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Preparing the Church for the future

Archive for November, 2009

My Thanksgiving Story

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 25, 2009


There certain people in your life that teach you lessons just from the very way that they live their life. Sometimes ¬† they¬†say things that tie it all together. When this happens, it’s like an epiphany. It’s like the bow on top of the package. It’s like the flowers on top of the cake or the cherry on Sunday. It’s that one thing that brings everything into focus even if you heard it time and time again. I had one such encounter with my grandpa back in 1986.

I had driven from my army base in Fort Stewart, Georgia to St. Augustine Florida where my grandpa lived in a trailer. I was a selfish 20-year-old only caught up in my own self gratification. I really didn’t think about how my actions would affect other people. In my life, I had only received things and never really given anything back.

While down in St. Augustine, I asked my grandpa to help me install some speakers in my newly acquired 1977 yellow Mustang. Of course, he being grandpa, happily obliged. After a few hours of cutting, tearing and mending, we finally achieved success. So the next thing that I asked, being a young self-absorbed 20-year-old, was, “What have you got to eat?”

That must’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Throughout the course of the previous two or three hours, my grandpa must’ve been observing the way I handled myself. Because I never really expressed how thankful I was that he was there to help me.

He said in the most stern voice, “You never show appreciation!”

Those four words struck me so deep, that I have never forgotten them to this day. It was like a light went off in my head, and for the first time in my life I realized that there were other people in my life, and that my every action affected them.

I realized then that I really was not thankful for all the blessings in my life. I took so much for granted. I live for myself, and I did not live my life as a blessing to those around me.

It’s not to say that I am perfect or have finally arrived, but it set my feet on a path that I have not changed from to this day. God used my grandpa that day to plant a seed in my heart of serving others.

True thankfulness, true appreciation, begins in the heart. It bubbles up and comes out of the mouth, but it is most effective when it materializes in our hands.

This holiday season, I challenge everyone, including myself, not to be just be thankful in our hearts, or even in our words, but to express our thankfulness, our appreciation, in our actions and our deeds.

I intend to physically show people how thankful I am for them. I intend to show with my actions my love and appreciation. People will not always remember what I say, but they will never forget what I do.

In this, I hope to reflect the life Jesus lived. He didn’t come just to say he loved us; he came to show us he loved us by taking our place in death. It was his actions, not his words, that saved us. It is in my actions that I hope to reflect that heart of love to my family, friends and those far off.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!!!

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Predestination: How God Sees Time

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 17, 2009


We are temporal beings. ¬†We see things in terms of chronology. ¬†So when it comes to eternity, we have a psychological problem. ¬†It’s a hard thing to grasp.

Consider this… Eternal life means you will never cease to exist. ¬†EVER!!! Take a few moments and try to think a million, billion, trillion years down the road. ¬†Well, you have just looked at the first seconds of eternity. ¬†As difficult as that is, try this on for size. ¬†God never had a beginning.

I can sorta imagine never ceasing. ¬†I can’t, for all my attempts, ¬†put my mind around never having a beginning. ¬†My problem is that “time” is a factor that I just can’t let go of.

Scientifically speaking, time is a property of matter. ¬†This was part of Einstein’s postulations, but God is spiritual, so how would time affect Him? ¬†Actually, it doesn’t because He invented it.

Let me help you realize the difficulty you have by looking at the three dimensions we live in.

The First Dimension

1D

1D

Imagine for a moment, you saw a one dimensional world.  That one dimension would be a line like the one to the left.  Now look at the dots (1,2 and 3); they represent people in that world.  When person one looks at person two, what do they see?  A Dot.

Do they see the line?  No.  They have no depth perception in that universe, they can only see the dot.

Now what is dot two tells dot one that dot three exists. ¬†Dot one would have to take dot two’s word for it because dot one and three can’t see each other because dot two is in the way.

Confusing? ¬†Try being the dots. ¬†But you have an advantage… you can see the linear component to their world. ¬†They are a line of dots, but they don’t know that and have to take it by faith if I told them.

Now, try to describe to the one dimensional person a two dimensional world like the one to the left. ¬†The one dimensional person can’t even fully understand their world, how can they even conceptualize a two dimensional world?

Looking at the two dimensional world we see two people (illustrated by the stick figures).  When the stick figure people look at each other, what do they see?  A line.

The limitations of their world present challenges similar to the one dimensional world.  But like the one dimensional world, they too cannot fully grasp their own world.

2D

2D

 

Lets add a third dimension to the equation. ¬†With the third dimension, many new things come into play. ¬†I can see all around an object and get a pretty good idea about what it happening, but even here, I am limited. ¬†I can only see one side of an object at a time, so I have to walk around it to get a better understanding of exactly what I’m seeing.

With each dimension, we gain a little more understanding, but we still have struggles understanding.

