Satan's hit list! The following four principles will help you be victorious in spiritual warfare as a Christian soldier.
     Learn to Endure Hardship. 2 Timothy 2:3 tells us: "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." If you want to be a soldier, you need to get in shape. You can't go out and fight hand-to-hand combat when you're loaded with flab. If you're sitting on your surpluses, the enemy is going to have you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You need to strengthen your spiritual muscles and gear up your spiritual reflexes. You need to be able to respond. If you can't respond in physical combat, you die. It's as simple as that. Likewise, you must learn to respond in spiritual combat, or you become spiritually wounded.
     A key to strengthening spiritual muscles and enduring hardship is finding strength in the Word of God. Never forget this: ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of the Lord Jesus Christ. And ignorance of Christ is ignorance of your own defense. You can't defend yourself unless you are walking in the light with Him.
     Be Self-Controlled and Alert. You must learn to "be self-controlled and alert" for "your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). There's no such thing as a sleepy, successful soldier. Sleepy soldiers -- soldiers who are not alert -- have one thing in common. They're all dead. God says if you want to succeed in spiritual war, you must be self-controlled and alert. Only then will you be able to spiritually discern and resist the enemy's subtle attacks.
     Maintain Faith in Christ. Faith is absolutely critical to victory in spiritual conflict. Scripture tells us: "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5). Our faith is in Jesus Christ -- the divine Conqueror -- who admonishes His followers: "Take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
     Christ imparts the capacity of conquest to our lives every single day that we are willing to believe Him. You need to get up in the morning and say, "Lord Jesus, I believe you have conquered the world. Conquer today through me. I believe in you. Give me victory. Take away my doubts. Give to me the measure of faith that is necessary for me to survive today."
     Put On Spiritual Armor. Ephesians 6:11 tells us: "Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Are you catching this? You can stand against Satan. You can be victorious.
     Ephesians 6:10-20 speaks of the various pieces of spiritual armor God has provided us. Nobody goes out to war in their underwear. You go out with 30 or 40 pounds of equipment.
     There are Christians running around today in their spiritual underwear, trying to conduct spiritual warfare against our powerful enemy. And they don't understand why the flaming arrows of the wicked one are sticking out of their spiritual derrieres.
     You must put on the whole armor of God -- the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness to preach the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:10-20). These are God's gifts for spiritual conquest.
     Note that every piece of armor in Ephesians 6 is for the front of the body. There isn't a single piece for your rear end. Do you know why? Because soldiers do not turn around in the middle of combat, they go forward. And the reason some Christians become ineffective and weak and drained is that in the midst of conflict and combat, they fail to believe in Jesus Christ and they turn around and run away. And the flaming arrows of the wicked one have lodged in their spiritual rumps.
     There is only one way to get your strength back: get down on your knees and confess your sins, ask Jesus Christ to pull out the arrows, and then apply what we've learned: endure hardship as a soldier of Christ, be self-controlled and alert, maintain faith in Christ, and put on the armor of God. God will give you the victory. You can count on it!


A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------



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