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IN RESPONSE TO AN INCIDENT AT OUR CHURCH

 
Why Do Good People Do Bad Things?
 
Dr. Greg Magruder,  April 9, 2014, Parkview Baptist Church
 
I think you would agree with me that Christians make mistakes. Christians commit sins. Sometimes we make gross mistakes, commit gross sins and they seem to be advertised everywhere. But there are a lot of Christians that commit sins that never make it to the public pages and no one else ever knows about them. They are done in private. Good Christians do things that are appalling at times, terrible, at times.
So we ask the question, “How could a faithful, God fearing, active Christian do such things?” We try to rationalize it, explain it away and say, “Well, they must not have been a Christian at all.” Or we say things like, “They were temporarily insane,” or “Maybe it had something to with their past,” and on and on we go trying to understand why good people do bad things.
It does not matter what week you are in. I will give you just a few examples from this week’s news. There was an article in the Gainesville Sun this week about a Hutu man in Rwanda who was reconciled with his Tutsi neighbor. The Hutus and the Tutsis are two groups in Rwanda that lived by each other for years. The Tutsi group was a minority, the Hutus were in power, and they had a leader who encouraged the Hutus to do away with the Tutsis and so there was a genocide that took place. This man was one of those Hutu men that went on a rampage. He had hacked this lady’s hand off and killed her child during this genocide period that took place on Rwanda. They had somehow miraculously come back together and God had been able to bring reconciliation and healing there between those two. But at the time, he was a Christian, active in the church and he and his Hutu brothers and sisters in Christ were hacking off the arms and limbs and killing the babies of the Tutsi Christians who were hiding out in the churches. And we wonder...that does not make sense!
We saw on TV this week about a Mega Church pastor here in Florida who resigned because of a moral failing. One of our local Pastors wrote a blog article about it, telling his church members that this was one of his greatest fears, that men like himself, Pastors, are susceptible to sin, susceptible to falling, to committing gross sins as well as anyone else.
Christianity Today had an article in last month’s issue about children of missionaries who were systematically abused for years at missionary boarding schools that they were sent to while their parents worked on the field. We are just horrified by these kind of things.
And of course we have had our own situation this last week about the alleged actions of one of our own members. We just shake our head and grieve over it. Some of you have told me how deeply you have grieved over it. How could something like this have happened? Did it really happen? If it did happen, why did it happen, and what should be done to this person? And so we are just appalled by this. How do we account for it? Are these people somehow more evil, less Christian than the rest of us, or are we to understand this is a warning about our own vulnerability and sinfulness?
DISSONANCE
So I would like to discuss the Biblical and psychological response to this question: Why do good people do bad things?  There is a word we need to understand: dissonance. Dissonance means “lack of agreement, inconsistency,” but it really deals with the idea that there is an inconsistency between the beliefs one holds and one’s actions. So you say you believe one thing and your actions are completely contrary to it.  A good example of that is that someone will say, “Smoking is bad for you,” and then they light up a cigarette. That’s dissonance. They believe one thing but they are doing something else. This is part of who we are as human beings.