When a three dimension being intercects the world of a two dimensional being, how does the two dimensional being interpret it?  As a line.

If I took a piece of paper and put my finger through it, only the part inside the paper would be visible to their world, the rest of me is invisible because it is outside their world.

I, in my three dimensional world, have a much better handle on their world and can give them greater insight than they can even dream. ¬†What they think is reality, really isn’t. ¬†But with my insight, they can grow in understanding beyond their limitations.

That’s what God did with us through Jesus. ¬†God intersected our world through the physical manifestation of Jesus Christ. ¬†God is always here, but we don’t see him because we only see in three dimensions. ¬†However, the reality is that He operates outside our sphere and understands how it works far better.

3D

3D

He can see the end from the beginning because he is beyond time.  He can see things in our world like we can see in that two dimensional world.

So how does God see time? ¬†He sees it as an obstacle for us to overcome. ¬†He isn’t concerned with it. ¬†We are the ones that struggle day in and day out with hurrying up, waiting in lines and rush hour traffic. ¬†We are the ones that think God isn’t working fast enough. ¬†We just don’t get that time doesn’t affect Him or His plans.

God’s sacrifice of Christ took place before time began (run that through your cranium). And yet he died in our world too. ¬†He preknew who would be saved, yet He fights for every one of us.

He knew Judas would betray him, yet he gave him every opportunity to stop… He made Judas the treasurer; he told him he would betray him to his face; and he sat him right next to him at the last supper. ¬†That’s the kind of God we serve. ¬†One who knew all about you, yet died for you anyway.

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Predestination: How it Works

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 16, 2009


Predestination – a fancy word for God deciding things before they happen.

There are some that believe that God has gone so far in predestination to already determine who will be saved and who will not be saved.  I take some issue with this because that defeats the purpose of Love.  (See the first article)

There are only a couple Scriptures (2 Thessalonian 2:13; Romans 8:29) people use to support the teaching that God predetermines who will be saved, but I think they are simply reading too much into it.  The actions of Jesus were enough for all to be saved.  Anyone who wants to receive the gift of salvation can (Revelation 22:17).  According to the 2 Thessalonians passage, we are simply all chosen, the Spirit of God does the work of Christ in us after we accept the offer of being chosen by believing in the Truth.

So the message is that salvation is available to all – period.

Remember the old TV series, Mission Impossible? Ethan Hawk would receive ¬†a tape, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” ¬†Ethan was chosen for the mission, but it was up to Ethan to receive that calling. ¬†In the same way, the message has been left in your hands, God has chosen you for a mission… ¬†should you choose to accept it, your life will never be the same again.

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Predestination: Showing Love

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 15, 2009


When you try to figure out God, you will quickly discover that you are inadequately equipped to see things from his perspective.  Of course He is everywhere, all powerful and all knowing, yet he seemingly give us free reign to make choices that affect our lives.   How does God who knows all give us free choice?

I want to throw my two cents in on this never-ending question and look at two things – Why He does it and How it works.

I see the “why” as the easy answer… Love. ¬†Actually, unlike most things, this love is not only about God’s love for us, but our love for Him. ¬†Let me explain.

Choosing Love

Love can only be love if the choice not to love exists.  How do you know if someone loves you if they never have the option to walk away?  And without this critical choice, how are you sure your love is strong?

God knows your level of love without this process, but you don’t. ¬†Temptations, options and opportunities create environments where we can put our love to the test. ¬†We learn more about our condition when we are confronted with choices and can learn where we need improvements.

God showed this love to us in the garden through Jesus’ prayer:

Abba, Father”everything is possible for you.¬†Take this¬†cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. – Mark 14:36

Jesus made a choice that day to love His Father through obedience.  In so doing, the Father showed His love toward us (c.f. 1 John 1:4-9)

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100 Biblical Commands from the Mouth of Jesus

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 11, 2009


I quickly went through the New Testament and wrote out the 100 commands given by Jesus himself. ¬† ¬†I define a command as a sentence that begins with an action word (e.g. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel…”). ¬† I try not to repeat commands or list commands given for a specific reason to an individual that doesn’t generally apply to us today (e.g. “Go!”, said to the demons in the possessed man of Matthew 8). Enjoy and feel free to comment on any left out.

