24th September 2023

Attitudes to the Scriptures decides all

Passage: 1 John 2:20, 27
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Probably no bigger topic is there within Christendom, that's Christianity in the most general term you can think of, than wherein lies the authority that we have to believe the things that we so do. What is the basis of our faith? Is it just presumption? Is it just our feelings? Is it just formed by sociological factors in our childhood and in our society? And of course, the scriptures speak about God being the ultimate authority, and so if we were to isolate something to be the course or the method, the way His authority gets to us, then that will answer the question, how does God tell His story? After all, the gospels are His story. How do we know that we should believe them? And there are a number of attitudes that people have to the answer the Christian church gives, that we know who God is because He has given us His word. And the word of God is that which comes from God and speaks about the principle of the word of God, which is Christ.

He is the out speaking of the Father, that's what it means for Him to be the son of the Father. He's the one through whom the Father speaks, and is the link, the authority line, that we have that the scriptures point to. Now, there's a number of attitudes people have to biblical authority and have to the Christian claim that they have a word from God, and I'll just list a few of them, just so you understand, there's quite a diversity of outlooks as to how we get the authority of God. And the first one is known as rationalism. It's an attitude, an attitude that denies the possibility of any supernatural revelatory mechanism. It's got a moderate form, and the moderate form isn't quite so severe, but the moderate form of a rationalistic attitude to the scriptures and to how we know is that we, humanity, are the ones to judge as to what is the revelation. Yes, God does reveal, God does reveal, and that revelation that He gives, Isabella, is something that we have to decide whether we'll follow, we're the ones in charge of saying what is the revelation. Now, you can see that that's a rather large compromise on the very idea of God's revelation.

Anyway, the next one that is very common is that people have some religious commitment that is going to tell them what is the revelation, and Romanism, now, I'm not talking about Romanticism, I'm talking about Romanism, which has to do with Rome and the general idea the Catholic Church is built on, is the Bible is a product of the church, and if the Bible is a product of the church, then the ultimate authority is the church, and certainly across the development of Christian attitudes in history, there has been the idea that what is the word of God, what is the canon, is that which the church decides, it's sacred books. Now, that idea of the word canon, so people would talk about canonical, you want me to shift to another microphone? Put it a bit higher, how's that, but can you hear, I can't hear myself speak. Lower, they're telling me lower. What authority do we go on, ah, Brindley, of course. Okay, well, so, well, Romanism is when you believe that the church decides what is the revelation, and what that means is, something's in the Bible, but it's how the church interprets it, that's the actual seat of that revelation. You want me to use that? Okay, hello, ooh, okay. So, Romanism really puts the church as the decider, and at the beginning of the collection of the scriptures, that wasn't how it was.

When people first started talking about canon, they got that word in the English version thereof, comes from the word of a reed in the River Nile, and the reed in the River Nile was rather strong, and people would break off these long reeds, and use them like we would use a measuring stick, or we would use a, what do you call that little thing that you take out your pocket and stretch out? Yeah, no, but the word canon got then to be used for how people used to measure the length of things with these reeds, and because the scriptures were often written on manuscripts that were made out of these reeds, they were understood as canonical if they actually measured accurately, and the way people came to the conclusion about any given literature that was circulating was that if it spoke to people, and gave them a sense of measuring how right they're going, then it was to be collected together as canonical, and so how the scriptures worked on people got to be what caused it to be collected in a canon, but as the various years passed by, and they had these comings together of the whole church, gradually the idea came that who made the decision was the church, and therefore that made those items canonical, and the name for canon got turned around.

Now the early church councils had the old way, and that's the way Protestants take, that the books that showed themselves as measuring people, and they got circulated more because they had very little ability to, no printing presses, but they'd have to employ a scribe to actually have the work copied, and then the ones that really blessed them, they'd spend the money to get it copied, and send up copies to all their relatives, and friends, or other churches, and so there got to be more examples of a work that blessed people, and when the task came for a big council to get together all the books that were canonical, the evidence was that the ones that had been copied, and copied, and copied, and the ones that many different places all reported it blessed them when they received it, and they read it, they were the ones who were the canon, and that is the Protestant idea of canonical. There were other factors that were brought to bear, such as whether the author of the books had apostolic cred, either because they were in apostle writing, or because the apostles accepted those works, and so we have a way to ascertain that there is something about the book itself that is allowing it to be accepted as from God, and that's the opposite of the Romanism idea, which puts the church in the big seat as to make those decisions.

