The True Marks of a Christian

This passage is like an old fashioned laundry list. Maybe you don’t know where that idea comes from. We say sometimes as husbands that we have a laundry list from my wife. That means he has a whole lot of things to do. An old fashioned laundry list: a fellow would come by and check off 3 socks, 5 handkerchiefs were a nickel a piece and 2 shirts and some socks; those things make up a laundry list. Verses 9-21 actually become a laundry list, if you will, of what a Christian is supposed to look like, what a Christian is supposed to think and act like in this world. I want to read it like that. I want to kind of modify the text just a little bit to make it a bit more personal.

Romans 12:9-21
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good..

We need to make sure our love is genuine. We need real love in the body of Christ. So we are going to consciously move away from that which is evil and make sure as much as within us we are cleaving to good things. We love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not lazy in business. We are not lazy workers. Prayer is a part of a Christian’s life. This is our laundry list. This is someone who has been changed by the power of the gospel.

Before we get into 12 I want to give us some pre-12 marks of a true Christian. Let me just share my pastor’s heart with you for just a minute. I am really concerned that there has been an incredible number of people who have professed that this year is the year they got saved and you still haven’t been baptized. I don’t understand what is going on with that. Let me be real pointed, if you have been scripturally baptized, you can just kind of take a 30 second break. I want to speak to those of you who would say 2010 is the year that I have been saved. I don’t understand what you are waiting for in getting baptized. I am going to be real pointed about this. Acts 2 they received the word of God and they were baptized. I don’t understand how you are claiming Jesus is your Lord and you are not getting baptized. I don’t understand where personal pride is keeping you from making a personal profession of your faith in Christ. If you have in fact been saved after your baptism you need to be baptized again. That is very clear in Scripture. An infant baptism, a pre-salvation baptism is not believer’s baptism. Believer’s baptism is only those who profess to know Christ. So if you were a teenager at Anchorage this summer and you say you got saved, you should be asking the church you. The fact that you got baptized when you were 7, 8 or 9 is pre-salvation. You got wet. That is what you got. That is all that was. Now you are going to get baptized. Young men, may I speak to you? I don’t understand why the soldiers and the young men in our congregation are not stepping up and following the Lord in believer’s baptism. I am going to be real pointed right now. I am starting out a little bit too obnoxious real early in the sermon. Let me tone down a little bit. I cannot imagine being a soldier praying to God for protection while ignoring the Holy Spirit on believer’s baptism. I don’t understand that at all. If you are a young man, 20-25 years old, and you got saved and you are not willing to bow the knee to King Jesus in the baptismal pool and humble yourself before the body of Christ and make a profession of faith something is wrong and you need to get on your knees after the sermon and begin to figure out what is going on.

Number 2, after they were baptized they were added unto a church. Acts 2:47 says And the Lord added unto the ecclesia. The called out assembly. I am very concerned about the number of “Christians” who are not joining a church. The local New Testament church in Fayetteville is not the mall where you go to JC Penney in the morning and Belk in the afternoon and Talbots later on, and you kind of pick and chose your favorite store. That is not the churches in Fayetteville. Every Christian according to the Word of God is to be united with a church. Now, listen to me please, those of you that aren’t part of a church. Listen so closely, we are living in a society that wants the intimacy of marriage without the covenant of marriage. And that is moving into our church relationships. We want the benefits of the local church without the covenant of the local church. I am not interested in a relationship in which I am your pastor and you are part of the body of Christ. So I am amazed at the number of Christians that spend 3 years in Fayetteville and still haven’t found a church yet. That is ridiculous. So don’t name the name of Jesus and avoid the church that He died for.

