How God Judges the World Today (Romans 1:24-32)

Monday, September 14th, 2015
Sermon Series: Romans, Tough Stuff

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How God Judges the World Today

God gives people over to sin–Romans 1:24 to 32

Every person in this room and each person on this planet knows they will face God in judgment. Whether you are saved or lost, you intrinsically know you will answer to God for your life. Jesus says in John 16:8, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world–not merely Christians, not just the family of God, but all men know judgment is coming. Every person alive knows internally God is going to judge them.

You say, “I better start living better, doing more good deeds, and giving away my wealth.” No friends, that is a mistake. Just one bad thought, one lie, one heart of hate, one expression of anger, one desire of envy or lust–just one will condemn you before a holy God. You are in trouble. Eternal Hell awaits all who have sinned just once, and we all have—me and you.

The only solution for our sin is for it to be judged already. And that’s what Christ came to do for His own. Christ was punished for the sins of His children on the cross. And Christ gives His children His perfect, righteous standing with God so we can actually enter the joy of Heaven and be a friend of God now. You must turn from your sin, confess your sin, hate your sin, and surrender your entire life in dependent faith to Christ to avoid future judgment and eternal Hell.

But what about now–we know God will judge in the future. Does God ever judge people now, in this life? And what happens to Christ followers, and to the true Church of Christ who live during a time of judgment, and in the midst of a society where God judges? Like today, with you and me and with FBC–if God is judging society now, what’s going to happen to churches who believe what we’ve been teaching this summer in our series on Tough Stuff, concluding today?

What have we learned from God’s Word? That the church is a true worshipping, serving, discipling community demanding our intimate participation, in contrast to so many who see their role in the church merely as a spectator? That singles are a crucial part of the ministry of the church and have the unique ability to enjoy undistracted devotion to Christ. That racism is evil and we must put it to death in all its forms. That contrary to popular science and evolutionary theory, God actually created this world in six 24-hour literal days.

That homosexuality is sin. Homosexuals are not a classification of people who deserve rights–they’re just another type of sinner deserving wrath. We love them, but we can’t water down their sin and make it acceptable because it will keep them from salvation and from Heaven. That God is completely sovereign in salvation, so it is not “pray this prayer”, or “make this decision at camp”, but call people to cry out to God, like the beggar who was so broken over his sin he couldn’t even lift his eyes to Heaven, but cried out, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13).

That God takes sin very seriously and calls us to deal with it in our own lives and to actually lovingly confront it in each other’s lives. Never judging motives, but confronting defiant behavior in each other’s lives. That God hates the sin of idolatry and addiction to pornography, as it robs us of the blessings God intended for His children. That God designed work for His children even before the fall, and that hard work is a blessing to His children, even in the midst of a lazy, entitled, what’s in it for me culture.

That God designed the sign gifts for the apostolic age as the Church was being established, before the Bible was written and in use. That the focus on sign gifts today is a distraction from Christ. God’s Word has been very direct and very pointed. When you believe those obvious truths in our day, people begin to look at you like you’re a Nazi–society now sees Bible-believing Christians the same way they looked at apartheid. Christians are viewed as hateful bigots to be disdained.

So what do we do as a church, and what do you do as a Christian when living in a society that disdains Christians and true churches? And if God is judging this nation, what happens to Christians in the midst of God judging the USA that we are a part of? If God is judging the planet and we live here, are we spared, or are we judged too, now before eternity?

For the answer to that, open your Bibles to Romans 1:24 to 32, and take your outline for this section of God’s Word explains what God is doing today. This passage explains what we see on the evening news. It tells us why we read about horrors on our favorite websites. These verses spell out why there’s so much wickedness today. But in order for us to understand what God says here in this section, we must first grasp the context in which they are found.

We’re looking at the first major section in Romans beginning in chapter 1, verse 18, which warns us about God’s wrath against sin. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

In this powerful courtroom scene, Paul has just told us in verses 19 to 23 why God’s wrath is being poured out against sinful mankind. Why is God angry? Because every human being that has ever walked this planet has seen the unmistakable clues of one Creator. And God made sure those clues resonate in everyone’s heart so everyone everywhere knows without a doubt there is a God, who is both all-powerful and worthy of their worship (verses 19 to 20).

But rather than responding to the truth that’s painted all over the planet, unbelievers push the truth down whenever they sense it rising to the surface of their conscience. They repress it, then they reject it (verse 21). Why? Because the truth of God threatens their autonomy. It exposes their sinfulness, it threatens to cramp their lifestyle, and it makes them morally responsible for their actions. So unbelievers replace the truth with alternative belief systems, religion, science, and personal theories that don’t require repentance.

