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Unconditional Surrender to God:  Why? and How?

By David A. DePra

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

When Christians speak of, "unconditional surrender to God," we sometimes think of it as something EXTRA we do, or as a DEEPER walk with Christ. But the fact is, UNCONDITIONAL surrender is the ONLY KIND THERE IS when it comes to God. What? Do we think we are to, "conditionally," surrender to God?

We see this clearly if we understand repentance and salvation. The gospel message is essentially, "repent and believe." But what are we to REPENT OF? Well, we are to repent of NOT believing. Or, to put it another way, we are to repent of owning ourselves, and of not surrendering ourselves to Jesus Christ. This is the sin of unbelief. All of our other acts of sin fall under this banner. They are to be acknowledged as well, as God convicts us, but the fundamental sin that we must repent of in order to believe unto salvation is the sin of not believing and surrendering to Christ Ė which all of us have committed because we have lived our lives on our own terms in the day and age of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, notice: If I repent of not believing, what is the result? Well, I believe. Sure. The result could be nothing else. And if I repent of not surrendering, what is the result? Well, I surrender! Thus, salvation itself is really the result of an unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ, not only as our Savior, but as our Lord.

Of course, there are no works required to be saved. We must simply, when God convicts us, repent and believe. The works all come later, not as the MEANS of getting saved, but as the progressive RESULT of getting saved. But notice how unconditional surrender is supposed to be UPFRONT. Often it isnít because we are not taught. But people need to be taught that when they, "give their lives to Christ," that this is exactly what they are doing. They no longer belong to themselves. They belong to Him.

This is, of course, great news. But sometimes we donít think it is great news. Often, because we donít know God, or donít believe Him, or simply need to see the Truth, we think of surrender as a negative act on our part, whereby we are giving God permission to TAKE from us, or make us miserable, or ruin our lives. Or, there are other Christians who think that surrender to God is nothing more than our half of a bargain Ė we surrender, and God just blesses the daylights out of us. It never occurs to them that there might be plenty wrong with us that makes it impossible for God to bless us in the way we desire, and that before He can, He must first deal with those issues.

So we do need to understand the Truth about unconditional surrender to God. What exactly IS it? And how do we DO it?

Relationship

REDEMPTION is a, "buying back." Essentially, Jesus Christ, by His Blood, bought us back from the realm of death and darkness Ė and bought us back to God Himself. God created man for an eternal relationship with Himself, and this is what God wants to restore through Christ. Thus, when we speak of unconditional surrender, we are talking about a surrender that is necessary to bring us back into this relationship.

Have we recognized that unconditional surrender to God through Christ is a return to THE relationship God originally designed? There isnít another one. That is IT. Thus, despite the pains and sufferings, and seemingly negative aspect of surrender as it pertains to THIS life, unconditional surrender, in the end, is all positive. It is of redemption itself.

Now ask: If we are born into this world with a mind and heart that is totally at enmity with God, and the goal is to bring us back to where we walk in harmony with Him as our Lord, how can this be accomplished? Do we think knowing Bible doctrines is going to do the trick? No. The doctrines can merely TELL US the goal and how to get there. But the only way to actually experience any of this redemption is if there occurs a major CHANGE IN US! Isnít that what the new birth really is? And isnít this what growth is? Sure. And unconditional surrender on the altar is the starting point.

Unconditional surrender is a surrender back to God. It is nothing more than an acknowledgement that the way I have been living is wrong, and contrary to God Himself. Not that I am guilty of great, immoral sin. But I am guilty of THE SIN Ė of living for myself. Thus, my surrender isnít an EXTRA thing, "I do for God." My surrender is nothing more than a return to God Himself, and the key to everything He wants to do in my life.

Unconditional

Unconditional surrender is nothing more than my complete and total relinquishment of my life into the hands of Jesus Christ. I relinquish my right to decide for myself. He becomes my Lord. I now belong to Him. The relationship I have with Him goes from there.

