Online Text Sermon - Christ at the Door, Revelation ch.3 v.20
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Christ at the Door|
|Text||Revelation ch.3 v.20|
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"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev.3,20).
1. Christ's eye is upon the church at all times
2. Christ searches and judges
3. Christ advises, promises, warns
1. CHRIST'S EYE IS UPON THE CHURCH AT ALL TIMES
Well now, in Revelation chapters two and three, we have seven churches set before us, and Christ's words to these seven churches. They were all of them churches in modern Turkey, which in that time were all referred to as in Asia Minor. All of these churches were comparatively young. After all, the apostle Paul, who was the probable founder of them all (directly or indirectly), had only gone to Asia Minor in something like 50, 55 AD. And at the time that John the Apostle is writing here, in Revelation, it must have been about 95 AD. So, these churches could not have been older than 50 years at the very most, and maybe not older than 40 years, indeed. One of the lessons, therefore, that comes to us from this is the lesson: How quickly churches may decline.
Now, you will understand that these churches were set up and formed by the greatest preachers who ever lived (we leave our Lord to one side at this time when we speak). But there never were preachers who were so powerful, so sound, so spiritual, so heavenly, as the apostles of our Lord and Saviour. These were the 'master-builders' of the church. And so these early Christians in the various churches of Asia, they had the pure blood of the grape; the pure juice of the soundest of the sound doctrine that ever churches heard - inspired preaching! sublime preaching! heavenly preaching! and perfect preaching! - filled with the Holy Ghost and with power. But the strange and terrible fact is that within forty or fifty years it was possible even for such churches to sink down and to become low, and poor. It is a lesson which must not be lost upon us all.
I have to observe that as you study church history it is comparatively rare for any church to remain sound for more than a hundred years. And it's a rather remarkable thing that a church that we have loved so much has been sound, more or less, for exactly one hundred years. That's one thing that I want to draw attention to from these chapters as a whole.
And then there's a second lesson comes to us from these churches, and it is this: they varied very greatly from among themselves; and all churches vary greatly from one to another. Now there were many churches in Asia at the time, all seven of them - and yet, oh how they differ in character. To one church, our Lord says, Thou hast a name to live, and art dead. To another church, at the very same time, He speaks the highest commendation. He says to them that He has set before them an open door that no man can shut. And to a third of these churches He says, I know thy works, that thou art neither hot nor cold. So, it's very obvious that there is a tremendous difference between one church and another.
Now, there again there's a lesson comes to us from this passage like this: the Lord Jesus Christ stands in the midst of all His churches, and His eye is upon the church all the time. He is the judge of all His own churches. Now, the judgment of individuals is in eternity, but the judgment of churches and nations is in time. And so the Word of God tells us that "judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (I Peter 4,17).
Christ is watching every church. His eye is upon it and He is forming a judgment about it - night and day. And He tells us here in these seven addresses to the churches of Asia what He thinks about every one of them. He gives a value judgment; He makes an assessment of them. He tells them straight; He tells them plain. He tells them to their very face what He thinks about each of these churches.
2. CHRIST SEARCHES AND JUDGES
Now I want you to notice what He has to say about the church of Laodicea. He has some very strong things to say, and you understand, my beloved friends, that I'm not bringing in Laodicea here because I want to lash out at the people sitting in front of me. I do not for a moment think that Laodicea would be the name given to this congregation. I'm very far from thinking so. So, let it not enter our minds that there is some personal reason for bringing this text before us, but rather, because of the lessons that flow from it to us all, and especially at this juncture of the history of our church which we have loved so much within the land.
So then, what is it that Christ does not say by way of criticism to the church of Laodicea? What does He not say? What criticism does He not make of these people? Well, the more I study it the more I'm quite clear in my own mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is not criticizing the church of Laodicea because they're too strict. He doesn't say, as far as I can see, He doesn't say about these people that they were too strict in their keeping of the Word of God. He doesn't say they were too doctrinal. He doesn't say that they were too concerned about soundness of doctrine. He doesn't lay a criticism upon them because they were too keen to have spiritual fellowship one with another; because they were always delighted to talk about the things of the kingdom of God. He doesn't say that they were old-fashioned and that they were not abreast of the times. He doesn't lay this burden upon them: that they were not keeping up with the spirit of the age. You can study this epistle, and all these epistles, and as far as my judgment goes our blessed and holy Saviour never criticizes any church for any of the things that I have just referred to.
