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Fruits of the Spirit, Part 7: Agape

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Fruits of the Spirit, Part 7

Agape

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Fruits of the Spirit, Part 7: Agape

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To come to understand what God wants for us takes the power of His Spirit. The reason for this is so we can learn to be His child. We have Christs example to know what we are to become. Do we love Jesus Christ enough to be a child of God? We can have religion and not be His disciples. In the end something must be produced in our life. This is the seventh and last sermon on the Fruits of The Spirit.

Transcript

[Gary Petty] In 1907 Albert Einstein published a paper that contained a physics formula that changed everybody's understanding of creation. It was called The Theory of Relativity – simple formula – E=MC². Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Now that doesn't mean a lot to me. I do know, though, they were able to take that formula and be able to "crack" the atom and tap into nuclear energy. A simple different way of looking at things and they were able to change all of humankind's thinking about science.

There are a number of things that the theory of relativity dealt with – the idea that light can be bent. Nobody believed that – "you can't bend the light" – until there was a total eclipse of the sun down in Australia. They all thought Einstein was sort of crazy. And they took pictures of it. People hadn't taken pictures of eclipses of the sun before. And in the pictures they could see stars that they should not have been able to see. And they realized that the stars' light was bending around the sun. And it was like, "Oh!" It changed the way people saw everything. Light can be bent. Simple formula and it changed the way everybody looks at creation.

You have the ability to tap into the greatest power in the universe. That simple formula allowed them to tap into atomic energy. You have the ability – because God has given you His Spirit – to have and tap into the mind of God. We spend much of our lives not really understanding that – not really experiencing that – struggling through, and yet that's what the Bible says! When you were baptized and hands were laid on you, you received the mind of God. He gave you part of Himself, if you will. And you have the ability, now, to interact with God and His mind.

All too many times, when we come into the knowledge of the truth, we start out with beginning to understand how wrong our religion is. Right? We discover that Christmas and Easter are wrong. We discover that you really should keep the Ten Commandments. And we start to do those things. And we start to change our minds, which is part of repentance – to perceive and change. So we start to change. And as we change, we begin to understand and our thoughts begin to change. We understand the truth about heaven and hell. We begin to keep the holy days and we begin to understand God's plan for humanity.

But we always face a danger when you've done this long enough. We face the danger when we get to the place where we believe that, as long as we say the right words, and, sort of, do the right ceremonies – show up at church once a week – we believe that, okay, we have these basic doctrines, and we have them right, that that's all there is to this. "If I have these pieces of knowledge, and I do these couple of things, that's what Christianity is all about." Well, those things are important, obviously – right? – but why? Why did God give us the Ten Commandments? Why did God create the holy days? Why did God give us the Bible? And why is it that the majority of people never understand what's in this Book? Because we know it takes God's Spirit to unlock it. It takes His help, because you and I can only…you know, very smart human beings will discover bits and pieces of truth. But to come to conversion, it takes God's Spirit. Why? God gives us all this because we must remember: the purpose of Christianity – the purpose of our lives – why we were created – is that God wants to reproduce His character in us so that we can be His children forever. The purpose for your life, and the purpose for which God has called you, and the purpose for which God gave you His power, His mind, His love – why did He put that in you? So that you can learn to be His child and that He can reproduce His character in you. We can become like Jesus Christ. What we have in Jesus Christ is that we can what is to be God in flesh. We can become like Him. We're to be His disciples. Every one of us, when we were baptized, the scripture was read to us – "if you don't love Me more than your mother, or your brother, or your sister, your own life also, you cannot be My disciple." We all had that read to us. Do we love Jesus Christ enough to be His disciple – to live the way He lived? How do you do that? He said, "I will live My life in you. I will send you the Helper. I will return to the Father and you'll receive the Helper – or the Holy Spirit."

So we receive the mind of God. And the reason for it is so that we can learn to be His children. That means – even though we may have come a long ways in learning God's way – we can still have religion and not be the children of God. We can still have understanding and not be the children of God. The thinking process we must go through begins with "Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Remember the Sabbath day," but that's not the end point. That's just the beginning. In the end, something must be produced in our life. And that's what we've been going through in a series of sermons. This is the seventh and last sermon in this series of sermons on the Fruits of God's Spirit.

The fruits of God's Spirit are not optional for us. You know, as I went through the first couple of sermons – I'm going to recap a little bit here – the first couple of sermons I talked about how God says we must produce fruit. If we don't, He will cut us down and throw us in the fire! These fruits are not optional. In fact, we have to realize, these fruits are what make life worth living. They're internal. See, we keep thinking external things make life worth living. And it's internal that makes life worth living. It's how we face life. It's how we deal with things. It's how we act and interact with other people.

One of the statements made by Mrs. McCrady at the marriage workshop: happiness doesn't depend on your past – I'm paraphrasing a little bit – but it doesn't depend on what happened to you, it doesn't depend on who abused you, it doesn't depend on how somebody treated you. Your happiness depends on what you choose to think right now. Right now! That's what your happiness depends on. If your happiness depends on thinking about the past, you'll be pretty miserable all the time.

We've been given this power to break away not just from false religion – we have to do that – but then that's supposed to produce in us these fruits, so that we become the children of God – a whole new way of thinking. The way God wants you to change who you are goes beyond giving up Christmas. That's just one step. It goes beyond observing the Passover. There's nothing more important, as far as a ceremony, that you and I can do during the year than the Passover. Don't keep the Passover and you break your covenant with God. It's a serious issue. But it's supposed to do something in us.

