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Revival:  When is it of God?

by David A. DePra

      What is REVIVAL?  I mean, a real one, brought to pass by God Himself?  Actually, any revival that is truly of God is going to be nothing more than a restoration of exactly what God has been seeking to do for the last two-thousand years:  To save people, yes, but then FORM CHRIST in His people.  Thus, a revival is not a new movement.  It is simply a return to the ONE and ONLY movement that God began, and people have departed from, that started in Acts 2.

      God's purpose was always to give us, "Christ in us" -- so that Christ would BE our life.  He has always wanted to form Christ in us so that we could live and walk with Him, and become His witnesses.  This purpose was for this age, yes, but unto the next.  All of this means the redemption and restoration of all under God.  There is much IN that, but there is nothing new about it.  It is what God has always purposed through Christ, and any REVIVAL is going to bring people back to it, or into it for the first time.  This is not maybe.  It is a fact.  

      But to most Christian people, a real revival is one with signs, wonders, or miracles – or at least a revival is filled with what people claim are signs, wonders, or miracles from God.  We usually envision the healing of the sick, people falling down in the aisles under the weight of glory, and a large amount of emotional hysteria.  For some reason, THAT is what we think happens when God truly visits.  Today, revival is about stuff God does when He shows up – and that stuff is signs, wonders, and miracles. 

       The biggest irony in all of this is that most people think that the proof of a revival from God is the attention and reactions and the conduct of those involved.  If people are acting crazy in the name of Jesus then it must be a real revival because not that many people could be wrong, faking it, or deceived.  Right?  Thus, once something like that gets going, it will last quite some time.  It will attract the curious, but also attract those with real need who want to be touched by God, or who want to experience what others say have happened to them.  "Revivals," like this can last for years.  But history has shown that such revivals do very little to bring anyone alive in Christ.

      There have been documented cases of fraud on the part of some leadership in modern revivals.  People have been caught red-handed planting things like, “angel dust,” and, “angel feathers,” and precious gems, and there are been fabricated stories of gold teeth appearing in people’s mouth.  But there have also been many more cases of sincere people getting caught up in emotionalism, getting an adrenalin rush, and claiming healing, etc., only to realize later that nothing has changed.  There have been others who have gotten caught up in things like, “holy laughter,” and acting like fools.  They would tell you that they weren’t faking this, but that it was something that came upon them that they could not control.  It is certainly a fact that most supposed revivals are NOT the result of deliberate fraud on the part of the average participant.   But that is never the question.  The question is whether this kind of thing is of God.

      I don’t know whether most of us realize the gravity and seriousness of that question.  For if a supposed revival is NOT of God, then we are talking about some other source or cause.  We are, at the very least, talking about being part of a big LIE.  But worse, we are talking about something that may be of the enemy.  There will be lasting consequences.  There always are.

      So this brings us back to the question:  What is true revival?  In this day and age, it is all the more vital that we understand the answer, for as we move forward in these last days, there are going to be more and more fake revivals, with signs and wonders, all for the purpose of leading God’s people away from Jesus Christ.

 Revival is Judgment Unto Restoration

       One of the real tests of revival is what remains when all of the excitement dies down.  God is interested in only ONE issue:  The measure of Christ.  Have people come into a greater fullness of Christ?  Have they gained a personal knowledge of Him?  Is God having His way with those people -- in Spirit and in Truth?  In the final analysis, it is not going to matter what THINGS went on in any supposed revival.  What matters is the SAME thing that always matters with God:  Has Christ been formed in people?  Is God getting His purpose and glory?  Does this continue when the supposed revival passes?  Or -- is there error?  Is there just another season of waiting for the next revival or new thing?  Revival is about Christ becoming our life.  That is eternal.

       Well, that's changes our perception of revival, doesn't it?  Revival isn't about God doing THINGS.  Revival is about the same thing God has always sought to do:  Reveal Christ TO people, IN people, and then THROUGH people.  Not simply during the revival, but in a way that builds a foundation for eternity.

      Let's look into the NT.  First of all, if you read the NT, you will find NO mention whatsoever of revival.  It simply isn’t there – not in the form that we normally associate with the concept.  What you do have are a number of churches that have gone astray, and a letter from Paul or another apostle that is intended to warn them, and bring them back to the Truth in Jesus Christ.

