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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 1, 2015
Responding to Difficult Doctrine
John 6:41- 71
I was reminded this week as I was reading through the book of Hebrews the importance of living out what you profess to believe. One of the themes running through that book is the tragedy of the generation of Israelites that came out from Egypt under Moses that continually hardened their hearts against God. They had seen God perform so many great miracles in freeing them from slavery and then lived with the daily miracle of the provision of manna for food, yet instead of seeking and praying to God when they were facing some difficulty, they were quick to grumble and complain about not having what they desired. The result was that they did not enter into God’s rest and died in the wilderness. The warning to us is to not harden our hearts like they did.
The scripture that I put in the bulletin header this week picks up that same theme. You can profess anything you want, but the truth will be revealed by your actions. Philippians 2:14–16a, 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. . .” The proof of a claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ will be demonstrated by your reaction to the difficult things that come in life. This includes not only difficult circumstances, but also difficult things to understand about God and His ways.
As we conclude our examination of Jesus’ teachings in John 6, we will see that the various responses of the different groups of people present reveal what each actually believed. They should have been able to easily understand what Jesus was saying even though He was using metaphors. Jesus’ teaching becomes difficult for them because each is interpreting what He says according to what they were looking for. As we look at what Jesus says and their responses, consider what you are looking for and your own response.
The Setting – John 6:1-40
The setting of our text this morning goes back to Jesus feeding the multitude of more than five thousand the previous day. Jesus and His disciples had left Capernaum to get away from the crowds there and had crossed the Sea of Galilee to a lonely place on the northeast shore near Bethsaida. However, the crowds followed them there. Jesus had compassion upon them and both healed the sick and taught them of God. That evening Jesus performed the additional miracle of multiplying five barley loaves and two small fish into enough food to feed the five thousand men present plus any women and children that accompanied them and still have twelve baskets of food left over. (See: Ministering to the Multitude)
After the miracle of this meal, the crowd began to recognize that Jesus could be the promised prophet spoken about in Deuteronomy 18 and they intended to make Him king. Jesus knew this and disrupted their plan by sending His twelve disciples back to Capernaum in the boat and then dismissing all the people. Jesus then went up to the mountain to pray by Himself.
A strong wind storm came up that night that greatly hindered the disciples as they tried to row across the lake. Sometime between 3 and 6 a.m., Jesus walked across the lake on the water and joined the disciples. This frightened them until Jesus assured them that it was Him. It was at this point Peter got out of the boat and began to walk across the water to Jesus until he took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the wind and wave and he began to plunge into the water. Peter cried out to Jesus and Jesus pulled him up and they both got in the boat after which they immediately reached the area of Gennesaret, an agricultural area just south of Capernaum. (See: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus)
That morning, the people who were still in the area of Bethsaida began to look for Jesus. When they could not find Him, they traveled to Capernaum where Jesus had been staying. By the time they arrived, Jesus had traveled north from Gennesaret and was also in Capernaum in the Synagogue (vs. 59). When they found Him, a discussion began between Jesus and the crowd.
Jesus’ first response was a rebuke that they were seeking Him because He had fed by Him the day before (6:26). He then encouraged them to work for the food which endures to eternal life instead of food that perishes. As the discussion continued, Jesus went on to explain that the work of God was to believe in Him. They responded by demanding an additional sign miracle from Jesus equivalent to when manna from heaven was provided to the children of Israel in the wilderness with Moses. This began the “bread of life” discussion.
In John 6:32-40 Jesus makes direct claim to be the antitype of the manna. The manna was physical bread that would be eaten, but hunger would soon return. Jesus was the “true bread out of heaven” that would give life. Jesus claimed to be the “bread of life” which would remove hunger and that to believe in Him would end thirst. The context for these claims is the eternal life spoken about in verse 27 that is contrasted with physical food that perishes.
Jesus continued on in verses 37-38 to explain that He would not cast out those who came to Him and that He had come down from Heaven to do the Father’s will and not His own. The Father’s will for Jesus was that He lose none of those given to Him, but would raise them up on the last day (vs. 39). The Father’s will for them was that“everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (vs. 40). (See: Doing the Work of God)
That is the point we ended our study last week and where we pick up our examination of the text this morning.