Matthew 16, Jesus said I am building the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it and there is a tremendous number of “Christians” in Fayetteville that want nothing to do with the church. That is wrong. That is clearly wrong. Some of you need to be back tonight and be baptized. You have been avoiding it and avoiding it. It is time now to yield to believer’s baptism.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome. He wrote to the church at Gentiles. The body of Christ, the local church is what God is working through. Soldiers, the navigators is not the body of Christ. It may be an assembly of Christians, but it if doesn’t have a God ordained pastor, if it’s not bound together in a covenant relationship it is not a church. It is not a substitute for the local church. Para church ministries like Campus Crusade are wonderful and every college student that is going to a secular school should be part of that. But that is not a substitute for being part of a local church in your city on Sunday mornings. You don’t decide I will go to the Tuesday Campus Crusade for Christ so that I can sleep in on Sunday morning. That is not biblical. That is the pre-sermon. Now we will get into the text.

It is really almost impossible for us to understand what Paul meant when he said bless those that are persecuting you. It really is. Let’s be honest. Let’s be frank. We have to come to grips that most of us will not see a Christian ripped apart body part by body part by lions. We use the word, persecute around here and what a joke. We have no clue what persecution is. We can’t even fathom ladies, what it would be like to sit there and watch your husband being carted off by Roman soldiers and you know you will never ever see him again on this side of eternity because he is going into a stadium and lions are going to rip his very body apart while the crowd enjoys it. We cannot fathom what it would be like to look up on a pole and to see your father or mother wrapped around with a cord and oil doused on them and they stand on that pole for hours and burn as light for the city. So let’s make sure that we understand that when Paul speaks to us in verse 14 and he says bless them that persecute you, he is not talking about someone who is reigning on your parade. He is not talking about someone who cut you off on Yadkin Road. That is not what He is talking about. He is talking about men and women losing their life for the cause of Christ and I want to say very clearly that America does not have a traveler’s umbrella over it keeping it from ever experiencing persecution. Let’s make sure that everyone understands that there is a radical Muslim, Islamic, terrorist organization that would love to see every church in America closed.

Let me just speak to this for just a small little snippet of time. I am amazed at how naïve we are getting in America when we don’t recognize that the same Muslims in America who are claiming their right to put a mosque anywhere they want are the same Muslims that prohibit us from doing the same in any of their countries. You go over to Saudi Arabia and see if you can build a Baptist church anywhere you want to. Of course you can’t do it. You go over to Iraq or Iran and see if you have some religious freedom over there. And I am going to tell you right now, God has not promised America forever and forever. There is no biblical prophecy that guarantees us a day and age in which it will be illegal to assemble in a large church like this. You let the church of America lose its tax exempt status and see what happens to the church of America.

So here we are. We are reading verse 14 and we are going to decide how this applies to us today. The harass in a manner designed to injure, to grieve, to afflict. These are people who can’t stand your Christianity. They despise everything about what you stand for. They hate the fact that you love God. They hate the fact that you believe that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 literal days. They can’t believe that you actually believe that there is something called sin or a real heaven and a real hell. They are seeking to marginalize Christianity and exalt their immoral lifestyle with a passion. That is the world we are living in. We are living in a world in which text books are being rewritten. Text books that your son or daughter will read in that government school in which it mocks Christianity. And so we need to be aware of what our expected response is.

Unless we think it can never think it could happen in North America. May I remind you the number of times it happens in South America? January 19, 1981 a group of terrorists called the M-19 broke into the summer institute for linguists residents in Bogotá, Columbia and kidnapped this Wycliffe translator, Chet Bitterman. The communiqué from the terrorists read, "Chet Bitterman will be executed unless the Summer Institute of Linguistics and all its members leave Columbia by 6:00 PM February 19." Wycliffe did not budge.

We can’t even fathom that in this room. Let’s just be honest. There is not a lady in this room that can fathom their husband being captured for the cause of Christ and being potentially executed.

Brenda Bitterman and her two little children waited 48 days. On March 7 the terrorists shot Chet Bitterman through the heart and left his body on a bus in Bogota. More than one hundred Wycliffe members in Columbia were given the choice of a new field. None left. And two hundred candidates volunteered to take Chet Bitterman's place.

