Podcast Part 1: Make it personal
Read Romans 12:2, but personalize it as if Paul is writing to you: [YOUR NAME], do not be conformed to this world, but [YOUR NAME] be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Know the Terms: Conform, Set apart, transformed, renewing
We might know what these words mean in everyday conversation, but in the context of Scripture, what do they mean?
The word conform means that we will comply with the rules, standards, or laws in our world. That is conforming in a positive way. God expects us to obey the laws of our land, unless they go against His laws. God’s laws will always supersede any law man makes.
The word can also mean, “behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards”. This is the conforming we should not do. Remember when your mother used to say, “And if everyone else jumps off the bridge, will you jump with them”? If you did, you would be conforming to what everyone is doing, even if it is wrong. You would be conforming, even if it cost you your life.
Most of us would agree we would not jump off a bridge just because everyone else is doing it. But what about sex before marriage? Or what about homosexual marriage? What about alcohol, smoking, or abusing drugs? What about the way we dress or talk? How about the way we use technology? What about what we post and say on social media? Or what about what movies and TV shows we watch? And how about the way we view other people? Are we conforming to the world in these – or other – ways?
As Christians, we have been set apart from the world. We have been set apart for fellowship with God. We have been set apart to be holy, because God is holy. Therefore, you can’t be “Set apart from” and “conforming to” the world at the same time. God doesn’t want us to look like, smell like, act like, and talk like the world. Instead, He wants us to bear His image. God wants us to look like Him, smell like Him, act like Him, and talk like Him.
Both of my children look enough like me that you would know they belong to me. However, my daughter is a mini version of me. I have photos of us side by side at the same age and the only way those photos give away which one is me is the difference in the style of clothes from one era to the other. As a child of God, we should look so much like him that if you put your photo next to Him it would be hard to tell the two apart. We should be continually transforming into the glory of God. So how do we keep ourselves from conforming to the world while living in the world?
From a Biblical standpoint, to be transformed requires a change or renewal from a life of sin marked by being conformed to the ways of the world to a Godly life that mirrors God’s image and therefore is pleasing to Him. Any time a spiritual transformation has taken place it will exhibit itself in our outward words and actions. Colossians 1:10 says that if we are going to live a life pleasing to God and worth of the Lord, then we must be fruitful in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. That’s being transformed. Ephesians 2:13 is another example of a person being transformed. This verse says: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The Greek word for renewing is anakainosis and means renovation or to restore. So when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Christ, He does a renovation within us. When something is renovated it is restored to either it’s former state or to a better state. As a Christian, we are not renovated to our former state, which is a sinner who is lost without Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work within us to renovate us to a better state – a holy state. He is transforming us from unrighteous to righteous.
Three ways to not conform to the world
We are a new creation
As a child of God, we became a new creation the moment we accepted Christ as our Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Before we were a Christian, we were ruled by the things of this world. And the ruler of this world is Satan. Jesus told us in John 8:44 who our father is when we conform to the world. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” So before salvation, our spiritual Father is Satan.
As a child of God, we are now heirs with Christ and we are ruled by our Heavenly Father, God. That makes us different than the world. We no longer “fit in” because we have been “set apart” from the world.
Set apart for a reason
God set us apart from the world for a reason. He expects us to be Light bearers. Since the Light of the World lives in us, we should shine His light into the darkness of the world. We should serves as a beacon to draw others to Him. But if we keep His Light hidden and we chose to live as the world, then the world sees nothing different about us. So if we are not going to conform to this world, we need to remember that we are a new creation in Christ. We no longer fit in with the world. Instead, we are set apart as heirs with Christ and bear His Light throughout the world.
Feast on the Word of God
There is a reason Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. Bread was a staple in the diets of Bible day people. It filled them up and kept them from feeling hungry. It gave them physical life. Jesus gives us eternal life but He also keeps our spiritual selves satisfied and filled. If we are not going to feel hungry, we have to keep feeding ourselves. The same is true for our spiritual selves. In John 6, Jesus said, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”.
Are you still filling up on milk or are you enjoying solid food?