We belong to God if we are saved Ė even if we donít know that, or live like it. Have we truly grasped that? It means that there is no such thing as, "MY life," anymore, and no such thing as God doing something with, "MY life." Rather, it is HIS life. I am no longer my own.

Now, this is actually fantastic. For God is good. So this means that God is going to do good things with HIS life Ė i.e., the life that used to be MY life. But we must always remember that God works towards the eternal, despite the fact that we tend to think in the temporal. Thus, it may sometimes seem as if God is indifferent to the temporal. It may sometimes seem as if God isnít doing much with the life I have given Him. But He is doing plenty. He simply has different priorities than I have.

Our priority is usually that God fix our life, and settle our problems. Godís is often to use, or even create problems through which He can do His real work: Christ in us. Christians need to get it through their heads that God is doing a work in US personally. THAT is His eternal priority, and THAT is the key, really, to everything else. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. Thus, we need to stop thinking in terms of God doing THINGS in our lives. We need to stop thinking that, "to be in Godís will," means that God is going to alter outward circumstances. No. "To be in Godís will," means for Godís will (Christ) to be IN US! Ė and for Christ in us to be growing. It means for me to be seeking FIRST Jesus Christ in all things, and if I do, then God will take care of everything else. Godís purpose for my life, which is now HIS life, is CHRIST.

But are you and I geared to that? No. In fact, this is contrary to everything about us in a natural sense. This is why it sometimes seems like God is indifferent to us. It is because we focus on the wrong thing, and since God is not focusing on it, we think He doesnít care. No. He does care. But He cares about that which we usually cannot see. So God gets to take the heat for being indifferent.

Now I do realize that there are people who are convinced that God speaks to them every five seconds, and that there is no need for an inner adjustment for Godís blessings. You see this everywhere. "Just give your life to Christ, and watch the blessings come." Well, in the final analysis, if we do give our lives to Christ Ė as God means the term Ė that is TRUE. But I would suggest that if Jesus said, "Seek you first the kingdom," that this makes it certain that the kingdom in us is what God is first seeking. Any message to Christians that gets the order wrong on this, or which leaves out the necessity of the work of the Cross, is error. And as I said, it is everywhere today.

It is actually the gospel of Satan himself to suggest that we can have LIFE without DEATH. To tell Christians that unconditional surrender to God will result in material wealth and blessings, and never so much as mention that there is going to be a cost to YOUR SELF-KINGDOM is heresy. But it sure can fill churches, and promote a ministry.

When will we believe Jesus? He said, "You must lose your life to find it." He said, "Your life does not consist of possessions." He said, "You cannot serve God and mammon." He said, "You must carry your cross daily." Again and again, both He and the writers of the epistles tell us that if we are living for this life we are off the track. So what do we do? We try to live for this life and try to GET GOD TO HELP US! Sure. We bring God into OUR program and motivation for living and expect Him to service our goals and our lives. He never will Ė although we might be able to promote a religion or movement that will. God tells us, "I am not interested in servicing your life. I am interested in dismantling it. But what I have for you is infinitely better Ė both eternally, and in the here and now."

Not Our Own

Unconditional surrender means that I trust that God knows what I cannot know, and that I trust that He will be faithful to do what He wants, rather than be limited by what I want. It means that God is no longer an outsider to me, whom I invite into MY life. Rather, God is the ultimate INSIDER Ė Christ is in me Ė and I live realizing that I am not my own.

When will we realize that God is not a blessing machine with whom we make deals? When will we see that once we were saved, we no longer belonged to ourselves, and that God has since then been working from that Truth Ė even if we havenít.? WE DONíT BELONG TO OURSELVES! We really donít get to decide.

Now, that sounds scary. And for some people it may sound impractical. But it is actually the best news possible Ė if you trust God. I mean, do you really want to continue running your life on your own terms? Are you happy with it? If you are, then get ready. God will have to bring you down. He isnít going to finance, affirm, or bless YOUR SELF KINGDOM. He isnít going to help you belong to yourself. He wants to bring down your kingdom and set up Christ as Lord over everything about you.

