by Mark Hitchcock
The most critical subject that the human mind can ever ponder is the central question: "Am I a true believer in Jesus? How can I really know? How can I really be sure that I am a true believer in Christ?"
We began our study earlier by identifying several characteristics that do not verify in and of themselves the reality of salvation. A lot of people are relying upon the wrong things to give them assurance of salvation. We will go over them briefly to remind us of them.
The first false test is "trusting in some past event" that gives us some type of false assurance of salvation. Many people look to a past event in time when they walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or something happened to them that they believe is some type of conversion event that really was not; it was a sham event. But they look back at that and draw assurance from it.
I want to say clearly that true believers often have a past event. You may have walked an aisle or prayed a prayer, and it may have been genuine; you may truly be a believer in Jesus Christ, so I am not denigrating the idea of a past event. It is very critical that at some point in a person's life he becomes a believer, but I find that in my experience all too many people have their confidence in this past event that in fact is not real at all.
Another false test is "living a moral life." A lot of people think that if they live a pretty good life, that gives them some kind of assurance of salvation. Other people think that just knowledge of the facts is enough, in and of itself. Other people think that if they are busy in religious activity, or in service for see if indeed we be in the faith, and that is what Paul tells us to do in 2 Corinthians 13. He says, "Examine yourselves," test yourselves, know for sure that you have truly placed saving faith in Jesus Christ.
So what we are doing in this study is going through the book of 1 John and looking at twelve tests of true salvation, because the book of 1 John was written to give those who have believed in Christ assurance that they truly are believers. First John 5:13 gives us the purpose of the book. John says:
|"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."|
John wrote this book to give assurance, and as you go through this book, as you read through it, you find that there are at least twelve different tests of true salvation. These are the criteria that God Himself gives for those who are His own, for those who are true children of God. As we mentioned earlier, every person on this earth falls into one of two categories: You either have the Son and have life according to 1 John 5:12, or you do not have the Son of God and you do not have life.
This is the most critical test that you will
ever take. I invite you as we go along to take this test with
me to see if indeed you are in the faith.
The first test that John lists for us is found in 1 John 5:13; the test is this: Have you believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior? This is the first and foundational test. You notice I did not say, "Have you prayed the sinner's prayer? Have you walked an aisle in a church? Have you believed in certain facts about Jesus Christ?" I said, "Have you believed?" That is, have you put saving faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior?
Many people think that they are believers because they have gone through some act, or prayed a prayer, or made some type of assent to a group of facts about Christ. But true saving faith is the committal of a person's trust and faith and rest in Christ, and Christ alone, for his salvation, realizing that there is nothing he can possibly do to earn it. In fact, realizing that all of their righteousness is like filthy rags, they come to Him and rest in the wonderful, finished work of Christ.
That is the message of the gospel of John. You remember John 20:31, where John says:
|"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."|
That is why John wrote the gospel of John. John 3:36 says:
|"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."|
Finally, John 5:24 says:
|"Verily, verily, I say unto you. he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."|
The critical question is: Have you believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior? One thing that many people never think about when it comes to believing in Christ is that believing in Jesus Christ is a command; God commands all people to believe in His Son. First John 3:23 says this:
|"And this is his commandment. That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."|
It is a command for you to believe in His Son. If you have believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and if you have put true saving faith and trust in Him, you can know for sure that you will have eternal life. You have God's Word on it. First John 2:25 says:
|"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life."|
You can know for sure today that if you have believed, truly put your faith and trust in Christ, and in Him alone for salvation from your sins, that indeed you are a true child of God.
Another test that John sets forth for us in his epistle is in 1 John 1:2-3: Do you enjoy fellowship with the Father and the Son?
|"(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."|
Note the repetition in verse three of the word "fellowship"; in verse six you have the word "fellowship"; mentioned again; the word "fellowship" also appears in verse seven as well. This word "fellowship" denotes the active sharing or participation in what one has in common with others. You might ask, "What do we have in common with God? What do we share in or participate in with God?" Well, one thing is His life. When you and I became believers in Jesus Christ, if indeed you have put your trust in Him, we received His life. Eternal life is God's life; it is life that never had a beginning and will never have an ending. We become a sharer in His life.
Second Peter 1:4 tells us that we become "partakers of the divine nature." The word "partakers" is the same as the word "fellowship." We have "fellowship" with God with the very nature of who He is. God is a spirit. We have fellowship with Him in our spirit; we know Him intimately. Let me ask you this question: Is there an active sharing in what you have in common with God and His Son? Is there a personal relationship? 17:3 says:
|"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."|
Do you know God? Do you know Christ? Do you have personal relationship with God through His Son? Do you have fellowship with Him, and enjoy the sharing of the common life and the common nature that you have with God and with His Son?
