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Get a Real Testimony!
Philippians 3:4-8
Skip Heitzig

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Philippians 3 (NKJV™)
4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

I have heard various people give their testimony over the years. A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. What is your story? Could you tell it to someone? You should be able to trace the steps you took in your life’s journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. These verses are Paul’s personal testimony. Let’s consider three essential ingredients to building a real testimony.

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

Outline

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  1. Shred Your Religious Résumé (vv. 4-6)

  2. Have a Spiritual Encounter (v. 7a)

  3. Learn How to Count (vv. 7-8)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: October 15, 2017
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Get a Real Testimony!"
Text: Philippians 3:4-8

Path

Pastor Skip noted that he has heard various people give their testimony over the years. A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. What is your story? Could you tell it to someone? You should be able to trace the steps you took in your life's journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. These verses are Paul's personal testimony. In this teaching, Pastor Skip considered three essential ingredients to building a real testimony:
  1. Shred Your Religious Résumé (vv. 4-6)
  2. Have a Spiritual Encounter (v. 7a)
  3. Learn How to Count (vv. 7-8)
Points

Shred Your Religious Résumé
  • The apostle Paul's testimony is outlined in verses 4-8: by birth (Jew), by citizenship (Roman), by education (Greek), by grace (Christian).
  • Your personal testimony begins with the need to have a real relationship with Jesus. God has no grandchildren; we're not born into faith with Christ.
  • Six words in verses 5 and 6 describe Paul's religious résumé:
    • Heredity: "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel"
    • Nobility: "of the tribe of Benjamin"
    • Pedigree: "Hebrew of the Hebrews." Paul was not raised a Hellenistic Jew. He would have attended the synagogue school, hazzan.
      • As a toddler: recited the Sh'ma
      • Age five: studied Scripture
      • Age six: was sent to the synagogue to read and write
      • Age ten: memorized large portions of the oral law
      • Age twelve and thirteen: had his bar mitzvah where he was declared an adult
      • Age fifteen: studied more vigorously in codified oral traditions
    • Piety: "Pharisee," meaning separated. Pharisees were the leading sect in the accurate interpretation of the Law.
    • Intensity: "concerning zeal, persecuting the church." Paul was a zealous defender of Judaism, known more for what he was against than what he was for.
    • Morality: "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." Paul lived by the book. He sought righteousness by rule-keeping. Some folks have enough morality to keep them out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get them to heaven (because no one does).
  • Probe: Take a moment to share your testimony. How did you come to know Christ?
Have a Spiritual Encounter
  • Notice the word but in verse 7a. It indicates a change in thinking, taking us back to thirty years earlier when Paul was a pompous religious man who met Jesus.
  • Alan Redpath could've been thinking of Paul's story when he said, "When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and breaks him."
  • Paul went from persecutor to preacher, from prideful to humble. He referred to Jesus as Lord and submitted to Him.
  • Probe: Briefly describe your life before coming to know Christ. At what point in your life did you realize you needed a Savior? 
Learn How to Count
  • Notice the words count, consider, and regard. Paul learned to count what mattered most. Gain and loss are accounting terms used in the business world to indicate a profit and loss.
  • Paul spent his life working on his résumé, but when he met Jesus, he realized his profits were in the wrong column, and he learned that his books were bankrupt.
  • Notice the word rubbish. It refers to the excrement of animals. Paul was saying that heritage, background, and education are okay, but if you rely on them to get you to heaven, they stink.
  • We must toss our résumé, lose our religion, and choose a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Probe: After coming to Christ, what things in your pre-Christian days did you come to see as rubbish?
Practice

Connect Up: Though Jesus is God incarnate, as a man, He held certain characteristics and qualities. If Jesus were to have a résumé, what would you expect to find on it?

Connect In: All people are on an equal basis in Christ. Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). And though each believer has certain spiritual gifts that can be used in the body of Christ, how can our "human" résumé also be used? For example, if someone is a medical doctor (or a carpenter, homemaker, etc.), how could it be used for God's glory?

Connect Out: Lifeway.com states, "One way to show others what you believe is simply to invite them to go to church with you. Researchers working with the unchurched made a surprising discovery: 82 percent of the unchurched would probably attend church if someone invited them." ¹When was the last time you shared your testimony with someone? When was the last time you invited someone to church?


¹ Ken Lovelace, "The Value of Your Testimony," http://www.lifeway.com/Article/deacon-value-testimony-evangelism-witnessing, accessed 10/15/2017.

