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The Power of a Clean Conscience - Life of Paul Part 82

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
April 19, 2021 7:00 am

The Power of a Clean Conscience - Life of Paul Part 82

So What? / Lon Solomon

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April 19, 2021 7:00 am

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Hey, how about taking a Bible if you brought one with you today?

Acts chapter 23 will be coming there in just a moment. But you know, my youngest son John who's 19 is finishing up playing baseball over at Riverdale Baptist this year, his senior year. And I was at a game not too long ago where the umpire made a really questionable call that ended the inning, made it against the visiting team. Well, immediately the coach came flying out of the dugout, heading towards the umpire to appeal the call and the umpire did what umpires always do in that situation.

He turned his back and started walking in the other direction. Well, that didn't stop the coach. The coach kept right on coming and the closer he got to the ump, the louder he started screaming at him. Finally, the ump turned around and there they were nose to nose yelling and screaming at one another over the call. Now, I want to stop for a minute and take a vote, take a poll. How many of you, raise your hand, think the coach won that argument? Raise your hand. How many of you think the umpire won that argument?

Well, you're all right. The umpire did win. And you know, there are those situations in life like arguing with an umpire where no matter what you say or what you do, or no matter how righteous you think your point is, frankly, they're not interested in listening.

And it's just not going to make any difference. Well, the reason I bring that up, you might be curious, is because we've got an incident today in the life of the Apostle Paul, where he finds himself in exactly that kind of a situation. And he comes up with an ingenious method to get out of the trouble that he was in. And we want to look at that. And then of course, we want to bring all of that forward and talk about, well, so like, what difference does that make to you and me today?

So that's our plan. A little bit of background before we dig in. Here in Acts chapter 23, the Apostle Paul is in Jerusalem. He has finished his third missionary journey.

It's the summer of 57 AD. And Paul has gone to the temple to pay for the expenses of some men who are finishing up their Nazarite vow. And while he was there in the temple, he was doing this to try to prove to the people in Jerusalem that he wasn't against Jewish laws, and he wasn't teaching against Jewish customs.

While he was in the temple, some Jewish people from the city of Ephesus that were visiting the city recognized him, and they accused him falsely of bringing a Gentile into the temple. Well, a riot broke out. And while the rioters were in the process of beating Paul to death, the Roman army showed up and saved him. The Roman army commander, the Tribune, ordered that Paul be flogged and interrogated to figure out what all the hubbub was about. And that's when Paul, as we saw last week, informed the commander that he was a Roman citizen, and everything came to a screeching halt. Now, that's where we are.

So let's pick up and see what happens next. The very last verse, Acts chapter 22. And the next day, the Tribune released Paul. However, because the Tribune still wanted to know exactly what the Jews were accusing Paul of, he ordered the chief priests and the Jewish high council to assemble.

Then he brought Paul in and set Paul before them. Now, the Tribune that we're hearing about here, he was the Roman commander of the city of Jerusalem. And he was roughly equivalent to a colonel in today's modern army in 06, if you know that terminology. And let me show you a picture of what he would have looked like in those days.

That's him. And as you can see, you need nice legs to be a Tribune. But anyway, that's what the Tribune would have looked like. And he had a problem on his hands.

Let me tell you what his dilemma was. On the one hand, the imperial government of Rome considered any outbreak of hostilities, any civil unrest in any location to be a personal failure on the part of that local ruler. And so the Tribune needed to find some way to calm down this Jewish mob before he lost his job. However, the way he could calm them down is just to hand Paul over. But he couldn't do that because on the other hand, Paul was a Roman citizen.

And as a Roman citizen, he wasn't allowed to just hand a Roman citizen over to a mob without a clear set of charges against him. And so he figured, all right, here's what I'll do to figure out how to get out of this dilemma. The Tribune said, I'll get all the people involved together in one room. And I'll say to them, now folks, we're all rational people here. Let's all sit down like a bunch of adults and let's talk this thing out. Boy, did he have a surprise coming when he got all these Jewish people in the same room.