Another attitude people have to the scriptures as to why, how they explain it, and might be the reason why they have a different source of saying that they're going to listen to it, is called mysticism, and although mysticism most generally is a word used about the idea of experience that people come out of having, and they're knowing, because of the mystical experience, when it's used theologically, when it's used about historically how people came to accept the scriptures, they're really talking about the idea that experience is the ultimate authority, so if you have a book that's written, and it causes, sounds very similar to what I was just saying, if it measures you, so in a sense, this is an idea that is closer to the first original Protestant idea, but mysticism is that the experience is the ultimate authority of the Bible, but when that's entertained in a way that's slightly more severe, then what they say is, well, the Bible's not necessarily true, but if it really moves you the right way, then that's it being authoritative, and so the experience you get out of it is what you believe is the truth, not so much the propositions that it is saying.

Another one is called neo-orthodoxy, and you've probably heard this, but neo-orthodoxy is a theological attitude, it's a philosophical attitude, very akin to existentialism, and this idea of neo-orthodoxy is that its inspiration is not in the propositions it contains, but in what it moves you to, and the idea of neo-orthodoxy is the Bible is a fallible witness, the propositions in it, the statements in it are fallible, it's a fallible witness to the revelation of God that comes through Christ and the Word, so people who are neo-orthodox often do have a high view of Christ, like Karl Barth certainly did, he turned his generation back towards a more conservative approach, that's the funny thing, because in some people's minds if they dub you as Barthian or neo-orthodox, it's a negative statement that you don't believe enough, but for other people it's actually a recognition that you're going to believe that God can speak through the Bible, it's just that the channel of speaking is an existential one, a one that's produced in you an experience, and so you have a bit of a trouble when you're trying to know whether to say someone is a neo-orthodox or not, because sometimes in a bad generation, like which happened in Europe, where most of the Protestant churches were taken over by old liberalism, they hardly believed anything, those that turned back to believing in what the Bible was saying were the neo-orthodox, and Karl Barth is understood in Europe as being someone who's a conservative person who's doing better believing the Bible than the ones that he replaced, but if you go to America who have got a lot more traditions about believing the propositions of the Bible, then he's one of the scoundrels that you get taught not to listen to.

All right, so these attitudes, the only one that I can think of further would be that the cults have a system, cults are not the horse cults, but the groups that are called cultish, because they teach beliefs which are actually not in the Bible, or they teach that there are extra books that are meant to be canonical, and these ones give them ideas that make them into cults. Now, I thought not only having a bit of a survey of attitudes to the Bible, I thought we need to let the Bible speak for itself, which is what tonight I'm hoping to do, and I hope I don't go too long and there's no one left while I'm still talking. No, I won't try and be that long, but we'll start by one spot in 1 John chapter two and verses 20 and 27. Now, little John is not Robin Hood's friend, but little John or one John is a little thing written by John, I believe to be the Apostle John, and in chapter two we'll put it on the screen. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. Now, you get the connection. The Spirit coming upon you as a Christian, not necessarily are you a writer of the Bible, but this is on the opening of the Bible end of things, on the receiving end as to how to hear from God. You believe those scriptures are true and you have an anointing that gives you that hint or gives you that awareness.