Transcript

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Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We love hearing how God uses these teachings to reach people around the world. If this message impacts you, let us know. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. You should be able to trace the steps that you took in your life's journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. In the message get a real testimony, Skip considers three essential ingredients to building a real testimony. Now please turn in your Bible to Philippians chapter 3 as he begins.

Father, we feel the need to just intentionally still our hearts before you and tune in to what your Holy Spirit might want to say to us. We're asking you, Lord, to mature us, mature our understanding of your word, your truth, to grow us up, and to equip us, Lord, for effective service in your kingdom. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

In the Christian world a testimony is the story of how a person comes to believe in Christ. You've heard people say let me share my testimony with you or you've done that. It's how a person has come to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. Now, there are some churches that have testimony meetings or testimony times before a meeting, typically they're smaller, when you can hear everybody out. But sometimes that testimony includes not only how a person came to Christ, but how God was faithful in a particular situation.

Maybe they went through a trial or a sickness, and they want you to know what God did for them, through them during that time. And I've always found that personal testimonies are uplifting and very inspiring usually. Sometimes testimonies can seem to drag on and on and on as more details are given. And sometimes testimonies morph over time. They change, and it's like if I've heard a person's testimony, I've noticed that there's a tendency not always, but sometimes to make those stories grow bigger than they really are, sort of, like fish stories.

Every time you tell a fish story the fish keeps getting bigger and bigger until pretty soon you were out on the ocean and you caught Moby Dick or something. And so testimony's can be like that, and that's because as human beings we typically like to talk about ourselves and we like to outdo other people's stories. So it's like, oh, wait until you hear my testimony. So there was-- there was an old guy who loved to talk about how he was delivered from a local flood, the Johnstown flood. And he loved to tell the story about God's deliverance and told it in great detail, and he always looked for testimony meetings where he could share.

Well, this old guy died one day and was taken to heaven, and Peter introduced himself and said, well, I just want you to know that tonight we're getting everybody together in heaven. They're going to tell their testimonies, their stories. Well, his eyes lit up. He thought, man, I died on the right day. He said, Peter, you got to let me tell the story of how I was delivered by God, my testimony how God saved me from the Johnstown flood. It's a great story. Everybody's going to love this story, and Peter hesitated a moment. He said, sure, you can tell your story about the flood, but just remember, Noah, will be in the audience tonight.

As we think of our personal testimonies of how we came to Christ, let's just imagine Paul the Apostle is in our audience today. Because in the verses that we're about to read, essentially Paul gives his testimony. He talks about his past and then something that happened to him. He mentions that or he points to that with a word, and then how things have changed. So what I want to share with you today in principle form are three ingredients in building an effective testimony. Three ingredients on building an effective testimony.

First, you need to shred your religious resume, number two, you need to have a spiritual encounter, and number three, you need to learn how to count. Let me explain once we get into our text. Let's look at verse 4 of Philippians chapter 3. Paul continues his thought, "though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks that he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning Zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things would gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith." That is Paul's personal testimony in a nutshell.

I'll never forget my high school reunion. I only went to one, and that was my 10 year reunion. But I remember it, because I was saved and I wanted to share my testimony with people, which I did. They were, kind of, shocked. You're a what? You preach the gospel. You're not loaded anymore. But I remember at my high school reunion a guy by the name of John Boothe. Now John Boothe in my high school was like the jock, the football hero, everybody loved him and looked to him.

And what I noticed when I went into the reunion was John Boothe across the room with a big smile on his face, and I never saw him smile in high school. He never needed to. He just sort of grunted his way out to the football field. But he's smiling, and I was talking to him and he started telling me his personal testimony of how he came to believe in Jesus Christ, and it was awesome. He was going from table to table sharing his testimony.

What do you think it would be like to go to Paul the apostles high school reunion? So imagine yourself at Tarsus High. That's where Paul graduated. It's the 10 year high school reunion. There's Saul of Tarsus. And you know him, so you walk up to him. Hey Saul, so are you still into that rabbi thing? You still going to Jerusalem with Gamaliel and all that, and Paul might look at you and say, well, a funny thing happened to me on the way to Damascus. And he would talk about an encounter that he had with the Lord Jesus Christ, and now he's traveling the world and preaching the gospel.

Today, what I wanted to do is take off your 21st century glasses and put on your first century glasses. Instead of just thinking of Paul as the great Christian apostle, remember that he had a Jewish religious background. He was very well-educated, and he was very well trained in a religious system. But he had an encounter with Christ that changed everything.