Watch what happens here. Acts chapter 23, verse one. Then Paul, standing in front of the council, looked intently at the high council and said, brothers, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day. Now, Paul certainly intended to go on from this opening statement to tell them some more. He certainly intended to say number one, that he had been in the temple for a noble and a godly purpose. Number two, that he had not brought a Gentile into the temple as rumored. And number three, that he was not teaching against Jewish laws and customs around the world as they had heard.

But he didn't get to say any of that. Watch verse two. At this point, the high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. You say, Lon, what in the world did Paul say? All he said was he's got a good conscience and they hit him in the mouth.

Well, I don't get it. What did Paul say wrong? Well, friends, the point is he didn't say anything wrong. The actions of the high priest simply tip us off to what was really happening in that room. That high priest and those members of that council had come into that room from the very beginning with their mind made up about the apostle Paul. There wasn't anything he was going to say or do that was going to change their mind.

They had already concluded he was guilty. This was like arguing with the umpire that he had right here. And verse three, Paul then turns to the high priest and said, God is going to slap you, you whitewashed wall.

You sit there to judge me according to the law, and yet you yourself violate that very law by ordering me to be slapped for no cause. Now, this expression, a whitewashed wall comes out of the Old Testament, Ezekiel 13. It was used there about a wall that was dilapidated and falling down that people covered with whitewash to hide its true condition. And by the time of the apostle Paul, this had become a Jewish expression that was essentially akin to being a hypocrite. This is what Paul called the high priest. He said, You're a hypocrite. Even today, if somebody calls you a whitewashed wall, don't say thank you.

It's not a compliment that they're calling you. Well, verse four, some bystanders said to Paul, How dare you speak this way to God's high priest? And Paul said, Wow, I wasn't aware that he was the high priest. For it's written, Exodus 22, you shall not speak evil about the ruler of your people.

You go, Lon, come on now. You really expect me to believe Paul didn't know this was the high priest. No, I don't think he did. Ananias didn't become high priest till 47 AD. Paul had been gone from Jerusalem for 10 years by that point.

In fact, Paul hasn't really been back to Jerusalem for almost 20 years now, here in 57 AD. He didn't know who the high priest was. He'd never seen this man.

There was no CNN. His picture hadn't been on television. Paul had no idea what this guy looked like. You say, Well, certainly he was dressed in a way Paul could have recognized him.

No, not necessarily. The high priest only wore his ceremonial robes when he was officiating at temple ceremonies. So it's very likely that he was dressed in ordinary clothing and Paul had no way to recognize him. It's interesting, though, once he was informed this was the high priest, Paul retracted his statement. He said, You know, I may not respect the man because of his character, but I got to respect his position, and I'll do that. But here we are now. Let's recap.

Let's remind ourselves what the situation is. Paul standing in front of the high priest and the Jewish council. They have already decided in their mind he's guilty. There's not a thing he's going to say going to change their mind. They've already slapped him in the mouth for saying nothing. And so Paul says, Hey, I'm standing in front of the umpire.

I may not have gotten 1600 on my s eighties, but I'm smart enough to figure out where this meeting's going. And he comes up with an ingenious idea. Here's what happens. Verse six, then realizing that some of the members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, Paul called out and said, Brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, and I am on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead. And when Paul said this, a dissension, a fracas, a Donnybrook arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees on the high council, and the council was split. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, nor any angels, nor any spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledged them all. Do you understand what Paul did? He looked at the council and said, Aha, we got Pharisees and Sadducees on this thing.

We got Democrats and Republicans on this thing. Okay, now you need to know the Sadducees. They were the the more noble party in Israel. They were like the patrician leaders of Israel. They were like members of the House of Lords. And theologically, Luke tells us they didn't believe in life after death, the resurrection, angels, demons, nothing. The Pharisees were more like the plebeian leaders of Israel.

They were more like members of the House of Commons. And theologically, they believed in all of these issues. And so what Paul did, knowing that the animosity between these two groups ran as deep as the Mississippi, Paul figured out a way to turn the two groups on each other in the middle of this council. Verse nine, and there was a great uproar. And some of the Pharisees stood up and began to argue heatedly in Paul's favor, saying, We find nothing wrong with this man.

