The Beliver’s Hope – Revelation Part 36

Reid A Ferguson / General

Revelation Part 36 / Eschatology; Heaven; New Jerusalem / Revelation 21; Revelation 22; Titus 2:11–13

13 Things NOT in the New Heaven and the New Earth

The Christian life is one of loving anticipation of Jesus’ return.

It is one reason why Paul concludes 2 Timothy – his last letter just before his death – by turning Timothy’s attention that event: 2 Tim 4:8

2 Timothy 4:8 CSB / “There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.”

Note the reference to those who have “loved His appearing”. Those who are joyfully looking for that day are those who are rewarded. Those believing in and anticipating His return as the consummation of all our joy and blessedness – will be rewarded.

Those not – will not.

This last phrase of Paul’s is so searching and telling.

I have to wonder, both for myself and for the greater church whether or not we are a people who truly “love His appearing.”

Are we, am I, one who truly longs for His coming?

Is it part and parcel of my regular thought life?

Do I groan with John – “Come quickly Lord Jesus?”

Do I really want that end – to be with Him and to live in His glorious Kingdom? Or do I simply want Him to make my life better now, with some vague desire for an afterlife of nondescript ease?

Does escaping Hell or just escaping my present sorrows eclipse being with Jesus and the Redeemed?

This morning, it is my sincere prayer that the Father, will send The Spirit to stir our souls up together to truly love the appearing of Jesus.

To let it begin to frame our every thought and action and purpose.

To let the anticipation of His return draw us out from all the other things this world constantly calls us to.

To us give us that great – all-encompassing love.

Can we pray that just now? Father! Let us passionately love the reality of being with you, with Jesus, of your Kingdom fully coming and your will being done in this earth even as it is in Heaven.

Let us love His appearing so that it informs our hearts in their deepest recesses.  Amen – let it be so! 

It is my own conviction that the Church as a whole has lost the emphasis of previous generations of being fixed on the hope of Jesus’ return, and what He has prepared for those who love Him. And of intentionally looking toward His coming as the means to endure the trials of this present life.

There are lots of reasons for that:

Careless teaching about Jesus’ return which has over and over again miscalculated what cannot be known – precisely WHEN He will return; which has had the effect of dampening people’s anticipation through disappointment after disappointment.

Whole denominations of Believers have fallen into this trap and then eventually fallen into a distrustful malaise over the entire topic.

Another thing is how easy it is – especially in the face of constant bombardment from the news – to be saturated with reports of political and racial turmoil, natural disasters globally and nationally, etc.

And then there are our individual and personal concerns.

So while I will break no new ground here today, I do hope by the Spirit’s enablement, to turn your eyes once again to the promise of what is before us in the return of our Lord and Savior.

As I’ve mentioned many times throughout this series, the entire book of the Revelation was intended to buoy the hopes of God’s people in difficult times, and to refocus their hearts and minds so as to truly “love His appearing.”

Those of you who have been with us both in this series, and when I’ve visited this passage in the past will recall that I like to point out a unique feature of John’s in relating the information recorded here.

And I cannot be more pleased to be able to come back to it once more after having done so several times in the past.

John does something in these 2 chapters he has utilized a bit before – but majors on this time.

Because John is receiving a revelation of things truly unimaginable to his readers, he spends a large part of his time describing what is NOT in the New Heavens and the New Earth as opposed to what is.

This is because the wonder of what he beheld is quite simply, incomparable.

I have prefaced this portion with this illustration before, but bear with me one more time.

Years ago on a business trip to New Orleans, I was treated to some interesting street vendor fare.

My boss, a true culinary adventurer said “go ahead and get it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll eat it.”

So, idiot that I am, I ordered “gator on a stick.”

And if you were to ask me what it tasted LIKE – I would be at a total loss to compare it to any other known substance. Animal, vegetable or mineral!

I can tell you what is WAS: Inedibly abhorrent in every sense of the word. It was AWFUL! And my boss did finish it.

But it did not taste LIKE anything else I had ever tasted – or ever hope to taste again.

