October 1, 2023

Our security as believers

One of the things that was fascinating to me when I was in school — most of my studies were theological in nature, but when you go to graduate school, especially when you're doing seminary work, you usually have a class or two on ethics. They’re Christian ethics, obviously, but because you're doing it and studying ethics, you look at all the other forms of ethics, the way people get to what are ethical decisions, and whatever. One of the things that I found fascinating was that it was unanimous that people who were believers and people who were not believers said that when you look at the Christian ethic, the way in which Christians should live — which, in many ways, you could go to the Sermon on the Mount, or you could watch how Jesus lived. He was humble. He put others before Himself. He told us to turn the other cheek. He told us to love enemies. Like, all of these things that we hold to be true which make Christianity sort of unique, they all agreed on one thing: You really couldn't be an adherent to the ethics of Christianity if you didn't believe there was something after this world. Because it didn't make any sense to be a Christian in the sense of loving people more than yourself, being humble, reaching out to others, embracing strangers, turning the other cheek, and loving enemies. In this world, just in this world, that's probably not the best way to get ahead.

So, what they concluded was that unless you really believed there was something on the other side of this life, it would be difficult to live fully as a Christian. What’s interesting — and this is why I want to speak on this, this weekend — is that when you see the way we take Christianity — and there's no snarkiness here. I’m not trying to give anybody a hard time. It’s taken me a lifetime, probably, to get to where I could preach a message like this. When you look at Christianity, many of us — and you can go all the way back to the New Testament times because it’s the same back then too. Paul would say, “Don’t live like a Corinthian. Don't let your culture and all the stuff form around who Jesus is. Be a Christian. Live it out. Do the thing.”

Or he’d write the church at Ephesus. For many of us, the temptation, always, is to go, “Yeah, okay. Those things that are like, ‘If I really did that, if I really live that way, I don’t know what that would look like for me,” — the temptation is to always push those down, and then elevate the things that we hold to be true, the things that are important to us, or the way we see the world, then put Jesus in the middle of that, and mine scripture to figure out the passages that support what it is that we believe so that it's maybe not as serious as what it would really look like to follow Jesus.

So, what I want to do this weekend is hit a blind spot that I think people need to hear. I want you to hear me here, as your pastor. I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time. I'm not trying to be snarky. I'm not trying to make anybody feel guilty or anything like that. I'm just trying to be faithful to scripture. It’s taken me 53 years to get to the place where I've processed through these things, looked at these things, and studied these things to get to the place where I can say, “No, this is really what the Word of God says. This is really what scripture is saying for you and me.”

It really is saying that we're supposed to be, as followers of Jesus, playing for what's to come, not here. That doesn't mean you can't have a decent life here. I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time for what you're wearing or any of that stuff, but I think when we look at our hearts, where are our hearts really at? So, what we're going to do is we're going to look at an epistle. It's got five chapters. I'm not going to be able to go through all five chapters, obviously, because many of you all would probably not want to stay here all evening with me to go through all of those. But I'm going to give you a survey of this book, then we're going to look at most of chapter five, and then we're going to do some take-homes at the end. As we go through this, all I ask is that you’d just be open. Just be open to saying, “Wow, that really is what scripture has to say. That really is what I'm reading.”

Then ask the Lord to help you process what that would look like in our lives because I believe, with all of my heart, if we fully lived the Jesus way, towns would be turned upside down. I believe that what God would do in our lives is far more than just the things of this world and getting ahead in this world. We would see things, miracles, and all kinds of stuff that would blow us away. I'm at the place in my life, at this point, where I just want to be authentic to what scripture says. I want to talk about Jesus, I want to lift Him up, and I want to try to see what we can do, as a congregation, to reach the people in Sarasota with Jesus, the Gospel, to see people's lives changed, for us to really live this thing out, and not tiptoe through the tulips but be all in for Jesus.

