pill-bottleIntroduction 

I heard about a man who wanted to travel by ship from America to Europe, but could scrape together only enough money for a ticket, thus having no money to purchase food at the ship’s restaurant. So, he packed his own cheese and crackers, avoiding the restaurant, where people feasted daily on the most delicious foods.

Days later, as the crackers went stale and the cheese was probably beginning to mold, a fellow passenger pulled the wretched man aside and inquired, ‘’I noticed that you never dine with us in the cafeteria. Would you mind telling me why?’’ He confessed his inability to pay for anything except for the ticket, to which his new acquaintance replied, ‘’But didn’t you understand? The food came with the ticket!’’(1)

Tragically, many Christians are just like this man. They never grew enough spiritually to understand all that came with their ticket to heaven. Existing on spiritual cheese and crackers, they miss the spiritual feast that God says comes with salvation. Today let’s begin to look at a few items in the feast, and the doubts that keep some from enjoying that feast.

As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Present declarations 

Salvation isn’t just about life after death. We possess eternal life here and now, along with its many benefits. Here are just a few:

Forgiveness. Some Christians continue to go to bed at night, racked with guilt for their past behavior. Yet, from God’s perspective, those sins are gone, taken away as far as the East is from the West, flung into the deepest sea. We no longer have to be shackled by guilt! As concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom put it, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”(2)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…. (Ephesians 1:7) 

A New Creation. Some people think, “I’ve made such a mess of my life that it would be better if I started over from scratch.” That’s why God did more than simply help us rehabilitate our old lives. He started off fresh, giving us a new birth into His family. As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5:17) 

The Holy Spirit. God didn’t save us and then leave us to live the rest of our lives in our own power. At our salvation, His Spirit comes to live inside of us, offering us the power and guidance we need to live successful Christian lives. As we all find out, the Christian life isn’t hard, it’s impossible! That is, it’s impossible to live in our own power. Successful Christians learn to lean on His Spirit to empower them to live the Christian life.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) 

Future Promises 

Years ago, I read an interview with an incredible football player. He was a record- setting, professional superstar—the type hero that fans are tempted to worship. But while this quick and powerful running back was confident on the playing field, he wasn’t so confident about a bigger issue. One day, an interviewer asked him what he feared—an interesting question for a player so intimidating that his opponents feared him. But his answer was revealing. What did he fear? In his own words, “Dying and going to hell. But I hope I don’t, because I’ve been a good person.” 

This man had risen to the top of his profession, but couldn’t find abiding peace because he didn’t know for certain where he was headed for eternity. Many people don’t even think it’s possible to know their eternal destiny. Yet, the Scriptures make it clear:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

To know, not to merely hope or think probable, God wants us to have a confidence and peace about our final destiny. We should be looking forward to spending eternity with Him in our heavenly home!

God promises in His Word that we will:

Escape God’s wrath. Since God is a just God, the penalty for sin must be paid. Yet, because of God’s grace, Jesus took God’s entire wrath for sin upon Himself.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5:9) 

Be resurrected at Christ’s second coming. Both deceased believers and the ones alive at His coming will be transformed, receiving new, glorified bodies. The more aches and pains my earthly body gets, the more I get excited about my new heavenly model!

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) 

Have eternal life. All believers are promised to be with Jesus forever! We don’t have to wait to see if we get eternal life. We possess it now!

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) 

Dealing With Doubts

If God promised that we will escape His wrath, receive a new heavenly body and live with Him forever, then why do some Christians struggle with doubts? Even if you don’t personally struggle with doubt, you will run across others who do. Let’s deal with some common causes of doubt.

In the previous Pocket PrincipleTM we answered two sources of doubt. 1)“I’m not sure that I understood everything when I first accepted Christ.” 2)“Sometimes I don’t feel saved.” Do you remember how we dealt with these? Here are some more.

1. “It’s hard to believe God could forgive my past.” 

Listen to the testimony of this great sinner:

…I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 

Do you know who wrote that? It was the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 1:13-16, the man who God used to write most of the books of the New Testament. Do you know what he was like before he became a Christian? He rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He was such a violent man and so furiously enraged at Christians that he persecuted the church, imprisoning Christians and having them beaten and killed (I Timothy 1:13; Acts 7:58, 8:1, 9:1,2,4,5, 22:4,5,7,19,20, 26:9-11). But Paul wants you to know that if God can still have mercy on him, then nobody is too bad for God to save. No matter what you’ve done, remember—

…the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7) 

From how much sin? “All sin.” Even if you’ve abused drugs or committed sexual sins? “All sin.” Even if you’ve killed Christians? “All sin.”

