Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sin Nature: Fact or Fiction?

On February 19, 2013 I posted this status: 
"It is arrogant of us to think we don't need to repent/confess our sin to God every day."
I thought I was long done with online debates. But this status led another brother to respond, and before you knew it the debate was on. Now this debate was short compared to some of my other online debates. Also, it was a civil dialogue and I believe truth was revealed. That's why I am choosing to post this, because so many believers hear so many things that sound right but are biblically and historically inaccurate. It's hard and dangerous for believers. With access to all kinds of information, knowledge appears easier to grasp but so is confusion and distortion. So many believers are without sound biblical knowledge. Even with all this access to information, many believers still lack in sound doctrine/theology and properly interpreting Scripture. Sin has placed a veneer over our eyes from sound biblical teaching. The end times are truly upon us. Holy Spirit we need your help. Please guide us into Your truth and not our own. Give us discernment for falsehood, a desire for Your truth, and the grace and wisdom to know the difference!

This brother, whose name I purposely left out, believes that we can live without sinning here on earth. He rejected the biblical doctrine of our sinful nature. I hope my responses to him will help educate some others about this very thing as well.

His response to my status -- "I disagree. The devil couldn't do worse than sin everyday. Jesus said "Go and sin no more." We may sin again, but it shouldn't be everyday -otherwise we haven't really repented."

Me -- "I can understand why u or another would think that. But let's look at one area, do u honor/revere/esteem God perfectly in your thoughts everyday? Since no one can answer this one question with yes, therefore we fall short of the glory of God and it is arrogant of us to not express that shortcoming to God. Let's not forget that sin is not secluded to that which is manifested in the physical, but also our thoughts and emotions.

My status was not to incur any negative reactions, but rather humble introspection of our utter dependency and submission unto Jesus and confrontation of our pride."

Him -- "Chris, as of yet I'm not, but that gives me no excuse according to Matthew 22:37. I don't think Jesus was joking when He said that in that passage. And how do you know no one can answer the question with "yes"? You have to be omniscient to know that.

No negativity here, just being real with what the Word says bro."

Me -- "I never said nor does my status imply that we have an excuse to sin bcuz we're sinners. Sanctification ensures us that over time we will continue to look more like Christ and better manage our sinful nature. Thus, we have no excuse to not confess our sins. Apostle John, writing to believers, said that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us and we call God a liar, and in confessing our sin Jesus is faithful & just to purify us (1Jn. 1:8-10).

And no I'm not all-knowing, but the Word says no one could answer yes (Eccl. 7:20, Prov. 20:9)."

Him -- "faithful and just to purify us...from all unrighteousness (gotta add that part in there when referencing that passage, its important)." And what about the next verses in 1Jn. 2:1-6? And all of 1Jn. Chapter 3?

Eccl 7:20 is comparable to Rom. 3:23, both of which reference sin in the past tense (which I agree, hence all need Jesus because all sinned). Why else would Solomon end it like in he did in 12:13-14? Regarding Prov. 20:9, only the blood of Jesus can clean our heart and purify us, not ourselves -so that passage makes sense.

Chris, what God has shown me recently is that its not a sin to obey Him. In fact, He requires it! Salvation is conditional upon ones repentance, faith, and walking in obedience until the very end. The "sinful nature" (which I discovered to be invented, coming from gnosticism) only gives people an excuse why they can't fully obey Him with a pure heart as He demands. I won't be offended if you don't believe me, but I would encourage you to check this out when you have the time (and others as well):

Be blessed bro!"

Me -- "Yeah, I didn't add the last part of that verse bcuz its included in the "purify", we're being made clean from something...I.e. unrighteousness.

As for the other verses, they were to simply show that we sin, none of us are perfect. All of our perfection & righteousness is in Christ, not us. God sees us as perfect & righteous bcuz of Christ, not bcuz we're actually perfect & righteous.

And Augustine didn't corrupt the church with gnostic doctrine. Gnosticism was around long b4 Augustine. John was battling that belief in 1Jn (so was Paul when he wrote Colossians). That's why John wrote that we do sin, bcuz the gnostic teachers were teaching that matter was evil and spirit is good and freedom from bondage/control comes through special, higher knowledge (higher than Scripture). So they justified and dismissed their sin (and their continual sinning) bcuz matter is evil. But John spoke against that in the remaining chapters, he taught that while none of us are without sin, born-again believers do not continue on living in sin.

As for our salvation being conditional, there is only one condition God's grace! Yes it is us who respond in faith, but our faith is nothing if not for His grace first. And repentance isn't a condition of our salvation, it's the evidence. Our obedience is an evidence of the Holy Spirit. So yes we repent and we obey to the very end. Yes we have victory in areas of our lives. Yes we are growing & maturing each day, becoming more like Christ. But we still fall short every day bcuz we're not perfect, none of us can live up to God's standards perfectly. Plus, even though we're a new creation, we're still warring with our carnal/sinful nature (Gal. 5:16-17, Rom. 7:15-25). Our perfection is our glorification."

Him -- "I'd rather not prolong the discussion. I just want to highly suggest that you both at least watch the video that's on the site. Even the Early Church didn't believe in the sinful nature as you will see."

Me -- "I respect ur decision to not prolong this discussion. And I will end it here, after I respond to ur false statement.