In Hebrews 5:12, Paul told the Christians, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”. We learn the basic principles by reading and studying God’s Word, meditating on it, asking the Holy Spirit how we need to apply it, and then being obedient and living it out. The only way to fill ourselves spiritually so that we are not spiritually starving is to feast on the Word of God. If we are not filling up with His Word, we will turn to the world and fill up on the things of this world.
If you are like me when the big family and holiday dinners come around, you look eagerly at the desserts and plan which ones you’ll sample. But after you eat the meal and your belly is full, the desserts don’t have quite as much appeal. They are less of a temptation as then did were before you filled up on the healthier items. The same is true with spiritual hunger. If we fill up on the Word of God the temptations of the world don’t hold the same appeal. So feat on the Word of God to keep form conforming to the world.
Just say, “No!” – it doesn’t really work
Some years ago an anti-drug campaign ran the slogan of “Just say no”. It makes it sound quite simple, doesn’t it? We could run the same campaign for anti-world-conforming. But it isn’t always easy to “just say no.” Why? Satan studies us. He knows us well. He knows what tempts us and what doesn’t. He’s not going to tempt us with things that we’ll easily say no to. He tempts us with the salted-caramel cheesecake (or whatever you’re likely to say yes to). If you know there is an area of temptation that you struggle with, it can be a good idea to avoid it all together. Maybe that means you have to go a few miles out of the way so you don’t pass the bakery on the way home. However, if what tempts you isn’t available easily, then it holds less power.
Make an exchange
Just saying no also doesn’t work when saying no to what tempts you isn’t replaced with saying yes to something that honors God. If you want to avoid conforming to this world, you have to replace the world’s way of life with God’s way of life. Removing something from our life creates a hole where that something used to be. So we have to fill that hole in with something else and that something should honor God. So I have to exchange my worldly habits with Godly disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, fellowship with other believers, listening to sermons, witnessing, loving others the way God loves them (including our enemies), and being salt and light to the world.
Resisting temptation to conform requires God’s strength and power
Just saying no sounds like a good idea but when we are saying no under our own strength and power, we’re likely to fail every time. But when we ask God to give us his strength and power, we are more likely to be victorious. Jesus understood this. When he was tempted, he defeated the temptations by quoting scripture. This is why it is so important to study and memorize God’s Word. It is the power we need to avoid conforming to the world.
World conforming vs. God conforming
Conforming to the world is so much easier than conforming to God. Why? Because we are born in sin. Our natural tendencies are to live like the world because Satan is our Father until we surrender our lives to Christ. Then God adopts us into His family and we have to then do what doesn’t come natural to us.
All of us want to fit in. We don’t really like sticking out in the crowd. We don’t like being made fun of or talked about. But when you stick out, that exactly what tends to happen. But as Jesus hung on the cross suspended between earth and heaven, He stuck out of the crowd for us even to the point of death. God calls us to be set apart for His service and the world that is lost and dying without Him is depending us not conforming to their way of life, but to bring the Light of the World and the Bread of Life to their spiritually starving souls.
Evidence that transformation is occurring
Spiritual transformation produces fruit that gives evidence that transformation is occurring. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we should demonstrate and increasing and growing reflection of the likeness of Christ and His glory. The more we grow to be like Him, the more we should exhibit His qualities and characteristics in our lives. These include: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Each of these should show a steady and continuous growth and the more they are evident in our lives the more transformation has occurred. We should never cease being transformed until we reach heaven.
Where do we get the power for a transformed life?
When we become a child of God, the Holy Spirit moves in and takes up residence within us. Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit that works within us that is transforming us, growing us, and developing our image into the likeness of Christ. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no way we would have the power to transform ourselves. It is the work of the Holy Spirit within who transforms us. We are not capable of transforming ourselves.
When does transformation begin and end?
Our transformed lives begins with the hearing of the gospel which leads us to salvation. At the moment of salvation, we “put off our old, sinful self” and put on a new self that is created in the likeness of God (Ephesians 4:22-24). As we study God’s Word, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us, fellowship with other believers, attend church, pray, and apply God’s Word to our lives, we are being transformed more and more. James 1:22 says that we are to be “doers” of the Word and not “hearers” only. You can’t be transformed just by reading or hearing the Word. You must allow the Holy Spirit to direct you in how to apply the Word to your life and do what it says. The doing is the transformation.
