The Enduring Word A Living Stone and A Holy People

by Mike Ratliff1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 ESV) Not everyone who claims the name of “Christian” is truly part of the genuine Church. Many of those claimants see Christianity as simply a religion and their religiosity within it as that which assuages their guilty consciences that condemn them for their fleshly lifestyles. Others strive with their entire being to do good and not sin while being very active in their churches. In this they believe that they are in the “group” that God will accept and proclaim righteous. There are others who believe that they are Christians because at some point in the past they “asked Jesus to come into their life or heart.” However, they were taught that that “act of faith” is all that Jesus requires of them. They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries Martin Luther was a very well educated monk in an Augustinian order in Germany. He deeply desired to have assurance of his salvation, but all that he was taught told him to be religious, to be obedient to the demands of the Church in Rome, to obey the Pope and that was all he needed. However, he had a problem.The following is an excerpt from a sermon my John A. Broadus from the late 19th Century. The sermon is titled: Let us have peace with God.

“It is nearly four centuries ago now, that a young professor from the north of Germany went to Rome. He was a man of considerable learning and versatile mind. Yet he did not go to Rome to survey the remains of antiquity or the treasures of modern art. He went to Rome because he was in trouble about his sins and could find no peace. Having been educated to regard Rome as the centre of the Christian world, he thought he would go to the heart of things and see what he could there find. He had reflected somewhat at home, and had talked with other men more advanced than himself, on the thought that the just shall live by faith; but still that thought had never taken hold of him. We read—some of you remember the story quite well—how one day, according to the strange ideas that prevailed and still prevail at Rome, he went climbing up a stairway on his knees, pausing to pray on every step, to see if hat would not help him about his sins. Then, as he climbed slowly up he seemed to hear a voice echoing down the stairway, “The just shall live by faith; the just shall live by faith.” And so he left alone his dead works, he arose from his knees and went down the stairway to his home to think about that great saying: “The just shall live by faith.””“It is no wonder that with such an experience, and such a nature, Martin Luther should have lived to shake the Christian world with the thought that justification by faith is the great doctrine of Christianity, “the article of a standing or a falling church.” It is no wonder that John Wesley, rising up with living earnestness, when England was covered with a pall of spiritual death, should have revived the same thought—justification by faith.” – John A. Broadus 

How are believers, then, justified by faith if it isn’t simply a religious act? What is this faith? From where does it come? It begins with the truth, God’s enduring Word.22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for“All flesh is like grassand all its glory like the flower of grass.The grass withers,and the flower falls,25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-3 ESV) God’s truth never changes. College textbooks on subjects such as Chemistry, Archeology, Biology, Medicine, etc. have to change constantly because the “truths” in them are constantly being updated or changed. However, the truth from God’s Word never changes. It remains forever. Therefore, when people believe God’s truth they can be assured that that truth will always be the truth. Of course, there are countless cults out there that take God’s truth and impress upon it their own religious beliefs coming up with a version of it that is no longer the truth, but when we rightly divide God’s word, never impressing upon it views that are man made, we will know what the truth is. People can believe it and God works in their hearts according to His will through it. Those whose hearts are regenerated by God as the Good News from God’s Word was preached to them are called to be conformed to the image of Christ, to put away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. They are new creations whose regenerate hearts long for the pure spiritual milk from God’s Word. By consuming it they will grow up to salvation. Again, not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is. Those who really are have tasted that the Lord is good. The rest have not and, therefore, are not genuine Christians.4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone,”8 and“A stone of stumbling,and a rock of offense.”They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10 ESV) Jesus Christ was the living stone rejected by men. However, to God the Father, He was chosen and precious. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of their Sins as they submit to the Lordship Jesus Christ, are regenerated by God. They are growing from this new creation as living stones that fit together in the Body of Christ, the True Church, as a spiritual house. They are also to be a holy priesthood that will serve and minister to their Lord for eternity. Their lives as living sacrifices are acceptable sacrifices to God through their Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 12:1-2) All who believe on Him, the precious chief cornerstone, will not be put to shame because their sins are forgiven. They are God’s precious children who have believed the truth and become one in spirit with the Son. However, those who have not believed the truth are still in their sins. They have rejected Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but they are not aware that the one they have rejected is on the throne right now, ruling and reigning His Kingdom. He is the cornerstone, but to those who have rejected Him, He is the stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. God destined these to eternal punishment because of their disobedience and unbelief. Judgment on unbelief is as divinely appointed as salvation by faith. (Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16)Those in Christ are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. Christ bought them with His blood. Why? He did this so that they may proclaim the Excellencies of the Father who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13) All who are in the light now were formerly in darkness. They have received mercy in their regeneration through which they were made able to believe. They now have faith through which they live. They are now the just who live by faith.11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)