A psychological term that came out in the 1950s is “cognitive dissonance.” This is an idea that you hold two beliefs simultaneously. So you can be believing one thing very strongly yet be doing something else that is completely contrary to what you strongly believe. In other words, you compartmentalize your mind in such a way that you allow yourself to do things that, in the normal state of affairs, if someone were to ask you about it, you would say, “That’s horrible. I would never do anything like that!” And yet people do the very things that they are horrified by. We’ll say, “Well, that’s really weird. I don’t know about a person like that.” But you just described yourself, because you do the same thing.
Our minds compartmentalize things all the time, don’t they? In a lot of ways it is good. Think about a soldier on the battlefield. He has to concentrate on what he is doing in that conflict because if he is thinking about the kids at home or what he is going to have for dinner, he might get shot. So his mind has to compartmentalize. It has to focus on what he is doing and put everything else out. So that is a normal make up of the way God made us so we could deal with certain things that come our way. If you are under threat, your body naturally goes into reaction against that threat. It’s a physical thing as well as a psychological thing.
But there are also ways that this can be bad because it allows you to do things that you normally would not want to do. Then you find yourself asking, “Why am I doing this?” and you feel terrible about it. You wonder, “How can I be like this? I must be a bad person, I must be a monster! I must be terrible!” I bet every one of us here have done that at some time in your life, either in something you said or something you have done. Maybe you got drunk and you did something terrible and horrible, you looked back and said, “How could I have done that?” Well, guess what? You did it, no matter what your belief system was.
So that is what we are talking about. We have this capability within us because we have been designed that way to deal with stress, deal with things that come our way and we have to compartmentalize, but also we allow it to happen in our lives, sometimes over a slow process of time. Dissonance and cognitive dissonance describe partly the way God made us, and, because we are sinful human beings, we abuse that in such a way that it causes us to do things we normally wouldn’t want to do.
OUR DEPRAVITY 
That’s a psychological comment. Let’s get back, now, to the Bible and what it says. We as Christians talk about sin. We believe there is sin in the world, but we don’t believe there is sin in the world. We believe it is somebody else’s sin in the world. We don’t believe our own sin. We don’t look at our own lives. We don’t realize our own shortcomings and failings. We don’t recognize the depth of our depravity.
Wasn’t that a beautiful song we just sang about the Cross? About how Jesus became our sacrifice? We sing a beautiful song about that, but you stop and think about what happened there on the Cross. His hands were bloodied, his feet were bloodied, he had a sword up his side, he hung there, asphyxiated on the Cross, he was thirsty, his head was pierced with thorns and blood was coming down. That’s not a very pretty picture, is it? Yet we say thank you for the Cross. Why? We say thank you for the Cross because that is what sin cost. Sin had to be crucified. It’s a horrible thing, and each one of us here in this building are sinners.
Now I want you to go back to Genesis, Chapter 3. I want to take you through a survey of the Bible here and remind us what we believe. When things like what happened here last week happen, we begin to ask ourselves, “How could this ever happen?” and we have this dissonance. This isn’t supposed to happen, yet it happened. How are we going to deal with that?
The way you are going to deal with it is to go back to the Word of God and try to understand what you really believe and then apply it to the situation that you are in.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”   Genesis 3:1-13
 