Now it's worth making that point because, of course, many people do judge us, and judge other churches, in terms of these things. They say, 'You're behind the times. The way you dress is yesterday's fashion. You are yesterday's church,' they say. 'You are too concerned about theology and too concerned about experience, and you're not sufficiently concerned to be 'with it' in this modern world. People will think you're old fashioned and out of date and of no value. Who on earth will want to associate with a group so different from the rest of society?'
Well all I can say is, as long as Christ does not aim His criticisms at us it doesn't very much matter to me what man may say about any church. Men are not our judges.
So I turn from that to see what it is our Lord says about this church. But even then before I do that you notice what is said about Christ Himself. Who is this Christ? Well that's what we're told, really, pretty well at the very beginning of this description of the church of Laodicea, at verse 14. Listen to what is said about Christ, "Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." Now this is typical of all these addresses to these seven churches: they all begin with certain descriptions of Christ Himself. More or less, all of them hearken back to something which is said about Christ in chapter one, where there is a glorious picture of the risen ascended Lord which John sees in the Isle of Patmos. And as each of these churches receives its criticism from Christ, and His judgment, these descriptions of Christ are brought in.
This is what is said about Christ here: He is the Amen. Now why on earth, you might say, should Christ be described as the Amen? Well, the answer is because the word Amen is a Hebrew word meaning truth. That's why we use this word at the end of every prayer. Amen means 'let it be so'; 'it is true'; 'let it be true'; 'it is the truth'. Now you see how relevant this is in this description of Christ judging this particular church. He is the one who knows the truth about every one of us. He knows what every member is really like. He knows our inner character. He knows the measure of our spirituality, and of our soundness. He knows those of us who are 'right with Him', and those who are not. He knows those who love Him, and those who do not; those who seek Him, and those who do not. He is the 'Amen'. These people at Laodicea, as we'll see in a moment, they needed to know this. They had become artificial. They had become mere Christians, many of them, on the outside. They had forgotten that it is the inner man that matters most.
And then we're told about Christ, He is the true witness. That is to say, our Lord speaks the truth as He knows it. A true witness is someone who sees something and tells it as it is. You're going down the street, you see an accident: there's a drunk driver, he moves from one side of the road to the other. He's driving recklessly and he knocks down a pedestrian and wounds him seriously. You see it. You go to court. You have to be a witness. If you're a true witness, you say what you see.
Our Lord says what He sees! He sees our hearts as they are, and He says faithfully! as the true witness. As we say, He does not 'beat about the bush'. He does not pretend that we are better than we are. He does not confine Himself to polite expressions. He tells the truth about me, and you.
And then we have this remarkable expression, that He is the beginning of the creation of God. Now, what does that mean? Well, it must mean something like this: He is the Creator of the universe, the one who is the beginner of it; the one who brought it into being. And not only the first creation but the second creation, which is the Church. He is the Creator of the Church. He is the one who originates all spiritual life.
So having told these people of Laodicea what was wrong with them, He means that if they turn to Him He can put them right. He has power to give them new creation. He can make their hearts what they need to be, and make their lives what they need to be: the beginning of the creation of God.
All right, what then does our Lord say by way of judgment and criticism of this particular church at Laodicea? Well, it's very obvious it's in a sad and a declined state. These are terrible words that our Lord uses: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot" (verse 15). Well now, if you read the commentators they will tell you that in this particular place, Laodicea, in Turkey, there are springs that come out of the ground, and the water is lukewarm; neither hot nor cold, but just warm; 'tepid', as we say. So these people knew very well what lukewarm water was. And our Lord uses this, no doubt, as an illustration to show them what He thought of them.