“Peter points out here that no believer is completely perfect and pure. Some think this passage refers only to sinners. As if believers don’t have any evil desires. But study Scripture carefully and take note: On one hand, the prophets sometimes speak of believers as if they were pure in every respect. On the other hand, they also speak of them as still having evil desires and struggling against sin. Some people cannot get comfortable with both truths. So look at Christians as having two parts—the inner being, which is faith, and the outer being, which is the sinful nature. If you look at Christians only according to faith, they appear pure and totally clean, for the Word of God finds nothing impure in them. When faith enters a person’s heart and the heart accepts it, the Word makes it completely clean. Therefore, all things are perfect in faith, and we are kings, priests, and God’s people. But because faith lives in us and we still live on earth, we at times feel evil inclinations, such as impatience, fear of death, and so on. These are sill short-comings of the sinful nature, for faith doesn’t yet have full power over our outer being.”“In Luke 10:30-37, a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers who beat him and left him lying half-dead. Later, a Samaritan bound his wounds, took him, and had him cared for. Because this man was being taken care of, hw was no longer deathly ill and was sure to live. He had life, but he didn’t have complete health. In the same way, we have Christ and we are certain of eternal life, but we don’t yet enjoy total health. Some of our evil desires still remain with us. – Martin Luther 

As we see, Martin Luther made much spiritual progress after leaving Rome from his pilgrimage. He no longer believed the lie that religion is the answer for our sin problem. Instead, he knew that the just shall live by faith and they can do so because they are New Creations whose hearts are brand new and capable of living that way. This is why we must never stop preaching the truth from God’s Enduring Word about the Living Stone through whom God’s chosen people receive mercy by being drawn from darkness to His marvelous light to become His Holy people. Soli Deo Gloria!

31 thoughts on “The Enduring Word A Living Stone and A Holy People

  1. Our flesh wants us to always think we need to be doing something. You just have to do something physically to work for the Lord. If you don’t, then we think we fall short. But as you pointed out, the just shall live by faith. It is a heart thing. He changes our hearts. He does it, not us. And when He does, He really does change you from the inside out. He gives us the faith to believe that He will lead us, guide our lives, and His will will be done. No we are not puppets. We want to please Him. Its not a have to thing. Our faith is a gift from Him. And the just shall live by faith. THAT is what pleases Him. Faith. Faith in Him. And He is the Author and Finisher of that faith that He gives us too! And are we ever glad He is the one who is in charge!! If God be for us who can be against us?? We do a song on that last sentence.

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  2. Excellent article!

    This horrible debate that has raged for centuries over works vs faith. was never necessary. Once a person is given enlightenment from God, because it can not come from the Intellect. It all becomes clear:

    Work is effort to earn favor. We can never work enough to earn any favor with God. Jesus Christ sacrifice on the cross imputed us with righteousness before the father, and therfore we received unmerited favor for believing on Jesus Christ.

    When be believe on Jesus Christ we are regenerated and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    When we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we live by the spirit, and the spirit desires to do as the father does. It becomes part of our being to desire to be righteous.

    When it is part of our deisre to be righteous it is not longer work.

    It is doing what you love to do without regard for recognition. You do it because that is what the father does.

    We will always battle the flesh as long as we exist in fallen flesh, but the longer we live to the spirit and not give in to the flesh, the more we are able to bring the flesh into submission and mature in Christ!

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  3. Where is today’s Martin Luther?
    Where is our Calvin?

    Who will stand up and speak boldly before the Arch-Heretic, the so-called Vicar of Christ, and tell him before God and man that he is a blasphemer and of his father the devil?