There’s no sin in your past that’s so bad that God can’t take out the stain and leave you as clean as fresh snow.

2. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not very serious about this God stuff.” 

Although Harry prayed to receive Jesus at a high school retreat and presently goes to church a couple of times a month, he really doesn’t give much thought to God in his day to day living. He doesn’t read his Bible to find out how to run his business, raise his children or treat his wife. In fact, his life is really no different from the non-Christians he works with every day. Although he has doubts about his salvation, he’s banking on that high school decision at a retreat to get him into heaven.

Harry needs to read some verses that comfort the disturbed, but disturb the comforted. Harry needs to be disturbed. Do you remember the verse we mentioned earlier in this study?

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

What were “these things” that John had written to give them assurance? The book of I John describes two kinds of lives, the life of those who have eternal life and the life of those who don’t. Look at the characteristics of each life:

Real Christians show evidence of their salvation by their…

Obedience (I John 2:3,4) 

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation

Faith (I John 5:1) 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 

Love 

Love for God (I John 5:1,2)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 

Love for People (I John 3:14,15)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

Some of us sensitive types may look at this list and get discouraged. After all, none of us live out faith, love and obedience 100% of the time. Does this mean we’re not Christians? No! When John wrote the book of I John, he often used a tense that in the original Greek indicates a habitual lifestyle. I John 1:8 clarifies that we’re not speaking of perfection.

Some people get so sensitive that when they miss a personal time with God they question whether they are saved or not. But just the fact that you are trying to meet with God, and feel bad when you don’t, shows that the Spirit is working in your life.

When we accepted Christ, a big about face occurred in our lives. Instead of making all decisions centered on “me, me, me,” we’re starting to think about loving others and living for God.

According to I John, my assurance is based, not on how emotional I got at a religious service, but on the general direction of my heart and life, here and now.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Do you believe in Jesus now? Are you following Jesus now? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ now? Are you following God rather than following self? According to God’s Word you’re a Christian and you have eternal life.

Caution! Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation. Our salvation is by grace through faith, not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8,9).

3. “I’m afraid I’m too weak to hold onto my salvation.” 

I’ve got good news for you! First, you don’t have to wait to see if you get eternal life with God after you die. You already have eternal life.

Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

Think about it. If you could lose your eternal life, then it was never eternal in the first place! You already possess the eternal life that you’re afraid you might not get!

Second, God promises that He’ll keep you. Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us. Jesus said,

And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39, 40) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) 

These verses paint a vivid picture of us securely held in Jesus’ and God’s hands. Don’t let that picture leave your mind. We’re not dangling from God’s fingers, holding on desperately for fear that we’ll fall away from Him. His all-powerful hand holds us so firmly in its grasp that nothing can snatch us away. Our salvation is as secure as the power of God to hold and keep us!

 

End Notes:

(1) Found in Bill Bright’s Transferable Concepts (Campus Crusade for Christ). Worded by Steve Miller.

(2) Corrie ten Boom with Jamie Buckingham, Tramp for the Lord (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), 53.

pocket principle Getting StartedINTRODUCTION

Just before leaving on a big trip, I always take a final look around to make sure I’ve got everything I need. Do I have my wallet, enough money for gas and food, my plane ticket, the papers with the addresses and phone numbers of hotels? Although I’m almost certain I’ve already put these in the car, I check one last time just to be sure. Why? Because if I’ve forgotten something essential, I may never make it to my intended destination.

In the same way, after making a decision to follow Christ, I had to look back to make sure I’d done everything right. I knew that if I’d misunderstood some essential aspect of salvation, I might never make it to where I wanted to go— heaven. Because of the importance of this salvation experience, it’s only natural that some people question their experience or want to make sure they “did it right.” We know that God’s done His part in sending His Son to pay for our sins. Our concern is that perhaps we’ve not done everything right on our part to receive His gracious gift. That’s what this lesson is all about.

