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1 John 3:1-3

1 John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
We have this morning a break in the argument that John has been making. Jared took us last week through the idea of antichrists. John has been constantly talking about opposites trhoughout his talk. Light and dark, and now the antichrist / christ is the focus. in fact, Jesus is the star right throughout our passage.
The three verses break up very evenly into three separate thoughts.
I describe these three thoughts.
But firstly, I want to just draw your attention to the verse that precedes our passage, and that follows our passage:
v29 Everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him. 3:4
We have now reached the halfway point of the book of 1 John. John started us off talking about Jesus as the Word that had been revealed to the world. And the first metaphor that helped us understand the implications of Jesus as the Word was “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all”.
John then has taken us through various implications of us walking in the Light of Jesus. Last week Jared took us through a description of the antichrists - those seeking to take the church back into darkness. v22 of Chapter 2 says “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is the antichrist”.
But then John moves on to describe the antichrist as the one who denies the Father and the Son in v23.
All the way to this point Jesus has been woven into our text. we have had many teachings about what it means to “live in the light”.
John is going to both continue with Jesus woven into the text, but he is now going to focus on something that has been in the background since the start of Chapter 1 - the focus on Jesus as the Son.
Let me show you two ways that John is continuing this discussion rather than just starting a fresh section: Jesus is not referred to at all in our passage in name but only by pronoun.
THE FIRST WAY: In Chapter 3 v1 - The world did not know HIM. The Him is the Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus as the Son way back in v22 that I mentioned above.
In Chapter 3 v1 - The world did not know HIM. The Him is the Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus as the Son way back in v22 that I mentioned above.
Similarly in Verse 2 - 4 times He and Him are mentioned, referring to Jesus.
Then in verse three - another Him and He.
So Jesus is referred to 7 times in our three verses, not by name, but by pronoun. It will be the same in Brandon’s section next week, all the way until verse 8 when he is mentioned as the Son of God.
THE SECOND WAY that we can see that John is continuing his argument can be seen by the verse before our passage and the verse after:
“everyone who practices righteousness . . . . . .”
“everyone who makes a practice of sinning . . . . . “
So our section begins and ends very deliberately by John in a very much down-to-earth way. Christianity is no mental exercise for John even when writing after 50 years of life as a leader of the church. Christianity is fulfilled in the everyday practice of our life.
But what John does for us, is give us a little mountain top experience in the midst of the every day practice.
I am calling it - Ascending the Mountain, because for me, it reminds me a bit like what happened for John on the Mount Transfiguration.
In Mark Chapter 8, Jesus is in with the crowds, teaching them, and starts to mention that he will be crucified.
Then Jesus takes Peter James and John up on the mountain, and they see Jesus in His Glory. It is one of the few times in Scripture when God Speaks, and John was a part of it.
Then they come down of the mountain and Jesus is back with the crowds again, having compassion on a little boy who had the evil spirit that made him mute, and rebuking the disciples for their discussion on who is the greatest.
In these three verses John gives us a mountain top experience. It is not an end in itself - John will return to the same themes that he has mentioned before, just as in the gospel story, Jesus continues to work in the ordinariness of Galilean life.
But once we see the view from the top today, then my prayer is that when we come back down, we will know the direction that we need to head from here on.
And that is the advantage of being in a high place, isn’t it? It is the difference between being in a little Holden Barina, stuck in a traffic jam trying to get into the city, vs being in a open-topped double decker bus around London, like mum did last year - and seeing not just why you are stuck, but you can see above, to the city skyline.
So let us ascend the mountain together in these three verses: (for reasons that will become apparent, I am quoting them in both the ESV and NIV)
(ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
(NIV)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
There are three verses here that nicely split themselves into our three main points this morning.
The wonderful love:that makes us His Children now (Verse 1)
The wonderful destiny: that makes us like His Son Jesus then
The wonderful path: the way of purity from now to then.
We we have three wonders to consider wonderful love, wonderful destiny and wonderful path: Let’s get started!
A Wonderful Love Verse 1.
I have included the text of our section from both the ESV and NIV. The ESV might be accurate in words, but it is not a good translation to transmit the force of emotion that John is conveying. The NIV gives a better rendering
Let me explain by including the new 2011 version of the NIV so we can compare:
First of all is the word SEE. Even that is a little wishy-washy, and I find myself preferring the New King James Version with BEHOLD. We sing it as a song sometimes - Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God. Behold is more like - step back and take it all in! The reason that I like Behold is because of the second word in the sentence.
It is a greek word that is only used seven times in the New Testament, but it is only ever used in situations that indicate a marvel - something just out of this world. The one that I am most thinking of is in .
Jesus Calms a Storm
Jesus Calms a Storm
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
The word is the one from V27 - what sort of man is this? We are meant to be astonished by this love. so when the ESV says, ‘see what kind of love’, it is kind of a ridiculous understatement.