And so it is because of verses like that, when you hear somebody and they just disbelieve the Bible, you're actually getting a bit of a testimony from them, a negative one, that they're not hearing from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in the business of whispering to us the real truth. Let's follow that through just a little bit. That was verse 27. But the anointing that you receive from him abides in you. So this is talking about some spiritual thing that you have, and you've no need that anyone should teach you. Now, what am I doing here tonight if that's true? Well, it doesn't mean what people take it to mean. It means that you have a teaching that supersedes or goes, is greater than just what a teacher may be doing. You have an anointing that you receive from him, that's the Lord, abides in you. And you've no need that anyone should teach you, but this anointing teaches you about everything. In other words, there is such a thing as having a spiritual discernment when you hear the truth that you know it, and that you have a way to cotton on to what is right. And I think that when Christians grow in their sanctification, when they grow in what they know of the Bible and let it teach them, that something happens whereby they get rather good at recognizing the truth when they hear it. And I, going to college, was they had too many students and three of us had to have sleeping bags in the common room, on the floor, on the carpet. And the fellow who had one, they put me there because I was the principal's son. I shouldn't have any special things people said, so I got to be one with no room of my own. But I had two mates next to me.

And the one who used to sleep at night nearest to where I was, he had come to Christ in one of those little offices with books for you to read. It was called Christian Science. And he came to Christ by what alerted him to the existence of God by going in there one day and reading some of the books available. And he became a Christian. Eventually, it led him to want to learn more and he came to college, Baptist College. And I then was real curious to know how did he go from Christian Science book room into the Baptist College? And he told me that he kept going along to this group, but somehow, after he'd come to Christ, something in him started speaking to him that he was in the wrong place. And so he looked around to find somewhere else to go. He lived in the Gold Coast and he found a church where he could go in his swimming togs straight from the surf into the church. And he liked it, but they had someone preaching the scriptures. And it spoke to him and he just had found where he could trust the truth. And one of the features that happens to people is that when they come into a religious group, as you'll hear tonight, there is an ultimate authority in the person of the Holy Spirit. Someone newly come to Christ doesn't always have their antenna tuned the right way, so they don't hear it as well as someone who's been reading the scriptures for a long time.

But there is something that grows on you that you get to have an authority about the truth. And so you could go, you might get changed in your job and you have to go out in the country. And as it might happen, you might have a really good church and you sense something that Christ is there and so you're glad. Or you could go somewhere and after a while, like my friend, there's something happening in you and you're being told there's something wrong here. And that's a capacity that's called an anointing. You receive from him who abides in you. A Christian is a Christ indwelt person. And you've no need for anybody to upstage you to say that they're the ultimate authority. It is the Holy Spirit and the scriptures who are the ultimate authorities. And so if someone does teach, the way there to do that is to teach what the scriptures say, but it's up to you to listen to the Holy Spirit as whether you're listening to God or not. Or are you getting a bit of an odd mixture? And it goes on to say, he teaches you about everything and is true, there's no lie, just as it was taught you. Well, Paul was one that taught these people, or was it John? I'm not sure now. Anyway, just as it was taught you, abide in him. And when you seek to stay close to Christ, the best way to do that is through reading the scriptures and in prayer, as you keep in touch with him, that ability to discern whether you're hearing the truth increases and increases and increases. And we need to practise and let that development occur. Well, the next verse to go to is 1 Samuel 16, 13. And 1 Samuel 16, 13. I'm gonna make the people at the back there have to do a lot of hard work. Oh, that's good. 1 Samuel 16, 13. Then Samuel took the horn of oil. They used to not have spare coke cans or whatever to carry the oil around in, but they'd use a horn of an animal and it'd be full of oil.

And I don't know whether that changed its colour at all. Nevermind. And he took a horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. This is about David. And the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. Samuel rose up and went back to where he's meant to be, to Ramah. But the idea of there being an anointing of the spirit who'll give you special directions is a powerful thing that happens in the Old Testament and carries on into the New Testament. David became king. It's actually a case that of the Old Testament leaders of the people of Israel, there's evidence of the spirit helping out in the leadership of the kings and of the prophets and the priests. And there was a need for persons in those ministries or those roles to have the Holy Spirit to help them. And it's recorded of them a far more severe movement of the spirit. In this case, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David. And it's not saying he rushed out the door. It's saying the spirit of the Lord rushed upon him. And from that day forward, he was a spirit-led person, even though we know of his sins and his failures, but nonetheless that God was with him and helped him to lead. There's one other set of people that had the spirit on them from time to time were those who did special works. And sometimes those who designed the tabernacles and the temples and whatever had the Holy Spirit helping them to do a good work. But the spirit didn't come on everybody in the Old Testament regime. And theirs was not a universal experience of the spirit coming on them, but prophet, priest, and king did.