I have a book called The Jewish 100. It was by Michael Shapiro, that's the author. And this is a biographical study of 100 of the most influential Jewish people of all time. Now what's interesting to me is who's in the top tier. So number one in the book, the number one influential Jew of all times, according to Michael Shapiro in his book, was Moses. Moses is the number one on the list. Now, I understand that, because Jewish people look back to Moses as the great law giver, the covenant giver.

Number two on his list is Jesus Christ, because even as a Jewish person, he recognizes that Jesus changed history, so he gives him the number two slot. Number three on the list is Albert Einstein interestingly. Number four, Sigmund Freud-- I wouldn't put him in the top tier, but he did. Number five was Abraham, and number six on the list of most influential Jews of all time, according to Michael Shapiro in his book, Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle. Very interesting background.

We know that Saul was a Roman citizen. That's huge, because it meant that he had the right to have a trial before Caesar. And he pulls out that card when he is on trial in Caesarea. He said, I appeal my case to Caesar. We know that he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, which was a Roman province. If you were to look today on a map, you'd have to look to south east Turkey to find Tarsus.

The area he was born in was known for its black cloth called cilicium. And cilicium was used to make tents and other items, and we know that Paul professionally was a tent maker. He could go from place to place and make these black and leather tents that were sold on the marketplace. But what makes him so unique is his testimony. So let's look at it a little more carefully and notice these three ingredients.

First of all, if you're going to have a real testimony, at some point you're going to need to shred your religious resume. Now, I need to explain that, because some of you have had no religious background at all. So this isn't really an issue. I mean, it wasn't an issue with my wife. My wife had no spiritual baggage whatsoever. She was raised an atheist. And so she just came out of atheism to an encounter with Christ.

But if you were raised in a religious home and you have trusted in the fact that you were raised in a religious home by spiritual parents, then you're going to need at some point to tear up your religious resume, and here's why. Because God has no grandchildren. He only has children. As many as received him, John chapter 1 tells us, he gave them the right to become children of God to those who believe in his name. You can't go to heaven, because your parents took you to church and they themselves had a personal relationship with Christ. It always has to be personal. It's always one generation at a time.

So Paul has a huge religious resume and what we notice here in the text is he tosses it out the window, throws it away. Now in looking at his resume-- and we want to look very carefully beginning in verse 5-- there are six words that would describe Saul of Tarsus and his spiritual religious resume. Number one, heredity, heredity. Notice what he says in verse 5, "Concerning himself circumcised, the eighth the day of the stock of Israel."

In other words, he wasn't converted as a Gentile into Judaism. He wasn't a proselyte. He was a Jew by birth and by ritual, circumcised the eighth day of his life. So he could say I'm a true blue Jew. I'm a Jew by birth. I was born into this. And my circumcision wasn't as an adult proselyte, but it came when I was in that covenant relationship as a child.

And it's funny. If you do make it to Israel with us and when you go to Jerusalem and they take you to the Western Wall and you see that enclosure of where the temple once stood at the time of Jesus, the locals will tell you to go up and pray at the Western Wall. And they, sort of, say this tongue in cheek, but I think they kind of believed this at the same time. They say, we understand you can pray to God anywhere in the world, but here it's a local call. You're in Jerusalem, man. You're in the holy city. You talk to God here, and it's just a little bit better. It's a little bit closer.

Paul could boast that he was circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel. He had one time trusted in that. And there's a lot of people like Saul who trusted in some ritual of their past to be right before God. We mentioned this last week. Could be baptism, could be confirmation, it could be christening, and I've even noticed the people say not only was I baptized, but I was baptized by this person in this church, like, there's some special form or formula.

So there was a little boy who was going to a Baptist church, and he decided to turn his cat into a Baptist. So he filled up the bathtub, and he was going to do it the Baptist way, full immersion baptism. You're gong all the way under. Not sprinkling, I'm going to put you all the way under. So he filled up the bathtub. Well, you know how cats feel about water. So as he's filling it up, and he accidentally sprinkles just a few drops on his hand. The cat-- the cat freaked out and ran down the hallway. And the little boy yelled after him and said fine be a Methodist then.

Paul would say I'm not a Methodist or a Baptist. I was circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel. That's his heredity. A second word that would describe him is nobility. For he says, I was of the tribe of Benjamin. Now if you know your Jewish history, you understand that Benjamin was one of the noble lines, because the very first King of Israel came from the tribe of Benjamin. His name was King Saul. In fact, it could be that Saul of Tarsus was named after Saul the first King of Israel who was also a Benjamite. Also the tribe of Benjamin was the only tribe loyal to the tribe of Judah when the kingdom split, so heredity and nobility.