And we've been going through these fruits. Self-control – which involves the struggle with our own corrupted human nature, which involves our habits, our thoughts, our emotions, and bringing them into subjection to God's law and God's teachings. Self control is not an option. It's not an option. It's something that must be produced in us.

Gentleness or meekness – we spent a whole sermon talking about how this meekness is the temper of spirit in which we accept God's direction in our life. It's meekness before God. It's a belief that God is good – that God will do good in our lives as we submit to Him, even if, sometimes, it's temporary penalties, or temporary bad things, that happen to us.

Faithfulness – we remain faithful and committed to God for a whole lifetime.

Goodness – which denotes active goodness – not only actively doing good, but the willingness to stand up against evil. There are times you have to make a stand against evil in life. And it's a willingness to do that at the right time. We went through when it's right and when it's not, how there are proper ways of doing it and improper ways of doing it.

Kindness or gentleness – just the aspect of character that we automatically show respect and consideration and compassion.

Longsuffering – remember, we read through Job – the ability to suffer for five minutes…. It's not short suffering. But it's a fruit of the Spirit! Now, as we went through the fruits, it wasn't like you can just develop one of these and forget the rest of them. So, it's not like, "Oh good, you know, I'm suffering long. My whole life has been suffering. I know tomorrow I'll get up and suffer. If I can't find a reason to suffer, I'll make up a reason to suffer, because I suffer. And I want to tell everybody I suffer and everybody knows I suffer. Do you want to hear about my suffering? Because I have longsuffering." Well…the next point is, you have to have peace.

Peace in your suffering is something totally different, isn't it? We talked about how peace is not in the world. And peace, in my experience in the church, hasn't always been in the church. The church has always been at war with itself, too. Why? Because peace has to come from inside. As long as we keep trying to solve all problems through power and control and violence, we'll never have peace. Peace has to come from inside. We went through all the scriptures to talk about that.

Joy – this is a hard one. You and I are commanded to be happy. You'd think that would be the easiest one – and it's actually not. We're commanded to be happy. "Ahh, I don't want to be happy. Let me tell you all the bad things that have happened to me, and you wouldn't be happy either." Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It's not an option! Oh man, it's easier not to steal than be happy – actually it is. So we start with those things. God always starts with the simple things. Okay? Paul says, "Those who stole, steal no more." He tells the New Testament church, "Okay, all you people who used to steal, don't steal anymore!" I mean, this is kindergarten. That's where we start. And eventually, we get down to here – we get down to the understanding that the fruits of God's Spirit must be developed in us by God through His Spirit. You and I can't do this on our own. It's called the fruits of the Spirit. It's not the fruits you and I can do on our own. We have to submit to this process.

I did talk about how, last time, that there are three problems we have in our approach to joy – a false viewpoint of God – we believe that God is out to get us. "God doesn't want to do good for us. God wants to do bad for us. And His way is, basically, bad." We don't accept His way as good. We have a false viewpoint of God's way. We have a false viewpoint of God – we see God as some kind of just angry God. We have a false viewpoint of His way – "His way really doesn't work – not in my life, it doesn't. I can't do it that? If I did it that way, I'd lose my job. I really can't tithe, because I won't have any money." It's a command! We don't tithe, God doesn't bless us. "Yeah, that might work for you." We just don't believe it. We don't believe it enough to do it. And then, sometimes, it's because we have a false viewpoint of ourselves. "Well, I'm such a wretched person, God can never love me. God would never help me. God would never…." Okay, you're a wretched person. Join the human race. Sometimes we revel in our own wretchedness. Okay, I'm wretched, too! That's the great thing about God! "Okay, let Me clean you people up." See, that's how God approaches it. It's not like, "You're wretched. I want to destroy you." It's, "You're pretty wretched. Let Me clean you up." So these false viewpoints keep us from joy.

The last in the list is agape. Now, I gave what? Seven or eight sermons on agape about two years ago. I want to just briefly talk about an overview of agape again and, then, I want to talk about just some practical things we can do, because agape comes from these character traits all mixed together. It is really difficult to have agape when we don't have self-control, or goodness, or meekness. If you don't believe God is doing good in your life, how in the world are you ever going to love other people? You can't! If you don't have self-control and you're getting drunk, and you're breaking the Sabbath, forget it. You're not going to have these fruits. So we have to being those…as we do those things, all these things begin to come together – and none of us have it down perfect. Only Jesus Christ had all these things perfect. That's why He's our example.

With these character traits, as we move toward the idea that Christianity is all about becoming Christ-like – it's all about learning the character of God – even all the doctrines come more closely in focus. The meaning of the holy days becomes more closely in focus. Otherwise, it's just intellectual information. We can be a walking encyclopedia of God's way, but, if it isn't working in our lives, that's all we are. And we weren't called to be encyclopedias. We were called to be His children! We were called to be His sons and daughters – in relationship with God – not just now, but for eternity! But God won't let us go into eternity if we're the opposite of these fruits. "I have no self-control. Every time I get mad, I punch my neighbor in the nose." Right? "Ahh, I don't have this goodness stuff. That's just weakness. I don't show people respect. I don't have to submit to authority. I didn't do any of those things. This longsuffering bit – I'm not going to do any of that."

