The Church's Great Omission: The Pattern of Discipleship, Part 1 (Philippians Sermon 16 of 24)

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The Church's Great Omission: The Pattern of Discipleship, Part 1 (Philippians Sermon 16 of 24)

February 15, 2004 | Andrew Davis

This transcript has not yet been edited or verified for accuracy.

What a wonderful day of ministry today. Already two baptisms and that's a wonderful thing, isn't it? When somebody will stand up and testify to the saving work of God on their soul. And also, we will soon be able to enjoy the Lord's Supper, which I think the Lord has promised especially to bless among His people that he sends forth His spirit and that He reminds us of vital things in our faith and that we're called on to look backward to the blood of Christ and to the price that was paid for us, and we're called to look around to our brothers and sisters and to think of ourselves as part of a body, a worldwide Christian body around the world, people who love the same Lord and believe the same things that we do. And to look ahead that we proclaim His death until He comes and some day we're going to see him face to face. So I look forward to that. That's just a little mini sermon in preparation for the Lord's Supper. But it's a wonderful thing and we get a chance also to confess our sins and to do business with you, to lay our sins before you. For forgiveness, yes, but also for transformation of life. And so that's the opportunity we'll have later, but now we have a joyful privilege of hearing your word.

And for the next two weeks, this week and next week, I'm gonna focus in on a detail which I think is absolutely vital to our mission here in the church. And the name of the sermon that I've called here is the Church's Great Omission. Now, I got that from a book title I read a number of years ago written by a missionary scholar, Jay Robertson McQuilkin, he was talking about ministry or missions to the Muslim world. And we've seen in the Book of Philippians that there are those two journeys, the internal journey of holiness where we're called to become more and more like Jesus Christ, and then that external journey of worldwide disciple-making. And we call that the Great Commission, and we get it from Matthew 28, and I cited it in my prayer, and we really can't hear it enough, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age."

Well, why do I call it the Church's Great Omission? Well, the second part of the title is The Pattern of Discipleship. Let me lay my cards on the table and tell you what I'm going to preach about this week and next week. If you look at verse 17, which George read so beautifully for us, Philippians 3:17, it says, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Now, that word "pattern" just jumped off the page. What in the world is that pattern? It must be a pattern of Christian lifestyle, a pattern of godliness, a way of life. It must be discipleship, lifestyle discipleship. And the more I studied it, the more convinced I was that we have really missed this in the local church. And I wanna talk more about this, not in any negative way, but I think it's important for a pastor to look honestly at his own local church and at the church movement of his day and see where the weaknesses are and where the failings are.

And I put my finger on this as a weakness, and I'm gonna talk more about this, but I'm greatly encouraged because I know that God's Word has transforming power, and I know that as we give ourselves more and more to a full-blooded discipleship ministry here, in which we are not simply receiving content, good biblical instruction, but also receiving patterns of godly living from those that are willing to stand up and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ," this church is gonna be transformed and people are going to get saved, and more and more good things are gonna happen here. There's gonna be a river of fruitfulness as we just follow God's example through the Apostle Paul. So, that's what I'm talking about. It's not on my outline, I'm just telling you this is what today's sermon is about and I'm gonna preach until a certain time and I'm gonna stop and then we're going to begin next week and look at it. But I wanna start with this idea of lifestyle discipleship, and I get it from my own life, from my own experiences.

Let me start with just as I was growing up, I remember my mother used to save money by making clothes, and she would do this by buying a pattern. Now, some of you are seamstresses and skilled in that. My wife has made some things recently, and what these patterns were were these thin little crinkly pieces of paper, I'm speaking like a man now, I don't know what they were, but I know that they were brown, light brown, crinkly, and they had little outlines on them and you pinned them onto the fabric that you had so carefully chosen. And you pinned them on there and you cut them out and one part would be the front of the shirt or the sleeve or something like that, and then you would sew them together according to the instructions given by the pattern maker. And so I remember that distinctly. I also remember when I was a student at MIT, I worked in the carpentry shop and there were some people there that made furniture. There was one man in particular that was Italian and he made beautiful furniture, he really did. And he used frequently, patterns that he had brought over from Italy. He would take out an arm of a chair and he would trace out on the outside of the pattern, the wood.