John Stott, in his commentary, explained it this way:
The Father’s love is so unearthly, so foreign to this world, that [John] wonders from what country it may come.” God’s love is foreign to humankind in that we cannot understand the magnitude of such love. It astonishes, amazes, and creates wonder within those who properly reflect upon it.
I want us this morning to properly reflect upon the astonishing, amazing, wonderful love of God, that brings us into His Family. It only when we wrap our head around how amazing it is, that we can understand how much love there is. Like Moses in Deuteronomy with wonder reflecting on God’s nearness to Israel. What nation is there that has a God so near to it as the lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him? Moses was reflecting in wonder with the people, just like John is doing now.
331 Stott, Letters of John, 122.
[1] Akin, D.L., 2001. 1, 2, 3 John, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
See! What sort of love is this - that we can be called Children of God? It only when we wrap our head around how amazing it is, that we can understand how much love there is. John took Mary into his home as His mother, yet he could still wonder in amazement that he could be called a child of God. Perhaps I need a lesson like need to feel the force of that again this morning.
Can we reflect on two wonders, a caution, something that must happen and a third wonder:
We were called into God’s family when we had nothing to offer. We have been adopted into His family, not because of any ‘potential’ that he saw in us. He loved us, because he loved us. That should make us humble and every bit as awestruck as the disciples on the boat seeing Jesus instantly make the wind and the waves stop. There is also a permanence to being called that is also very wonderful. Let me explain with a tough illustration. Kay Warren, who I have mentioned in a talk before, has a son Matthew. Matthew was diagnosed with clinical depression when he was just 7 years old. after a 20 year battle with depression, Matthew took his own life. But here’s the thing: Kay still refers to Matthew as ‘her son’. And that is something magnificent - He can’t be disqualified from their family because of his suicide. We are CALLED children of God. It is inscribed. We take on his name, just like Matthew took on the Warren name when he was born and named. That is something very, very wonderful, and very comforting!
There is a permanence to being called that is also very wonderful. Let me explain with a tough illustration. Kay Warren, who I have mentioned in a talk before, has a son Matthew. Matthew was diagnosed with clinical depression when he was just 7 years old. after a 20 year battle with depression, Matthew took his own life. But here’s the thing: Kay still refers to Matthew as ‘her son’. And that is something magnificent - He can’t be disqualified from their family because of his suicide. We are CALLED children of God. It is inscribed. We take on his name, just like Matthew took on the Warren name when he was born and named. That is something very, very wonderful, and very comforting!
“And so we are”. It is one thing to be nominated as someone of interest - like a family seeking to buy a dog at a pound - I’ll choose that one, but let’s do all the health checks first. NO, the gospel is the story of instant sonship. As it says at the start of v2 - Beloved, we are God’s children NOW. There is not a long drawn-out out adoption process. We don’t have to keep proving ourselves to keep being sons and daughters of God. No wonder the translators of the NIV have that with an exclamation mark!
Now to the caution: It is very apparent that the text doesn’t say - “so let’s try to be his children”. Let me bring in here a quote from someone who is very quotable: Yoda from Star Wars.
When Luke is challenged by Yoda to use the force he says “I’ll try!” Yoda says in response “You are, or you are not, there is no try”.
That is the way it is with Christianity, with the christian family. You are, or you are not, there is no try. So if you struggle with worthiness - if someone says in their heart when they come before God “Well, I had a bad week last week, I don’t know whether I was a christian last week”
You need to know that it isn’t your attitude, or your behaviour that is the primary thing in being a part of God’s family. John is telling us: if you have joined His family then YOU ARE. Like an adopted Son - once the process goes through, it is final.
Now, to the thing that must happen:
Yoda’s words bear listening to: “You are, or you are not.” There is a transition that happens in the heart - when Jesus becomes your Lord. That Transition brings forgiveness of sins, a new creation and much else beside.
There is a submission involved, a bar, that all of us mast pass under. On our Monday night group we discovered this very powerfully together when we considered and the verse - your rod and your staff, they comfort me. To enter the safety of the shepherd, the sheep needed to pass under the rod, in submission to the shepherd. Perhaps you have never bowed in submission to the shepherd Jesus and come under his protection!
You might have even asked for forgiveness for your sins. The first part of says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, then you will be saved. Jesus’ Lordship is essential to the deal.
Yes we need forgiving, and Jesus died for you for that - but He isn’t there as your insurance policy - you sign the form then pay the premium, then go on living as before.
Despite what you might have heard, that isn’t the gospel. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians - “If you are in Christ, you are not your own - you have been bought with a price”.
If I have raised questions for you with anything I have said before now, or for the rest of this talk, please come and talk with me about it.
The third wonder is from the last part of the verse: “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” There are implications to being now a Child of God.
It reminds me of the verse in - If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.