This is one of the criteria of whether you are a true believer in Jesus Christ. Do you enjoy an intimate, close relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ? Do you experience communion with God? Do you sense His presence in your life? Do you have a love for Him that draws you to His presence? If so, you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.
Another important criteria that we need to consider in this matter of whether we are indeed true believers is found in 1 John 1:5-10, and the test is this, simply stated: Are you sensitive to sin? First John 1:5-10 says:
| "This then is
the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you,
that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say
that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie,
and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
The Bible is clear that light and darkness do not coexist. First Peter 2:9 tells us that we have been called "out of darkness into his marvellous light." We are called in Ephesians 5:8 "children of light." In 1 Thessalonians 5:5, it talks about the "children of light" and "children of the day," referring to believers. A true believer, according to 1 John 1:7, walks in the light as Christ and the Father are in the light.
Now we know that the true believer is not perfect. Verse eight says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. " So a true believer is not perfect, but what we are saying is that the true believer walks in the light as the pattern of life, but when he does sin, he confesses the sin to the Father through his advocate Jesus Christ. True believers have a right sense of sin. As a pattern of their life they "walk in the light" but when they do fall and stumble and sin, there is a sensitivity to it. They go to God and confess it.
Are you aware of the spiritual battle raging
within you? Do you realize that you cannot walk in darkness and
claim to have fellowship with God? Do you know when you have sinned,
and do you confess it? Is there a desire to go to God and to confess
your sin, to agree with Him about what you have done and to make
it right? If this is true in your life, this is another part of
the criteria, it is another test that you are a true child of
Another test that fits in well with this last one is found in 1 John 2:3-6, and that is, very simply stated: Do you obey God's Word?
|"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."|
Now friends, words really could not be clearer. These verses tell us that if we know Him, we keep His commandments.
The word "keep" here in verse three-"we know him, if we keep his commandments"-means a watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. How can you know if you are a true Christian? It is not really by sentiment or emotion or feelings; it is by obedience; and it is not just obedience, but it is careful, joyful obedience. In 1 John 5:3, we read these words:
|"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."|
Those who are true believers in Jesus Christ do not just carefully obey; they joyfully obey. To obey God is not grievous; in fact, it is something that we desire and long for, to be obedient children. If you desire to obey God's Word out of gratitude for all that Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test. You notice here that the obedience is not to gain merit with God; it is not to gain favor with God; it is out of a heart of gratitude for what He has done for us through His grace that we desire to obey Him. The old song says:
|Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know, these for sin cannot atone, thou must save and thou alone. In my hands no price I bring, simply to the cross I cling.|
Our obedience does not save us; it does not earn merit with God; it does not even pay God back for the salvation he has given us. God has never asked us once to pay Him back for the salvation He has given us. It is salvation, and salvation is not a debt. There is no sense of debt or obligation. It is a free gift of God through Jesus Christ. For those of us who know Him and have experienced His wonderful grace, there is a desire in our heart and life to carefully and joyfully obey the One who saved us from our sins.
Another important test for us to consider in this matter of whether we are true believers in Jesus Christ is given to us in 1 John 2:15-17, and that is: Do you reject the world?
|"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."|
Another verse in conjunction with this is 1 John 4:4:
because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
When John speaks here of "the world," he also tells us in 1 John 5:19 that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. Second Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan is the god of this world.
This "world"-the Greek word is cosmos-speaks of a system encompassing false religion, human pride, errant philosophy, crime, immorality, materialism, and things of this nature. These are the things that are called the "world." The "world" is a system, just like we talk about "the world of politics," or "the world of sports," or "the world of economics." The "world" means a system, and it is the system that is on this earth that encompasses all of these things. When you become a believer, the Bible tells us these things repel you; they do not attract you.
In Romans 7:15, Paul said when he was involved in sin after his conversion, "... but what I hate, that do I." Sometimes all of us as believers are lured into worldly things, but if we are a true believer it is not what we love. We do not love this world; the world is something that we hate.
In John 17 (which contains Jesus' high priestly prayer), verses fourteen through sixteen say:
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
You and I are vulnerable to being devoured by this world's evil system, but in 1 John 5:4-5, we read that the true believer overcomes this world through his faith in Christ.
As one writer has said, you are either an overcomer or you are overcome by this world. Another writer has said this:
"Do you reject the world? Do you reject its false religions, damning ideologies, godless living, and vain pursuits ? Instead, do you love God, His truth. His Kingdom, and all that He stands for? That doesn't come naturally to any man or woman because the human tendency is to love darkness rather than light to mask evil deeds. Unbelievers are of their father the devil, and want to do the desires of their father. If you reject the world and its devilish desires, that is an indication of new life in Christ."
