What are signs of leaving my "first love" for God?
Every Christian should be aware of the danger of leaving his first love for the Lord. Long ago, the church in Ephesus was busy doing many things for God, yet Jesus said, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).
The Lord commanded them, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5).
Several things can indicate that you are wandering from your first love:
1. You delight in someone else more than you delight in the Lord.
Your love for God should be foremost in your heart, exceeding the bond of any other relationship. Jesus identified the greatest of all commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30).
2. Your soul does not long for times of rich fellowship in God’s Word or prayer.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy . . . soul . . .” (Mark 12:30). When your mind, will, and emotions wander from devotion to God, watch out.
Your relationship with God deepens as you spend time in His Word and commune with Him in prayer. If you forsake this fellowship, your understanding of your true condition before God will grow dull. As God’s children, His friends, and His bride (see Matthew 5:44–45, James 2:23, John 15:15, and Revelation 21:9), it is critical that we draw near to Him to engage in our relationship with Him. (See James 4:7–8.)
3. Your thoughts in leisure moments do not honor the Lord.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy . . . mind . . .” (Mark 12:30). The things that captivate your thoughts in leisure moments reveal much about the priorities of your heart. The Apostle Paul instructed us, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
4. You make excuses for doing things that displease the Lord, claiming to be “only human.”
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy . . . strength” (Mark 12:30). God wants you to dedicate your life to Him as a “living sacrifice” (see Romans 12:1–2), discerning His will in all things and walking in obedience to Him. As your Good Shepherd, He will lead you “in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
There is no excuse for disobeying the Lord. His grace is sufficient to rescue you from every temptation. (See I Corinthians 10:13.) The truth is, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:14–16).
Your obedience to God demonstrates your love for Him. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10).
5. You do not willingly and cheerfully give to God’s work or to the needs of others.
Generosity is part of God’s holy character: “For God so loved the world, that he gave . . .” (John 3:16), and He “loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). Therefore, “whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (I John 3:17).
As believers, we are to love and give—even to our enemies. (See Luke 6:27–36, Romans 12:20, and Matthew 5:42.) We can do this only by the grace of God, as He renews our minds and teaches us to walk in obedience to His voice.
6. You cease to treat others as you would treat the Lord.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “Love one another” is not a suggestion; it is a command that we are enabled to fulfill by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Do you find that you are quick to judge and condemn others? Consider God’s love for you and His command that you love others with His love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:10–11).
7. You view Christ's commands as restrictions to your happiness rather than expressions of His love.
God’s commandments, the words of your wise and caring Father, lead you toward what is good and away from what is evil. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Obedience to His commandments brings true freedom and joy. (See John 8:31–32, 36.)
8. You strive for affirmation from the world rather than approval from the Lord.
Jesus faced misunderstandings and rejection because of His obedience to God, and you will face similar situations. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:15–17).
9. You fail to make Christ or His words known because you fear rejection.
If your faithfulness to God depends on the reaction of those around you, you are serving men instead of serving God. (See Galatians 1:10.) Jesus’ obedience to God aggravated many people, including the religious leaders of his community. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
Be faithful to proclaim the truth in love, because God “hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5–6).
10. You refuse to give up an activity that you know is offending a weaker brother.
In every generation, Christians seek God’s will concerning discretionary activities. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:12–15). (See also Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:3–8.)
11. You become complacent toward sinful conditions around you.
Jesus warned that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). Witnessing the sinfulness of the world around you should motivate you to follow after God with even greater determination. “Be sober [discreet], be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith” (I Peter 5:8–9).
12. You are unwilling to forgive your offenders.
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar . . .” (I John 4:20). Holding a grudge against another person indicates that you have lost sight of the greatness of God’s forgiveness of your sin and your need for His grace. (See Matthew 18:21–35.)
Bitterness is the natural fruit of unforgiveness. As believers, we are to “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14–15). A spirit of forgiveness is essential to the Christian. Jesus said, “If ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).
Return to Your First Love for the Lord
A prayer of ancient Israel’s leader, Moses, gives us insight into the goal of keeping our first love: “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight” (Exodus 33:13). The longing of our hearts should be to know God, to know Him intimately. That is the reason for knowing His ways and His will: to know Him. And this is God’s promise to His children: “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you . . .” (Jeremiah 29:13).
If your love for God has grown cold, take steps to renew your relationship with Him. Return to your first love. He waits for you with open arms.
This material is adapted from pages 5–10 of the Training Faithful Men Resource Manual.