Third word that would describe him is pedigree. For he says, I was circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin. Now notice the next phrase, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. In other words, I was a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. I wasn't raised a Hellenistic Jew, a Greek cultured, Greek speaking Jew. I was raised in the Hebrew style. Let me just explain it this way.

In ancient times in that Greco Roman world, there were Jewish people in the diaspora, the dispersion where you had Jews all over the world. They were raised in that culture and often with pagan customs. But those who learned Hebrew by Hebrew parents in Hebrew speaking synagogues felt themselves to be a little bit more superior than the rest, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.

Now, I'm going to give you a quick little biographical sketch of Saul of Tarsus growing up and his educational background as a toddler. He would have learned to recite the Shamar. Have you heard of the Shamar? Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4, he learned it in Hebrew. So imagine little Saul as a toddler saying the words out loud [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Hear O'Israel Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. He learned that as a toddler.

At age 5, he would begin studying the scriptures. At age 6 he was sent to the synagogue to learn to read and write the scriptures. At age 10, Saul would already have memorized large portions of the oral law. That is not just the scriptures, the traditions of the elders. At age 12, he would be preparing for his bar mitzvah, which would take place at age 13. Bar mitzvah means son of the commandment. It was a rite of passage where you were now considered an adult member of the Jewish community.

At age 15, he would have more rigorous study where he would study the codified oral traditions, the Talmudic writings. And somewhere in those adolescent years shortly after that, he was sent to Jerusalem for five to six years of rabbinical study. So heredity, nobility, pedigree. He's giving his background. A fourth word that would describe Saul of Tarsus is piety, because notice what he says.

He says at the end of verse 5, not only a Hebrew of the Hebrews, but concerning the law a Pharisee. Now I know. I know that you as a Western Christian in this modern era, you have read enough of your New Testament to know that Pharisees weren't great people. You thinking, oh, that's-- why would he put that in his resume. Because Jesus spoke against the Pharisees, right. He called them whitewash sepulchre. He called them hypocrites.

However, the original word Pharisee [NON-ENGLISH] means to be separated. And when they started around 200 BC-- they continued into the first century-- they believed that they would give their whole life to studying and obeying the written law, as well as the oral law. They started off really good. They just evolved into a hypocritical group.

According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, the Pharisees were the leading sect among the Jews, the most accurate interpreters of the law. As a Pharisee, he studied under a very particular mentor. Do you remember his name? It's given in Acts 22. Gamaliel was his mentor. Gamaliel is one of the most famous scholars in Jewish history regarded even to this day.

What Gamaliel taught him to do was to argue. There was an ancient form of discourse called the diatribe question and answer format to learn how to think and talk on your feet very persuasively. He would have had to memorize large portions of the Old Testament, which would become very profitable as time went on in his ministry, so heredity, nobility, pedigree, piety.

A fifth word that would describe him is intensity. This dude was intense. Look at verse 6. "Concerning zeal--" if you want to talk about my zeal-- "persecuting the church" Saul of Tarsus, as you know, was a zealous defender of Judaism. Now why it's important to understand a little bit about Gamaliel is understanding that he sat under Gamaliel's mentorship helps you understand him. Because Gamaliel was hateful toward the Christians. He called Christians, Christian heretics.

And a very famous prayer uttered by Gamaliel goes this way. Let there be no hope to them who apostatize from the true religion and let these heretics how manysoever they be, all perish in a moment. He prayed that concerning Christian heretics, those who left Judaism and turned to Christ as their messiah. No wonder then, we read about Saul in Acts chapter 8 verse 3 these words, "Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church" He went from house to house dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail.

He learned that in part from Gamaliel. No wonder we read acts chapter 9 about Saul breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. So this dude was so intense that he measured his religious zeal by his hatred. Now you know you're bad off when you're known more for what you're against than what you're for.

A sixth word that would describe Saul of Tarsus is morality. Look at verse 6 again. "concerning zeal, persecuting the church, concerning the righteousness, which is in the law, I was blameless." That is nobody could accuse me. I lived by the book. I did everything the law demanded, not just the written law, but the oral law. So get this, Saul of Tarsus had a righteousness by rule keeping.

How many people do you know who have a righteousness by rule keeping? I do my best man. I try really hard. I work really hard at getting God to love me, doing all the right things. I'm a religious person, righteousness by rule keeping. This is why religious people are the hardest people to see converted, because they don't see that they have a need for anything.

