Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Download "40 Evidences You May Have Left Your First Love."

Leslie Basham: Are you motivated by love? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Why do you do what you do? Do you do it because others expect you to do it, because you have to put on a performance? Perhaps you do it to impress others. Or do you do it more to please God because you love Him? What motivates, what drives your obedience and your service?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for Thursday, August 10, 2017.

I take so many activities out of obligation, fear or selfishness. Can you relate? Nancy shows us how to approach today’s tasks out of love. She’s continuing in a series called "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 2: Your First Love Relationship." It’s one of many series we’ll cover this year on the letters to the churches in Revelation.

Nancy: One of the most familiar passages to any person growing up in a Jewish family would be that from Deuteronomy, chapter 6. You’re familiar with it as well; it's called the Shema.

Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:4-5).

By the way, you often hear people say that the Old Testament is law. The New Testament is grace and love. But the fact is, you see of lot God’s grace and God’s love all the way through the Scripture. His love for us and our love for Him. As much as the Old Testament Jews were given the law to obey, God always wanted them to obey out of a heart of love. He didn’t want them to just be paid lovers. He didn’t want them to just do what was right because they had to do what was right. He wanted their obedience to be driven and motivated by love.

So He says, “You shall love the LORD your God.” This is in the context of a book where the law is being repeated and there are many, many laws that they are to keep. But He says the source of that, the motivation for it, the force behind it is love. Love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:6).

Then He challenges them and He says when you’ve come to a place in the land where you have a lot of blessings and a lot of abundance and things are going well, “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deut. 6:12).

One of the things you see throughout the Scripture is this urging that God gives to His people, the Jews in the Old Testament, the church in the New Testament, to hold fast to the Lord, to cling to Him, to love Him, to serve Him with a heart of love. God doesn’t just want our obedience. He does want our obedience. He demands our obedience, but He wants it to be motivated by a heart of clinging to Him, holding to Him. He is our life. Our life comes from Him and His love for us inspires our love for Him.

As we’ve been talking over the last couple of days about this letter to the church in Ephesus, I think that what was said of the church in Ephesus could be said of many of our Revive Our Hearts listeners, people who are sitting listening to this kind of message today. You have much toil, labor to the point of exhaustion, you are persevering, you are enduring, you’re being faithful in serving the Lord where He’s put you and doing what He’s called you to do.

And again when I read this passage, I often think of moms because there’s just such faithfulness in labor required for moms. Not just labor to have the babies, but then the labor after you have the babies to bring them up and so many thankless tasks associated with childbearing and childrearing. Some moms who want to be godly moms, they want to be godly wives, and again I don’t want to leave out single women. I think there are many in our listenership who would just be characterized by faithfulness—doing the right thing. Doing it faithfully. Doing it perseveringly.

And then those who are also characterized by being diligent to preserve right doctrine and practice. Again, a lot of people who listen to Revive Our Hearts, that’s what motivates them. That’s what they love about this program is that they say, “Yes, this is solid doctrine. This is meat. This is spiritual, this is biblical food.” And they love that. And that’s why they are attracted to this kind of programming and teaching on the radio.

So of many who would be kind of in "our camp," there would be those who cannot be faulted by others. They’ve got things down right, but as the eyes of Jesus, who’s eyes are like a flame of fire—penetrating, piercing, probing—as He sees into our hearts of how many of us would He say, “You have abandoned the love that you had at first. You used to love Me and that’s why you did these things. But now you keep doing the things, but it’s not made warm and sweet and tender by the same passion and devotion and relationship that you had at one time.”

Now I want to take a few moments in this session to talk about what are some of the things that threaten our love relationship with Christ. Then I want to give you a number of evidences that you may have left your first love for Christ. How can we know?

But first what are some of the things that can threaten that love relationship? As you think about a relationship with Christ, it’s similar in some respects to other relationships. Think about your marriage—those who are married. What are some of the things that can take you from honeymoon love to the place where you just co-exist as roommates? What are some of the things?

I’m not talking about a bad marriage. I’m talking about a great marriage that just settles into an okay marriage, where there’s not passion and love and devotion. You’re still doing the right things. You’re still faithful. Nobody’s having an affair. Nobody’s running around. But it’s just kind of living together like business partners. What takes a marriage down that slope?

Well, I think one of the key things is busyness, just busyness. You each get doing your own thing, going your own direction, especially once the kids come along, and you have a lot going on. You’re going different directions, doing your own thing and you find that your paths don’t cross as frequently. You’re not intentional about stopping the busyness to take time to cultivate your relationship.