Some people say, “Well this may be a myth,” or “This may not be historical but it is a true story about the fall of mankind…” Do you know why this is a true story?  Because you and I do it every day! This is a description of you and me, and what we do in our own lives. It’s a perfect picture, a mirror of our lives, because when Satan comes to us and tempts us we submit to that temptation. We disobey God’s Word. We are in the same boat as Eve was.
Our first reaction is, “I want to hide.” That’s what Adam and Eve did. They became aware of, conscious of their nakedness before God so they sewed up some fig leaves to try to cover themselves. Their physical nakedness reflected the nakedness of their souls. They had a perfect relationship with God, a perfect openness between God and each other, and now all of a sudden they are covering themselves, they are hiding from each other. They are hiding from God.
When God said, “What did you do?”  Adam immediately does the old blame game: “She made me do it.” Eve says, “The serpent made me do it.” And suddenly we have this separation.  It is a separation from God, it is a separation from other people, it is a separation from ourselves. That’s the dissonance. We know what we should have been but here we are, separated, divided from ourselves because of this thing called sin. That’s why I say it is a true story because it is you and me and the way we live our lives every day.
We get sophisticated about it, you know? We try to explain why we do certain things. “Well, I’m Scottish and all Scottish people are drunks.” Or, “You know I’ve got a temper because I am Italian.” “Well, if my Daddy had not done this, I would not have acted like this.” And on and on we go to run away or cover ourselves, to try to hide ourselves, protect ourselves. We don’t want to be vulnerable to anybody. We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like. We layer and layer and layer, trying to hide from each other and from God.
Jeremiah is the prophet that did not pull any punches. Nobody liked him. He preached but did not want to preach. God said he had to. “Nobody is going to like you, but you go out there and do it anyway.” He did, and got into all sorts of problems. He got thrown into a pit and was standing in waist deep water, practically starving to death until a small group of people hauled him out of there. He writes very bluntly because whatever God tells him to say, he says it. Look at Jeremiah 17:9. Here is the midst of his prophecy about the people of Israel who are going to go into captivity, Jeremiah says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure? Who can understand it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer. 17:9 KJV).
Who is he describing here? If he is describing you, would you raise your hand? He is describing everyone. That’s your heart!
I have a relative that went through a divorce. She was on the rebound, she went wild, she did all kinds of crazy things, horrible things, wicked things, and she said, “I don’t know who that was. That wasn’t me!”
I reminded her, “Yes it was! That was you.” It was hard for her to accept that. We have this exalted opinion of ourselves, that we don’t do things like that. That’s a dissonance, a cognitive dissonance. This is the way I want to be, this is what I believe, but this is what I did. It does not match. I can’t figure it out! So it must not really have been me. Yes, it was! The heart is wicked and deceitful above all things. Everybody is in that situation. Everybody has that in their heart.
What does the Bible say in Romans 3:23? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If you are included in that all, would you raise your hand? All have sinned. If you go back and look at that passage, you will see that he has listed about half a page of sins that we have all committed, and he says, “Hey, that’s you! Jewish people, Gentile people, that’s me, Paul, that’s everybody.” All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Paul said of his own sin struggle, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death!” (Romans 7:21-24).
You see, Jesus wasn’t fooled by this. You and I have been raised in the Enlightenment Age. The Enlightenment said we were born with a clean slate, in a pure state of nature, and society corrupted us. The things that were written on our heart as we grew up, those things were the ones that twisted us. We have to get back to the garden. We have to get back to the pure state of things. We have to be Hippie-like and go live in communes. We have to take drugs to get mind expansions and get away from it all. That’s all bunk!
The truth is, you are not born with a clean slate! You are born with a bent toward evil! At some point you choose evil and you mar your own life. That’s the truth of the matter. We have the age of innocence, and where that ends depends on the child. That is all in God’s hands. But at some point everybody makes a choice between right and wrong, everybody goes back to the Garden, everybody is Adam and Eve and we rebel against God.
That’s why Jesus said we have depraved hearts. You don’t remember Jesus saying that? Look at Matthew 15:10-20. The Pharisees were upset because they were eating grain on the sabbath. The Pharisees said they were defiled because they ate something defiled. Jesus made the comment that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person. It is what comes out of a person’s heart.
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”” Matthew 15:18-20
Jesus is saying you can look good on the outside, but on the inside you might have a wicked heart. As a matter of fact, all of us have a wicked heart. So when you hit your thumb with a hammer and out comes vile cursing, you realize you should not have said that, but that was already in your heart. What comes out is already in the heart, so you need to get that right with God. It does not matter what you believe, it’s what you do that reveals the truth of what’s going on inside of you.
YOU DON’T BELIEVE THERE IS A DEVIL?
On top of all this you have this other being called Satan, or the Devil, who was an angel of light and has been cast out of heaven. He has demons that are in support of him. He is called the “Accuser of the brethren.”
If you know the story of Job, God allows Satan to operate. Satan makes it awful difficult for us in this world. Satan comes to you, looks in your heart, finds out where your weakest point is and he will attack you there. Satan doesn’t commit the sin. You commit the sin. Satan tempts you to do what was already in your heart.
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).
Satan sees where you are vulnerable and will attack you at that point. If you are not a Christian, he has already got you. He can do whatever he wants with you. He can just speak to you and you follow his every whim. He’s got you by the nose. When I was a boy and it was time for the chores to be done, if I’d say, “In a minute Mom,” she’d grab my ear and say, “Now!” That’s what Satan does with people that are not Christians. He says, “Now! I want you to do this!”
A Christian has the ability to tell the Devil, “No!” Yet if you are not aware of the Devil, if you are not aware that your sins are going to be open to the Devil, that he is going to try to hit your vulnerable points, you are going to be caught by the ear and be dragged and pulled to do what Satan wants you to do.
So many times, recently, when I have said to people in this church who have had bad things happen to them, “The Devil is after you,” they look at me with a blank stare, like they don’t understand a word I am saying. They don’t even believe there is a Devil! “Well, that’s just a story.” No its not! The Devil is alive and well. He hates you! He has a terrible plan for your life. The devil is real and he is looking for any way he can trip you up!
That’s why Peter says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8,9
 
Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38
You don’t believe there is a Devil? Then explain to me Matthew 4, where Jesus, having been baptized and filled with the Spirit, was sent into the desert. The Devil comes three times and tempts him, three times tries to undermine the mission of Jesus and get him off track from the very start. Was that just a fantasy story or was Jesus facing the Tempter, the Accuser, the Devil? The story is told that Jesus had to rebuke the Devil and get rid of him, persevere and stand for the Lord. He was able to withstand the Devil and the angels came and ministered to Jesus after that. Jesus believed there was a Devil and he realized what the devil was trying to do.
 
When the Disciples said, Lord teach us to pray, and Jesus said,
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
 
When you pray, one of the basics is that God will not lead you into temptation and will deliver you from evil. Do that every day. Do that as many times a day as you can. You don’t believe there is a Devil? Jesus said the basic prayer you should be praying includes protection from the Devil. Be alert!
Jesus said, when He was talking about being the Good Shepherd, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)
Who is the thief? It’s the Devil. He’s the Enemy! What’s his goal in your life? What does the Devil have for a plan in your life?  He wants to steal, kill and destroy you. He wants to kill you, physically, if he can. He wants to steal your reputation if he can. He wants to destroy your marriage, he wants to destroy your relationship with your children. He wants to destroy everything good about you if he can. He wants to rob you blind!
You don’t believe this? You don’t recognize this? Are we just talking fantasy here? A lot of Christians operate in this way: I come to church, I speak God words, I go home, I live my life, I do my job, and God has nothing to do with it. You are living in a fantasy world! This is what you believe, this is what you do, and you wonder why Satan picks us off? As Christians, many of us are not even aware the Devil is out there. We are not aware that he wants to destroy us!
When Jesus spoke to Peter at the Last Supper, he said, Peter, “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:31,32a).
Satan wanted to come along and shake him up, shake out every good thing in his life, and Jesus prayed that that would not happen. It almost happened to Peter, didn’t it? But God was able to restore him. It did happen to Judas. Jesus believed in Satan, the Devil, and he lived in such a way that He resisted the Devil.
When Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and they claimed Abraham was their father, Jesus said, “No he’s not. Your father is the Devil. Satan is a liar and you are children of the Liar! You are children of the Devil because you lie also.” (John 8:44) How were the Pharisees lying? They said they believed one thing but they lived another way. Their life was a lie! Is that the way our lives are?
The devil is a liar, he is full of deception. The good thing is, we know the Devil has a demise, he has an end. Jesus said, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25: 41
God’s got a special place for him, the Lake of Fire. Everyone that chooses to follow the Devil and his way and refuses to follow Jesus as Lord, as their Savior, that’s where they go too, by their own choice. God does not send them there. They send themselves there, to eternal destruction.
Jesus saw the reality of the Devil and the Apostle Paul saw the reality of the Devil. He said, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (1 Corinthians 11:14).  He deceives people.  He acts just like he did with Eve. “Why don’t you do this? God knows you will be like Him. You are missing out on all the fun! Why don’t you just take part in this?”
 
CHRISTIANS TRAPPED
 
Paul said, “Give no place to the Devil.” Ephesians 4:27 NKJV
The context of that was, don’t go to sleep at night angry with your spouse because if you do you will give place to the devil. Work it out before you go to bed because if you don’t, you are angry and the devil is going to get a foothold in your life. But the principle applies everywhere. If there is something you are doing that is leading you to disobey God’s Word, you have to stop it. It might seem completely innocent but you have to stop it. I am a diabetic and I love chocolate, but I have to stop it. I am not joking about this. I am going to die if I don’t stop it. I’ll loose my toes like my Uncle Harry did. I’ll loose my legs like my Uncle Harry did if I don’t stop it.
That’s what Satan does to us. He comes as an angel of light, he tries to deceive us in these little ways, ways that might not even be that bad, yet we give in to it. We know we are doing wrong, we believe one thing but are doing another, and Satan is given place. You have to give no place to the Devil.
In Ephesians 6, Paul says put on the whole armor of God. You have to get up every day and put on the armor, ask for God’s protection. You can put on each piece of armor, like Paul does there, in prayer, step by step, and say, “Now I am ready to go. Satan get out!” And go, live this day!
Paul instructed Timothy to correct fellow Christians, “those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (1 Timothy 25,26 NKJV)
So, even Christians can be snared by the Devil. Even Christians can be trapped.
Peter said the Devil is like “a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour, resist him” (1 Peter 5:8,9). And James said, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
So if you feel like this is all overwhelming, what are we going to do? The Bible says we don’t have to give in to him. He is defeated. When all these things happen to you, the temptations, the accusations, the condemnations, resist the devil! Tell him to get out of here just like Jesus did and he will go, he will flee from you.
How does that happen? John said, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 ASV
The Devil seems overwhelming at times but we don’t have to bear that burden because, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” God is in control. This thing didn’t surprise Him. He has allowed it to happen for a reason. Satan will not get the victory from it. We do not have to be defeated and hang our heads in shame. We can operate knowing God is going to work a miracle, a victory out of what has happened in this church this past week. We don’t have to be afraid and kowtow to the Devil.
 
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.They triumphed over himby the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12: 7-12 NIV).
 
Why is the world going to hell in a teacup? The Devil knows his time is short and he is doing everything he can to wreak havoc on God’s plan for this age. He was cast out of heaven, he has no more authority and power. Jesus is Lord, He has all authority and power. Satan is defeated, he knows he is defeated, therefore we don’t have to live defeated. We have overcome him by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. The Blood of the Lamb is the Cross of Christ where he shed his Blood for us, forgave our sins and made us right with God.
The Word of our testimony is that Jesus is Lord, He’s a Risen Lord. We believe in Him, therefore Satan has no authority, no power, no condemnation toward us.
 
 
THE WORD, OUR LIFE!
 