Peter’s Final Instructions
In 2 Peter 1:3-11, just before his death, Peter gave some last words about being transformed. He said, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. If we are to live out our transformed lives then we must give diligence to “add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Podcast Part 2: Spiritual transformation check
In part 1 of this podcast on Romans 12:2, we examined the words, conform, set apart, transformed and renewed. We learned that we are not to conform to this world because as a child of God we have been set apart from the world and the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of God. He renews our hearts and minds from our old, sinful self into a holy, righteous child of God.
How much are you being transformed? To answer this question, let’s Look back through the fruit of the Spirit, which included: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Then look back at Peter’s final words to us in 2 Peter 1:3-11 on living a transformed life. In these verses, we find the list that we must give diligence to, which included faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love. How evident are these in your life? Which ones do you need to work on making more evident? Ask the Holy Spirit to transform you in each of these so that you may become more like the image of Christ. The more evident they are in your life and to the world, the more spiritual transformation has taken place.
The renewing of our minds
Why must our minds be renewed? Every word, emotion, attitude, or action begins in the mind. It’s no wonder, then, that its the mind the Holy Spirit transforms and renews. That means that the renovation process is internal. Certainly there is an external renovation too, but that is more of a by-product of the internal work the Holy Spirit is doing within our minds. As He renews and renovates our minds, our language changes, the way we dress changes, the way we treat others changes. However those are outward evidences of the internal renewal process and they will not present themselves without the internal renewing of our minds that is done through the work of the Holy Spirit.
What’s wrong with our minds?
The Bible has a far more profound analysis of the problem. In Ephesians 4:23 Paul uses a similar phrase. He says, “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Now, what in the world is that? “The spirit of your mind.” It means at least this: the human mind is not a sophisticated computer managing data, which it then faithfully presents to the heart for appropriate emotional responses.
The mind has a “spirit.” In other words, our mind has what we call a “mindset.” It doesn’t just have a view, it has a viewpoint. It doesn’t just have the power to perceive and detect; it also has a posture, a demeanor, a bearing, an attitude, a bent.
The problem with our minds is not merely that we are finite, and don’t have all the information. The problem is that our minds are fallen. They have a spirit, a bent, a mindset that is hostile to the absolute supremacy of God. Our minds are bent on not seeing God as infinitely more worthy of praise than we are, or the things we make or achieve.
Our minds have three problems: it has a hostile and fallen viewpoint, it is ignorant of God, and it is futile.
A Hostile, fallen viewpoint
We can have all the education in the world and more wisdom the Solomon, but our minds are still fallen. Even as wise as Solomon was, we find in 1 Kings 11:4, “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” Solomon started out well, but he allowed his many wives to turn his heart and mind away from God.
How does this happen? In it’s natural state, the mind has a spirit that is bent against the things of God. Our minds are naturally hostile to the sovereignty of God. Our mind’s chose to ignore the holiness of God and refuses to give Him the praise that is due Him. By nature, we do not have God-worshiping minds. We have self-worshiping minds. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”
Debased, reprobate minds
Paul wrote in Romans 1:28, “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.” Some translations use the word, “reprobate” rather than debased. The Greek word translated “reprobate” in the New Testament literally means, “unapproved, that is, rejected; by implication, worthless (literally or morally).”By nature, our minds are debased. They are unapproved by God and rejected. Because of sin, our minds are literally and morally worthless. So the Holy Spirit must transform and renew our mind.
Jannes and Jambres
Paul describes two men in 2 Timothy 3:8 as those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Here the reprobation is regarding the resistance to the truth because of corrupt minds. In Titus 1:16, Paul also refers to those whose works are reprobate: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” Therefore, the reprobate mind is one that is corrupt and worthless.
A Debased, reprobate mind lives impure lives
People who are classified as having a reprobate mind have some knowledge of God and perhaps know of His commandments. However, they live impure lives and have very little desire to please God. Those who have reprobate minds live corrupt and selfish lives. Sin is justified and acceptable to them. The reprobates are those whom God has rejected and has left to their own devices.
We do not want to see God as worthy of knowing well and treasuring above all things. You know this is true about yourself because of how little effort you expend to know him, and because of how much effort it takes to make your mind spend any time getting to know God better.
The Bible says we have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1:23). And the image in the mirror is the mortal image we worship most.