Suppose an angel or spirit has spoken to him. And the dispute between the two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, became so violent that the Tribune was afraid Paul was going to get torn into pieces in the middle. So he ordered the troops to come and take Paul back into the barracks. Now, this is hysterical. What Paul did here.

You don't think so? This is hysterical what he did. He got the Pharisees and the Sadducees so bad at each other that they completely forgot about him.

Well, you'll get it later, I hope. But the point is, by playing the Pharisees off against the Sadducees like this, he divided this council so badly that there was no chance this council will ever be able to agree against charges against him. Now, folks, that was not only a stroke of pure genius on the part of Paul, it was also very providential. Listen, if this council had been able to agree on charges against Paul, it is certain for political reasons that Roman Tribune would have turned Paul over to them for the disposition of his case. And if Paul had been turned over to that high council, there is no doubt that Paul's earthly life would have ended in 57 A.D. right there in Jerusalem. We're going to see in the weeks to come about several different plots to kill Paul that some of these people come up with.

They'd have killed him right there in town. Well, you know, God wasn't through with Paul's life yet. He had 10 more years for Paul to live and serve Christ. This was providential that Paul thought to do this. And it is hysterical.

It really is. All right. Well, that's as far as we want to go in the passage for today, because it's time to ask our most important question. And you know what that question is. So are you ready? I want to hear you down and overflow. Here we go. Are you ready? Okay.

One, two, three. Right. You say, Lon, so what? Say, I don't agree.

It's hysterical. But other than that, what difference does any of this make to me? Well, let's talk about it. I want to go back to the first thing Paul said in verse one. Remember what he said? He said, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day. Now, that's an amazing statement. He's talking, of course, since he came to Christ. He said, my conscience is completely clean about everything I've done in my life.

Amazing statement. And I want to spend the rest of our time today talking to you and me as followers of Christ about our conscience and bringing Paul's statement to bear on our life. First, let's define what is a conscience? Well, if you look it up in the dictionary, it'll tell you that a conscience is the inner part of a person that tells us when we're doing right and rebukes us when we're doing wrong. A conscience is like a little moral gyroscope inside each one of us that warns us when we're starting to go off course. A conscience is kind of like having our very own personal Jiminy Cricket, if you understand what I'm saying. And the Bible tells us four very important things about our consciences.

Let me tell you what they are. Number one, the Bible tells us in Romans chapter two, that every single human being is born with a conscience. You say, Lon, if God says that in the Bible, he obviously does not know some of the people that I know. Well, wait a minute, that leads to number two, which is that the Bible also tells us it's possible for a person to deactivate their conscience, so it doesn't work anymore. First Timothy chapter four talks about people whose consciences have been seared, as with a hot iron. And the picture here is that of a conscience that is so covered with scar tissue, that it has no feeling left anymore, and it doesn't work anymore. People can do this, you say, how does a person do this? Well, it's easy, folks, by continually justifying our wrongdoing, by continually ignoring our conscience when it goes off, if you do that long enough, a person can reach the point where our conscience just shuts down. It doesn't even work anymore.

It doesn't even register anymore. Now, every one of us here this morning, every one of us knows somebody who's gotten to this point. Every one of us has a friend or a neighbor or somebody at our office or some relative we spend Thanksgivings with, and this is a person who can do the most heinous things, the most unethical things, they can lie right to your face.

They can cheat, they can steal, they can deceive, they can manipulate, and they don't have the slightest pang of conscience about it, no remorse whatsoever, no moral reaction at all. We all know somebody like that. Folks, before I came to Jesus Christ, I was exactly like that. I could do the most unbelievable things, and my conscience completely didn't bother me because I turned it off. And as a result of that, I'd lost all direction in life. I was self-destructing in life.

And maybe you're here and you've got a similar problem. Well, I've got some great news for you. Number three, the third thing the Bible tells us about our conscience is that it's possible for us to turn our conscience back on again. Hebrews chapter nine says the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our consciences. And what the Bible is telling us here is that when we embrace Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, God does a wonderful thing for us. He reboots our conscience so it starts working again. And that's a great thing because trying to live life without our conscience working is like trying to drive on the beltway with blindfold on.