And you couldn't really describe the pattern, you had to see it. It really defied description, it's not anything that an engineer could draw on a blueprint, you just had to have one in your hand. And as you looked at it and how the wood curved and how it was shaped, you could, if you were skilled, you could replicate the pattern. It was a pattern for furniture making. But better than both of these was the example that I've referred to before of Tim Shewman, my discipler with Campus Crusade for Christ, who came into my life right after I came to faith I Christ and for one year just showed me how to live like a Christian. He set an example for me, he was willing to have me be with him many hours of the day and he showed me how to live, he showed me how to witness, he showed me how to pray, he showed me many things of the Christian life and I realized that the parachurch groups like Navigators, and InterVarsity and Crusade, and other groups like that do a better job of this kind of lifestyle discipleship than the local church does.

And I wondered why. And I began thinking that this was a good opportunity for me, from Philippians 3:17, to talk about a pattern of discipleship for our church. Now, at that time I read a book that changed my whole way of thinking of evangelism. Many of you have heard of it, some of you have read it, I know in our staff it's a very popular and important book and I'm gonna talk about it in depth next week. From this book, Robert Coleman's book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, he sets before us Jesus's pattern of disciple making and how Jesus constantly, while not neglecting the crowd, was zeroing in on some key men and building deeply into their lives. He was working with his 12 apostles and, even within them, with three in particular that He really just spent extra time with, and this was a pattern of discipleship.

Now, what I'm gonna do this morning is I'm going to show you that the Apostle Paul followed that example. It was his approach to ministry. So I'm gonna go over the Apostle Paul first today because that's our starting point in the Book of Philippians. Next week, God willing, I'm going to go back and look at Christ more carefully, at Christ's pattern of disciple making, so that we can learn from the master how He shaped and molded lives. Also in both weeks, I'm going to try to compare this biblical pattern with what I actually see happening in the American church today and in First Baptist church as well. And finally, in the end, God willing, next week I'm gonna try to give us some steps toward a remedy, because a remedy is needed. We are not living up to the biblical pattern. So I wanna think together with you on how we can do a better job of discipling one another, alright? So that's what we're gonna do.

Let's begin with the Apostle Paul. Now, again, George read these verses, now look it up with me down on the page at verse 17 of Philippians 3. Let your eyes trace over this and it says, "Join with others in following my example, brothers." So there's this word "example." Now, throughout the letter of Philippians, Paul has been presenting himself as an example. He's presenting himself as a role model. He talks to them in Philippians 1 about his attitude about being in prison. He's presenting his attitude as a role model for them. He is presenting also in Philippians 1 his attitude about living and dying, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Well, why does he tell us that? Because he wants that also to be our attitude. It's not just for me to live as Christ and to die is gain but he wants it to be for the Philippians too, for them. He wants it to be that for them to live as Christ and to die is gain.

So he's presenting himself as a role model. Certainly, more than anything, he presents Christ as the ultimate role model, which he does in Philippians 2, in which Jesus is the example of a sacrificial servant who's willing to lay down His life for the will of the Father and for the good of the brothers and sisters in Christ. He's willing to die that they might have eternal life. He's willing to humble Himself and to sacrifice Himself, even to the point of death. And we should have this mind in us which was also in Christ. So he is following Christ's pattern and he also wants the Philippians to follow his pattern or his example.