These are the traits of God. It all culminates in this idea, okay, of agape. It culminates in the idea of, "How do I interact with others from internal strength?" We interact with other as external things happen to us. Aren't you glad that God doesn't that? Aren't you glad that we don't externally motivate God? God is motivated by who He is. He's motivated by righteousness. If He wasn't, He would have wiped us all out oh, just about six thousand years ago. There would be no human history. He's not motivated by that. The result is He is able to suffer long with humanity. He's able to have peace in spite of us. He's able to be happy. You know, we worship a very happy God! He has joy. Does He grieve? Yes. Does He get angry? Yes. Does He get frustrated? Yes, read the Bible. Those are emotions He has, but He's never unhappy. He's never controlled by those things. Those are just experiences He has, because why? Ahh, He's interacting with us. No wonder we get so frustrated with each other. God gets frustrated with us, but He doesn't react the way we react. And it's because when we're looking at the fruits of the Spirit, we're looking at who He is.

One of the great destroyers of agape is something that was covered in the marriage seminar. The question was asked, "What are the three things that destroy marriages?" Well, okay, the husband's a bad guy. The wife's a bad girl? You know, he doesn't do this. She doesn't do that. Nope. It's pretty interesting – three things. The three things that destroy marriages more than anything else: 1) complaining, blaming, criticizing the other person. That destroys more marriages than anything else – complaining, blaming, criticizing. In other words, you have viewpoint of life that says, "I would be happy and a good person if that person would just treat me right. But that person doesn't treat me right, so I'm an unhappy person, and therefore, I can do bad things." We actually excuse ourselves in being able to hurt, abuse others, do wrong things, disobey scripture.

I'll give you a perfect example, because I've actually seen this happen before. I've seen a husband and wife having troubles. Now I'm only using this example. I could use all different things. I'm just using this because I got this idea from the marriage seminar. Because this is actually the core problem we have with all issues of love. We look at the other person as a person to complain about, blame and criticize. Now what does that do? It gives us the right to despise them. We now have the right to despise them. Now I'm not talking about being frustrated with somebody, or being angry with somebody, being hurt by somebody. That's normal. Every one of us is going to be hurt by somebody and we're going to hurt other people. Every one of us is going to be angry at somebody and make somebody else angry. Every one of us is going to be frustrated with somebody and frustrate other people. That's just the way it is as we interact. It's what we do with that that counts. And this is where agape comes in, because it's amazing. If you get any two people to begin to loathe each other – despise each other – it becomes contagious.

And I use the husband and wife example because I've seen it numerous times throughout the years. A husband and wife are having trouble, so she tells all her friends about how rotten he is. She blames him, she criticizes him, she complains about him. He, then, tells all his friends about her. And what do all her friends say? "He's a rotten guy. You ought to leave him." They are now asking her to commit sin. I mean, there are reasons you can divorce in the Bible, but they're very narrow. I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to divorce your wife or husband because they just happen to be rotten people – you know, they're just sort of mean and don't listen to you. You're not allowed to. So all her friends…, "You need to leave him." What are all the guys saying? "Why don't you just divorce her?" They're now telling him to sin! So, then, they tell all their friends. And they tell all their friends. And pretty soon, the man walks into church and half the church won't talk to him. And the woman walks into church and the other half won't talk to her. Now, I'm exaggerating a little. But we've all seen situations like that – at work, in the church, in your own families. You can get families to do this. Pretty soon, everybody's polarized and there are two kinds of people in the world – the people that agree with me and the evil ones.

At that point – and I'm using that example of marriage because that could happen to any congregation – it hasn't happened here so I can use that example – I couldn't use it here if it had ever happened here, but it's never happened here…. So you have that happen and you've actually polarized the congregation because of two people who were having an internal problem among themselves. And now people won't talk to each other. People don't like each other. People condemn each other. People complain about each other. People slander each other. And yet, they all keep the Sabbath. They all keep the holy days. You see? But they're acting carnal. We can be acting carnal and still be doing the right things in terms of the doctrine.

Agape – the fruit of God's Spirit – gives meaning to the doctrines. It gives meaning to the teaching. It gives meaning to what we do. What we do is have God create in us His character so that we can be His children forever. That's what's going on here.

So there's an example. There's no agape if these people now hate each other. But I've seen this happen. I've seen it happen in families, especially. There are people that haven't talked to each other for twenty years, because twenty years ago, somebody died – and I'm not making this up – and a bunch of people went in – some of the nephews and nieces – and stole some of the stuff of the person who died. "Oooh, wow! I liked Grandma's vase, and they took it!" Then all the other family members said, "Well, that belonged to me!" They finally produced a will and then fought over the will for five years. And you have people who loved each other all their lives and now, twenty years later, "Oh, I wouldn't even talk to that man. He's horrible. You know, when Grandma died, he tried to take her rocking chair! Dirty thief! Let's go to Sabbath services – but he's got to sit on the other side of the room." Okay, you need to come to Sabbath services, but are we being Christian? No! No, we're not.

Our emotions are part of our Christianity. Our thoughts are part of our Christianity. It's intersesting…in Zechariah 7…you say, "Why did God destroy Judah and Israel?" And the first that comes to mind is, "Well, they wouldn't keep the Ten Commandments." That's true. "They worshipped idols." The first thing that comes to my mind is that they worshipped idols. They turned their backs on God. If you go through Ezekiel, there are two main reasons that are mentioned there: they broke the Sabbath and they worshipped idols. So we can look back and say, "Okay, we can see why God punished them," but when you go through the Minor Prophets, and you go through Isaiah, there are other reasons, too. There are other reasons that God said that He punished those people. Zechariah 7, verse 8. See, we tend to think, "This  agape – that's a New Testament thing." I could say, "Love," but then people would say, "Oooh, that's a Protestant word." We're uncomfortable with this. Well, agape is the character of God that is concerned for other people. And it's on the list of the fruits of the Spirit! Look at verse 8 here:

Zechariah 7:8 Zechariah 7:8And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying,
American King James Version×
And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts – this is what God said He wanted the people to do – ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.'" But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears, so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like rock, refusing to hear the law – the law! Yes, showing mercy and compassion is part of the law. Go back and read Deuteronomy. You'll find it lots of times there. It's part of the law.
"Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor." It's part of the law! "Do not plan evil in your heart against your brother." In other words, you can't just sit around thinking evil things about your brother, about other people. We can despise other people by just making up scenarios in our heads. It's amazing how many times human beings can, literally, make up scenarios about other human beings that have nothing to do with reality! First of all, by the way, that makes us very unhappy. But second of all, it gives us this right in our minds to despise these people – or this person. The truth is, most of the time, what people do to us is not worth the trouble. The things people do…it's not really worth the trouble. Let it go. But we devise evil in our hearts.

V-12 - …and they refused to hear the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit to the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. This isn't just some New Testament concept. We could go through a whole discussion on who is my neighbor.

We're talking, here, about the internal force that produces the fruit. In a couple weeks – I almost have it done – I am going to do a sermon on how to replace negative, evil, wrong thoughts with scripture. It changes everything. And when you think just anger, or evil, or are tempted with sin, and you replace it with a scripture, it changes where that goes. We'll talk about how to do that in a couple of weeks.

We don't understand the gravity of having loathing inside of us. 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
American King James Version×
. It's why I've said before, "It's so important for us to understand forgiveness is to give up the hatred and anger you have toward somebody else." Relationship requires them to repent. You can't have a relationship with somebody who doesn't repent, but you are required by God to give up your despising of them. We forget 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
American King James Version×
, which is written, by the way, to the church. John is not writing to the world. John is writing specifically to the church in his time and is for us today. 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
American King James Version×
says:

1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
American King James Version×
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. In other words, you and I can keep the letter of the Ten Commandments and never murder somebody and still not receive eternal life, because, if we're going to become the children of God, it's not just about not murdering. Now, you can't go murder people and be a child of God. Okay? So we have to do the law, but, then, we have to take it a step further. We have to learn not to hate! Then we have to take it a step further. We have to learn how to have agape – take the next step in what we're supposed to do.

Now, remember all these fruits are combined together. You have to have goodness, you have to have that belief – that meekness – that God's in your life, you have to have self-control, you have to have peace. You can never have agape without peace. You can't! If you're at war inside yourself all the time, how can you reach out to somebody else, who has just done something mean to you? So what we do is – the war is inside ourselves – so we take that war and we, now, put it on another person.

Let's go to 1 Corinthians 13. I don't want to spend a lot of time there, because two years ago, we just had all the sermons on this subject. But, since it is on the list here of fruits, and it's the pinnacle of what we're talking about, we need to remember what Paul says here. Although I do believe that this is one of those scriptures that, probably, needs to be read, at least, once a year in a sermon. Verse 1, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 13:1 1 Corinthians 13:1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
American King James Version×
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not agape – have not this love of God – remember, this isn't just what we think of love – as just an emotion. Love is more than emotion. It's what you choose to do and how you choose to treat God and other people. He says, "If I have all these special gifts from God and I don't have this, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

Now, is he saying gifts from God are a bad thing? No. In fact, all of chapter 12 is about the gifts of God. Gifts from God are a good thing! Everybody here has gifts that God has given to them. Every one of you has a gift or gifts that you bring into the congregation that God expects you to use in His family – every one of us! So, are the gifts of God bad? No! But he says that all these gifts, without this – without this Godly love – ahh, it doesn't mean anything.

V-2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, but have not this Godly love, I am nothing. That's the point. You and I can know all the truths – we can know all the truths – but if we don't have the character of God being developed in us, we're just no more than walking encyclopedias. I've met people like this. I've met people that had the knowledge that I would just be amazed. They could rattle off scriptures. I would think, "Man! I wish I could have that kind of retainment of scripture." And yet, [they] never really seem to understand what true character is all about – never really overcome their sins. Now, we all have sins to overcome – every one of us. None of us are there yet. And all of us can fall into some pretty big sins from time to time. But people can live lifestyles of sin, but they sure know their Bible. And you think, "Wow! That's not conversion." If I have all knowledge and I don't have this character, then we don't get to be the children of God forever. "But God, I know all three Greek words for hell!" We have a sermon about every two years where we go through heaven and hell. (Well, some people say I put you through hell every week, but that's a different story.) "But I know the Greek words. I know tartaroo and hades, and I know sheol, and I know gehenna. I know the Hebrew word Elohim. I don't believe in the Trinity." If you do not have agape, He will say, "It's not enough." It's good. You need those things. You have to have those things, but it's not enough.

V-3 – And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but I have not this Godly love, it profits me nothing. See, I can even do good things, but if they're done out of a wrong motivation, it doesn't mean anything.

V-4 – Agape suffers long. Wow! This looks like the fruit of the Spirit. Well, yeah. This is the Godly character we must have. We must suffer long. …is kind. I keep working on that one – well, the longsuffering, too, but kindness – I keep working of that one. It does not envy. It does not parade itself. If is not puffed up. If we do these things, we are sinning. "Oh no, I'm not stealing." Well, that's just one sin. These are requirements, folks! Because this is what we have to become. You say, "But I'm not there…" – you get discouraged at this point, but – "Wow! I'm not there." Of course, I'm not there either. Nobody's there yet. Part of the formula for growth – E=MC² – is to wake up one day and say, "Oh, I'm not there yet." Good! Now you have room to grow. If you think you're there, you're not going to grow. If you say, "Well, God, I can't do that," that's true! God has to help you do it. If you say, "God, I'm not there yet. What am I supposed to do?" He says, "That's okay. I'll get you there." But we have to submit. He knows you're not done yet. There's not one of us…because when God's done with you, guess what's going to happen? You'll die. Right? When God's done with you, He says, "Okay, I'm finished with you. I'll go work with somebody else now." He's not done with any of us yet. We're still alive. So don't get discouraged. Just realize what you can become! – if you submit to God.

