On May 11th 2019 we were once again headed for another area of ministry in the beautiful country of Georgia. The previous night we held service with our friends from Pastor Elguja’s church in Batumi. This day we were driving north and were going to visit two churches in the area of Zugdidi. One was led by Pastor’s Gia and Ia his wife. The other by Pastor Gela. We were accompanied by Levani our driver, his wife Salome and their lovely 3-year-old amazing daughter! Nona our translator was with us who was familiar with the area had worked with Pastor Steve before.
At about 10 am in the morning our little van rolled into Zugdidi. Zugdidi is on the northwest coast of Georgia about 12 miles from the east coast of the Black Sea. We all had a chance to share some coffee and tea downstairs at the church as Pastor Steve caught up with Gia and Ia. Pastor Gia and his wife were beautiful Christians and as we swapped ministry stories and heard about the churches local efforts it was like a family reunion with these folks. We spoke about the recent conference with David Hogan and each one shared how David’s message had penetrated their hearts and stirred a desire for a stronger commitment to Jesus. David Hogan has that effect on people. The effect the conference had on the Spirit filled churches in Georgia was significant. A shift was taking place in the spiritual atmosphere which we were aware of. Several days prior, when we still were in Tbilisi, I had a dream confirming this. Now that we had been in the country for nearly ten days Pastor Steve and I had both sensed on multiple occasions the spiritual warfare that was occurring. When it comes to warfare the Kingdom of Darkness uses two primary weapons, diversion and deception. Now these may take many forms but they strive to produce chaos and complacency in the church. Just consider from our own lives how often we are easily distracted and stumble in our effectiveness in advancing the Kingdom of God. There’s a cost to discipleship. Disciples by the way are effective. They don’t stumble for years wondering what their “calling” is. Jesus exhorted his hearers to consider it. My extreme grace friends might want to consider the following words of Jesus
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Let’s be rock solid about what Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about becoming a Christian, one of His disciples, someone who professes to be “owned by Jesus!”
We can be so determined to get people to commit to Jesus we often step on the Holy Spirit who is working on someone’s heart whispering to them, “Consider the choice your making before you come to me.” It’s a big decision. Obviously, Jesus thought so in Luke as the whole of the section is about discipleship costing everything, requiring commitment, consideration and certainly contemplation…everything. Let’s be careful when overemphasizing human comforts prosperity and health, over the reality of the Kingdom. While God desires to give us these blessings so does the enemy if it will keep us out of the effectiveness associated with being a disciple! Jesus says like a person building, “plan ahead know what you’re doing and what you’re getting into.”
Here’s why Jesus tells us this. Because He knows how important this choice is for ourselves and for everyone around us. I got news for some of us. The reason we haven’t brought anyone to Christ for some time isn’t because the worlds so hostile. The problems us! Ouch! I know that stung. But trust me when I say I’m telling you this as for too long I thought the problem was others when the problem was me. It was Jesus who said…
“The harvest is plentiful the workers are few…” Matt 9:35
A worker is not our awesome worship band or our amazing pastor or our amazing children’s ministry although they truly might be incredible. A worker is someone who walks in the supernatural, in courage, often into uncomfortable challenging situations and does the work Jesus did, just like Jesus. Here’s what Jesus thought of someone who had considered the commitment to Him and then backed away from it.
“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62).
You examine the context carefully and the relation between Luke 14 and come to your own conclusions. I think the warning is clear. Paraphrased it goes something like this…
“Don’t think of coming to follow me unless you understand how anti-world and possibly even anti-popular you might become. Because if you start this journey and then bail, you were never part of My Kingdom in the first place.”
Now I know that statement, will rub some wrong. But if you want to see the type of impact Jesus had, we must count the cost, step up to the plate and do the works Jesus did. Jesus did an awful lot of works. There’s room for variation and creativity. But Jesus activities pointed to one thing, putting people in right relation to God. Let’s make sure were not professing to be a follower of Jesus who confuses that. Jesus finishes what He starts in those who passionately follow Him. While growth may be slower than we like, God is working out the details to release Himself to the world through us as ambassadors of reconciliation!