How do you ensure that your beliefs and your action match so that you are not living in dissonance all the time?
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 NIV
It all goes back to the Word of God. You need to meditate on it, you need to study it, you need to read it, you need to make sure it is in your heart, so when the Devil comes tempting, you will have a verse of scripture to tell the Devil to get lost. You’ve got to live in the Word of God, you’ve got to know what the Bible says. How many times have you read through the Bible? You need to read through the Bible, you need to read it over and over and over. Since 1995 I have read it maybe ten times. You have got to read it, study it.
This is not some academic thing, this is your life! These are the Words of Life! These are the words that allow you to resist the Devil and sin. It is a living Word. It is God inspired. It is the Holy Spirit’s Word. He speaks to us through it. That’s why you need to dwell on it. Throw away your TV show, do away with Dave Letterman. Read the Bible.
Take time to study God’s Word. Get up half an hour earlier, spend time in the Word of God. It is your life and a protection from sin. The Lord Jesus conquered sin and therefore sin does not rule over us. Paul writes in Romans 6 that we have died to sin. We can walk by the Spirit now, dead to sin and alive in Christ. The only way in can have control over you is if you give it permission, if you say, “I believe this,” and you live another way.
The reason why a lot of things happen to Christians is because they are holding on to some secret sin. They are holding on to some habit, some action, some pattern in their lives that they keep going to. No one else knows it, but the Devil knows it and at the right moment the Devil is going to bring it out in the open and it’s going to be a horrible thing. “You know, I didn’t really mean to do that. That’s not really me.” Yes it is. Your heart’s wicked and deceitful. You played around with it, the devil knew it and he got you in a place where the trap was set and you were exposed.
Jesus has conquered sin. Sin does not have dominion over you any more. You don’t have to give in to the devil. You can voluntarily, willingly say, “I am going to give my body to God and not to the Devil. I am going to give my body to righteous things and not to unholy things. You can do that in your life.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are a son of God you are going to live as a child of God. God himself will enable you to do that. Jesus took our sins so Satan cannot condemn you anymore (Romans 6; 8:1-2, 1 John 1:1,2, and Ephesians 6).
 
THE CYCLE OF ADDICTION
Why do good people do bad things? Either out of ignorance or out of a voluntary willful desire to commit sin, a person is tempted, a person acts on the temptation, and they commit the sin. The person then feels some kind of pleasure in that, but then the person starts feeling guilty. When they start feeling guilty, they start feeling condemned, and when they start feeling condemned they start feeling ashamed, and when they start feeling ashamed, they start thinking, “How can I get out of this? I don’t want to be like this. Oh, God, forgive me for being like this.” So their thought patterns are such that they have dissonance. They can’t understand why they believe this, but they acted like that. “What am I going to do? Well, what gave me pleasure?” The thought comes back to the temptation again and they give in to it. Now they have pleasure again, and they start this whole cycle. Round, round, round and around. Its called the cycle of addiction.
It could be alcohol that gives you pleasure. Pornography gives that you pleasure. It could be gambling that gives you pleasure or it could be food that gives you pleasure. It could be narcotics that give you pleasure. It could be power that gives you pleasure. It could be anything else you fill in the blank with that gives you that sense of pleasure and suddenly you get in that cycle of guilt and shame and pleasure, of guilt and shame and pleasure, of guilt and shame and pleasure, and the cycle traps you. That happens to Christians as well as non-Christians, but there is a way out.
The Celebrate Recovery 12-step sheet shows the basics of 12-step recovery groups. The principles of AA and other 12 step groups are based on biblical principles. The key is the first step: Admit you have a problem. Then you look to God to deliver you. You consciously turn yourself over to God and then search your heart to uncover everything that is morally wrong. You then begin to become transparent by confessing your sins to God and to another trusted person. You ask God to remove your sins and your wrongs and you begin to make amends with others that you have wronged. You continue the cycle of self-examination and confession and you begin to pray and develop spiritually asking God to show you the way forward. As you begin to recover, you begin to share your experience with others and support them so they too can be healed. This is the way to overcome addiction and sin and grow in your walk with God.

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 03/30/14
 
Hiking the Rugged Trail
Ephesians 4:1-7
 
INTRODUCTION: The Christian life has been called “a walk”.  It is a life that follows God’s Law and God’s Spirit through personal faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:1 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Curtis Vaughn calls verse one “the pivotal verse of the whole epistle – indeed, the key that unlocks its structure…”  Chapters 1-3 are doctrinal; chapters 4-6 are practical. In other words, now that you know who you are and where you are going, live it out; walk right; do what God wants you to do. The Christian life is a walk. A Christian needs spiritual skills and proper equipment to walk the Christian walk.  God wants us to live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen to be a part of his family. How can we walk worthy of our calling from God? Let’s relate our spiritual walk to preparation for a hike in the mountains.
 
HIKERS NEED A GOOD PAIR OF WALKING SHOES.
 
*The Christian walk needs the sturdy support of patient love. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (2).
 
*Love is expressed by three virtues: humility, gentleness and patience.
 
Principle: We will succeed in our Christian walk if we consciously choose to humbly, gently, patiently and lovingly overlook our brother’s faults.
 
HIKERS NEED A GOOD BACKPACK FOR THE HIKE.
 
*The Christian walk needs the backpack of unity filled with the seven essentials of doctrinal truth. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (3).
 
*The backpack of unity in the Spirit has seven basic truths around which Christians can agree. The unity of the church centers on the doctrines of God, salvation, and the church. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4-6).
 