So here, John is so overwhelmed by this vision, that he notes 13 things that aren’t in the New Heavens and the New Earth in an attempt to give us some sense of the unspeakable glory and wonder God has laid up for those who are in Christ Jesus and love His appearing.

We start right off in Rev 21:1  –

Revelation 21:1 CSB / “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

1 / 21.1 – No more SEA:  Some have quipped that the reason John notes the absence of the sea, is because having been in exile on a barren island in the Mediterranean sea at the time, he could think of nothing better than to never see the sea again. It had filled his vision for so long, he wanted relief.

But more than likely there are 2 far more interesting reasons why he notes this reality first.

  1. He is relating the fact that the New Heavens and the New Earth are so drastically different from our existence now, that there is a completely new economy even in terms of ecological life.

This is a wholly new existence. One not dependent upon the things we presently count as necessary to life on this planet.

  1. More importantly, we have noted several times in our study that in Biblical literature, and especially in previous chapters of this book, the sea often represents that which is turbulent. Things unknown and unstable and unsafe. So it is in Revelation 13:1 John writes:

Revelation 13:1 CSB / “And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads were blasphemous names.”

The Beast which terrorizes God’s people and tries to conquer the earth, rises out of the sea!

But in the New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be nothing deep and dark anymore; nothing hidden; nothing threatening; nothing unstable, etc.

All is brought into the light and is full of blessedness rather than fear or mystery.

Instead of a sea – there is vss. 2-3: Revelation 21:2–3

Revelation 21:2–3 CSB / “I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God.

No more sea. Instead, of a sea, a City. A city coming down out of Heaven

Revelation 21:2–4 CSB / “I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

And note here something most amazing, incomprehensible.

He – who He? Jesus!

Jesus Himself will take upon Himself – as a personal ministry to each and every one of us – to wipe every tear from our eyes!

It is almost too wonderful to even contemplate isn’t it?

He won’t have us do it to one another, nor will He enlist an angel nor even an archangel – He personally will take away both our sorrow and its expression.

Oh what a Savior!

Then what do we read next?

Revelation 21:4 CSB / “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

2 / 21.4 – No more DEATH: No one and no thing shall ever die again. Imagine this if you can.

In our present state, death is so much a part of our frame of life, that an existence where there is no more death whatever, is truly beyond our comprehension.

John doesn’t say how it is he knows there is no more death except it is part of what the “Loud voice from the throne” announced to him in vs. 2.

In other words, this is a revelation from God Himself to cheer and fill the hearts of His people with wonder at how the death and resurrection of Christ will at last deal with everything sin introduced into the world in the Fall.

And so, not only is there no death – but “He” God, now dwelling with mankind in His unmediated presence – will personally wipe every tear from the eyes of His beloved Children.

Revelation 21:4 CSB / “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

3 / 21.4 – No more GRIEF : Not only no more death, but not even a reason ever again to mourn over ANYTHING!

One wonders just how this can be, when we stop to think that certainly most, if not all of us will have loved ones who will not be there, and will in fact be tormented in an eternal Hell under the just judgment of God.

And I tell you, I do not know. But I know what the text says was revealed to John by the voice from the throne – and that we are being assured in that announcement that there will never again be any reason to grieve or mourn.

None.

Revelation 21:4 CSB / “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

4 / 21.4 – No more CRYING: Think of all the things which produce weeping here (negatively), and each and everyone of them will be gone forever.

Can you even imagine never shedding a sorrowful tear ever again for all eternity?

I cannot. And if it were not revealed to us in God’s Word, we would have no reason to even hope that it might be so. But here it is.

And it is given to His Saints so that we might loosen a bit of the grip we have on this present life which is so distorted and damaged by sin that it lulls into believing this is the way it will always be.

But it will not.

When I stop to think about how many loved ones I’ve lost in my tenure here at ECF – both personally and as part of this Church, it is easy to break into tears over each one and collectively. Rightly so.

But the day will come when not a tear will well up in our eyes ever again. Not only because death has been abolished, but for ANY REASON.

Even more, the word used here carries the idea of crying out! Like the shouting out of “how long oh Lord” when in deep distress and agony.

But never again will that sound be heard within the walls of the New Jerusalem He has been preparing for us all this time.

