Just recently, I spent some time in Russia, speaking at three churches in the capital city of Moscow and meeting with church leaders, both Orthodox and evangelical. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.
During my meeting with President Putin, we discussed the church in the Middle East and the growing dangers they face. We also talked about the critical role of the church in restraining evil and fostering biblical values in society. Thankfully, Russian leaders in the church and government have stood steadfastly against the rising homosexual agenda in their country.
I was amazed at how full the churches are. The government is now giving back to the churches the land that was confiscated under communist rule.
I had the privilege of visiting an Orthodox church that had been closed for 70 years and was about to reopen that Sunday. I also met with young theological students who were working on their doctorates. They were very articulate and spoke English very well.
Instead of presenting a lecture, I said I would just like to open up the Bible and share. All of them said yes, and many of them thanked me afterward.
Russia is changing. We need to keep the church there in our prayers, that they would come under the right influences and be bold for the Gospel.
Moscow is not the same city it was 30 years ago. There are bright lights, beautiful cars, world-class hotels—it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
As I preached through an interpreter to attentive Russian audiences on the life, death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, I rejoiced in the power of the Gospel to touch and transform any soul, regardless of the language spoken.
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The message of the cross is transcendent wherever it is preached. Deep in the heart of every man, woman and child in every culture or people group, there is an innate awareness of sin and rebellion against Almighty God. Though many seek to suppress or deny the guilt of sin, the preaching of God’s Gospel and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit work powerfully together to redeem those who respond in repentance and faith in Christ.
As we approach Christmas in just a few weeks, remember that the reason we celebrate is because God sent His Son to earth on a rescue mission to save sinners.
Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of numerous prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold the incarnation of the Son of God, who would deliver men from the guilt, penalty and power of sin, which has brought death and enslavement since the time of Adam.
More than 700 years before the Savior was born, Isaiah prophesied: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The Scriptures actually foretold the Messiah’s coming in the Book of Genesis when the Lord spoke to the serpent following the calamitous disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Christ] will crush your [Satan’s] head, and you [the devil] will strike his [Christ’s] heel” (Genesis 3:15, NIV).
Jesus came two millennia ago to a small Judean village for one ultimate purpose: to die on a horrid Roman instrument of execution—the cross—for the sins of men. There He would deal with the universal penalty and consequences of sin—everlasting death—and provide the way to eternal life through faith in His sacrificial, substitutionary, all-sufficient death.
That is the real story of Christmas. There is no cradle without the cross. There are no swaddling clothes without the folded garments in the empty tomb.
For the world groaning under the terror of war and conflict, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. For people dealing with doubts and discouragement, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. For those staring death in the face, Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. For those who lack strength to face difficult challenges, Jesus is Mighty God.
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In a world that is growing more troubled and chaotic by the day, the babe born in Bethlehem is seated at the right hand of the Father and preparing to return soon. Believers will rejoice, unbelievers will tremble.
“On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west … And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day, the Lord will be one and His name one” (Zechariah 14:4, 9).
The First Advent of Christmas is to be followed by the Second Advent of Christ’s return. He will come this time as the Lion of Judah, ready to bring judgment to all who have rejected Him.
Only then will the story of Christmas be complete. People from every tribe, tongue and nation—Russia included—will worship at His feet. ©2015 BGEA
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture Quotations are taken from the Holy Bible. English Standard Version. The Quotation marked NIV is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.