Principle: Spiritual unity is built around basic biblical doctrine.
 
HIKERS NEED SPECIAL SKILLS FOR THE HIKE.
 
*The Christian walk requires that we use the special spiritual abilities that God has given to us.  “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (7).
 
  • You have a spiritual gift: “grace has been given”
  • Your gift may not be the same as someone else’s gift: “But to each one of us”
  • The Lord distributes the gifts: “as Christ has apportioned it”
 
Principle: God gave us spiritual gifts so that we can help others.
 

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 03/23/14
 
Prayer with a Purpose
Ephesians 3:14-21
 
INTRODUCTION: Dietrich Bonheoffer, contending that everyone needs to learn how to pray, wrote in his book Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible that “prayer does not simply mean to pour out one’s heart…it means rather to find the way to God and speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.” We need to find a practical way to pray. Paul has given a personal prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1, but here in Ephesians 3 Paul offers a prayer with a purpose that all of us can use. Paul reminds the believers that he has been given the job of preaching the mystery “that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6).  In great gratitude and humility, Paul boldly and confidently prays for the believers (3:12-14). Purposeful prayer for others includes:
 
THE REQUEST FOR INNER POWER.
 
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (16-17).
 
THE REQUEST FOR A FIRM GRASP OF LOVE.
 
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” (17-18).
 
THE REQUEST FOR THE FULNESS OF GOD.
 
[I pray that you] “know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (19).
 
CLOSING: PURPOSEFUL PRAYER IS NOT AN ILLUSION.
 
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (20-21).
 
Pray that God’s people will know the inner power of Christ, God’s love, and the fullness of God.
 

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 03/16/14
 
Tear Down This Wall
Ephesians 2:11-22
 
INTRODUCTION: It seems humans spend most of their lives building barriers like the Berlin Wall that block human relationships. We shut people out. We think we have good reasons but the end result is fear and suspicion and broken relations. Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” quotes his neighbor as saying “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost questions the norm and says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall / That wants it down.” But when gaps open in the wall, we are quick to “mend” them and create distance between us. We even make walls where no walls are needed. The truth is good fences do not make good neighbors. They keep us apart. Jesus Christ came to break down the walls that divide us. Ephesians 2:11-22 shows why and how Jesus tore down the wall of separation.
 
BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS CREATE DIVIDED HUMANITY.
 
*Non-Jewish outsiders were morally and spiritually bankrupt and rejected by the Jews. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (11-12).
 
*The Jews were people of superior religion and worship but were also spiritually bankrupt. The Jews had “’the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)” and “the covenants of the promise.”
 
*There was a wall of hostility between the two groups. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (14).
 
JESUS CHRIST RECONCILES BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS.
 
*Christ’s work of atonement:
 
  • Brings us near to God: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ… He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (13, 17-18).
 
  • Breaks down the dividing wall: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (14-15).
 
  • Restores us to God and destroys the hostility between us: “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (15-16).
 
*Christ’s breaking down barriers results in:
 
  • One new humanity: “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…” (15).
 
  • One new body: “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross…” (16).
 
*What does the New Humanity look like?
 
  • It is a spiritual nation and a new family. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (19).
 
  • It is a spiritual building and Temple: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (20-22).
 
Jesus Christ breaks down the barriers between us. What walls do you have in your life that need to come down?
 
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 03/09/14
 
But God
Ephesians 2:1-10
 
INTRODUCTION: After praising the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:1-14) and praying for the Ephesian believers (Eph. 1:15-19), Paul launches into how the power of God has brought salvation to every believer. Paul explains the process of spiritual rebirth and the purpose of good works. Paul describes the power of God that delivers us as “the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:19-20). God saves us so we can serve him.
 
THE PRECARIOUS POSITION OF SPIRITUAL DEATH
 
*How does one define spiritual death? Paul says, As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” (2:1).
 
*The person without Christ is controlled by the world, the flesh, and the devil. “You followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts” (2:2-3).
 
*By our character and actions without Christ we were all worthy of punishment. “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath”(3).
 
THE PRECIOUS POSSESSION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
 
*The three redeeming facts of spiritual life: mercy, love, and grace.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (2:4-5).
 
*The three resulting features of spiritual life: alive, raised, seated
“God…made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (2:5-6).

THE PRIMARY PURPOSES OF SPIRITUAL LIVING
 
*God saves us so he can demonstrate his grace.  God saves us
“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:7-9).
 
*God saves us to make possible a life of good works.  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10).
 
Have you experienced spiritual life? Have you become a Christian?
 
Has the Lord transformed you from the inside out and given you new purpose and meaning for your life?
 
Have you received God’s gift of salvation through his Son Jesus?
 
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:7-9).
 