Another common deception of satan is to convince us “we are out of balance” if we get “too fanatical” or “too devoted” about Jesus. This type of Christian is confused and will never reach their potential. Satan’s objective is to keep you thinking things like paying all your taxes, being responsible, having an ordered house, no criminal record and fairly well-behaved kids and going to church and attending the men’s and women’s annual retreats represents the “Christian life.” Make a mental note to yourself right now. We can never be “too devoted” to Jesus. If we are fearful of what devotion to Jesus might cost, we’re not counting the cost; we certainly haven’t grabbed the plow. We may have fallen back to deceiving ourselves thinking “I‘m not that bad?” “I’m avoiding temptations and not getting into to trouble?” The reason this attitude permeates so many ineffective Christians is because it does take a fair amount of fortitude, mental energy and personal integrity to not be overwhelmed by a world which promotes short cuts and self-indulgence! Please let’s be honest, to keep yourself clean and out of trouble in this world requires you to go against the flow of popular opinion which can be exhausting. However, we are not to mistake this struggle as discipleship as Jesus described it. That would be a grand failure to satan’s deception. Disciples grab the plow, do the work, cultivate the harvest, and produce fruit… period. Fruit according to Jesus is people coming to know Jesus because of the Jesus living in us and ruling us.
Back to our story.
Our mid-day service in Zugdidi started around noon. As worship started, I surveyed the church and to my surprise (and thankfulness), no one was presenting as overtly demonized. Pastor Steve started his message and spoke of his early trips to India on mission and he shared how he felt unprepared, exhausted and how amazing God was to cover and bless their team in spite of their human limitations. I really like that about God. He waits for us to exhaust ourselves with ourselves to begin to start using us! Pastor exhorted us to think big! If we thought small, we would get small. That’s a spiritual principle worth noting. When he concluded, we used the same format and asked if anyone wanted prayer for anything. Pastor Steve, myself Nona and Pastor Gia stood center front and received folks for prayer. It was relaxed and people shared their petitions through Nona, (who was amazing!) After praying for a couple people a woman in her early sixties came forward and asked for prayer for her eyes as she had retinal neuropathy due to diabetes and it had progressed to the point she couldn’t read any more. This was difficult for her as she couldn’t read any of the church’s printed literature for Bible studies, weekly announcements or anything. Pastor Steve turned to me and said to me “Jim why don’t you pray for her” which surprised me a bit as I was again enjoying praying alongside of him while he was leading the prayer interventions. As I started to “wind up” for a healing prayer, the Holy Spirit stopped me dead in my tracks and the impression was “simple.” Pastor Steve had just shared not 20 minutes prior how in India when he was exhausted God used the simplest forms of prayer to accomplish mighty things including, I might add, opening the ears of the deaf and the blind.
I said “eyes open in Jesus Name”
As it came off my lips, it was clear this is what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do as opposed to running off in some overly verbose sounding prayer that used all the right verbs and adjectives and a couple charismatic jargon statements thrown in. While I do speak in tongues this time the Spirit said, “Don’t.”
“Eyes open in Jesus Name”
Pastor Gia prayed in Georgian as it was important for him to convey to the woman her request had been directly addressed. We are a family remember? We take care of each other. The woman returned to her seat and we kept praying for folks who came forward. Suddenly we were interrupted by the woman we had just prayed for. She was holding up a card and saying she needed to give her testimony. In the short time between her sitting down and us continuing to pray she had taken the step to pick up an informational card which contained about 10-point font (I can’t read that without my glasses!). She was excitingly sharing that she could read it! She continued to grab other church literature objects and was reading them to us from the front! Needless to say, it was an amazing moment of healing! We had the privilege to participate in a miracle Jesus wanted to do for this lovely woman whose eyes were holding her back.