Now herein is a key. If you have ever made an unconditional surrender to the Lord, you have probably found that not much happens in the immediate sense. God doesnít come down and visibly take over our lives. He doesnít visibly seem to be directing traffic. In fact, most things wonít change at all, as far as we can tell. Why?

Because we probably still have a self-kingdom that is in the way. So God must first deal with it. This may require one, or more, major crisis. But all along, and parallel to Godís tearing down of my kingdom, Christ will emerge Ė IF, and I say, IF, I am living out my unconditional surrender.

Here is where problem number one arises with regards to unconditional surrender. Lots of times when we do surrender to God, we use our surrender as a ticket out of trouble. If we donít like our lot in life, or even think it might be Godís will that it change, we will often, "surrender to God," in the hopes that doing so will get Him to change things to our liking. But if you notice what Iím describing here, you will hopefully recognize that it isnít unconditional surrender. Really, itís more like we are making a deal with God. We give Him our, "surrender," and He does what we want Ė which we assume HE wants. If you want to try this kind of thing with God, I will promise you it is not going to work. We ought to thank Him that it doesnít.

Herein we need to see something fundamental about unconditional surrender. We are not so much surrendering a THING to God, or a situation to God, or a condition. No. God may use these to draw us to Himself. But those THINGS are not what we are supposed to surrender. We are supposed to surrender OURSELVES. You will notice that Romans 12:1 doesnít say to present your troubles or circumstances to God as the living sacrifice. No. YOU are the living sacrifice. The trouble is merely what God you to the altar, and God will take care of it in His time. Right now, He wants YOU.

This is often why it seems like God does nothing once we surrender. Either we havenít surrendered OURSELVES, but have instead surrendered something less Ė or we really havenít surrendered at all. We probably donít know it, and maybe arenít doing this on purpose. But regardless, this is why God usually doesnít simply fix our problems the minute we surrender them to Him. If He did, we Ė OURSELVES -- would never get on the altar.

So we need to see this: God wants US. He knows about our problems, in fact, He may have allowed them, or even caused them, to get us to the altar. God will often create a real need in our lives in order to draw us to Himself and get us seeking Him and asking Him. But the purpose is to get US, and draw US, and deal with US Ė not to simply solve our problems.

Every time we find ourselves in a trial, WE need to get on the altar, and say to God, "Lord, I know you care about this problem. But I pray that you would do in ME what it is that you are after. I pray that you would reveal Christ in me through this problem. I pray that you would get your way in and through me. I get on this altar and open myself to You for that."

Now, that is unconditional surrender. And if we mean it, God will begin to work IN US. He will work towards a greater death to our SELF, and towards a greater LIFE in Christ Jesus. You want LIFE in Christ? You want TRUTH? This is how it comes. Again Ė note the outcome of getting on the altar:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

 

The reality is, if you surrender to God, not only does God get you, but you get God. Do you want more of God? Surrender more of you. It is just that simple.

So we see that unconditional surrender is nothing more than my obedience to Romans 12:1. I take my hands off of my life and put it into the hands of God. Obviously, the result is going to be obedience in practical ways. But be careful. It is possible to mechanically obey laws and principles and NOT be surrendered to God Ė perhaps we need to surrender to Him our self-righteousness through works!

In the final analysis, unconditional surrender is not merely a commitment on my part to obey God, and stop sinning. It includes that. But I must surrender, not only my SIN to God, but I must surrender my SELF. My self-righteousness, and my SELF period. Or to put it another way, I must not only surrender to God all of the BAD things about myself, but also all of the GOOD things.

What do I mean by, "all of the GOOD things?" Well, they really arenít good, but we think they are. And some of them arenít really evil or wicked. They can be humanly admirable. But the GOOD things about ourselves really amount to those things that we do, and that we use, to make ourselves righteous in our own eyes. Sure. Think about it. Do you use BAD things about yourself to make yourself feel righteous? No. You use GOOD things Ė you use your good works, your good attitudes, or whatever. These are the GOOD things about yourself that you must also surrender to God.