Can a Christian have a reprobate mind?
Someone who has sincerely accepted Jesus Christ by faith will not have this mindset because the old person with a reprobate mind has been recreated into a new creation: “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are basically “new” people. We live differently and speak differently. Our world is centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and how we can serve Him. Also, if we are truly in the faith, we will have the Holy Spirit to help us live a God-honoring life (John 14:26). Those with reprobate minds do not have the Spirit and live only for themselves.
Ignorance of God
There is an ignorance of God — a willful suppression of the truth of God (Romans 1:18) — that makes us slaves to many passions and desires that would lose their power if we knew God as we ought (1 Thessalonians 4:5). “The passions of your former ignorance.” In Ephesians 4:22, Paul calls these passions, “deceitful desires.”
They are life-ruining, worship-destroying desires, and they get their life and their power from the deceit of our minds. There is a kind of knowledge of God — a renewal of mind — that transforms us because it liberates us from the deceit and the power of alien passions.
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:13-14, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” Before the Holy Spirit begins transforming us and renewing our mind, there is an ignorance of God because we choose to suppress the truth of God. We’d rather live our way than God’s.
Ignorant or not, God still holds us accountable
If you have ever used the statement “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission” then you understand what Peter was talking about. We think that if we do something in ignorance we can get away with it, but if we ask for permission and are told no then there are higher consequences for our actions if we do it anyway. So we choose ignorance over truth. However, God will still hold us accountable and if we choose to stay ignorant, we will stay lost in our sin and spend eternity in hell. So the Holy Spirit transforms and renews our mind by shining God’s truths into our ignorance which breaks the power of the deceit of our minds.
Futility of the mind
Not only do our minds have a hostile, fallen viewpoint but they are also futile. In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” Futility of mind is when a person is forever and always trying to figure out how to be happy, while he is an enemy of God. Futility is the way of the world; they are full of thoughts that are empty, vain, and useless. Yet as Christians we are to put away futility of mind.
The Root Cause of a futile mind
Paul then goes on to explain the futile mind saying, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.” Then Paul gives the root cause of a futile mind. He says, “due to their hardness of heart. Here is the deepest disease, infecting everything else. Our mental suppression of liberating truth is rooted in our hardness of heart. Our hard hearts will not submit to the supremacy of Christ, and therefore our blind minds cannot see the supremacy of Christ. Jesus said in John 7:17, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
The result of a hardened heart
We find the result of a hardened heart in verse 19: “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” A hardened heart will poison our minds against anything of God, creating a inner pandemic of infection called sin. The more we impose our will over God’s will the harder our heart will become and the more we will suppress the truth of God. A hardened heart refuses to submit to the will of God and therefore we become blind to the truth of God.
From Ephesians 4:17-19, we find a description of the person who is going to hell. This is the person without the Spirit, without salvation. This is person who is lost. And this is the how every person comes into this world. That’s how we were before we were saved. By nature, it is how man is. We all were children of wrath. We all were these unregenerate, without the Spirit, hell bound, without God, without hope kind of people. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10 tells us that there is none who are righteous.
Futile minds and hard hearts need the power of the Holy Spirit
Our minds are futile. Our hearts are hardened against God. And they need the power of the Holy Spirit to renew them. Our thinking must be changed (transformed) from old, ungodly ways of thinking into new, godly ways of thinking. What we know in our minds to be true forms a conviction in our hearts of that truth, and that conviction in our hearts translates into action. Therefore, we must first renew our minds.
How are our minds renewed?
First, before we can do anything, a double action of the Holy Spirit is required. And then we join him in these two actions. This word “renewal” in Romans 12:2 is only used one other place in all the Greek Bible, namely, Titus 3:5 where Paul says this: “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit renews the mind. It is first and decisively his work. We are radically dependent on him. Our efforts follow his initiatives and enablings.
The mind is renewed by steadfastly gazing at the glories of Christ for what they really are. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit must do a double work
Working outside in
But to enable us to do that, the Spirit must do a double work. He must work in two directions: from the outside in and from the inside out. He must work from the outside in by exposing the mind to Christ-exalting truth. That is, he must lead us to hear the gospel, to read the Bible, to study Christ-exalting writings of great, spiritual men, and to meditate on the perfections of Christ.