So, in saying that — well, I mean, I appreciate that. I wasn't preaching for an applause, but I'll take it. So, what we're going to do is look at an epistle that is 1 Peter. There are five chapters, and it was written by the Apostle Peter. There are just a couple of things I need to say before we get into the actual quick summary of the book, and then 1 Peter 5. The book was written probably in the early 60’s. During that time, Nero was the emperor. He was the leader. He was the king. Now, if you want to have some fun, go back — it wouldn't be fun, but if you want to go back and read about Nero, you will realize that no matter how bad you think the world is right now, you would not want to go back under Nero as a Christian. I can assure you of that.

So, it's written with that going on, the threats of persecution and persecution going on, and it was written by Peter. There’s one thing that you can see in this book in the way Peter has constructed it, and it’s that he vividly remembers an encounter he had with Jesus in Luke 22. Jesus says to Peter, “You’re going to deny me,” and he says, “No, I'm not. There's no way in the world I'll deny You. I'll do whatever it takes. There's no way I'm going to deny You. It's impossible.”

He says, “Peter, the adversary, Satan, the Devil, desires to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you. When you are restored, strengthen the brethren.”

Now, this man who was convinced that he would never fall, would never give in to persecution, would never give in to those things fell on his face, but he also remembers that something within him repented and turned. He remembered that it wasn't him who did it, but it was the efficacious prayer of Jesus of over him that kept him from completely falling away. He lived his whole life knowing that had Jesus not prayed for him — because it wasn't his prayer. He didn't pray. He went to sleep. It wasn't him that things great. He flunked. But what he realized when everything was said and done is that when Jesus says, “If you're one of my sheep, I'm going to keep you because you're one of my sheep,” — Peter knew by experience that when Jesus said, “You are mine, and I'm not letting you go,” it was true because he had lived it.

So, when he writes this to Christians who are going through struggle, you can see the weight that he carries from that experience of knowing that God has your back. That's why Paul says, in Romans 8, that Jesus makes intercession for you and I in heaven. He prays for you and I who are His children, because the ones He has, He doesn't lose. So, when we read this, I want you to hear the weight of what Peter's saying, but I also want you to hear that there's no way — it is impossible — that you can read this epistle, actually read what he's saying, and actually think that this is true unless there is something after this world. It draws us, it challenges us, and it really cuts to the deep core of what it means to be an authentic believer, and what it looks like to be a believer in the midst of difficulty, persecution, being beaten, or maybe even being killed. What does it look like? Peter writes right into that with the vivid experience that he knows what it's like to falter, but he also knows what it's like for the Lord to have prayed for him and to have kept him in the game. You can see it as we read this. So, let's look at this together. I really think you'll be challenged. I mean, this is one of those messages that I'm asking you to not just shut down and push away. This is the Word of God. This is awesome. This is what God is saying to us. Allow yourself just to listen. Don't put up walls. There are some passages in here that have words that people argue over, and theological things, but I'm not here to get into the weeds with you, to get you upset, or whatever. I'm just here to go, “Hey, this is what scripture says. Maybe there's a blind spot in some of our lives, and maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe, this might speak to us.”

So, let's get into it. Let's see how He starts this off.

He says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,”

He says, “I’m an apostle. I have authority. I have leadership in the Church.”

He says, [I’m writing] To those who are elect exiles…”

Two words that we probably don't use a whole lot. The first word has been an argument point throughout the history of Christianity. The second word is sort of foreign to us. Exile. What does that mean? What he's saying is, “I'm writing to God's chosen people who are not of this world. They're exiles, they're sojourners, they're pilgrims. You're just on your way through to your real city. You're on your way through to your reward. You’re God's people. You didn't make this on your own. You’re His. And because you're His, you matter.”

Listen to what he says: “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion…”

So, he's writing to numerous people. Not just one church, but to numerous people, the majority of them Gentile. He’s writing to them, saying, “Hey, listen. You are God's chosen people, and you are pilgrims, strangers, and exiles.”