The sixth test that John sets forth is: Do you eagerly anticipate Christ's return? In 1 John 3:2-3, we read these words:
|"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."|
The true Christian has hope in his heart, and the only hope is the return of Jesus Christ. In the midst of a groaning creation, you and I are looking in anticipation for the coming of Jesus Christ. In Romans 8, we read that the entire creation groans in anticipation of the glorious manifestation of the children of God. This involves three things according to 1 John 3:2-3: Christ appears, we see Him, and we instantly are made like Him.
Philippians 3:20-21 says, "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Titus 2:13 tells us to be "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:"
Do you long to be delivered from this body of sin? If you have such holy longings and affections, then this is an important test that you have passed: looking for the coming of Jesus Christ.
Another important test that is throughout 1 John is this test: Is there a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? First John 3:4- 9 says this:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
Once again this test is plain as can be. The key here is the word "patterns." Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of the unbeliever. Let us look back for a moment at 2 Corinthians 13:5. Remember the passage where Paul told them to examine themselves, to prove themselves, to know whether Christ was in them? Why is he telling the Corinthians to test and examine themselves in these verses? The reason is the lack of change in their lives, because of the unbroken patterns of sin in the lives of the people at the church in Corinth. They were a people who were given to all types of immoral, filthy, degenerate behavior, so Paul is telling them: "You'd better test yourselves and examine yourselves to make sure you're in the faith, because I haven't seen this decreasing pattern of sin in your life."
We need to make it clear that a believer can still sin, and can still sin frequently, but a true believer will not habitually practice sin as a pattern of life. A pattern of sin signals union with the devil. Remember in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said to those people who say, "Lord, Lord," didn't we cast out demons in your name, didn't we heal the sick, didn't we do all these things? Remember what Jesus said to them: "depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
A pattern of sin signals union with the devil, not with Christ. According to 1 John 3:10, the difference between a child of God and the devil is obvious. If you practice righteousness as the habitual pattern of your life, you are of God. If you do not, then you are not. This passage is crystal clear. First John 3:10 says this:
|"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. ..."|
So it is going to be obvious . . .
|"... whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."|
Words could not be clearer, friend. If there is not a decreasing pattern of sin in your life, you have failed the test.
The next test is in 1 John 3:13. Do you suffer rejection because of your faith in Jesus Christ?
|"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you."|
In this passage, John goes on to talk about how Cain slew Abel because he (Cain) was wicked. Acts 14:22 says it is by many tribulations that we will enter into the kingdom of God. Second Timothy 3:12 says:
|"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."|
The true believer is Satan's enemy and will
face persecution by demonic powers and by those who are under
Satan's sway; that is, unbelievers. We may not be persecuted like
people are in different countries of the world. It will be emotional,
physical, verbal-there will be many forms it may take-but we will
be persecuted if we are a true believer in Jesus Christ. All who
live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Another very important test that John sets forth is in 1 John 3:10-14, and that is: Do you love other believers? First John 3:14 says it very clearly.
|"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."|
What is "love"? It is not just some type of feeling that we have; it is sacrifice for other people. Notice verse seventeen, where it says:
|"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"|
You see, love is action; it is sacrificial service and action for other people. It is very clear here that this is not, as J. Vernon McGee often calls it, "just some kind of sloppy agape" that is out there. It is a committed, dedicated, sacrificial service for other people. In John 13:35, Jesus says:
|"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."|
We are to fervently and deeply love one another from the heart, according to 1 Peter 1:22 and 4:8. This goes beyond feelings. It encompasses dutiful responsibility, sacrificial service, and compassionate concern. Do you really care about other believers? Do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs, or are you cold and indifferent? Do you look forward to fellowship with other believers, to study the Bible with them, to discuss the things of God with them, to being with them on Sunday and possibly on Wednesday nights, to being with the brethren? First John 3:19 says:
|"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and [we] shall assure our hearts before him."|
That is, if we love one another. The word "assure" here means to be soothed, or tranquilized, or pacified. You can have a soothed, tranquilized, pacified heart before God if you love the brethren, if you desire to be with them, to sacrificially serve and have compassionate concern for them.
Another test that is mentioned here in 1 John is "Are your prayers answered?" First John 3:22 says:
|"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."|
First John 5:14-15 says:
|"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."|
First of all, of course, we have to pray; secondly,
according to 1 John 5:14, we have to pray according to His will;
and thirdly, according to 1 John 3:22, we have to be obedient.
When those things are in our lives, when we pray, things should
happen. I just simply ask you this question: When you pray does
anything happen? Can you cite examples of God working in response
to your prayers? This is another sign that you are a child of
God; when you pray in God's will and you're obedient in your life.
God hears and He responds to the requests that you make.