God used the death of this man to send two hundred more volunteers to the fields. We can’t fathom. We absolutely cannot understand the degree of religious persecution that is happening around the world. And can I say this with as much love as I possibly can? I am amazed when a parent will say that teacher doesn’t love my child. That teacher is persecuting my child. Would you please not use that word? What a joke. Do you know what that really means? I don’t have a perfect life. Everything is always going my way. That is really what that means. I want everything to go my way. I want every teacher to go my way. I want every coach to go my way. I want my boss to go my way. I want my coworkers to go my way. God, aren’t you there for me? I mean certainly it wouldn’t be Your will that Bitterman die? Can you imagine the number of prayers that were offered for Bitterman? Can you imagine the number of people that were on their knees begging God to save Chet? So did God let him down? Absolutely not. God once again demonstrated in a most amazing way how He can take sin and turn it into a good thing. And yet parents, can I talk to you for just a moment? The littlest thing comes into Johnny’s life and you are ready to run in there and defend Johnny and make sure Johnny doesn’t experience anything. Not my Johnny. It is okay for Bitterman to be shot to death, but I don’t want my Johnny to experience anything. Can I ask you, parents, have you committed your son or daughter to the Lord?

What is this picture all about? This is about our persecution level right here. We got knocked over in the sandbox. Someone threw sand at us. That is about our level of persecution in America.
Who is dumping sand in your hair? This is happening in the body of Christ. I know about it. I am not going to call names, but I know about it. We have church members not speaking to church members over the most pitiful things. The most ridiculous things that won’t make a hill of beans in eternity that you will never remember 10 years from now, 5 years for now. But right now you are not talking. I know for a fact that I have church members that are not talking to each other and yet the Bible says, Bless them that persecute you.

The Sermon on the Mount, you have heard it said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy, but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. Let me just say right now, you know why we aren’t making the impact to the unsaved world? It is because we act like the unsaved world. We think like the unsaved world. We talk like the unsaved world. They can’t tell any difference from us. We cop the same attitudes that they do. What does it say, what do you think when we get unsaved referees to come to our basketball games, our soccer games, our volleyball games and there is supposed to be a stand full of Christians and we are acting just like the world at the games? We don’t mind losing our testimony over a volleyball game. We don’t mind losing our testimony over our soccer games. We just completely leave the Bible. Bless them that persecute you, are you kidding me? I am going to make sure that referee hears, “Do you need glasses?” So the secular referee who needs Jesus and is just as lost as can be comes to our games on Thursday, goes to Jack Britt on Friday, and can’t tell any difference between the fans of Thursday’s game and the fans at the Friday game. And we tell him, you sure do need Jesus. He is like, Yeah, right. Sure I need Jesus. What do I need Jesus for? I can’t tell any difference between you Christians and them. That is why we are not making the impact.

What does bless them that persecute them mean? It means to praise and thank God for that person that you perceive that is persecuting you. Wait a minute, are you kidding me? You want me to praise God for the teacher that I perceive is persecuting my little Johnny? Don’t you know, my Johnny is one of the few children that if it wasn’t for salvation they would probably make it into the Kingdom of God? Parents, can I remind you that your Johnny was born with a sin nature and if they don’t repent and follow Christ is faith that they will go to hell. We are so busy as parents wanting to run around with our traveler’s umbrella making sure that no persecution comes to Johnny that they don’t have any clue how to thank God for that teacher that they perceive or that coach or that worker or that boss or that pastor or that deacon, it as though they are not allowed to have anyone come into their life that doesn’t shelter them. Parents, are you listening to me this morning? It has to come to a stop. Because what we are showing our children by our actions is that the word of God really doesn’t have application on the soccer field, or the classroom, or football arena. It really only has application when we come into this room right here and then we set the Bible down, or we put in the back of the car and we are not too worried about when it says Bless them that persecute you.