I mean, you can do it, but you're probably not going to like the results. And it's the same thing as trying to live life without a conscience that's working. You know, when I gave my life to Christ in 1971, the man that pointed me towards Christ was a guy that lived in Durham. I was in Chapel Hill about eight miles away, and he'd come to town every Saturday. And that's the only time I ever saw him. I didn't have his phone number.

I didn't know how to get in touch with him. And so as I was reading the Bible, I got to the place in the middle of the week one week where I decided that maybe this was really true and I wanted to give God a chance in my life, but I didn't know how to do that and I didn't know how to get in touch with him. So I got down on my knees and this is the prayer I prayed. I said, now God, I don't really know if you're real and this Jesus character I'm really confused about, but you know, I'm going to give you my life for a month. And at the end of that month, if you haven't proven to me that you can really make my life worth living, if you haven't proven to me that you're real, I reserve the right to take my life back.

But if you prove it to me, you can have my life for good. Amen. You say, Lon, that is the most miserable salvation prayer I've ever heard in my life.

Well, you're right, it is. But you weren't there helping me and he wasn't there helping me. Friends, I'm flying by the seat of my pants here.

You know what I'm saying? There's a wonderful verse of scripture, first Samuel 16 seven man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord sees the heart. And I believe God sat up in heaven and looked down and heard that prayer and said, Solomon, that is the worst salvation prayer I've ever heard in my life. But you know, I'm going to look past the prayer and see your heart and I see you mean business and I'm going to honor your heart. Well, you know, a week later, I got back down on my knees and I said, God, I'm convinced. I'm totally convinced. I don't know what you're going to do with a hippie with long hair, love beads, a tank top, bell bottoms and motorcycle boots and smokes dope.

But whatever you're going to do with me, a deal is a deal. You got my life for good. Now, what was it in that one week that so convinced me God was real and say, Yeah, what was it? I mean, did did you see an angel drop out of heaven?

Did God do like 10 drop dead miracles for you or something that convinced you that much? No, you know what it was? You know what it was? It's the things that I was able to do the week before that never bothered me. All of a sudden, my conscience was eating me up.

That's what it was. And I said to myself, You know what? I didn't turn my conscience back on. In fact, in those days, to be honest, I didn't even want it back on. I said, but somebody turned it back on because stuff I used to be able to do a week ago and never think a thing about now.

It's eaten me up on the inside. I didn't do it. Nobody else did it. God has to be real if he could do that inside of my life. And that's what convinced me Jesus Christ was real. And that's why I gave my life to Christ. Folks, if you're here and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, let me just say flying without your conscience on is the most dangerous thing you can do like driving on the beltway with blindfolds. And the wonderful news is when you come to Jesus Christ, God turns your conscience back on and that's a protection.

That's a wonderful thing. Fourth and finally, God tells us in the Bible that to serve God effectively, we must have consciences that work. Hebrews chapter nine, verse 14 says, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our conscience from dead works so that we can serve the living God. You say, Lon, I don't understand how to serving God and having my conscience back on.

I don't understand how those are connected. Well, let's Psalm 24 tell you how who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who can stand in his holy place, the person who has clean hands and a pure heart. You see, friends, our God is a holy God. And if we want God's power to flow unhindered through our lives, we need to be serious about having clean hands and a pure heart, which means we need to have a conscience that works a conscience that makes us acutely sensitive to even the smallest acts of sin and disobedience. Now, Paul understood this. He understood the power that comes from having a clean conscience before God. That's why he was able to stand in front of that high priest in Acts 23 and be as bold as he was. Because as he said, I've got a clean conscience as I stand here. That's why Paul said to Felix, the Roman governor, Acts 24, I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and men.

That's why when Paul wrote Timothy and said, Timothy is a servant of God, here is the formula for success. He said, fight the good fight by holding on, look at this, to faith and a good conscience. You know, Robert Murray McShane, you may not know that name, lived in Scotland. He was a Scottish preacher who led an incredible revival in Scotland in the 1830s and early 1840s.