Another important test that John gives for us to consider in our lives is: Are you able to discern between truth and error? First John 4:1-3 tell us:
| "Beloved, believe
not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:
because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby
know ye the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
And then on down in verse six, John says:
|"We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."|
Our world is filled with counterfeits and deceptions. Apostasy is literally running rife. First John 2:26 says:
|"These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you."|
There are all kinds of seducers. We are to put things to the test; we are to exercise discernment. The life that is real is characterized by discernment; the true believer is taught by the Spirit. To have this discernment, John tells us to test for two things.
The first is confession of the divine Lord. Do those who teach, those you hear, do they confess the divine Lord? Do they confess that indeed Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and that He is of God?
The second is in verses four to six of 1 John 4, which asks: Do they have a divine commitment to the divine Word? John here, writing under the inspiration of Scripture, says: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us" (vs. 6). Those who are not of God do not hear what the apostles have to say; they do not hear what the Word has to say. There is no commitment to the divine Word. One writer has put it this way:
|"Perhaps you were discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery you carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you are highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess a plethora of domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you're an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?"|
That is a test for a true believer. Can you discern between truth and error?
The final test here that we want to look at that John mentions for us in this wonderful epistle is: Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit? First John 5:10 says:
|"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."|
The true believer experiences in his life the ministry of the Holy Spirit. There are many different ministries of the Spirit. There is the ministry of the Spirit witnessing in our lives-the witness of the Spirit. You notice verse ten says: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." It is internalized. There is a growing inner conviction that the things the Spirit has born witness to are true, and that they are in your life. We know that we are the children of God because we have the witness of the Spirit within ourselves.
There is also mentioned in 1 John 2:27 the teaching ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit teaches us and guides us into all truth. There is the guidance of the Spirit; the Spirit guides and directs our lives. There is the filling of the Spirit; the Spirit fills us and produces God-like character in us. There is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. There is the intimacy produced by the Spirit. Galatians 4:6 says:
|"And because ye are sons. God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."|
Do you experience these ministries of the Spirit in your life? Do you have the witness of the Spirit in yourself that you are a child of God? Do you experience the teaching of the Spirit guiding you into truth? Do you experience the guidance of the Spirit in your life, guiding you in decisions and direction? Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you exemplify in your life the fruit of the Spirit? Is there an intimacy with God and with Christ produced by the Holy Spirit?
Friends, in this booklet we have examined the biblical tests of true salvation. Now it is time to receive the grade.
Have you passed the test?
This is nothing to take lightly. This test is pass-fail. You either pass the test or you fail the test.
Do you remember the things we have looked at
to see if one indeed has true salvation?
o Have you believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior?
o Do you enjoy fellowship with the Father and with the Son?
o Are you sensitive to sin?
o Do you obey God's Word?
o Do you reject the world?
o Do you eagerly anticipate Christ's return?
o Is there a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
o Do you suffer rejection because of your faith in Jesus Christ?
o Do you love other believers?
o Does God work in response to your prayers?
o Are you able to discern between truth and error?
o Do you experience in your life the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit?
Friends, put yourself to a difficult, searching, brutally honest examination. Pray over this list that we have gone over and ask God to make this matter clear in your heart and mind. Your eternal destiny is at stake.
Don't be like Jimmy Brown. I read this little poem that says:
|Shed a tear for Jimmy Brown, poor Jimmy is no more, For what he thought was H2O, was H2SO4.|
Sulfuric acid, of course, is H2SO4. If we mistake the counterfeit for the real we are a lot worse off than poor Jimmy Brown.
Look at these twelve tests and answer the questions honestly. Does Christ really live in me? Are there any evidences of change in my life? Am I getting easier to live with? Are my attitudes and desires different than they were in the past? If I were to die today am I certain that I would go to heaven?
First John 5:18-20 is the concluding section of First John, and the verses say this:
|"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."|
This is the reason we can know. You notice John says, "we know that we are of God." I would simply ask you: "Do you know that? Do you know that you are of God? Do you pass the test?"
This is an old poem that means a lot to me.
|In the beloved accepted am I, crucified, risen, ascended on high. God sees His Son, then he sees me, in the beloved, accepted and free.|
Do you know that you are in the beloved? Have you put your faith and your trust in Christ? Have you ceased from any type of work, any type of merit, anything on your own that you can do to earn salvation, and simply rested in the fact that Jesus paid it all? When He was on the cross His last words were, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The work that saves is finished, and you can rest in that today and know for sure that you are a true believer in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will do that today, that you will put your faith and your trust in Him.
* This article was used by permission from Mark Hitchcock's
mini-book, "The Test Most People Never Take". For information
on how to obtain this excellent book see:
Southwest Radio Church,
P.O. Box 100
Bethany OK. 73008
Phone : (800) 652-1144 or (405) 789-1222
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