Intimacy with Jesus
If you told me at twenty years old that I would be a pastor one day, have five children, and be more in love with Jesus than anything else in life, I would have laughed at you…and told you that you obviously have the wrong guy.
I got radically arrested by the love of God in 2001. It was an ambush from Above that flipped my whole life upside down. I was at a church college group one night, and during worship the Presence of God came over me where I literally felt pure love, joy, and peace for the first time. It was in this moment that I knew and was convinced that God was real and that life was made to be about Him.
I got saved out of darkness and into love (“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13). I got saved by a love encounter that brought me into a truth encounter where I heard God ask me, “Jason, what are you living for?” The good news for me was that I no longer needed to live for myself, but that God was freeing me to live the rest of my days for Him alone.
In my early days with Jesus, I would spend hours with Him. I just wanted to know Him. I was not trying to become a pastor or have a ministry; I just wanted to know the man, Jesus.
I have never been motivated in my walk with God by duty: things that Christians “should do” to maintain a vibrant relationship with God. My whole walk with Jesus has been out of delight. I am not saying that there haven’t been some incredibly intense and difficult seasons in life; however, these seasons have only helped to push me deeper into who God is to me.
“I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich…” – Jesus (Revelations 3:18).
Passion for Jesus has come from seeing Him. Not seeing the ministry thriving, or even seeing lives changed. Ministry comes and goes. Some seasons are amazing, others you are in the dry and weary land. Isla Vista Church has had seasons of drought and seasons of abundance, but Jesus has always stayed the same.
After ten years now of pastoring and being well accustomed to the pressures and demands that come with the calling, I understand why many leave the ministry or become burnt out by it. I know for me, when I start feeling tired (mostly spiritually), this is a great indicator that more time with Jesus is needed. It is like a check engine light in your car turning on to warn you that something isn’t working properly.
I have become a whole lot better over the last few years in saying no to more things so I can say yes to the most important things: the first one being my relationship with Jesus. I think most pastors, out of seeing needs (let me remind you: they are endless), can overextend themselves past where the grace of God is at work. This is when we begin to operate out of our own strength, and not His strength. There is no formula for any of this, just awareness of what the Spirit is saying to us in different seasons of life. At the end of the day, obey the Spirit; but know that high on His list of what is good for us is time spent with Jesus.
It has been said that all fruitfulness comes from intimacy. This is a reference from John 15 that has been a chapter that God gave Holly and I to build our lives around. It was the theme of our wedding and has been a constant source of reminder for me when demands of life and ministry are pressing in on me. Often I want to go deal with something when the Spirit is asking me to come away with Jesus. It took me about a decade of walking with God to understand you can never spend enough time with Him. That any time we waste on Jesus is really a gift to those around us, because it enables us to do what He has called us to do in life.
I love that toward the end of Paul’s life – after he had birthed many churches, raised up many leaders, and had what, some would say, was a super successful ministry – he still had his eyes set on Jesus. His passion and longing wasn’t for more ministry and more fruit, but rather to know Christ Jesus whom he said he had suffered the loss of all things.
“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. . .” (Philippians 3:8-10)