God’s Love on Trial – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

The Biblical View of God

God created mankind with an inherent desire to worship. You can go anywhere in the world, even to the most remote tribe in Africa, and you will find that they worship. There is something about believing that a God exists that fills a void in a person’s life.

Some, in their desire to worship, have made themselves gods of wood or stone. Others invent mystical gods in their own imaginations.

Every religion is based upon some conception of God. Unfortunately many religions are based upon a conception of false gods, and some are even based upon false conceptions of the true God.

One thing is sure, for those who choose to worship, their whole life and character is molded by the type of person they perceive their God to be. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18.) People who worship a harsh and cruel god will generally become harsh and cruel themselves. So a person’s perception of God dramatically affects whether that person is a good person or not, and it ultimately will determine whether that person will live forever or be destroyed in the lake of fire.

The biggest and most important difference between Christianity and paganism is the God that we worship. In order for anyone to be a Christian he must first begin by having an understanding about the true God.

There are many people who think that all Christians have the same ideas about God. However, it is amazing that within Christianity there are many different ideas about God, and these different ideas vary dramatically from one another. But how are you to know which one of these ideas is right?

My friends, we can be very thankful that God has not left us to guess on such an important subject as this. He has given us His Word to study and to find out what is truth. So, today we are going to look into our Bibles and see for ourselves what God reveals about Himself.

In John chapter 4 we read an account of Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. In their conversation Jesus made a statement that we really need to consider. He said to her, “Ye worship ye know not what!” (John 4:22) You can just imagine how shocked this woman was to hear these words. You see, the Samaritans were not pagans. They claimed to worship the same God that the Jews worshiped. But Jesus told this woman that she did not know what she worshiped.

The Apostle Paul gave a similar testimony to the men on Mars’ Hill when he said, “As I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:23) Was Paul congratulating the men on Mars’ Hill for worshiping an unknown god? Was Jesus complimenting the woman at the well for worshiping something she did not know? Certainly not! That type of worship is useless, and is displeasing to God.

In Jeremiah 9:23, 24 God told Jeremiah, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”

God desires us to love Him and worship Him because we know what He is like. He wants us to understand Who He is, and what His character is like so that when we worship Him we know Whom we are worshiping. When we worship something that we do not know or understand, then we are not really worshiping the true God. The men who set up an altar “to the unknown god” were not worshiping the true God at all. Their worship was directed to someone, but it certainly was not directed to the God of heaven. The Bible tells us that when we worship false gods or idols, we are actually worshiping Satan:

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In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul wrote, “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” And in Deuteronomy 32:16, 17, we read, “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.” So we see, the Bible teaches that if we worship idols or gods that we do not know, then we are actually worshiping devils.

Friends, this is serious! We better make sure that we know Whom we are worshiping because, if we are wrong on this, then we are worshiping Satan and will be lost.

Satan is at work in this world to deceive mankind into worshiping a false god. He is seeking to hide, from our view, a true picture of the God of heaven and His love for us.

If we worship a god whom we do not know, even if there is no outward idol for our eyes to look upon, we can be just as truly worshiping Satan as were the servants of Baal.

The One God of the Bible

Let us open our Bibles and see what it actually says about God. In Isaiah 44:6 God said, “Beside me there is no God,” and in verse 8 He continued, “Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” This is very precise language to indicate that the speaker is alone. All of the pronouns are singular, indicating that only one person is speaking. Who is this one person?

Paul clarified this in his first letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “we know… that there is none other God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4) To make it abundantly clear who he was referring to as the God beside which there is none other, Paul continued. In verse 6 he wrote, “To us there is but one God, the Father.” Paul understood the one God of the Bible to be God, the Father, and no one else.

Jesus had the same understanding. After Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord,” a scribe told Him, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he.” (Mark 12:29, 32) Who is the one God the scribe was referring to? Was he referring to Jesus as the one God? Certainly not! He was referring to God, the Father, and Jesus knew it.

At another time, while Jesus was talking to the scribes and Pharisees, He said, “If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God.” (John 8:54) Jesus knew that when the scribes and Pharisees said “God,” they were referring to His Father. When this scribe said, “There is one God; and there is none other but he,” Jesus knew that he was talking about His Father.

Did Jesus correct the scribe by saying, “You’ve got it wrong, I am really the one God of the Bible”? Absolutely not! To the contrary, Jesus complimented him for his good answer by exclaiming, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Jesus knew that this man was correct, that there is one God, the Father, and there is none other God but He.

The Father is called “the only true God” (John 17:3), “the Most High God” (Mark 5:7), “the only Potentate [the only supreme ruler]” (1 Timothy 6:15), the “one God and Father of all who is above all” (Ephesians 4:6), and it is said several times that “there is none other God but He.” (Mark 12:32; See also Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:4; etc.) The Bible is very clear that the “one God” of the Bible is “God, the Father.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

In the Bible, the Father declares that He is the only God, and there is none other god beside Him. Jesus taught the same truth, yet, in the New Testament, we find that Christ is also called God. (Hebrews 1:8) How can that be?