What do you think about lukewarm water? Well, we don't usually drink it lukewarm, do we? If someone gives you a cold drink, you take it gratefully. If they give you a hot drink, you're glad. But nobody thanks you for something which is 'in-between'. We don't like drinks which are neither hot nor cold; we prefer it one or the other. And our Lord takes this and shows us that's the way He thinks about us. He would rather that we were for Him or against Him - because that is to be real. But to pretend to be for Him! when all the time we're against Him - that is not to be real. "I would thou wert hot or cold" - but not something in-between. So our Lord brings this judgment before them.
Now, sadly, you see they were in a state of decline because, as you notice: they had a totally different attitude to themselves from the attitude that Christ had toward them. They didn't know themselves. They thought themselves altogether better and higher in God's estimation than they were. And our Lord tells them that, verse 17: "because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee" - to get something to put yourself right.
So here is one of the terrible facts about any declined church, wherever it is found, in any generation: they do not know themselves. They make an entirely wrong estimation of what God thinks about them. Their own view of themselves if far higher than they have any right to suppose it is in the sight of God. It is always the case when men become complacent and self-righteous, and when they think themselves to be what they are not in the sight of God - when they become opinionated and worldly and careless in their ways and style. They despise others! and they think themselves far above others, and they look down at others, and they're good at finding the speck in the eyes of their brethren, but they don't see the huge plank in their own eye. And our Lord tells them this! He says, You think yourselves to be what you're not in the sight of God. You regard yourself as rich, and important...
Well now, this again had some local color in it because, seemingly, Laodicea was a very rich place. It was a place where millionaires lived, to use a modern phrase. Commerce was good; it was an excellent trading center. And they were so wealthy that on one occasion where there was an earthquake, and their city was damaged badly, these people in Laodicea were able to send a letter to their government, saying, We don't need any financial help, thank you, we'll do it ourselves. So they were very well-to-do. No doubt their collections were wonderful; no doubt their givings were tremendous, and they thought that this was all that mattered!
And our Lord said, You do not realize that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Now, what did He mean by that? Well, He meant that they did not realize that God looks on spiritual things first. Our Lord is not so much concerned about our outward affairs, whether we're materially rich. He's not so much concerned about whether we're well educated or not; whether we're outwardly decent or not. All these things are good as far as they go, and they're all right as far as they go. But what God is looking for is the state of our soul! and the state of our heart! and whether we have the true faith of God's elect; how far we prize the truth; how far we believe in Christ; how far we cherish those things that are written in the Word of God! Well, the measure in which we do so indicates the extent to which we are either rich in God's sight, or else poor in God's sight.
These people were rich in their own estimation, but in God's estimation they were poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked - and they were undone. Now, He means to say that numbers of them were not really converted at all. They were naked: that is to say, that had not even got on the gospel righteousness of Christ. They hadn't even learned the a-b-c of the Christian faith. They didn't even know what it was to be justified. They didn't realize the necessity of salvation. Numbers of them were mere 'outward Christians' who could make a profession of faith in Him but they had no power in their lives. As Paul puts it, they had "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3,5). And the power of godliness consists in being filled with the love of Christ, and filled with His Holy Spirit, and walking in all holiness, and humility, and obedience to the truth. They hadn't got that. What they did have was something immeasurably poorer and less important.
Well, my dear friends, there is, of course, something for every one of us to learn from this. We must search our hearts and try our ways. We must ask ourselves, Where do we stand in connection with the searching scrutiny of the Son of God? His eyes are piercing like x-rays. You know what an x-ray is. You don't let people go into a room in a hospital where there are x-rays being taken all the time. As you pass the room there is a symbol on the door which says, Keep Out! X-rays! because if you expose yourself to x-rays continually it will damage the tissues of the body in some way. But the eyes of Christ, like an x-ray and like a laser, are continually searching our hearts and scrutinizing our lives, and our thoughts, and our motives, and our intentions.