 
 

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 03/02/14
 
A Prayer for One Another
Ephesians 1:15-19
 
INTRODUCTION: Love is meeting needs. Prayer is one way to meet needs. If you were to ask someone to pray for you, what would you ask them to pray? Would it be for a new car? A better job? Less friction in your marriage? What do you as a Christian want others to pray for you? Better yet, what can you pray for another believer that will get to the heart of her needs? Is there something more you can pray than a general “bless him” or “help him”?  Paul would say that there is a prayer of petition that you can pray that will meet the needs of fellow Christians. Writing from prison, Paul voices a prayer for his faithful friends in Ephesus in Ephesians 1:15-19. Like Paul, when you pray for a Christian, pray that God will enlighten the believer to understand his or her spiritual relationship with Christ.
 
PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL CAPACITY TO INCREASE.
 
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (17).
 
  • The ability to understand spiritual truth is a God-given ability.
  • The Christian receives, tests and communicates spiritual truth through his spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit strives to increase your knowledge of Christ, God and eternal life.
 
The spiritual capacity for wisdom and revelation can increase through prayer.
 
PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION TO INCREASE.
 
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (18).
 
  • A Christian has spiritual eyes.
  • “Enlightened” here means “saving knowledge.”  The more “saving knowledge” you receive, the more light you have to see by.
 
You have been enlightened and you can continue to be enlightened day by day.
 
PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE TO INCREASE.
 
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe (18-19).
 
  • Spiritual capacity and insight are worthless without the proper content to meditate upon.
  • “the hope to which he has called you” – The Christian hope is a certain, glad confidence in better things to come based in God’s calling.
  • “the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” – God has riches, an inheritance, a future kingdom to give to his people. Saintly fellowship points to a future reality.
  • “his incomparably great power for us who believe” – A future awaits you? How will you make it? God will supply the power.
 
Pray that you have a knowledge that sets its eyes on a future hope and strives for that hope through the present power of God.
 
During this Season of Lent, use Paul’s prayer as a guide to pray for one another. Use the insert in your bulletin to pray for others and our church for the next 40 days.

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 02/23/14
 
Praise to the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 1:13-14
 
INTRODUCTION: Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology, a hymn of praise to the Trinity. After Paul’s greeting to the Ephesian church (1:1-2), he sings a hymn of praise with three verses – Praise to the Father (1:3-6), Praise to the Son (1:7-12), and Praise to the Holy Spirit (1:13-14).  Each verse ends with a similar phrase, “to the praise of his glorious grace” or “for the praise of his glory.” Today we come to the third verse of praise to the Spirit. The Father initiated our salvation. The Son gave his life for our salvation. Now Paul praises the Holy Spirit for guaranteeing our salvation. The Holy Spirit seals our salvation the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior.
 
WHAT IS THE INDIVIDUAL’S ROLE IN SALVATION?
 
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” (Eph. 1:13).
 
*Salvation is for all people. “And you also were included in Christ…”
 
*Faith comes by hearing the word of truth in the gospel. “when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”
  • Romans 10:17 – “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
*We must believe in a person, Jesus Christ, for salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”
  • Romans 10:9-13 – “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved… for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
 
Everyone must believe in the Good News about Jesus to be saved.

WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ROLE IN SALVATION?
 
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
 
*The Holy Spirit authenticates our salvation. “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit...”
 
  • The Holy Spirit is a person and personal – “the promised” one (Joel 2:28; John 7:39; Acts 2:16).
 
  • The Holy Spirit seals us:
 
  1. He indwells us (John 14:17)
  2. He empowers us (Acts 1:8)
  3. He regenerates us (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5)
  4. He baptizes us (1 Corinthians 12:13)
 
*The Holy Spirit guarantees our salvation. “the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
 
  • The seal is a sign of ownership (God’s possession) –
  •  
  • The seal is a sign of eternal security – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
  • The seal is a down payment on our inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22).
 
The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, marks us as children of God, and maintains us as children of God until we enter God’s eternal home.

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 02/16/14
 
Praise to the Son
Ephesians 1:7-12
 
INTRODUCTION: Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology, a hymn of praise to the Trinity. After Paul’s greeting to the Ephesian church (1:1-2), he sings a hymn of praise with three verses – Praise to the Father (1:3-6), Praise to the Son (1:7-12), and Praise to the Holy Spirit (1:13-14).  Each verse ends with a similar phrase, “to the praise of his glorious grace” or “for the praise of his glory.” Today we come to the second verse of praise to the Son. Paul praises the Father for what he has done for us in the past. His praise of the Holy Spirit will be for what the Spirit will do for us in the future. Paul’s praise for the Son is for what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing for the believer in the present. In Christ, we have redemption, revelation and restoration.
 
CHRIST CONTINUES HIS WORK OF REDEMPTION.
 
In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding… (Ephesians 1:7-8).
 
