07 Jun 2020

Jesus Vs Judas: Checkmate! [Matthew 26:17-25]


Judas was a prime example of how someone can be "so close, yet so far" from the Kingdom of God. Someone said that he "kissed the door to heaven, but died and went to hell. " How tragic! This sermon shows how he bided his time, was blinded, bluffed his way through, betrayed Jesus and was ultimately bemoaned. And it seems like he got the upper hand against Jesus when he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. But Matthew will reveal that Jesus was like the supreme grandmaster of chess, who allowed his opponent to make his best moves, but who would ultimately turn it all around to deliver an astounding checkmate instead! Jesus was not a helpless victim of Judas' ploy. He was not caught off-guard. Instead, He masterfully controlled the entire situation in order to fulfil His mission to save us on the Cross. So, come and see this "chess game" of Jesus vs Judas here, and may God bless you with knowing Christ even more.


Sermon Transcript

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Good morning and welcome to Gospel Light Christian Church. We are grateful you can join us today as we worship the Lord, together online. We are on a series called, “48”. It's really a look at the last one or two days of the life of Jesus, here on Earth, before we will see Him go to the cross.

So, we began this series last week by taking a 3D look at the cross. A three-dimensional appreciation of what the cross of Jesus Christ would mean. We saw that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the will of the Father. That Jesus was not sacrificed on the cross for no reason. He was not there because it was an accident. He was not there because it was a misfortune. But it was the precise, prepared will of the Father, that through the death of Jesus, souls will be saved and the attributes and the glory of God would be known.

We saw also that the cross reveals the wickedness of His foes. That the death of Jesus fully brought out the evil, the wickedness of the hearts of men. Now, we are going to see these two aspects very clearly in the life of Judas Iscariot.

I think Judas is an infamous man, everybody knows about him. He's the one who followed Jesus and who will betray Jesus. And in this one man's life, we're going to see, both the will of God through him, and also the wickedness of his own heart. So we are going to put the microscope on Judas. We're going to zoom in on him. And we're going to see how in this one man's life, these two aspects are perfectly balanced and true.

Now, I think of Judas versus Jesus, like a chess game. I like to play chess and in a chess game, the whole goal is not to win as many pieces as you can. But the whole goal is just to deliver checkmate, that is to kill the opponent's king or to apprehend the opponent's king.

Now, the word, ‘checkmate’ is really interesting. The term itself, is from a certain language, that means or that is interpreted today as simply - the king is helpless. So I think of Judas versus Jesus, like a chess game. Judas, he must have thought that he … he will soon deliver checkmate on Jesus. He will soon be able to catch Jesus by surprise. Jesus will be helpless and He will be delivered to the cross and Judas will win.

See, Judas had been pretending all this while. He had been crafting. He had been trying to draw up a plan to maximize his profit on Jesus. And he must have thought that he would soon deliver a checkmate on Jesus.

But like a brilliant Grandmaster, Jesus knows all about the moves of Judas. He knew exactly what Judas is going to do. And He's going to allow Judas to make his move, to imagine that he would have delivered checkmate. But all of a sudden, Jesus is going to turn all that around. And instead of being a victim, He's going to show Himself, a victor.

And so, we're going to see the ultimate checkmate is not delivered by Judas, but it's going to be delivered by Jesus. He's going to use even the wickedness of Judas to accomplish His purpose, His mission, His plan, to fulfill the Father's Will to die on the cross and to save men from his sins.

So today, we're going to look at this in a very simple way. Usually I give three points in a sermon, but today is just two. We're going to look at Judas and then very quickly look at Jesus. That's all! Jesus versus Judas: Checkmate!

1] Judas & His Move
So let's, let's look at number one - Judas and his move. The move that Judas is going to make. Now, we read earlier in verse 16, “And from that moment he …” that is Judas, “… sought an opportunity to betray Him.” So Jesus had or Judas has always been thinking, plotting, waiting for the right time to strike. He wanted to betray Jesus. He wanted to find a means to monetize his relationship with Jesus.