Can I ask you a question? Do you remember the last time someone cut you off on the highway and the way you responded? Just like the world. You gave them with that glaring look just like the world gives them that glaring look. You said are you an idiot just like the world looks at them like they are an idiot. Bless them that persecute you. Bless them that cut you off. What does this blessing look like? I am going to submit to you that the greatest blessing you ever received in your entire life was forgiveness from God Almighty. A second chance. Eternal life. Mercy and grace. That is the greatest blessing that I have ever received in my life is the fact that God is not going to hold me accountable for the sins because of my faith in Jesus Christ or I would spend an entire eternity separated from God in hell. I don’t claim to be some self-righteous preacher. I admit I have a sin problem. It plagues me everywhere I go. I constantly need to be held in check because of my sin. Are you anywhere like that? Can you relate to what I am talking about? So you know what I need? I need the blessing of a second chance. I need the blessing of mercy and grace. Do you? Well the person that you perceive as persecuting you needs that blessing also.

Parents, can I suggest that you spend more time praying for the teacher that you perceive as persecuting your child than talking to that teacher? Have you spent more time praying for that coach or that teacher or that Awana worker or that Sunday school teacher or whoever, how many minutes have devoted to praying for them? No, we don’t pray about that stuff. We step in and we are going to fix it.

I want to ask this question in this church right now. If God expects us to bless our enemies how do we feel justified in not talking to other Christians? If God’s word tells us to love our enemies how is it that we are okay with sitting on that side of the auditorium because we know they always sit on that side and we actually wait to see them exit through those doors so that we can exit through those doors. This never, ever should happen in the body of Christ. How in the world do we expect an unsaved person to come into our assembly and become part of this worship and if they don’t see that we are different, the gospel, yeah right, so what? Why do you think that our young people are struggling so much with following Christ? Our young people, our teenagers are looking for some people that are real. They are looking for some real Christians. They are looking for some people that really try to live out this, Bless them that persecute you. They are looking for a daddy who actually does this. And we have dads in this room that have been battling getting baptized for 2 years. It is time to step up to the plate and do what is right. How in the world do you expect to be the spiritual leader of your family and you won’t even follow the Lord in believer’s baptism? That is not me. I have been baptized. He must be talking to someone else. There is lot of application in this Scripture.

Curse not. Don’t wish evil upon anyone. Don’t speak anything that is the opposite of well with them. John MacArthur writes, Because of the general tone of religious freedom in America, we don’t experience true persecution. Instead, our temptations to curse are more likely to be in reaction to hostility that does us no life-threatening harm but causes us inconvenience or embarrassment. So what if you are embarrassed. I can’t believe the number of Christians that will say something like this, Does he know who he is talking to? What does that mean? We are all sinners saved by grace. Who do we think we are? I am not going to tolerate that. Really? You are not? Stop. Stop the nonsense. Do you understand what a poor example we are providing our children? We are not showing them that Christianity is real. What they are seeing is Dad acts this way at church and Dad acts this way at home. Then we wonder why Johnny acts this way at church and this way at home. This is cursing without words. Husband, this is where you give your wife the silent treatment. This is where she gives you the silent treatment. Remember these are homes where we are trying to raise godly children. Godly children watch Mom and Dad giving each other the silent treatment. What they are learning is that is how you reconcile differences in marriages. But it is called cursing without words. See, we have this little Baptist idea which means, I didn’t curse because I didn’t say one of those 7 off limits words. Do you understand that you can curse without saying those words? Do you understand that tone is cursing? Do you understand that belittling is cursing? It doesn’t mean, I didn’t say that off limits word. That is not what “curse not” means.

James said it like this, Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Oh, yes, on Sunday morning we are singing Jesus is Mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine, blessed assurance. And then on Tuesday at the soccer game, we are ripping the head off of the referee. Out of the same mouth . . . these things ought not to be. We are going to see the teacher that we have decided doesn’t like our Johnny. And so this sister in Christ in which Christ died for gets ripped to shreds. And somehow we feel justified in that because we are taking care of our child. What we are really saying is God is not capable of taking care of our child so we have to step in. Ultimately what we are saying is God is really not capable. God You probably can’t mess with this so I will take over for You.