To say the early church didnt believe in the “sinful nature” is a misnomer, since JESUS and the Apostles themselves (the 1st century church) are where we get the “flesh/carnal/sinful nature” from. Here are a few:

Paul says
1. ...our flesh serves the law of sin & sin is in our members (Rom. 7:21-25)
2...our flesh wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17)
3…temptations are common and not to be underestimated (1Cor. 10:13-14)

James says
1…temptations come from our fleshly desires/carnal nature (Jam. 1:13-15)
2…our tongue--which is among our members--is a world of iniquity and it CANNOT be tamed (Jam. 3:2-8)
3…it is a sin to NOT do all the good u know all the time (Jam. 4:17)
4…fleshly desires war in our members (Jam. 4:1)

John says
1…we are not without sin (1Jn. 1:8-10)

Peter says
1…fleshly lusts war against our soul (1Pet. 2:11)

JESUS Himself says
1…what comes out our mouth (our tongue) comes from our heart (our members) (Matt. 15:18)
2…it is “impossible” to “not” be tempted to sin (Lk. 17:1, Matt. 18:7)

Brother, I hope u can see that this teaching about the flesh/carnal/sinful nature finds it’s roots in the NT. They were writing these things in their letters to fellow believers (the 1st century church). It is a biblical reality. If u still don’t see it, then may the Spirit have His way.

Take care..."


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Colossians 1:15 in Context

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."
(Col. 1:15, NASB)

Many read Colossians 1:15 and get hung up on the term "firstborn". What does that mean? How is "He" the firstborn?

Jehovah Witnesses believe and teach that Jesus is the “first creation” before all creation through which all other things were created.(1) Mormons believe and teach that Jesus was created in the image of God like we are and is the “firstborn child” of God (the Divine Father) and Mary (a mortal human).(2) And know that there are others who butcher this as well. This is what led me to post this today. May we come to properly understand the enormity and beauty of the truth in this verse. 

As biblical believers, we should understand the use of the term "firstborn" in its original language and in its proper context. The Greek term for "firstborn" used here in Colossians 1:15 is prototokos. I'll start with what it does not mean.

"does not mean"
First, in context, it does not mean "first-birth". We know that the "first-birth"—the first  human to be born from the womb of a woman—would be Cain (Gen. 4:1). There is no biblical evidence of Jesus being "born" at any time before Cain.

Second, we know it does not mean "first-created". Theologically we know this isn't the case because Scripture is clear that Jesus, God the Son, is eternal, He has no beginning, and He is the "is, was, and is to come" (Jn. 1:1-2; 17:5, Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13). Furthermore, since Scripture teaches that Jesus is in essence/nature God, then He could not have been created, for God is self-existing (Ex. 3:14, Isa. 40:28; 43:10-13). Philippians 2:6 explains that Jesus has always existed in the nature of God and equal with God. Even in the beginning phrase of Colossians 1:15 it says He is the image of the invisible God. The word "image" here in Greek is eikn, and in context it is conveying the exact reflection of the source, as in a mirror reflecting the exact image of the real person standing in front of it.(3). Thus, because the source here is the invisible God, Jesus is then the invisible God reflecting His own image visibly (cf. 2Cor. 4:4). And 1Timothy 1:17 additionally explains that God is eternal and immortal. Concluding that Jesus cannot be the "firstborn" (prototokos) as in the "first-created".

"does... mean"
So now knowing what it does not mean, what does this prototokos in context mean? If we look at this term in context with the four verse passage (vv. 15-18) and in context with the whole scope of Scripture we'll see that this term is conveying "firstborn" as first in placement or position.(4). Edwin Lutzer says, "It's not a matter of time but status that determines who the firstborn is."(5). Additionally, Israel is called God's firstborn (Exod. 4:22) and David is referred to as the firstborn (Ps. 89:27). Both are in context with "first in placement or position". This four verse passage is about Jesus being over all, creating all, holding it all together, and all things being for Him. Paul culminates his point in the last part of verse 18, Jesus Christ is the "firstborn" that He may in all things have the preeminence, the first place. Thus, we can very well read Colossians 1:15 as... 

"He is the image of the invisible God, the preeminent (prototokos) of all creation".

As biblical believers, when confronted with this verse by Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or some other dissenter, we should take them on the journey of proper interpretation. We should ask them questions and show them what this verse is not saying first, then go on to show them what it is saying in context. If they still refuse it, leave them to the Holy Spirit and keep them in prayer. Hopefully a seed was planted and they begin to question their faulty beliefs. It is not us who will open their eyes, but the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that will.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can there be a "gay Christian"?

Can there be a "gay Christian" is a question that is now controversial and provoking. Some people answer differently, and others simply want a reasonable answer for it. My answer may shock you. So, I am writing this article for no other reason than to answer this question clearly, concisely, and biblically. Some sincere believers and seekers out there may not know the true biblical answer to this question. And so I'd like to share it, hopefully without inciting a cyber-riot.

For Your Clarification

Before we go on, let's get the obvious question out the way. Does the Bible condemn homosexuality as a sin? Yes, God Himself says do not commit homosexual acts, and that it is an abomination (Heb. toebah)---that is, it is disgusting and immoral in God's eyes (Lev. 18:22; 20:13, cf. Rom. 1:26-32, 1Tim. 1:9-10). But it is a sin no different than any other sin. Does it have different consequences in an individual's life or society? Yes, but all sin still ends in further rebellion, lawlessness, destruction, and eternal separation from God.

Now, allow me to clear up a misunderstanding, one that is typically unaddressed but assumed to be the same, and that is between the concepts of "struggle" and "lifestyle". Some people may ask this question (can there be a "gay Christian"?) no differently than asking can someone be a fornicating Christian, or a Christian liar, or a prideful Christian, or a Christian addict, and so forth. This thought implies a "struggle" rather than a "lifestyle". So, someone asking this question in this context may very well be asking can there be a Christian struggling with homosexuality ("a gay Christian")? And the answer to this is...of course! The same way there can be Christians struggling with sin or carnal desires such as porn, or lying, or false teachings, or drugs and alcohol, or conceitedness, or idolatry, and so on, there can be Christians that struggle with homosexuality.