V-5 – Does not behave rudely. Oh, we don't think that's a problem. "I can be rude. Other people are rude." ...does not seek its own. This is one of the great problems with agape. We want everything to be our way. And we must first seek the good of other people. It doesn't mean we can't seek our own good, by the way. We all have needs. We all have desires in life. It's not wrong. We all need to be loved. But what happens if we approach life by first saying, "I want to love first; I want to understand first, then be understood; I want to love first, then be loved?" I haven't mastered that one either, but I surely would like to be there. See, the older I get, the more I look at these things and say, "This is where I want to be!" It's like the Sabbath. You keep the Sabbath as a child, and you reach the point where it's not just something your parents do – or not something that's forced upon you – you do it because you love it. You look forward to this day. There is something special. If feels differently. At sundown Friday night, it feels differently than any other day. You can't explain that somebody else. You can't – unless they understand what you're talking about – unless they go through it themselves. It says: ..does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…. Thinks no evil – that's the reason why in a couple of weeks, we're going to be talking about thinking and how you replace thoughts with scriptures. …thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. We rejoice in iniquity. We love to see other people sin. We love to put other people down. Why? Because it makes us feel good. "Boy, I haven't committed that sin," or "I haven't done that," or "Did you know so and so did this?" We love to talk about other people's sins, because it makes us feel good. You know, God doesn't feel good when we sin. It doesn't make God feel bigger when you sin or I sin. It makes Him sad. Think about that. God never, in the Bible, says, " Look, when you sin, I say, ‘Boy, I've never sinned. I'm God." You don't see that anywhere. What you do see is sadness, and, eventually, if that sin continues into rebellion, you see anger. But you never see Him feel good about Himself because we sin, because He doesn't rejoice in iniquity. He does rejoice in the truth.

V-7 – bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This is where the character of God will take us. And we broke that down two years ago. Now, in the fruits of the Spirit, we're breaking it down in a different way. We end up in the same place. The end of the list is agape – well, it's at the top of the list, if you take it the way Paul wrote it. I just reversed it. It's where we end up. It's the character of God.

How do we do that? You know, really, when you talk about this, we have that example. We have the example of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2, verse 1. It's another scripture that I don't think I've read all this year, but I try to read it at least once a year. Philippians 2, verse 1. No, I take that back. I did read this. I read this – part of this, not all of what I'm going to read today – but I read part of it, I think, when we talked about joy. How do we have joy in our lives? How can we have reasonable happiness even when bad things are happening?  

Philippians 2:1 Philippians 2:1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
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Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy – he says, "If you have any of these parts in  your character…" – fulfill my joy – Paul says – by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord and one mind. Well, how do you do that? I mean, that's a nice-sounding phrase – you know, verses 1 and 2 is one sentence – it's a nice-sounding sentence, but if that's all Paul wrote, my answer would be, "Paul, that's philosophy. I don't want to know philosophy. I want to know, ‘How do you do it?' How do you do this one mindedness and this one accordness? Because, let's face it, I have three churches. There are two hundred of us and we're always in some kind of conflict someplace. That's the way life is." And, if you're not in conflict with each other, you're in conflict with your neighbors. And, if you're not in conflict with your neighbors, you're in conflict with people at work. And, if you're not in conflict with people at work, you're in conflict with the guy that's driving next to you, cutting you off! Right? You're in conflict with the people fighting each other at WalMart to get to pay ten dollars for a fifty-cent item made in China. That's the way life is, right? Or, you're in conflict with the waitress who doesn't bring your food on time and it's cold. So I want to know how to do this. So Paul says, "Okay, let's take this down a step and let's start to tear it apart a little bit."

V-3 – Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. We have to approach life with something that Jesus did. When those men said to Him – they were yelling His name – it's amazing – He walked over to them…I didn't put this in my notes – I hadn't thought about this until I was talking here – but He walked over to them, and He says, "What can I do for you?" The Creator of the universe, who has become flesh, walked over to a group of men in a huge crowd, who just happened to be yelling His name, and saying, "Will you talk to us? Can we talk to you?" He walked over and He said, "What can I do for you?" Now, if God can do that – ritght? – the Son of God can do that – that should be our approach to life. Can you imagine if everybody's – in every situation – first response was, "What can I do for you?" We'd be stepping over each other trying to do good things for each other. This is Christianity. This is character. It's character.

V-4 – Let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but for the interest of others. He didn't say, "Ignore your own interest." (Oh, I know when…it was when I gave the sermon at the marriage seminar last week. That's where I read this. I had the sermon at the marriage seminar and I read this whole section about the core principle of marriage.) If we're always seeking our interest first, you will have, at best, an unhappy marriage or you'll end up in a divorce. If you approach marriage in terms of, "Yes, I have my needs and my desires, but I will try first to understand you – that's what I'll try to do first – and then explain mine,"…if two people do that, they'll have a happy marriage. That's just it. There are certain simple things you have to do, but your emotions tell you to do the opposite. There's the problem. Your feelings tell you to do the exact opposite, so we destroy our own relationships over and over again. It's like I put in the Pastor's Update: Fifty-four percent of all people who marry now get divorced. Almost eighty-percent of them divorce a second time. Why? Because they took themselves into the next relationship. They just destroyed the next one, too. Now that doesn't happen all the time, but it happens – what is that? – four out of five times? That's not good odds. That's why I tell most people, "Stay in the relationship you're in now. Your odds are four out of five, you won't get through the second one." Now, God's Spirit can do a lot. Those are statistics of the world, but still, it's not good odds.