  • We have redemption through his blood. This is the legal positional side of salvation otherwise known as justification.
  • We have forgiveness of sins. This is the experiential side of salvation, the release of guilt and the practice of freedom.
  • We have grace from God with wisdom and insight. We can now understand God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.
 
CHRIST COMPLETES HIS WORK OF REVELATION.
 
He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10).
 
  • Mystery in New Testament terms is a plan of God hidden from human reason that must be divinely revealed. It is an open secret. Here, Jesus Christ is the mystery revealed.
  • God has providentially worked all things to the right time to reveal Christ. Jesus Christ is the steward of God’s house and God’s purposes for this world.
  • God’s ultimate goal is to gather all things under Jesus Christ’s lordship and authority at the exact time he has chosen.
 
CHRIST CONCLUDES HIS WORK OF RESTORATION.
 
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).
 
  • The goal of predestination is that we become God’s heritage.
The followers of Christ restore God’s intention of gathering a family for himself.
  • God wants our lives to reflect him and bring praise to his character. We are to bring honor to the family name.
 
We praise the Son because in him we have redemption, revelation and restoration.
 
Have you been forgiven?
 
Do you understand that God wants you to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
 
Are you willing to let God the Father restore you and make you part of his family?
 
 

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 02/09/14
 
Praise to the Father
Ephesians 1:3-6
 
INTRODUCTION: Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians around AD 60. The theme of Ephesians is that God wants the body of Christ, the church, to unite together under the head of the church, Jesus Christ the Lord.  After Paul’s greeting to the Ephesian church (1:1-2), he sings a hymn of praise with three verses – Praise to the Father (1:3-6), Praise to the Son (1:7-12), and Praise to the Holy Spirit (1:13-14).  Each verse ends with a similar phrase, “to the praise of his glorious grace” or “for the praise of his glory.” Paul says that God the Father is worthy of our praise.
 
HE HAS BLESSED US WITH SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.
 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
 
  • The blessings are from above in heaven.
  • The blessings are found in the person of Christ.
 
HE HAS CHOSEN US FOR HIMSELF.
 
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph. 1:4).
 
  • He chose us in Christ as our Representative before Creation.
  • He chose us to be set apart for God’s purposes and faultless in our behavior.
 
HE PREDESTINED US TO BECOME PART OF HIS FAMILY.
 
In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Eph. 1:5).
 
  • God’s plan from the beginning was to adopt us into his family.
  • We become part of God’s family by a spiritual new birth (1 Peter 1:3, John 3:3-8)) and by adoption (Galatians 4:4-7).
  • We are adopted when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord.
  • God did this because it pleased him and he wanted to do it.
 
HE POURED OUT HIS GRACE BECAUSE OF HIS GREATNESS.
 
--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Eph. 1:6).
 
  • He wants us to celebrate his favor and gifts through his Son Jesus.
  • The best response to grace is to receive it as a free gift from God.
 
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
 
Christians of all people have reason to rejoice:
 
--We have everything we need in Christ.
 
--We were chosen by God to serve him and become part of his family.
 
--We have salvation and spiritual gifts through the free gift of God - - Jesus Christ.

 

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS

Gregory C. Magruder  Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, FL 02/02/14
 
Greetings
Ephesians 2:1-2
 
INTRODUCTION: Paul came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla on his first missionary journey but did not stay very long (Acts 18).  On his second missionary trip he stayed in Ephesus three years and had a fruitful and eventful ministry (Acts 19). His successful ministry incited a riot and Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia. Paul called the Ephesian elders to meet him north of Ephesus on his way back to Jerusalem and said goodbye (Acts 20).
Paul uses a typical greeting for the time to introduce his letter. This letter is believed to have been written in Rome around AD 60 while Paul was in prison. He also wrote Colossians and Philemon about the same time and had the letters delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21).  The theme of Ephesians is that God wants the body of Christ, the church, to unite together under the head of the church, Jesus Christ the Lord.
 
THE WRITER: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”
 
*His title“Paul, an apostle” means “a sent one.” 
 
*His authority – “by the will of God.” See Acts 9:15 for Paul’s call and authority.
 
THE READERS:  “to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”
 
*Paul writes to the “holy people in Ephesus” - literally “to the saints” or “holy ones” or “set apart ones.”
 
*The saints live in a local place: “in Ephesus.”  Christianity is not “pie in the sky” but rather “down to earth.”
 
*The saints are “faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The church consists of only true believers who live in obedience by faith in a local setting.
 
THE GREETING:  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
*The usual Greek opening was “Rejoice!” but Paul replaces it with “Grace.”
 
*Paul wants readers to know the free, loving favor of God (grace) and the serenity and wholeness (peace) that results from it.
 
*The Father and the Son extend this grace and peace equally and eternally.
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