"Struggling" insinuates resistance, which means in order to call it a "struggle" one has to be desiring and striving against 'said' sin/temptation/carnal desire. On the other hand, "lifestyle" insinuates no resistance, which means one is living in 'said' sin/carnal desire (i.e. practicing it willfully/ presumptuously) with no desire to change or please God and no disgust for the sin/carnal desire. See the difference? So before we're quick to answer anyone who asks this question about being a "gay Christian", let's be sure to get more understanding of what they mean first. They may be speaking about something different than what we assume, and we may very well answer their question wrongly and cause harm in someway.

Fruit From Which Tree?

Christians "struggle" with many things, because we're in this body of sin/sin nature (Jam. 4:1, 1Pet. 2:11), but there will be evidence/fruit in a Christian's life that they have been truly born-again as a new creation in Christ (2Cor. 5:14-17, 1Pet. 4:1-3, Matt. 3:8-10; 7:21-23; 12:33-37, Prov. 12:12b). All true born-again Christians possess the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17, Rom. 8:16, 1Cor. 6:11), and there will be evidence/fruit of the Holy Spirit in that person's life (Rom. 8:13-15, Gal. 5:16-18, 22-25, 2Tim. 1:7). If there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit (i.e. a desire for His desires, a desire to please God, the attitude that Jesus is Lord over your life, bearing His fruit, and a disgust towards sin) in a professing Christian's life, the Bible says that person is not truly saved (Rom. 8:5-9). You can "say" you're saved because you made "a confession of believing in Jesus' death and resurrection", but the Holy Spirit is the confirmation/the assurance of the sincerity of your salvation. So to think, believe, or profess to be born-again/a new creation in Christ, yet living/practicing a "lifestyle" of sin, and exhibiting no evidence of the Holy Spirit is a misnomer (Eph. 4:17-24, 2Tim. 2:19). It is biblically and logically incompatible, and for a person to continue to insist that this contradiction is not a contradiction but a true statement is deceived or *schizophrenic.
"4 Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will). 5 You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [essentially and forever]. 6 No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him]. 7 Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous. 8 [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done]. 9 No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 10 By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ)." (1Jn. 3:4-10, AMP)
Some may say, "What does this mean for the Christians that may fall into rebellion, are they really a true born-again believer or a misnomer?" True believers do fall at certain points in their life. This has happened to David, Peter, myself, and many other faithful people of God throughout the centuries. "The marks of a true believer will stand true compared to those of a poser. Though a true believer will fall---i.e. to certain temptations (lust, anger, pride, self-righteousness, etc) or at worse into temporary rebellion---they will get back up again just as the Bible says- Prov. 24:16, Ps. 37:23- 24. Repentance is ever present with a true believer, but not so with a poser."**

Can There Be...

So, can there be a "gay Christian"? Yes, a true born-again believer can "struggle" with homosexuality. Yes, true born-again believers can fall to temporary rebellion in a homosexual relationship the same way one can fall to temporary rebellion in a heterosexual relationship. But repentance (an evidence of the Holy Spirit) will be ever present with a true believer for the Holy Spirit's role is to convict and sanctify believers, and complete His good work (Gal. 5:17, Phil. 1:6, 1Thess. 5:23-24). However, to claim or sincerely believe oneself to be gay (and/or believe you were born that way) and to be living in/presumptuously practicing a homosexual "lifestyle", the answer is no, a true born again believer cannot be a "gay Christian". To claim to be a "gay Christian" (not a Christian struggling with homosexuality) would be equivalent to someone claiming to be a Christian Muslim or a Christian Satanist, it's oxymoronic. Two opposing identities cannot coexist as one agreeable identity, that is schizophrenia. It is God's will that His born-again children be pure from sexual immorality, and anyone who rejects this rejects God (1Thess. 4:1-8). You cannot be a "gay Christian".

I believe we have drifted too far from clearly understanding the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, because of His amazing grace and unconditional love for His creation, came (when He didn't have to) into His creation to be crucified for God-hating, God-rejecting, rebellious, self-centered, and sinful humankind---that's all of us, no one is a good person in God's eyes, we're all sinners deserving of His judgment regardless of any "good things" we may do. Jesus received the full weight of God's righteous fury for our sin, that eternal wrath we all deserve. He didn't simply give His life for His enemies as an act of chivalry, He sacrificially stood in the place of His enemies' deserved eternal punishment. Think about that....He jumped in the electric chair for---murderers, rapists, molesters, that is what every sinner is, we're all the vilest things you can think of---us who deserved to be in the electric chair, while we're all spitting at Him and ridiculing Him and screaming at Him telling Him to move out the way and mind His business..."this is my life, I'm the only 'god' around here, I can live and do as I please", He was willingly strapped in and electrocuted (without limitations) for us. He became our sin for us, our scapegoat. Then, after being crucified and receiving the fullness of God's righteous fury for His enemies sin, He conquered death for those same enemies/sinners by rising from the dead. But only those who recognize their sinful and unrighteous standing before God and sincerely believe and trust in what Jesus did for them will be rescued/saved from this righteous fury of God on sin. This gospel is the power of God unto salvation! One cannot say they believe this and not be changed (1Pet. 1:13-25).