He's a man caught up by greed and covetousness and a love for money. And so, he wants to make the best profit out of this relationship he has with Jesus. So he hung around with Jesus. He followed Jesus wherever he went. He was always looking for the right time to sell his Master. He's a very patient man. He bided his time for all these three years.

But not only that he [sic: bide] bided his time, this man is really blind. Don't you think? He's so blind, that he doesn't recognize that the very person he is with, is the very Son of God. The Bible tells us that Judas has a very low estimation of Jesus. He doesn't see the worth, the supremacy, the value of Jesus Christ.

“Where do you see that?”, you ask? Well, we see in John 12, verses 4 and 5. He really hated the fact that the ointment, that costs about one year's wage is all spilled and poured out on Jesus. He says, “Why can't this money be given to the poor?” You see, in the eyes of Judas, Jesus is not worth very much.

In fact, there's a little clue in Matthew 26:22, when Jesus revealed to the disciples that He will be betrayed, the disciples echoed in one voice. “They were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord? Am I the one?” They … they weren't sure who it is? So they all ask, “Is it me? Is it me? Is it I, who will betray You, Lord?”

But look at what Judas said, “Judas, who would betray Him answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?”” You notice a subtle difference, but a significant difference. The disciples all known Jesus as Lord, as Master, as Kyrios. But Judas calls Him, “Rabbi”. Kyrios is Lord, is Master. Rabbi is teacher. So in the eyes of Judas, Jesus is no Lord. Jesus is no Master. He's just a teacher. Probably a very gifted, very eloquent, very effective teacher but He's just a teacher.

And then we see in verse 15, “Judas decided to sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.” And as we have mentioned last week, that is the price of one, ordinary slave. So to Judas, from all these little clues, we could see that Judas didn't really recognize the value and worth of Jesus. He was blinded. He was blinded by love for money. He was blinded by greed and covetousness.

It's amazing if you think about it! Because for three years, he must have seen Jesus do amazing miracles. How Jesus healed the man who was full of leprosy. He brought to life, Lazarus. How Jesus calmed the storm and how Jesus multiplied that five loaves and two fishes. I mean, if I imagine any one of us there, we would say, “Wow! This man is amazing! Surely He is the Son of God.”

But not Judas! He's just an ordinary teacher. He's just some ordinary man, worth no more than the price of a slave. Maybe all these miracles, He did were just sleight of hand. I do not know what's going through the mind of Judas. But he's certainly blind, blind to the works of Jesus, blind to the words of Jesus.

He must have heard a lot of wonderful sermons Jesus preached - the Sermon on the Mount. How unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will in no wise, enter the Kingdom of God. How Jesus would explain the 10 commandments like no one else did. How Jesus would speak about that two paths. How Jesus would talk about fruit from the tree that would be important for assessment of real faith.

He must have heard about the message, about the lost sheep, lost silver, the lost son. He must have heard the sermons Jesus preached to the crowds. And … and yet, to Judas, it meant nothing! He was in the midst of the greatest teaching of all the world, but he was still blind.

And most of all, could you imagine Judas following Jesus all these three years and not see the holiness and the godliness and the life and character of Jesus Christ? Jesus was never in sin. Think about that! I've never been with anyone who has lived like that. Jesus lived like that!

Jesus never committed a single sin. He was never angry without a good cause. He was never adulterous with His gaze. He was never unnecessarily harsh with His words. He is always full of love. He's always healing and helping those around Him. What a man! And yet, Judas was blinded to all that.

For the love of money, he couldn't see the worth of Jesus. Instead of submitting to Jesus as Lord, he bluffed his way through. He wore a mask throughout these three years. I mean, he was a great actor. He was a great pretender. He bluffed his way through.

In fact, in John, chapter 12:5, we read, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” Even at this very last stage, he was still acting. “Aiyoh! Sayang ah, to pour all that perfume on Jesus? We could have received the money from the sale of the perfume and given it to the poor.”

But is it really because he cared for the poor? No! “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. And having charge of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” [John 12:6]

I have a neighbor, I won't name him, just in case he might be watching. We used to play ‘Monopoly’ together. And whenever we play ‘Monopoly’, he wants to be the banker. He wants to be the one responsible for doling out the dollar bills, the monopoly dollar bills. I always wondered why? There's a lot of work to be done.