Now, that sounds terrible, doesnít it? I mean, it sort of leaves you feeling like there is nothing left, and nowhere to turn. For some of us, it makes us feel depressed, condemned, and naked. But is that what unconditional surrender to God is supposed to do to us? No. So obviously, there is something missing here. Something BIG.

Relinquishment

The main problem here is that we START in the wrong place Ė the fallen condition in Adam. So that is ALL we know. We have little or no frame of reference for freedom or redemption. So we know lots about what we are supposed to surrender Ė about what we are to leave behind. But we donít know much about what we are heading into Ė because we havenít been there. So it is easy to dwell on all the stuff that is bad, and that I have to surrender, rather than rejoice in the Person to whom I am surrendering.

But if you read the epistles, you will not find that the attitude of the Christian, as described there, is one of attending a funeral. Now, there IS a funeral. There ARE sufferings, surrenders, and deaths to die. BIG ONES. But the attitude is never a morbid dwelling upon, "all that I have given up for God." Have you ever had that attitude? Instead, what we find is, yes, an acknowledgement of the losses that are suffered, but a focus and a rejoicing because of it! We find a concentration, even an obsession, upon the LIFE to which all of these deaths lead.

The fact is, all that we are to surrender to God is dead anyways, and totally worthless. The fact that we continue to hold onto it, and commiserate over its loss, simply shows how deceived we are. I mean, think about it, if I am continually holding a funeral over my old man in Adam, telling God how generous it was of me to surrender to God, and how this surrender entitles me to some reward, it betrays the fact that I am still placing great value on that old life. I still donít see the Truth. If we saw the Truth, we would rejoice and be thankful, not only for being set free from our old life, and old way of operating, but we would rejoice and be thankful for the resurrection life in Jesus Christ that we have instead of all of that.

Donít misunderstand. We are going to do a certain amount of lamenting over what we surrender to God. It is just natural that we do Ė howbeit silly. This is all part of growth and coming out of that old creation. Indeed, this is all part of the surrender process.

Think about it. We easily surrender SIN Ė or at least I hope we do. But we do not as easily surrender SELF. Especially religious, respectable -- NICE self. Why? Because the good things, the religious things, about SELF, are what we use to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. They are the things that we use to cover our nakedness and make ourselves respectable, or presentable, before God. If we donít put our faith in our works and present these to God, then we put faith in our faith! Or faith in something else about SELF. I have even taken pride in the fact that I was righteous enough to surrender pride! I have even taken pride in the fact that I though I was humble! Havenít you?

Even as religious, professing Christians, we rummage and dig to find some scrap of decency in ourselves that we can present to God. Sometimes we even present to Him as a credential the fact that we have surrendered to Him! My goodness, how deceitful our hearts are! Even on our best day, doing our best thing, and in what we think is our best attitude, we are somewhat self-serving. We even serve self BY seeking to relinquish our selfishness!! This is just how far removed, and how completely fallen, our nature is. If you realize what I am saying, you also realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. SELF just is! Or to put it another way: There is nothing SELF can do about SELF Ė because the only material to work with is SELF.

Oh, but there is ONE thing we can do. And it is the ONE thing we are always told TO do. We can surrender ourselves to God. For you see, when it all comes down to it, if you have a SELF, you have a free-will, for in the end, the two are as one. And if you have a SELF, you may not be able to fix it, or redeem it, but you CAN surrender SELF to another. You can, through choice, surrender your choice. You can unconditionally surrender into Godís hands.

Paul knew what it meant to surrender to God Ė not just bad sinful things, but SELF. He wrote about this to the Philippians:

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:4-11)

All of the things Paul suffered the loss of are listed in this passage. You wonít find any immoral sins, or wicked things. Paul suffered the loss of everything about himself that he might have used to make himself righteous. He suffered the loss of everything that might make himself valuable in his own eyes. All of this, he said, had to go, in order that he might WIN CHRIST Ė and have the righteousness of Christ. All of it had to happen for Paul TO BE FOUND IN HIM.