Choose Your Destination

So here's where we land...
1. If you are a professing or closet homosexual, this is your destination...a one-way trip to God's righteous wrath for eternity. If you die today you will find yourself in the face of God's judgment, unless you repent and believe (Jn. 3:36, 1Cor. 6:9, Eph. 5:5, Rev. 21:8). I hope and pray that you do.
2. If you are a professing or closet homosexual who believes you are a Christian, it is a psychotic*** thing to believe that you truly understand this reality of sin, sin's eternal penalty, Jesus redeeming you from sin's penalty and power, and the Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from death living within you and making you a new creation, and still believe or claim to be gay and live that lifestyle (Rom. 6:1-23, Gal. 5:19-21). You my friend are deceived and are destined for God's righteous wrath for eternity. If you die today you will find yourself in the face of God's judgment, unless you repent and believe (Jn. 3:36, 1Cor. 6:9, Eph. 5:5, Rev. 21:8). I hope and pray that you do too.
3. For my brethren who are struggling with homosexuality, remind yourself daily of the gospel which saved your souls, remind yourself what He did to save you and why He saved you, cry out to the Holy Spirit to give you a desire for His desires and to break you and make you more into His likeness by any means necessary, immerse yourself in His Word and prayer, and also connect with other mature believers who have experienced consistent victory in this struggle. Do not allow this struggle to pimp you out like it did before your were redeemed. You have the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within you, and you have been called to sanctification. You run and fight until exhaustion for the glory of your risen King and what you know is laid up for you (1Cor. 6:18-20; 9:24-27, 2Cor. 5:9-10; 6:14-7:1).
I know some will not like what I have written. I'm sure some may label it hate speech, and say I'm being intolerant, judgmental, and a fundamentalist. But I call this article "love speech", because I love you enough to tell you the truth. And if I am intolerant, my intolerance is toward the deception of the sin not you personally. I want you to be rescued from your sin, and bondage, and deception. I am not passing judgment either, I have no reason to judge nor am I the Judge, I'm simply explaining the truth. If you feel judged, then the truth is that which judges you not me (Jn. 12:48). Also, I know some may say, "God is love and well God loves me and accepts me just the way I am." And to you I say, yes, God is love, but God is holy love not unholy love. And yes He does love you, but He loves you to the point of transforming you into His likeness. God's holy love cannot nor will not allow you or enable you to remain the same sinful, rebellious enemy He was crucified for. God's holy love was the motivation which poured out His righteous wrath on His Son for your sin, not so you can continue to live in that sinful lifestyle and use His love as a justification for it (Jn. 3:16-21). That is a lie and it will cost you your eternity believing it. Repent and believe the truth.

I hope this article has answered this question clearly, concisely (ok, maybe not concisely), and biblically. I hope I have helped believers and seekers out there know the true biblical answer to this question.

*1. Schizophrenic, in general usage, is a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.
**2. Discipleship State of Mind, p. 114
***3. Psychotic: denoting or suffering from psychosis---a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Do Mormons & Christians Believe in the same God?

A fellow brother in the Faith, added me to a Facebook conversation about Mormonism and Christianity. His heart was to win back another fella we all mutually know who has drifted back again into the Mormon belief. In the process of him trying to do so, the fellow Mormons invited another Mormon. So my fellow brother invited some friends too. I happened to be one of those friends. I told myself I wasn't going to say anything. I resisted the early urges to read the thread between them. But this morning, the Spirit drew me to respond. The Mormon men were arguing that Mormons are nothing more than another denomination in Christianity...we all believe the same essentials just differ in the non-essentials. My response was an attempt to simply draw a line in the sand and show how we are not on the same team just with simple differences.

Here are my responses:
"I'm not sure what all the going back [and forth] is for. Mormons and Christians believe in two different Gods.
1. Mormons deny the Tri-union of God––God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), God the Holy Spirit, all 1 God yet distinct in their divine personhood, and yet co-equal in nature and characteristics, and co-eternal. | 1. Biblical Christianity fundamentally holds to the essential truth of the Tri-union of God [see http://bit.ly/11WrVSB for more info on the Holy Trinity]. This is not a non-essential, it is [an] essential to salvation.
2. Mormons are polytheistic, they believe in multiple "Gods" not simply multiple little "gods". (Which those verses and terms mentioning men as "gods" [in the Bible] are taken way out of its original and historical context; but that doesn't change the fact the Mormon theology inherently believes and teaches polytheism). | 2. Biblical Christianity is monotheistic. The Bible only supports and teaches monotheism. There is only One God, only One (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 22, Rom. 3:30, Gal. 3:20, Revelation). This too is not a non-essential, for it too is [an] essential to salvation.

Just from these two, and not mentioning the numerous other things we fundamentally disagree on, we believe in two different Gods. We cannot be the same. It is logically incompatible. That's the same as saying nothing created something, an effect without a cause. It's fallacious.

This then leads to the greater concern, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Two opposing beliefs vying as the same truth cannot both be true. That too is a fallacy. Only one of us truly is right.

There is nothing more to say. There is no reason to continue on with the inbox dialogue unless there is going to be a sincere, open, friendly, and reasonable meeting discussing which belief is right. Otherwise, we are simply wasting words and we all shall see once we die and stand before the True God which belief is right. I bet my eternity on the biblical God, YAHWEH, the Eternal Spirit, Jesus, the Incarnate. Are the rest of you willing to bet your eternity on your Mormon beliefs? (That is meant to be rhetorical). If you are, then we all shall see on that Great Day!

Please know that I write this from a place of love and not hate."
There was a response telling me that based on the Mormon articles of faith (http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith), they believe the same thing..."The article of faith is in plain black and white. We believe in God the eternal Father, and His Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost."

