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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 16, 2011
The Need for Committed Friends
Diane and I had a refreshing time at the NY IFCA Conference this past Monday. For those who may be new to this church, we are part of a fellowship of churches, ministry organizations, pastors, missionaries and Bible educators called IFCA International. I am the president of the New York Regional of this organization.
Our speaker was Jerry Smith. We have been friends for close to 20 years and he has spoken here at Grace Bible Church many times in the past. Since I have talked with Jerry and heard him speak so many times over the years, I can’t say I heard him say anything new, but it was encouraging to hear it again and take up the challenge given. As 2 Peter 1:12 and 3:1-2 tell us, it is important to be stirred up by being reminded about things we already know. That is what I would like to do this morning by highlighting to you some of the things Diane and I were reminded of by Jerry this past Monday.
Jerry spoke on two distinct but related subjects that are tied together by the common theme of striving to fulfill the purpose of the Christian life. It is always good to be reminded about God’s purpose in saving us from our sins. Tragically, too often professing believers are either ignorant of or forget the purpose of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so they fail to live as God intended.
The Purpose of the Christian Life
I think it should be stated up front that because the gospel of Jesus Christ has been so often perverted in its presentation that there are many professing believers who do not know God’s purpose in bringing us salvation. In fact, many understand and believe that salvation is about man. One very popular tract, The Four Spiritual Laws, starts off saying that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That is a man centered gospel message and those who follow it are often greatly surprised when they find out that God’s wonderful plan may include persecution since Jesus said that in this “world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and Paul said that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Salvation is not a fire insurance policy to keep man from going to Hell. Salvation in Jesus Christ will result in escape from Hell, but that is not its purpose. Salvation is about the glory of God. Salvation is according to “the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5,6). It is a demonstration of His righteousness as the just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25, 26). It shows “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
It is because of the redemption and forgiveness of sin we receive through Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:14) that we are no longer under God’s condemnation (Romans 8:1), and that is why the true Christian does not go to Hell. As Ephesians 2 explains, salvation is by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is from sin to righteousness as explained in Romans 6. Too often gospel presentations leave out this important aspect of it. The concentration is so much on the escape from the consequences of sin – Hell – that salvation from sin is overlooked.
We are saved for the praise and glory of God, but how is that purpose fulfilled? Let me go over some additional Scriptures that explain that in their expression of God’s purpose in salvation
The People of God. Paul and Peter point out that God has extended salvation to the Gentiles so that in the church they might be His people. In Romans 9:25-26 Paul quotes from and applies Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 to Gentiles in the church, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.'” 26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 also quotes from Hosea as well as Exodus and Isaiah and applies it to all who are saved, Jew and Gentile alike. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Those saved by Christ are to be the people of God who will proclaim “the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”
Holiness. Ephesians 1:4 states that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Similar statements of holiness as a purpose of salvation are made in Colossians 1:22; 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:19, Titus 2:11-14 and 1 Peter 1:15-16. To be holy is to be set apart to God. We are purchased by the redemption price of Jesus’ blood and now belong to God (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:10). We are set apart to God at salvation. We are also being set apart to God as we learn more of Him, His character and will and live accordingly. We call this sanctification. We pursue holiness and should become more holy over time (2 Corinthians 7:1). That holiness will reach culmination when we either die or are translated directly into glorified bodies which will no longer sin and we dwell in the presence of God .
Conformity to Christ. Another purpose of salvation is to become like Jesus. Roman 8:29 states it this way. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” 2 Cor. 3:18 describes this as “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The great thing is that we know this will eventually happen. Philippians 3:21 states that the Lord will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” 1 John 3:2 states, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” That very hope is a motivation to pursue purity in the present (1 John 3:3).
Being part of God’s family, becoming holy and blameless, and being conformed into the image of Christ are all part of the purpose of our salvation. The question then arises why are these things missing from the lives of so many professing believers? We know that God is doing His part. Paul said in Philippians 1:6 that he was “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” We know the Holy Spirit is also doing His work. Why then do so many people that claim to be Christians live in the same man
ner as the world?
There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is that there are those who have false professions of faith. Their Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Bible and so they have not been converted and do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. These people still need to be saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as explained in the Scriptures.