Can we possibly see that Paul is talking about something here that goes far beyond just reading Bible verses and memorizing the doctrine? I can read this passage from Philippians every day for the rest of my life, and have it memorized, and even have a good understanding of it in my brain, but nevertheless the question will be: Have I experience what Paul is talking about in this passage? Do I KNOW Christ? Ė in a way that has truly set me free? Is He truly my righteousness Ė not that I have memorized the doctrine of justification by faith Ė but is Christ my righteousness in an active, living, dynamic way? Do I know that I have been FOUND IN HIM Ė that is, is my entire identity found in Him?

The fact is, what Paul is talking about in this passage is Christianity. It is the only kind the Bible knows anything about. It is what God wants for each of us. And yet it is so seldom understood, let alone taught, that it almost seems beyond us as to experience. It should not be so. Despite the eternal glory of it, it ought to be, "business as usual," in the Body of Christ.

Paul is talking about the results of unconditional surrender for him. Our results, in practical terms, may be different, but our surrender ought to be the same. God simply wants US. He wants us to surrender ourselves to Him, and leave the consequences of our surrender to HIM.

It works like that even in salvation itself. God never said we could birth ourselves anew. He never told us to muster up in ourselves the faith necessary to reach up to Him. But He does say that HE will convict us of sin, and show us the Savior. But when He does, there is still nothing we can do Ė except surrender. We have to come to the Cross. THAT we can do. A spiritually dead person cannot make himself alive, not by his works, and not by his faith. But a spiritually dead person can be shown, by God, just how dead and sinful he is, and be given the choice to surrender his deadness and sin to God through the Cross. If you have a SELF, that is possible, once God convicts.

As it is with salvation, so it is with all else. You cannot gender LIFE. But you can, as God reveals, surrender SELF Ė or, we might say, surrender the life you have. If you do, then a death will take place in you. But then NEW LIFE will emerge. You didnít make the death, or make the life Ė you simply surrendered yourself and were made one with Christ in HIS death and resurrection.

Funny thing is, as mentioned, salvation itself IS unconditional surrender. There really isnít any other KIND of salvation. But you see, we have so watered down even THAT, that most Christians think that salvation is nothing more than a new legal classification,

Is there self-interest in this? Well, to a degree. I mean, we DO want to live, donít we? And there is nothing wrong about that Ė in fact, God appeals to us on that basis. But in reality, if my conviction of sin is of the Holy Spirit, I am not going to be bargaining with God for life. I am not going to be surrendering to Him SO THAT I can live Ė as if I am cutting the best deal. Rather, I will be under a conviction that will make me to know that there is nothing good about ME Ė yes Ė but that there is everything good about Jesus Christ.

How long it takes it to get to this place! I think it takes long, and I think there are such struggles to find the Truth on these matters, because there is so little good teaching out there today, and so little real LIFE in Jesus Christ. If the Body of Christ were truly walking in the purposes of God Ė which is CHRIST IN US Ė these things would more easily be our experience. There would be TRUE ministry. There would be mutual edification. But sadly, these things are not taught very much today in our churches. Most Christian people donít even know to teach them.

Death and Resurrection

Unconditional surrender to God means that I get on the altar, and let God do the work of bringing me to the end of SELF. I get on the altar in an unconditionally commitment to Him, and then as things begin to unfold, I STAY ON THE ALTAR. In other words, I surrender, and then work out that surrender.

It would be nice if unconditional surrender were merely a religious exercise to do once, and then be done. But as I said before, if you have ever surrendered to God in that way, and meant it, you probably can testify to the fact that nothing seemed to happen. Maybe you thought you were changed, but you found out that you werenít. Why? Didnít God hear your prayer?

