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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 25, 2009
Spiritual Warfare, Part 7: The Belt of Truth, Part 4
Lies Against God’s Wisdom
Many people readily accept the Bible as God’s Word, they just doubt that what He says either applies to them or is the best thing to actually do. They put themselves in the position of deciding for themselves what is best. This is another of Satan’s lies and is a major reason so many professing Christians live in defeat.
We have been studying the subject of Spiritual Warfare from Paul description of it and the armor of God in Ephesians 6 for a couple of months now. We have a cunning adversary who leads a host of demons to help him in his effort to usurp God. Though at times it seems like our battle is against flesh and blood, the reality is that our battle is against these evil and wicked spiritual forces that strive to lead people, both Christians and non-Christians, astray from the knowledge of God. Satan seeks to prevent the non-Christian from coming to Christ and the hinder the Christian in living for Christ.
Paul tells us that Satan is a schemer and foundational to his schemes are his lies. The devil tells all sorts of lies, but ultimately his lies are against the character and nature of God. This is the fourth message dealing with the belt of truth which is the first item of equipment in the armor that God provides for spiritual warfare. We have already covered his lies against God’s existence (See: The Belt of Truth: God’s Existence) as well as his lies against God’s infinite nature. God is infinite with respect to time, space, knowledge, power and rule. God is eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign. (See: God’s Infinity) . In our last message we examined his lies against God’s veracity (See: God’s Veracity). The father of lies (John 8:44) slanders the source of all truth of withholding the truth and of being a liar. It worked to deceive Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6) and he has been using it ever since.
Attacks Against God’s Wisdom
Another aspect of the lies Satan used to deceive Eve was to call into question the wisdom of God’s commandment. Satan asserted, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Satan slandered God’s wisdom. He essentially told Eve that God was holding out and preventing them from having what would be best, which he suggests would be having the knowledge of good and evil which would make them like God. Eve believed Satan’s lies against God’s truthfulness and wisdom. She relied upon her own perception of reality and took of the fruit and ate and then gave to Adam and he ate. They quickly found out that their previous state of innocence and ignorance of evil was the better position. They were not like God, but they had plummeted themselves and future mankind into the knowledge and personal experience of sin.
It is rather silly for finite man to try to force the infinite God into the box with him and restrict God with the limits of man’s intellectual capacity and wisdom, yet this is commonly done by non-Christian and Christian alike. They fall for Satan’s slander and then under the assumption, whether acknowledged or not, that God is like them they limit God by their own thoughts, feelings and musings. Man is made in the image of God and because of that man is personal, rational, volitional and emotional as a reflection of God. However, at best the only intellectual similarity between God and man is that man is a reflection of God, and a flawed one since the Fall, but the stark difference between them is as great as the “heavens are higher than the earth” as Isaiah 55:9 states. Job and his friends debated the ways and wisdom of God, but when God revealed Himself to Job and challenged Job to consider just a few of God’s actions in creation and a few of God’s creatures, Job repented in dust and ashes declaring that He did not know God’s ways and that they were too wonderful for him (Job 42:1-6). We would do well to have the same attitude toward God and be humble before Him.
Satan’s slander against God’s wisdom can be used in most situations. All he has to do is find your area of weakness or your area of desire and then feed your sense of pride to make you think you know better than God. This can be blatant or very subtle, but either way it is very destructive. Let me give you some examples.
Theology: Even great theologians err because their intellectual pride pushes them to limit God by their own wisdom and understanding. They strive to force what God has revealed in the Scriptures into nice, tidy theological boxes so that their theological system can appear to be without tension with answers to all the questions. We should let God be God and when theological tensions arise because of apparent contradictions between Bible passages we should rest in God’s wisdom which is above our own. It is only pride that keeps us from being at peace in acknowledging that we do not understand all that God has done. While we should strive to understand God’s revelation, we do not have to demand that all theological tensions be solved and eliminated. That was not even true for the prophets of old (Matthew 13:17; 1 Peter 1:10-12), why should we demand it now? This truth that Moses declared to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 29:29 still applies today, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” What God has clearly revealed is enough for us to live a life of godliness (see 2 Peter 1:2-8) without trying to make dogmatic pronouncements about things He has not revealed fully. Paul declared that the riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God are such that His judgements are unsearchable and His ways are unfathomable (Romans 11:33). We must let context control our interpretation of the Scriptures and not theological systems.
