Pursuing Intimacy with Christ

Ministry is not the primary call on our lives; intimacy is. Discover how your personal journey with Christ sets the tone for your calling to live on mission.

Performance or Relationship?

I came to Christ as a freshman in college. Not long after that, God began to call me into ministry, and I began serving full-time vocationally. And I ran hard. I’d so believed that Christ had done so much for me and that I now wanted to do something for Him.

I came across this quote by Henry Blackaby that really summarized the first decade of my Christian journey: “We are so activity-oriented that we assume we were saved for a task to perform, rather than for a relationship to enjoy.” This notion dominated my Christian journey and my ministry life, and I was challenging people with the only thing I knew, which was to simply be more committed.

Describe Your Journey

There were even verses in the Bible that made no sense to me, like Matthew 11:28-30. I was trying so hard and never seeming to measure up. So, I couldn’t understand a passage like this: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hear those three words? “Rest,” “easy,” and “light.” If you’d asked me to pick three words that describe my Christian journey, you couldn’t have picked three words that were further removed from my life than “rest,” “easy,” and “light.” If you’d let me pick, I’d have said “work,” “hard,” and “heavy.”

Go to the Gospels

I then came to a place of brokenness in my ministry journey, and throughout that process of spiritual brokenness, God brought someone into my life named Clyde Cranford. Clyde was a man who gave his life to discipling other people in ministry, and he began to spend time with me, discipling me, and teaching me that the Christian life is not me living for Jesus; it’s about Jesus living His life in and through me.

One of the practices he taught me in pursuing the life of Christ is to pursue Christ’s life in the Gospels because there’s no better place to do so in Scripture. It’s not that the Gospels are more important than any other Scripture, but there’s no better place to go to understand who Jesus is, how He lived, and what His life looked like. Clyde taught me to go back to the Gospels and ask the Holy Spirit to show me things in the life of Christ that are not in me, so I could be conformed to His image.

The Calling We Share

One morning, I was on that journey and came across Luke 4:42-43, where Jesus makes a statement. The Bible says about Him:

When it was day, he went out and made his way to a deserted place. But the crowds were searching for him. They came to him and tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”

When I read that passage of Scripture, there were several things I saw in Jesus that were not in me. One of them was this idea of a passion for the kingdom. This ultimately led me to give my life to planting a church in Las Vegas, Nevada. But the first thing I noticed in His life that was not present in my own life was a principle that I now try to live by. And here’s the reality: God’s primary call on my life is not ministry; His primary call on my life is intimacy. Ministry is what He does out of the overflow of intimacy.

A Greater Pursuit

You may be wondering where we can find this in these verses. Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus departed and went to a desolate place. Those two words are significant. The word “departed” means to leave something, to walk away from it. The word “went” means to go toward something. So, the Bible is describing Jesus walking away from one thing to pursue something else. Well, what’s He walking away from? Get this—it’s the crowds. Now, church planters, here’s what we know. If someone were to show us a crowd, we wouldn’t even have to pray about it. We would just assume it’s the will of God. We’re all about crowds and numbers and people, yet we read of Jesus literally walking away from the ministry opportunity of the crowd to pursue something greater.

What is He pursuing? Well, Luke doesn’t necessarily tell us, but in Mark 1:35, he says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying.” Now, don’t misunderstand me. Jesus is infinitely more than a model, but that doesn’t change the fact that He also perfectly modeled for us what it looks like to live in dependence on the Father. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, the Son is not able to do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Jesus lived in dependence on the Father, and the Father worked through Him. That’s why Jesus said, “The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me” (John 14:24).

The Great Love Affair

You and I have been called to the same life—a life of intimacy. But here’s the challenge for us in ministry: ministry often becomes the great love affair that woos us away from intimacy with Christ. We get so busy in ministry that we begin believing we don’t have time. We use busyness and productivity as the justification to skip over intimacy, but the reality is that apart from Him, we also can do nothing. We have no value in kingdom service or eternal reward apart from Christ in us working through us. The only way we get there is by pursuing intimate fellowship with Him. And it’s the same call He gave to His original disciples.

In Mark 3:13-14, we read about His initial call to the first 12 disciples. It says, “Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach…”

Our “Yes” on the Table

You say, “Aha! I knew we had to do some stuff.” But don’t miss this. Underline the “they” and the “he.” They were to be with Him. He would send them out to preach. You see it? The word “preach” there means to make public. Out of the overflow of being with Him, Jesus would make His life public through them as they lived on mission. Ministry is not the primary call on our lives; intimacy is. Previously, I told you that it was that very text of Scripture in Luke where I also saw Jesus’ passion for the kingdom of God being expanded in other cities, towns, and communities. It was that very passage of Scripture, that very morning when I read it, that I went and found my wife. I saw some stuff in Jesus that was not in me. We knelt down in the living room, and we prayed and cried out to God, saying, “Lord, yes. God, wherever, whenever, whatever, yes.”

Everything Jesus wants to do through your life, He’ll do out of the overflow of what He’s doing in your life as you pursue Him.

Adapted from “Pursuing Intimacy with Christ” from the Church Planting Masterclass. Watch this video and more for free by signing up for the Masterclass today.

Published May 13, 2024

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