You share the gospel with them, look, I've gone to church all my life. I've been baptized. I've been confirmed. I've gone through other sacraments. I try really hard in going to church regularly. It's all a righteousness by rule keeping. They have enough morality to keep them out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get them into heaven. So morality.

Now here's the question. Why is Paul rattling off all of the things he's done in his past? Because there's this group we talked about last week called the judaizers. Remember, the judaizers? They mix law and grace together. They were telling Gentiles, non-Jews in Philippi, you have to go back and keep Jewish laws and Jewish rituals to be right before God.

So go back to verse 3 where we studied last week, Paul says, "we are the circumcision, true believers, true followers who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. Though, I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so." And then he lists all these things. As if to say, I can beat these silly arguers at their own religious game. Here's my background. Here's my pedigree. Which leads me to a question. What are you boasting in? What are you trusting in? What or are you confident in to be right before God?

Are you saying like so many people, well, I was born in America? It's about as close to God as you can get. Or not only was I born in America, I was born in America by churchgoing parents and I have a Christian education at a Christian school. Whatever it is you might boast in, if you're not boasting in Jesus Christ alone, it's a false boast.

Those things aren't bad. All of those things are good things. But a good thing can become a bad thing if it keeps you from the best thing. All of those wonderful things that were part of his background and his resume actually kept him from a relationship with God. So shred your religious resume, and you'll see Paul doing that.

Second, have a spiritual encounter. Look at verse 7. What's the first word in verse 7? Say it out loud. But, now that's a word that denotes a change. It's a negative conjunction. Sorry to bring up English class here. So whenever you see the word, it denotes that he is pivoting and he is changing his thinking. So he's saying this is who I used to be, but. These are the things I used to trust in, but. Here's a list of all the things I thought were important to me, but something has changed in my life, and that is I got saved.

You see that little word in verse 7, but, takes us back 30 years from the writing of this letter to and he was going on the Damascus road from Jerusalem to Damascus to imprison believers. So here's this pompous, religious man on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus. He has an encounter with Jesus Christ. Alan Redpath used to put it this way. When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him. Listen to Paul's crushing.

This is Acts chapter 9, the first few verses. "Meanwhile Saul"-- that's Saul of Tarsus-- "was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord's followers, and so he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the way"-- that's what they used to first call Christians, the way-- "he wanted to bring them both men and women back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon them, and then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads that is of conviction. So he trembling and astonished said Lord, what do you want me to do? And the Lord said to him, arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

It was this episode that changed everything. Now he goes from persecutor to preacher. After this chapter, he goes from Mr. Prideful to Mr. Humble. He goes from religious man to righteous man, from self-confident to saved. He had an encounter, a spiritual encounter that was personal with Jesus Christ. In the passage that I just read from Acts chapter 9, he refers to Jesus as the Lord, and he submits to him Lord, what do you want me to do? And the rest of his life it's about doing what Jesus wants him to do.

Here's why I love Paul's testimony. What happened to Paul happened instantly to him. I mean, he was one way, one day, but that day changed him, and he was completely different the next day. I know that for some people coming to Christ is a process. They hear the gospel once. They listened to it. They might agree with something, but they marginalize it, pass it off. And then they hear it again at another time, and then they hear it again. And maybe one day it just sinks, they go, I'm giving my life to Christ.

But for other people, it's instantaneous. It's like an epiphany. For me, it was an epiphany. When I heard the gospel I thought, I'm in trouble. I need to do this. I need to receive Christ. Now, I didn't quite get that at first. I had a friend, the friend who really led me to Christ, Geno. One day he was doing drugs. The very next day, less than 24 hours later he's preaching Jesus to me. And I said, excuse me nobody can change that fast. And he said, well, I did.

The night before he went to a meeting, and he went forward and he received Christ as his Savior, and he was forever changed. To this day, changed. Saul had an encounter with Jesus. Now this encounter was so unexpected and so transforming that I have been amused over the years. I've even collected stories of people trying to explain Saul's spiritual conversion.

For example, Renan, the French-- Renan the French atheist, philosopher, said that this was a case of an easy conscience with unstrung nerves, fatigue from the journey, his eyes were inflamed by the hot sun, and a sudden stroke of fever produced an hallucination. Because it's so odd that this person would change so dramatically, it must be a hallucination. Others say a thunderstorm happened to hit at this very moment, and being so overwrought by guilt, he imagined that God spoke to him.