Creation: Genesis 1 gives us the account of creation and the truth of that account is backed up by the testimony of Moses, the prophets, the psalmists, the apostles and Jesus Himself. The academic world for the most part rejects the account not because of science, but because of a philosophy that refuses to believe what they did not come up with themselves. Why? For they have set themselves up as the mediators of wisdom. Though the actual evidence from science is contrary to their conclusions, (See: The Importance of Creation), they reject the truth for the lie because the lie feeds their egos. They are intelligent, but they become fools who think they are wiser than God. Some reject God altogether and become atheists while others advocate a lesser god of their own imagination. Their lesser god is contained in the same box as mankind and cannot create from nothing nor control or direct what he created or even communicate clearly what he has done. Man is given the position of being wiser than God in their systems. It is tragic enough that non-Christians and those who are in cults do this, it is much worse that so many who claim to be Bible believing Christians do the same thing by subjecting their interpretation of Scripture to the musings of secular philosophers and pseudo-scientists rather than interpreting Genesis 1 according to its context and believing that the God of the Bible can actually do what He declares. They have rejected the God of the Bible for a lesser god that they can understand according to their own wisdom.
Redemption: The wisdom of God operates on a different plane than our own, and especially so when it comes to His redemption of mankind. The prophet Isaiah understood this and wrote in Isaiah 55:6-9, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” An understanding of God’s plan of redemption will not be discovered by man’s intellect, but only by God’s revelation of it.
Paul also deals with this same issue in 1 Corinthians 1:21-25. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The wisdom of man rejects the gospel message. I have met many very intelligent people that reject the gospel because they find it foolish. Atheists reject God along with the gospel because it does fit within their preconceived philosophical notions and demands. Agnostics are more humble in that they admit they do not know, but they are too proud to admit that truth can be found and known outside themselves. More often than either of these though is the pride that rejects the message of salvation through the substitutionary atonement of Christ as too simple. Human wisdom demands that there must be some work on the part of humans to achieve favor with God since that is the experience of human relationships. While some people accept one another and give favor to others more freely than others, there are always conditions within human relationships. Even a parent that sacrifices for their child has some level of expectation of the child to continue to make the sacrifices. The idea of God making such a sacrifice on behalf of men who are still sinful and at enmity with Him is beyond their comprehension. It is contrary to their wisdom.
Lying: Satan’s slander against God’s wisdom also has an effect on the way we live in daily life. For example, Ephesians 4:25 states, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one [of you,] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” This is only one of many verses in which God makes it clear that He does not want us to lie. Revelation 21:8 tells us that all liars will be cast into Hell. Yet, how many professing Christians do routinely lie for a host of reasons. I have even had to argue with people in church who have taken issue with me for teaching my children not to lie and holding them to a strict standard of truth. They argued that standard was too high and would keep my children from coming to me. That is the world’s wisdom – and it is wrong. What good is it to have your children come and tell you things if you can’t trust what they are telling you? Whether you are approachable or not is a different issue than demanding truth. My children freely share even their struggles, weakness and sins with us and we help them work through all those things.
The lie may be simple convenience such as answering the phone and saying the person they want to talk with is not there even when they are actually sitting there in the room with you. We try to justify it by saying we wanted to avoid hurting their feelings, which is not justification for lying, but usually the real reason is we simply just do not want to be bothered, or we want to avoid the request the person on the phone may make. Why do we lack the courage to be honest and the grace to be loving in our honesty? Is it not because we think our wisdom is better than God’s?
People often lie to get what they want and avoid problems and then use all sorts of arguments to justify their selfishness as still being good. Satan’s slander can make God’s prohibition on lying seem not only unwise, but unloving. Wives manipulate their husbands and justify it arguing that their way is good for him. Perhaps, but why not just be open and honest? Because then you might not get your way. Husbands lie to their wives about what they are doing and excuse it saying she would not understand, she did not need to know and it would only hurt her. Really? I seriously doubt it is her feelings your really trying to spare but rather your own should she be disappointed or upset with you. Honesty by husbands and wives might cause strain in their relationship, but it is right at that point of conflict that both can work through their selfishness and rely on God as they fulfill the roles He has given them in the marriage so that both become more Christ-like in the process. Avoiding potential conflict by lying may seem like a wise idea, but it based on the devil’s slander against the wisdom of God’s commands and plans. Man’s wisdom usually differs from God’s because the goals are not the same. A lie is a lie is a lie and God says it is sin, so don’t do it.