Now, because that is so, spiritual people are first of all very humble people. They've got to be humble because they realize the eye of Christ is upon them, and that is what makes them humble: the realization, Thou God seest me, and the realization that God's eye detects even the slightest blemish in my life and yours. So the true Christian walks, as it were, with his head down, at least in the sense I mean he is profoundly aware of his imperfections. He is deeply self-consciously humble. He abases himself under the mighty hand of God. He walks in holy fear in case the Christ against whom he sins would mark his iniquities against him, and be swift to judge them.
So Christ now goes on, and He says, In the light of My scrutiny, and as a consequence of the judgment I have passed upon you, my friends, He says, I want to tell you that I shall rebuke you, and I do rebuke you, He says. But notice this: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Rev. 3,19).
My friends, there's something far more terrible than Christ's rebuke. Shall I tell you what it is? It's Christ's failure to rebuke. There's only one thing I dread myself worse than being given a telling-off by God, and that is if He should not do it. When God loves us, then He tells us these terrible things about ourselves, when they're true, and He does it in love. But when God ceases to have that love towards any man, or church, He doesn't rebuke them any more - He leaves them to go their own way. And that is far worse. The silence of God is the most profound and terrible judgment a man or a church could have.
So let no one say, Isn't Christ terribly full of judgment? - I can't bear it. No, don't say that. Say to yourself, He does this to us in love so that we might mend our ways, and it's true. And we're all under this together. The preacher's under this more than anyone. The preacher will have to give a far stricter account to Christ in the end than anybody else. We're all together under His judgment.
3. CHRIST ADVISES, PROMISES, WARNS
So He counsels us. "I counsel thee," He says. I'm giving you advice; I'm preaching to you, says Christ. And this is what He says: I counsel you to get gold from me tried in the fire. I counsel you to get white raiment. I counsel you to get eye salve so that you may see. These things He tells the church at Laodicea to seek and to get from Him - to buy them from Him. Of course, you don't pay for them: it's a metaphor; it is an illustration.
(a) SEEK GENUINE FAITH
"I counsel you to get gold tried in the fire." Now what is this gold? Well, it is genuine spiritual worth; it is the sterling standard of heaven; the gold standard of God. And what is that? Well it is faith. What matters to God is faith: to make sure that we really do have that one qualification without which no man can please God. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11,6). So, obviously, gold is a reference to the faith of God's elect - the faith which justifies, and brings us to God; the faith which overcomes this world. There is the gold standard. And the evidence of a person having that gold standard is that their life becomes a life of faith. That is the way the Bible represents the gold of the grace of God in the human heart: it teaches men and women to live a different kind of life.
(b) SEEK CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS
Then, He says, I counsel you, secondly, to get white raiment. Now, this white raiment is the robe of Christ's righteousness. It is the robe which He has tailored for us, the God-man. John Bunyan puts it well. He says, Christ had a righteousness as God, but that's not what we sinners can ever attain to; we don't get that. But then he says, Jesus, the man, had a righteousness of His own; we don't get that either, he says. But the righteousness that we get in the gospel, by faith, is the righteousness of the God-man, the righteousness which He as the Mediator worked out for us as He fulfilled all righteousness, and as He died, the just for the unjust on the Cross, to bring us to God. That He bore our curse on Calvary's tree and suffered, as He bore the sins of many and shed His blood. That is the righteousness which is this white raiment which a sinner needs to wear.
(c) SEEK SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION
And then He says, we need the eye salve so that we may see. Now, eye salve is ointment. When a person has weak eyesight they go to the doctor and he gives them ointment for the eyes, and that is this eye salve. And this eye salve enables a person to see better. And that is, of course, illumination: the light of God in the soul of man - the power to discern. You see, this is what happens: sin blinds people. Sin makes even professing Christians blind to the truth. They don't see their true state. They imagine themselves to be higher in God's sight than they are. But when we get this eye salve we see the character of God, and the character of sin, and the character which we ourselves have, clearly - which we could not do before.
Now then, the Saviour comes to them and He offers them these things, and He gives them these things. And He says, If you will ask from Me, you may have everything you need to prepare you for service to God in this life. I will give you everything you need - just apply to Me. I counsel you to buy these things: gold, and this eye salve, and this white raiment woven by Christ in His life and death. The righteousness of Christ has this hallmark and this stamp upon it: it has the stamp of heaven upon it, and you can tell when a person is wearing it, because they live a different kind of life. Like Abraham: they live by faith. Like Rahab: they repent, and turn their back upon the world, and they live now for the glory of God - and they wear this robe, this white raiment.