But one day, when we were playing, I realized that as he was looking on this side, his hand was going the other. And he was just collecting free money into his own pocket. That's what I think of, when I read of John 12:5. Judas pretended to love the poor, but it was all a show. All he cared about was lining his own pocket.

He was a great actor because none of the disciples suspected that Judas would be the betrayer. None of them! They asked, “Is it I?” I mean, up till now, there is nothing negative written about Judas. He did not allow himself to be caught in any way. He behaved himself really, really cleverly.

So this guy, deserves the Oscar award, Isn't it? I mean, he was a great actor and even until this time, when Jesus said, “Someone would betray Him.” He said, “Is it I, Rabbi?” I mean, this guy has the cheek to even ask that question! But he was just doing the actor's role to the max.

He ‘kay see’ in our Singaporean Hokkien language, to the max. He act blur to the max. This man is such a good actor. That all the disciples, I think trusted him. Let him become the treasurer, hold the money bag. He bluffed his way through.

And so, he must have thought to himself, “I've got Jesus now. None of the disciples would believe that I would betray Jesus. Even Jesus Himself wouldn't know. I asked him. I faked him. “Is it I, Rabbi?”” And so at the very right time, he sold Jesus. And we see the betrayal, coming to fruition.

“Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan enter into him. And Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”” [John 13:27] Now I want you to, to realize, that whilst we read Satan entered into Judas and Judas then went to look for the religious leaders to sell Jesus, and to send the soldiers to apprehend Jesus, he was not an innocent bystander.

Please don't think that this is all the work of Satan, because this plan was already hatched in Judas' mind in verse 16. He had already sold Jesus for the money. So this is not about him being an innocent bystander. But it is about him giving himself over to Satan. It's him, willingly making that choice to betray Jesus, out of his own volition.

I think it's similar to what we will read in Ananias and Sapphira, how they have allowed Satan to control their hearts, to fill the heart. Judas is the same. It was his wickedness that will betray the Lord Jesus Christ. How sad that is! Because we see now Jesus bemoaned this man, “The Son of God goes as it has written of him, but woe, to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” [Matthew 26:24]

What a fierce indictment! Judas is now past the point of no return. The deal is sealed. He will sell Jesus. He will be controlled by Satan. And he is the fulfillment of the prophecies that God has given some centuries ago. And so, Jesus in John 17:12, would pray, “Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction,” referring to Judas Iscariot. His fate is sealed and how sad he will be.

So Judas is a supreme example of someone who is so close, yet so far. I suppose none of you if you have a son, would ever, call him, Judas. Because he's just a tragic example of someone who is so close, who followed Jesus, who heard Jesus, who witnessed Jesus, who saw everything Jesus did and yet ended up so far.

I believe today, he's suffering in torment, in misery, in deep regret, because of all that he did, because he was so close yet so far. And Judas really is an example of how today even, around you even, people in church with you, can be so close yet so far.

There are people today, think about it, folks. Do not be surprised that they are people who may walk away from the faith, because there are many people who are so close and yet so far. They grow up in church. They've been in church for a long, long time. They look like one of us. They look like one of the believers. They behave sometimes like the believers, but actually they are blind.

They are in church, but they do not see Christ, they do not recognize of who He is. To them, Jesus is merely another religious figure. To them, Jesus is maybe a kind of [sic:a] an emblem of or somebody vague and woolly or something that just represents hope. But they do not really recognize that He's the very Son of God, who came to lay down His life, to save His people from their sins. They're blinded, even towards their own sin.

And mind you, they can be a people who live and listen to great teachings from the Bible. They might have heard many, many Gospel messages. They've been to church camps, conferences. They have had many good Bible teachers in their life, minister to them.

They may be people who have seen wonderful answered prayers, healings. And people's lives, having breakthroughs, how broken marriages are healed, they've heard of that. They've seen all that in church, and they may be a people who have seen many godly lives.

