A Faith That Counts - Accepting God’s Gift

Abed_nego2

Servant of the Lord
Our Scripture - (Romans 3:21 - 4:25)
Our Theme - Because God loves all people He has provided the free “Gift of Salvation” from their deserved condemnation.
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Introduction

Socks. Toothbrush. Maybe an apple, orange or a box of animal crackers. None of these items would make your list of gifts that would cause you to be overjoyed. However, a new car, now that would be a gift worth getting excited about! So, what ho-hum gifts have your received and how did you respond when you opened the gift? Sometimes we treat salvation like it is a ho-hum gift. Our study will challenge us to respond as we should to the incredible free gift of salvation that God, Himself provided.

The apostle Paul has spent several chapters giving us bad news. He has told us that the wrath of God is shown towards all those in humanity who reject Him and His ways. It doesn’t matter if you are Jewish or non-Jewish, if you are religious or non religious. If you reject God and His ways, you will be judged. Paul said in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” However, Paul now has some good news for us beginning at Romans 3:21-22:
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All Sinners Need God’s Righteousness

(1) Righteousness comes by Faith.

Romans 3:21-22, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile”

The first mention of the word righteousness is found in Genesis 15:6, which is part of a passage of an interaction between Abram, later known as Abraham, and God. God loves all people and desires to save them from their deserved condemnation. In Romans 3:21-4:8, Paul described how, by God’s grace, wherein He provided salvation for mankind. The righteousness of God is His purity or moral perfection. God neither does anything wrong nor omits anything He should do. Because of His righteousness, He hates sin. Therefore, to live with God in Heaven someday, all people must meet the standard of His righteousness. However, no person has this righteousness on their own. Romans 3:21-22 tell how righteousness can be acquired. Sinful people can obtain it through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
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Paul explained that God’s righteousness is imputed, or given, to the person who trust Jesus Christ as Savior. When this happens, the individual is declared righteous. That person is freed from the guilt of his or her sins and is fit to enter Heaven. Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it (Heaven) nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life”. A living faith in Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), is the only condition for having your name written in God’s Lamb’s Book of Life. And as our Pastor tells it, “God is keeping the Books” and doesn’t make mistakes. So, unless your names is written there you won’t enter heaven. no matter how good you are.

Righteousness does not come by the law because it comes only by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22). Faith is an active belief in God’s Word, committing oneself to it without reservation. In relation to righteousness, it means abandoning all works and casting oneself totally on Jesus Christ as God’s sacrifice for sin. A person must believe Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for his or her sins. There are no limitations; anyone may have this righteousness and everyone needs to accept the gift God gave to us in order for it to have any meaning and purpose in a person’s life.

The following excerpt is from a book entitled “Before the School Bell Rings”, authored by Marjory Goldfinch Ward, formerly an assistant professor at Columbia College and an adjunct professor of gifted education at the University of South Carolina, with over twenty years’ experience in public education.

She writes that her students often bring gifts for the teacher. Some of my favorites have been personal, like the needlepoint picture of two goldfinches perched on a thistle made for me by a former seventh-grade student. She delivered the gift years after I taught her, still remembering that I liked goldfinches. Other gifts are practical, such as tools for a carpenter or kitchen utensils for a cook. Some gifts have not been normal. Once we were given a piece of heavy brass and I said, “It’s beautiful! What is it?” I have enjoyed using it as a doorstop ever since, but I had no idea what it was. We dream of extravagant gifts and sometimes even receive them.

The perfect gift says something about the personality of the giver and also matches the wishes and needs of the receiver. That kind of gift leads to cries of pleasure: “It’s just like Nancy to give me that! It’s exactly what I needed!” God’s gift of Jesus Christ expressed his own nature and is exactly what we all need. When I look at my students, what would I like to give them? What exactly do they need? Suppose we could provide a safe magic potion that would go steadily to work and begin to change student from the inside out in:

(a) Correcting difficult behaviors,
(b) Clearing up learning problems,
(c) Healing emotional wounds,
(d) Strengthening self-concepts,
(e) Building positive attitudes,
(f) Giving patience and self-discipline,
(g) Satisfying the need to belong and
(h) The need for meaning.

How difficult would it be to market such a remedy? Jesus Christ offers such a gift. He can correct difficult behaviors, heal emotional wounds, build positive attitudes, give patience and self-discipline. When He told a woman in Samaria about his offer of water to completely and finally quench thirst, she begged him for it (John 4). She found what she had thirsted for - an acceptance and a life-changing force from the only one who could provide what she needed”, and that is what every person needs today because we are living in a very pro-longed, scary and troublesome time.