This is exactly what our great enemy does not want us to do according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Because to see that for what it really is, Paul says, will renew the mind and transform the life and produce unending worship.
Working inside out
The Spirit must also work from the inside out, breaking the hard heart that blinds and corrupts the mind. The Spirit must work from the outside in, through Christ-exalting truth, and from the inside out, through truth-embracing humility. If he only worked from the outside in, by presenting Christ-exalting truth to our minds but not breaking the hard heart and making it humble, then the truth would be despised and rejected. And if he only humbled the hard heart, but put no Christ-exalting truth before the mind, there would be no Christ to embrace and no worship would happen.
What is our part in renewing our minds?
What then do we do in obedience to Romans 12:2, “Be transformed in the renewal of your mind”? We join the Holy Spirit in his precious and all-important work. We pursue Christ-exalting truth and we pray for truth-embracing humility.
Read your Bible from cover to cover always in search of the revelation of the glory of Christ. Read and ponder the Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting writings of great, spiritual men and women. And form the habit of meditating on the perfections of Christ. And in it all pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit will renew your mind, that you may desire and approve the will of God, so that all of life will become worship to the glory of Christ.
- If you long to break loose from conformity to the world,
- If you long to be transformed and new from the inside out,
- And if you long to be free from mere duty-driven Christianity,
- If you long to offer up your body as a living sacrifice so that your whole life becomes a spiritual act of worship and displays the worth of Christ above the worth of the world,
then give yourself with all your might to pursuing this — the renewal of your mind. Because the Bible says, this is the key to transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
By testing you may discern
Now, let us breakdown what Paul meant when he wrote “that by testing you may discern.” What are we to test and how does testing help us discern? Let’s first look at “testing.”
Personally, for me the word, “test” should fall into the “Four-letter word” category – you know – those words we aren’t supposed to say. I’m not a good test taker. Test anxiety is a real thing and while I have a mild version of it, I’ve seen people who really get hung up over taking tests. But that’s not what’s meant here, so if you get test anxiety, go ahead and relax.
There’s another idea about “testing.” It’s the idea of your kids testing your very last nerve to see what they can get away with. We all, at times, want to test out our boundaries, but that isn’t the idea here either.
Where the English Standard Version (ESV) uses the words, “testing” and “discern,” the King James Bible uses the word “prove.” So when I looked the word up in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, to find the Greek word used, I looked under the word “prove.” The Greek word is dokimazo and means to allow, discern, examine. It is a verb that means we are to scrutinize to see whether something is genuine or not and only after examination is it approved and deemed worthy. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)
The Greek word for “discern,” is diakrisis. It means to separate thoroughly. If we are going to discern the things of God, then our minds must be transformed and renewed. Without the work of the Holy Spirit within us, we would still be discerning according to the world standards. But God want us to be thoroughly separated from the world’s view.
Two ways to discern
This word gives the idea that we are to discriminate against the world’s way of life and prefer God’s way of life. We are to determine and judge what is good, acceptable and perfect will of God. There are two ways this can occur. One is through Bible study. God wants us to know what is acceptable to Him. He wants us to know His perfect will. So He gave us the Bible and within its pages is everything God wanted us to know about Him and how He wants us to live.
The second way we can discern what is good, acceptable and perfect will of God is through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. It is His job to reveal to us what God’s will is. It is also his job to convict us when we step outside of God’s will. So when we listen for the still, small voice of His prompting, He will guide to as we discern what is good and acceptable.
The world will always steer us in the wrong direction because the world is ruled by Satan. So don’t allow the world to conform you to it’s patterns and ways of life. Instead allow the Holy Spirit to transform you by renovating your mind to be more like the mind of Christ. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
What’s Inside God, Love and Marshmallow Wars?
God, Love and Marshmallow Wars is a book that includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:
- Scripture to memorize and meditate on.
- Conversation Starters.
- Concepts from the Bible on Godly marriages.
- Romance Builders.
- Relationship Builders.
- Personal reflections.
- Date ideas.
- Group date ideas for you and other Christian couples.
Available in hardback, paperback and ebook from Westbow Press Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Click the icons below to purchase from your preferred bookstore. Now also available at WalMart online.
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