So what happens? Weeds grow up—if I could change the metaphor there—in the garden if you don’t toil it, if you don’t tend to it. You’re too busy doing other things. Life just goes on and you wake up one morning and you find you’re married to a stranger. Don’t you think that sometimes happens in our relationship with Christ.

The illustration that comes to mind is the one we’re all familiar with in the gospel of Luke, chapter 10, where there were the two sisters who invited Jesus to their home. There were good things about both of these women, but they picture the difference for us between Mary who had this heart of devotion and love for Christ so she stopped her busyness to take time to just be with Jesus. So as a result, Jesus said she chose the one thing the most important, necessary thing that could never be taken away from her.

Martha on the other hand is this quintessential type A woman, lists of her lists, busy, busy, busy, busy. What did it do? It stripped of her love for Christ. She ends up out of sorts with her sister, out of sorts with Jesus, in a bad mood, contaminating the whole atmosphere around her. She leaves her first love and what does it? It’s busyness. It’s all the activity. It’s preparing the meal (see vv. 38–42).

Ladies, there are a lot of things we do that are part of serving and blessing others that are good things. But if we don’t periodically stop from the busyness, if we’re not intentional about preserving and cultivating our love for Jesus, then it’s going to grow cold and we’re going to become indifferent and separated from Him. So busyness is something that threatens that love relationship.

Related to that is neglect. You stop being intentional. You stop cultivating the relationship, and that’s when those weeds spring up. Nobody walks to the altar to get married and says, “I love you incredibly today but six years from now we’re going to be near strangers to each other.” I mean there’s no intent for that to happen, but if you’re not intentional about working at the relationship, about taking time to communicate, about cultivating your relationship, then what will happen is you will just drift apart from each other.

It happens in relationships. It happens in our relationship with the Lord. You can’t coast. You can’t just let life happen. You have to be intentional about getting time to soak in Christ’s presence, to be in His Word. That’s why I think a daily quiet time is so important. There’s no verse in the Bible that says you have to take the first hour of every morning and be in the Word and in prayer, and we don’t want don’t want to lay down the law where Scripture doesn’t lay down the law.

But I think there’s something incredibly valuable and protective in your relationship with Christ about setting apart some time each day where you just are still and quiet. You turn off the radio. You turn off the television. You are by yourself with the Lord, not just listening to Christian radio driving in your car on the way to work. That’s a good thing to do perhaps, but that’s no substitute for you getting alone with the Lord in His Word, in prayer, cultivating that intimate love relationship with Him.

Listen, if you never get alone with Him, you can’t have an intimate relationship. Same with your marriage. If you’re always in a crowd, you will not have an intimate relationship.

Then there are competitors that threaten our love relationship with Christ. Let me just mention several that the Scripture mentions. Second Timothy 3 says, “In the last days . . . people will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (verses 1-2, 4). There’s some other loves that creep in, that take Christ’s place in our lives. Paul names three of them there.

Love of self, putting yourself before Christ. Your own interests ahead of His. Your own convenience ahead of His plans. Love of self.

Love of money. You say, “I don’t have much money. How could I love it?” Listen, you don’t have to have much to love it. And I don’t think it’s just talking about cash money. I think it’s talking about things—material things. You say, “I don’t love them.” But some of us spend a whole lot more time cultivating our work and our income and dealing with our finances and acquiring things than we do cultivating our love relationship with Jesus. Things can strip us of our love for Christ. It can be a competitor.

Lovers of pleasure. In Luke chapter 8, in the parable of the four soils, Jesus talks about how cares and riches and pleasures of this life can choke out the Word of God in our lives and cause it to become unfruitful. These things can steal our affections. They can steal our hearts, which is, by the way, why we need to be temperate with our own selves, with our own bodies.

Temperate with money. Temperate with pleasure. Temperate with computer games, with entertainment, with videos, with novels. These things are not necessarily in and of themselves wrong, but if we have too much of these things, they can compete with our affection for Christ and steal our love for Him.

I found, which was many years ago which was a tough decision at the time, to turn off my television and not to watch television when I was alone. I found that did more than any single decision I have ever made to renew and restore my love for Christ.

What had been happening is I had this clamor going on around me all the time. It was hard for the voice of Christ to penetrate that clamor. My heart wasn't fresh and tender when I had the noise of the TV going. When I turned it off, I found that I was quickly restored to an intimacy and a love relationship with Jesus—greater than what I had experienced in some time.