Revelation 21:4 CSB / “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

5 / 21.4 – No more PAIN: As I look out at this congregation and I think of the personal stories of so many of you, and how you have suffered great injuries over the course of your lives, and others who struggle every day with chronic pain and other conditions – I can only weep for joy today as I have the pleasure to announce to you on the authority of God’s Word that one day – there will be NO PAIN!

Neither by accident, disease, or any other cause,

Neither physical nor mental nor emotional pain of any kind.

Your God and Savior has heard your every moan and groan and creaking joint and He will remove all of it, from the smallest discomfort to the greatest incapacity – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at His return.

And knowing how unbelievable this all is – it is reinforced in the most emphatic way in Revelation 21:5–7

Revelation 21:5–7 CSB / “Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”’”

“Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.”

“The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.”

Revelation 21:8 CSB / “But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

6 / 21.8 – No cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderous, sexually immoral, sorcerous, idolatrous or lying persons: Indeed, all who live this way: given over to bowing to cultural pressure to avoid being identified with Jesus; rejecting Christ and His Gospel of grace; preferring to live in sin instead of fighting against it; hateful and murderous; sexually immoral; using God and religion as means to earthly ends; worshiping whatever they value most in place of Jesus; and contrary to the truth of all things as revealed in the Scriptures – all these will end in the lake of fire and will never enter this place to sully it or victimize its people ever again.

Now to be perfectly honest with you, if this was all this passage had to reveal to us, I would be more than happy to go home one very happy camper.

But the truth is, our God is a God of abundance. He promises and provides for us far beyond anything that we can ask or think.

So, as though all of what we’ve seen so far is not enough, at this point in John’s account, the scene shifts dramatically.

So far, he has been recording what he sees as one standing on the earth and looking up and seeing the New Jerusalem come down out of Heaven.

Now, he is taken up to a high vantage point so that he can look down on the City in all of its splendor.

And watch how he is told the City is also the Bride and the wife of the Lamb.

This mixing together of the metaphors is fantastic.

And it draws upon another scriptural references by both Paul and Peter: Eph 2:18-22

Ephesians 2:18–22 CSB / “For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”

1 Peter 2:4–5 CSB / “As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God—you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 21:9–21 CSB / “Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

The city had a massive high wall, with twelve gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates.

There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

The city wall had twelve foundations, and the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb were on the foundations.

The one who spoke with me had a golden measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.

The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same. He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal.

Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used.

The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold clear as glass.

The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of jewel: the first foundation is jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,

the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

The twelve gates are twelve pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.”

So on top of what we’ve heard, we now get this vision that is quite beyond our senses to grasp.

A city built of gemstones and as high and wide as it is long – perhaps a cube, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 -1500 miles in each direction. Completely unimaginable.

I hope to come back to this portion in our next time together – to unpack more of what WILL be there, but we need to press on in discovering more of what won’t be there for today.

And from here I’ll pick up the pace some.

Revelation 21:22 CSB / “I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

7 / 21.22 – No TEMPLE: All worship will be conducted face to face. We won’t go anywhere to worship, worship will be our state of being.

Why no Temple? Because we will dwell in the all-encompassing presence of God and the Lamb at all times. Our interaction with Him will not be geographical – going here or there – it will be permeation, all absorbed in His loving, infinite presence.

There is no way to describe such an existence, so with John we’ll have to content ourselves with the negative – there will be no temple there. It will not be needed in that mode of existence.

Revelation 21:23 CSB / “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

8 / 21.23 – No SUN or MOON: No such thing as an external source of light in order to know and comprehend. Neither a sun, nor the reflected light of the moon because of the nature of the glorious presence of God and the Lamb.

The idea here isn’t as much astrological as it is the idea that there is nothing hidden, dark or secret.

Here, we know so little of what is real and true. There, all will be opened to us.

Remember John’s words in 1 John 1:5

1 John 1:5 CSB / “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.

There is nothing that will ever again leave us in doubt or fear – and especially any suspicion of God or His motives, why He appointed what He did for each of us in our life here and now.