The classic case to justify lying from situational ethics creates the scenario that you are in occupied Holland during WWII and are hiding Jews in your house when Nazis come to your door. What would you say? God does not say you have to answer every question put to you, but neither are you to lie. What would you do? Would you trust God’s wisdom or rely on your own? Would you lie and say there were no Jews there, just remain silent, or tell them they could look around if they wanted and trust the Lord for the future. There is an anecdotal story that this actually happened and the homeowner told the Nazi officer that the Jews were under his feet. He thought the man was being sarcastic and got mad and left. The hidden Jews actually were under his feet in the cellar under that room whose trap door was covered by the rug the officer was standing upon.
Life’s Purpose: Another common slander the devil makes against God’s wisdom concerns the purpose of life. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
We say that we believe the Bible is true, yet how many Christians will subject their life goals to God’s wisdom? Too many place greater dependency in their physical possessions rather than God’s promises. Too many professing believers set their aspirations on what the world values rather than Christ. Their treasures remain on earth instead of the things in heaven. Let me give you some specific examples of how easy it is to exchange Godly wisdom for worldly wisdom in this area.
The so called “American Dream” is largely a materialistic one of owing a house, driving a nice car and looking forward to a comfortable retirement. There is nothing wrong with these in themselves, but if they become the focus of life, the treasure you set your heart upon will soon cause compromise of the priorities God sets in order to gain them. The same is true if the treasure of your heart is fame, positions of power or hedonism – the pursuit of pleasure. Jesus warned us to be careful about making things that can be stolen or destroyed the treasure of your heart, which is true of all the things the world values so much. Material possessions can quickly lose value, be stolen or destroyed. Fame is usually fleeting, but even when achieved, the cheers of the crowds can quickly turn to boos and the next generation will not remember you. Those in positions of power are always targeted by those who want that position, and sooner or later someone else will get it. Pleasure is only momentary and always diminishes over time. What was enjoyable in the past will not be as enjoyable in the future because pleasure experienced quickly becomes routine. Yet, these are the things that men in their own wisdom value and pursue.
How much are you affected by the world’s wisdom in these areas? Consider what sacrifices you would make to gain a larger salary, or a larger house or a nicer car? What compromises would you make to gain power or prestige? How much extra time per week would you set aside in order to achieve them? 5, 10, 15, 20 or more hours per week. What if the pursuit of these goals is the difference between your kids being in daycare or not? What if this is the difference between being able to use your spiritual gifts and be involved in ministry or not? What if this is the difference between being able to have a consistent devotional life with God or not?
Let us consider this same principle from a slightly different angle. We are now in a serious economic downturn. I do not like the fact that the investments we sacrificed to make have lost 40% or more of their value and in particular those set aside for my sons’ college education which will not recover value before they will have to be used. I am angry that those who caused this economic mess are still in their positions of power and I am fearful that their proposed solutions will not only push this recession into a full fledge depression but also place an incredible debt load on my children and grandchildren to be born in the distant future while also changing America into a socialist republic such as those already existing in Western Europe. Unemployment is rising and some within our own congregation have already faced the threat of losing their jobs, and though most have survived the first layoffs, there is still a strong possibility if not probability that additional folks among us will lose their jobs in the coming years. How should you respond to this situation?
The temptation can be strong to follow the worldly wisdom being advocated all around us? Should we look for some sort of political / economic savior who will rescue us? Those who think the current administration and Congress will do that will be sadly disappointed. Worldly wisdom would tell us to become more involved in politics and place economic issues as the top priority, yet as I have spoken about earlier, the top political priority for the Christian should be on the moral issues (See: The Christian & Politics). What concerns us more, our bank account or the outworking of Biblical ethics in our lives? I was shocked to read about participants in this past Thursday’s Right to Life March in Washington, D.C. that also had on Obama pins. Did they not hear his message to the crowd of some 250,000 plus pro-life people was a rejection of their concerns and a strong re-affirmation to his commitment to abortion. Strange, but worldly wisdom continues to think that putting people of low moral character in positions of power is going to somehow better their own future. It is not true, but that is one of the differences between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom.
The temptation can also be strong to change whatever you must in order to preserve the treasure you have already accumulated. While there is nothing wrong with reviewing your budget, being more frugal in your expenditures and making your investments more diverse, what happens if fear takes over? Will you compromise the priorities God has set in order to preserve what you have? Paul said in Ephesians 4:28 that we are to work in part to be able to share with those who have need. While the economic reality may be that we do not have as much to share, do we cut off our compassion toward others in order to maintain our lifestyle and preserve our materialistic treasures? More serious that this though is changing your moral conduct in order to preserve your job or income flow. This brings up Jesus’ conclusion in the passage in Matthew 6 concerning the source for the things we need for life.