By the way, as you read it, imagine that He is saying these things directly to you… kinda humbling.aslan

  1. Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. – Matthew 4:10
  2. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. – Matthew 4:17
  3. Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men – Matthew 4:19
  4. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven (when people persecute you for Jesus sake) – Matthew 5:12
  5. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16
  6. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (in regard to worshiping God) – Matthew 5:23
  7. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. – Matthew 5:25
  8. Gouge it out and throw it away (if your eye causes you to sin) – Matthew 5:29
  9. Cut it off and throw it away (if you hand causes you to sin) – Matthew 5:30
  10. Do not swear at all (in making oaths) – Matthew 5:34
  11. Do not resist an evil person. – Matthew 5:39
  12. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:42
  13. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you РMatthew 5:44
  14. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
  15. Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them – Matthew 6:1
  16. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (when giving) – Matthew 6:3
  17. Go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (when you pray, not being like the hypocrites that make a big deal out of praying) РMatthew 6:6
  18. Do not look somber as the hypocrites do… put oil on your head and wash your face,¬†so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting – ¬†Matthew 6:17,18
  19. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth – Matthew 6:19
  20. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven – Matthew 6:20
  21. Do not worry about your life – Matthew 6:25
  22. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33
  23. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. – Matthew 6:34
  24. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. – Matthew 7:1
  25. First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ¬†– Matthew 7:4
  26. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. – Matthew 7:6
  27. Ask and it will be given to you; – Matthew 7:7
  28. seek and you will find; – Matthew 7:7
  29. knock and the door will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7
  30. Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets – Matthew 7:12
  31. Enter through the narrow gate. – Matthew 7:13
  32. Watch out for false prophets. Р Matthew 7:15
  33. Go! It will be done just as you believed it would. (To the centurion because of his faith)- Matthew 8:13
  34. Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead. – Matthew 8:22
  35. Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven. – Matthew 9:2
  36. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. – Matthew 9:38
  37. Be on your guard against men – Matthew 10:17
  38. Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. (when you are arrested) – Matthew 10:19
  39. Do not be afraid of them (those that persecute you) – Matthew 10:26
  40. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28
  41. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.- Matthew 11:28,29
  42. Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. (to the disciples in the boat)- Matthew 14:27
  43. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Matthew 16:5
  44. Get behind me, Satan! Р Matthew 16:23
  45. Go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you (if your brother sins against you) – Matthew 18:15
  46. Take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (If your brother that sins against you does not repent) – Matthew 18:16
  47. Tell it to the church – (If your brother that sins against you still doesn’t repent) – Matthew 18:17
  48. Treat him as a pagan – (If your brother still refuses to repent) – Matthew 18:17
  49. Seventy-seven times (number of times in a day you should forgive someone) Р Matthew 18:22
  50. Let man not separate. (What God has brought together in marriage) – Matthew 19:6
  51. Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. – Matthew 19:14
  52. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (on giving) – Matthew 22:21
  53. You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. – Matthew 23:8
  54. Watch out that no one deceives you.¬†For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. – Matthew 24:4,5
  55. learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. (being aware of the end times) РMatthew 24:32,33
  56. Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. – Matthew 24:42
  57. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. – Matthew 26:40
  58. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. РMatthew 28:19
  59. Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. – Mark 6:31
  60. Listen to him! (God speaking to the disciples about Jesus) – Mark 9:7
  61. Have faith in God РMark 11:22
  62. Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:15
  63. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you – Luke 6:28
  64. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful – Luke 6:36
  65. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned – Luke 6:37
  66. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37
  67. Give, and it will be given to you. – Luke 6:38
  68. Peace be with you. – Luke 24:36
  69. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. – John 5:14
  70. Stop grumbling among yourselves – John 6:43
  71. Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. – John 7:24
  72. Go now and leave your life of sin. – John 8:11
  73. Take away the stone. – John 11:38
  74. Leave her alone – John 12:7
  75. Father, glorify your name! – John 12:28
  76. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light. – John 12:36
  77. What you are about to do, do quickly – John 13:27
  78. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.¬†35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34
  79. Do not let your hearts be troubled. – John 14:1
  80. Trust in God; – John 14:1
  81. trust also in me. – John 14:1
  82. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me – John 14:11
  83. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. – John 15:4
  84. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. – John 16:24
  85. Receive the Holy Spirit. – John 20:22
  86. Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. – John 21:6
  87. Feed my lambs – John 21:15
  88. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. – Acts 1:4
  89. Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. – Revelation 1:11
  90. Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. – Revelation 1:17
  91. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Р Revelation 2:5
  92. Repent and do the things you did at first. – Revelation 2:5
  93. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. – Revelation 2:10
  94. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. – Revelation 2:10
  95. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. – Revelation 2:16
  96. Wake up! – Revelation 3:2
  97. Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. – Revelation 3:2
  98. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. – Revelation 3:18
  99. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. – Revelation 3:22
  100. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”¬†Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. – Revelation 22:20

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About Hell: The World of the Dead

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 2, 2009


Hell Defined

The term “hell”¬†evokes¬†images of a burning lake of fire, smoke and eternal torment, and while these are true, the use of the term distorts the complete biblical description of hell.¬† The term itself comes from Anglo-Saxon and German roots and simply meant “underworld”. ¬†Unfortunately for the English reader, the term often hides the original Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible, so it becomes easy for the reader to get a distorted understanding. ¬† It is important to look at the Hebrew or Greek word being used and the context in which it is used to get a more clear understanding.