    With the dearth of sound doctrine and “unity at all costs” mantra that’s seduced the professing church it’s becoming clearer than ever that all ecumenical roads lead to Rome.

    Luther left no doubt where he stood concerning the Papacy when he wrote, “This teaching [of the supremacy of the pope] shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking, to exalt himself above all that is called God. . . . The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him” (Smalcald Articles, II, IV, 10-12).

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  4. Awesome word, Mike!

    I was told by my pastor that I need to “step it up”…meaning I needed to be doing more in the church. Meanwhile, God was bringing me ever so close to HIm in prayer, the studying of His Word, and the breaking of my heart…I was already in the “step it up” walk…but not to the eye, therefore not right.

    Thanks again for an encouraging post.

    In Christ,
    Sherry

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  5. Coram Deo,

    Amen brother. All the time I was working on this post I thought of this. Where are the ones God will raise up now to stand against the encroaching darkness. We must pray that He will do so.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  6. Sherry,

    My ex-pastor used to say stuff like that. To him all of that one-on-one stuff I was doing with God, drawing close to Him, praying, reading the Word, meditating on it, etc. was nothing unless I did in service at the church under his authority. What I found though was that those at “church” wanted to talk about Football, Baseball, politics, or business. Anything except what God was doing. It was very discouraging. However, I am out of that and I firmly believe that my walk with my Lord is deeper than ever.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  7. Mike said:

    “Where are the ones God will raise up now to stand against the encroaching darkness. We must pray that He will do so.”

    I was of this mind when I wrote this article:

    http://truediscernment.wordpress.com/2007/07/10/what-we-have-lost/

    Then that evening I had to go out to the local mall on a mundane trip to purcahse a stylus for my Treo, and I stopped at a little kiosk in the middle of the Mall, it was run by a young man named Paul, he couldnt have been more than 24 years old, while I was there I had him replace the screen saver on my Treo which took a few minutes.

    While waiting I noticed he had an open Bible on the Kisosk. I asked him if he was reading it he said yes. We began to talk about the Bible. And a few minutes turned into about 15 minutes.

    To make a long story short at the end of our conversation I was left with a very positive feeling that no matter how dark we think it is or dark it is getting God will preserve his word in the hearts of a chosen remnant:

    “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

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  8. I love that Luther just told it like it was when it came to the pope and his supposed power. He cut ties with catholicism.

    As for Calvin, what am I supposed to think about the Servetus incident and Calvin sending letters to the catholic church as evidence to help them try and kill Servetus (who of course was eventually burned at the stake in Geneva)? His heart seemed very, very cold and murderous. I was so disheartened.

    Fortunately, the Lord is my/our strength. We have our dear Savior to lift us up and work through each of us to His good pleasure.

    Mike you are so right in what you told Sherry. Often times visible church is looking for the busy work as evidence but God looks to the heart and searches it out. We must focus on Him and worship Him and that starts one on one.

    God Bless

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  9. “They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation.”

    Yes, but all of us should examine ourselves not to micro-inspect our salvation, but to substantiate our confession with an eye toward thanksgiving.

    Like David said, “The joy of our salvation”. It is in the end better to doubt your salvation and wind up in heaven than having false confidence (which reigns today)

    Good post – The Lord knows those who are His!

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  10. Rachel,

    That is a 16th version of an urban legend about Servetus and Calvin. Here is the truth:

    Calvin vs. Servetus,
    by J. Steven Wilkins

    In the year 1553 an event occurred which would forever blacken the reputation of Calvin in the eyes of an ungodly world. In that year a heretic named Michael Servetus entered Geneva after fleeing from France after being condemned for his heresy there and escaping from prison in Vienna. He was seen in the streets of Geneva and arrested on August 13. This trouble he had brought upon himself by his book which denied the existence of the Trinity as well as the practice of infant baptism. Though the former is clearly a more serious error than the latter, the latter position identified Servetus with the hated Anabaptists who had spread the revolutionary ideas of socialism and communism. Why Servetus came to Geneva is not clear though the Reformer Wolfgang Musculus wrote that he apparently thought that Geneva might be favorable to him since there was so much opposition to Calvin.