Difficult Doctrine Part 1 – John 6:41-51
John 6:41, The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”
Grumbling (gogguvzw / gonguzo) is speaking and complaining in low tones; murmuring. And the text here specifically states they were grumbling about or concerning Jesus. They were not happy with what Jesus had said and they were talking it over among themselves in such a way that they did not want Jesus to over hear them directly. We have all seen and heard this kind of thing happen. Someone says something in a speech the people do not like or understand and the crowd starts whispering.
What was the problem? Notice first that the text states that it was “the Jews” that were doing this. Throughout John’s gospel the phrase, “the Jews,” refers to those who are generally following the pharisaical system and are hostile to Jesus. These are not the religious leaders from Jerusalem that have come up to hassle Jesus, but local people that knew Jesus and His family as verse 42 indicates. If you look ahead to verse 59, you will see that Jesus is saying all these things in the synagogue at Capernaum. These are the leaders of this synagogue and their followers. Their mindset was essentially the same as the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Their primary problem was with Jesus’ statement that He was “the bread that came down out of heaven.” They reject the idea that Jesus was something other than an ordinary man like they were. The fact that they knew Him and His family only added to their rejection of His claim. The questions in verse 42 are rhetorical expecting a positive answer. The point being that they knew Jesus’ father and mother and had watched Him grow up, so He could not be someone who came down from heaven.
Jesus heard their grumbling and knew what it was about. He answers it in verse 43-51 showing why they did not believe and then restates His claim even more forcefully.
First, Jesus addressed their grumbling. Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.” Jesus does not address the specifics of their grumbling, but simply tells them to stop. He could have been much stronger in His response given the fact they had already brought up the example of their fathers in the wilderness who received manna. That generation grumbled against God and it eventually cost them their lives (Numbers 14), so a strong rebuke of their grumbling could have been made, but Jesus has a more important point to make about why they either do not understand or reject His claim.
Jesus begins by pointing out the necessity of divine intervention in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Those who reject or do not like the doctrine of divine election do not like this verse and have to do a lot of theological gymnastics to try and get around it, but it is very clear. Jesus had already mentioned twice that the Father gives people to the Son (vs. 37, & 39). Now He states it forcefully that unless the Father draws a person, they cannot come to Him. He also reaffirms His earlier promise of resurrection, “to raise him up on the last day,” at the end of the verse.
The word “draw” here is e”lcw / elcho) which means to “pull or drag.” This is not a “moral influence” or a “gentle persuasion,” but a strong force that gets the job done. It is used of the fish “dragged” ashore in John 21:6,11. This word is also used to describe violent force such as when Paul and Silas are “dragged” into the forum (Acts 16:19) or Paul “dragged” out of the temple (Acts 21:30).
Theologians have called this “drawing” to Christ “irresistible grace.” It is God’s grace in drawing us out of our sin and redeeming us in Christ. Like a fish in the net being dragged to shore, that is not where we would naturally want to go. Some fish might swim with the net and be moved easily toward shore while others swim against the net and are moved by the force of the net. In both cases, the net does its job and the fish are drawn in. So it is with salvation. Some of us were more compliant than others, but all who are saved were drawn to Christ by the Father through the Holy Spirit’s action of convicting us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11). No one seeks to turn from their sin to Jesus Christ out of their own desire and power. As stated in John 1:12-13, those who believe in Jesus and become the children of God are not born of blood (genealogical heritage), nor the will of the flesh (your own desire), nor the will of man (someone else’s desire for you), but of God. A human cannot come to Christ without God drawing them any more than they can raise themselves up on the last day.
Now before anyone tries to blame God for their unbelief, look at verse 45. “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” There are several passages that include this same idea, but the quote comes from Isaiah 54:13, “And all your sons will be taught of the Lord . . . ” This passage, as well as the others, look forward to the time when Messiah would come and teach the people. They would be taught by God Himself. Those that hear and heed will come to Jesus.
The negative is that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. The positive is that all those that hear and learn from the Father will come to Jesus. However, not all taught by God will hear and learn. That was the case with these Jews. They were those who hearing did not understand and seeing did not perceive (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 13:14).
Jesus identifies Himself again in verse 46 as the one who reveals God, “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” This is a contrast even with Moses. God granted Moses his desire to see Him, but all Moses saw of God was His back (Exodus 33:23). God had told Moses “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Jesus has seen the Father face to face because He is from God and is God (John 1:1). If these Jews wanted to know God, then they needed to listen to one is from God and had seen Him.
