Home > Brandenburg, Methodology, The Gospel > What Does It Mean to Believe in Jesus Christ?

What Does It Mean to Believe in Jesus Christ?

March 16, 2007

Doctrine is practical.  Clarity, accuracy, and thoroughness in doctrine while evangelizing is practical.  We are justified by Biblical faith, not some kind of fraudulent faith.  Someone may say that he believes in Jesus Christ, but the belief must be actual belief.  We know that some faith does not save (James 2).  The parable of the sower (Matthew 13) says that some might “receive” the Word in a non-saving way, specifically the examples of the stony ground and the thorny soil.  Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25) provides an occasion of faith that falls short of conversion.

Getting into Heaven instead of Hell is as practical as it can get.  Someone whose doctrine sends him to Hell will agree that it hasn’t been very practical.  On the other hand, someone in Heaven will thank God for the practicality of the position he was taught.  A profession isn’t practical if it doesn’t save anyone.  It might make someone look good, and that might have a kind of practicality, but in the end it will mean practically nothing.  A church growth seminar won’t do anyone any good at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20) if someone’s name isn’t in the Book of Life.  So thinking about this can reach maximum practicality.

EXPLAINING BELIEF IN CHRIST

When I preach the Gospel, near the end of the presentation I’ll say, “We must believe in Jesus Christ.  A whole lot of people will say they believe in Jesus Christ today, but it is important that we understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.”  Then I explain.  What is it that I tell someone?

First, we must believe in Jesus Christ. I quote John 3:36, then John 3:18 and 3:16.  Each of those say “believe in Jesus Christ.”  They don’t say “accept Jesus as your Savior” or “ask Jesus into your heart” or “ask the Lord to save you.”  We’ve talked about Jesus being the Jesus of the Bible, but is the belief the belief of the Bible?  To start, however, it is clear that the only way of salvation comes through faith in Christ.

Second, what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Just because people say they believe in Jesus Christ, doesn’t mean they do.  Part of what it means to believe in Jesus Christ is found in Luke 13, which says in v. 3, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” and in v. 5, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”  If someone does not repent, he will what?  He will perish.  In John 3:16, the Lord says that if someone believes in Him, He will not what?  He will not perish.  If we believe, we won’t perish, but if we don’t repent, we will perish.  Belief and repentance are talking about the same thing.  We can’t believe in Jesus Christ and in ourselves.  To repent means to turn.  That’s part of the history of the word “repent.”  Unless we turn from our way, relinquishing our will, and stop believing in anything else but Jesus Christ, we will perish.

There are a few passages that will make this clear.  2 Thessalonians 1:9 says, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  The word “repent” doesn’t occur here, but “turn” is synonymous with “repent.”  We can’t serve the world or ourselves.  No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).  We can’t put Jesus on the shelf with all the other gods.  That’s not believing in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the way (John 14:6), so we can’t go our way; we must turn from our way.  This is the message of something that Jesus said repeatedly in the New Testament.

LOSING LIFE

One place the Lord Jesus used an often repeated truth was Matthew 16:25-26:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The word “life” is psuche, which is found in v. 26, but translated “soul.”  A believer must offer His soul to God for saving.  This is the idea of these two verses (Psalm 23:3; 19:7a):

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.

Our soul is cleansed of sin when we give it to God, that is, it is restored or converted.  We can’t hang on to our soul and expect to be in heaven.   A person cannot keep his life for himself and get to heaven.  He must relinquish his life to the Lord.  This is part of what it means to believe.

CONFESS THE LORD JESUS

Fitting right into this Scriptural understanding of “believing in Jesus Christ” is Romans 10:9-10.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If Jesus is Lord, then we are not.  He rose from the dead.  How?  He is God.  He is the Messiah.  Confessing Him as Lord is confessing that we are not Lord.

HAVE YOU EXPLAINED FAITH?

This is what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.  When I present this to people, I have found that when I am done, they understand what it means to believe.  They are under conviction.   They know that if they hang on to their life, they are rebelling against the Lord.  They know what He has done for them.  They know He deserves their allegiance.  Working against this within them is their desire to control their own life.  They love the world.  They’re tempted to procrastinate.  They see the goodness of God, His love for them, but they understand how their life will change.  When I see this, I believe I have succeeded at explaining what belief in Jesus Christ is.

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  1. March 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Do you believe someone just needs to repent of their unbelief, or of their sin, in order to be saved?