Would you think — just be honest. Would you think of yourself is a foreigner in this world? Because scripture says that we should. This world is not our home. We're looking for another city whose builder and maker is God.

He says, “To [the people] of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”

He says, “You’re elect exiles,” and listen to what he says.

“…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…”

Just in case, just in case, just in case you think you have earned your place in God's chosen people, let me make it very clear that you're there because God knew it, He sanctified you with His Spirit so that you will be obedient to Jesus, and you have been sprinkled with His blood. Do you want to know where your salvation is at? It’s not on what we do, it's what God has done for you and I. Why is that important? Why is that important? Because these people are going through the ringer, they're probably doubting, and they're probably struggling. He says, “I want to make something really clear. Your Heavenly Father, you have no idea how much He loves you. You have no idea how much He’s got your back. You have no idea what He’s doing in your life. He sanctified you, He’s bringing you into obedience, and He’s sprinkled you with His blood.”

He says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

And then he comes in, picks it up, and lays it down as strong as it possibly could be.

He says, “Blessed be the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy,”

Not something you and I have done, but His great mercy.

“…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope…”

In other words, Christians, we have a hope that transcends what's going on in this world, and the hope that we have is based on the fact that Jesus actually rose from the dead, which means this world is not all that there is. He says, “You’ve got a living hope because Jesus rose from the dead to an inheritance for you who are going through difficulty. You have an inheritance that is imperishable. Oh, this world's perishable. If you put all your hope here, things perish. Things can get blown away. A hurricane could come and destroy your house. You can forget your bills and, all of a sudden, they're taking your car. We're not talking about here and now. We're talking about an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance — listen — that is kept in heaven for you. By who? By your Heavenly Father who foreknew you, who sanctified you by the Spirit, and has sprinkled Jesus' blood for you because you're His chosen people, pilgrims in this world.”

He says, “You have a living hope, and your inheritance is not going to go away. It’s kept for you because Jesus loves you.”

He says, “…who by God's power…” — His power — “…are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this…”

In what? That I'm God's chosen pilgrim according to the foreknowledge of the Father, sanctification of the Spirit to obedience to Jesus, by the sprinkling of His blood, and by the fact that I have an inheritance that's being kept for me in the heavens.

Peter says, “In this you rejoice,”

He's so focused on getting to Jesus that that's what matters. You know that Jesus is your Lord. He’s your Savior. He died for you. You just want to see Jesus. You just want to. He says, “This is all going to be there because you’re God's people, and you rejoice in this even though for a little while now,” — I love how the writers always do this. The stuff they're going through is brutal.

“Just a little while. It’s not that big of a deal. If you really understand eternity, if you really understand what God's doing, and if you really understand there's a heavenly city, there’s nothing in this world that should get you all riled up.”

He says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith…”

For Peter, the difficulties of this life for the Christian are part and parcel of the Christian life because what they show you is how as you go through those difficulties, God's hand is upon you as His children, and you get through them. Sometimes you don't even know how you got through them. Peter didn't know how he got through it. He just knew Jesus had prayed for him. He says, “The genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The he goes on to say things that are just like — there's just no way you could tell anybody to do these things if you don't believe that there's something on the other side. He says stuff like this in this epistle: “What credit is it if when you sin, you're beaten for it, and you endure?”

I mean, it’s great. It may show some of your strength or whatever. He says, “But when you're doing good, you suffer for it, and you endure…”

What do you mean endure? I'm not going to endure it. I'm going to fight against it. I'm going to tell everybody what I think.

He says, “No, no, no. We’re not playing for this world. That's the way the world would play, but you’ve got to play for this world. You’ve got to get what you can get here. We're not playing for that. We're playing for something else because something is on the other side.

He says, “If you do good and you suffer for it, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

You go, “There’s no way. I'm not signing up for that.”