Here is my follow-up response:
"Wow. Mormons have changed their statement of faith and core beliefs. I'm not sure if you know this [name deleted], but Mormonism was not founded on those statements on that link you shared. Why have they changed from what was once taught as Mormon truth to something different now? Truth doesn't change.

Secondly, showing two of our essential differences is just that, showing why we're not the same. And fellowship with the Body can only be with those in the Body. If we're not in the same Body, then we can't have biblical fellowship. We can hang out! But it won't be called fellowship. However, I can understand why it's hard for you to see that because that link states and reads like any other church would. But, that statement of faith still did not affirm belief in the Tri-union of God. Here is the Mormon's belief on the Trinity...."Godhead":
"Unlike Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, Mormonism does not include belief in a Trinity, in which the one God consists of three persons. Instead, Mormons believe that the "Godhead" is made up of three distinct beings who are "one in purpose" but not in being." (Religionfacts.com/mormonism/beliefs/godhead_not_trinity.htm; dated 2005)

And this, "Among the most important differences with other Christian churches are those concerning the nature of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit." (Mormonnewsroom.org/topic/core-beliefs)

And this, "Mormons believe He [God the Father] has a human-like body but is immortal and perfected. " (Mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-godhead)

And here's one of the Mormons belief on Jesus: "Mormons do not agree with mainstream Christians that Jesus is the eternal Word of God or God himself. In Mormon belief, Jesus was a created spirit and "son of God" before being given a physical body, just like all humans."
(Religionfacts.com/mormonism/beliefs/jesus_christ.htm; dated 2005)

We are believing in two very different things bro. And that's why I said one of us is right and one of us is wrong. We can't both be right."

I shared this to help anyone who has asked or thought about this question, "Do Mormons and Christians believe in the same God?" The answer is no, we do not; (and the same can be said for Jehovah's Witnesses, see http://bit.ly/10NtKQO for more on this). Mormons are not Christians. Christians are not Mormons. We both believe in completely different Gods. And there is so many, many more differences between Mormonism and Christianity than the two that I shared. But these two are adequate enough to show how we don't believe in the same God and we both cannot be right/true.

Be sure to know what you believe and why you believe it.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Controversy: Freedom, Tolerance, & the Church

I'm not a person big on getting involved in political issues or controversial issues. But in light of the recent news with the Supreme Court and gay marriage, I do have a few reflections.

We have the freedom to disagree with another. Yet, my freedom to disagree with another (even when I do it respectfully) is now being labeled as "intolerant" and "bigoted" by those who disagree with me. Isn't that contradictory? Wouldn't that then mean by their own logic that those who then disagree with me for disagreeing with them are also being "intolerant" and "bigoted"? But I'm not sure if the majority of people see this fallacy in their logic. Why can't we simply just disagree with each other, and agree to disagree? Why does there have to be negative and divisive labeling? (That was meant to be rhetorical. I'm fully aware sin is at the root of it all).

You know what makes this worse, we in the Church do this to one another (and have been for centuries). Think about this: WHAT IF those outside the Church are simply following the example we in the Church have set---name calling, mocking, sometimes voilent, selfish agendas, labeling one another when we disagree with each other, etc. (And we do this beyond the essentials, so don't attempt to use that defense). WHAT IF the hatred we receive from those outside the Church is not solely rooted in our stance for God's Truth in His Word, but also in our example of operating in "bigotry" and being "intolerant" to one another in the Church (in the name of defending "truth"). I'm not agreeing with it, I'm simply stating a reality: Our hands are not clean in creating the current negative perception of the Church or about Christians. (Again, I am speaking apart from us being condemned/hated for our stance for the Truth in God's Word like Jesus stated we would).

Yes, we can continue to respectfully disagree with others, present our cases on why, argue for what we think is best, and so on because we have the freedom to do so. But if we aren't going to take that same intense approach we have towards "righting" those things going on outside the Church to work on our own home issues in the Church, then we have to admit and accept responsibility for our own hypocrisy and Phariseeism of focusing only on the outside of the cup while neglecting to clean the inside first (cf. Matt. 23:25-28). Again, I'm not saying we can't or we shouldn't speak up or speak out or stand up, I'm just doing my part of holding us accountable to not forget to practice in the Church what we preach to those outside the Church.

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" -1Pet. 4:17


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?

Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?
-Thomas R. Schreiner

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas R. Schreiner (Kregel Academic & Professional).

Believers today continue to dispute whether the Sabbath is required. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a covenant sign, and Israel was commanded to rest on the seventh day. We see elsewhere in the Old Testament that covenants have signs, so that the sign of the Noahic covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:8-17) and the sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision (Gen. 17). The paradigm for the Sabbath was God's rest on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:1-3). So, too, Israel was called upon to rest from work on the seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). What did it mean for Israel not to work on the Sabbath? Figure 5 lists the kinds of activities that were prohibited and permitted.

The Sabbath was certainly a day for social concern, for rest was mandated for all Israelites, including their children, slaves, and even animals (Deut. 5:14). It was also a day to honor and worship the Lord. Special burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10). Psalm 92 is a Sabbath song that voices praise to God for his steadfast love and faithfulness. Israel was called upon to observe the Sabbath in remembrance of the Lord's work in delivering them as slaves from Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:15). Thus, the Sabbath is tied to Israel's covenant with the Lord, for it celebrates her liberation from slavery. The Sabbath, then, is the sign of the covenant between the Lord and Israel (Exod. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12-17). The Lord promised great blessing to those who observed the Sabbath (Isa. 56:2, 6; 58:13-14). Breaking the Sabbath command was no trivial matter, for the death penalty was inflicted upon those who intentionally violated it (Exod. 31:14-15; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36), though collecting manna on the Sabbath before the Mosaic law was codified did not warrant such a punishment (Exod. 16:22-30). Israel regularly violated the Sabbath—the sign of the covenant—and this is one of the reasons the people were sent into exile (Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24). 

