What does it mean to “Spend time with Jesus”? You may have heard that phrase before, and wondered the same thing. After all, Jesus is up in Heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father, according to Colossians 3:1, and many other verses.
Of-course we also know that God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). How does this inform us regarding our time with Him?
Many times, I have heard people say that spending time with Jesus is engaging in religious activity, such as attending church services, or Christian conferences; completing reading plans, or any of the other things that we generally consider to be religious behaviors.
In this study today, I would like to share with you a different perspective… one that may be a bit uncomfortable at first, and may require you to take a step back from the common idea of what spending time with Jesus is, and see it in a different light – a light not based on a religious checklist, but instead based on relationship, with a God who gave everything to restore you.
So before we look at what spending time with God is, we should establish some facts about what spending time with God is not.
As it turns out, there are a lot of different ideas about what spending time with God is – and truthfully it can indeed take some different forms, God isn’t boxed in to a specific equation as far as how He spends time with His children. However there are a few things that it clearly is not.
Now I mentioned this before in a previous study titled: “Are You Trusting in the Text or in the Person?”, and I will just briefly re-iterate the points here, of what a real relationship and quality time with Jesus is not:
The first of which is (as mentioned in the opening) simply performing religious service or duties. Although some people mistake such things as spending time with God. In some circles, quality time with Jesus, spending time with Him, has actually been replaced by being religiously busy. However if we just think about this logically for a few moments, we will see that this does not hold-up to scrutiny.
For example, if you as a parent, wanted to spend quality time with your children, would you keep them busy with work? Would you give them continual chores to do? Or would you rather that they take some time, and spend it simply conversing and interacting with you and enjoying each-others’ company and companionship?
How about a husband and wife relationship – since Jesus often talks about His relationship with the church in marriage terms? Would you consider your lover being constantly busy and running from one thing to the next to be “quality time”? Or would you instead consider quality time as being able to enjoy some quiet alone time with them, just the two of you?
I trust that these two examples are starting to make it more clear. Jesus is recorded in the scriptures several times as spending some alone time with the Father, when Jesus was on the earth. We will look at these later in this study, but for now just keep this in the back of your mind.
Jesus talked about this, and what He had to say was very important, but generally we gloss over it, or just ignore it entirely in-favor of religious tradition and personal doctrines of men that we have grown-up with and are comfortable with – and that, my dear friend, is dangerous.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus had this to say on the subject:
“Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”
I invite you to take a real and open look at what Jesus is saying here, apart from the religious doctrines and opinions of men… because at the end of it all, what men say about it simply does not matter. Only what Jesus says carries any weight. And look at what He says:
Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s stop here for a moment and take just this one statement. Because there are some people today who think that calling Jesus “Lord” is a sign of salvation – but here, Jesus plainly says that it is not.
He goes on to say that the one who does the will of the Father in heaven, is the one that will enter the kingdom of heaven. And this is where most people immediately jump back into a works mindset… but Jesus didn’t stop here.
He continues by saying Many… (and I really wish He didn’t say “many” here, but He did) – Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in your name? Haven’t we cast out demons? And done many wonderful works?
These are the epitome of great works that many are striving for… and yet Jesus still says that it is not what matters in the end. The will of the Father goes beyond even these things. In-fact In verse 23 Jesus still calls these things works of iniquity!
Not that these works were bad or wrong in-and-of-themselves, but that it goes hand-in-hand with Jesus’ next statement: I never knew you. That is what causes these things to be works of iniquity, not because the works themselves are wrong, but because they were done in iniquity (outside of Christ).
You see, even though we generally assign value to our works, only one thing matters in the end… are you in Christ, or outside of Christ. It’s whether He knows you or not… not how many works you do.
So that’s the first aspect of what quality time with Jesus is not… it is not merely performing works, or service, or personal sacrifices.
The second aspect of what quality time with Jesus is not, is merely Bible reading. This is another big one for a lot of people. Because there is a lot of confusion regarding the Bible in general.
There are those who think that the Bible is in itself Jesus; they take it to be a truly living book (in a literal sense) and so they think that by reading their Bible, they are spending time with Jesus, one in the same.
The problem with this idea, is that it is not what Jesus himself believes. In-fact, Jesus makes a distinction between himself and the scriptures in John 5:39-40, when He is talking with a group of Pharisees:
“You search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
And you will not come to me, that you might have life.”
We can plainly see here that Jesus is redirecting the attention and the focus of the Pharisees to where life, and salvation can really be found; and this is a lesson that we all should pay attention to and learn well: Life does not come from scripture text… it comes from Jesus!
Jesus is the source of life, not scripture itself! Some might think that this is blasphemy – and if so, I suggest that you address the issue with Jesus, because He is the one who said it.
Look again, He plainly tells the Pharisees: You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life. But the scriptures actually testify of me!
Do you see the distinction He is making there? Searching the scriptures constantly, reading religiously is not what gives you life. You may think that it does, just as the Pharisees thought, but the real source of life is Jesus Christ alone.
And please understand that I am not downplaying the importance of scripture. It does indeed point you to Jesus, the author and giver of Life…. But the scriptures themselves are not that life. And that is a very important distinction to make. Important enough for Jesus to drive the point home even further in verse 40, by saying: And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
You see, the Pharisees had no problem going to the scriptures, but they refused to come to Jesus to receive life. And so they remained dead and empty.
This then, is the second aspect of what quality time with Jesus is not, it is not mere Bible reading.
So what is quality time with Jesus then? As we close our study, let me bring your remembrance back to what we observed Jesus doing earlier in the study today: spending time alone – but what exactly was He doing alone? I now invite you to read three scriptures with me to find out… Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:35:
Luke 5:16 says this:
“He often was withdrawing to remote places in to pray.”
Matthew 14:23 says this:
“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
And Mark 1:35 says this:
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
So now we have a three-fold witness about what Jesus was doing, and it is specific, that He was praying alone.
This is beneficial for us to know, once we understand what prayer actually is… because prayer is so much more than asking God for things, or complaining to Him as we often do (although He certainly understands why we do that, and He has mercy on us). Never-the-less prayer is more than that.
Prayer at its core is conversation (communication) with God. Not a one-way street, but actual communion between two interested persons. Does that seems difficult to accept?
Do you think that when Jesus was praying alone, that the Father remained silent and didn’t respond to His Son?
Why then are we so quick to assume that God would not respond to us with the same level of interest?
Ah, therein lies the root of the problem… we don’t truly recognize or see ourselves as being in Christ today – and as we saw earlier, that is the one prerequisite upon which the entire relationship is built.
I encourage you today, spend real quality time with Jesus. Not by performing dead rituals, or tasks as a servant, but by enjoying relationship with Him as a beloved son. By having real communion and communication with Him; enjoying and living in perfect harmony and unity, which Jesus Christ Himself paid for you to have.