  2. March 16, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    We must turn from our way, which happens to be sin for every one of us. Thanks for the question, Jerry.

  3. March 16, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Kent sez:
    “Unless we turn from our way, relinquishing our will, and stop believing in anything else but Jesus Christ, we will perish.”

    I used to have a pastor who told us that Jesus did not want to be number 1 on a list of 10, he wanted to be 1 on a list of 1. The one and only. I have always found this troublesome. What about loving my neighbor as myself? When you say “believing in anything else”, do you mean believing in Jesus as the only way of salvation or believing as the only God? That is easy to believe because the context is salvation, and nobody has that authority but God. But if you mean believing in Jesus Christ as my only ruling authority or as the only guide in my life, which are in the context of repentance, then I have a really tough time with that. How are we to ignore all the wisdom of this world, through teachings, through my family and friends, etc.. ? Do I look for guidance only in scripture and ignore them and everything else? How can we go through life and not gain insight and influence from family and friends?

  4. March 17, 2007 at 12:42 am

    Helsailing, thanks for participating. First, he that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life. It doesn’t say, believe in the Son for salvation. Then I explained what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. We can’t believe in Jesus Christ and idols. We can’t believe in Jesus Christ and ourselves. We cannot turn to Jesus Christ and keeping going our own way. We believe in Him and He is God, Lord, and Savior.

    You are to love your neighbor, but that doesn’t assume that your neighbor is Lord. You mention “ignore all the wisdom of this world”—James 3:15 says that the wisdom of this world is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Jeremiah wrote, “Learn not the way of the heathen.”

  5. March 17, 2007 at 5:59 am

    Kent sez:
    “We can’t believe in Jesus Christ and idols. We can’t believe in Jesus Christ and ourselves. We cannot turn to Jesus Christ and keeping going our own way. ”

    Yeah, this is the part I really don’t understand. I can’t really find a distinction between the two, following Jesus or going my own way. As a doubting Christian, my moral sensibilities have actually increased without the guidance of Jesus. It is not like I am looking to the wisdom outside of the Bible because I want to start smoking, being greedy and gambling again. If I start trusting my own feelings and advice from friends rather than praying for guidance in my life, well, nothing there has really changed there either. In either case, all I can do is what I think is best for myself and my family.
    So I am learning that as a Christian, I am really projecting my own thoughts into that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, and my own psyche becomes that of Jesus. As I stand back and pay attention that is what seems like is happening, and has been happening for years. I just do not see a distinction between following Jesus/Bible for moral and life guidance and looking for additional wisdom and guidance outside of Jesus/Bible.

    Kent continues:

    “You are to love your neighbor, but that doesn’t assume that your neighbor is Lord. You mention ignore all the wisdom of this world”James 3:15 says that the wisdom of this world is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Jeremiah wrote, Learn not the way of the heathen.

    Yeah, I kind of thought you were going to say something like that. James says that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are earthly, sensual and devilish, and I agree. But whether Jesus is Lord of my life or not, I am not out to be bitter, jealous or selfish, nor looking for wisdom to justify any other selfish or evil emotion and action. The Bible has some great stuff in it that has influenced my life greatly, but as the sole source of my day to day activities, well I am starting to loose confidence in that notion

  6. March 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    HelsSailing,

    The Father is seeking for true worshipers, not candidates for a get-out-of-hell free card. We are here to please God, not ourselves. You say that your own psyche and your own natural abilities have been better able to reform your lifestyle into something moral, better than Jesus was or could. But you are missing one key point here, and Romans 4:1-6 and Ephesians 2:8, 9 mention it, that is, when you “clean up” based on your own efforts, you have whereof to glory. You get the credit. On top of the fact that you can’t get rid of your sins by reforming yourself. You don’t please God, you remain in your sins, and in light of eternity, your existence becomes worthless to the Lord. Self-righteousness is immoral.

    The point is NOT living in a certain way so that we can have a certain kind of well-being to our life. The point is glorifying the Lord, which is only by grace through faith. The way you know if it is the Holy Spirit rather than your projection of your own thoughts is by a Scriptural test. We prove all things by means of God’s Word, which is sufficient for every good work. The immutable, powerful, gracious, holy God has created the world, given you your life, and provided a way of salvation. When you don’t humble yourself to receive Him, your daily activities may be orthodox, but they are not righteous, because they are not of faith (Rom. 14:21).