Kindling a fire-                  Exod. 35:3
Gathering manna-             Exod. 16:23-29
Selling goods-                   Neh. 10:31; 13:15-22
Bearing burdens-               Jer. 17:19-27 

Military campaigns-           Josh. 6:15; 1 Kings 20:29; 2 Kings 3:9
Marriage feasts-               Judg. 14:12-18
Dedication feasts-             1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chron. 7:8-9
Visiting a man of God-       2 Kings 4:23
Changing temple guards-   2 Kings 11:5-9
Preparing showbread and putting it out-   1 Chron. 9:32
Offering sacrifices-            1 Chron. 23:31; Ezek. 46:4-5
Duties of priests and Levites-  2 Kings 11:5-9; 2 Chron. 23:4, 8
Opening the east gate-      Ezek. 46:1-3 

During the Second Temple period, views of the Sabbath continued to de­velop. It is not my purpose here to conduct a complete study. Rather, a number of illustrations will be provided to illustrate how seriously Jews took the Sab­bath. The Sabbath was a day of feasting and therefore a day when fasting was not appropriate (Jdt. 8:6; 1 Macc. 1:39, 45). Initially, the Hasmoneans refused to fight on the Sabbath, but after they were defeated in battle they changed their minds and began to fight on the Sabbath (1 Macc. 2:32-41; cf. Josephus,Jewish Antiquities 12.274, 276-277). The author of Jubilees propounds a rig­orous view of the Sabbath (Jubilees 50:6-13). He emphasizes that no work should be done, specifying a number of tasks that are prohibited (50:12-13). Fasting is prohibited since the Sabbath is a day for feasting (50:10, 12). Sexual relations with one's wife also are prohibited (50:8), though offering the sacri­fices ordained in the law are permitted (50:10). Those who violate the Sabbath prescriptions should die (50:7, 13). The Sabbath is eternal, and even the angels keep it (2:17-24). Indeed, the angels kept the Sabbath in heaven before it was established on earth (2:30). All Jewish authors concur that God commanded Israel to literally rest, though it is not surprising that Philo thinks of it as well in terms of resting in God (Sobriety, 1:174) and in terms of having thoughts of God that are fitting (Special Laws, 2:260). Philo also explains the number seven symbolically (Moses, 2:210). 

The Qumran community was quite strict regarding Sabbath observance, maintaining that the right interpretation must be followed (CD 6:18; 10:14-23). Even if an animal falls into a pit it should not be helped on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14), something Jesus assumes is permissible when talking to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:11). In the Mishnah thirty-nine different types of work are prohibited on the Sabbath (m. Shabbat 7:2). 

I do not believe the Sabbath is required for believers now that the new covenant has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. I should say, first of all, that it is not my purpose to reiterate what I wrote about the Sabbath in the Gospels since the Sabbath texts were investigated there. Here it is my purpose to pull the threads together in terms of the validity of the Sabbath for today. Strictly speaking, Jesus does not clearly abolish the Sabbath, nor does he violate its stipulations. Yet the focus on regulations that is evident in Jubilees, Qumran, and in the Mishnah is absent in Jesus' teaching. He reminded his hearers that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Some sectors of Judaism clearly had lost this perspective, so that the Sabbath had lost its humane dimension. They were so consumed with rules that they had forgotten mercy (Matt. 12:7). Jesus was grieved at the hardness of the Phari­sees' hearts, for they lacked love for those suffering (Mark 3:5). 

Jesus' observance of the Sabbath does not constitute strong evidence for its continuation in the new covenant. His observance of the Sabbath makes excellent sense, for he lived under the Old Testament law. He was "born under the law" as Paul says (Gal. 4:4). On the other hand, a careful reading of the Gospel accounts intimates that the Sabbath will not continue to play a significant role. Jesus proclaims as the Son of Man that he is the "lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath does not rule over him, but he rules over the Sabbath. He is the new David, the Messiah, to whom the Sabbath and all the Old Testament Scriptures point (Matt. 12:3-4). Indeed, Jesus even claimed in John 5:17 that he, like his Father, works on the Sabbath. Working on the Sabbath, of course, is what the Old Testament prohibits, but Jesus claimed that he must work on the Sabbath since he is equal with God (John 5:18). 

It is interesting to consider here the standpoint of the ruler of the syna­gogue in Luke 13:10-17. He argued that Jesus should heal on the other six days of the week and not on the Sabbath. On one level this advice seems quite reasonable, especially if the strict views of the Sabbath that were common in Judaism were correct. What is striking is that Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath. Healing is what he "ought" (dei) to do on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:16). It seems that he did so to demonstrate his superiority to the Sabbath and to hint that it is not in force forever. There may be a suggestion in Luke 4:16-21 that Jesus fulfills the Jubilee of the Old Testament (Lev. 25). The rest and joy anticipated in Jubilee is fulfilled in him, and hence the rest and feasting of the Sabbath find their climax in Jesus. 

We would expect the Sabbath to no longer be in force since it was the covenant sign of the Mosaic covenant, and, as I have argued elsewhere in this book, it is clear that believers are no longer under the Sinai covenant. There­fore, they are no longer bound by the sign of the covenant either. The Sabbath, as a covenant sign, celebrated Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but the Exodus points forward, according to New Testament writers, to redemption in Christ. Believers in Christ were not freed from Egypt, and hence the covenant sign of Israel does not apply to them. 