In the Bible, the word “god” has several different meanings. In a very limited sense, men are called gods. Both the Greek word theos and the Hebrew word elohim, which are most often translated “god” are used in reference to men. (See Exodus 7:1; Psalm 82:6; John 10:34) When the word “god” is used in that sense, then there are hundreds and thousands of gods.

In a less limited sense, angels are called gods. David wrote about man, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [elohim].” (Psalms 8:5) The word “angels” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word elohim. The way elohim is used here it denotes a type of being that is higher than man, but it is still used in a limited sense, and with this definition there would still be many gods.

In reference to Christ, the word “God” is used in a much less limited sense, to denote His nature as being on the same level as His Father—something that cannot be said about any other being in the universe. The Bible says that Christ was “in the form of God.” (Philippians 2:6)

But even when the word “God” is used of Christ, it is used in a limited sense, because Christ has a God who is “the head of Christ,” “above all,” and “greater than” He. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:6; and John 14:28) When the word “god” is used in its absolute and unlimited sense, there is only one person to whom it can apply, and that is God, the Father, alone. Jesus said that His Father is “the only true God.” (John 17:3) Paul said, “there is none other God but one… God, the Father.” (1 Corinthians 8:4, 6) Of the 1,320 times the word “god” is used in the New Testament, more than 99% of the time it refers exclusively to God, the Father, while it only applies to His Son four times. (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:16)

So, to clarify, there are many gods when the word “god” is used in a limited sense, to include men and angels. When the word “God” is used as an adjective to describe the nature of God, as in the last part of John 1:1, then there are only two divine beings, God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. The Son of God is completely divine by nature because His Father is divine, just as I am completely human, because my parents are human.

When the word “God” is used in its absolute sense, to denote “the most high God,” “the Sovereign of the universe,” or “the only true God,” then there is only one God; God, the Father, beside which there is no God.

The Love of God

Not only must we know the identity of God in order to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), but we must also know His character of love. In the most well-known verse of the Bible, Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) When Jesus said God “so loved the world” He was saying, “This is how much God loves you, He loves you so much that He did something for you—He demonstrated His love for you by giving up His most precious possession, His only begotten Son.

If God had loved the world so much that He gave a goat, you and I would seriously question God’s love for us, because a goat would be an almost meaningless gift for God to give up, since it is something He created. If God had loved the world so much that He gave a human, what would we think then? Well, that is a little better than a goat, but it is still a small gift, because humans were also created. What if God had loved the world so much that He gave an angel? That is a better gift than a human, but it still falls far short of demonstrating how much God loves us. You see, our understanding of God’s love depends upon the value of the gift He gave up for us. The more valuable the gift He gave, the more we can see His love for us.

God gave His only begotten Son for us. He has other sons, but He only has one begotten Son. We can be “sons of God” by adoption (Romans 8:14), angels are “sons of God” by creation (Job 1:6; 2:1), but Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. What sets Jesus Christ apart from everyone else in the universe, and by which we know God’s love for us, is the fact that He was begotten. This puts Him in the closest possible relationship with God.

God knows, from firsthand experience, the most valuable possession a person can have. He knows that nothing is more valuable to a person than a child whom they love. This is precisely where God tested Abraham’s love and loyalty when He asked him to offer his beloved son, Isaac, for a sacrifice. Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command proved that he loved God with all his heart. It proved that he would be willing to give up every possession he had for God.

The same thing is true with God. When He gave up His only begotten Son it proved that He is willing to give up every possession, suffer any amount of pain, and endure any hardship in order to save those whom He loves. This is what Paul meant when he said, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

God truly loves us, yet this love can only be comprehended by understanding that God gave His only begotten Son. Understanding God’s love as demonstrated in the gift of His Son is vitally important for us, for it is the key that enables us to overcome the world. John wrote, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) Believing that Jesus is the begotten Son of God enables us to overcome the world by elevating our perception of God’s love and enabling us to love Him with all our hearts in return. John expressed it this way: “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

The Only Begotten Son of God

What did Jesus mean when He said He was begotten? Jesus, speaking of Himself, said, “When there were no depths, I was brought forth [born]; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth [born]… Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” (Proverbs 8:24, 25, 30)

According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was begotten, which literally means born, before anything was created—long before God sent Him into the world. (See Hebrews 1:1-9; Colossians 1:15; John 3:16, 17; 18:37; and 1 John 4:9.) How He was begotten is not for us to know, but God wants us to realize that He and His Son have a close, genuine, father-son relationship that is not just a role or an act.