V-5 – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. He says, "Okay, here's what you do…." "Now, I have to have an example of that." Paul says, "Okay, let me give you the best example – top example – number one example." …who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. He was the Word, as John says in John 1. He said that God created all things through Him. He was God and with God. He's in an intimate relationship with the Father and He submits to the Father. …who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself – it was a decision He made. It's very interesting, that word made, because it's a decision. …He made Himself – or, it can be translated, He emptied Himself. He emptied what He was to become a vessel like us – made out of flesh. …He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of a man. And being in appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even to the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. We says, "Okay, that's deep theology there." But I want you to understand. Paul writes this deep theology about the nature of Christ – this Christology that he talks about – and the need for his sacrifice and all these things, but he says this in the context of, "Now, I want you to learn to get along." "Okay, how do you do that?" "Well, first of all, you have to learn to approach every situation with, ‘Okay, what can I do for you? I'll try to put your interest first. I'll try to understand you first.'" Now that doesn't mean you're being taken advantage of. If someone is interested in taking advantage of you, then you don't let them do it. This is how you approach things. This is who you are. You say, "Well, I'm going to get hurt." That's right! I've met people who go through their whole lives trying not to be hurt. That's a pretty sad way to live life. Live life knowing you're going to get hurt, but always coming up first and saying, "I want to understand you first." And sometimes, that person is going to take advantage of you. And you have to be strong enough to take it. That's God! He's point is…he goes through and says, "Now you want an example? Okay, let's look at Jesus Christ. That's what He does. That's what He's done all these years." All through your life, all through my life, what has He done? "Let me put your interests first at a terrible price to do so." All of a sudden, this theology becomes very personal, if you really understand what he's saying. This goes from an intellectual concept to something deep at the core of who we are. It should be there! This should be at the very core of who we are, where all we're doing is religion. Well, there's lots of religion. God wants children! God wants children. And this is at the core of understanding what it really is.

Let me give you just a few points, then, on how you can begin to apply this practically. Because we always say, "How can I practically do this?" And sometimes you have to do before you understand. I don't know how many people I've talked to over the years that said, "I didn't understand the holy days at all until I did them." Herbert Armstrong said that. He didn't understand the holy days until he did them. And then he said, "Oh, I understand this." It's in the doing that that we grow in understanding. I mean, how many of you, the first time you kept the Sabbath, weren't even sure…. "What do we do? Do we just sit around all night and all day and do nothing? Or just read our Bibles and pray? Oh, I've got to go to church!" And as you did it, you began to understand more and more what the day is about. It's the same way with this.

First thing – areas that we can apply: The first thing you can do – now I'm going to give you concepts. I say this is practical. You're going to have to figure out how to do it in a practical sense, okay? But here's where you start. You start with your own family. You start with your own marriage, your own children. You start there. If you're a single person, you start with other family members. If you don't have any family members, well, yes you do, because look around. If this is the family of God, this is your family – pretty dysfunctional family, but it's yours! That's what I always tell people. I say, "My congregation, sometimes, is pretty dysfunctional, but it's my family. I can criticize them, but you better not. That's my family there." There have actually been times I have gone through the book of addresses and names of everybody in the church, and I've actually looked through there, and it's like, "Wow! This is my family! It's my family." This is what God has given to us. This is what He's creating. But start with that physical nuclear family and move out from there, because, if that's dysfunctional, it's so hard to grow in the fruits of God's Spirit. It is so hard to grow in those fruits if you have a dysfunctional nuclear family. So you start and you work there by applying those principles. In other words, if your nuclear family isn't even "going through kindergarten" – if they're breaking the Ten Commandments – how in the world do you grow into the fruits of the Spirit? If your nuclear family is getting drunk, how in the world do you move beyond? You see, you have to make sure you're doing the right things. If your nuclear family is stealing, or not honoring their parents…. There's a horrible penalty for not honoring your parents. There's a law that gets broken. If someone in your nuclear family is committing fornication, if you're not keeping the Sabbath, if you're taking God's name in vain, if you're doing any of those things, then you're into self-control problems and it's hard to move on to the other fruits. So, you've got to start there. "Well, yeah, but if we do all those things, we'll be unhappy." Nah, we're back to you don't understand – you have a false concept of God, a false concept of God's way and a false concept of yourself. Real happiness comes from God and His way.

The second place we start is in James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
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. You probably all know this one by heart. Once again, it's another scripture that probably gets read probably two or three times a year between sermonettes and sermons.

James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
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Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this…. So we want to know what real religion is. "Well, I know the second part." It says to keep oneself unspotted from the world. "Okay, that's what I have to do. I have to make sure that I'm unspotted from the world. I have to make sure I don't watch wrong things on television. I have to make sure that I don't do dishonest things at work. Okay, I have to stay unspotted from the world." But you know, there's a phrase before this. And we think that's not as important. Then why did James write it down? It has to be as important. …to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. We have a responsibility to other members of our family – we talked about our physical family, but our spiritual, too – to connect and give honor to the fatherless, the widow. We have a responsibility to do that.

