Peace at Last
West Berlin, December, 1966. Cold and unknown, I strolled through the wintry city, bundled in my overcoat, determined to reach the border.
Standing at the edge of West Berlin, I shuddered, pondering what oppressed millions were enduring a short distance away. On the Berlin Wall I read, painted in large letters: "How long will this go on?"
My heart tightened at the thought of people living in fear, with no peace at Christmas. Yet I also knew no human wall could restrict God’s peace if only people let Him past the walls of their hearts.
September 1989. By official invitation, I spoke to huge crowds in the communist cities of Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Riga, and Kishinev, a few weeks before the dramatic collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
Restrictions on public Christian ministry had been lifted. I found an incredible situation. I’ve traveled all over the world, but have rarely seen a place as hungry and desperate to hear the message of peace found in God’s good news.
Just before my whirlwind USSR tour ended, a Baptist pastor brought an acquaintance to one of our meetings in Moscow. The friend, a leading scientist and head of a university academic department, listened as I explained that ultimate peace has come to earth because God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born in Bethlehem. Jesus showed us the way to eternal life, died on the cross to forgive our sins, and rose from the dead, showing His power over death. To the pastor’s surprise, this scientist prayed out loud to trust Christ as his Savior.
The scientist found the peace of knowing he’s forgiven, knowing God has a place for him in heaven. Without God, the heart has no peace, life has no meaning, education has no purpose, economics has no direction. The human soul clamors for God.
"We Are Not Worthy"
This hunger is captured in a story a pastor told me in Leningrad. After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, local Russian officials reopened an old Orthodox church building and turned it over to this pastor’s congregation. But only the church’s shell remained.
One day while fixing up the church, a man interrupted the pastor. "Is the priest here?"
"Yes, I’m the priest," my friend answered.
"Four young ladies outside want to talk to you."
So the pastor walked out onto the street where the young women stood waiting for him. But when he stretched out his hand to greet them, they all refused the gesture.
"Why won’t you shake my hand?"
"Are you a priest?" one of the young women asked.
"Yes, I am."
"Well, we are not worthy to shake your hand."
"We all are prostitutes in Leningrad and the reason we wanted to talk to you is to find out if God will ever forgive us for what we’ve done."
"Of course He will forgive you!" The pastor took his Bible, opened it, and showed them about the death of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that the blood of Christ cleanses all sin.
"But would God ever forgive us for all the wicked things we’ve done?"
"If you receive Christ and invite Him into your life, of course He will forgive you."
So there on the sidewalk the four women prayed with him to receive Jesus Christ. When they finished, one of the young women asked, "Are we forgiven now?"
"Yes. You see the Bible says, `Your sins and evil deeds I will remember no more.’ So you are forgiven." There, in front of evidence of man’s destruction of this world, those four women also found peace.
During the same tour, I met Natasha, a Soviet journalist. She had worked hard to achieve her prominent position within the communist youth movement of the Soviet Union.
To say the least, Natasha, though courteous, wasn’t overly sympathetic to me or the message I was proclaiming in Russia’s Olympic Stadium and other venues. "You don’t look too happy," I remarked at a particularly candid point toward the end of our interview.
"Of course not. We atheists are never happy," Natasha retorted.
In a rather blunt way, Natasha’s statement encapsulates the bankruptcy of denying God. But even if we intellectually or emotionally deny Him, our souls cry out for spiritual reality. Without Christ, there’s no hope beyond ourselves. And there’s no peace for the present or future.
No New World Order Yet
The world held its breath later that month as communism suddenly collapsed. The Iron Curtain fell overnight, and soon thereafter the Soviet Union disintegrated into a host of separate nations. When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, former president George Bush declared, "A new world order has arrived."
Many people were thrilled, believing that the world would have peace at last, that wars and the danger of atomic annihilation would cease, and that the Soviet Union was not going to threaten us anymore.
Since then, we’ve had Somalia and Serbia, Bosnia and Kuwait. On all sides of the globe the new world order hasn’t yet come. And, I must tell you, it will never come until Jesus Christ, the baby born on the first Christmas, returns to earth as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He has promised to do so.
Likewise, the only true peace you can know, undisturbed by world events, is found in making Jesus Lord of your life. The iron curtain around your heart--disbelief in God must be torn down. The Bible says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world as a helpless baby with a feeding trough as His cradle? Do you believe He died for you, paying for your sin? Do you believe He rose from the dead and lives in heaven?
God doesn’t promise that life will always be peaceful. But, He says, "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God [following His commands], the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:22-23).
True peace came that first Christmas in Bethlehem, when Jesus came to earth as a baby. Do you want the peace Jesus offers? "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you," Jesus said. "I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). That’s the peace the scientist and four young women found; that’s the peace Natasha does not know. If you desire this peace, make this prayer your own:
"Lord Jesus, I do want Your peace in my heart. I want to know You and do as You command. Thank You for willingly dying for me; please help me live as You want me to live. Thank You that I can now look forward to seeing You in heaven. Amen."
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