They might have seen their parents, how their parents love the Lord. They are not perfect, but they have seen their parents sincerely loved the Lord. Their parents living out a life that is different from other people in this world. They are seeing godly examples in the church. But you know what, even though they've seen all this, heard all this, deep in their hearts, they are still blind.

And they now play a game of pretense. They don't mind being in a church because it's a nice community. People are generally quite alright, people are generally quite nice. They get some benefits here and there because they're good friends here. They don't mind these peripherals of church, so they hang in there.

And … and they look like the part, because they may even serve in some ministries. They may help in ushering. They may help in children's ministry. They help cook in our church. They do many things, just like Judas did.

Do you know Judas did ministry? He went preaching. He healed people. He had the ability to perform miracles. Amazing! And so there may be people who are serving today, but one day, they proved to be so close, yet so far away.

I'm reminded of a man I read about, when he was 23 years old … Oh! By the way, this young man, he … he is in the States, not someone here. But this young man came from a Christian home, both his parents are Christians. In fact, they are parents are pioneers in this homeschooling ministry, Christian homeschooling ministry.

So he grew up in a Christian home. At the tender age of 23, he wrote this very, very popular book, was a best seller, blockbuster of a book, that sold eventually 1.2 million copies. How many people could say, that they wrote a book at 23 and it became a worldwide hit. He did! 1.2 million copies sold, that revolves around courtship and Christianity.

At the very same year, he became a pastoral intern in the church. Seven years later, he became a lead pastor of another church, at 30 years old. Very young age! Soon after that, taking up of that senior pastor position, however, he left it, to start a ministry that would run conferences for single adults.

So fast forward till he was 42, this book that he wrote, he realized, and he admitted to many faults, many problems with the book. And he has since stopped publication of that book. You say, “What's that book?” Well, the book is, “I Kissed Dating, Goodbye”.

And you know the author by now, his name is Joshua Harris. So at 42, he decided to stop the publication of this very popular book. And at age 45, which is last year, July 2019, he announced that he's separating from his wife, who he had three kids with.

And just a couple of weeks later, he announced on his social media, he announced that he's renouncing from his faith. He said, “I've undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction”, the biblical phrase … phrase is “falling away”. By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I'm not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith, and I want to remain open to this.”

So Joshua Harris believes that Jesus is not the way, the truth and the life and that no man comes to the Father but by Me. He doesn't believe in what Jesus has to say about coming to God anymore. It's amazing! This man, if this is what he still believes, is such a tragedy, because he's so close, yet so far.

Raised in a Christian home, gospelized, trained to be a minister of the Bible, ran Christian conferences, but at the end of the day, by his life in abandoning his wife, separating from his wife. And by his life in how he renounced the basic fundamental of the faith, he's walked away from God.

And when I think about Joshua Harris, I … I don't think about someone in America because he just reminds me of so many people, I have grown up with in my life. People that I used to fellowship with in this church. No more with us!

I think about people, I … I served with, people I had Bible study with, people we prayed together. No more here! No more in church! No more pursuing the things of God! Jesus, to them is just a figment of imagination.

The Bible says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us; they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they are, they all are not of us.” [1 John 2:19]

Such a scary thought, isn't it? That there can be people in the midst of the congregation, but they were never part of the faith to begin with. And so one day, it will be revealed that they were hypocrites. They were just playing the game.

Jesus, in His masterful story of the “Parable of the Sower”, talks about how there can be people who initially bring forth some kind of promise. The second kind of soil, there is a kind of seedling that grows, but then the soil is rocky, the soil is shallow. And when the sun of difficulty, persecution, tribulation, comes up because there is no good root, the seedling dies. So this person looks like the deal, but actually ultimately, he never really had a real faith.

And then you see the third kind of soil. Again, the seedling grows, but because it's cluttered by weeds and thorns, it is choked up and it also dies. It speaks of people in the church, people who receive the Word, who may show some kind of promise. But then the love of the things of this world, the entanglements of covetousness, greed, materialism, snuffs out spiritual life. And they also fall away.