Provision for Life: Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 6:19-24 that man cannot serve both God and mammon – the things of this world. His heart will be controlled by what he treasures so that he will love the one and despise the other. Jesus then went on to explain how setting your treasure in heaven and heart on serving God can give you peace concerning having the things needed for life in the present. Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:25 was to not be anxious about food, drink and clothing and then explained how God provided these things for the animals and plants He created, and that we are worth much more than them. Jesus then concluded in Matthew 6:33 with a statement on how to ensure God’s provision, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you.” We are not to be anxious about tomorrow. That is God’s promise and wisdom. He wants our focus to be on Him and not be preoccupied and worried about the daily stuff of life.
Man’s wisdom is opposite this and willingly compromises God’s kingdom and righteousness in order to assure the provisions needed for life. While driving the other day I heard a financial advisor on the news channel tell people to do what is necessary to please the boss so that you might avoid being laid off. That may be decent advice for the non-Christian, but the Christian should be an even better employee than that because we have a higher ethic to fulfill. Paul explained in Ephesians 6:5-8 that slaves, employees in our society, were to be obedient and work in the “sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.” It does not matter who signs the paycheck, the Christian is to work for Christ.
Business ethics have degenerated rapidly over the last generation. That is why agreements that used to be done on a handshake when my parents were young now require all sorts of legal documents and a team of lawyers to understand and enforce. Employees lie to their employers about the job they did. Diane read me an article this week about postal workers who hide the mail they did not deliver due to either their incompetence or laziness. One woman has been renting a storage unit for years into which she has been putting all her undelivered mail. Others dig holes and bury it. That is the wisdom of the world.
Employers ask their employees to lie to customers. I still remember Elias Carrero quitting a job at a local car dealership after only a few days when he found out they wanted him to misrepresent the cars to the customers. That is the wisdom of the world, but it is not acceptable for Christians. Interesting enough, that dealership went out of business within a couple of years.
Taking a lead from the Federal Government, businesses often engage in, shall we say, “exotic accounting practices” in order to make the numbers come out to their advantage for any given year. That is one of the key factors that caused the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac even though both were supposedly regulated and overseen by the Federal Government. The same people in Congress are still overseeing them and the bailouts. That is the wisdom of the world, but it is not acceptable for the Christian for we are to follow God’s wisdom.
Discerning Godly Wisdom & Worldly Wisdom
Let me conclude this morning with two ways in which you can discern whether something is according to Godly wisdom or worldly wisdom.
First, compare what is being suggested with what God says about the same subject in His word. The greater your knowledge of the Scriptures the easier this will be for you to do. If you do not know or are uncertain, then it is well worth the time to study the issues involved and become discerning. This is true even if it means putting a decision on hold until you can find out what God says about it. No decision is so pressing that it must be made without first seeking God’s wisdom. Seeking the advice of godly people can be a tremendous benefit as they direct you to the Biblical principles and suggest practical ways you can apply those principles in your situation.
Second, examine the behavior and deeds of those advising you and the outcome of following that advice. James 3:13-18 gives a contrast between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom on this basis. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and [so] lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Jealousy, selfish ambition, arrogance, hypocrisy and lying are all marks of earthly, natural and demonic wisdom. Peace, gentleness, reason, mercy, good fruits, steadfastness and sincerity are all marks of Godly wisdom from above.
Too many professing Christians place their relationship with God and serving Him way down on their list of priorities. God is to be at the center of your life and not the edge. This failure leaves them very vulnerable to Satan’s lies and following his wisdom and that of the world instead of God’s. Are you seeking to walk in submission to the Lord’s wisdom or are you trying to succeed by your own? What marks the wisdom you seek to follow?