Rejoice that rejoice and weep with them that weep. This is the complete opposite of difference toward others in the body of Christ. This is where we really care for who is in the body of Christ. Indifference is a lack of enthusiasm, concern for someone else. You don’t rejoice with those who rejoice if you don’t even know who is sitting to your left or right. It is impossible. You can’t weep with those who weep. You can’t rejoice with those who rejoice when you come into the body of Christ late and leave 5 minutes early. You have no who is sitting behind you. You have no clue who is sitting in front of you and quite frankly you really don’t care who is sitting to your left or right. You are not here for them. You are here for yourself. Listen, you can’t rejoice with those who rejoice and you can’t weep with those who weep if you don’t even know their names.

What does indifference look like in the body of Christ? Let me explain. We come in, we find our seat, we don’t say hello to anyone, we don’t learn names, we are not here to learn names, we really don’t care about the person near us, we are here to check our religious block and we are out the door in a few minutes. My goodness! How in the world can you rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those who weep if you don’t even know who is in the body of Christ? Do you know how you are able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? You your brothers and sisters in Christ and so they walk in and you see their countenance and you go, you know what, she doesn’t look like she normally does. There must be something going on in her heart. And you walk up to her and you say, Dear sister, are you okay this morning, because you don’t look like you normally do and she says, I am fine. No. She says let me tell you what is going on in my life and for 5 minutes you weep with those who weep. Come on, we are not trying to be the typical Baptist church. There are 475 others. We are trying to be the body of Christ. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

If it is not indifference it is jealousy. You know why we don’t rejoice when Keith scores a goal? It is because we wanted our daughter or our son to score the goal and so we don’t care. We are jealous of the fact that their child scored that goal. Parents, you had your chance to play sports. It is now time to let your son or daughter play sports. You are done. Stop trying to live through your son or daughter’s life. You can’t do it. That is why you aren’t rejoicing with those who rejoice, because you are not there to rejoice with those that rejoice. You are there to see your Johnny score the goal and you really don’t care if anyone else scores. It is all about you. But you can’t do what the scripture says if it is all about you. Because rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep means it is not about you. It is about others.

Jesus wept. And what makes this so amazing is that Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the grave. Jesus wasn’t weeping because Lazarus was dead. Jesus was weeping because there were others weeping and Jesus hurt for others. He knew He was going to raise him from the grave. He took His time to make sure the guy was good and dead. He wanted to make sure there was no doubt. Hey, he stinks by now. Lazarus, come forth. The weeping had nothing to do with Lazarus in the grave. He was compassionate. He cared about others.

John said it like this: But whosoever hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? How can you say that the love of God dwells in you and when someone is hurting in the body of Christ, you are not hurting?

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. I want to take Number 1 first please. Live in harmony one with another. Hey, Christians, could we please start playing well in the sandbox with one another? Do you understand about the fact that Christians are not talking to Christians over the Awana ministry and what happened to their little child at the Awana ministry I am amazed. Okay, what am I missing? Awana is a discipleship ministry designed to encourage children to learn the word of God. Whether they are in 1st place or 2nd place or the green team one or the blue team won, what difference does it make? What do you think our children are thinking when they see adults throwing sand at each other in the sandbox? Oh, we don’t throw sand literally, but we do it with words. It needs to come to a halt. If at all possible, as much as lies within you would you please live together peaceably one with another.