You see, they went out from us, because they are not of us. Their hearts were never the right soil to begin with.

How tragic when we read a passage like Hebrews 6:4-6. This is a difficult text, that's why many people don't read it, or don't refer to it. But it tells us, that there are people who have tasted heavenly things, they've seen blessings in their lives. They've seen answered prayers, they've seen changed lives. They've heard the wonderful teaching of God's Word.

And when you are someone like that, and you decide to fall away, you decide to leave. The tragic conclusion in Hebrews, it is, is that it is impossible for such people who have tasted these heavenly realities and who have fallen away to be restored again to repentance. They will end up like a Judas - so close, yet so far away.

So there's a little quote here, “Judas kissed the door to Heaven, but died and went to Hell”. Isn't it sad? You can come so close, and end up so far. So the point I want to make to you is this, don't be surprised when people leave the faith. It is a sad reality that there will be weeds among … among wheat. There'll be those who show promise but who eventually would die away.

And I want to encourage you, if you're not born again, if you're just playing the game of hypocrisy, if you're just putting on the mask, if you are just going through the mechanics of Christianity, let me say this, “You need to be born again.” Because, “If you are not born again, the day will come when you will wish you had never been born at all.” [Warren Wiersbe] Woe to you, if you're in the church environment, but you are not in Christ.

Please don't play that game. Don't pretend anymore. Come to Jesus. Come to the cross. Come to God in brokenness, in humility. Come to Him on your knees in prayer and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to see the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Help me to see that You are the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father, but by Me. Help me to see that You are the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world.”

I pray today, you will be saved. Don't follow Judas. It's a tragic way to live.

Some of you are parents, some of you are grieved in your heart because you see your kids, outside the faith today. They have grown up in church but once they hit 18, 21 years old, whatever that may be, they say to you, “Mom, Dad, I … I don't want to go to church anymore. I have nothing to … I want to have nothing to do with church.”

Tragically, that can be very real in many families. And you now begin to blame yourself. You … you say, “Where did we go wrong? What more could we have done? Did we fail in our teaching or in our example?” And you have a lot of guilt.

And friends, I want to say this, “We, as parents can do a lot better.” If we look at our own lives, we certainly find areas we can improve in, and I certainly think we should. I'm not trying to excuse any one of ourselves. But then on the other hand, I think we need to also understand, that even though we can give our children the best teaching, the best environment, the best children's ministry, the best Bible studies every night, at the end of the day, they've got to make that choice.

Judas was surrounded by the best teaching, but he chose to walk away from Jesus. So pray for our kids. It's not just the environment we put them in, that saves them, it must be the mercy and grace of God.

So Judas, hah, this wicked man, this blind man, played the hypocrites game and thought that he could defeat Jesus. He could betray Jesus incognito. He would deliver checkmate. But let me end by saying, “No! He did not deliver checkmate to Jesus, but it was Jesus who ultimately deliver the checkmate.”

2] Jesus & His Mastery
And so we see Jesus and His mastery again. I want you to picture the Grandmaster. He makes the moves on the chessboard. The opponent makes a move and the opponent is now rejoicing, “I'm going to win this game.” But the chess master, the Grandmaster says, “No! You don't.”

He has always read the moves of his opponent. He always knew what he's going to do. He allowed him to make that move, but now He moves in and counter attacks. And instead of being checkmated, He checkmates the opponent instead. And that's what we're going to see.

You see, Jesus was not caught off guard. The Bible actually tells us, all along Jesus knew what was going to happen. In Matthew 26:21, “Truly I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Jesus is now saying, “I know that you, one of you will do that.”

And in John 13, verse 18, “I'm not speaking of all of you, I know whom I have chosen. But the Scriptures will be fulfilled, he who ate my bread has lifted his heel against Me.” So Jesus knew who will be His and who will not be.

And again in verse 26, “So when He had dipped the morsel, the piece of food, the bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” He knew all along that it was Judas. And in John 6:70 to 71, ““Did I not choose you the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” The Grandmaster, He knew it all along!