That's okay. I'm just reading to you what scripture says, and I'm telling you that the only way you can read this and go, “Yeah,” is to believe that Jesus really got up from the grave, and because we're his children, we will too, and this world is not all that there is. Do you want to talk about an attitude change? What if we really lived every day going, “This isn't all there is. This is just a small, little bit. This is just a little while. I have no idea what's coming. I can't wait to see what's coming.”

Can you imagine the attitudes that we would have? Can you imagine the hope that we would have? Can you imagine what people would think about us? They would go, “Well, tell me what it is that you’ve got,” which is exactly what he says in 1 Peter 3. When they see us suffering the way we do, when they see the way that we live, they’re going to ask you, “Tell me about the hope that you have because you don't live like people that are of this world. You don't look like people that are of this world. You must believe there's something else.”

“Yes, I do. Yes, I do.”

Listen to what he says to the women. He wants them to dress in a certain way, modest and whatever, but he calls them daughters of Sarah. Look at what he says. This is crazy. He says, “You’re Sarah’s children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

You go, “That’s crazy. I fear everything. I watch TV every night. I don't even know what's going on in the world. I'm so scared with what's going.”

He's like, “No. there's something on the other side. You don't have to be worried about this world because this world's passing away and this isn't your home. You are an elect exile.”

He goes on to say stuff like this. Crazy stuff.

“Beloved, don't be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.”

What do Christians say?

“I can't believe what's going on. This is terrible. It’s horrible. Can’t you see what's going on?”

Don't be surprised. Calm down. It's going to come. It's going to be there. What you're going to see is that the Lord's hand is on you, and He’s got you because you're one of His. You ain't got nothing to fear because there’s something on the other side, and you're going to be there because God’s keeping it for you. As though something strange were happening.

“It’s crazy what's going on in our world. It’s the strangest thing I've ever seen.”

Listen. Listen. You’re going to clap now but wait until I read the next one. What he says after this is, “But rejoice.”

What? Rejoice? Nero? In fact, in this epistle, he says, “Honor the emperor,” in 1 Peter 2.

“That’s crazy, Chip.”

Yeah, it is if this is all that there is. It’s not crazy if there's something on the other side because we're playing for the other side. We’re not playing for the here.

He says, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

Suffering and glory, suffering and glory all through. Then he sums it up here in 1 Peter 4:19.

He goes, “Therefore…”

“Based on everything I've told you so far in 1 Peter 1-4…”

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while…”

Complaining? While getting on social media and telling everybody how bad it is? No. He says, “Go out and do good.”

“That's crazy. How could you do good?”

Because you're not playing for this world. You don’t store up treasures here. It's not, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

He says, “Do good. Rejoice. You really believe there's something on the other side, right? Because if you don't, then I understand why you wouldn't. But you believe that, right? I know. I know what it's like to falter, but I know what it's like to be picked up by the fact that Jesus prayed for me, and I want to encourage you to do good.”

What does he mean by doing good? He tells us in 1 Peter 3. He says, “Finally…”

In the persecution of Nero, when all is going bad, when everything's going bad, here's what he says. Here's what you look like.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind,”

Well, that's not what you see right now in the American church.

“…sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil...”

“What do you mean? You’ve got to get these people back. We’ve got to win.”

He says, “No, no. Don’t do that. Actually, what you need to do is you need to bless them.”

You go, “Bless them? There's no way I'm blessing these people that are doing this.”

“No. Bless them.”

Why? Because you're not playing for this world. You're playing for the world to come. You're a citizen of that world, for the God of the universe doesn't hold onto His power, but He comes, takes on the form of a man, and He washes feet. He says, “Bless, for you were called that you may obtain a blessing.”

Now, let's look here at the last chapter.

He says, in 1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

And then we roll into 1 Peter 5.

He says, “So I exhort the elders…”

People like me in leadership, people who teach and all this stuff. Pastors and elders.

“…as a fellow elder…”

He was an apostle in 1 Peter 1:1. He's an elder now because he understands that you just give that stuff up. You get right down in the middle of all of it, and you're just here to serve.