    You can live as moral as you can, and it won’t cover for the sinning you do. God alone saves, not us through our labor.

  7. March 17, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Deuteronomy 6:25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.

    James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    Romans 9:30-33 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

    Romans 10:1-5 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

    HelsSailing,
    If you want to live by your own righteousness, God demands perfect conformity to the Law. But all of mankind has failed – like Israel, mankind has tried to achieve salvation by their works – not by faith – and as such, it is unacceptable to God. All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight – the only righteousness God will accept is the perfect righteousness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ – whose righteousness is given to us when we trust in Him alone and in His finished work through faith. There is NO other way to be saved.

  8. Denise Graziano
    March 17, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you for a really clear presentation of salvation. It’s my favorite topic! That’s all I have to say. And that I read your blogs regularly and always enjoy, but never have time to post.

  9. March 17, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    thanks for your addition, Jerry, and, I’m glad you’ve been blessed Denise.

  10. March 17, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Pastor B,

    I read this right before work, it really offered some encouragement to me, Thanks

    God Bless,
    Cathy

  11. March 17, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    I’m glad Cathy.

  12. March 18, 2007 at 6:29 am

    Kent and Jerry, thank you for your frankness. I appreciate that you approached this with some Scripture. Kent, you said something that I guess this all boils down to:

    “The Father is seeking for true worshipers, not candidates for a get-out-of-hell free card.”

    I agree with this statement from a Biblical perspective. But practically, would anyone worship if not for the threat of hell? Or the threat of a curse of any sort, be it to ourselves, family or nation? I am not trying to be blasphemous; this is an honest question that deserves consideration. Would any of us worship God if there were not something in it for us? If that incentive is not there, then just what is a “true worshiper”?

    I wrote a short article about this just the other day called “Why do you Love Jesus?”, and I am going to ask Kent and Jerry to read it and please comment on it. I am looking for Christian insight because it does trouble me. I invite any other Christians to read it also, and give me your perspective, and cite as much Scripture as you want. Thanks alot.

    http://heissailing.edublogs.org/2007/03/15/why-do-you-love-jesus/

  13. March 18, 2007 at 9:06 am

    I’ve preached through most of the Bible, and what I have seen is that we love God first for His goodness (Rom. 2:4). We see this in the book of Isaiah, which I’m presently preaching through. God is the One Who has taken care of us, protected us, provided for us, been merciful to us. By faith we understand that He supplied a means of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ—the death, burial, and resurrection. God commendeth His love toward us. We love Him, why? Because He first loved us. Hell, judgment, justice, punishment is another motivator. “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Reward is a motivator. That is the nature of God. He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentace (2 Pet. 3:9)—God explains why He hasn’t yet judged the world; that’s why.

    Heissailing, you can’t “give Jesus a try” and be saved. It sounds like you just wanted to try Jesus and “give it your best shot.” That isn’t faith. What will help you Heissaling is a strong consideration of Who God is, of who Jesus Christ is. Then receive Him for and as Who He is.

  14. March 18, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Well, I ‘Gave Him a Try” for the past 35 years. Believe me, I had saving faith – and I had the fruits to testify to that faith. I am asking some difficult questions that have plagued me through a lot of that time though. I am tired of sweeping them under the carpet and trusting Jesus that they would go away. They don’t.

  15. March 18, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’m fine with difficult questions. I read things about overcoming and persevering, and Judas hung with Jesus for three years, camping out with nowhere to lay his head, but he was never converted. I assume if you are saved that you will also continue. If not, then I will look for a Scriptural basis for what is occurring with you.

  16. March 20, 2007 at 6:47 am

    I got saved because I feared going to Hell. After hearing a clear Gospel message, I acknowledged that if I didn’t surrender to the Lord that He would judge me and send me to Hell, where I deserve to go. As a Catholic, I knew I was a sinner, but I didn’t know what it meant to trust in Christ alone. I was trusting my good works (and I had plenty of that) hoping that that would at least get me to ‘purgatory.’ But the time came when God convicted me of my ways through His Word (particularly John 3:16). I realized that I was wrong and that I had to take God at His word. That day (about 14 years ago) I repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, initially it was a fear of going to Hell that motivated me to trust in the Lord, there was also a sincere sorrow for my sinfulness. God changed my life (and still is).