      Read Galatians.  This church was, according to Paul, “standing aloof,” from Jesus Christ as their life.  (Gal. 1:6)  Christ had become, “of no effect,” to them.  (Gal. 5:4) They had not lost salvation.  Rather, they were trying to maintain their spiritual life through their own works.  This had the opposite effect – spiritual death – because Christ alone is our life.  The solution, according to the apostle, was not signs and wonders.  It was not emotionalism.  It was not a miracle rally.  The solution was that, “Christ be formed in them.”  (Gal. 4:19)  The Galatians needed a revival of Truth and Life in Jesus Christ.  This is true revival.  Jesus Christ is THE LIFE.  He is the only solution to unbelief and deception.

      This brings us to a sobering conclusion:  Revival is judgment.  Absolutely.  If God is to bring us back to Christ as the source of all for us, then He MUST convict us of where this has not been the case.  If God brings light it will expose darkness.  If God is to strengthen our faith, He must expose error and unbelief.  You cannot have revival without the judgment of God upon all that needs to be revived.  Revival begins with judgment unto repentance.

      If Jesus Christ is to become our life – the means by which we live and move and walk with God – then all that is of US; of natural man – must be brought under the Cross.  This is nothing more than the principle of life from death.  Where revival is needed among Christian people it is usually because natural, religious man has become the life – in place of Christ as our life.  Thus, revival will expose this condition and people must respond by repenting and by bringing all that is of THEMSELVES to the Cross of Christ, that the life of Christ might then become their life. 

      Do we want to come alive?  Then we must first die -- come to the Cross.  There is simply no other way.  Do we want Christ to be our life?  Then we must lose our life into His hands. 

      Now, note that judgment will certainly include repentance of SINS.  But too often we don’t realize that we need to repent of the ONE SIN that provides ground for all of the rest:  The sin of UNBELIEF.  The sin of unbelief is not merely us NOT believing or of refusing to belief.  The sin of unbelief always involves faith or reliance upon something other than Jesus Christ – as the means by which I walk with God.  Get that.  You and I can use even religious and seemingly good things as the means by which we walk with God – including our own good works.  But it is unbelief.  It is sin.  It spells spiritual death.  The Galatians had a church filled with good works – but also with self-righteousness.  They were deceived and under, “another gospel.”  They needed revival – which meant they needed the judgment of God.  They needed to bring all of that to the Cross and to return to Christ as their life.

      If Jesus Christ is THE LIFE – if Christ IS OUR LIFE (Col. 3:4) -- then revival means a restoration back to Him AS our life, in a practical way through faith.  It is not the new birth all over again.  Rather, for God’s people, revival corrects the condition of unbelief in us, and restores God’s ongoing work of revealing Christ and forming Christ in us – as our life and object of faith. 

      People often think of revival as a time when God touches people and does stuff TO them.  It is not that God would not do that.  But true revival is about more than God doing stuff to us, or for us.  It is about what God wants to do IN US.  If what is happening is not unto the end that Christ be revealed IN people, then it is not real revival. 

      REVIVAL – and the term suggests a, “coming alive again” – revival suggests that spiritual death has become the norm.  Revival is therefore restoration to Christ as our LIFE.  There would be no need to, “come alive again,” in Christ if people were already alive.  No.  They were perhaps once alive in Christ but now must be REVIVED.  Thus, by definition, revival is necessary when spiritual conditions have reached a sorry state. 

      It is also possible that revival would include the introduction of spiritual life for the first time into a person's condition of death – people would be born again or saved -- in which case the term RE-vival would not quite apply.  Semantics aside, “revival,” certainly speaks of the bringing in of the spiritual life through Jesus Christ into a condition of spiritual death.

      If you examine this, true REVIVAL is nothing more than God bringing people BACK to where they have always needed to be – with Jesus Christ as their life.  Or, it is God bringing people to Christ as their life for the first time.  Either way, revival is NOT something NEW that God is doing or adding.  Rather, it is God bringing people to where they were supposed to be all along.

     God is NOT doing something new in this age and never will.  No.  God is revealing Christ; speaking to us in His Son.  Have we exhausted Christ?  Are we even listening?  Any revival that is of God is not going to be a new thing, but a restoration of us back to the ONE Person who is to be our life.  Acts 2 began the one, "movement," of God.  There isn't going to be another.

      If we were all living in a healthy Christianity based upon the Person of Jesus Christ there would be no need for a revival – all we would need is spiritual GROWTH.  Thus, again -- this shows us one of the fundamental characteristics of any revival that is of God:  Judgment.  Get that.  Revival is judgment.  It is God bringing to His people the light of Truth in Christ, such that we see where we have strayed, see where we have erred, and repent. 