The end of all mystery in the negative sense. Nothing but the endless, revealed, pure and unmixed love of God for His people. A love as great as the love He has for His only begotten Son”

John 17:23 CSB “I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

How little we can grasp that now.

That He loves the Believer even as He loves Jesus!

Oh if we could only live in this reality now – what doubts and fears it would erase, and what an impetus to serve Him in love and joy it would produce.

That knowledge and sense of His love for us here and now is so tainted at times, and it ebbs and flows in our experience. But not there. Endless perfected love with no shadow of doubt or fear ever again.

No need of sun or moon to perceive by. For His light will flood us.

Revelation 21:25 CSB / “Its gates will never close by day because it will never be night there.”

9 / 21.25 – No LIMITED ACCESS: Being always before the face of God.

How we long at times for a palpable nearness to God.

Every Believer knows of times when God seems near. So close, so present that that it fills the soul inexplicably. Sometimes in reading the Word, or in worship here together in the music, or just meditating on the goodness and grace of God. But those seasons are oh so brief. They come and they go.

But not then, not there. There we will have all access, all the time.

The symbol of the gates never being closed are a wonderfully picturesque way of saying we’ll never be devoid of the sense and the wonder of His sweet presence ever again.

Revelation 21:25 CSB / “Its gates will never close by day because it will never be night there.”

10 / 21.25 – No NIGHT: In the ancient world, when night came, the gates of cities were closed for safety’s sake. When a city sleeps is when it is most vulnerable to attack.

But tied with what we just saw that the gates of the New Jerusalem never close – so, there is never any night there. No time of vulnerability where the gates NEED to be closed – for there will be no enemies!

This may also have something to do with how we will experience the wonder and the majesty of God – that is it will be unending and uninterrupted.

Here, our greatest joys and happiness are also punctuated by our need of rest and sleep. But not there.

Unending joy. uninterrupted delight – even for sleep!

No night. No fear. No vulnerability. All is perpetually safe and secure and imperturbable.

What a contrast this is to fate of the lost where in 14:11 we’re told their torment is relentless, day and night.

Part of their doom is the conscious passing of time in their punishment.

Part of the Believer’s eternal joy is that time no longer holds the same ebbs and flows – but is perpetual.

Revelation 21:27 CSB / “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

11 / 21.27 – Nothing UNCLEAN: Perpetual, undefilable purity.

Nothing will even be allowed in which will spoil its beauty, purity or perfection.

The glories of Heaven can never be spoiled by anybody or any thing.

Revelation 21:27 CSB / “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

12 / 21.27 – No one DETESTABLE: No one who in any way is contrary to the holiness and perfection of God in any way.

So with that – never any kind of perversion of the truth and the communication of the Glory of God.

Jesus told us He Himself is the truth, the life and the way. Anything that obscures who and what He is in any way, is detestable and contrary to Him. And nothing of that will be had in the New Jerusalem – ever!

Revelation 22:3 CSB / “and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him.”

13 / 22.3 – No more CURSE: No more CURSE – Every last aspect of God’s anger with sin in relation to us is completely and forever banished in totality.

Everything we experience here and now in this present world – every discomfort, grief, pain, loneliness, disease, violence, distress, sorrow, worry, the unknown, fear, doubt, unbelief, besetting sin – committed by us or perpetrated upon us – is, every single bit of it – temporary.

And it will all be swallowed up in the wonder and the glory of the unveiled presence of our Christ and King.

1 Corinthians 2:9–10 CSB / “But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived— God has prepared these things for those who love him.

Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

Even at this, in our sin-broken state, we can only glimpse and comprehend but the smallest smidgen.

John 14:2–3 CSB / “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.

If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.”

It has been quipped that if it took God only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth – what must Heaven be like, if He has been preparing it for 2,000 years!

Beloved, we have not yet even begun to comprehend.

But He has promised it.

He has revealed it by His Spirit: Here in His Word, and, by the conviction of His Spirit that it is absolutely true.

And it belongs to everyone who has surrendered their whole being to the Lord Jesus Christ – trusting in Him as their sin-bearer.

AMAZING!

Now I must ask you – are you one of those who will inherit this New Heavens and New Earth?

Do you know Christ as your sin-bearer?