We have a third area. Now this is where you can teach your children. You say, "How do I teach children agape? How do I teach children peace and love? How do I teach children goodness and all those things?" Well, you start by teaching them things to do.

The earliest stages of child development is what? Teaching children how to do something. You don't teach a three-year-old algebra. I don't even understand algebra. What do you teach them? Red block, blue block, right? Red block, blue block. And then they see a purple car and they say, "Blue." "No." "Block." "No." "Do this." You teach them exact facts and you teach them to do something. When God calls us, that's exactly where He starts. And it's those facts and that doing that becomes part of who we are. We get to more complicated things. We're in the most complicated things Christianity is all about. We're into the most complicated ideas of what Christianity is all about.

Leviticus 19:32 Leviticus 19:32You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.
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– this is what you teach children. Our third point is here in Leviticus 19:32 Leviticus 19:32You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.
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.

Leviticus 19:32 Leviticus 19:32You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.
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You shall rise before the gray headed, and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God. I am the LORD. It is a command to honor elderly people. That is something that our society looks on as unimportant.

I'm in the law, by the way. Right? Leviticus is the law. We make a mistake when we ignore everything except the Ten Commandments. I mean, you and I don't eat pork. Now there are certain laws we don't do, because they're ceremonial or they had to do specifically with the nation of Israel. You had to have a nation. Some of the laws were punishments. We don't have to do the punishments. But all the rest of them, we're supposed to do. We're supposed find out the application. We have to honor elderly people. It's a command. So you can teach your children agape by teaching them how to honor. That's why children running after church services, or whatever…. Running isn't bad. They can go outside and run in the park. Right? There's a park right here with swings. The problem is, you can knock over somebody. Honor those people. It's a command. It's part of how you teach them agape. If you teach your children that, they have an easier way of understanding as they get older.

We are to give aid to those who are sick and in poverty.

James – it's interesting…well, let's go there. James, chapter 2. You know, Jesus told one of the Pharisees – He said – "When you have a party, don't just invite your friends. Invite other people, too. Invite the outcasts." And that doesn't mean that you should go out and invite all the outcasts off the street into your home. That's not wise. But I have to ask you, "Is there anyone you think is an outcast in this congregation?" I hope not. If there is, next time you have dinner party, invite them. Invite that person. James 2, verse 14 – remember James is writing to the church.

James 2:14 James 2:14What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
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What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace. Be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. This would break down into how we are to reach out to people who have trials. Remember, the core concept is, "I wish to understand you. I wish to know your needs. What can I do for you?"

Now, there's a time when all of us need somebody to do something for us. What's amazing is, if you're doing that, the opposite will happen. One of the hardest things I've had to learn in my life is to let other people do things for me. You know, it was hard for me to get to the place where, if I was out at dinner, and someone said, "Here, I'll buy," "Oh no, no, no." "Oh, I'll buy – let me buy." "No!" "Let me buy." "No!" "I just want to do something good for you." "You can't do anything good for me!" And there are times now that I have to say, "Let the other person do good." Now, every once in a while, I mean, I take my turns, too. I did that recently. "No, I get to do it." And then I'm like all happy. "Wow!" And then you look and say, "Whoa, I wish they'd picked another restaurant." (Laughter) But, you know, there is a joy in being able to say, "Let me do this," but you have to let other people have the joy, too! That's what this is all about. It's not just about, "Okay, I'm going to spend my life fulfilling everybody else's needs." You'll burn out. We're not designed to do that. You know, it's interesting. God says, "You know, I have some needs, too." Now God's needs aren't like ours. If He doesn't get them fulfilled, He's still happy. God says, "I want you to worship Me." He expects us to do it. He expects us to sing to Him. Think of all the things He could do. "I want ninety percent of your income." Nah, just ten percent. Think about all the demands He could make. And it's, "I just want you to sing to Me! I just want you to pray – to come talk – to Me, but I have to command you to do it. I want you to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and I command you to rejoice!" Boy, do we have this messed up! He has to command us to rejoice.

We're to give aid to those who are sick and in poverty. We're to aid those who are in trials. And Paul says, in Galatians, "Bear one another's burdens." We're also to be hospitable to strangers – when somebody walks in here, but also any stranger you come across. Remember when I talked about kindness? When we're truly kind, it's just who we are. We just open doors for people. We pick up things when they drop it. We're just kind.

One last way that you and I can both teach our children and ourselves to do things that are developing, in a practical sense, agape. It's found in Luke 2. The idea that we can and should pray for each other. "Forgive my sins as I forgive those who sin against me." Can you imagine, every time someone did something wrong against you, the first thing you did was go to God and say, "Please forgive me of my sins. And please forgive so and so for sinning against me." That would change you remarkably. I've had anger against people in my life that the only way I gave it up was that I had to go to God and say, "Please forgive them. Just, maybe, make them get leprosy or something, but just please forgive them." No, "God, please forgive them, because they sinned against me and I can forgive them for that." But they sinned against God when they sinned. You know, all sin is against God. And that means they have to repent before God. I find myself giving up the anger, because I actually ask God, "Please, please bring that person to repentance before You, because if not, that person will pay a terrible penalty, and I don't want them to anymore. Just bring them to repentance."