Another common reason is just plain ignorance. That exists for various reasons including not having the Scriptures for themselves so that they can know what God has said about Himself and His will for man. However, that cannot be an excuse here in the United States where the Bible is so easily accessible. There are many that remain ignorant because they are taught to follow the examples of men instead of the teachings of the Scriptures. Then there are the many that are ignorant because they are too preoccupied, too lazy, or too entrapped in sin to pursue the knowledge of God and His will. These are in grave danger because those are also marks of a false profession. It is also a common consequence of the false teaching that discipleship is an optional quest that occurs after salvation. A disciple is someone who follows the teaching of another, and if you are not following the teachings of Jesus, then you cannot be a Christian. Ignorance can be overcome through personal study of God’s word and sound teaching.
Another reason for such failure is discouragement or being overwhelmed. This can be caused by isolation, being entrapped by sin or lack of preparation. All are remedied by proper personal spiritual discipline and proper fellowship with other believers.
God has saved us to be His people, be holy and blameless and become like Jesus Christ. God is doing His part. What is our responsibility? What are we to do and how are we to do it?
Daniel & His Friends
We have been studying the book of Daniel for a couple of months and he is a great example of a man that did live properly before the Lord. There is nothing negative recorded about Daniel. What made such a difference in his life and the lives of his friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael? We have already seen in our study of this book that they were determined to be faithful, diligent in prayer and dependent on God’s word. They set a good example for us to follow.
Determined to be Faithful. Out of all the Jewish captives carried off to Babylon, only four were committed to keep the laws of God and not be defiled by what was offered to them in Babylon. Daniel 1:8 states, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought [permission] from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” Daniel was not alone in this. His three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah joined him in this commitment. The end result was that God blessed their commitment to Him and gave them great knowledge, intelligence and wisdom so that they quickly rose to important positions within the kingdom.
We can safely assume their continued faithfulness to God would be tested over and over again in many ways. We are told about the most dramatic tests. We are told about the great test given to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in Daniel 3 when they were commanded to bow down and worship the great idol Nebuchadnezzar had set up or they would be burned to death. They were faithful to obey the Lord and worship Him only and so they refused to bow down to the idol regardless of the consequences. God blessed them and preserved their lives in the midst of the fiery furnace.
The great test of Daniel’s faithfulness is recorded in Daniel 6 after the king’s command had gone out that making a petition to any god or man except Darius would result in being thrown into a den of lions. Daniel did not waver in his normal practice of prayer and was thrown into the den of lions. Again, God preserved Daniel’s life and caused him to succeed in the kingdom.
A commitment to faithfulness to God is a key element in living the Christian life successfully. But what enabled them to have such a commitment? There are many Christians that claim to have that commitment and genuinely want to live in such faithfulness and yet they still stumble, fail and fall. Again, Daniel and his friends provide the example that shows the way to success.
Diligence in Prayer is the second reason they were able to be faithful in their commitment to God. They knew God very well because they spent adequate time with him. Though not every story concerning them tells us about how they prayed, it is safe to assume they were diligent in prayer even in those because of the recorded examples.
We can safely assume that they were diligent in prayer during the period of time their diet was being tested in Daniel 1 because of their quickness to pray in the situation that arose in Daniel 2. When Daniel found out about the threat to their lives, he not only replied to Arioch with discretion and discernment so that he could get an extension of time before the scheduled executions, but Daniel quickly gathered Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah together to pray for God’s compassion on them (Daniel 2:14-18). God gave Daniel the needed revelation that night. We can also safely assume that Daniel’s friends did the same when faced with the threat of being thrown into the furnace of fire for refusing to worship an idol.
Daniel 6:10 gives us direct indication of his prayer habits because that was the very reason he was in trouble with the new law and was thrown into the lion’s den. The key phrase in the verses concerning Daniel’s prayer life is not in the details of his practice such as kneeling to pray three times a day with the windows open toward Jerusalem. It is the fact that he prayed “as he had been doing previously.” Daniel simply kept up with his normal practice in spending adequate time with God. We get a glimpse of that practice again in Daniel 9 as his study of Scripture prompts his prayer.
There is no magic formula for prayer. The scriptures record people praying in all sorts of physical positions – standing, kneeling and lying down prostrate. Hands are lifted up at times and not at others. Locations of prayer vary as well from within the temple, to bed chambers, to outdoors. There is also no set number of times to pray per day. Daniel prayed three times a day, but Scriptures record other godly men praying at different times and different frequencies. The key to diligence in prayer is not in location, position or frequency, it is in praying enough. You need to spend enough time with the Lord, whatever that may be, to adequately know Him, draw close to Him, walk with Him and trust Him.