So love of self, love of pleasure, love of money. Second Timothy 3 says that, “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4). Love of this present world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Love of the approval or the praise of men. Scripture says that many of the rulers believed in Jesus but because of the Pharisees, they were not confessing Him for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue, “for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43, NASB). If you care about what people think more than about what Jesus thinks, you will find yourself abandoning the love you had for Jesus at first.

You might think this is kind of strange to be in this list, but love of family can be a competitor for love of Jesus. Now I say that carefully because we are supposed to love our families. But Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). Listen, your children can become an idol in your lives. You are to love them. You are to care for them. You are to love your mate. But you cannot love them more than Christ.

Now I said I wanted to share with you a number of evidences that we have left our first love for Christ. I want to just walk quickly through these. Many of these are autobiographical. By that I mean that I asked myself what are some of the evidences in my life at different times that I have drifted away or strayed away from my first love for Christ.

Don’t try and write all these down because you won’t be able to write fast enough. We have this list available through Revive Our Hearts. But here are some evidences. There are forty total. I may not make it through all of them in the time we have remaining, but let me just give you this list. As I read these, ask yourself, “Would Jesus say of me you have abandoned the love you had at first?”

Evidences that you may have left your first love for Christ:

  • You can go hours or days without having more than a passing thought of Christ.
  • You don’t have a strong desire to spend time with Him. You don’t have a strong hunger for the Word.
  • Spending time in prayer is a burden and a duty rather than a delight.
  • Your worship is formal, dry and lifeless. You find yourself just going through the motions.
  • Private prayer and worship are almost non-existent. They become cold and dry.

You find perhaps that you can pray with a group of people. You can worship in church. You may have your hands lifted in the air, but what about your private worship? Your private prayer time? If it’s almost nonexistent, if it’s cold and if it’s dry, then that may be an evidence that you’ve left your first love. This is one of the areas the Lord spoke to me as I was doing this study. I love to pray with others. I have a very hard time praying alone. It's hard for me to discipline my mind. I'm sure there are none others in this room like this. It was somethinh the Lord challenged me about.

When you love somebody, you don't mind spending time with them. You want to spend time alone with them It's not a hardship. It's not a chore. The Lord said, "You're doing all these things, but there is an element of love and devotion that is missing here." Jesus is concerned about that in my life and in yours.

  • Do you find yourself being more concerned about your physical health and well-being and comfort than about the well-being and the condition of your soul?

If so, then that’s an evidence that you’ve left your first love. Charles Spurgeon said, “It is the loss of your first love that makes you seek the comfort of your bodies instead of the prosperity of your souls.” Which are you more focused on? Have you left your first love?

Here’s one that spoke to me.

  • Craving physical food while having little appetite for spiritual food. Which do you love more? Which are you more driven by? Physical food or spiritual food? Have you left your first love?
  • Craving human companionship more than a relationship with Christ.

I know we have a lot of single listeners and lonely married listeners—if you're in a marriage that is not what it ought to be. There's this craving, this longing for human companionship. God made us for relationship. There is nothing wrong with wanting friends. But do you find yourself craving human companionship more than you crave intimacy with Christ? If so, you may have left your first love.

  • Perhaps you find yourself spending more time and effort on your physical appearance than you do cultivating inner spiritual beauty to please Christ.

Who do you live for? Whose praise do you live for? Do you find yourself spending more time on the outward physical appearance, obsessed with hair and makeup and clothing.

You say, “Well, I’m not obsessed with those things.” But are you as focused on cultivating inner beauty, on being clothed with humility and love and meekness, as you are on making sure that you get dressed fashionably and well made up and just the right kind of hair cut. It’s amazing how much time we spend on those physical things. Again, nothing wrong with those things unless they steal our affection for Christ.

  • If your heart toward Christ is cold and indifferent, it’s not tender as it once was, you find yourself not being easily moved by the Word or by spiritual conversation.

I have found at times that I could sit in communion services, I could sit in services and hear messages or music about the cross and find my heart not being stirred, my heart not being moved. When that’s true, it’s an evidence that I have moved away from my first love, that I’ve left, I’ve forsaken that first love.

  • Maybe you find that Christianity is more of a checklist than it is a relationship with Christ. Things you do, things you don’t do more than a relationship with a living Person.
  • Perhaps you find yourself measuring spirituality—yours and others—by performance rather than the condition of the heart. How do you measure spirituality—yours or others?
  • Perhaps for you Christianity is defined more by what you do than by who you are, more by doing than by being. If that’s true, then you may have left your first love for Christ.
  • Do you find that your obedience, your service for Christ is motivated and fueled by expectations of others?