     Now, certainly all of us need to see more of Jesus.  Thus, there are always aspects of our Christian walk that God could judge – and judgment can be a POSITIVE thing.   Knowing the Truth sets us FREE.  If God is showing you a greater dimension of His Son, then by definition, you will see where you have been blind.  You will see your unbelief.  Truth will always expose UNTRUTH – and there is plenty of that in each of us.  How much more would this be true if God were seeking to open the eyes of those who were in grave error and unbelief?  Thus, revival is not a party.  It is judgment – all intended by God as the means of our freedom.  But it is judgment unto repentance nevertheless.

 Not Signs and Wonders

      Once we recognize that judgment is essential to any restoration back to God – to any revival – it raises the question as to whether what we need is some big movement filled with signs and wonders.  Do most people emerge from such a movement more grounded in the Truth?  Do folks emerge from these modern revivals with a greater revelation of Jesus Christ within them – to where Christ is now their very life?  No.  Indeed, if you examine a number of the more famous revivals of the early twentieth century you don’t see any lasting foundation of Truth and life in the Person of Christ.  What you do see is ERROR perpetuated and growing worse.  It would seem that once these revivals die down many people try to perpetuate what happened during that supposed revival.  You hear it everywhere today, "God can do it again?"  No.  He doesn't need to.  IT IS FINISHED IN CHRIST.

      Any move of God will always lay or build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and from there move forward in revealing the Person of Christ to us, and in us, and then through us.  That is revival. 

      The Bible itself tells us that signs and wonders cannot change the heart.  Indeed, Jesus Himself warned against seeking them.  What does that tell us?

     The kind of revival that is needed today is not one that is filled with signs, wonders, and emotionalism – we don’t need another circus.  What we need is God’s judgment – God’s light and Truth.  If God would bring that then it would quickly, “weed the garden.”  People who really want to know Jesus Christ in spirit and Truth would open themselves to the light of God’s judgment.  People who aren’t serious with God would refuse to accept it. 

      If Jesus Christ warned us against seeking after signs and wonders – said it was spiritual adultery to do so – how likely does it seem that when God brings revival that it would come with signs and wonders?  No.  Revival from God comes with TRUTH.

       What God wants to do in the individual is to REVEAL CHRIST IN US.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Christ TO us, IN us, and then ultimately THROUGH us.  God wants to FORM CHRIST in us.  This cannot be accomplished with signs and wonders.  Even if a person would encounter a real sign or wonder from God it would not accomplish this.  It cannot.  True revival is a revelation of Jesus Christ to individuals – and this is something that could BEGIN in a revival, but must continue over the course of a person’s lifetime.  It is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which, in turn, will judge all that is in us that is contrary to Him.  Anything else is not revival, and consequently, not of God.

       Revival is not intended by God to accomplish anything different than what He has always intended to accomplish in people through Jesus Christ.  Thus, it is only because the church has strayed into unbelief and deception that revival is necessary.  The great need today is not for signs and wonders.  The great need is for Jesus Christ to be revealed to us and in us.

 Movements

      Christian people are often pressured to join movements or ministries, “to get in on what God is doing.”  To be perfectly blunt about this, such pressure is usually motivated by MONEY.  The truth is, you don’t need to join a movement or a ministry to, “get in on what God is doing.”  What God is doing is CHRIST.  And if you are born again, He is IN YOU.  I would say that is involvement.

       In addition, if God wants to use you in any sort of ministry, it is not necessary for you to join a movement.  You are ALREADY IN ONE – it started in Acts 2.  God has had ONLY that movement since – and any so-called revivals, if they were of God, were unto the end of returning the Body of Christ to Jesus Christ.

     Read the NT.  You will never find a single instance where Paul, John, Peter, or any of the other apostles, appealed to people to join them, “lest they miss out on what God is doing.”  Indeed, in most cases, the apostles were deserted.  God has NOT anointed certain people and commanded the rest of us to join them lest we miss out.  No.  The anointed one is IN US.  Any leader is going to tell you exactly that.

      It would seem that since the second century there has been this continual deception suggesting that God has a special movement, special church, special group, or special leader – and that the rest of us must submit to them, become part of them, or give money to them – or we are going to settle for less of Christ.  This is a lie and one of the greatest lies of the enemy.

 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Whom we preach , warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  (Col. 1:27-28)

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  (I Tim. 2:5)

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.   But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  (I Jn. 2:27)

      There is no greater access to God through any other person or movement.  Our access to God is solely through Jesus Christ.  Do we want to know the way to God, or the way to keep ourselves in His will?  Jesus said, “I AM the Way.”  (Jn. 14:6)  It is not wrong to be part of a ministry.  But it IS wrong if they are telling you that you must join or support them in order to, “be part of God’s will,” or to, “get in on what God is doing.”  No.  If Christ is in you, you have direct and personal access to God ONLY through Him.  Nothing can add to that or subtract from Him. 