In verses 47-51 Jesus restates again His promise of eternal life and contrasts Himself as the bread of life with the manna in the desert.
John 6:47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 “I am the bread of life. 49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
The contrast between Jesus and the manna is made clear here. The manna was only the type of what Jesus would be. The manna could sustain life only for a short time. It was physical in nature and did nothing to alleviate the curse of sin. They ate the manna but they would still die. Jesus is the bread from heaven that gives eternal life to those who eat it.
That this is metaphorical is clear in the context. It is another mishal which is a paradoxical saying that makes a veiled, but pointed remark. In the last phrase of verse 51 Jesus uses the future tense to refer to His coming sacrifice of His own flesh as the payment for sin on the cross which He would give for the life of the world. To believe in Jesus (vs. 47) is to accept him as the one crucified for your sin. Passover was at hand (6:4), and Jesus would be the final Passover lamb.
Difficult Doctrine Part 2 – John 6:52-59
The Jews did not understand the spiritual nature of what Jesus was saying. They take the words of Jesus as literal and physical instead of figurative and spiritual resulting in even greater confusion. John 6:52, The Jews therefore [began] to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us [His] flesh to eat?” They had been grumbling among themselves before, but now they are arguing with each other openly. What Jesus has said is difficult for them to understand. They understand Jesus’ point that His flesh is the bread from heaven, but how can they eat it? Jesus explains it to them again in verses 53-58.
John 6:53, Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. 58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
This should have been understandable to them, but again, they did not understand the figurative language for they were blinded by their own desires. Jesus could not have been advocating the eating of His physical flesh and the drinking of His physical blood even though He calls them “true food” and “true drink.” The word translated as “true” in verse 55 (ajlhqhvV / al th s) pertains to being real as opposed to imaginary, and though that which is spiritual is not physically seen, it is real nonetheless. To eat His physical flesh and drink His physical blood would have been cannibalism which was unthinkable under the Mosaic law. In addition, a person who ate blood was to be cut off from among the people (Leviticus 17:11).
While even Jesus’ close disciples did not understand that the Messiah would come first to suffer and die for sins of mankind, the concept is presented in the Old Testament in passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The knowledge was available for them to have recognized that Jesus’ statements about His flesh and blood were references to a sacrifice. In addition, eternal life (vs. 54,58) is a spiritual concept as is the concept of abiding in Jesus and Jesus abiding in you in verse 56. They should have recognized Jesus was talking about spiritual realities and not physical ones. Even though confused, they should have humbly asked more questions. Instead, they argued among themselves and rejected Jesus.
The same still occurs today. People do not understand Jesus’ claims, but instead of humbly seeking more information to understand, they reject Him on the basis of their limited knowledge. God resists the proud and arrogant, but He gives grace to the humble. What attitude do you think you need to have as you study your Bible?
The Response of the Unbelieving Disciples – John 6:60-65
As I pointed out earlier, Jesus said these things while teaching in the Synagogue at Capernaum (vs. 59). Jesus attention now turns to His disciples. These are not the Jews mentioned in verse 41 and 52. These are people that had attached themselves in some way as followers of Jesus, or at least their claim would have been to be followers of Jesus’ teachings. There could have been quite a few there. In verse 60 we find they are also having a hard time with what Jesus had just said. Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard [this] said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?”
They were not arguing, but they were grumbling. They were talking in low tones among themselves complaining that what Jesus said was difficult. It was difficult for some of them to understand what Jesus meant by His statement, but it was even more difficult to accept what Jesus said. This passage is the basis for the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of transubstantiation which is the idea that the bread and wine of Communion become the physical body and blood of Jesus. Because of this, the charge is valid that the Mass must be understood as the re-sacrifice of Jesus and eating the wafer is cannibalism. It is a silly doctrine that is contradictory to the clear teaching of the Scriptures, but it is a doctrine the Roman Catholic Church holds onto stubbornly because it increases the mystical nature of their religion and attributes to their priests the magical power to perform the transformation of bread into human flesh and wine into human blood. Jesus’ statement is difficult to understand and even harder to believe.
Jesus responds to them in verse 61, But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? The idea of stumbling here is being trapped into sin. Jesus is asking if what He said has led them to their sinful response of grumbling. This is not to imply that Jesus somehow tempted them, but rather did His words expose the hardness of their sinful hearts. They also should have been asking questions.