We are in troublesome times now because God and prayer have been removed from our schools, mass killings have become the norm, hatred and racism seemed to have increased, marriage has been distorted from God’s original plan by man’s law, marijuana has been legalized and abortion is still an issue in New York and other states. People have removed God from their life, don’t want anything to do with Him and are like the people mentioned in Romans 1:24-32, which states:

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised, Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts as with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents, they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”


John 1:12 states, “To all who received Him (Jesus Christ), to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God” . This gift of Jesus Christ, once received, works slowly, a beginning of that “good work in us” that is God’s plan in operation. We cannot push our world, our students or children, into God’s kingdom; however, we can trust God to show them His great gift of salvation through His only Son, Jesus Christ, and we are the means by which this is accomplished.
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(2) The sinner falls short of God’s glory.

Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Paul reiterated in verse 23 the thoughts of Romans 3:10-18. All people are born with a sinful nature because of Adam’s fall; consequently, all commit acts of sin. Because all people are sinful, they fall short of God’s glory. The glory of God is His standard of righteousness. If the glory of God can be represented by a fall building, falling short of His glory can be represented by a small child’s attempts to jump over the building. Every effort falls short. We can attain righteousness only by receiving it from God.
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(3) Christ justifies the sinner Freely by His grace.

Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”

Before a person is saved, he/she is a guilty sinner. When a person is born again, he/she is justified, or declared to have a right standing before God. The person did not do anything to be made righteous; he/she simply trusted in Christ. When he/she took that step of faith, God gave him/her Christ’s righteousness. When God looks at the justified sinner, He sees the righteousness of Christ and cancels the punishment due the sinner!

One of the most blessed words in all of Scripture is the word freely in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” This declaration of righteousness, this imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, did not cost us anything. It was free! What moved God to make a plan like this? His grace! Grace is the companion of faith. Grace is commonly defined as undeserved favor. It is that and more. Not only are we undeserving of God’s favor, but we deserve the exact opposite - His wrath. Another great word that appears in this verse is:

Redemption

It means “freedom by the payment of a price”. We are ransomed from our sin and condemnation. It is a term used in the Bible referring to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind. This use of the word deals with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross in which He paid the price to "purchase" human beings and set them free from their slavery to sin.

Through the death of Christ we have been bought out of bondage from sin and Satan. The ransom price for our sin has been paid in full (Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13; 4:4, 5; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrew 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Because of Christ's substitutionary atonement, He is called the Redeemer.

More than a century ago, an evangelist preached a stirring sermon on the theme of the blood of Christ as the only means of salvation. After the service, a refined and fashionably dressed woman said something like this to the evangelist. “I wish you would not speak so much about the blood of Christ. It nauseates ladies and gentlemen.” To this the preacher replied, “But Christ didn’t die for ladies and gentlemen; He died for sinners.”
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(4) Christ is the Propitiation for the Remission of Sin.

Romans 3:25, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood - to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished”

God could not give righteousness while sin remained. To provide this righteousness, God the Father set forth, or presented, Christ to be a propitiation. That is, Christ’s death satisfied the requirements of God’s holiness. Sometimes the word reconciled is improperly used with reference to God. God was not reconciled; man was. The word propitiation is an atoning sacrifice; we are free from God's wrath. This is possible because an acceptable offering has been made on our behalf. The offering has been made to appease God, to turn His wrath from us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Thus, propitiation is the divine side of the work of Christ on the cross and carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction - specifically towards God the Father. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to them. The word propitiation is used in several key verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross (Romans 3:24-25).

These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the Book of Romans and are really at the heart of the Gospel message. The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches us that God Himself has provided the means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him.

In the New Testament the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason, God the Son, Jesus Christ came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus Christ in John 14:6 said that he was the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

To illustrate a point concerning knowing the way, Dwight Slater, a retired missionary doctor who told the story that while serving in Africa he had trained a brilliant but unschooled man to serve as his surgical assistant. Kolo was a quick learner, and soon he was able to perform surgeries himself. A team of doctors from the United States was in Africa to provide some short-term help. They were performing operations when they came across a condition rare in the US but common in Africa. When they weren't sure what to do, Kolo took the surgical instruments, cut through layers of tissue and ligaments, and corrected the problem. When the amazed doctors began quizzing Kolo on the specifics of the complicated procedure, he answered simply, "I do not know the terms; I just know the way."