Dependence on His Word is the third element in the example of Daniel and his friends that is key to their success in living in faithful commitment to God. In Daniel 1, they requested an exemption from eating the king’s meat because they knew from the law of God given through Moses that doing so would defile them.
In Daniel 4, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah refused to bow before the idol because they knew God’s command to worship Him and Him alone. They were not to bow down before any idol of any sort. They were committed to obey God’s command whether He chose to rescue them from the furnace of fire or not (Daniel 4:17-18).
In Daniel 6, it was Daniel’s knowledge of God’s word that had taught him the prayer habits that he had developed and he was committed to continue those godly habits.
In Daniel 9, it is the study of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah that causes Daniel to pray as he does. The prayer itself is full of elements he had gained from his understanding of the Scriptures. The remainder of the chapter is God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer.
Committed Friends. Daniel and his friends were successful in living for God’s glory because they were determined to be faithful, d
iligent in prayer and dependent on God’s word. But there is one additional factor. They were committed to each other. They went through the dietary test together in chapter 1. In chapter 2 they faced the threat of execution together and diligently prayed for God’s compassion upon them. And while we do not know where Daniel was at in chapter 3, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were together in facing the king’s wrath for not bowing to down to his idol.
We find many examples of such committed friendships in the Scriptures. People who were committed to helping one another be what God wanted them to be. They strove to put into practice the many “one another” commands. Some of these relationships were somewhat one way in that it was a mature person helping the immature to grow such as Jesus with his disciples or Paul with Timothy. Most of them were mutual relationships in which they would help one another according to their respective areas of strengths and weaknesses such as the apostles with one another. Additional examples include Jonathan and David, Naomi and Ruth, Barnabas and Saul.
The Body of Christ
The very purpose of the church is related to this need to have committed friends that will help one another become what they are supposed to be in Christ. One of the most helpful analogies given to explain the nature and functioning of the church is the idea of it being a body. The fullest explanation of this occurs in 1 Corinthians 12.
Pride and a perverted idea of spirituality had resulted in many factions within the Corinthian church and Paul is correcting that in chapters 12-14. In chapter 12 Paul begins his explanation of the nature of true spirituality along with explaining the source and purpose of the various gifts, ministries and powers given to those in the church. The source for all of them is God and they are distributed however the Spirit wills. Their purpose is the common good of the whole body. There simply is no such thing as a spiritual gift whose purpose is self edification.
Paul then continues and compares the church with a physical body showing the need of every part within it functioning in harmony with the other parts if the body is going to be healthy. There are many members in any body, but it is just one body. When either pride or pathological modesty exist, the body is going to suffer. Pride brings about the idea that you do not need the rest of the body. No matter how self sufficient a person thinks they may be, they are not autonomous. As Paul points out, that is as silly as an ear or eye thinking they do not need the rest of the body. On the opposite extreme are those who think the body will function fine or even better without them. A body without feet has a hard time getting around. A body without hands has a hard time fulfilling practical tasks. A body without a liver will die.
The reality is that every part of the body, both those parts that get a lot of attention and those rarely noticed, is needed for the body to function properly. So it is within the church, the body of Christ. Every person using what ever gift the Spirit has given them in whatever ministry entrusted to them by the Lord to whatever extent God allows is needed for the church to be healthy. If a part of the body is missing, the body suffers. A church will suffer when it is missing the gifts and ministries it should have. Like a person who is physically impaired, they may be able to overcome the handicap, but it will be with great difficulty and not be done as effectively or efficiently as it should. I would contend that most churches are handicapped by saints who sit on their gifts and do not carry out the ministries God intends for them.
This is not just in reference to the various ministries that should be carried out by the church that will have an effect on the community in which it exists. Even more important is that a lack of body life within the church results in its people lacking spiritual maturity.
In Ephesians 4:11-16 Paul explains the structure of the church and the means by which the work of ministry is accomplished. God gives to the church particularly gifted people in certain offices for the purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of the body.” What does such maturity look like? Paul continues from the negative side. “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” And from the positive side, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
In other words, each person in the body helps the rest of the body become mature. Proper doctrine results in standing firm and not being lead astray by false teachers. Proper ministry to one another results in proper service to the Lord. As each person uses the gifts, ministries and effectiveness God has given to them to help the others in the church the whole body matures and grows. Great or small, impressive or modest, out front or hidden behind the scenes, every person in the body is needed for the maturity of the rest of the body.