And when the New Testament time came, sometimes you'll discover that Jesus has a spirit on him and he exercises roles of prophet, priest, and king. God does come on others in the New Testament era as well, but there's a special coming on one person in the New Testament, which is the Lord Jesus Christ in those roles, as I was saying. Isaiah 61, verse one. Now, I've got so many verses I could quote and I can never resist putting another one on the list. The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Now, this is written in the Old Testament as a prophecy about the future. There's gonna come a person on whom this would be true. And the spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me, and there's a purpose to the anointing, to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim the liberty to the captives and the opening of prisons to those who are bound. He actually said one more thing, if I've got it right, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Oh, there we are, we're doing another verse. The day of vengeance of our God to comfort those who mourn, et cetera. And you'll find that this is a passage from Isaiah that Jesus quotes in the synagogue at Nazareth. And as he quotes it, the interesting thing is he leaves off the day of vengeance of our God because while he was here in his ministry in the first occasion of his coming, he didn't come to exercise that final judgement of God. That will happen at the second coming of Christ. But so Jesus left off a little bit because he was saying about what he's here to do in that first coming. All right, we'll go to Luke 4, verse 18. And this is the New Testament fulfilment of this Old Testament prophecy we've just read. And this is the event that Jesus had when he was in the synagogue, and as was their custom, they passed to someone to read from the scriptures. They had scrolls, big things they had to open up.

And I don't know whether they told him where to read or whether he just did it by random or whether he knew exactly where things were and he opened it to this on purpose. But certainly God's leading wanted them to hear him say, and it was a direct quote from that Old Testament passage. The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering aside to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. And Jesus' public ministry, as we've been reading it through Matthew's gospel and the morning messages, was to go and to teach and to heal and to drive out demons. He brought people liberties in all sorts of ways. But he quoted this, and as he was quoting it, all eyes were on him because they sensed the authority of heaven. And Jesus gave back the scroll and then he said, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears, in your eyes and ears. And Jesus, that's the moment that he publicly acknowledged that he had the spirit of God on him and he was to be listened to. And from that moment, he went out of there to put into action his Christian ministry. Well, John, we had the three Bible readings from John and they're very interesting readings, John 14, John 15 and John 16, because they do speak about why Jesus was going to be able to lead his church even after he went back to heaven. And what's actually said, we'll put up John 14, see whether I catch the verses 17 and 26, John 14. As Jesus had his disciples, he knew that he was going to the cross, he knew that they'd be very nervous about being left alone.

He's gonna go back to heaven after the resurrection. And, but he wanted to give them the understanding how they could still know the truth. If while he was with them, they didn't know anything, they just run to Jesus and ask his opinion. But he said that the spirit of God is coming on them and even the spirit of truth. Now notice the wording that Jesus has about the Holy Spirit. If you have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit has the essence of truth about him. If you get the Holy Spirit speaking to you, he will tell you the truth. If you have had an experience when you believed it was the Holy Spirit, but it turned out not to be true, then perhaps it wasn't the Holy Spirit because he is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him, but you know him for he dwells with you and will be in you. Now he was speaking actual truth that the Holy Spirit was with them while they were with Jesus because the very nature of Jesus was that he was the anointed one, the Holy Spirit was there with him. All of his ministry he did only after being anointed of the spirit. He did the ministry because the Father communicated with him through the Holy Spirit and led him in all that he was doing. And therefore they knew him existentially, I could say, depending on what you mean by the word, but they knew the Holy Spirit because they'd been with him all the time they were with Jesus. The Holy Spirit was there unseen, but nonetheless very present.