Today there are many believers in Christ who may not be able to define complex theological terms like redemption, justification, and propitiation, but they can still be effective witnesses because they know Jesus, who is the way to God (John 14:6). Unbelievers need the simple gospel, that Jesus died for their sin and that they must accept Him by faith. You don't need to be afraid to witness. If you know the way, you can show others the way through Jesus Christ! Only one road leads to heaven, and my friend Jesus Christ is that road.

In the original language it is the same word used to describe the mercy seat in the tabernacle in Hebrews 9:5. The empty seat was a place of shedding of blood to provide mercy and avoid judgment. Paul also stated that this remission (releasing from the guilt and penalty) of sins extends to sins that are past (Romans 3:25). In His forbearance, God left committed sins unpunished, waiting until Calvary, when those sins would be paid for. (See Acts 17:30). The death of Christ reached backward as well as forward in its benefits.
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(5) After reviewing with the Roman believers all that God had done for them, Paul drew five conclusions found in Romans 3:26-31.

First, God is consistent.

Romans 3:26, “he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”. God cannot ignore sin. If He did, He would violate His own righteousness. But instead of punishing us as we deserved, God provided the perfect substitute for sin - Jesus Christ. Our punishment was paid by Another. So, God can be just and still justify sinful humans.

Second, no boasting is allowed.

Romans 3:27, Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law than requires faith”. Because we are made righteous by the work of Christ and through no merit of our own, there is no room for boasting.

Third, salvation is by faith.

Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”. Paul emphasized again that righteousness comes by faith in Christ, apart from any deeds of the law.

Fourth, righteousness is available to all.

Romans 3:29-30, “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith”. The righteousness of God is available to everyone, Jew and Gentile.

Fifth, the law is established.

Romans 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”. Salvation by faith does not cancel the value of the law. Rather, it accomplishes the righteousness the law requires.
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Faith is the Basis for Righteousness

(1) Abraham was justified by Faith.

Romans 4:1-4, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about - but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation”

As Paul pointed out, we are saved because Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us. One example of imputed righteousness in the Old Testament is Abraham. Abraham was declared righteous, but not through his own works. The rabbis of Paul’s day believed and taught that Abraham was righteous before God because he did not sin before God. Yes, Abraham did righteous works:

(a) He obeyed God’s call to leave his home (Genesis 12:1-2),
(b) He gave Lot his choice of land (Genesis 13:8-11), and
(c) He refused an alliance with a wicked king (Genesis 14:17-24).

However, he also was guilty of unrighteous deeds committed (sin); recorded for us in Genesis 12:11-20 and Genesis 16:1-4; Genesis 20:2013? You could say that Abraham was fearful. He lied about Sarah’s relationship to him two times saying that she was his sister and acted in unbelief with Hagar. However, before we judge Abraham we should ask ourselves a few questions.

(a) For fear of losing our job, would we compromise our integrity?
(b) For fear of appearing old-fashioned, would we set aside our values?
(c) For fear of being ridiculed or misunderstood, would we neglect sharing the gospel.

Only one thing will conquer our fears - a steadfast faith in God’s presence, protection, power and promises. Despite his sins, Abraham was justified by God and indicated him being chose and blessed by God through the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:1-22). Moreover, Genesis 15:6 firmly and emphatically states that righteousness came to Abraham by belief (Romans 4:3). Nothing more. If it were earned by good works (Romans 4:4), then it would no longer be of grace (unmerited favor).
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(2) David was justified by Faith.

Romans 4:5-8, “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justified the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them”

There are three key words used in Romans 4 that mean virtually the same thing: counted, reckoned, and imputed. Please note the relationship of these words to righteousness: verses 3 and 5 - counted for righteousness; verse 9 - reckoned ... for righteousness; verse 22 - imputed ... for righteousness. When a sinner trusts in Christ, God takes that sinner’s moral, spiritual account and makes an entry. He writes, fully righteous beside it. He credits that sinner with a righteous standing solely on the ground of that sinner’s faith in Christ’s work on his behalf.

Verse 5 states the whole principle in a sentence: But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justified the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. To declare a good, moral person righteous might be understandable, but this verse reminds us that God justifies ungodly people, a description of everyone, but only through the gospel of Christ is such a thing done!
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(3) Faith alone, not the Law (Romans 4:18-25)

The final portion of Romans 4 describes Abraham’s amazing faith, especially regarding the promise of a son. The statement of Romans 4:18 that Abraham believed in hope, the he might become the father of many nations alludes to Genesis 17:4. Whether Abraham understood the promise this way, the fact is that God had both physical and spiritual applications in view. Abraham had a double seed: a spiritual posterity as well as natural descendants.