    Although I initially ‘got saved’ because of ‘fear.’ I grew in the Lord, I had learned so much reading the Bible and listening to God’s Word being preached (by Pastor Joey Guerrero in the Philippines, who btw, since mid-March this year has been in the presence of the Lord). I joined the church and did my best to be faithful to the Lord’s work. As I grew in the Lord, I realized that there were ‘better’ motives for ‘getting saved,’ particularly to and for the glory of God. For obedience to His will. For the love of Christ. For the beckoning of the Holy Spirit, and so on and so forth.

    Having said that, i did get saved initially because of ‘fear.’ But I did not ‘give Jesus a try,’ I did not ‘tip my hat to God,’ I did not just ‘give it my best shot.’ I can say with Paul, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!’ (Rom. 11:33).

  17. March 20, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I appreciate your testimony Brother Bill, and your zeal for the Lord. I believe men are converted with all sorts of testimonies that would confound the wisdom of the wise. At the same time, we have a responsibility to the truth, to the Gospel, which is the power of salvation. It isn’t that it won’t “take” if we don’t say it right. We don’t want to be guilty of manipulating it for results, and creating twice the child of Hell we once had.

  18. March 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Wow, my story is pretty similar to brother Bill’s! I was saved about 14 1/2 years ago too out of fear of going to Hell. At least that was what made me search for the Lord. I already knew I was a guilty sinner on the way to Hell, due to my nominal Catholic background – but it wasn’t until the night I got saved that I realized how to have my sins forgiven. When I heard the Gospel, I completely trusted in the Lord to save me, believing He was the only way to Heaven/salvation.

    So it was the fear of Hell that drove me to the Lord, but immediately thereafter was love for the Lord and His goodness in forgiven a wretch like me!

  19. March 21, 2007 at 7:04 am

    I know what you mean Pastor B. I certainly do not want to misrepresent the Gospel. BTW, I do appriciate this article, it gives me other ideas when sharing the good news.

  20. March 23, 2007 at 6:48 am

    This was good.

    Kent, are there any gospel tracts you recommend?

    Do you find the “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” (Ford Porter) tracts too shallow?

  21. March 26, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Hey Joe, sorry I didn’t see this till now. We use ones we have written. We usually print our base tract in 10 to 20,000 at a time. That takes us a year or a year and a half to hand out in door-to-door. We also have other tracts that are long tracts. We use long exegetical type tracts. We have many of these that we have printed about 1-3,000 each of. All of them we have written. I don’t know of anyone that writes tracts like this. Good question though.   By the way, if someone was interested in using our tract(s), we would print some up for them as well, when we go about doing our printing.

  22. April 5, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    First time Visitor. I wanted to drop in a few thoughts on this article I’ve had from simlair discussions elsewhere.

    John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

    The active word in this verse is believe. If a man will believe on the Son (of God), he will have eternal life.

    Some men cite the second usage of the word “believeth” (from the KJV) as “obey,” but may overlook the first half of John 3:36, which is the key to the context. The first usage of the word “believeth” in John 3:36 is identical to the word “believe” in the Romans 10:9 passage.

    While the word “believeth not,” (apeithon) is a different word than the first usage of the word “believeth,” and can mean “obey” in some cases, the context of John 3:36(a) demands unbelief, not disobedience.

    The correct meaning of “believeth not” is to refuse or withhold belief. Or, we could say that disobedience in itself is unbelief. Taking the whole context into consideration, the second part of the verse cannot be referring to a person’s actions, but rather to his unbelief.

    In reference to John 3:36, Spiros T. Zodhiates defines Apeitheia this way: “from the negative a (1), without, and peitho (3982), to persuade. Not to believe, to disbelieve implying disobedience; also to disobey as through unbelief.”

    Obey is a legitimate translation of believe, but to render it that way in John 3:36 does not clearly convey what sort of obedience is required. Refusing to believe in Christ is, in essence, disobedience.

  23. May 28, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    This is a beautifully explained gospel, thanks now I know what it means to believe in Jesus and I now can explain it to other people.

  24. May 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I just want to ask a question, what is right, a person will believe in Jesus because he is destined to be a son of God or to be a son of God a person must believe in Jesus?

  25. May 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Loisalfie,

    They are both right in one sense, but the first part is beyond our own knowledge. We don’t know who are the elect, so we preach the gospel to every creature. Nobody who rejects Jesus Christ could have been destined to receive Him. And nobody who receives Christ will be rejected by the Lord because he “wasn’t one of the elect.” That’s a simple explanation of it. We could get into more technicalities, but both of these are true.