How does that work? You use your gifts to help those who are not so gifted to become mature in that area. Those with the gift of mercy show mercy to others and teach other believers to be merciful. Those with the gift of giving will give and also encourage other believers to do likewise. Those with a gift in administration will administrate and help others become organized. Those with a gift in teaching will teach so that people can understand God’s word, but they will also help others learn to teach in their respective roles – parent, mentor, friend. This principle is true for every gift.
However, using your spiritual gifts in ministry well is only one aspect of spiritual maturity. In fact, there are those who do very well in ministry, yet remain very spiritually immature. That was true in the Corinthian church. Also vital to spiritual maturity is walking with the Lord so that your life exhibits Him living through you. That is the reason for Paul’s emphasis on love in 1 Corinthians 13 and on using spiritual gifts for the edification of others in 1 Corinthians 14.
Remember, the goal of the Christian life is glorifying God. That is accomplished as your personal holiness reflects Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit indwelling you. You are to walk in holiness just as He did. Interaction within the body of Christ is also critical to this. The fulfillment of the many “one another” commands will result in living a godly life. We help one another to refrain from sin and to pursue holiness and ministry. 2 Timothy 2:22 is a good summary verse on this issue.
We read 2 Timothy 2:14-26 as our scripture reading this morning. The context is Paul giving Timothy instruction on being effective in his ministry to the Ephesians. This included avoiding the foolishness of the immature while being diligent in ministry and use of the Scriptures. The same is true in walking in holiness, and we are to help one another in that endeavor. “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
There are things to avoid. Paul is even more emphatic here saying you are to flee – turn around and run the other way. What are we to flee? Youthful lusts. In the Greek this is newterikaV” ejpiqumiva” / ne terikas epithumias – the strong desires common to those who are young in age. Because of
the connotation of the English word, lust, the tendency is to think of this as sexual temptation, but it is much more. It encompasses all the strong desires common to immaturity – acceptance by friends, having fun, improper humor, food, getting stuff (materialism), bravado and selfishness in addition to interest in the opposite sex. It is not that all these things are evil, but the immature lack the discernment and discretion needed to determine which is which and as well as the parameters for what is proper.
Paul says we are to flee from these things, yet it is common for Christians to ignore, tolerate or even participate in them. Ignorance of the danger accounts for some of it, but there is also a lot of arrogance by those who discount the danger. They think they are mature enough to handle the temptations and may even claim they do not affect him. But Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall.” Don’t try to walk on the edge of the cliff of temptation, stay away from it as much as possible. Flee.
There are also things to pursue such as righteousness, faith, love and peace. These are characteristics of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. Righteousness reflects the character of Jesus in your life. Faith is the action of belief in trust of God and His promises. Love is seeking the best interest of others at the sacrifice of yourself. This too reflects Christ in you. Peace is the result of walking intimately in trust of God. None of these are easy to pursue for they are contrary to our natural selfishness. We want our will done our way and these require us to learn to do God’s will His way. That is why you must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, determined to be faithful, diligent in prayer and dependent on God’s word. You also need committed friends around you to help.
Notice the last phrase in that verse. You are to flee temptation and pursue godliness “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” You must be careful about those whom you allow to become your influential friends. While we are to be friendly and reach out with God’s grace to everyone, we are to be very careful about our close and intimate friends. The blessed man does not allow himself to be affected by the advice, lifestyle and teaching of the ungodly. Jesus was a friend to sinners, but He did not let them influence Him. The same must be true for you if you are going to live a godly life.
Who are the friends that influence you? These are the people you allow to give you advice and that you “hang out” with. You will end up doing what they do and embracing their teaching. If they are ungodly sinners, you will follow in their path. Let me quickly add that in our modern times such influence also comes from what you read, what you listen to and what you watch. You must be discerning regarding teachers, books, magazines, web sites, blogs, music, talk shows, television, films, videos and all the rest.
If your friends are those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart, together you will help each other to flee from sin and pursue godliness. You will practice the many “one another” verses and you will become discerning about what you allow to influence you. You will warn, admonish, and correct each other regarding sin as part of patiently bearing burdens in restoring one another to righteousness. You will also accept, teach, encourage, build up and stimulate each other in the pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace.