Why not stop reading for a moment and ask God to help you understand His Word on this important topic. If you’re not used to talking to God, you could just say something like, “God, I want to make sure I’ve done everything I need to do in order to be forgiven and to be Your child. Please help me to understand. Thanks for caring about me!”

UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD DID FOR US

First, there are certain things we need to understand and believe. Some people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you live consistently with it.” Yet, Hitler believed that he was doing the world a favor by killing off “lesser” races and helping the “superior” Aryan race to dominate the earth. Osama Bin Laden believes that Allah wants him to kill people who don’t believe as he does. Both Hitler and Bin Laden may have lived consistently with their beliefs. Yet, wrong beliefs lead to wrong actions. Having the right belief is critical. What must we believe to be saved?

The Bad News: We are sinful and this sin separates us from God. Because of our sin, we are lost and can’t have a relationship with God through our own efforts.

Imagine that you’re in a math class and your teacher says, “You should know how to work all of these problems by now. The passing grade for this pop quiz is 100%.” Yet, as you take the test, you realize that you’re getting some of the problems wrong. No matter how many you get right from now on, will you ever pass the test? No. Because passing is 100%. No matter how many you get correct from now on, you’ll never get 100%. You’re gonna fail.

Passing that math test after missing some problems is as impossible as making it to heaven, on our own, after we’ve already sinned—falling short of God’s perfection. Imperfect people can’t make it to a perfect heaven on their own merits. This is the first thing we need to believe.

The Good News: Knowing that we couldn’t save ourselves, God sent His Son

Jesus Christ to save us. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life in obedience to His heavenly Father. When He died on the cross, He wasn’t dying for His own sins, but for our sins. He paid the penalty that we deserved to pay.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (I Peter 3:18a)

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Imagine that last year you found a misplaced folder at work that proved your employers were exaggerating their profits to make their company look good to the stock holders. Although you knew you should go public with the information, you thought of your responsibility to your family and didn’t want to risk getting fired. Now you sit in a courtroom before a judge who finds you guilty of participating in the crime by withholding information. He says that you must either pay a fine of $100,000.00 or serve 10 years in jail. You tell him you don’t have $100,000.00. As a righteous judge, he declares you guilty.

Then the judge, seeing the distress on your face and the faces of your children, appears to be holding back tears as he writes something that only he can see. He hands it to a courtroom aid, who delivers it to you. You gasp as you realize that the judge has just written you a check for $100,000.00, offering to pay the entire penalty that you owed.

That’s what the Bible calls grace—God offering a payment for what you owed, not because you deserved it, but because of His great love. How astounding that God would pay our debt with the sacrifice of His Son.

But it’s not enough for God to offer this gift. You could reject the check offered to you by the gracious judge. How do we receive God’s grace?  It’s not enough to believe in God and believe that Jesus died for our sins. According to the Bible, even demons believe in God (James 2:19). We must receive His forgiveness through repentance and faith. Let’s look at these one at a time.

RESPONDING THE WAY GOD WANTS US TO RESPOND

Repent From Our Sins. Repentance is our response to the bad news: our sinfulness and rebellion against God. The simplest definition of repentance is “a willingness to change.” Don’t get confused here! We’re not saying that we change so that God will save us. That would be salvation by works! Besides, we can’t make a lot of changes in our lives until God renews us and empowers us to live a new life. We’re simply saying that we make a mental change of allegiance, from bowing to self to bowing to God.  In repentance we tell God, “I’m willing to change! I want to turn from my sin and serve You!”

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ (Matthew 4:17)

Believe In Jesus. Faith or belief in Christ is our appropriate response to the good news.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) and worked miracles and rose from the dead.” To believe in Jesus means that you put your trust in Him. It’s like people who say that they believe in aerobic exercise.

They don’t mean merely that they believe that somewhere in the world, aerobic exercise classes exist. They mean that they believe enough in aerobics to be willing to do aerobics. If a person says she believes in Coke, she’s saying more than she believes Coca-Cola exists. She believes in it enough as a refreshing beverage that she’s willing to drink it.

Similarly, faith in Christ is more than an intellectual agreement that He exists. It’s putting our trust in Him to save us. It’s entrusting ourselves to Him. We’re saying that we believe that God has offered us forgiveness through the death of Christ for our sins and we accept the payment that He offers. We’re also saying that we’re willing to follow Christ.