All I'm doing is tracing out over Philippians here and we see how again and again, Paul presents himself as a role model. In the second half of Philippians 2, he talks about Timothy and Epaphroditus and says, "They also are role models. You should honor them for their work, you should think about how Timothy as a son with his father, has served with me in the work of the gospel." But again, we get a sense of that pattern, that example that Paul was to Timothy there. And then in Philippians 3, he talks about his testimony, Paul does. And how he came personally to reject his own resume of self-righteousness. He rejected it. He said, in effect, it's filthy rags, this will not save me. He turned away from it. He said, "If anybody had a right to boast in their resume, it was me. But I have come to reject it." And so he's presenting himself as a role model. He does this again and again. How to think about life, how to think about death, how to think about ministry, how to think about servant hood, how to think about money. He'll get to that in chapter 4. How to think about everything in a Christian life. He's presenting himself as a role model.

Now, look over at Philippians 4:9, you're gonna see the same thing again. And that's why I, very unusually, had George read two disconnected verses, but they are connected in their theme. If you look at Philippians 4:9, it says, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you." I think that's one of the most audacious statements you could ever find in the scripture. It's like he's coming alongside and says, "Do you want God to be with you? Be like me." Now, just stop and think about about that, how bold that is. If you want the God of peace to be with you, then learn all of my teachings and imitate my lifestyle and God will be with you. And you think, "Who could ever make such a claim?" But I think it is the desperate need of the church today for people humbly to stand up and say that kind of thing. To in effect, say what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ."

Christ came to earth, took on a human body, became incarnate to give us an example. He was an example of suffering. He was an example of life and of godliness. He did it because life matters. It really does matter what you do with your money. It really does matter what you do with your time. It really does matter how you treat your loved ones. It really does make a difference how you hold down your job. It makes a difference how you live your life. And so yes, we proclaim justification by faith alone apart from works, but we also proclaim a godly lifestyle which must follow that justification to validate its existence.

If that lifestyle isn't following, then we have every good reason to question whether justification has really come to that individual, they are not saved. And so we need role models, don't we? We need people who are willing to stand up and say what Paul said and to say it boldly, "Follow me as I follow Christ." And so he says in 1 Corinthians 11:1. Now, I have given you a lot of these key verses that got me thinking about this. Write on your bulletin, to spare you from the time of flipping from place to place, I put it there. Look with me at 2 Thessalonian 3:6-9, right there in the bulletin, and you're gonna see some interesting things there. I'm going to show you from a variety of verses that this is not a small or minor theme for the Apostle Paul's life and ministry. This was his central strategy, just as it was also Christ's central strategy for discipleship.

2 Thessalonian 3:6-9, he says, "Now we command you brethren in the name of our lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you receive from us." Now, take your pen and circle that word "tradition." That's a potent word. To me it's every bit as potent as the word "pattern." There is a pattern being presented to us, of a Christian life. There is a tradition being handed down to us, of a Christian life. How to live? I'm saying again that this is in this very matter that the church is failing.

We are not giving a clear pattern of the Christian life, how to live Monday through Friday and Saturday, and then back on to Sunday again. How do we do it? We are not receiving it as clearly as we should. Some do it well, but not as a rule in the church do we see this. And so he said, "I urge you to stay away from brothers who don't live according to that tradition." They lead an unruly life. That means they don't have discipline in their life. They're not living well. They live a loose life. And so he says, "Stay away from them," because they're gonna lead you astray. They're gonna set a bad example for you. And so they don't live according to the tradition which you received from us. Again, that's so vital. It wasn't just a tradition that was floating out around there. It wasn't just something that they could latch into if they were willing. He said they, in a very determined way, gave it to the Thessalonians. They showed them how to live. The tradition you receive from us, verse 7, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example."

He just says this over and over, and the more you read, it the less audacious it becomes, and the more you're crying for it. And say, "Oh, God, give me a role model." "You ought to follow our example," he says, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, we were tight with our life, we were careful how we lived, we didn't act in an undisciplined manner among you nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it. But with labor and hardship, we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you. Verse 9, "Not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you so that you would follow our example." Is he not hammering on it? Again and again, word after word, he's saying, "This is the way we lived among you. We did it in a very intentional way, we had every right to be financially supported by you, but we chose not to so that we could make ourselves an example for you to follow. A lifestyle of godliness, so that you would follow our example." We see the same thing in 1 Corinthians 4:15-17, again I hope printed on the page for you there.