For he dwells with you and will be in you. And what Jesus is saying, you've had the Holy Spirit with you all the time that I've been with you, but when I go back to heaven, I'm gonna send you the Holy Spirit from heaven. It actually was Jesus and the Father who together sent the spirit on the believing disciples in that period of time after the resurrection and ascension of Christ and before the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent to them and they would recognise him spiritually because he had been dwelling with them and now he's going to be in them. They don't miss the point that what the nature of a Christian is is a person who has the Holy Spirit. You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit because that is who turns you into a Christian by his coming and entering into your person. As a matter of interest, the way that you receive Christ is that the Holy Spirit brings Christ to your heart. When you get right with God by coming to Christ, when you seek to receive Christ as your saviour, which is talking about acknowledging him for how he was sent to be the saviour of the world, which he works by dying on the cross and rising again, when you receive him as the saviour, he comes to your heart by the Holy Spirit bringing his indwelling into your person. If that's an idea that you're not familiar with, read the book of Ephesians where it talks about the Holy Spirit coming to your heart.

As a matter of fact, it's the case that you need the Holy Spirit to help you in your heart to receive the enormous whack, input crisis of Christ coming into your life. Your little heart, meaning the blood pump, I'm talking about the real you, could not take the impact of the eternal son coming into your life if it were not for the fact that the Holy Spirit strengthens you. And that's what Ephesians in those early chapters talks about, the Holy Spirit strengthening your heart. Paul actually prays for the Ephesians that God would strengthen them, that they might know the indwelling of Christ in their lives. Well, that's in John 14, 17 and in verse 26. About the helper, the Holy Spirit, the word helper is like a modern English version trying to do it communicatively. The older versions read the counsellor. Some of them read the comforter. And the idea of a comforter comes from understandings in a few centuries back in England where the person who led the army had to do the job of stirring his troops to get into battle. And there's a very famous picture that hangs in one of the English art galleries and it's got Oliver Cromwell comforts his troops and he's there with a big pitchfork and they're all ready to get up over the wall or whatever, stopping and running into the enemy. And he's sticking him in the backsides with his pitchfork to encourage them to get into the battle. And the heading at the bottom says Oliver Cromwell comforts his troops. So the idea of comfort is to be with you in the battle and to encourage you to get involved. We've been recently watching some of the finals in all the football codes.

I think we seem to be winning both, do we not? And we'll be in two grand finals. Is that true? I know the Lions won their match last night. But one of the jobs of a coach is that you've really got to be able through your words. You're not allowed to use the pitchfork, but through your words, you have to get those players to give their all and to really go flat out. And sometimes they have to make dashes and sometimes they have to take catches that are very dangerous and end up flatting their back winded, but he's got to comfort them into the battle. And the Holy Spirit is the one that Jesus sent from heaven at the day of Pentecost. So that those people who are now becoming Christians and being a part of the church would be able to do what the Father and Jesus want of them. Well, the help of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name. See, there's not such a thing as doing separate business with the members of the Trinity. When you came to Christ, it was the Holy Spirit drawing you. It was the Holy Spirit filling your heart with Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit who is alongside you. And he's the one who will teach you all things. He also adds in, because these were the apostles who'd been with Jesus, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. I've got a library full of books, commentaries and whatever. And I often read the different ones to see what the different scholars say is happening. And it's very, makes me laugh that some of them leave it all to their guesses as to what might be happening when they wrote their gospels, what made them think that, or were they influenced by the culture or whatever. But look what it's saying there. He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

So all the arguments back and forwards between one commentary and another as to did Jesus really say this or have they guessed wrongly or have they not remembered it properly? Or how is it that they're disagreeing in certain spots? Some people, if they just believe that it's a human happening, they're not taking into account that the Holy Spirit brings to your remembrance all that I have said to you, Jesus speaking, about why their gospels are accurate. All right, so that was John 14. Now we're going to go to John 15 and verse 26. For when the helper comes whom I will send to you from the Father. Now, did you notice the word I will, his future? This is Jesus speaking to the disciples in the upper room or where he was, it doesn't matter. But I will send to you from the Father. When he went to heaven, he and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to the believing disciples just before the day of Pentecost. And this one proceeds from the Father. He will bear witness about me. And that's a little bit of what happens when you grow as a Christian and the Holy Spirit is in your heart and in your experience and in your going from church to church and in your finding out what is the truth. Open yourself to listen to the Holy Spirit. Pray and say, Holy Spirit, I need you to be leading me. I've just been to a youth rally and the fellow said this and this and this. I'm not sure what to think of that. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth. He is able to do that. We are able not to ask quick enough or we're able to rely on our own resources or to take all our teachings from wherever it is we've had it before and that can get in the way, but ask the Spirit to give you the right idea.