Jesus then tells them of a future event they would not believe if their hearts remained hard. John 6:62, [“What] then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?” This is essential asking them if they were also rejecting Jesus’ claim to have come from heaven and would they continue to reject it even if they saw Jesus return to heaven? In other words, what evidence would convince them that Jesus was from God. They had seen the many miracles. They had eaten the bread and fish He had miraculously multiplied the previous evening. They wanted manna from heaven and Jesus explained that He Himself was much more than manna, yet they were rejecting what they had heard.
Jesus continued in verse 63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. Jesus tells them directly that He was talking about spiritual things, not of fleshly things. This verse also proves that Jesus was not talking about cannibalistically eating His flesh and drinking His blood. He was using an analogy for believing Him and His claims. Just as food and drink are offered and accepted, so is Jesus’ offer of Himself as the means of eternal life. Just as food and drink are assimilated by the body for nourishment, so belief in Jesus brings about the nourishment of the soul.
Jesus then warns them in verse 64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
The truth of what Jesus said here was demonstrated in action very quickly. John 6:66, As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.
Again, it must be emphasized that a person can claim anything they want, but that does not make it true. Many of these people claimed to be followers of Jesus, but when that meant they would have to believe that Jesus was actually from heaven, they rejected what they did not understand. They wanted a savior that was like themselves, just more powerful to be able to throw off Rome’s yoke. They were looking for someone that would make their lives better in the here and now, not someone who was actually God in human flesh that would require such allegiance and intimacy of relationship as described. If they were to pursue Jesus in such a manner that He would abide with them, then Jesus would reveal even their hidden sin, and that is not something they desired.
People still have the same reaction to Jesus Christ. They claim to be followers for a while, but the more they uunderstand of whom He is and what He desires, the more uncomfortable they become. They want to escape hell, but they do not want to have to become so spiritual. They like living according to their flesh. I hate to sound cynical, but I know from the examples in Scripture and what I have seen over the course of my life that some who are here today will eventually reject Jesus Christ. I don’t know who it will be, and often it is a surprise, but let this serve as a warning. Don’t let it be you! Jesus already knows everything about you and still loved you so much that He died in your place for your sin. Living in the flesh is only a facade of what life can be. Living for Jesus is true life. Nothing could be more fulfilling. Don’t trade the reality of the abundant life in Christ for the short lived promises of life in the flesh. If your life is not what you were hoping for it to be, then the answer is in learning more of Christ and walking with Him. Do not follow the example in this text of those who walked away from Him.
The Response of the Twelve – John 6:66-71
Jesus’ attention now turns to the twelve whom He had chosen to be His closest followers. John 6:67, Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” It is a rhetorical question that expects a negative answer, but Jesus asks it as a test for the twelve. Simon Peter answers in verses 68-69, Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 “And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Peter is acting as the spokesman for all of them. Notice he uses the plural “we.” “Lord, to whom shall we go?” “We have believed.” As a group they had come to understand and believe that Jesus was who He was claiming to be. Jesus was from heaven. He was the Holy One sent by God the Father. That was a problem for the Jews and the disciples that had walked away, but it is the truth that if believed will bring eternal life. If Jesus is who He claims, then everything changes in your life as it did for the twelve.
But even among the twelve, there was one imposter. John 6:70, Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and [yet] one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas [the son] of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
What is your response to Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God who was sent by God the Father from heaven to earth to redeem man? Do you believe Him to the be the bread of life? Or do you try to find your sustenance in someone or something else? Do you find Jesus’ claims to be ludicrous as the Jews did? Or perhaps just too hard to accept as the disciples who left? Or are you like Peter who believed?
You can deceive me. You can deceive other people. You might even deceive yourself, but you cannot deceive Jesus. The proof is in your life. Do you eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood? Jesus’ makes it clear that this is a requirement for eternal life. How do you do that? Through His word. John 6:63, “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Jesus said in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” To feed on Jesus is to feed on what He has said. That is how you can know Him, believe Him and follow Him.
What is your response to Jesus’ difficult doctrine?