Why do you do what you do? Do you do it because others expect you to do it, because you have to put on a performance? Perhaps you do it to impress others. Or do you do it more to please God because you love Him? What motivates, what drives your obedience and your service?

  • Are you more concerned about what others' think and pleasing them than pleasing Christ?

We're talking about motivations here. What drives you? What fuels you to do what you do in the Christian life?

  • Is your service for Christ motivated by a sense of duty and obligation? If so, then you may have left your first love.
  • Maybe you find yourself becoming resentful over the hardships and the demands of serving Christ and others. That’s a characteristic, an evidence of having left your first love.
  • You can talk with other people about your kids, about your marriage, about the weather, about the news, but you have a really hard time talking with others about the Lord or about spiritual matters. You just get tongue-tied and all closed up. What’s wrong?

Listen, when you were dating, did anybody have to tell you to talk about that guy you were in love with? You just did it. You didn’t mind talking about him at all. When we love Christ with that first love, it’s not so difficult for us to talk about Him, to engage in spiritual conversation with others.

  • Maybe you find that you have a hard time coming up with something fresh to share in a testimony service at church.

We have at our church at Thanksgiving an open mic testimony time. People are very quick to get up and share so sweetly and tenderly about what God's been doing in their lives. But others have a really hard time thinking of something fresh to share. Or when someone asks you, as one of our staff asked me recently, so what’s God been teaching you recently? Do you find yourself struggling to come up with something fresh to share? Then maybe you’re going through the motions. You got all the machinery going but you’ve left your first love.

  • Maybe you find yourself being formal, rigid, and uptight about spiritual things rather than joyful and winsome.
  • Maybe you find yourself critical and harsh toward those who are doctrinally off base or who are living in sin.
  • If you find that you enjoy secular songs and movies and books more than songs and reading material that point you to Christ, then you need to ask what do I really love?
  • If you prefer the company of people who don’t love Christ to the company and fellowship of those who do, then you need to evaluate your love life.
  • If you are more interested in recreation and entertainment and having fun than inculcating intimacy with Christ through worship, prayer, and the Word and Christian fellowship, then Jesus might say to you, you have left your first love.
  • If you have attitudes or are involved in activities that you know are contrary to Scripture but you continue in them anyway, that’s an evidence that you’ve left your first love.
  • If you find yourself justifying “small areas” (and I put that in quotes) of disobedience or compromise, then that’s an evidence that you’ve left your first love.
  • Have you been drawn back into some sin habits that you put off when you were a young believer but now you’re finding yourself ensnared by those things again? Maybe you’ve left your first love.
  • Little things that used to disturb your conscience no longer do. You’ve become desensitized.
  • If you are slow to respond to conviction of sin, or maybe you ignore it altogether, that's an evidence of leaving your first love.
  • If you’re self-righteous, more concerned about sin in other peoples’ lives than you are about sin in your own, then you need to evaluate your love relationship with Christ.
  • If you are more concerned about having the right position than having the right disposition, then you may have left your first love.
  • In the area of giving, if you hold tightly to your money and your things rather than being quick to give or you find it difficult to give sacrificially to the Lord’s work when you hear about financial needs in the body or in the church or among other ministries, then maybe you love money more than you love God.
  • If accumulating and maintaining material things consumes more time and effort on your part than seeking after and cultivating spiritual riches, then chances are you have left your first love.
  • If you have broken relationships with other believers that you are unwilling to reconcile or you have not attempted to reconcile, then you have left your first love because Jesus says, “If you love Me, then you will love your brothers and sisters in the body.”

Now there are lots of others we could add to that list probably, but those are some that came to my mind as I was preparing for this session last night. I just want to ask you, “How’s your love life?” We’re talking about what do you really enjoy? What do you care about? What motivates you? What drives you? What controls you?

Have you left your first love? If so, the first step back is to just be honest. Acknowledge that you have. Then when we come to the next session, we’re going to look at Jesus’ prescription for the church and what He said they needed to do in order to get back to that place of intimate first love with Christ.

Leslie: You truly can approach today’s tasks, whatever they are, out of love. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been encouraging you to keep your love for Christ the number one priority. I hope you’ll go deeper and think through ways you can let today’s message affect the way you tackle activities day by day.

Our team has developed a pamphlet that will help you do that. It’s called Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches in Revelation. It will ask you some important questions about your priorities and your love for Christ. We’ll send your copy of Ears to Hear when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Everyone struggles to maintain their first love. Be encouraged by other listeners who have struggled and are rediscovering their love for Christ. We’ll hear from them next week. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you keep Jesus as the main thing. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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