It says, "Even though you have... " This is he speaking to an entirely different church now. He was speaking to the Thessalonians, now he's speaking to the Corinthians and what does he say there? 1 Corinthians 4:15-17, "Even though you have 10,000 guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father though the gospel." And that's a fascinating thing to me. He's saying there are lots of guardians, what does that mean? Well, I think about our church covenant. We're called to watch over one another in brotherly love. You should have many guardians in your life. You should have many people who care enough if you're starting to wander in your Christian life, starting to drift, not having those quiet times, not coming to church, not serving the way you used to, you're starting to drift. And you should have many guardians in your life who would come and say, "What's happening with you? I'm concerned about you," and do it early before it gets really a set pattern in the person's life, very hard to turn it back at that point.

"But you have 10,000 guardians but you don't have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." I think he led them to Christ, many of them. And not only did he lead, it's actually easy biologically to father a child, but it's an incredible challenge to be a father to a child. I'm finding that out more and more. And I love being a father, I do. But you fathers can respond and say, "Yes, it is a challenge to father children." What it means is that you're going to present yourself, instruct them, you're gonna be with them through all circumstances into godliness, that's what you are as a father. And Paul says, "I was that for you, Corinthian church, I was that for you." So he says, "Even though you don't have any fathers in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." Verse 16, "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." Have we heard that before? He's saying this again and again. "Because I am your father in Christ, I want you to imitate me, be like me, follow my example."

And then he says, very interestingly, "For this reason I am sending you Timothy, my son, whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord." Now, for what reason? Whenever I see those kind of logical connectors I wanna say, "What's going on there?" Okay, "For the reason that you may be able to imitate me, I'm gonna send Timothy. Now Timothy is faithful in the Lord and he's going to come and live it out in front of you so that he will be the pattern, the template for you." "I can't be everywhere at once," Paul is saying in effect, "But I've got this disciple, he's faithful in the Lord, his name is Timothy. I'm going to send him to you so that you can imitate me." Isn't that interesting? Do you not see the replicate of discipleship here? And so he says, "For this reason, I'm sending you Timothy, my son whom I love who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." Is that not poignant? He will commit to them a body of doctrine and a way of life. Let me put them in the order that he gives. The way of life and a body of doctrine. "He will commend to you," Timothy will, "My way of life, which agrees with my doctrine." And so therefore, we have a healthy discipleship. There's going to be a body of doctrines committed, and there's going to be a way of life patterned or exampled, connecting to that body of doctrine. Do you see it? To me that's faithful discipleship.

And if you're only getting one and not the other, it's not full-blooded discipleship. And I think we get more of the body of doctrine in a good church, the body of doctrine, and we don't get the lifestyle. We don't get it role modeled for us, not the way we could or should. Now, that's his own ministry. He also made statements about his churches. I don't know if this is on your bulletin, but 1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, "You became imitators of us and of the living church." He said, "You imitated us. You become imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of severe suffering you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit and so you became a model to all the believers throughout Macedonia and Achaia." Do you see it? They imitated Paul who had planted the church and then they in turn became planters throughout Macedonia and Achaia. This is an intentional strategy on God's part, to replicate the image of His son Jesus Christ all over the world. That's exactly what it is, because it says, in Romans 8, that, "Those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His son that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." That's His plan for the world.