My friends, God really means what He says. He says that He gave His only begotten Son. If Jesus Christ was not the begotten Son of God before God sent Him into the world, then what did the Father give up? Many sincere Christians believe that Jesus Christ is an exactly equal, same-aged companion of the Father. If this were true, then all the Father gave up was a friend; a companion! If this were true, then the One who loves us the most is Christ, because He is the One who willingly died for us.

It is true that Jesus Christ loves us very much, and we praise and thank Him for that love. However, the Bible teaches that God, the Father, suffered tremendously when His Son was suffering under the weight of our sins. (Compare Psalm 18:4-11 with Matthew 27:45-51) In Abraham and Isaac’s story it was obviously the father, Abraham, who suffered more than Isaac when he gave up his beloved son. Jesus said, “the Father himself loveth you.” (John 16:27) John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.” (1 John 3:1) We cannot behold the love of the Father if we do not know what He gave up for us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) God has an only begotten Son whom He willingly gave up so that you could be forgiven of your sins and live for eternity. Praise God for such wonderful love!

Some people think that God is beyond the possibility of having a Son, but Jesus said, “with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) The Bible refers to Christ as God’s Son at least 120 times. The Bible does this by using the phrase “Son of God” forty-seven times. Regarding the genuineness of Christ’s Sonship, He is called “the only begotten” five times, “the firstborn” three times, “the firstbegotten” once, and God’s “holy child” twice. Four verses say He was “begotten” prior to His incarnation. Four verses say that He “proceeded forth from,” “came out from” or “camest forth from” the Father. The evidence on this subject is overwhelming. Christ truly is the literal begotten Son of God, brought forth from the Father before all creation. If God expected us to believe anything different, He did a poor job of presenting it in the Bible. In fact, if God had wanted us to believe differently, He purposely confused us by making so many clear statements indicating that Christ is literally the begotten Son of God, without the slightest clarification to indicate that we should not take His words in their common meaning. Yet, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”  (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Any writer or public speaker knows that when they use a word or a phrase that could be easily misunderstood, clarifications need to be made to prevent people from coming to the wrong conclusions. Yet, throughout the New Testament, where Christ is said to be the begotten Son of God, there is never any type of correction or clarification so that these words would not be taken in their natural sense. Jesus said that He is “the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) Concerning another subject, but the principle can be applied with equal force here, He said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2)

You might be thinking, “I have always believed Jesus is the Son of God.” Great! You might also be thinking, “Don’t all Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” As we shall see a little later, the reality is that most who profess to be Christians actually do not believe Jesus to be the real Son of God.

The Death of the Son of God

Our salvation was accomplished by the death of the Son of God. “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) Notice, it was not the death of the Son of man (the human nature), but the death of the divine Son of God that reconciled us to God.

These few words of Paul mean much more than we can fathom with just a brief reading of them. God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son into this world to die for wretched sinners like you and me. This is more than a cliché. The thought contained in these words demonstrates the immense sacrifice that God made in our behalf. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) If God was willing to give up His own Son for us, it proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is willing to give up all that He possesses for our benefit, because His Son meant more to Him than anything in the universe. When we understand what took place at the cross, it will melt our hearts like nothing else can.

The extreme anguish Christ experienced at the cross is described in the following verses: “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.” (Psalm 88:6, 7) Christ suffered the worst death that anyone has ever, or will ever, suffer. Others have suffered equally or even greater if we limit His suffering to His physical pain alone. Yet His death was the worst in that His relationship with His Father was so close that the loss of that relationship caused Him the greatest anguish that anyone will ever suffer. Christ’s emotional turmoil was great when He realized His Father’s displeasure. Though He had not sinned, He was tempted to believe that He would suffer eternal death for the salvation of you and me. Christ made the conscious decision that if it meant He must die for eternity so you can live with God forever, then He was willing to do it.

At any moment the Son of God could have cried to His Father to deliver Him, but He went on, knowing that some would be saved. When a group of soldiers came out to capture Christ, Peter began to fight for Him, but Christ rebuked him saying, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) He was determined never to give up, even if it meant He would never live again. He had decided to surrender His will to His Father. “And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36) The Son of God was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Finally, He cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The Son of God suffered a real death for our sins, when the sins of the whole world were placed upon Him. (See Isaiah 53:6 and 1 John 2:2.) It was not pretend, it was not an act, it was real.

There are some who claim that Christ came down from heaven and inhabited a human body and that, when it came time to die, only the human body died while the divine being who came down from heaven remained alive. With this view we would have to conclude that there was only a human sacrifice made for our redemption. No matter how exalted the pre-existent Son was, no matter how glorious, how powerful, or even eternal, if the manhood only died, the sacrifice was only human. It is contrary to reason to believe that a human sacrifice is sufficient to redeem mankind, and it is contrary to Scripture to say that only half of Christ died. Let us see from the Bible why this is so.