      If Jesus Christ is THE WAY and THE TRUTH and THE LIFE, then if you had never heard of any supposed, “move of God,” and had never come across some so-called, “anointed ministry,” then through Christ alone God would bring you into His fullness.  Don’t we have to come into God’s fullness through Christ anyways?  Thus, any ministry that is preaching the Truth is going to point us to Christ alone and will NEVER make of themselves some sort of conduit or special connection to God.

      Read the above passage again from I John.  John writes what he does, “concerning them that seduce you,” that is, as a warning against those who would seduce believers away from Christ to someone else.  The point being that every believer needs to understand that our relationship with God is NOT dependent upon whether we are in the right church, the right group, under the right leader, or in some special movement.  Our relationship with God is dependent upon the Christ who already dwells in us.  And it will always be.  Any true ministry will TELL US THAT.

      Again – God has never started a movement.  He has not brought new Truth.  He has not done a new thing.  No.  God has had ONE movement – in Christ through the Spirit of God – which began in Acts 2 and continues until the present.  He has only ONE Truth – it is found in the One who said, “I am the Truth,” and who dwells in us.  And God has never done a new thing – because He has never given us a new Person -- but He has simply given us Jesus Christ.  But you see, where Satan has blinded people to the living Christ who dwells within each believer, we can be seduced away to a substitute.  We can be convinced that we need to belong to a movement or a ministry.  No.  We belong to Christ alone and He dwells in us.

 Signs and Wonders

 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives thee a sign or a wonder,  And the sign or the wonder come to pass , whereof he spoke unto thee, saying , Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known , and let us serve them;  Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proves you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Deut. 13:1)

For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.  For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.  (I Cor. 11:19)

 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.  (II Thes. 2:9)

 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.  (Matt. 12:39)

      Christian people tend to flock to signs and wonders – which is exactly what it means to seek after signs and wonders – and then most Christian people tend to believe that they are indicative that God is blessing, affirming, and manifesting Himself where the sign or wonder is taking place.  In fact, however, the Bible warns us against doing so.  Indeed, we are told that even if a sign or wonder is real – and often they are fake – but even if they are real, they are not necessarily of God.  Even if there is a supernatural sign or wonder it does not prove that God is at work.  It could be of the enemy.

      Think about it.  Jesus Himself warns us against seeking after signs and wonders – against gathering around them; establishing them as evidence of God.  That being the case, how likely is it that God is going to do all kinds of signs and wonders – when He has already warned us against seeking them?  The fact is, where these things have been reported they have taken precedence over Jesus Christ.  Revivals have become about a thing called, “revival,” and about the signs and wonders, rather than about the Person of Christ.  This has almost universally been the case.  Would God, knowing this, simply FEED IT?

     I would submit that many of the famous revivals that have taken place over the last century are almost entirely known, not for any unfolding of the Person of Jesus Christ – not for a correction in the church that came about from unbelief to a true relationship in Christ – but nearly all of these so-called revivals to this day are known for the antics that went on during the revival.  People were carried away with their emotions.  People were slain in the spirit.  People acted crazy.  There were all kinds of things that people did during these many revivals.  Thus, these revivals are today celebrated about THINGS God did, and experiences people had, and yet very little has lasted in the way of the foundation of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, out of some of these revivals have emerged movements and denominations whose goal is to simply perpetuate what want on in the revival.

      For example, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are, in large part, based on the 1906 Azusa Street revival.  It is claimed that this started the end time outpouring of God’s Spirit.  Really?  Have; those movements grown in the Truth over the last hundred plus years?  There is no doubt that they have grown in numbers, money, and influence – those movements literally own Christian TV.  But has Jesus Christ been manifested in Spirit and in Truth?  Do these movements, above all others, preach and teach the Truth?  Do they focus on edifying others in Christ, and are they vehicles of God unto the forming of Christ within believers?  No, they are not.  You were almost NEVER even hear on Christian TV today that Jesus Christ is in us, nor of the freedom of knowing Him in a personal way.   Even if mentioned, it is usually tied to money, or their movement.  Just as the Azusa Street revival was more about what was happening than it was about Christ, so is the case today. 