He says, “…as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed…”

He says, “Here’s what I want you to do because I know, for people who are in leadership, when it gets really tough, you need to start thinking, ‘What do I need to do to protect myself? What do I need to do to protect my family?’”

He goes, “No, no, no. That's not what you do.”

What you do is: “…shepherd the flock of God that is among you,”

That’s what you're called to do. You train them. You equip them. You correct them. You do what you need to do.

“…exercising oversight, [but don’t do it] under compulsion,”

“Don't do it like, ‘Well, I guess I’ve got to do it. I mean, I don't really want to do it. I want to run right now, I want to take care of myself, and take care of this.”

He goes, “No, no, no. I don't want you doing it just to show up. I want you to do it not under compulsion, but I want you to do it willingly, as God would have you to do it.

[Don’t do it] for shameful gain,”

Don't do it so you can get all that there is in this world. Don't do it for money, stuff, and things. He says, “Don’t do it for that. Do it eagerly. Do whatever you’ve got to do to do what God's called you to do.”

[Don’t] domineer over those in your charge, but [be] examples...”

Be a servant. Wash feet. You go, “How in the world, in the middle of persecution, could somebody who's running a church not want to think about how that applies to them?”

“Why should I just be giving, giving, giving, and whatever?”

He tells you why.

He says, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Because we're not playing for this world, elders. We’re playing for the world to come.

He says, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.”

That doesn't mean do anything that a pastor or leader tells you to do. That doesn't mean to just follow anything. It just means that there needs to be humility in the church. There need to be people who are humble, who want to serve, who don't just want it their way.

Then he says to everybody, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility...”

Is that the clothing that you would think, when we come in together, that the clothes we're supposed to have are humble clothes? How are you going to get ahead in life if you're humble? How are you going to get ahead in life if you put yourself second? He says, “These are the clothes that the Christians wear.”

“…for ‘God opposes the proud…’”

Did you hear that? He opposes the proud.

“‘…but gives grace to the humble.’”

He says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…”

“Do you know what? Those of you all who didn't have a whole lot in this world, those of you all who didn't have a name in this world, those who are on the margins of society in this world, oh, no, when the new world comes, you're going to be reigning. You're going to be incredible. You're going to be known by God. Humble yourselves now because in the world to come, it's going to be glorious. Cast all your anxieties on Him. He cares for you. I can tell you because I was at rock bottom, and He prayed for me. You can go to Him. He cares for you.”

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. You adversary the devil prowls around roaring…”

Roaring out, “We're coming to get you.” Roaring out, “Look at what's going on in the world.”

He wants you to fear. He wants you to be worried. He doesn't want you living in hope. He doesn't want you showing the living hope that you have. He wants you worried. He says, “Don’t give in to this.”

“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering…”

He's going to breathe out suffering. He's going to tell you how bad it's going to get. He's going to try to get you fearful. He says, “This is going on. Everybody is going to experience this throughout the world.”

But he says, “And after you have suffered a little while,”

It's not forever because this world is not all that there is. There's something coming.

He goes, “…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory with Christ,” — listen to this — “will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Peter goes, “I know He will. He did it to me. I failed, and He was there for me. He told me in advance that He had prayed for me, and I'm telling you, as the elect exiles who are going to hear all the things of fear and all the stuff, don't panic because your Heavenly Father has got an inheritance for you that He’s keeping for you, and it's not going to go away because you are one of His children.”

He says, “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

That's such an encouraging word. It's deep. It’s profound. But I think it calls us to just allow God to examine us. I’ve got four quick things that I'm going to go through very quickly. They deserve sermons on their own, but I just want to ask you, this week, to maybe just think about this, and think about some things that I think are some blind spots that we could look at. How about a blind spot when it comes to understanding the biblical teaching on suffering for Christians? We think that somehow we should be exempt, that somehow this should never happen, that some strange thing is coming upon us. What scripture teaches us is that the sufferings always lead to glory for the believer. That's how you get through it. You go, “Okay, I'm going through whatever, but I know what's on the other side of this.”