The Introduction of Death

The world of the dead actually changes at least three times in the Bible, and each change comes from a key event that occurs between man and God.

The first change occurs in the garden east in Eden.  God tells Adam that if he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will die.  Death is first introduced here.

God originally intended that man would never die. ¬†Death was not part of God’s “perfect” original plan. ¬†We introduced it into our own lives through disobedience to God. ¬†But now that man could die, he had to have a destination. ¬†God told Adam that he was created from dust and so dust would be where he would return (Genesis 3:19).

Though the body dies and its molecules are spread throughout the earth, the spirit lives on, and so would need an eternal home.  Heaven was the first thing God created (Genesis 1:1), but was there another place?  Is heaven the only place for the souls of the dead to dwell eternally?

Strangely enough, heaven is not an Old Testament teaching of man’s eternal home. ¬†Only two people were possibly caught up to be with God in heaven, and for the record, neither one of them died – Enoch and Elijah. The rest had a destination, but it isn’t where you might think.

The Land of the Dead: Adam to Jesus

The Old Testament does not really talk about “hell” in the manner most of us understand. ¬†It speaks of a place called Sheol a bi-level¬†subterranean cavity where the dead would go. ¬†Sheol’s unique layout allowed for both the righteous and the wicked a place to go once they died. ¬†Most writers understood that sheol was their resting place after death, and they knew that God would not leave them there (c.f. Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:15). ¬†A deep portion or “pit” (c.f. Psalm 30:3) existed for the wicked while sheol in general was for the righteous.

God didn’t created sheol or hell after the fall of man; it must have been a part of the original creation and most likely was not intended for man’s eternal abode anymore than heaven was intended for man’s eternal abode since the earth itself was made for him. So, technically speaking, both heaven and hell (as you may understand it) up to the time of Jesus were pretty much void of humans, sheol on the other hand, contained every human that ever died.

However, It was Jesus himself that gave us the best understanding of this place called sheol in the Hebrew and Hades in the Greek.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.¬†At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores¬†and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.¬†In hades,¬†where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.¬†So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.¬†And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house,¬†for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” – Luke 16:19ff

Jesus describes the land of the dead as a place that consists of a peaceful side and a place of fire and torment with a huge chasm that separated them.   They could even see each other and even speak to each other across the chasm.

Sheol or Hades is finally described just before Jesus dies on the Cross. ¬†However, the death of Jesus would bring about a second change in the man’s destination in the afterlife.

Land of the Dead: Jesus to the Second Coming

Up until the death of Jesus, people were saved through the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but this sacrifice was not enough to take care of the original seed of sin within man. ¬†Only through the death of Jesus would the payment be possible for every person to actually live with God. ¬†Hades would not be the same once Jesus died. ¬†Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:8-10 that Jesus went down to the depths of the earth and led captivity out. ¬†He took those that we with Abraham in the “paradise” side of hades to heaven because only through the blood of His death could there be a reconciliation to God.

Those on the torment side of hades remained there and are still there to this day. ¬†When you die now, your temporary destination is either heaven or hades’ bad side and it all hinges on your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

A final configuration of the world of the dead will take place in the near future and the Bible once again shows how it’s going to unfold.

Land of the Dead: At the End of Time

There are two other terms in the New Testament translated as “hell” besides hades – tartarous and ghenna.

Tartarous is the place where the angels that sinned are kept in chains (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). ¬†This place only contains the wicked angels that fell with Satan and/or the ones that mated with human women prior to the flood (c.f. Genesis 6:2). ¬†Either way, it is a very deep part of “hell” and only contains angels.

The second word is the one we understand as the true “hell”. ¬†Ghenna, which is defined as the second death (Revelation 20:14)… the lake of fire, where the worm does not die and the torment is eternal.

Nobody occupies ghenna yet.  In fact, the first inhabitants will be the antichrist and the false prophet (Revelation 19:20) After this, Satan is bound and thrown into Tartarous with the rest of the sinning angels.

About a 1000 years after the antichrist and prophet are cast into ghenna, Satan is release from tartarous and tries to battle God where he is quickly caught and thrown into ghenna. ¬†The remaining people are judged and all those in Hades are brought before God. Anyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life is thrown into ghenna. ¬†Therefore, Hades is emptied of the remaining people and ghenna is filled. (Revelation 20)

The final phase is for God to destroy heaven and earth and rebuild them both.  He then empties heaven of its human inhabitants, places them in the New Jerusalem, which he prepared for them and places it earth along with the believers where they will live with God for eternity.

So in the end, all is as God originally intended.  God is with man on earth as he was with Adam in the Garden, Satan is defeated and sin is no more.

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