    On August 21, the authorities in Geneva wrote to Vienna asking further information on Servetus. The authorities in Vienna immediately demanded his extradition to face charges there. At this the Genevan city council offered Servetus a choice: he could either be returned to Vienna or stay in Geneva and face the charges against him. Servetus, significantly, chose to remain in Geneva.

    The trial began and as it progressed, it became evident that the authorities had two choices: banish Servetus or execute him. They sent to their sister cities Berne, Zurich, Schaffhausen and Basle for their counsel. The counsel from each city was the same: execute the heretic. The method of burning alive was chosen. Calvin intervened to appeal for the more quick and merciful beheading as the method of execution but the council refused and on October 26, 1553, Michael Servetus was executed.

    It is strange that this incident should bring such odium upon Calvin and another example of the hatred of orthodox Christianity that it has. The facts are that mass executions were carried out in other places throughout this time. After the Peasants’ War in Germany, after the siege of Munster, during the ruthless period of Roman Catholic dominance in Elizabethan England. Even as late as 1612 the authorities in England burned two men who held views like those of Servetus at the behest of the bishops of London and Lichfield. Thirty-nine people were burned at the stake for heresy between May of 1547 and March of 1550. The 16th century was not a time of great tolerance of heresy in any place in Europe.

    If one contends that Calvin was in error in agreeing with the execution of heretics then why is there not equal indignation against all the other leaders who supported and carried out and supported these measures elsewhere. None less than the honored Thomas Aquinas explicitly supported the burning of heretics saying, “If the heretic still remains pertinacious the church, despairing of his conversion, provides for the salvation of others by separating him from the church by the sentence of excommunication and then leaves him to the secular judge to be exterminated from the world by death.” (Summa Theologiae, IIaIIae q. 11 a. 3)

    Furthermore, Servetus was the only individual put to death for heresy in Geneva during Calvin’s lifetime. Strange indignation it is that men focus upon this one and virtually ignore the hundreds executed in other parts of the world.

    Further still, it must be remembered that Calvin’s role in this entire matter was only that of expert witness at the trial. The idea that Calvin was “the dictator of Geneva” is utterly unfounded in fact. Calvin was never allowed to become a citizen of Geneva. He was technically among the habitants — resident legal aliens who had no right to vote, no right to carry weapons, and no right to hold public office. A habitant might be a pastor or teacher if there was no Genevan citizen who was qualified for the position. This is why Calvin was allowed to be pastor of the church there. But he was always denied access to the decision-making machinery.

    The only place where Calvin could have exerted significant influence was in the Consistory. But the Consistory was completely bypassed in this entire matter by the council apparently in an effort to demonstrate that they were far more concerned for holiness and purity than Calvin (and some of the people) had thought. They sought thus to shut Calvin out of this matter as much as possible.

    Why then all the outrage at Calvin? Simply because of who he was and what he taught. The world can live with Romanism and Arminianism, it cannot abide the truth of the Reformed faith. For this reason Calvin and Calvinism have been the enemies of the world and will be till the world ends.

    Copyright 1998, J. Steven Wilkins

    Released for informational purposes to allow individual
    file transfer, Usenet, and non-commercial mail-list posting
    only. All other copyright privileges reserved.

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  11. Mike – Calvin, Luther, and all the reformers should be given latitude when we realize they were fresh from the darkness of the RCC and cannot be held to the same standard as today. It is impossible to overestimate the gracious power of God it took to extricate these men via the truth of the gospel.

    They came out but to some extent the smoke still smelled. Thank God for their lives!

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  12. You’re welcome Rick and I agree that the Reformers were not perfect nor were they all entirely free from the RCC in how they approached their ministries. God used them and we should thank God that He did that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  13. Paul,

    The RCC has cononized Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More, both who were responsible for the persecution and execution of several people, but Calvin was not even in control of that situation nor would they listen to him yet everyone who hates the Doctrine of Election brings this up as if it should dissuade people from being Reformed in their Theology.