One implication in being a child of God, is that we now have a brother - Jesus, who says in Revelation - “Behold, I make all things new”.
Having God as a Father, and Jesus as a brother, must give us a new outlook on life. John is saying that it is so different, this outlook, that to fully embrace it is to be strangers to the world around us. There is a loss involved to joining God’s family, and one of those things is that you can easily be alienated from your own family, and/or friends. As Paul says in - the Christian family looks foolish to those outside the family, in the world.
Having God as a Father, and Jesus as a brother, must give us a new outlook on life. John is saying that it is so different, this outlook, that to fully embrace it is to be strangers to the world around us.
There is a loss involved to joining God’s family, and one of those things is that you can easily be alienated from your own family, and/or friends. As Paul says in - the Christian family looks foolish to those outside the family, in the world.
But even though this seems like a negative wonder - it hides a deeper wonder - we have taken on the qualities of our Brother Jesus - and it is these qualities that make us strange.
It is as special as that passage in Mark where Jesus is talking with his inner circle, when his mother and brothers come knocking - Come out here Jesus and come back and act like a normal Jewish Son. Jesus looks around the room and says - here is my mother, and my sisters and brothers. It was a very special thing to be a part of that room. It is just as special for us to have God as our Father and Jesus as our brother. If your life still makes sense to those around you who are outside the family - then John is telling us that we are either not a part of the family, or living like we aren’t. we will return to this point right at the end of today.
So, the first point is the Wonderful Love, and we saw 3 aspects to that wonder.
Our second point is from v2 - we have a Wonderful Destiny.
(ESV)
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
We stood back and beheld in verse 1 the mountain of love that is the love that God has for us. Like Paul says in Ephesians - that you might have the power to grasp how wide and long and high is the Love of God for us.
Well in this verse we climb the mountain in advance - We look for the Kingdom to Come. From we studied in 2015 - Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s Kingdom is another way to describe God’s family. Whereas His Kingdom is a Corporate description of us - the church, so here John is pointing to the time when we meet Jesus face-to-face, the time when heaven and earth meet, and John tells us that the family resemblance will be complete - we WILL BE JUST LIKE OUR BROTHER JESUS! How good will that be!
I long to be able to worship Him fully, without getting in the way of that worship myself. I constantly live with my imperfect Love of him. I long for the day where I can say like Jesus says right now from John “I do only the things that please Him”. And of course that wasn’t Jesus testimony alone. on that very Mt Transfiguration, the Father said - This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
Just think of that Mt Transfiguration for you. We will join him in perfection! What is true now occasionally, will be true then always!
It is time for our third point - our wonderful path.
(ESV)
16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
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We are heading for that perfection - when God will look at us and say - this is my beloved Son Clinton, with whom I am well pleased. Paul assures us in this passage in the same way that John is about to assure us in v3 - we have a final destination that is glorious, and the path there is like a series of stepping stones - from one glory to another.
So in V1 John talked about joining God’s family right now, right where we were, right where we are.
V2 then goes to talk about the final direction.
V3 is going to draw a dotted line for us, joining the start to the finish. that sounds pretty good doesn’t it! Let’s read it together: (ESV)
3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
To this point, we have not fallen back on anything too exerting. Our first verse proclaims that Jesus has become our Brother, God our Heavenly Father, and it has required us to be in wonder at His love, but not much else.
Second verse encouraged us with the end-point. that we will be like Jesus. It has also required of us worship and hope that this indeed is our destiny as His children - to be conformed to the image of His son. We had defined for us the first point and the last point in the Christian walk. The passage I have just read from 2 Corinthians points to a process - “of one degree of glory to another”. And so this brings us to just 13 words - the last verse of our passage.
For cross reference, I wanted to bring in passages from Paul, Peter and James, who join John in this process.
John helpfully shows us what Paul showed us in (ESV) - and he does it in a similar 3 verse format.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
It is the third verse where the ‘E’ word puts its bib into the mix - EFFORT.
The Christian life doesn’t start with our own effort, and it doesn’t finish with our own effort. But everywhere in the middle, its fingerprints are everywhere.
John is also, helpfully backed up by the third great apostle of our faith, Peter, in . Let me quote it to you in full, because it fills in the back half - the effort takes on the qualities of the stepping stones that I talked about as a picture of the Christian walk.
(ESV)
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That is a long quote from Peter, who was somewhat the unwitting star of our morning sharing time. But he says beautifully in extended form what John is saying, and what Paul talked with us about in . We have a process before us, to follow that line that has been marked out for us. The process is called Sanctification, and it is what Tim spent a lot of time with in 2014 as we studied with it means to live pure lives.
So John in v1-2 puts into perspective all his comments about living in the light, that we have covered in the first 6 or so weeks, and what we will cover in the next 6 or so weeks. He has shown us wonderful love and a wonderful destination. Now he shows us the wonderful journey in front of us: it is a journey of purification.