And let me tell you, Jesus not only knew Judas' plan and intent, Jesus manipulated all events, so that Judas would betray Him at a very precise time. See, this is the mastery of the circumstance! In Matthew 26, verse 18, “Jesus said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’”

So Jesus, would allow Judas to betray Him, but only after the Passover. “Alright, I get that,” you say. The significant thing here is this - Jesus, in order for Him to keep the Passover with the disciples, cannot have Judas betray Him earlier. And that's why He did not reveal where He is going to go, to have the Passover. It's like a secret code.

So He told the disciples, two of them, John and Peter to go to a certain man. A … a Mr. So and So, and say to him, “The teacher says, “My time's at hand, I will keep the Passover at your house.”” So the rest of the disciples actually did not know where Jesus is going to go. Therefore, Judas cannot activate his plan as yet, but only after the Passover.

So Mark 14:13-14 tells us more, “He sent two of His disciples and said to them go into the city.” And this is the secret code. This is how you recognize the guy. “… He will be carrying a jar of water.” Now this is rare, in those days, usually it's the ladies who carry the jars of water. So there's this secret code again as I've mentioned!

And all that is so that Judas will not be privy. Judas would not know where Jesus will be until after the Passover. So when the Passover meal is being taken together, Jesus then said to Judas, “What you're going to do, do quickly.” [John 13:27]

You see the complete control of Jesus Christ in this matter. Judas thought that he would have delivered checkmate. And if that is so, then Jesus would just be a helpless victim going to the cross. Unfortunately, betrayed by His disciple who turned out to be smarter than Him.

But I believe Matthew's intent, in giving this passage is to show his readers that Jesus was not a helpless victim. But He was the victorious King, marching towards His destiny, going to the cross to fulfill the Father's Will. That He may lay down His life and save His people from their sins. And He's going to use even the instrument of Judas. He's going to turn the wickedness of man into the fulfillment of the glorious will of the Father.

So, this is the thought I want you to leave with. Don't ever think of Jesus as a helpless victim, going to the cross. Don't ever think of Jesus outsmarted by Judas. Oh no! He is the victorious King. The King is not helpless! The King is sovereign. And when He went to the cross, He was there as our King.

He was there accomplishing what no man could ever do, to give His life to save us from our sins. And there on the cross, He was fulfilling the Father's mission. He was glorifying the Father. He would display the grace, the mercy, the righteousness, the wisdom and the power of God to save.

So my dear friends this morning, I want to encourage you to place your faith in such a Savior. He's not a helpless man, He's the victorious King. That's the whole motif of the book of Matthew. Would you today bow before this great King, who gave His life for you?

I pray today you will see the beautiful plan of God, laid out in Jesus Christ. And that you will realize that there is no name given under heaven, by which man can be saved, except the name - Jesus. Would you worship Jesus today? He's the victorious King. Would you worship like a Mary, who would pour out your most precious life to honor and to anoint Jesus, to make Him glorious?

Maybe today, some of you are going through hardships. There are puzzles, there are questions in your mind. And you feel as if life has delivered a checkmate on you. No! No! You follow a victorious King. One day, it will all make sense. One day, Jesus will come and receive the victory of the checkmate, He has delivered over sin, death and hell.

We look forward to His return. We look forward to that marriage feast that we will enjoy with Him. We look forward with, to joy with Him forevermore. This is our King. Let's worship Him. Let's pray.

Father, we are thankful today, that even though to the world, Jesus looks like a helpless victim on the cross, Your Word tells us the full picture. That He is even using the wickedness of men to accomplish glorious good. Thank You today we serve a mighty, powerful, all-knowing, wise, good and loving King.

I pray today, men and women will repent and believe in Jesus Christ, that they might be saved. I pray that this church, we would continue to realize, how great and how good You are, that we might lay down our lives to serve You and worship You.

And I pray with just this glimpse of Your sovereignty and Your power and Your wisdom, we would not murmur or complain or despair, even in the midst of difficulties. But that we would trust you, worship You and praise You. Thank You for Your Word today. May the power, the sovereignty of Jesus, lead us to higher ground. We thank You. We pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen. God bless.

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