Have you trusted in His atoning sacrifice on your behalf – and bent the knee to Him as your Sovereign and Lord?

If not, none of this glory applies to you. The Bible describes a far different end for you. Just as certain and eternal as this is for His saints.

But it can!

YOU can come to Him today. You can own your sin before Him and ask for His forgiveness, and by faith, receive the gift of eternal life and cleansing for all of your sin and rebellion against His right to rule you spirit, soul and body. You can become part of the Family of God as an adopted son or daughter.

Won’t you call upon Him to save you today?

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Oh, for Grace to Trust You More

We certainly have come to trust him. In simple faith, we have plunged ourselves beneath Calvary’s cleansing flood. We have looked away from our works and trusted Jesus alone. We have tasted and seen that he is sweet and his promises true. We have journals full of stories that prove his faithfulness over and over. We believe in his goodness, truthfulness, promises, love. We trust him.

But at times we waver. We wonder if God really hears our prayers. In the morning, we drowse at his word. Suffering tempts us to become suspicious of his governance. Unanswered prayer makes us unsure of his care. Chronic pain makes us skeptical whether he is really with us in time of need. We are tempted, as Lot’s wife, to look back.

And this distrust comes upon us subtly, rarely introducing itself properly. We start to sleep in a little more, pray a little less, and schedule fewer times of fellowship with believers. We get lost in our schedules and scroll through our lives to quiet the still, small voice, “Come back to me.” We know we have strayed. We know, ultimately, that God has done nothing to merit distrust. We sing, “Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, Oh for grace to trust you more.”

The Hardest Thing to Trust

But what are we trusting? Of the litany of things that we trust God for, I believe the hardest to believe day to day — not in the sense of answering on a quiz, but in the sense of felt experience — is God’s love for us in Christ. On days when the flesh attempts mutiny, when I feel cold towards the consuming fire of heaven, when I see the pain I put in the eyes of a loved one, I even struggle to like myself — why wouldn’t God?

God says he loves me; I struggle to believe — emotionally — that he likes me. With Moses, I and too many saints live (and die) outside of this Promised Land, never truly enjoying the milk and honey that is theirs just beyond the Jordan. While it is the simplest lyric to sing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” it is the hardest to trust.

Satan makes sure of this. While he delights to convince the merely polite church-attender, the worshiper of foreign gods, and the secular humanitarian that God unconditionally loves them, he seeks to steal this heavenly bread from the mouths of his true children. He doesn’t want us to sing from our souls that his steadfast love is better than life (Psalm 63:3). He delights to see Christians with heads bowed in shame, mumbling to themselves as they struggle with sin, “He loves me; he loves me not.” He desires to make sons and daughters practical orphans.

He tried this with Jesus. No sooner had the words washed over him at his baptism, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22), Satan tempted him in the wilderness twice concerning his sonship, “If you are the Son of God . . .” (Luke 4:3, 9). So he strategizes against us today,

If you are a son of God, why was your child born disabled? . . . If you are a daughter of God, why are you still unmarried? . . . If you really are his children, why did he hand you the serpents of miscarriage? . . . If he is so well pleased with you, why don’t you feel it more often?

God pours out his love into our hearts through his Spirit; Satan tries to dam the life-giving floods through lies about our circumstances.

’Tis So Sweet

But God’s love stands beyond our circumstances as far as the stars stand beyond the anthill.

God’s love is beyond comprehension (Ephesians 3:17–19). It spans from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:11–18). Because of the cross, it does not deflate due to sin (Psalm 103:10). God will stop loving his people only when the moons overthrow their Maker’s command, or when the sun can depart from the course he has set for it, or when the heavens can be measured, or the molten core of the earth explored. Then — and only then — will he cast out his people from before him (Jeremiah 31:35–37).

Doubt affects experience but not reality. If we are truly in Christ, our fluctuating experience, our muttering sentiments of unworthiness, are no match for the evidence he has provided for us: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God wrote in permanent marker at Calvary. There, he crucified all reason to distrust him. There, from sin and self we cease. There, from Jesus we simply take, joy and life and rest and peace.

Oh, for grace to trust him more.

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