      I would submit that if God were to actually visit His people with an outward and dramatic Spirit of Truth – bringing judgment and the need for a new focus and direction -- that half the church would say it was the Devil.  Most would have none of it.   And some of those who might originally accept it would try to turn even that into a movement.  No.  There are no new movements.  There is simply HIM – the same Christ who has been there from the beginning, and who has always offered Himself to all.  Thus, if we want a revival, we don’t want anything new.  We want what the church has generally overlooked.

      It would seem that rather than try to attract people with signs and wonders that God must surely know will do more harm than good, that God is not likely to draw people’s attention to Christ in that way at all.  He has a better way:  Through trials and tribulations.  And then, as people seek Him in the midst of those trials, God will, either directly or through teaching, show people they need to come to the Cross and lose their lives to Christ --- that they might find Jesus AS their life.  When has THAT ever emerged as the Truth coming out of any revival, whether in 1906 or today? 

     The bottom line is that regardless of what part of the church I am in, or regardless of how I got there, God continues to, “speak to us Son-wise.”  (Heb. 1:1)  He continues to travail that, “Christ be formed in us.”  (Gal. 4:19)  He wants us to be formed together with Christ (Rom. 8:28-29), and to become His living witnesses, that is, wants us to become living evidence of the risen Christ.  That cannot be accomplished through signs and wonders.  We can be brought back into this purpose only through judgment, conviction, and repentance.  That is TRUE REVIVAL.  It is a realization of Jesus Christ as our life.  It is the only kind of revival that God initiates.      

 Coming Alive in Christ

      A revival is a, "coming alive again," in Christ -- not through being saved all over again, which is impossible -- but it is people returning to the Truth that Christianity is, "Christ in us," and that, "Christ IS our life."  And once we realize this, we will see that God can accomplish such a work without any signs and wonders at all.  Indeed, I would submit that this would be His preference -- it would leave only those who truly want the Lord.  God is quite able to bring people to repentance without a big fanfare.  

      If we turn to the NT we can see some of the desires of God for those churches which had drifted away from Christ as their life:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.  (Gal. 4:19)

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;   That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,  Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.   (Eph. 1:16-20)

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  (Col. 1:9-10)

 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God....But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God....That no flesh should glory in his presence.  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.   (I Cor. 1:18-31)

      Actually, there is no need to press the point further.  If you read the sermon of Peter in Acts 2 -- which was the FIRST sermon ever given after God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within His people -- you will see what needs to be preached, indeed, you will see the revelation necessary to bring people with open hearts to Christ.  Three thousand people were converted that day.  Despite the fact that those people noticed that the disciples were full of joy, and heard them speaking of the wonderful works of God, each in their own language, was it those signs that converted people?  No.  It was the Truth -- the light which judged them.  It says:

 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  (Acts 2:37-41)

     Here we have the outcome of a revival that God initiates -- and you will see that it is exactly the SAME outcome that ought to be happening every day in the Body of Christ.  God wants people saved, and for the saved, He wants to form in us Christ.  He wants to judge error and darkness and bring us into the Truth.  He wants to bring us into the knowledge of His Son.  Why would we sit around waiting for God to act upon us and make this kind of thing happen?  He won't.  It is supposed to be business as usual, without signs and wonders or hysteria.

      What happened in the early church took place without media, money, or easy travel.  It happened without financing, advertising, or promotion.  It happened because behind it was LIFE -- the life of Jesus Christ.  No gate of the enemy, or lack of resource, could stand.  They turned the world upside down.

     But you know, when you don't have the real power of Jesus Christ, then you have to manufacture it out of yourself.  Money is power -- if you have enough money you can buy a Christian network or get on Christian networks.  Just promise people a blessing and the money will come in.  If you don't have the power of the Truth in your teaching, then yell real loud, cry, or put on a big show.  It will stir up the emotions of people and feel like the power of God.  And above all, no matter what you do, make sure to use the word, "revival," or, "move of God," because that makes your ministry sound as if people need to join it, "lest they miss out on what God is doing."  All baloney.  God doesn't need advertising and promotion.  He never has. 

      If we want a revival, then we can begin by giving ourselves personally to God.  If nothing else, this might mean to ask Him to do whatever it takes to bring light into our lives, and into our churches.  Then we need to do whatever it takes to embrace the light that He gives in Christ.  Then, as Christ is formed in us, we can minister to others.  God's interests will dominate, and not the interests of man.  THAT is revival.  Why?  Because it people coming alive in Christ.  It really is the only kind of revival God is interested in today.  In short, God's true revival begins with ME -- it begins with the individual.  Then God may wish to birth a congregation.  But that would be the work of God, and not of men. 

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