He will bear witness about me and particularly about Jesus. If there's anybody here tonight and you've had doubts as to what to think about Jesus, when you go home, get down next to your bed and say, Holy Spirit, I haven't ever asked anything of you before, but would you show me what's the truth about this or whatever is the issue? Would you speak to me? He will bear witness about Christ, about the Lord and that's a marvellous verse to have. John 16, 13. When the Spirit of truth comes, notice again he's called the Spirit of truth. How do I know what's the right thing to think about and how to understand, the right attitude to have to the scriptures? It's because of these verses. He is the Spirit of truth. When he comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears, he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come. Now the things that are to come is eschatology and if you've had a trouble because there's in the Christian church so many different attitudes as to what's gonna happen in the last days, why not make it something to ask Jesus to begin to teach you? Don't go into that with a fixed mind, go into that with a prayer that you need Jesus' help to help you discover the right doctrines. Well, I've only got one more Bible passage and then we'll have done a good run. 2 Corinthians 1 and verses 21 and 22. 2 Corinthians 1 verses 21 and 22. And it is God who establishes us and I want to tell you that when you first become a Christian, all the things going on within Christendom, that general word for all the different people and different ideas and different places in history, it can put you off.

I'm not sure I can understand enough to have landed on the truth and you can get hesitant about really having any commitments but it's God who establishes us with you in Christ and Paul is probably, let me be sure, yeah, it's Paul, is probably when he says who establishes us with you, he's talking about the connection of the Corinthians listening to his apostolic teaching and he establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us. And when you recognise the work of the Spirit behind the letters, particularly the letters of Paul and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit, that's the Lord has given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee and a part of what you get established and the idea of established is that you've made firm in where you're at and are sure of the outcome coming. You know you're going to heaven because it's been established. It is the Holy Spirit and his seal in your heart who gives you that conviction and understanding and knowledge that you are in God's hands. You know you're going to glory. I don't have a doubt in my mind that he's got me and he's sticking up for me, the Lord and the Holy Spirit in my heart is the seal, the seal that you're in the door with God and the Holy Spirit given to you is the guarantee that you're getting there in the end.

What's wonderful about that is that it doesn't rely upon how strong a grip you have on the faith or on Christ or on even right or wrong and you may fail many times but praise God, the Holy Spirit is in your heart as a seal, guarantee that you're getting to glory in the end and that's a fantastic thing. So notice again the words anointed us. It's something that you recognise that it's in you and the longer you go as a Christian, the more that gets reinforced and reaffirmed that the Lord is with you. He's not going to let you go. The whole nature of grace is that he goes on hanging on to you even if you don't hang on to him. I think we should hang on to him but I know from reading many biographies and other people's experiences that if the folk who let go of him but praise God, he didn't let go of them and it's a fantastic thing when the Holy Spirit is pointing out his presence. Hey, I'm the evidence. All the people that have the Holy Spirit in their heart, they're going to glory. Christ in you, the hope of glory is what we're talking about this morning, Simon and he's given us his spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Isn't that fantastic?

Let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, I do thank you for what we learn from the scriptures. Lord, I thank you that we don't have to rely upon the human mind to be the one that tells us what to believe and what not. Save us from that sense of rationalism that thinks somehow that we're smart enough to make the big decisions. Lord, we pray that you'll just teach us how to listen to the Holy Spirit, how to listen to the word that he has inspired and wants us to know. I pray for every person listening to me tonight, Lord, that you'll bolster their assurance that the Holy Spirit is going to lead them through and that you'll teach them about the scriptures as well, that we don't have to have any of these other attitudes which are less than how the Bible presents itself. May that be our story we ask in Jesus' name, amen.

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