This is the reason the purpose statement of this church is “Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” Our emphasis is to assist you to develop those relationships that will help you walk in godliness with our Lord. Opportunities for large and small group meetings and individual discipleship are all part of this. Each of us needs close Christian friends, so be sure to get involved with one another. Flee the desires and interests common to immaturity and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with the others here that call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Count how many times the word “friend” is used. Discuss with your parents the danger of worldly influences and the importance of having godly friends
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is it important to be reminded about things you already know? What is the danger of a man-centered gospel presentation? What is the ultimate purpose of God saving man? How is a person saved? What are they saved from? Christians are saved to become “the people of God” – how does that differ from the nation of Israel being the people of God? What is holiness and why do we know that is a purpose of salvation? What is the relationship of time – past, present and future – to a Christian’s holiness. Romans 8:29 states the Christian is predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son – what other verses teach that we will become like Christ? Since God is doing His part, why do so many Christians stumble and fail in the Christian life? What role does ignorance play in this and what are the sources for such ignorance? What is the difference between a true and a false profession of faith in Christ? How effect does discouragement have on a believer? How did Daniel and his friends demonstrate each of the following: Determined to be faithful, Diligence in prayer, Dependent on God’s word? What was the importance of their friendship with each other in standing firm in godliness? What other Biblical relationships demonstrate such godly friendships? What is the purpose of all spiritual gifts and ministries according to 1 Corinthians 12? How is the church, the body of Christ, similar to a physical body? What should be the result of the saints being equipped for ministry according to Ephesians 4? How are spiritual gifts supposed to work in harmony with each other? What role to fellow believers have in the development of personal holiness? According to 2 Timothy 2:22, from what should the Christian flee? Explain. Why is toleration dangerous? What should the Christian pursue? What is the role of other believers in fleeing and pursuing? How are you doing at practicing the “one another” verses with other believers? Who and what do you allow to influence your manner of life? What will you do to stop negative influences? What will you do to develop positive influences? Who are your friends? Who should your friends be?
Sermon Notes – 10/16/2011 –
The Need for Committed Friends – Selected Scriptures
2 Peter 1:12 and 3:1-2. It is important to be _______________ of what you already know
The Purpose of the Christian Life
A man centered gospel is a perversion that obscures ____________ purpose in saving us
Salvation is _________ a fire insurance policy to keep man from going to Hell
Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Christ and it is from ________ to righteousness – Romans 6
________ does His part (Philippians 1:6), so why do so many professing Christians live defeated by sin?
__________ professions of faith
____________: lack Scriptures, taught incorrectly, preoccupied, lazy or entrapped in sin
______________ , being overwhelmed.
Daniel & His Friends
Determined to be Faithful – Daniel 1:8,
Daniel 3 – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the fiery ___________
Daniel 6 – Daniel in the ___________ Den
Diligence in Prayer – Daniel 2:14-18
Daniel 6:10 – He prayed “as he had been doing ________________.”
There is no magic formula for prayer – you just need to pray ____________
Dependence on His Word – Daniel 1, 4, 6, 9
Committed Friends – Daniel 1, 2 & 3
Examples of _____________ committed friendships occur throughout the Scriptures
The Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12-14: a correction of pride in ___________ spirituality
__________is the source of all spiritual gifts, ministries & powers – no spiritual gift is for self edification
The church, like a physical body, has many parts but is only ____________ body and each part is needed
A body with a non-function part is ______________, and so is a church missing a gift / ministry
Ephesians 4:11-16. Each person in the body helps the rest of the body become _______________
You use your gift / ministry to help others become ___________in that area and they do the same for you
Spiritual maturity includes walking with the _________so that your life exhibits Him living through you
We are to reflect ______in our lives and fulfilling the “one another” commands will result in godly living
___________, run away from – youthful lusts = all the strong desires common to immaturity
Beware of thinking you can continue to ignore or ____________ them – 1 Corinthians 10:12
__________righteousness, faith, love and peace. These reflect walking with the Lord in a worthy manner
You must do God’s __________ God’s way, not your will your way or any other combination.
Be careful about who and what you allow to ________________ you (see Psalm 1)
Develop ____________ friends that will help you to both flee from temptation and pursue godliness
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