But my favorite and the most popular explanation of Saul of Tarsus spiritual conversion is that he had an epileptic fit. I still hear this. I still read this. It was a case of an epileptic seizure. I did a little research and discovered, according to medical sources, epileptics cannot remember anything that occurred during that fit. Yet Saul seems to have great detail about everything that happened, and he writes about it and tells about it.

So I love how Spurgeon answered this argument when people said, oh, it was an epileptic fit. He said, oh, blessed epilepsy if it affects a conversion like this. May God give us more people with epileptic fits that result in conversion to Christ. So shred your religious resume, have a spiritual encounter, number three to build your testimony, you need to learn how to count.

Paul admits that he counted wrong for years. Look at verse 7, "but what things were gained to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet, indeed, I also count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish that I may gain Christ."

Notice the words counted and count three times in two versus. The Greek word is [GREEK]. It is a term, a mathematical term, a term of accounting counting, an accounting term. It means to reckon, reason, or to count. So Paul is saying, you know what? I've learned how to count. Two more words I want you to notice. Notice the word gain and the word loss in verse 7. What things were gained to me, these I have counted loss. Those two are accounting terms or from the business world.

Gain and loss represent the profit column and the loss column in a set of accounting books. So the books are open. One column says profit. The other says loss-- gain, loss. Paul spent his whole life working on his spiritual religious resume, and he had all of these things in the profit column, gained, gained. I was a Jew born of a Jew, tribe of Benjamin, kept the law. All those things were in my profit column. But Paul says, but I've learned to count since then, and I see things differently. I had them in the wrong column all along. Those things that they put in this column are actually loss.

So listen to verse 7 and 8 in a more modern translation, and I think it'll all come together for you. Paul writes this, the very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I am tearing up and trowing out with the trash along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my master first hand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant dog dung, I have dumped it all in the trash, so that I can embrace Christ and be embraced by him.

So now he opens the books and looks at that profit column, all those things listed, and he goes you know what? I just made a discovery. I'm bankrupt before God. I've had him in the wrong column. They've actually kept me from a real authentic relationship with God. So I'm moving them from the gain column into the loss column.

Something else I want you to look at. Look at verse 7. What things were gained to me, these I have-- what's the word? Counted, that's a past tense. I counted it. That was 30 years ago. He's going back to his conversion. 30 years ago, I made the estimation when I had an encounter with Christ. These things were in the wrong column. I have counted that 30 years ago. Now look at verse 8. Yet indeed, I also-- what's the word? Count, now that's present tense. I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ.

Here's what he's saying. I made a choice 30 years ago. I'm here to tell you, I didn't-- I don't regret the choice that I made. Same choice, 30 years later. Longevity is always the test of choice. 1973, I made a choice. Watching that Billy Graham broadcast, I made a choice to make Jesus my Lord. That was 1973 many moons ago. Today, I'm here to say I made the right choice. I still follow the same Lord.

Now look at another word as we bring this to a close. He said all of those things I counted loss, I count them loss, and I count them as, verse 8, rubbish. Now I want to be careful with this word, because it's a very strong Greek word. It's the word [GREEK], which means nothing to English readers. But if you were a Greek speaker 2000 years ago, and you heard this word, you go, woah. Because it means, as you have heard in this translation I just read, and they put it mildly, dog dung.

It literally means the excrement of animals. The stuff you sweep away from the stalls, because it stinks. So Paul is saying, I made a choice 30 years ago. I'm still choosing it, and I'm here to say trusting in anything else stinks. Trusting in your religious background stinks. Trusting in how you were raised if that's what you're trusting in to be safe stinks. You need your own personal encounter with Christ.

Like John Dyer said-- he was a Welsh poet, theologian-- a man may go to heaven without health. A man may go to heaven without riches, without honors, without learning, and without friends, but he can never go to heaven without Christ. So he says, "and be found in him"-- verse 9, a verse we'll look at next week-- "not having my own righteousness, which is from the law but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness, which is from God by faith."

So here's the skinny. Your heritage may be wonderful. Your upbringing may be awesome. Your education is worth something. It's OK. However, if you are relying on any of those things to go to heaven, they stink. I got a letter a few years ago that was an amazing letter. It was from Utah. It was a little town outside of Salt Lake City. And the man introduced himself as from the Mormon church, a leader in the Mormon church, a very influential and ardent follower in Mormonism.

But he said, I would listen to your radio broadcasts in the morning, and one day I decided I'd pull over on the side of the road and I'd listen to the whole thing. By the end of the broadcast, I realized that everything I had trusted in was wrong. And I prayed by the side of the road in my car after the radio broadcast, and I just wanted to write you to tell you I've received Jesus Christ as my Savior and my only means of salvation. So toss your resume, get saved, and learn how to count. I could even reduce it down to this, lose your religion and choose your relationship with Christ. Let's pray.