(d) OVERCOME, AND RECEIVE BLESSING
And then the Saviour comes to them and He makes this promise, "To him that overcometh I will give" certain blessings (verse 21). And He begins to list them, and to name them. To him that overcometh. Now, you might say to me, What does it mean to overcome? Overcome what? Well, let me begin by explaining what we have to overcome.
Here is the church of Laodicea, and they were the people listening to this terrible sermon of Christ's. It wasn't preached by the minister - it was preached by Christ Himself to them. And it must have been very unpalatable to their ears and, no doubt, they cringed under it, and they shrank from it. But our Lord judged them, and He told them the truth about their spiritual state. And then He says, To Him that overcometh. Who is listening? He says. Who is paying attention? To him who overcomes I will grant you certain blessings.
I say then, What does it mean to overcome? What have we got to overcome?
Well, the first thing we have got to overcome is the fear of man. You know, there are many in churches and they're not prepared to do the right thing, even though they know it right, because they're afraid of what somebody's going to say! I've known people who won't take their children to church because they're afraid of what so-and-so is going to say. And they will say it.
Or, I've come across people who will let their own personal standards go down, and down, and down, to please the rest of the people. Now that is called 'the fear of man', and the fear of man, says the Bible, brings a snare (Proverbs 29,25). And we have to overcome it! It doesn't matter what anybody says about you. Don't you take your standards from any living person! Go by the Word of God and if they don't like you going by the Word of God, then kindly say to them, 'I'm sorry, but I must do what my conscience tells me in the sight of God is right. I'm sorry if I offend you. I have no wish to be offensive, but I must do what I believe right in the sight of God.' We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5,29).
What else do we have to overcome? Well, we have to overcome our own personal prejudices sometimes. Sometimes we've picked up wrong ideas from wrong places, and we've automatically developed bad habits. All of us do that. We've learned from one another instead of from the Scriptures, and sometimes what we learn from one another is not right, and we have to correct it. We have to overcome these blemishes and these faults.
So, our Lord says, To him that overcometh - and reforms, and puts right what is wrong in his life and her life - I will grant these blessings. Now, what are they?
Well, says Christ, I will grant them to sit with Me upon My throne, even as I have overcome and am set down with My Father in His throne (verse 21). Well, my friends, here, indeed, is a promise to make a man's mouth water.
We hear these days about the National Lottery, and sometimes on the news, or flashes of it, I hear little bits about how much is being offered on the National Lottery, and we hear about a wonderful thing called a 'rollover' - apparently it means that if nobody wins one week then you roll the sum over into the next, and then the next, and ten million is nothing in these days: it's twenty and twenty-five million pounds. And if you just happen to scratch the right numbers out, and you put it in at the right time, all this is yours! Twenty-five million pounds! I have no idea what people do with all that sum of money. I don't suppose they give very much of it to the church, or the cause of God. I don't suppose so. They may, many of them, drink themselves dead within six months or a year. That's more or less a known fact. Riches gained without right take wings, and at our latter end we're a fool.
But I'm not talking about a million or ten million pounds. I'm saying here that Jesus Christ promises to everyone who overcomes to sit with Him on His throne: the throne of God Almighty.
I guess you do quite a lot to sit on the throne of Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace, or somewhere, wherever the throne is. I suppose you'd be delighted to do that. You'd say, Well, can't I just sit there for five minutes?
But Jesus Christ says I will bring you to sit with Me upon My Father's throne for all eternity. Well, I say, there's a promise to make a man's mouth water. What a promise! And wouldn't you think that everybody in the world would come running! They'd be throwing their scratch cards away to come to this greater promise! They would say, A million pounds? why it's such a paltry sum. It's not worth talking about. I'm running to this throne! I want the true riches! the heavenly glory is what I want!