Verse 23–that’s why Paul says every unbeliever everywhere who continues to repress the truth until the end of his life will stand guilty without excuse on the Day of Judgment (verse 20). No one will ever accuse God of being unjust when He condemns them to Hell, because they knew there was a God who was worthy of their worship. No matter what they say, they know He is there.

I can hear some of you saying, “That’s unfair!” And you’d be right–it would be unfair if anyone, anywhere deserved eternal life in Heaven. But we don’t. IF God didn’t reveal Himself to unbelievers continually through creation, conscience, and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit–but He does. And if God hadn’t commanded believers everywhere to share the good news to everyone worldwide–but He did.

Now, in verses 24 to 32, God through Paul will tell us how God’s wrath is being revealed against sin–not later, but now. What God says here is incredibly frightening. Look at what God does in verses 24, 26, and 28. Verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts.” Verse 26, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.” Verse 28, “God gave them over to a depraved mind.” What exactly does that mean? What does it mean when God gives someone over?

#1  The DESCRIPTION of God giving over

The Greek word for “gave over” is paradidomai, and it’s an intense verb! It’s used in the New Testament of giving one’s body to be burned, three times of Jesus giving Himself up to death, of men being committed to prison, and of rebellious angels being condemned to pits of darkness.

Giving over is a vehement, intense action of God against sin. You see, God giving people over is not like tossing a drinking glass into outer space so it can float away. But God giving over is like tossing a drinking glass into the air–for once it’s released, the law of gravity takes over and it will eventually land and shatter. When God gives over, the pain is coming. God giving over leads to certain fierce consequences–why? Because of four different truths of this frightening action by God. What does it mean when God gives someone over?

First  God is punishing sin now, not later

We know unbelievers who keep resisting the truth must face ultimate condemnation. But some of you were thinking, as I have, “What about all these truth rejecters in the meantime–right now?” What about the 20-year-old truth repressor, who theoretically has another forty years to rebel against God and lie about God? What should a holy God do in the meantime to a committed truth defier?

The answer–when God gives people over, He’s actually punishing them for their sin now. He is allowing people to reap the results of their own choices now. Timing is in focus here. If God gives you over, it means He’s letting you have what you think you want now. God is saying, “You asked for it, you got it! You can go and really make a mess of your life and I’ll not stop you. You have a choice to follow me or follow your own desires–so go ahead, follow your feelings, urges, wants and self-will. But understand, you will suffer the consequences if you go your way.”

This is the wrath of God Paul described for us back in verse 18–remember what he said. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Paul says God’s wrath is being revealed, present tense, meaning it is continually happening right now. You can see it.

When I was a kid, I lit Kleenex on fire. Anyone ever done that? There was immediate consequence–I was burned. Dumb! And there was later judgment when my dad came home. God is not talking about Judgment Day here. He’s not talking about Hell in the future, but what is happening right now. When God gives someone over, He’s allowing people to do their own thing–and when they reap the results of their actions, that’s the wrath of God in their life.

That’s why we can see the wrath of God everywhere–locally in broken homes, divorce, premarital sex, pornography, drugs. And nationally, as John Mac said, via two terrorist acts, not done by extremists, but by our own Supreme Court which overstepped their bounds as a court–through 1) the legalized murder of infants, and 2) just recently, destroying God’s design for marriage via same-sex marriage. That’s the wrath of God, friends.

The wrath of God is when we get ourselves in a mess, and God doesn’t bail us out. We reap what we sow. As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” God says, “Unbeliever, don’t think you can get drunk and not say or do dumb things, take drugs and not get addicted, cheat on your spouse and not destroy your marriage, or watch porn and think it won’t affect you.” God says, “My wrath is being revealed now in consequences.”

Some of you have had a hard week, month, year or life, and you wonder at times how come that unbeliever is doing so well? They look like they are doing great. Remember Christians, that’s the outside, not their heart. They’re paying a price for their sin–their inner man is dying under the consequences of their sin. What else does “God gave them over” mean?

Second  God is punishing sin with more SIN

The type of punishment is in focus here. God doesn’t have to send fire and brimstone down on us, because the effect of living without God produces its own destructive slide into more sin. In Psalm 81:11 and 12 God says, “Israel did not obey Me, so I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.” WHOA!