Father these are very strong words from the apostle. We think of him sitting in that Roman prison imagining what life is like in Philippi as these young believers so filled with joy and so filled with promise by simply trusting in Jesus for their salvation have arguers and dissenters around them saying no, no, no, no you need more than just believing in Jesus. You need to keep these rituals and these laws. And he knew that that was dismantling that simple trust in Jesus alone.

And so with passion words he says, I also could brag, because here's my past, but something change, but I'm different now, and I've learned to count. That all the things that I relied on, they stink in comparison to this sweet smelling savor of just trusting in Jesus alone for my salvation. And so Lord, I want to just close by praying for anyone here who might up to this point have been trusting in their own goodness, their own merit, their own education, their own status, their own upbringing, their own rituals.

But today they've heard the words out of the Bible, out of the New Testament. The words of the chief apostle who gave us so much of the New Testament by the power of your spirit. And here's a man who said all those things aren't important. The most important is where I am at right now in my relationship with my God through his son, the Lord Jesus.

Lord, I pray for anyone here who doesn't know Jesus personally. They have been observers up to this point. They have acquiesced to come to church services at the bequest of a friend or loved one. But there's not a real connection made, and so there's no life, no spiritual life flowing into theirs. Lord, I pray that a decision would be made. A decision like Paul made, a decision like I made, a decision like so many here have made at one time in their lives to trust in nothing or no one else but Christ alone. To make it personal, to make it theirs, to receive Jesus Christ thereby becoming children of God.

If you're here today, and you have-- you've never trusted in Jesus. Maybe you're the kind who have trusted in your background or your upbringing or your tradition, but you've never place your faith in Jesus alone. If you're willing to do that, I'd love to pray for you, but I need to know who I'm praying for. So I'm asking if you're going to make that decision would you just raise your hand up in the air. If you're willing to say yes to Jesus, just raise your hand, and you're saying I'm going to do that today. Skip, pray for me.

Just raise your hand up, and you're saying today's the day I'm going to give my life to Christ and trust no one or nothing else but him. Just raise that hand up, and I'll notice it. God bless you right here in the front to my right. God bless you and you right in the middle. Awesome you guys. Thank you for those hands. Anybody else? Real quickly we're about to close the services. Just raise it up and say here's my heart, Lord, take it. Here's my life. I surrender. Lord, what do you want me to do? I'm yours. I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. That's what all that implies. Just raise it up.

Father, for those who have raised their hands. You know them. You love them. You have a plan for them. Strengthen them as they follow you. Bless their lives. Unburden, Lord, that-- their shoulders, and I pray, Lord, that they would just experience a freedom and a deep peace and satisfaction. We ask it in Jesus' name, amen. Let's all stand please.

Here we're going to close with a song, and I saw a few hands go up. I'm just going to ask you to do something very bold. Jesus did this so often. He would call people publicly, and I think it's important that you learn how to make a stand for Jesus. Here's the deal. You're among friends. You're not among a hostile world. You're among friends who once you get up out of your seat from where you're standing, they're going to applaud you and encourage you.

So if you raised your hand, I'm going to ask you now to just follow up on that and find the nearest aisle and stand right here, right now. And I'm going to lead you in a prayer in just a moment when you come. I'm going to lead you in a prayer to make Jesus your Lord. So as we sing this song if you raised your hand, please just get up and stand right up here. Come forward.

Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, My righteousness. Oh, God, how I need you. And Lord I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense. My righteousness. Oh, God, how I need you.

Wow. You know what I love is the first ones that came up were men. Men being men and saying I have a need, and I'm going to ask Jesus to fill my life. We're glad for every one of you who has come up. I'm going to lead you now in a prayer. I'm going to say this prayer out loud. I'm going to ask you just to pray this out loud after me. Say these words from your heart.

Say, Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus that he died on the cross, that he shed his blood for me, and that he rose again. I turn from my sin. I repent of it. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. Help me to live for him as my Lord. In Jesus' name, amen. Amen.