He died at the age of 29. Robert Murray McShane accomplished more in 29 years for God than most people do in 99 years for God. And in writing to a fellow servant of Christ about this issue of the power of a clean conscience, here's what he said, and I quote, he said, how diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp.

Every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember, you are God's sword, his instrument in great measure according to the purity of the instrument will be the success. It is not great talents that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. And then he said this, a word spoken for Christ when your conscience is clear is worth 10,000 spoken in unbelief and sin.

And he's right. As you know, we're about ready to move in our new facility here and it's a 92 million dollar building project. Three years ago, we took pledges, we called them building for life and I stood up here and I asked all of you to consider driving the same cars and sitting on the same furniture and staring at the same drapes and walking on the same carpet and wearing the same clothes and using the same appliances for the next three years so that you could make a contribution to building for life and putting this facility up for the glory of God. And after that message, I had a guy come up to me and said, you know what, you are shameless. He said to me, he said, how can you stand up there and ask people to do that, to give money to you and to this church like that? He said, how do you sleep at night? And let me tell you what I said to him. I said, you know, I sleep fine at night. Honest, I do. And let me tell you how I can stand up there and do that. It's because I've got a clean conscience about asking.

And I have it for two reasons. Number one, because Brenda and I are making some of the very same sacrifices that we're asking everybody else to make. I'm not asking people to do anything that we're not doing. And number two, because I'm asking people to do this for the glory of God and not for the glory of Lon Solomon.

I'm asking people to do this so that we can transform people's lives for Jesus in Washington, not so we can build Solomon's temple. You understand what I'm saying? And I said, and I know that's true in my heart.

God knows that's the motive of my heart. And I can stand up with a completely clean conscience and ask people to do it. And that explains the boldness of why I can get up. I'm not shameless, but I'm bold because my conscience is right when I ask people for this. And friends, in any situation of life, this is why Paul could be bold in front of the high priest, his conscience was clean. And in any situation of life you go into, if you want to be bold for Jesus Christ, you're going to need a clean conscience. Listen to what Proverbs 28 says. It says the wicked man, the man with a dirty conscience, he flees even when no one's after him. Ah, but the righteous man who has a clean conscience is bold as a lion. And if you're going to be bold for God, one of the secrets, remember what Paul told Timothy is a good conscience. And they say, okay, Lon, I understand that. But how does a person how do I keep a clean conscience as a follower of Christ before God?

I'm so glad you asked. Because in closing, I'm gonna give you four quick suggestions. Number one, my first suggestion is you want to keep a clean conscience before God? Well, then listen to your conscience before you act. Is it possible to go back and clean up a dirty conscience?

Yeah, but it's an awful lot of trouble that you don't even need to do if you'd listen to your conscience before you do stuff. This is why God tells us to wait on the Lord to slow down, to pray about things, to ask ourselves the question, is this really going to be worth the price I got to pay to go back and clean it up after I do it? Because I know the Holy Spirit is going to make me go back and clean it up after I do it? Or would I rather just do the right thing to start with?

And then I don't have to mess with cleaning it up? Well, when you slow down long enough to ask that question, I'll tell you, there's a lot of things you might feel like doing you don't do. You say, well, Lon, it's too late for me.

I've already blown way past Jiminy Cricket. I mean, I'm way on the other side on some things I've done. So what about me if I've already done some things that that my conscience is bothering me about?

What do I do? Well, I've got three more suggestions for you. Number one, if you've defiled your conscience with something you've done, first of all, and number two, make a decision that a clean conscience is worth any price you're going to have to pay for it, that it doesn't matter how much humiliation it's going to bring your how much embarrassment it's going to bring you, you're willing to pay any price to go back and get your conscience clean before God.

Number three, if you've if you've made that decision, then first of all, go make it right with God what you did, you say how do I do that by confessing it without excuses by getting on your knees and saying God, I'm not going to try to explain it. I'll call it what it is. It was lying. It was cheating. It was deceiving. It was manipulating. Here's what it is God.