    When I was doing battle with some emergents not long ago this was their tactic as well. When I wrote something using Tyndale, Luther, or whoever as a source they would go after the man instead of what he said. When that is the tactic then we must back away and look at motive. I say, let them rant and rave, but I will not give them the floor here. Also, let us not be trying these men in this court where they cannot defend themselves nor do we have all the facts. No one is perfect. King David is highly revered and is in the line of our Lord Jesus Christ yet he was great sinner being an adulterer and a murderer.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  14. We have the dvd ‘Amazing Grace’ that we got off of Monergism, and it talks about how Calvin actually tried to get the court to not execute Servetus! So what happens? Calvin gets labeled with this ugly lie! BTW, if you haven’t seen that dvd, you have GOT to get it. I think its like 4 hours long and well worth the $. In fact I think Monergism is having a sale on it. Hey…….Rachel, you need to get that dvd and watch it. You would enjoy learning some of the real facts about Calvinism and the Reformers. Monergism.com has it 🙂

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  15. Great article, Mike. 🙂

    I too am so grieved by Roman Catholicism. I know too many precious people all wrapped up in it. To extricate them feels like a hopeless endeavor (but I have seen a few people set free, Praise God!)

    Sherry, I feel for your situation at that church. I have also been in a position where I was made to feel “guilty” for not doing more in regards to work in the church that I attend. I think some people are called to that, and some are not. I am not. It is not my calling. I am fed where I attend, and I give back monetarily, but I can’t go to every meeting or offer my services as a teacher, etc., and sometimes I feel looked down upon for that.

    Yes, Coram Deo, with all the wishy-washy preachers out there, more harm is being done than good!

    I recently found out about Calvin’s defense (and documented participation, no matter how small) in the death of Servitus. I immediately thought of the passage in Luke 22:50-51 when one of Jesus’ followers, in His defense, erred in their zeal and cut off the ear of one of those with the high priest. “And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, ‘Suffer ye thus far.’ And he touched his ear, and healed him.” It was never Jesus’ practice to repay evil for evil, but to bless His enemies. I think we can recognize this event with which Calvin was associated and not throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to Calvinism. But personally, I will not call myself a “Calvinist” or any other “___-ist”… I am a Christian! I only want to associate myself with the name that is without spot or blemish! 🙂

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  16. Mike,
    Please help. I am still uncertain as to how Calvin was not involved in Servetus’ death. Are you saying that the letters and books Calvin wrote which directly link him to Servetus’s killing were forgeries of some sort??? Didn’t Calvin write two books in his own defense for killing Servetus? Are these all forgeries??? I am so confused. Please help! 🙂

    Love in Christ,
    Rachel

    P.S.
    By the way, I hope you are not linking me in with the emergents here! I hope I still have the ability to ask questions here and get some answers. Apparently several here on the board seem to know a great deal about this insident and could clear it up for me. Thanks! 🙂

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  17. Sharon that is a very good way to look at it.

    Rachel, no matter what Calvin wrote. No matter what he said. He still was powerless to carry out the execution or make it happen. He was hated by those in charge of the city. The execution was done by them not the church Calvin pastored. I’m not saying he is perfect or didn’t make mistakes. He was very zealous for God and this man was a blasphemer. He wanted him to be dealt with. However, when it came right down to it he tried to save the guy.

    I suggest you look closely at the motives of those people who are putting that stuff out there. That’s all I’m saying. Also, we seem to think that we have discernment and all and we can read stuff and not be affected by it. Baloney! There is real evil on the loose right now and all those influenced by it take on the spirit of the antichrist and lie. These lies are mixed with truth and become deception. Therefore, what is the motive of those trying to attack Calvin and others? It’s to make people not believe in what these men gave us and that is Reformation Theology.

    These lies are intended to rob us of the truth. Look how it upset you. Remember our faith is in our Lord Jesus Christ, not Calvin or Tyndale or Luther or any man. Just Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  18. Ew! Re-reading my post, it sounds like I am saying if you commit murder in your zeal for the Lord, it is understandable! I cried when I heard in detail what happened to Servitus, and the fact that Calvin wrote in defense of it (and was instrumental in its coming to pass according to all that I have read) angered and horrified me. Rather, I meant this is an example of zeal gone wrong! We must remember in our zeal for the truth to love our neighbor as ourself, Christian, nonChristian, AND heretic, and also be cautious who and what we follow (and defend) other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Let our love not “wax cold” in these end times.

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