Paul's testimony was his unique story of how he came to Christ. Did this message help you discover how to share your testimony with others? We'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
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Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
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You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
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No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
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Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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5/21/2017
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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
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What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
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Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
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If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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7/9/2017
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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
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Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
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The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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7/30/2017
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Being Around People--While Still Being Sane!
Philippians 2:1-4
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Relationships are hard. They take a lot of work. If you think about it, every person in the world is incompatible with every other person. Enough time together would reveal this truth. Because of this, tensions rise, emotions flare, and bad responses ensue. Every friendship, every marriage, every family, and every organization (including every church) has its relational challenges. The church at Philippi did, too, and it was that disunity that tested Paul’s joy. Let’s consider the basics and the basis of successful relationships, and move from surviving them to thriving in them.
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8/6/2017
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What Would Jesus Do?
Philippians 2:5-8
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The campaign What Would Jesus Do? has been around for years, challenging Christians to think about what Christ might actually do in any given situation so they might do likewise. Before us, we have an example of what Jesus actually did do. His example of humility and self-sacrifice is Paul’s illustration to fortify his exhortation of loving people through lowering ourselves.
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8/13/2017
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Be Humble or You'll Stumble
Philippians 2:8-11
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Humility is that slippery quality that once you think you have it, you don't! Also, the pathway of humility is a hard one. For Jesus, it meant the cross. But humility will always be rewarded. Using Christ as our ultimate example, Paul demonstrates how Jesus' voluntary humiliation was compensated by the Father’s lavish exaltation. So even though humility doesn't come without a price, without it, there will be no harmony, no unity.
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8/20/2017
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How to Have a Great Workout
Philippians 2:12-13
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Every day in every city, people go to the gym to get in a workout. Running on a treadmill, spinning on a cycle, working the stair-climber, and lifting weights are becoming more and more frequent in our health-conscious culture. But money spent on a gym membership is pointless unless we take the right approach. In this message, I want to consider what it means to have a healthy spiritual life by showing you what it means to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." Let's be determined to stay in top spiritual shape.
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8/27/2017
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Glow in the Dark!
Philippians 2:14-18
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To make an object glow in the dark, a phosphor that will energize by ambient light and have a very long persistence (like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate) must be applied. For a Christian to glow (shine the light of truth and salvation) in a dark culture, there are four considerations that will energize us. Today let’s study how we can penetrate a murky world.
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9/17/2017
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A Little Help from My Friends
Philippians 2:19-24
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Life without friendship is like the sky without the sun. Paul knew the value of having true friends who stuck with him during difficult times. And right in the middle of this letter, he mentioned two of them—Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two guys helped shoulder the burdens for the apostle and brought him great joy. As we consider Timothy's friendship profile, see how many of these qualities are present in your own life.
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10/1/2017
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How to Treat Good (but Imperfect) People
Philippians 2:25-30
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Some of the greatest people I have ever met have been relatively unknown individuals. They serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the limelight. Their names are not known to men, yet they are known to God. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. We all have our blemishes, shortfalls, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. Paul gave us an excellent way to treat such people in his words about his friend Epaphroditus.
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10/8/2017
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Has Your Joy Sprung a Leak?
Philippians 3:1-3
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I have a bicycle pump in my garage that stands constant guard to reinflate my tires. It seems that I have a slow leak in one of them. Perhaps from a very small thorn or a defect in the tube, the air slowly leaks out, leaving the ride spongy. Spiritual thorns that deflate joy can also threaten our Christian experience. Let’s consider some simple principles that firm up our life journey and keep "the joy of the Lord" intact.
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10/29/2017
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Benefits of Being Believers
Philippians 3:8-11
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Being a Christian believer cost Paul a lot. He lost his status, he lost his prestige among former peers, and he landed in a foreign prison cell, facing possible execution. So what did he gain from his choice? What are the rewards and benefits of believing in Christ if the world hates you and most people misunderstand you? Today, we look at five of the benefits that offset any loss we might incur. These gains (or profits) make up for any momentary afflictions.
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11/5/2017
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Put On Your Running Shoes
Philippians 3:12-16
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Though I prefer cycling to running, I appreciate the disciplined runner who has trained long hours and has conditioned his/her body to reach its maximum potential. One of Paul’s favorite metaphors for Christian living was the race. In this passage, he pictured the believer as an athlete competing in a footrace pushing towards the finish line. To become winning champions in this race towards Christlikeness, there are five essentials:
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11/19/2017
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Show Me Your Passport, Please!
Philippians 3:17-21
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Anytime you travel overseas, a passport is required. Your passport is a document of citizenship, denoting your country of origin and permanent residence. Your name is written on that document along with your place and date of birth. Jesus said that our names are written in heaven (see Luke 10:20) because we have been born again. That makes us tourists and foreigners here on earth. In this section of Philippians, Paul gave us four distinguishing characteristics of heavenly citizens.
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There are 20 additional messages in this series.