When a person becomes a Christian, he experiences the delight of “first love” for the Lord. His life takes on new meaning and will exhibit the evidence of first love for Jesus Christ: an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to God, an abiding joy of spirit, a growing spiritual hunger and desire to read God’s Word, and a deepening love for fellow believers. He will also experience a changing of priorities and an increasing awareness of those behaviors which would grieve the Holy Spirit.
Just as any human relationship can grow cool and distant, so can our relationship with the Lord. Understanding why we lose our first love will give us insight into regaining it again. So, how do we lose our first love?
- Do we lose our first love because of disobedience? No, because we can obey God without having the excitement of that first love.
- Do we lose our first love because we stop reading God’s Word? No, because even the Pharisees, who never had a love for Jesus, were diligent in their religious studying of God’s Word.
- Do we lose our first love because we are not praying regularly? No, because we can still pray and be spiritually cold.
- Do we lose our first love because we are not witnessing to others? No, because we can witness and still have a dullness in our soul.
The underlying cause of losing our first love is losing our sense of needing God. Our need for God is the very motivation that brought us to salvation. Once God begins to meet our needs, however, we tend to forget that we have them. Thus begins the often slow process of losing our “first love.” The church at Laodicea had also become lukewarm in their relationship to the Lord, and Jesus gave them this admonition: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
God’s Example to Us
We see this process in God’s dealing with His own people. God led Israel out of the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land. Each step of the way brought new needs which were far beyond the Israelites’ ability to meet for themselves: deliverance from the pursuing Egyptian army, food and water in a desert, and direction on where and when to move. All through those years, God did not allow His people to plant crops or to build houses because He wanted them to know His great love for them by being their faithful source of provision, direction, and protection. Even the absence of manna one day each week was a powerful reminder of their need to obey the Lord and trust Him to care for them according to His time and way.
When the Israelites reached the border of the Promised Land, God predicted that they would lose their love for Him, and He told them exactly how it would happen. The very same sequence takes place in our lives today!
How We Lose Our Sense of Need
As soon as God allowed Israel to enjoy the abundant provisions of the Promised Land, they forgot the idea of a day-by-day provision for their needs. They no longer counted on the hand of God for bread but trusted in their own hands and land to raise crops. They no longer needed God to keep their shoes from wearing out. They multiplied their gold and silver so they could make and buy all the shoes they wanted.
Before long, the very warning that God gave them beforehand came true: “Beware . . . Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein . . . and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God . . .” (Deuteronomy 8:11–14).
Often, we are very aware of our physical needs. But we must also become more and more aware of our spiritual, mental, and emotional needs. As our awareness of these needs grows, so the intensity of our prayers increases. The more we are aware of God’s meeting these needs, the more genuine is our thanksgiving. And the more we tell others of His greatness in meeting needs, the more sincere is our praise.
When we are secure for the future and well-fed for the present, we begin to believe that we can avoid the consequences of violating God’s standards. We lose our fear of the Lord. We become bold in doing those things which displease Him. We do not fear His not meeting our needs because they are already met. Consider the wisdom of Proverbs 30:8–9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
How Material Possessions Become Gods
When God provides for our needs, we tend to become vain and think that by our own strength or wisdom we acquired what we needed. We become ungrateful and fail to maintain our dependence upon God. We are proud and believe ourselves to be self-sufficient, and we begin to depend upon our own abilities, wisdom, strength, and resources.
For example, if we expect money to do for us what only God can and wants to do, then money has become our god. We begin to build our life around our source of security. We do not realize that true security is not found in those things which can be taken away, but in building our lives around that which is eternal.
When problems come which are beyond our resources to solve, and our security is threatened, we experience fear. Fear of loss is God’s signal that we have transferred our dependence from Him to something or someone else. Fear may be the signal that God is getting ready to remove a false god out of our lives so that we can restore our sense of need for Him.
Returning to Your First Love
Realizing that you have indeed left your first love for the Lord and having the desire to return is the first step toward rekindling your first love. There are several things you can do to begin a revival in your heart.
First, discern where your love relationship with the Lord is. As a practical exercise to evaluate the depth of your “first love,” see how many needs you can identify that God is now meeting. (The point is not that He is or is not meeting your needs, but rather, how aware you are of His daily provision for you!) Take a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns: Needs God Is Meeting Spiritually, Needs God Is Meeting Mentally and Emotionally, and Needs God Is Meeting Physically. Under each column write specific needs that God is meeting in these areas. You should find that the longer the list of needs you see Him meeting (awareness of your need), the more intimate you will find your love growing (first love). Based on the number of needs you are able to list, would you say your “love level” is rocky, shallow, moderate, or deep? The more you are aware of the needs God is meeting, the more capable you are of gratefulness and love for Him.
Second, now that you have assessed where your love relationship with the Lord may be now, are you satisfied with that level? Or do you miss those times when you were first saved, when you couldn’t wait to be in God’s presence, or you had an insatiable thirst to read and know God’s Word? You may be discontent with your current relationship with the Lord, since you are reading this article! That is a step in the right direction. Some believers are unaware that their love for God has waned because they are so busy doing things for God.
Jesus, through the Apostle John, addressed this very issue with the Ephesian believers, saying: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Revelation 2:4–5). Not only did Jesus, out of His love and mercy, reveal the failure of the Ephesian church, but He also told them how to return. He loves you in the same way He loved the Ephesians, and His desire is to have intimate fellowship with you! His call to His people, from the beginning of time, has always been: “Return to Me!” God pursued His fallen creation, Adam and Eve, almost as soon as they left Him: “Adam. . . where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Through His prophets, the Lord continued to reach out to His wayward people: “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malach 3:7).
Jesus said to the burdened, among whom would be those who were burdened with sin, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He continues to say to us, “Come unto Me.”
Paul taught one of the most important Christian doctrines when he wrote, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, no matter what sins you have committed, He died for you knowing you are a sinner. And He did so that He could have a relationship with you. He pursued you before you were even born!
The Lord is patient with us when we wander, but He never stops longing for our return. He says to us all, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen.” Remember, repent, and do as you did at the beginning. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9).