Abraham believed in a hopeless situation (4:18). The wording against hope believed in hope simply means on basis existed for any hope, yet Abraham believed anyway. From a human standpoint, there was no reason to expect what God said would happen. Abraham believed in spite of physical disability (4:19). God had said this man would have a son. But Abraham was then about one hundred years old, past the age of having children. In addition, Sarah was also past the age of childbearing.

This is where Abraham’s faith is a picture of our saving faith. Abraham believed in something physically impossible. We believe Christ did something physically impossible when He arose bodily from the dead (4:24). Abraham’s faith embraced the certainty of life out of so-called death (4:19). Believing in Christ embraces the certainty of life out of death in an even greater sense, because of His death and resurrection. His resurrection is an essential fact in our justification (4:25).

Abraham believed without doubting. Abraham staggered not (Romans 4:20), which means he had a complete, unwavering faith in God. There was not a part of him that believed and a part of him that didn’t believe. He was fully persuaded (Romans 4:21). Because of Abraham’s faith, God credited him with righteousness (Romans 4:22). And, praise God, we may have the same reckoning in the same way (Romans 4:23). It is for us also (Romans 4:24). This is the greatest good news, that by grace through faith we may have what we never could have achieved by our own efforts!

God provided His own Spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. We could never achieve Salvation by our own efforts. Because of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, He is the only provision for the salvation of mankind. His uniqueness as recorded for us in Scripture are in the following areas:

(1) His virgin birth. Isaiah 7:14 tells us, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel”. Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 also tell of His Virgin Birth. Thus, the Virgin Birth was a special miracle of God whereby Jesus Christ was born of a normal human mother who was a virgin in the strictest sense of the word until after the birth of her child.
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(2) His sinless life. He is portrayed as a Savior who came to save sinners and was able to save them because He Himself was sinless. John, the disciple closest to His affection, declared, “In Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5); Peter said He “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (Peter 2:22); Paul pens the fact that “He knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
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(3) His death. The cross of Christ is a sham unless, He who hung there knew no sin but was made a sacrifice for sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:31). Anyone can come to Him and receive forgiveness and a new life. The sinless one encountering the sin of the world and enduring the wrath of God against sin are the only sensible explanations of the unique sufferings of Christ. Without a sinless life and a virgin birth as credentials such a death is impossible and meaningless.
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(4) His Resurrection . The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the keystone of the arch of salvation. Remove it and the whole structure of the plan of salvation crumbles in the dust. The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and that He rose again. The resurrection of Christ is the proof that His death atoned for sin.
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(5) His Redemptive Touch. Down through the ages those who have put their faith in a crucified and risen Savior/Redeemer have experienced the regenerating touch of God upon their lives. No change is quite as wonderful as that which takes place in any person who puts their faith and trust in Christ whose blood was shed, so we could have life eternal.

Because Jesus Christ was unique in the above areas He is the only basis of salvation, and certainly any man made religions can save. Christians down through the ages have received God’s gift for eternal life, and which we proclaim, and by which the apostle Paul said “you stand, by which ye are saved … for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). It is therefore apparent that apart from the many-sided uniqueness of the Person and work of Christ there can be no Christian gospel because the gospel centers in Christ … the Gospel is Jesus Christ.
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Closing Illustration

I will close with the following illustration. What are you planning to leave your heirs when you die? When Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, died, he left his family a fortune that made them, collectively, the second wealthiest people in the world. If he had an heir who didn’t want his/her inheritance, no one could force that person to accept it. The provision would have been there, but the heir would have had to accept it to benefit from it. Over 2,000 years ago on a rough and rugged cross at a place called Calvary, God the Father allowed His “only begotten Son” to become the sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. John 12:32 states, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.

An example everyone should be able to relate to concerning freedom. Towering above the New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. For more than 100 years, that stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who are choking from the stifling air of tyranny and oppression. They have been drawn to what that monument symbolizes – freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are the deeply moving words by Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift up my lamp beside the golden door.”

However, but more importantly a different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved people throughout the world. It’s the Roman cross where Jesus Christ hung over 2,000 years ago. At first the scene repels us, and then we see the sinless Son of God, dying in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. From the cross we hear the words “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) and “It is finished” (John 19:30). Like the heir of Sam Walton, who had to accept his fortune, we too must accept God’s gift, and as we trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, the heavy burden of guilt rolls from our sin-weary souls and we are free for all eternity.
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Jesus took my place on the cross to give me a place in heaven; thus, our salvation was costly to God but Free for us. Praise the Lord!
 
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