Please turn to 1 Peter 2:21–23 (AV)
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Could someone please tell me why He suffered for us? It wasn’t His sin was it? There was no guile found in Him. Jesus was the perfect Man. He didn’t suffer for His own sins. He suffered for Sean Harris’s pride. He suffered for Sean Harris’s lust. He suffered for Sean Harris’s arrogance. He suffered for Sean Harris’s selfishness. He suffered for my sin. God Almighty poured out the wrath of the Father on the Son not because Jesus was a sinner. He suffered for me and my sin. Do you know what the cup was in this cup shall pass? It was the cup of God’s wrath. Read the book of Revelation. It was poured out on Jesus Christ. So how is it that we are thrilled that Jesus did that and we don’t want our Johnny to suffer one bit? Parents are doing everything that they can to make sure their Johnny doesn’t suffer one bit. They are running through life, sheltering him, protecting him from anything at all. No. Don’t you understand that you are the most precious thing that ever walked on the planet? We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.

What was this suffering all about? Leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps. How in the world ever understand the suffering that Christ went through if we never ever suffer ourselves? How will we understand what Christ did for us in the gospel if we never suffer. God, I shared with you two weeks ago, God led me through an entire week of suffering. It was a God-ordained suffering. You are going to suffer. You will grieve that your mother is in hell. I want you to understand what happens when souls die and they don’t have Jesus. You are going deal with this. You are going to work through this. You are going to be on your knees. You are going to suffer. Someone says, That can’t be the will of God. You are so warped in your theology. It is the will of God. It was the will of God that Jesus Christ suffered. It was the will of God. Suffering draws us closer to Who Christ is. It draws us closer to what He went through. It gives us a better understanding that the God of heaven left the glories of heaven and came on this earth. That is why we do suffer. That is why you have a pistol of a boss. That is why you are going through turmoil. That is why your child got that teacher. It was a God-ordained decision and you need to submit to that and allow God to work in that situation. You say is that scriptural? You better believe it is. I am going to show you.

Who did no sin, neither was there guile in his mouth who when was reviled, reviled not again. Jesus did not answer back a thing. When they were spitting on Him, when they were hammering on Him, when they were whipping Him, He didn’t answer back. You say, He didn’t have a choice. That is not true at all. What He said when Peter whipped out that dagger and started slashing an ear off, He said, you put that thing away. Thinkest not that I can call for myself 72,000 angels? He said 12 legends. A legion is 6,000 fully equipped combat Roman troopers. 6x12 is 72. 72,000 angels could have come at a moment’s notice and delivered the Son of God. But instead He endured. Now listen to what it says, He threatened not. I will pull my child off this team. That is called a threat. He threatened not. I pull my child out of this classroom. I will pull my child out of boy scouts. Don’t you know what I will do? Those are threats. What does He do instead? Instead but committed Himself to him that judges righteously. That is the whole thing. That is all I want you to get and if you get this you have it. If you get this concept you got it this morning. What you are saying is, God, You are in charge. God, that 3rd grade class must be the class you wanted my Johnny in, You are in charge, I am going to commit my Johnny to that 3rd grade teacher. That is just the way it is. And we don’t have any problems going on in 3rd grade. I just picked a number. Please don’t go that route. Whatever it is—at the wreck league, and you say, I can’t believe my child has that coach. Would you please commit yourself unto the righteous Judge? Would you please just say that God is able? Would you just turn it over to a Sovereign God?

How about this? How about if Mommy and Daddy get with Johnny and we say, you know what we are going to do? We are going to pray about this. And you don’t talk to anyone about it. You just pray about it. Johnny, we are not going to go see the principle. We are not going to go see the coach. We are going to watch God work. You know what you are going to do at that point? You are going to build faith into that child. You are going to take God-ordained faith and you are going to pack it into that child. They are going to build a foundation of faith because they are going to see Mommy and Daddy leading them to pray that God is able and then the righteous Judge comes through and then when they are in the crisis they go see the righteous judge. But instead what you are doing, is robbing God of the opportunity of coming through and so in fact they are stealing God’s glory. I am not going to give God a chance to work. We are not praying about this. We are going right to the top. They are going to take care of this right now. I want my way. What we are saying is, God, You are not able. This is something that You can’t take care of. I need to avenge for myself. And what they are doing is they are robbing God of an opportunity to show Himself as all powerful in the life of a child and in doing so they are stealing glory from God.

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