It is clear in Paul's letters that the Sabbath is not binding upon believers. In Colossians Paul identifies the Sabbath as a shadow along with requirements regarding foods, festivals, and the new moon (Col. 2:16-17). The Sabbath, in other words, points to Christ and is fulfilled in him. The word for "shadow" (skia) that Paul uses to describe the Sabbath is the same term the author of Hebrews used to describe Old Testament sacrifices. The law is only a "shadow (skia) of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities" (Heb. 10:1). The argument is remarkably similar to what we see in Colossians: both contrast elements of the law as a shadow with the "substance" (sōma, Col. 2:17) or the "form" (eikona, Heb. 10:1) found in Christ. Paul does not denigrate the Sabbath. He salutes its place in salvation history, for, like the Old Testament sacrifices, though not in precisely the same way, it prepared the way for Christ. I know of no one who thinks Old Testament sacrifices should be instituted today; and when we compare what Paul says about the Sabbath with such sacrifices, it seems right to conclude that he thinks the Sabbath is no longer binding. 

Some argue, however, that "Sabbath" in Colossians 2:16 does not refer to the weekly Sabbaths but only to sabbatical years. But this is a rather des­perate expedient, for the most prominent day in the Jewish calendar was the weekly Sabbath. We know from secular sources that it was the observance of the weekly Sabbath that attracted the attention of Gentiles (Juvenal, Sat­ires 14.96-106; Tacitus, Histories 5.4). Perhaps sabbatical years are included here, but the weekly Sabbath should not be excluded, for it would naturally come to the mind of both Jewish and Gentile readers. What Paul says here is remarkable, for he lumps the Sabbath together with food laws, festivals like Passover, and new moons. All of these constitute shadows that anticipate the coming of Christ. Very few Christians think we must observe food laws, Passover, and new moons. But if this is the case, then it is difficult to see why the Sabbath should be observed since it is placed together with these other matters. 

Another crucial text on the Sabbath is Romans 14:5: "One person es­teems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." In Romans 14:1-15:6 Paul mainly discusses food that some—almost certainly those influenced by Old Testament food laws—think is defiled. Paul clearly teaches, in contrast to Leviticus 11:1-44 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21, that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:14, 20) since a new era of redemptive history has dawned. In other words, Paul sides theologically with the strong in the argument, believing that all foods are clean. He is concerned, however, that the strong avoid injuring and damaging the weak. The strong must respect the opinions of the weak (Rom. 14:1) and avoid arguments with them. Apparently the weak were not insisting that food laws and the observance of days were necessary for salvation, for if that were the case they would be proclaiming another gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8-9; 2:3-5; 4:10; 5:2-6), and Paul would not tolerate their viewpoint. Probably the weak believed that one would be a stronger Christian if one kept food laws and observed days. The danger for the weak was that they would judge the strong (Rom. 14:3-4), and the danger for the strong was that they would de­spise the weak (Rom. 14:3, 10). In any case, the strong seem to have had the upper hand in the Roman congregations, for Paul was particularly concerned that they not damage the weak. 

Nevertheless, a crucial point must not be overlooked. Even though Paul watches out for the consciences of the weak, he holds the viewpoint of the strong on both food laws and days. John Barclay rightly argues that Paul subtly (or not so discreetly!) undermines the theological standpoint of the weak since he argues that what one eats and what days one observes are a matter of no concern.[1] The Old Testament, on the other hand, is clear on the matter. The foods one eats and the days one observes are ordained by God. He has given clear commands on both of these issues. Hence, Paul's argument is that such laws are no longer valid since believers are not under the Mosaic covenant. Indeed, the freedom to believe that all days are alike surely includes the Sabbath, for the Sabbath naturally would spring to the mind of Jewish readers since they kept the Sabbath weekly. 

Paul has no quarrel with those who desire to set aside the Sabbath as a special day, as long as they do not require it for salvation or insist that other believers agree with them. Those who esteem the Sabbath as a special day are to be honored for their point of view and should not be despised or ridiculed. Others, however, consider every day to be the same. They do not think that any day is more special than another. Those who think this way are not to be judged as unspiritual. Indeed, there is no doubt that Paul held this opinion, since he was strong in faith instead of being weak. It is crucial to notice what is being said here. If the notion that every day of the week is the same is accept­able, and if it is Paul's opinion as well, then it follows that Sabbath regulations are no longer binding. The strong must not impose their convictions on the weak and should be charitable to those who hold a different opinion, but Paul clearly has undermined the authority of the Sabbath in principle, for he does not care whether someone observes one day as special. He leaves it entirely up to one's personal opinion. But if the Sabbath of the Old Testament were still in force, Paul could never say this, for the Old Testament makes incredibly strong statements about those who violate the Sabbath, and the death penalty is even required in some instances. Paul is living under a different dispensa­tion, that is, a different covenant, for now he says it does not matter whether one observes one day out of seven as a Sabbath. 

Some argue against what is defended here by appealing to the creation order. As noted above, the Sabbath for Israel is patterned after God's creation of the world in seven days. What is instructive, however, is that the New Tes­tament never appeals to Creation to defend the Sabbath. Jesus appealed to the creation order to support his view that marriage is between one man and one woman for life (Mark 10:2-12). Paul grounded his opposition to women teaching or exercising authority over men in the creation order (1 Tim. 2:12-13), and homosexuality is prohibited because it is contrary to nature (Rom. 1:26-27), in essence, to God's intention when he created men and women. Similarly, those who ban believers from eating certain foods and from mar­riage are wrong because both food and marriage are rooted in God's good creation (1 Tim. 4:3-5). We see nothing similar with the Sabbath. Never does the New Testament ground it in the created order. Instead, we have very clear verses that say it is a "shadow" and that it does not matter whether believers observe it. So, how do we explain the appeal to creation with reference to the Sabbath? It is probably best to see creation as ananalogy instead of as a ground. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant, and since the cov­enant has passed away, so has the covenant sign. 