Sure He did. And He took your surrender. But what did you want Him to do Ė come down and wipe out everything in you that is not perfect, all at once? To renew your mind all at once? To somehow program you, all at once, so that it would be impossible for you to ever sin again, or operate out of self again? If God did that, you would not be you anymore. There would be no choices, and no righteous character. You would have to be totally stripped of your free will. In short, you would have no relationship with God.

You see, when we surrender to God, we are telling Him to put aside our desires, our fears, our will, our plans, our goals, indeed, we are telling Him to put US aside Ė and instead to do His will. But not just His will IN our lives. We are telling Him to do His will IN US. Therefore, when we tell God to put aside all those things about us, it is not a negative thing that deprives us. No. For He will change all of those things over to what HE WANTS them to be IN CHRIST. Do we believe God knows us better than we can know ourselves, and what is best for us? We will never unconditionally surrender to God until we believe that.

But wait. Do we think that in order for such a change to occur that it is not going to involve turmoil, trials, uncertainty, and a real spiritual battle? How could it NOT? We are talking about becoming formed together with Christ? Is that accomplished by reading, "Your Best Life Now," by Joel Osteen, or by, "Possibility Thinking," by Robert Schuller?" Give me a break. The blindness today to the purposes of God in Christ Jesus is terrifying.

God wants to change us to where we no longer live for ourselves, but Christ lives through us. This cannot be accomplished by positive thinking, or even in a minute. No. There is a process necessary. But notice something about everything I have just said about where we start in Adam Ė and the necessity for a process. If this is really so, then it is a fact that we have lots of bad stuff in us even after we surrender. Lots of things that are hindering, not the fact of our salvation, but hindering the flow of the life of Christ in us. These things must be dealt with.

How? By the work of the Cross. In other words, you got on the altar and unconditionally surrendered to God. But the first thing God must do is begin the work of the Cross. This will mean a tearing DOWN of your SELF KINGDOM. It will mean exposing you for what you are. It will mean showing you all of your errors, and showing you all of the lies you have believed. All of this work, which seems negative at the time, is necessary for freedom.

When we START in darkness and ruled by the kingdom of self, and God wants to bring us the Truth, and make Jesus our Lord, how do we think this can be accomplished? By simply reading the Bible? Or by prayer alone? No. Those things are great helps. But you have to actually pass through the experience of trial and suffering. You have to be brought to the place BY GOD HIMSELF to where self-relinquishment is possible. Only He can bring you there. And as He does, and while He does, it may seem as if God has forsaken you.

Why may it seem that way? Because you surrendered into the hands of God for GOOD, and now it seems that your life is falling apart. Where is God? Well, He is making your life fall apart! Sure. Thatís because it is no longer YOURS Ė you surrendered it. God took you at your word, and He is now doing a work that will bring you to where you will be able to live and experience, not only your surrender, but His life.

But during the time God is tearing down your self-kingdom, it will seem like He is tearing down a good thing Ė because your self-kingdom is all you have ever know. Perhaps you have been more comfortable and in love with it than you thought. Either way, to be dealt with by God in this way is going to get at the heart and core of what makes you tick as a human being. It will deal a blow to you in ways that you cannot imagine. And yet, this is only the death side. There is a resurrection side.

The Bible doesnít tell us to rejoice in sufferings for naught. We are to rejoice in these deaths because they will lead to LIFE. Life, Truth, and freedom. These are the results of unconditional surrender to God. For as I said before, if you surrender to God, you get God. And you canít beat that!

Isnít it amazing that we must surrender to everything that is GOOD? And that we fight and struggle against doing so? Ė even as Christians? This just shows, once again, where we start, and how blind we are. Not only has God done everything possible for our redemption, but all that He has for us is good. And yet it is so hard for us to surrender to us. Why? Because we just donít believe and trust Him. May God open our eyes to seeing that there is nothing here in this life, or about ourselves, that can compare the what He has for us Ė yes in the afterlife Ė but of Himself through Christ in the here and now. We need to get on that altar and stay there.

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:16-18)

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