And I'll call it what it is. And I'm going to confess it as sin and ask you to forgive me. First john one nine, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And remember what Hebrews nine said that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our consciences from dead works. When you confess it, God cleans it. I love what McShane said, he said, I am persuaded that I ought to confess my sins more to confess sin the moment I see it to be sin. I must never think of sin too small to need immediate application of the blood of Christ.

Well, he's right. Finally, once you've gotten it right with God, here comes the really hard part friends. Number four, if there were any people involved, you've got to go back and make it right with people.

You got to go back and make it right with the people that were involved in what you did. Remember our little friends Zacchaeus remember him lived in Jericho, Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he y'all know this song? Don't you know this song? Hey, I went to synagogue growing up and I know this song. Of course you go to this song.

Sing it with me. He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And when the Savior came passing by, he looked up in the tree and he said, Zacchaeus, you come down because I'm going to your house today. Very good. Very good. Now.

Now, what is the point? Well, after he after the Lord went to his house and Zacchaeus gave his life to Christ and got the real disease, you remember what he said? He said, Luke chapter 19, whatever I have cheated anybody out of and he was a tax collector and he had cheated people, there was no doubt about it. He said, I will pay them back four times the amount that I cheated them.

Now here's a man that got the real disease. And friends, if our wrongdoing involved other people in any way, the only way we can cleanse our conscience is to do what Zacchaeus did to say, I'm going back and I'm making it right with the people that were involved. And remember step two, I don't care what it costs me. I don't care if it humiliates me. I don't care if it embarrasses me.

I don't care how much money it costs me. I want a clean conscience. This means that you might need to send in an amended tax return. This means you may need to go fix the lie that you told or fess up to the cheating that you did with that professor at school. It means you may need to take back the stuff that you stole or break off the immoral behavior you've been involved in or go seek the forgiveness of somebody that you hurt.

If you lied to your husband about how much you spent at the store, you got to tell him ladies, if you told your boss gentlemen that you were sick but you really were going to play golf, you got to go back and tell him. You say, why in the world would I do something insane like that? Well, only one reason you do something insane like that and that is because you've made a spiritual decision that you want Jesus Christ to use your life and you understand that for that to happen, it takes a clean conscience.

So whatever it costs you, you're going to go get your conscience clean. You know, here at McLean Bible Church is your pastor. I want to make something clear to you. My goal here at McLean Bible Church is not to make McLean into a church that God uses to the fullest. You say, why?

No, no. Listen, my goal is not to make us into a church that God uses to the fullest. Friends, my goal here is to make every one of you into a person that God uses to the fullest. Because if all of you become people that God's using to the fullest and you make up this church, we will become a church that God uses. And if God's going to use your life and if God's going to use my life, one of the key elements is we've got to be like Paul. We've got to be able to say, to the best of my knowledge, I have a conscience that is clean before God and before man. Now that's when the Holy Spirit can flow through a life.

So if that's not where you are, ladies and gentlemen, then my challenge to you today is if you really want God to use your life, pay whatever price it takes and go get to be that way. Let's pray together. With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, I want to give you just a moment to do business with God if you need to.

There's some things in your conscience that as we've talked about it have come up on the radar screen. I hope you'll talk to God right now and say, Lord, give me the courage. Whatever it takes, I'm going to go make these things right so that you can really use my life. If you need to talk to God, why don't you do that now? Lord Jesus, thanks for reminding us in the Bible that we are ambassadors for Christ. That you left us here not to make money or amass power and fortune.

You left us here so that you could use our lives to make an impact on other people's lives for Christ. And Father, having a clean conscience is essential if we're going to see you maximize our service for Christ. So my prayer today is that for every follower of Jesus here, that our greatest goal in life would be for you to use us for the glory of God. And that to that end, we would be willing to make it our passion in life to keep a clean conscience so that the Holy Spirit can flow through us unhindered and unfettered. Now, if there's some of us here that need to go clean some things up, God, I pray you'd give us the courage to do that. Change our lives and change the very way we live because we were here today. And make us useful in your service because we heard the Word of God today. And I ask these things in Jesus' name and God's people said, Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-11 05:57:19 / 2023-06-11 06:10:53 / 14

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