Intercessory prayer – Luke 2:36 Luke 2:36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
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. You say, "I'm an older person and I can't serve anymore. How do I show agape? Everybody has to do everything for me." Older people will tell me quite a bit, "Well, I'm an older person now." People even older than me will say, "I can't help anybody anymore. Maybe I'm homebound and everybody has to call me or send me a card. I just feel like I can't help. And I feel bad." Well, there are different stages in life where we do different things. Here's an interesting one – verse 36:

Luke 2:36 Luke 2:36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
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Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant – this is when they bring Jesus into the temple – she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. How would you like to have your name in the Bible? Do you know how few people actually get their name in the Bible? Here's a woman whose name in the Bible is there for one thing. She was an older woman who served God with prayer and fasting in the temple all the time. You say, "Well, I can't fast much. I've got health problems." Then fast for four hours. Serve God with prayer and fasting in however you can do it. And pray for other people. Do not underestimate the power of prayer in changing you! As you pray to God for His will – as was mentioned in the sermonette – and you pray for other people, it not only…God will answer those prayers, many times, in their lives, but it changes who you are as you pray for other people.

One of my favorite passages…Samuel is just, to me, a fascinating character in the Bible, but the way he says this in 1 Samuel 12…. So this is our last point here – this intercessory prayer – praying for other people. 1 Samuel 12. What happened was…of course, the people had asked for a king, and then they realized they had done something wrong. They shouldn't have done it. And they go to Samuel and they say, "Well, what do we do now?" Verse 19:

1 Samuel 12:19 1 Samuel 12:19And all the people said to Samuel, Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we die not: for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
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All the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all of our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves." They didn't want to do it the way that God had said to do it. Remember, when we went through the book of Judges in that series of Bible studies last year, it was hard to live under the time of the judges. There was no central government. There was no legislature. There was no king. All they had was a judiciary system – that's it! – and priests. They had a worship system and a judiciary system. That was it. It was a difficult system to live under because it required every person to live by the rule of law. They couldn't do it. They couldn't live by the rule of law. So he says – verse 20:

V-20 – Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart." He says, "Okay, you're going to get a king. You still have to obey God! You're still going to have to do His ways. Your lives will still depend on what you do, not the king."

V-21 – "And do not turn aside, for then you will go after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing." He said, "You'll keep thinking happiness comes with empty things." It's part of the reason, when I talked about joy two weeks ago, we think fun and happiness are the same thing. Fun is fun! Fun's great! But fun always ends. The roller coaster ride always ends. Happiness is what you do after the roller coaster ride – or throw up. (Chuckles)

V-22 – "For the LORD will not forsake His people for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people." He said, "God's not going to let you go. You're His people." Now, if He said that to physical people, how much is that promise to you and me today – still? We're God's spiritual people. We have God's Spirit! We have the ability to live forever, if we'll just stay with God! He can take it away, but that's not what He wants to do – for His name's sake. Can you imagine? How do you bring people into God's family during the millennium if there's nobody there to be in the first resurrection? Well, there's nobody to resurrect – just a handful of people. Everybody else failed. Boy, that's going to prove the greatness of God, right? The greatness of God is proved by our success! So God, for His name's sake…He may drag us there kicking and screaming, but He'll get us there unless we rebel against Him, unless we give it up, unless we refuse to have this character developed in us – for His name's sake. But verse 23 – then Samuel makes this personal comment:

V-23 –"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you. But I will teach you the good and the right way. Samuel actually says, "It would be a sin for me not to pray for you." It's a sin for us when we do not pray for each other, when we don't intercede for people who are sinning and need help, or people who are sick and need help, or people who are without a job and need help, or people who have done something wrong against us and need repentance. We are to pray for them.

Intercessory prayer – teach your children that and, when they get older, it's going to be a big change in their lives – to spend time praying for other people.

When we look at the nine fruits of the Spirit that are listed by the apostle Paul, they seem overwhelming. I mean, we can never do this! That's right. On your own – on my own – we can never do that. God called you to do this in you. God called you to do this in you! This is why you're here! This is why you understand things that other people don't understand. This is why, when you try to tell your neighbor that you don't keep Easter, they think you're nuts! Because God called you to do this in you – to create the character of Jesus Christ. Remember, during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we have to partake of Jesus Christ. Right? He lives in us. And, in living in us, this is what we become. Remember, it's impossible to develop them on your own. But God wants you – remember, we read that scripture in the very first of these sermons – God want you to bear much fruit.

These seven sermons were part of a whole different…I'll be giving some different sermons over the next few months, because I want to go back to…and this is the reason why I've been giving these sermons and some of the other ones I'll be giving. Remember back before the Passover, I said that we had a passage of scripture that was going to be our motto for this year. We'll get a different one the next Passover – a different Passover – we'll have a different passage come then. But this is still the passage that we, as a group, are working on for this year. And these fruits of the Spirit are part of what God is trying to us do. So I want to finish by reminding you of this. Many of you probably forgot that we actually have a motto that we've been working on. Somebody made it a nice bookmark, so that's how I have mine here. Actually, this is my wife's. I stole it. I have to now repent of that. It was on her desk this morning and I picked it up. Philippians 1:9-11 Philippians 1:9-11 [9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
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– our motto for this year.

Philippians 1:9-11 Philippians 1:9-11 [9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
American King James Version×
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge, in all discernment – we still have a lot to talk about in discernment, by the way – we've got a lot of discernment sermons over the next few months – that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere – this is coming from who you really are – you're not just play-acting – second, third, fourth generation Christians can do this because you're play-acting – this has to be from the core of who you are – and without offense – without sin – you truly are being forgiven and you're overcoming – till the day of Christ – till that second coming – being filled with the fruits of righteousness – being filled with the very things we've been talking about – which are by Jesus Christ – you can't do it yourself – He has to do as we submit – now we have work to do in it – if you don't do your work, it won't get done, but it's because we submit to Him – to the glory and the praise of Almighty God. 

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