How do we see God’s wrath today, with sin that leads to more sin? Though listening to country music may lead to wearing cowboy boots and Texas-size belt buckles, that’s not wrath. But, casual drug usage may lead to addiction. A little flirting at the office may lead to adultery. An occasional six-pack may lead to the sin of drunkenness. Too much affection as singles often leads to fornication. Being a hipster means tight pants and bow ties, and country music leads to cowboy boots. God’s wrath is punishing sin with sin.

When we break God’s laws they break us, and that’s what God means when He gives people over–they suffer the destruction from their own sin working in and through them. God giving unbelievers over thirdly means . . .

Third  God is punishing sin because of independent, REBELLIOUS choices

Here the cause is in focus. God says, in effect, “You’ve been trying to break free—to have it your way.” So when God lets a non-believer go like that, the unbeliever rushes out and says, “I’m free, good riddance God. Am I glad to get you off of my back.” He has no idea what he’s saying. He’s been so thoroughly self-deceived by his own truth-repression, and so deceived by the evil one, he has no concept of what God’s abandonment is going to cost him over the long haul.

This is a frightening truth–when people persistently abandon God, God abandons them. Even when a Christian continually abandons God, God commands the Church to abandon that Christian until they repent. Listen to what the Lord said to Israel in Judges 10:13, “You have forsaken Me and served other gods, therefore I will deliver you no more.” Hear what God said through His prophet in 2 Chronicles 24:20, “God said to Judah, because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you.”

And when a truth suppresser continues to rebel, exchanging God’s truth for a lie, refusing to bow down and give God glory, it’s as if God says, “Enough is enough, no more, you love your life more than you love Me. You love your lifestyle more than the One I offered. You love your vices more than My truth–have it your way. God gives people over because of their rebellion. Finally, when “God gives up” means . . .

Fourth  God is punishing sin by removing RESTRAINTS

Here the method is the focus. Paul declared to the unbelieving crowd in Lystra in Acts 14:16, “In generations gone by [God] permitted the nations to go their own ways.” When God says, “I let you go,” He is saying, “You’re free from My watch-care and free from My guidance, and free from My wooing of you and My prompting, and free from how I have restrained the evil one from having complete freedom with you.”

Remember how Satan wanted to attack Simon Peter in Luke 22:31, and Jesus said, “Peter, Satan wants to sift you like wheat,” but I’m not gonna let him. Remember the plans the evil one had for Job, and God let him do some things to Job, but at a certain point God told the devil in Job 2:6, “Here’s the line–I’m restraining you in that you cannot take his life.”

Friends, this kind of restraining of evil is going on all of the time. But it will not continue forever, as it was written in Genesis 6:3, “’My Spirit shall not strive with man forever,’” which is to say, God is slow to anger. He has a long fuse, but it’s not eternally long, not infinitely long. There comes a point where God says, “Enough is enough–have it your way, I’m letting you go!”

And when God gives over, He stops all restraint. And you know even if Satan does nothing, people will ruin themselves. Like an untended garden overrun by weeds–when man is left to himself, the bad always chokes out the good. Why? Because mankind is not basically good but evil–His nature is bent toward sin. When God gives over, God stops restraining evil. God lets the weeds take over the garden of your life. Sin increases in people and in our society.

The Prodigal Son had no idea how he’d end up, eating pig slop. Unbelievers have no idea when they start suppressing the truth and crying for freedom from God, what’s going to happen to them. They don’t realize they will slide unobstructed, with no heavenly restraint, into a steep descent into depravity. What does it look like?

#2  The DESCENDING steps of God giving unbelievers over

How does God show His wrath today? Through three steps, and I want you to see three counts of wickedness submitted by Paul in his case against humanity.

First  The downward step toward IMMORAL passions

Look at verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.” Since the sexual revolution of the 60’s the world has lost its ability to blush–porn, fornication, and pleasure-seeking are out of control. That’s why some people want to go out and sow their wild oats, then pray for crop failure. They don’t want consequences.

People fear getting a sexually transmitted disease, but they’ll not abstain from sex. Why is that? Notice where the sin starts in this verse–where? Verse 24, in the heart–the desires of the heart. The heart is the key to walking with God, and the heart is the place where people begin their decline into sin.

As Jesus said in Matthew 15:19 to 20, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulterys, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” No one sins outwardly without first sinning inwardly, as Jeremiah said in 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” You can clean up your appearance, but only God through Jesus can clean up your heart–your character, your inner person.

And if you don’t ask Jesus to clean you up internally, then verse 24, God can give you over to impurity, meaning uncleanness, sexual sins and more, which result in your whole being, body and soul, being degraded and disgraced. There’re not only physical consequences (and Paul says there are physical consequences–our bodies are dishonored), but the light of your soul goes out and a deadness of heart sets in. Freedom and joy disappear–and many of you know exactly what I am talking about, because this describes you pre-Christ.