He is saving people and making them like Jesus. And his strategy, then, is to commit that image, that modeling, to people like you and me, that we could model it, however imperfectly, for him. That's exactly what Paul says the Thessalonian church was. You see the best example of this with Timothy. Paul took Timothy along, in Acts 16:1-4. He meets them in Lystra and a disciple named Timothy was there. His mother was a Jewess and a believer, but his father was a Greek. He took Timothy, it says in Acts 16:4, "They traveled about from town to town." Now, that's a challenge for me, okay? As a man who knows what it means... For 10 years I held down a job as an engineer. I don't know how we're going to do this. I'm speaking very honestly and I've got one more week to figure it out 'cause I'm gonna tell you next week. So pray for me as I think about how we're going to hold down jobs and have families and have a life, a regular life, and maybe it isn't gonna be regular anymore, maybe we need to get radical, but we're gonna begin thinking about what it means to be a disciple. But Timothy, for Paul and Timothy, it meant leaving home and traveling with Paul from town to town.

Just as it did with the 12 Apostles and Jesus. There was a radicality there. There was a shocking kind of change of Timothy's life. And everywhere that Paul went, Timothy went too, and Timothy watched the way that he lived. And so, in his final letter, 2 Timothy, Paul writing again to his son in the faith, Timothy, he says this. In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, again, I don't know that this is in your outline but it says, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecution, sufferings, what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured, yet the Lord rescued me from every one of them." What is he saying? "Timothy, you were there. You saw what I went through." The Greek word "there" in 2 Timothy 3:10 is very strong: "You carefully followed my teaching and my way of life." That's exactly what he says.

Again, the two things: "You were immersed in my doctrine and you were immersed in my lifestyle and you saw the two come together in all kinds of situations. You saw it again and again. And so, as a result, Timothy, I'm about to die," but he says, "I want you to be sure you do the same thing for your disciples." 1 Timothy 4:12 he says, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young, but set an example for the believers, in speech, in life, love, in faith and in purity." He said the same thing to Titus in Titus 2:7: "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity and seriousness." And then in 2 Timothy 2:2, a very famous disciples verse, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses and trust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." Four generations there. It's passed on from generation to generation: Body of doctrine, a pattern of Christian living.

Now, this is the very thing that I'm calling on our church to think through, that we would consider how to do this. The Apostle Paul has been presenting himself throughout the letter as a pattern of life. Now zeroing in on Philippians 3:17, this word that we've looked at. You know, in Philippians 3, Paul has been thinking about the Christian life, talking about it. If I'm not careful I'm gonna move and then I'll set a terrible precedent, so I need to stay right here, because I'm not a walking pastor, alright. Others can do that, but if I do that, it's going to be a pendulum effect and you guys will fall asleep and I don't want to do that. But I am very excited about this, I am very engaged in this topic, because I think this is gonna be radical for our church.

Philippians 3, he's talking about how he thinks about the Christian life. And he's talking about how he considers everything worthless compared to one thing, and that is to know Christ. And he thinks of it this way, that he doesn't consider himself already to be perfect, but every day forgetting what is behind, pressing and straining toward what is ahead. He presses on toward the goal, to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus. That's the way he thinks all the time about the Christian life. And then he says, in verse 15, "All of us who are mature should think the same way. You should have the same view of the Christian life as I do." Again, Paul is given to making these kind of bold statements, audacious statements. If you are mature, you'll think about the Christian life this way, forgetting what is behind, pressing toward perfection every day. And if on some point you think differently, God will make that clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Verse 17, "Join with others in following my example. Other people think this way, there's a pattern replicating around the world, be one of those that's following my example. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."

Now, that word "pattern" is the Greek word "tupos," from which we... It comes over in English in the word "type," and from which we get the word "typical." So we would say that somebody who follows the pattern is a typical Christian. Now, we tend to use that word negatively, "Oh, typical Christian." But the fact of the matter, what it means is that they are well-conformed to the pattern that we're aware of. And he says, "I want you to be that pattern." Now, that word is a very interesting word. It has to do with an imprint made by like a stamper seal. The word "tupos" is used of those things that were made in Jesus's hands and feet, that Thomas said he wouldn't believe unless he saw them. I've got to see the tupos in his hands and feet, where the nail made its mark.