    For others reading, the above paragraph does not make me a Calvinist. Election is a doctrine in Scripture.

  26. May 29, 2010 at 7:59 am

    KB,
    Thanks for the post. We may disagree on other things, but I gladly concur with the truth of the Gospel wherever I see it.
    JasonS

  27. August 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    What makes you different from a Calvinist besides believing that Christ died for all and grace can be resisted?

  28. August 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Phil,

    Before I answer your question, what have I written that would distinguish me as a Calvinist. You’ve given two points that you say would mean I’m not one, but what have I said that would mark me as a Calvinist. I’m curious. And then I’ll answer your question.

  29. August 3, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I know your not one and that your different from Calvinists. I was just wondering how your belief in election is different from Calvinists.

  30. August 3, 2010 at 12:16 am

    You have not wriiten any thing that would really distinguish you as a Calvinist.

  31. August 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Phil,

    I don’t believe in unconditional election, because 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says that we are elect through belief of the truth. I don’t think “total depravity” means the same thing as Calvinists. I don’t see “spiritual death” to be just like “physical death.” Physically dead people can’t react to anything, but spiritually dead people are suppressing the truth, rebelling against truth that they know (Romans 1:18). Spiritually dead people can respond to truth because the Word of God is quick and powerful (Heb 4:12). And like you pointed out, Christ died for unbelievers (1 Cor 15:3-4)—that’s what Paul preached to unbelieving Corinthians and he called it the gospel. And grace is resistible or else how would unbelievers suppress it? If the grace of God appeared to all men, then what is it that unbelievers have done with it (Tit 2:11)? I think that’s enough to say I’m not a Calvinist.

  32. August 13, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    What does election according to forknowledge mean to you(How do you interpret it?)(IPet.1:2)?
    Would you tie the word elect there(IPet1:2) with Rom 8:29(whom he did forknew)?
    How would you interpret Rom 8:29-30?
    What do you think being spiritually dead(Eph2:1) means?
    How do think the grace of God appears to all men(Would’nt the Calvinist just say that its through the preaching of the gospel as a common grace?)? Is it the same as the calling in Rom8? Do you think the Spirits work(John16:7-11) is the same as the calling in Rom8?

    What do you think IThess1:4-8 says about election?

    One would make their calling and election sure(IPet1:10) by adding those things to their faith right?

    Do you have any label for your position on election or are you just a non-calvinist or biblicist?

    On 2Thess2:13 Do you think that the santification of the spirit is the the divine side and the beilief in the truth is the human?

    • August 14, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Phil,

      God elects according to His foreknowledge. God knows ahead of time who it is that will believe. I believe Rom 8:29 and 1 Pet 1:2 connect.

      God foreknew those who would believe. He predestined those he foreknew would believe to conform to His image. Those he predestined to conform are those He called, terminology that speaks of those who answered His call. Those who answer His call, He justifies, and those He justifies won’t lose that justification, so they will also be glorified.

      Spiritually dead is to be separated from God spiritually because of sin. Death is separation. Spiritual death is separation from God.

      God’s grace appears to all men through general revelation. Those who don’t believe do suppress the truth. That is God calling men. God is calling, but the called are those who answer the call.

      Election is salvation in 1 Thess 1:4-8. The elect are those who God saves.

      I don’t have a label for my position. Both sides think they’re biblicists. I’m not a Calvinist and I know too that I’m not Arminian.

      Belief in the truth isn’t human, because it isn’t a work. Faith isn’t a work, but a gift.

      • August 15, 2010 at 6:33 am

        Thank you for articulating your position.

  33. August 14, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    For the record it was never about whether you were a Calvinist. I just wanted to know about your view of election. Though I can see where people get tripped up
    because they associate election with Calvinists.

  34. nlmoon
    November 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Repentance is basically a change of mind that does not necessitate a change of action. The Mormons teach that a person, in order to be saved, must “repent of their sin” (Jacob 3:8). As already affirmed, repentance is a change of mind, whereas works is a turning from an evil way (Jonah 3:10).

    Let the Bible define what works are and what repentance is!

    Jonah 3:10-repentance is a change of mind; works is a turning from sin or evil way

    Hebrews 6:1-from dead works and of faith toward God

    Acts 17:30-from worship/belief in a false deity to the belief in the True God

    http://www.remnantbaptist.wordpress.com

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