Look at verse 25, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” In Greek that is literally, “THE lie,” not a lie. You might want to make a note of that in your Bibles. It says, “They exchanged the truth of God for [THE] lie.” Now what is he talking about? What is the lie that causes problems in our life?

Genesis 3:2 to 5–this is the lie, the original lie that Satan gave to Adam and Eve way back at the beginning of time. “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ 4 [Here’s THE lie] And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

Was the original temptation a temptation to be like the devil? No. Do you think that would have tempted Eve? “Hey, you want to be like me?” No. It was a temptation to be God. What is the lie? 1) You can sin and get away with it. Hey, you won’t die–everything’s cool. There’re no consequences to your actions. And 2) you can be your own God–you can be in charge, you are in charge.

Both of those are lies–THE LIE. No one but God is in charge, and there are serious consequences to all your actions. Again, verse 25—step one is, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a [THE] lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.”

Second  The downward step toward INDECENT perversions

In verse 26 God gives people over to degrading passions. Like the coming out of the closet of the 80’s, people give themselves to sexual perversion, distorting a good gift of God into an evil aberration. We’ve been here for years, but we’re all the more alert because the highest court has called it legal, calling it a normal option. The Bible says it’s an aberration.

What exactly was the aberration? Verse 26 and 27, “For their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

What is God saying here? Females, who’re usually more reluctant than males to participate in sexual perversion, stopped their natural sexual expression as God designed it, and gave into abnormal (literally, an against nature) sexual expression. And men burned with an out of control lust for other men instead of for females. And I mean it is out of control.

Their behavior is anything but normal, or an alternative. So much so, the men of Sodom, even after being made blind, wearied themselves trying to find the doorway into Lot’s house in order to pursue their vile passion. Homosexual lust burns so out of control, firemen know immediately if a fire was caused by a homosexual, and police can quickly discern if a murder has been committed by a homosexual. It’s that obvious. It’s because it includes out of control emotion, desire and perversion.

Recently, horrific conversations by abortionists about aborted babies have been made public, causing people to see abortion for what it really is—premeditated murder. I am convinced if the full behavior of homosexuals were made public, more people would see homosexuality for what it really is—defiant perversion.

Listen, God declares in these two verses that homosexuality is a degrading passion that’s unnatural, involving an out of control lust and indecent acts, resulting in horrible physical consequences. God is against homosexuality–so much so, He determined that the shameful acts women commit with women and men commit with men would result in their receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

They will be judged early by the self-destructiveness of their sin. The appalling physical consequences of homosexuality are visible evidence of God’s righteous condemnation. The Romans didn’t need any explanation of this. Their society was a corrupt and morally sick culture. Fourteen of the first fifteen Caesars were homosexuals.

God gives people over to be involved in immoral passions, and God gives people over to be involved in indecent perversions, which becomes a hell on earth. They’re not gay–that’s a misnomer. Gay means happy–they’re not happy. They are weighed down with guilt, distorted with anger, and suffer severe consequences. Every time a homosexual has come to me for counseling or help–every time I’ve been overwhelmingly burdened by the depth of their anger or loneliness or confusion. They are not gay.

I want to encourage and challenge you–the normal moorings are gone, meaning if you have a boy, you need to make certain he grows into a man by example and instruction. If you have a girl, you need to make certain she grows into a woman–it’ll not happen automatically.

Third  The downward step toward IRRATIONAL practices

Look at verse 28, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” A depraved mind is a corrupt and godless mind, resulting in people doing irrational things–meaning things that shouldn’t be done.

The word depraved was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. As a result, they were considered useless and worthless. Verse 28, “depraved mind” is not a picture of a drooling psychopath, but a talk show host who views God as useless and worthless. This is where we are at today.

You’ve seen an article or heard a report and thought, “This world is insane–this is irrational. Why would anybody do something like that?” Because they’re depraved in their minds–they’ve come to the place where God, His character, His laws, His righteous standards are useless and worthless, which leads to a depravity in behavior that’s insane and senseless. How bad is it?

Look at verse 29. Reading verses 29 to 31 is like lifting the lid off of Hell and looking inside. What happens when God is continually thought of as useless and worthless? Verses 29 to 31, “Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”

There are twenty-one different types of sins cataloged here–J. Vernon McGee calls this section “sin-eramma”. That’s really it! This list wasn’t intended to be exhaustive. It was meant to show what will increase when God gives a people over. These sins will increase more and more and more and more. Here are twenty-one random sins that get worse when people are given up by God.