In repentance we tell God, “I’m willing to change!  I want to turn from my sin and serve you!”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Although repentance and faith focus on two different things, sin and Christ, they are actually one mental act. As we turn away from our sin, we turn toward Christ at the same time. As Jesus said,

‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15)

So, let’s go back to the important trip we talked about at the beginning of this lesson. In order to make sure I could make it to my destination, I asked myself, “Did I bring my plane ticket? Did I bring enough cash?” In the same way, if we want to make sure that we are truly God’s children and are going to make it to heaven, we must ask, “Have I truly repented of my sins? Have I truly believed on Jesus?” If you know that you haven’t, or if you’re simply not sure, why not confirm your decision by expressing it to God in prayer. He’s not so interested in the words you use as He is the sincerity of your heart. If this written prayer expresses the desire of your heart, why not say it to God right now?

“God, I’ve gone my own way. I’m sorry. I’m turning from my sins. Give me the strength to follow You. I believe in You, putting my trust in you to save me from my sins. Make me into a new person and take me to heaven. Thanks for forgiving me and loving me so much!”

If you prayed that prayer and sincerely meant it, then on the authority of God’s Word, you are His child and you are successfully headed to your destination—heaven!

FACTS VERSUS FEELINGS

You’re having one of those days. You didn’t get enough sleep last night. Your boss treats you like dirt. You go to your home fellowship meeting and hope to get some encouragement. Instead, you see this bubbly Christian who never seems down who tells about how God solved all her problems. “All my problems aren’t solved,” you think. Then a new Christian gives a dramatic testimony about how he received Christ and felt something like electricity go through his entire body.

“I didn’t have a big emotional experience when I got saved,” you think. Then you begin to wonder if you’re really a Christian at all.

This is where you must put emotions in their place. The Bible said, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It didn’t say, “whoever feels bubbly all the time” will have eternal life. It didn’t say, “whoever has a dramatic emotional experience” will have eternal life. It says that “whoever believes in Him shall…have eternal life.”

So, if I truly believe/repent, but am not saved, what would this say about God? (He would be a liar. And if God’s a liar, we’re all up the creek!) So the salvation of those who repent and believe is as secure as the promise of God, regardless of how we feel.

Hint: Some people offset future doubts by writing down exactly what they understood and prayed when they received Christ. For example, you might photocopy this lesson and write at the end, “I understood this lesson and prayed this prayer for assurance of my salvation on this day” (write out date). Next, put it in a safe place.

Ten years from now, when you have another one of those bad days and Satan whispers in your ear, “You didn’t know what you were doing when you prayed that prayer ten years ago,” you can take it out and show Satan exactly what you did. Your salvation is as secure as the promise of God. Then you can tell Satan to “get lost.”

MasswelcomematHello and Welcome to the family!

If you are reading this blog, and you have just begun a new relationship with Jesus, we at WDA are very excited that God has worked in your heart!  The great thing about being a new Christian is that you are about to begin an amazing adventure!  Following Jesus will change everything.

Over 2000 years ago, when Jesus came on the scene of John the Baptist’s preaching, everything changed as well.  Jesus began to draw men to Himself and extended an invitation for them to come and see!  No one knew where this new prophet, rabbi, teacher would take them, but they certainly were interested!  This is where we all were when we first came to Christ.

When you begin your journey with Jesus it can be the same way.  Some of us have realized that Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, having come to believe in Him as our savior and lord, yet not having very much background in spiritual things.  We didn’t go to church or have any Christian friends.  Others of us have been around church so much, we were somewhat surprised that knowing Jesus and growing as a Christian could be fresh and new.  But whether we were religious or ir-religious, Jesus comes to us, showing that our faith isn’t something we do, but something He does for us.  Grace is un-merited.  We don’t earn it by being spiritual or receive credit for all the times we attend church.  We are not punished for any lack of spirituality or penalized for living a life focused on ourselves.

Yet now that you have begun to be interested in Jesus, you might wonder what it will look like to know more about Him.  If that makes you a bit nervous, its ok. The great thing about learning to follow Jesus is that He asks us to “come and see” just as He asked His first disciples.