Now it does not follow from this that the Sabbath has no significance for believers. It is a shadow, as Paul said, of the substance that is now ours in Christ. The Sabbath's role as a shadow is best explicated by Hebrews, even if Hebrews does not use the word for "shadow" in terms of the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews sees the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eschatological rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:1-10). A "Sabbath rest" still awaits God's people (v. 9), and it will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors. The Sabbath, then, points to the final rest of the people of God. But since there is an already-but-not-yet character to what Hebrews says about rest, should believers continue to practice the Sabbath as long as they are in the not-yet?[2] I would answer in the negative, for the evidence we have in the New Testament points in the contrary direction. We remember that the Sab­bath is placed together with food laws and new moons and Passover in Colos­sians 2:16, but there is no reason to think that we should observe food laws, Passover, and new moons before the consummation. Paul's argument is that believers now belong to the age to come and the requirements of the old cov­enant are no longer binding. 

Does the Lord's Day, that is, Christians worshiping on the first day of the week, constitute a fulfillment of the Sabbath? The references to the Lord's Day in the New Testament are sparse. In Troas believers gathered "on the first day of the week...to break bread" and they heard a long message from Paul (Acts 20:7). Paul commands the Corinthians to set aside money for the poor "on the first day of every week" (1 Cor. 16:2). John heard a loud voice speaking to him "on the Lord's day" (Rev. 1:10). These scattered hints suggest that the early Christians at some point began to worship on the first day of the week. The practice probably has its roots in the resurrection of Jesus, for he appeared to his disciples "the first day of the week" (John 20:19). All the Synoptics emphasize that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday: "very early on the first day of the week" (Mark 16:2; cf. Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1). The fact that each of the Gospels stresses that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week is striking. But we have no indication that the Lord's Day func­tions as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. It is likely that gathering together on the Lord's Day stems from the earliest church, for we see no debate on the issue in church history, which is quite unlikely if the practice originated in Gentile churches outside Israel. By way of contrast, we think of the intense debate in the first few centuries on the date of Easter. No such debate exists regarding the Lord's Day. 

The early roots of the Lord's Day are verified by the universal practice of the Lord's Day in Gentile churches in the second century.[3] It is not surprising that many Jewish Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as well. One segment of the Ebionites practiced the Lord's Day and the Sabbath. Their ob­servance of both is instructive, for it shows that the Lord's Day was not viewed as the fulfillment of the Sabbath but as a separate day. 

Most of the early church fathers did not practice or defend literal Sab­bath observance (cf.Diognetus 4:1) but interpreted the Sabbath eschatologi­cally and spiritually. They did not see the Lord's Day as a replacement of the Sabbath but as a unique day. For instance, in the Epistle of Barnabas, the Sab­baths of Israel are contrasted with "the eighth day" (15:8), and the latter is described as "a beginning of another world." Barnabas says that "we keep the eighth day" (which is Sunday), for it is "the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead" (15:9). The Lord's Day was not viewed as a day in which be­lievers abstained from work, as was the case with the Sabbath. Instead, it was a day in which most believers were required to work, but they took time in the day to meet together in order to worship the Lord.[4] The contrast between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day is clear in Ignatius, when he says, "If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death" (To the Magnesians 9:1). Ignatius, writing about a.d. 110, specifically contrasts the Sabbath with the Lord's Day, showing that he did not believe the latter replaced the former.[5] Bauckham argues that the idea that the Lord's day replaced the Sabbath is post-Constantinian. Luther saw rest as necessary but did not tie it to Sunday.[6] A stricter interpretation of the Sabbath became more common with the Puritans, along with the Seventh-Day Baptists and later the Seventh-Day Adventists.[7] 

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord's Day, the day of Jesus' resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord's Day fulfilled or replaced the Sab­bath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which be­lievers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day. 

1. What is the strongest argument for continued observance of the Sabbath? 
2. What evidence in Paul suggests that the Sabbath is no longer required? 
3. How does Hebrews contribute to our theology of the Sabbath? 
4. What is the relationship between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day? 
5. What is your view on observing the Sabbath today? 

1. John M. G. Barclay, "'Do We Undermine the Law?' A Study of Romans 14.1-15.6," in Paul and the Mosaic Law, WUNT 89 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 287-308. 

2. So Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "A Sabbath Rest Still Awaits the People of God," in Pressing To­ward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, ed. Charles G. Dennison and Richard C. Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986), 33-51. Gaffin argues that the rest is only eschatological. I support Andrew Lincoln's view that it is of an already-but-not-yet character (Andrew T. Lincoln, "Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New Testament," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982], 197-220). 

3. For a detailed discussion of some of the issues raised here, see R. J. Bauckham, "The Lord's Day," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 221-50; idem, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, 257-69. 

4. So Bauckham, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church," 274. 

5. Cf. the concluding comments of Bauckham, "The Lord's Day," 240. 

6. Martin Luther, "How Christians Should Regard Moses," in Luther's Works, vol. 35, Word and Sacrament, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (general editor) and E. Theodore Bachman (Phil­adelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 165. 

7. Bauckham's survey of history is immensely valuable. See Bauckham, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church," 251-98; idem, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Medieval Church in the West," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, 299-309; idem, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, 311-41.  

Copyright 2010 Thomas R. Schreiner. 
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Kregel Publications
P.O. Box 2607
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