It also has to do with the way that idols were made. The craftsman would craft it, and then everything cranked out from that mold looked like the same idol. And so there was a stamping going on. Probably the best illustration would be the way coins were struck back then. There would be a skilled artisan that would make a dye, and then copper, or some other metal, would be put in the dye and under great pressure the coin would be struck and the metal would smoosh around the indentations and be conformed to the indentations and you'd get the coin. You are, if you're a Christian, in the process of being smooshed to be like Jesus. Your life doesn't fully conform to Him yet, most of you. Probably all of you. Definitely all of you.

[laughter]

It doesn't fully conform to Jesus's perfect pattern. And discipleship is where those parts of your life that are gapping from Christ, are being smooshed down onto the type, onto the image, so that you be like Jesus. It really has nothing to do with Paul. Paul is just a servant, a middle man, follow me as I follow Christ. The issue is you being like Jesus. But Paul is an indispensable helper to you, and so also is your mentor or your role model. You've got to have them, because you don't know how you're gapping from Jesus, and we need people who are willing to stand up and say, "Follow me. And be conformed to the image of Christ as I'm seeking to do the same."

Now, there are two aspects, as I've said, of this discipleship. There is a pattern, and then there is content. And one of the most fascinating places where the word "tupos" is used, is in Romans 6:17. Don't take the time to turn there, but listen. Look at it later. But in Romans 6:17, it says, "Thanks be to God that though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed that pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted." So there is a body of doctrine that has to be committed. We shouldn't so emphasize now lifestyle, that we forget that there's a whole pattern of doctrines that must be committed. And that if your mind thinks differently than that pattern, you're not fully discipled yet. You need to be conformed in your mind. And frankly, you must be conformed first in your mind before you're gonna live it. But there is a logical priority, but there is a working together of both lifestyle and doctrinal intake back and forth. And so there's a body of teaching, and there is also a practical life pattern.

The ultimate goal here is that we would, in every way, in every way, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, lifestyle, everything, in every way, be conformed to Jesus Christ. And we need help in the lifestyle side. American Christians are failing in this. And I think they're failing in part because we're not getting this pattern of discipleship anymore. We need to know how to pray with fervency. We need to know how to pray with scriptural knowledge, and to pray perseveringly, 'cause we need to kneel next to a saint, who knows how to do it. We need to know how to study the Bible and rightly divide it. We need to know how to win the lost to Christ. We need to know how to behave in church. We need to know how to worship in spirit and truth. We need to know how to glorify God in everything you do, whether you eat or drink. Learn how to eat to the glory God. Learn how to drink to the glory of God. We need to know how to discipline ourselves for godliness. These are all just coming right out of Bible verses. We need to know how to discipline ourselves for godliness, so that we can grow in godliness. We need to know how to live as a Christian family. We need to know, from role models, how to be a good father and a good husband. We need to know, from role models, how to be a good mother, a good wife. We need people who are willing to stand up and say, "Follow me, as I follow Christ." We need help in this.

We need to know how to handle money as a steward of the Kingdom of God, not as though the money were ours, but as though it's God's, and to handle it as faithful stewards of Christ. We need help in this. We need to know how to bridle our tongue, and to hold our tongue at key moments. Maybe we need to learn from our mentor, who in the moment of attack, says gracious things. And we learn how to do that. We see it lived. We need to know how to handle lust, the appeal to the animal side, which the world around us is constantly barraging. We need godly role models who show us how to do it, how to put sin to death. We need to know how to work hard with our own hands, and to provide for our families, and to lead godly, upright lives, that are worthy of respect by outsiders. We need to know all of these things. We need to know how to care for the poor. How to handle benevolence cases, when they come to you. With what tone of voice and what facial expression? How are you gonna deal with them? How are you going to give, when you give? How you give? What are you going to do? You need that role modeled for you. You need to know how to suffer persecution with joy, and if need be, it would be beautiful to have a pattern of discipleship that goes right to the end of life. Even martyrdom for Christ, joyfully for His glory, to do it with dignity. These things have been modeled before in church history, and we can have it again if we seek it and we ask God for it.

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