So what does that look like?  Following Jesus means that we all are growing to be more like Him every day! If you are just starting out on this journey, I would recommend reading the Pocket Principles called Getting Started.  These are short essays of topics related to following Jesus for the first time.  You will learn about how to be sure you really are a Christian.  You will also learn about the Bible, prayer and other ways you can grow to listen and learn from Jesus.  You will also learn why belonging to a Christian community is important.

I recommend you find some other people who are on the journey and walk with them together in community.  This might be the people in your church or campus ministry, or other Christians that you trust and are excited about your decision to be a “Christ follower.”

Come back to disciplebuilding.org/blog over the next few weeks and read the Pocket Principles for Getting Started that we post. If you like them, ask someone you know to read them with you. If you belong to a church, ask if there is a Bible study group and recommend Getting Started and its accompanying Guided Discussions (Bible studies) as something you would be interested in studying together with them.

Welcome to the journey!  We are excited you are part of the family!

I’m so excited to see the work of some great WDA staff get a facelift!  Sometimes when you begin a project you don’t know how things will ultimately end up.  That is the case with the WDA Store redesign.

It all started when I wondered about creating a new cover for the downloadable pdf materials we offer for our discipleship ministry.  What was a personal project to add a little color to our pages, ended up as a project to create a new way for us to share our materials with the world!

Who is GodWDA has been writing great materials since it was started in 1974.  My first year on WDA campus staff I used our printed materials for small groups in my first bible study with Auburn freshman.  Who is God, is part of Phase 1, Establishing Faith.  It was part of what we once called Step One.  I still have those bible studies on my shelf.  As I began to create new covers and then the web store I realized that there are many people who will be able to teach great content to their groups and have a copy that they can read on their iPad or print and publish in a notebook.

As we began to put products on the store, I had the help of one of our staff, Nila Duffitt, who helps run our store.  She has been an invaluable source of information as we began to gather all the descriptions for each product page.  She and our materials staff have worked through the years to make all our materials connect not only to where each person or group might be in their spiritual growth, they are presented in a variety of formats that can be adapted to a particular context.Pocket Principles Growing Spiritually

Many of our materials are in the form of a Teaching Outline. This is great for places where a teacher will be giving a lecture based presentation.  We also provide materials as Guided Discussions, which work well when you want to bring a group into a dialogue about truth and have an interactive teaching time.  WDA also provides Pocket Principles® which are based on the lessons that have been taught.  Many people in the earlier phases choose to have participants take a Pocket Principle™ home with them or in later phases Pocket Principles are best read before coming to a group training.

Mentoring for Progressive GrowthThe WDA store also offers materials which help train leaders and teach our philosophy of ministry, such as Disciple Building: a Practical Strategy and Disciple Building: Mentoring for Progressive Growth,  that helps the mentor (disciple builder) better understand progressive one-to-one disciple building.

The training resources also include DVD’s from our 28/20 Conferences which are great for training leaders in a ministry how to implement a discipleship ministry using the progressive model of discipleship patterned after Jesus ministry.

In addition to our downloadable materials WDA also offers printed products for churches that are doing Restoring Your Heart ministry.  These include, Processing Pain, Understanding Emotions and Conquering Shame.  These workbooks when used in a Restoring Your Heart experience bring about healing from emotional pain. We have a specific program that trains and certifies people to lead others through the emotional healing process. We believe emotional and relational healing is an integral part of the discipleship process and was modeled by Jesus as he taught his disciples. The result of restoration is healthier people, healthier families, healthier churches and healthier communities. These workbooks provide participants and leaders the content needed for a group experience.

Evangelism Training Manual

WDA’s Store has an abundance of materials for your church and ministry.  Many of these materials are suitable for any context.  Future materials are being developed that will help churches continue to train and equip mature leaders for the church.  We currently have materials for Phases 1-3 online, which are suitable for evangelism (Phase 1 – Establishing Faith), helping a new believer begin to grow (Phase 2 Laying Foundations) and for a younger believer to begin to get training in ministry (Phase 3 Equipping for Ministry)

WDA has worked hard to create materials in a variety of formats that we believe will be useful for your ministry. Each one has been field tested by our experienced WDA staff.  We are very excited to provide a you a way to learn about new products, read some reviews and have a great experience with a the new store! Please take some time to visit and use the coupon!

If you visit before September 14  you will get 15% off your purchase of downloadable materials!

WDA STORE

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