So verse 32 says, “And, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death.” Paul says, “Listen, unbelievers know there is a God–they know His moral law, they understand there is a right and a wrong established by God. Yet they choose to disobey.” And because of that, what is God’s sentence? Death—“worthy of death.” Not physical death, but the eternal spiritual death of Hell.

But if that is not bad enough, verse 32 continues. “They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” This is the ultimate. Not only do they increase their involvement and intensity with sin, but they approve of other people sinning. Why? Simple. If I can get more people sinning like me, then it’ll be acceptable and not shameful for me to continue sinning—right?

Paul is telling you that this is why there is such a passionate drive to approve certain sins today. So the literal Greek word here is “applaud”—approve. They applaud any time somebody else does something wrong, in order to justify their own behavior. I don’t have to be ashamed. Why? Because everyone else is doing it.

Does this happen in our society? You bet—every day on your TV, talk show hosts interview immoral people and parade a non-stop line-up of those committed to this sin-eramma. And what does the audience do? They literally applaud these people. Why? In order to justify their own sinfulness. And you thought the Bible wasn’t relevant. It’s almost as if Romans 1 is the source writers work off of for their scripts. They are not only applauded, but today they are awarded Emmys and Oscars for their work.

1  God is JUDGING our Nation right now

The people of our nation have been declaring for fifty years now that God is useless and worthless–so God has now given them over to, verse 24) the lusts of their hearts, verse 26) degrading passions, and verse 28) a depraved mind. And you and I are in the middle of it. We are in the midst of a nation God is clearly judging.

2  The reprieve is over and PERSECUTION is on the way

Your Savior never promised you living on this planet would be fair, just, a blessing, a comfort or a convenience. No, God promised you suffering and persecution. HE PROMISED YOU. The unique reprieve of 200 years from persecution is over. The special time of blessing for believers here is finished. God is going to keep His promises to you—read them.

Second Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Philippians 1:29, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” If you truly follow Christ, you will stand on His truth. That may mean, for our church, lawsuits, jail-time, loss of tax-exempt status, threats, building difficulty, property defacement or worse.

For you as a Christian, it may mean loss of job, threats concerning your children, loss of personal property, and worse. What does God want you to do? The twelve spies saw the land, but only two believed God. Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In Daniel, hundreds were taken into captivity, but only three did not bow. FBC will believe God–we will serve the Lord, and we will not bow. How about you? So what do we do?

3  The Gospel is the ONLY answer

As God lets people go, as the culture falls apart, as things get worse and worse, what are we supposed to give our time to–marching, protesting, changing laws, getting the right people elected? What power do we have to change things? What should we do?

Romans 1:16 has the answer–the Gospel. Do you believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives? Do you have the most confidence in the Gospel? Is the Gospel your first “go to” answer? Why should that be? No law ever changed a person’s heart. No law ever saved a person from eternal death. Isn’t it strange to fight for a law to change in order to make life better, even more moral–but the people it affects will still end up in Hell. What good is that?

Better government does not make better people. Better people do make better government. And only Jesus can change a heart, save someone from eternal death and make better people—period. Only Christ in you today. Jesus didn’t change His world by protesting, running for Caesar, changing laws, stopping slavery or prostitution—no. He changed it through the Gospel–investing His life into 12, 70, 120, 500 people who turned the world upside down with the Gospel.

Are you going to follow Christ or follow politics? Are you going to change the world God’s way or man’s way? Think about what we just studied in Romans 1. What we have today is politically motivated, untaught Christians actually trying to stop God’s righteous wrath and judgment. That’s right!

Think–God is judging society by letting sin increase. But untaught Christians are trying to stop the sin through politics and law. They are actually working against God’s purposes. The answer is not to stop sin, but share Christ who destroyed sin. The point is to change the world by proclaiming Christ, and love the lost by sharing and showing the Gospel. The Gospel is the only answer.

4  Speak the truth in love and WISDOM

Jesus was full of truth and grace, so when we speak the truth of God’s Word we need to speak it with grace. Ephesians 4:15 even challenges us to be speaking the truth in love. Like Daniel, as he faced the commander of the officials in Daniel 1, we need to be wise as we address those over us. So Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

But we must speak the truth! This summer’s Tough Stuff was about learning the truth so you can speak the truth. Will you speak the truth? Will you stand on God’s Word?  The day has arrived, churchgoer–if you don’t stand for Christ, you will fall for anything. Let’s pray.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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