The next sermon in this series is: (See: Spiritual Warfare, Part 8; The Belt of Truth, Part 5: Lies against God’s Holiness )
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 – 1) Count how many times word “wisdom” is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about the difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why do so many people who say they accept the Bible as God’s word not follow its principles and precepts in their lives? How was Satan able to deceive Eve in the Garden of Eden? Why is it silly for man to try to limit God wisdom by their own standard? What is the similarity and the difference between man’s intellectual ability and that of God? How can be effective in slandering God’s wisdom to a person? Why do theologians error in trying to force the Scriptures into nice, tidy theological boxes? Why is it wrong to think that all theological tensions can be solved and removed? Cite some verses that show man is limited in his understanding of God and His program? What should control our interpretation of the Bible if it is not theology? How have believers fallen for Satan’s lies concerning the Creation? How do these lies slander God’s wisdom? Why don’t the “wise” of the world readily accept and believe the gospel message? How is this related to slander of God’s wisdom? What does human wisdom demand for redemption? How do we know that we should not lie? What are some of the common reasons that people lie? Wives to husbands and husbands to wives? What about Christians? Why do even Christians often lack the courage to tell the truth and the grace to do so lovingly? What circumstances tempt you to lie? How can that temptation be overcome? What is the purpose of your life? How do you know that is true? What sacrifices would you make to gain the things of this world? What about power? Position? Fame? Have you ever compromised Biblical principles for them? How should you respond to our current economic recession? What is God’s priority in politics? Do you think that was the priority of most Christians who voted in the last election? Why or why not? How much care should you take to preserve your present wealth? What is God’s purpose for your job? Wealth? Why are we commanded not to be anxious about food, drink and clothing? How does God provide for the animals and plants? What should we do to ensure that we will have sufficient food, drink and clothes? Why is pleasing the boss not enough for the Christian? Who is the Christian’s real boss? Why have business ethics degenerated so much in the last 40 years? How can you discern godly wisdom from worldly wisdom?
Sermon Notes – 1/25/2009
Spiritual Warfare, Part 7; The Belt of Truth, Part 4: Lies Against God’s Wisdom
Many people who accept the Bible _____that what God He says either applies to them or is the best thing
The devil tells all sorts of lies, but ultimately his lies are against the character and nature of ________
Satan’s lies and slander worked to _______Eve, he has been using the same tools ever since.
General Slanders against God’s Wisdom
Genesis 3:5 – Satan slanders God’s __________in restricting them from the Knowledge of Good and Evil
Finite man tries to force the infinite God into the box with him and __________God’s wisdom to his own.
Man’s rationality is at best a flawed _____________ of God, but starkly different – Isaiah 55:9
Satan slanders God’s wisdom by finding & feeding your sense of _____so that you think you know better
Theology: Theologians err when intellectual pride pushes them to _______God by their own understanding
___________ is to control our interpretation of the Scriptures and not theological systems.
Creation: The academic world rejects Creation because their ____________is limited to their own wisdom
Some reject God altogether while others advocate a ____________ of their own imagination
Tragically, many Christians subject their interpretation of the Bible to _______musings instead of context
They reject the God of the Bible for a ____________they can understand according to their own wisdom
Redemption: The __________ of God operates on a different plane than our own – Isaiah 55:6-9
The wisdom of man _________ the gospel – 1 Corinthians 1:21-25
Human wisdom demands that there must be some ______on the part of humans to achieve favor with God
Lying: Ephesians 4:25 – Yet many professing Christians do routinely _______
Lies for personal __________. Why do we lack the courage to be _________and the grace to be loving?
Lies to achieve goals and __________ problems – are slanders against the wisdom of God’s ways
Man’s wisdom usually differs from God’s because the __________ are not the same.
Life’s Purpose: Matthew 6:19-21
Few Christians actually subject their life goals to God’s wisdom, most still pursue the things of this _____
____________possessions can quickly lose value, be destroyed or stolen
___________is fleeting and the crowds’ cheers can quickly turn to boos
Those in power are eventually ____________by those wanting that power / position
____________is momentary and has a diminishing return
Our economic downturn will challenge people concerning their real goals in life
Worldly wisdom dictates making finances / the economy the ______. Godly wisdom focuses on ________
Worldly wisdom dictates ___________your treasures by all means. Godly wisdom keeps God’s ________
Provision for Life: Matthew 6:19-24 – man will be controlled by what he sets his _________ upon
Matthew 6:25-32. God commanded us not to be ___________, for He cares & provides for all creation
Matthew 6:33. We are to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness _______. He will take care of providing
Man’s wisdom _____________God’s kingdom and righteousness in order to provide for self.
Ephesians 6:5-8. Our real boss is _____________ regardless of who signs the paycheck
Business ethics have rapidly _________________because man’s wisdom has supplanted God’s wisdom
Discerning Godly Wisdom & Worldly Wisdom
1) Compare what is being suggested with what God _________about the same subject in His word
If needed, spend the ___________ researching the issue in the Scriptures to find its direction
2) Examine the __________& deeds of those advising you and the outcome of following that advice
James 3:13-18. ________wisdom is marked by jealousy, selfish ambition, arrogance, hypocrisy and lying
_____wisdom is characterized by peace, gentleness, reason, mercy, good fruits, steadfastness & sincerity
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