So John puts into perspective all his comments about living in the light, that we have covered in the first 6 or so weeks, and what we will cover in the next 6 or so weeks. He has shown us wonderful love and a wonderful destination. Now he shows us the wonderful journey in front of us: it is a journey of purification.
Let me Illustrate, Professor F. F. Bruce has a helpful illustration at this point. ‘When a boy goes to a new school, he may inadvertently do something out of keeping with the school’s tradition or good name, to be told immediately, “That isn’t done here.” A literalist might reply, “But obviously it is done; this boy has just done it”—but he would be deliberately missing the point of the rebuke. The point of the rebuke is that such conduct is disapproved of in this school, so anyone who practises it can normally be assumed not to belong to the school. There may be odd exceptions, but that is the general rule, which has been verified by experience.’
There are two parts to our purification, and we are honour and salvation bound to both of them: To put off the sin that Paul says ‘so easily entangles’, and to put on the works that God has prepared in advance for us, that we might walk in them.
The implications for us are clear. Fellowship with a sinless Saviour and continuance in our sins (keeping on sinning) are mutually contradictory. No compromise is possible. And the logical conclusion we are to draw is that we cannot expect to be confident on that day when we see Christ, if we are complacent about sin in our lives here and now.[
Bruce The Epistles of John, by F. F. Bruce (Pickering and Inglis, London, 1970).
3 Bruce, p. 90.
[1] Jackman, D., 1988. The message of John’s letters: living in the love of God, Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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In fact, those three could well be backed up by that very, very practical man James - the brother of Jesus. One of Jesus family that came into that dusty house a few decades before and tried to stop Jesus fulfilling his destiny as the great Jubilee King. Like the satirical Life of Brian from Monty Python, James thought that his brother Jesus was more naughty boy than saviour of the world.
But once he knew the truth about his brother, his life was transformed, and the result was a life that refused to separate faith and works. As James said (ESV)
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
James himself uses the word pure in his letter. (NIV)
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
We have the twofold action that returns over and over to the Scriptural imperatives - to seek after the lost, to look after orphans and widows, and to pursue our own righteousness. Justice and righteousness. Those two characteristics are to be ours, because they are the characteristics of our Lord Jesus, the one who we follow.
Let us return to just meditate on our third verse, and the harmony that fits John in step with Paul, and Peter, and now James: To 13 words that should consume our lives:
(NIV)
3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. , and now James: To 13 words that should consume our lives:
3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as He is pure.
Some of the earliest descriptions of Christians described themselves as following “The Way”. John has in these three verses, given us a marvellous way to follow - the Jesus Way. Verse 3 describes what Jesus called the Narrow Way and Seeking First the Kingdom of God in his sermon on the mount.
And perhaps you are not yet even on this way. You can see it shining, as bright as Jesus on Mount Transfiguration, but you know that you are still outside that path. My encouragement to you this morning is to come in.
I have been inspired afresh as I have prepared this message to follow this Jesus Way. Perhaps you have things this morning that you need to put right. Perhaps you have been letting things get in the way of the Jesus work in your life. v3 is for you. You know that things aren’t right between you and God. You know that you have been fighting him. I know that my heart has been fighting him on several issues - those are battles that I need to lose for the sake of purifying myself. Are there battles that you need to lose for the sake of purifying yourself?
I have been inspired afresh as I have prepared this message to follow this Jesus Way. Perhaps you have things this morning that you need to put right. Perhaps you have been letting things get in the way of the Jesus work in your life. v3 is for you. You know that things aren’t right between you and God. You know that you have been fighting him.
You are in famous company. Let me close with a quote from Athenagoras, the bishop of Constantinople called - “I Am Disarmed” :
“I Am Disarmed” :
I have waged this war against myself for many years. It was terrible. But now I am disarmed. I am no longer frightened of anything because love banishes fear. I am disarmed of the need to be right and to justify myself by disqualifying others. I am no longer on the defensive holding onto my riches. I just want to welcome and to share. I don’t hold onto my ideas and projects. If someone shows me something better — No, I shouldn’t say better but good — I accept them without any regrets. I no longer seek to compare. What is good, true and real is always for me the best. That is why I have no fear. When we are disarmed and dispossessed of self If we open our hearts to the God-Man who makes all things new then He takes away past hurts and reveals a new time where everything is possible.
Let’s pray:
Heavenly father, we have glimpsed the heights this morning, like a jewel in the rough and tumble of life. We thank you for this oasis - that we can reflect on the wonders of His Love right now, the wonders of our Destiny, and for the Wonderful path of purity that you have given us to get from Now to Then.
Lord Jesus : It is a huge task that you have laid before us. Help us we pray! Send your Spirit to help us in our purity Lord Jesus.
We pray this in Jesus Name.
Amen.
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