Sermon Notes: Responding to Difficult Doctrine
John 6:41- 71
Hebrews warns against following the example of Israel in the wilderness in _______________your heart
Philippians 2:14-16 – the children of God are not to be __________________
Jesus’ teaching is difficult when it is interpreted according to what one ______________
The Setting – John 6:1-40
Jesus had healed the sick and taught and ______________________fed the multitude
The crowd thought Jesus was the ________(Dt. 18) and would have made Him king, but He sent them away
Jesus walked out to His disciples in the middle of the ______in a wind storm, they then went to Gennersaret
The multitude could not find Jesus, so they traveled to ___________________where they finally found Him
Jesus rebuked them for seeking Him to get mere food, He then offered them __________food for eternal life
Their demand for another _______________prompted Jesus to teach them about the “bread of life”
____________in the Son brings eternal life, resurrection and security
Difficult Doctrine Part 1 – John 6:41-51
__________________(gogguvzw / gonguzo) is speaking / complaining in low tones; murmuring – vs. 41-42
The Jews, those following the Pharisaical system, were _____________that Jesus said He was from Heaven
Jesus could have given them a stronger rebuke, but only told them to ___________grumbling – vs 43
John 6:44 – divine intervention is ______________- though many do not like the doctrine of divine election
“Draw” is e”lcw / elcho) meaning to “pull or ___________” – see John 21:6,11; Acts 16:19; 21:30
People are saved __________by the actions of the Holy Spirit according to God’s own will (John 1:12-13)
John 6:45 – those who hear & learn from the Father come to Christ, but hard hearts _________it (Mt. 13:14)
John 6:46 – _______Jesus is from God and has seen the Father – Moses had not done this (Exodus 33:20-23)
John 6:47-51 – manna is a physical __________of what Jesus would be spiritually who gives eternal life
Verse 51 is _____________tense anticipating Jesus’ giving His flesh to bring eternal life to the world
Difficult Doctrine Part 2 – John 6:52-59
John 6:52 – the Jews are confused and now ____________openly with each other
John 6:53-58 – Jesus explains again using ________________language
“True” = real, not imaginary and what is spiritual is ___________though not physically seen
Eating physical flesh would be _____________________and drinking blood would violate Lev. 17:11
Passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 speak of the Messiah ______________as a sacrifice for sin
Eternal life and abiding in Christ are both _____________concepts and realities, not physical ones
The Response of the Unbelieving Disciples – John 6:60-65
John 6:60 – the “disciples” refer to the nominal _____________of Jesus, not the Jews or the Twelve
Transubstantiation _________the clear teaching of the scriptures, but the RCC holds it for its mystical value
John 6:61 – Their grumbling reveals hearts that are being ______________by sin
John 6:62 – essentially a question about what _____________would convince them Jesus was from God
John 6:63 – Jesus makes it clear that He is talking about ________________things, not physical ones
John 6:64-65 – the validity of a person’s claims is demonstrated by their ___________: many did not believe
Don’t trade the truth and reality of life in Christ for the short lived promises of the ______________
The Response of the Twelve – John 6:66-71
Peter acts as the spokesman for all – notice his use of the _____________pronoun, we
John 6:70 – there was an _______________even among the twelve
Your response to Jesus’ claims about Himself and what He offers will be demonstrated by your __________
Eternal life comes through Jesus’ ___________- John 6:63. See John 5:24. What is your response to them?
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 – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “eternal life” is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents how to have eternal life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What does grumbling and disputing reveal about a person? What had occurred the day prior to the events of John 6:26-71? Why was the multitude seeking Jesus? Where was Jesus when He gave this teaching? Who was present? What is the work of God (vs. 29)? What kind of sign did they want Jesus to perform (vs. 30-31)? How did Jesus contrast Himself with the manna? Who were “the Jews” and why were they grumbling against Jesus’ response (vs. 41-42)? Why was it hard for them to believe that Jesus came from heaven? What is the responsibility of man to God’s commands? What does the word “drawing” in verse 44 mean? Can it be equated to a “positive moral influence?” Why or why not? What is needed for a person to come to Christ? Why is verse 51 in the future tense – what is promised to happen in the future for those who eat this bread? What is the response of the Jews to Jesus’ teaching? What does it mean that Jesus’ flesh is true food and His blood is true drink? How do we know Jesus is speaking metaphorically? Why is the doctrine of transubstantiation taught by the Roman Catholic Church contradictory to the Scriptures? Why do they teach that it? Who are Jesus’ “disciples” in this passage? Why were they grumbling? What should they have been doing? What gives life in verse 63? What value is the flesh? What was the response of these disciples? What was Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’ question (vs. 67)? Did all of the twelve believe as Peter? What is your response to Jesus’ claims? Does the manner of your life match your claimed belief? If not, what needs to change?
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