In Hebrews chapter one, Paul portrays Christ as being highly exalted, the one who was begotten in the express image of His Father’s person. Then, in Hebrews chapter two, Paul explains the necessity of Christ becoming a man so that He could redeem us. In verse nine of this chapter he explains, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) Paul explains the importance of Christ becoming a man, made a little lower than the angels, so that He could die; not so that a human body could die, but so that the divine Son of God could die. This verse would mean absolutely nothing if the Son of God did not die completely.

The fact that Christ did die is brought out even more clearly in the following verses: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation [Greek: emptied Himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:5-9)

These verses are very clear. The same identical Being who was in the form of God in verse six, died in verse eight. Jesus Christ Himself made it very clear to John that He was dead. Jesus said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18)

In Isaiah 53 we read the following account: “it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,… he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:10-12)

According to the Scripture, the soul of Christ died; the soul of Christ was made the offering for sin. The soul of a person constitutes the entire being. If a soul dies, the entire being is dead. The soul is more than just the body. Jesus said, “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

We are told that the soul of Christ was in the grave. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:31) The word hell in the preceding verse was translated from the Greek word hades. This word means grave in every case. The soul of Christ rested with His body in the tomb.

The Spirit of Christ inspired David to write concerning Christ’s death, “I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.” (Psalm 88:8) Christ was shut up in the tomb, and He could not come forth. The Bible says more than thirty times that God, the Father, raised Christ from the dead.1 Paul wrote that he was an apostle, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God, the Father, who raised him from the dead.” (Galatians 1:1)

Paul also emphasized, in Ephesians 1:19, 20, that “the exceeding greatness” of the Father’s “mighty power” was demonstrated “when he raised” Christ “from the dead.” If Christ had actually raised Himself from the dead, as some people believe, then Paul’s words could not have been true. It would not have been the Father’s power, but the power of Christ which would have been demonstrated.

Christ did not raise Himself from the dead or else He would not have been dead to begin with, and His words could not be true, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” (John 5:30) When the Son of God was asleep in the tomb, He was as the rest of the dead who know not anything and whose thoughts have perished. (Psalm 146:4)

Of Christ we read, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” (Hebrews 5:7) Who was Christ praying to with strong crying and tears? Was He praying to Himself? Absolutely not! He was praying to His Father, and He was praying to the only One “that was able to save him from death.”

It would have been a mockery for Christ to have cried out to His Father to save Him from death, if all the while He was immortal and able to save Himself from death. Christ died completely, Friends, and He relied upon His Father to resurrect Him. He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46), indicating His complete dependence upon His Father to save Him out of death, and His willingness to entrust His eternal life into the hands of His Father.

It was an immense sacrifice for God to yield up His only-begotten Son for us, yet He was willing to do it. If there was any other way that the human race could have been redeemed, God would have done it. Paul wrote, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21) Redemption comes to us only through “the blood of Jesus Christ.” If redemption could have come to us any other way, then Christ died in vain.

The Holy Spirit

The Bible speaks of many spirits. There are spirits of men, spirits of beasts, spirits of devils, etc. In fact, every living being has a spirit. In the book of Job, we read, “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” (Job 32:8) The Bible says that a spirit is where a person thinks, reasons, is troubled, etc. David wrote, “My spirit was overwhelmed within me.” (Psalms 142:3) Isaiah wrote, “With my spirit within me will I seek thee early.” (Isaiah 26:9) Of Jesus it was said, “When Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?” (Mark 2:8) Based on the testimony of Scripture we can conclude that the spirit of a man is the thinking, conscious, reasoning part of man.

We know that man has a spirit, but does God have a Spirit? Notice how Paul likened the spirit of man to the Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians 2:11: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” God has a Spirit, and that Spirit is holy, for God is holy. That is why God’s Spirit is sometimes called, the Holy Spirit. The word “Holy” is an adjective in every case, whether in English or in Greek. “Holy Spirit” is not a name, but a description of the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is continually referred to as “the Spirit of God,” or “the holy Spirit of God.” (Ephesians 4:30) As we noted earlier, the one God of the Bible is the Father, so the Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of the Father. This is precisely what Jesus taught when He said, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:20) In Luke’s account of the same conversation this statement is recorded like this: “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:12) When we compare these two verses we find that “the Spirit of your Father” is used interchangeably with “the Holy Ghost.” Therefore, the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of the Father.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “proceedeth from the Father.” (John 15:26) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, and He sends His Spirit to us through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul expressed it this way: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5, 6) In this process we gain the added benefit of receiving the Spirit of Christ, who was “in all points tempted like as we are,” and is able to help us when we are tempted.” (Hebrews 4:15; 2:18) We find this truth proclaimed in Galatians 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive both the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9-11), not a third being or person, separate and distinct from the Father and His Son.

Continue to Chapter 3

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