What's on the other side of this is glory. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus exemplifies that. It may look really bad on Friday, but let me tell you, Sunday is coming. Maybe that's an area that we could think about. Or how about a blind spot in not recognizing that God opposes the proud? Man, we could use a dose of that. Clothe yourselves with humility. God opposes the proud. The Christian uniform is humility. We serve. We put others ahead.

“You can't do that in this world now.”

You can't. You're right. You can't unless there's something after this world, and I'm here to tell you, as your pastor, there is. There is a heavenly city. There is a day where every tear gets wiped away. There is a day where every fear goes away. There is a day where every sickness and disease goes away. And there is a day where we will see Jesus face to face, and that day is more real than the world you live in right now.

How about a blind spot concerning fear? Look, I'm not here to give anybody a hard time. I understand that there are fears. I get it. I'm not here to make you feel bad or put you under guilt. I'm just here to say to you that at the end of the day, if you know at the end of the book that you win, and that’s the thing, that should help alleviate some of the struggles that we go through. And don't allow the enemy to roar. What are you supposed to do when he roars, grabs you, and starts gnawing at you. What do you do? You rejoice. You rejoice. You say, “Do you know what? This is only temporary. It's not going to be here forever. I'm going to be, one day, with Jesus,” but you’ve got to know that you know that you know that you believe that.

Lastly, I think there's a blind spot in understanding our security as believers. I think we're so worried about the hamster wheel, all the things that we have to do, and we've been beaten up with all kinds of legalism, beaten up with all kinds of stuff. I'm not here to say — do not hear me saying that I don't think ethics and morals are important to Christians. Don't hear me say that I don't think we should be sanctified. Don't hear me say that I don't think we should live holy lives in this world because we should, but I'm telling you right now that it's not our performance that gets us into heaven. It's what Jesus did. It's His performance that gets us into heaven. If it's based on me, I'm not going. I'm not going. That's why he says, “Your inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It's kept in heaven for you.”

That's why he says, “…who by God's power are being guarded.”

And that’s why he says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

How exciting is it, as believers, to realize that our Heavenly Father has us from the front, the beginning, even when we fail, even when we make mistakes, and He says, “I’ve got you? I've prayed for you. You're going to get there because I'm going to restore you, I'm going to confirm you, I'm going to strengthen you because your inheritance is being kept by me, not by you.”

That should well up within us to where we say, “I want to go do it Jesus' way. I want to live this Jesus' way. I want to live my life not for the here and now.”

Again, don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that you can't go to the beach and have a good time. I'm not saying you can't go have a nice dinner at a restaurant. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that we should be playing for something more than just here and now. We should be playing for eternity because, as Christians, that's where we're headed.

We're going to sing a final song, and you can get out of here. Even if it's a little late, it's okay. It's probably raining outside, so you’re not going to be able to get to your cars anyway. So, don't worry about it. It’s okay. If you’re a little late, you're going to be okay. GrubHub something on the way. It’s okay. Just do whatever you’ve got to do. Here's what we're going to do. We’re going to sing a song, and when we sing this song, I want you to really listen to the lyrics of these songs. I'm the one who gave it to the band. I gave it to them a while back, and we did it one time. So, let's do it again. I want you to listen. I want you to sing this. I want you to hear your faith. I want you to hear what God has called you and I to do. Listen, probably none of us in this lifetime are going to get everything perfectly, but if we could just get a glimpse of what it really looks like to know who our Heavenly Father is, and what's coming, I believe we would live different lives here, and I believe we would have a lot more peace, a lot more joy, and a lot more excitement because it wouldn't be based on circumstances, but it would be based on the God who loved you and I, sent His Son to die on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven, and rose on the third day so that we could experience resurrection and know that as He rose, so one day will you and I.

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