Now to my skeptical evangelicals who have deferred to teach their theology that healing and signs are not for this age or limited to the time of the Acts of the Apostles I offer this…
Try convincing the sister who got her sight back. I think she would beg to differ! But please feel free and go argue with Jesus over why your right and present your secular, skeptical rationale for modern days miracles. Jesus, Paul nor any other New Testament said this would happen. Be prepared, God won’t send anyone your way that needs help. Not with that unbelief. You see we get what we pray for and aim for.
I guess we know where I stand on the issue!
Please accept my apology. You see I’m not very tolerant when it comes to Christians who either claim they walk in power (when they don’t) or they doubt and criticize the miraculous as “sensational.” I’ve been embarrassed by the former and had to clean up after them. Now as for the latter…, I listened to them for 30 years and they didn’t have any answers as to why I couldn’t walk in any power or freedom that matched what Jesus said I should have and what the New Testament promises. I know the journey God brought me through to change the way I think; especially about His Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit is meant to take over my life and conform me not only in to who Jesus is, (Romans 8:29) and…don’t miss this…
Do the things He actually did… (John 14:12)
After the Holy Spirit comers upon you, you will have power. God will mightily move within your life: the power of the Holy Spirit will overshadow you, inwardly moving you until you know there is a divine plan different from anything you have had in your life before. – Smith Wigglesworth
If we don’t believe this is God’s goal we can be prepared to receive in proportion to our faith. Which usually means we’re more concerned with the opinions of others and potentially looking silly than walking out our faith. I think we should warm up to the idea of looking stupid or fanatical for the Name of Jesus!
Ignore the skeptics criticism. Jesus would put it “let the dead bury the dead” (Matt 8:22) Start walking eagerly in the power Jesus carried and said we were supposed to carry. I’ve noticed, the non-believing world has more faith and a greater hunger for the miraculous than most Christians! Being conformed to Jesus is the most wonderfully transforming new birth journey we could ever hope for! It’s bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth and uprooting the territory of the Kingdom of darkness! But to be effective, it comes with a cost. Yes, anything of value costs. Obedience for one, purity for two. These go hand in hand with each other and never stop confirming and conforming the life of the disciple. Let’s bring a Gospel that is complete which has the power to transfer us from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God, and has the power to transform us physically, mentally, emotionally, and of course spiritually. The world has heard plenty of talk about intellectual Jesus for centuries and look how far that’s gotten us? Look at the condition of the world? Of the church? The Gospel is commissioned and confirmed, that’s right confirmed, by the power of the one behind it!
After one more church meeting, including another deliverance, we headed back the 90-minute drive that night to Batumi. We had a lot to be thankful for, salvations, miracles and new freedom as well as the encouragement we received from our Georgian family. The Gospel in its entirety, in its power has the ability to do this for us.
You might be thinking “Yes!” I knew this Gospel was possible!” Jesus is excited to get with the business of taking you to the place where you walk in the freedom, joy, and the impact you’ve desired for years. If you believe in the immersion and overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit, you can break those issues you’ve wanted to be free from. But that power, comes from us believing how desperately we need the Holy Spirit’s personal presence. The cost? “Asking Seeking and Knocking….” (Luke 11: 9-13). Let’s let go of the teaching that redefined what Jesus offered for modern day; non-power filled intellectualism. Soon there will be a great exchange that takes place in the church. Jesus through His Holy Spirit is going to blow away the notion of comfort-class Christianity which has become the standard of the church. That’s what the world is waiting for and that’s why people responded to Jesus in the first century.
Count the Cost, expect the change, walk like you believe it. Jesus will pick up the rest.
“Lord Jesus, we know we are meant to be world changers, and walk in the power and revelation of your Holy Spirit. Help us to count the cost, put our hands to the plow knowing you have us covered and you love it when we partner and become excited with your desire to reach the world for your Kingdom.”
M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling
JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.