And our Lord says, I also overcame and I am set down on My Father's throne. And that means to say that the way to the throne is through suffering. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2,12). There's no easy way to that throne, except the way of obedience! to the truth! And that's what these Laodiceans had forgotten. They had a religion of ease. All that their churches consisted of, in their eyes, was coming to church on a Sunday, and back again to the world. It was just a meeting place for an hour, or an hour and ten minutes, and back to the world, and back to the ways of the world, and back to the pleasures of life! There was no power in it! no faith! no energy! no witness to the truth! No, they were lukewarm.
(e) IF NOT, SUFFER TERRIBLE LOSS
And our Lord says, If you don't do something about this, "I will spue you out of My mouth" (verse 16). Well, that's what people do anyway, with what is lukewarm - they spue it out, they spit it out. Anything which you don't like - you watch a child, when you're feeding a little child. Feed a child with a spoon: if he likes it, he swallows it; if he doesn't, he makes no great fuss about it, he spits it out. Our Lord says, If you don't reform, I will spue you out. Now what does that mean? Well, I'll give you four meanings to 'spue out'. Oh, I say these things with terror. But, I believe our Lord means this:
Any church which does not walk in the light of His Word as they should, after giving them time to repent and mend their ways, if they still won't mend their ways, then: He will stop praying for them. He spues them out of the mouth of His intercession. Our Lord is interceding for the churches, and if ever He stops praying for a church, it withers and dies. Oh, pray God He will never say to us, I will stop praying for you; I will pray for you no more.
And then, secondly, to 'spue us out of the mouth' means: He will teach us His Word no more. Oh, they'll get a preacher all right. But He'll give them a preacher who will give them exactly what they want to hear. I'll tell you what the sermons are about. When Christ has spewed a church out of His mouth, I'll tell you what the preacher does: he preaches about love, Sabbath in and Sabbath out - nothing but love, love, love, until all the people are DEAD. There's a million things in the Bible besides love. Love is there! but it's only one of the things that's there, and it begins with holiness! and conversion! and a new birth! And if we take away from the Word of God, then He will take away our names out of the book of life.
I'll tell you what else it means to 'spue us out of His mouth.' It means: He will bless us no more. No blessing.
I'll tell you what else it means. It means: He will comfort us no more in dying. And when you go to the funerals of the people who come from churches like this, the funeral parlors and the ministers who conduct these funeral services, what they do is: they will praise this personal wonderfully: 'This our dear brother who is now dead, he was an excellent golfer, and he'll enjoy his golf in heaven.' Now, don't be shocked. That's what ministers are saying! You should be shocked, and I'm shocked, but that's what some ministers are saying. They have no idea what it means to face God! And their ministers have no idea of what it means to prepare souls for eternity! And when these shocking and these blasphemous ideas are given to men it is because they have lost Christ's grace, and He has spued them out of His mouth.
I must finish in a moment. But it happened to Methodism. I know Methodism very well as a young boy. And when I was converted I went to my Methodist minister and I said, "Sir, I've become a true Christian. I'm reading my Bible." "Oh," he said, "be very careful. That book is full of all sorts of things that will lead you astray." A church spued out of Christ's mouth. The Methodists were great in their beginnings, but they declined. And what happened was they had to make a new start, and they called it Primitive Methodism. And when churches decline, you have to make a new start. Whether you call it Primitive Methodism or primitive anything else, you've got to go back to the beginning. "Repent, and do the first works" (Revelation 2,5).
And I'm afraid I have to say there's a terrible relevance to that tonight, and there will be a terrible relevance, no doubt, in the course of the days of this week. My dear, dear friends, with no pleasure do I say it.
So let me in a word say, Christ speaks to everyone in the churches and He says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (text). And what is that but the offer and promise that if you welcome Christ into your soul, and life, and church, and home, He will bless you with His fellowship, and make your life one long feast.
And I have to ask everybody here, especially those of you who are not professing Christians, Is it not appropriate that tonight, on this historic night, that you should say in your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ: Come in, oh Lord, and sup with me, forever.
God help every one of us to do just this, to the praise of His glory. Amen.
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