Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: The love of Jesus is a model of endurance. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If the test of endurance was my love for Christ, it would not hold up. But His love holds up. It never fails. There’s never any response on my part that can diminish His love for me.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for Monday, August 14, 2017.

Jesus wrote a message to the church in Ephesus telling them to return to their first love. Nancy’s been teaching through this letter, and we’ll hear from her in a few minutes, but first, some of our listeners are describing some of their reactions to this teaching from the book of Revelation.

Woman 1: I’d like to share a personal testimony that actually becomes, over and over in my life, about leaving my first love.

I’m in full-time ministry, and I’ve realized that I can look back through the past year and see how God accomplished many things in the ministry. He touched many lives.

He just very kindly, like that wounded lover that Nancy shared about, graciously informed me, “You have left your first love.”

Since then, I’ve found that I have experienced that probably two more times. So that’s been about three times in a year-and-a-half that God keeps taking me back to “leaving your first love.”

God has placed many people in my path, and I believe He’s caused me this past year to pray for many that are in full-time ministry, whether it’s ministry outside of your home or inside of your home. I believe God is showing me that sometimes we can do the things of the Lord as a job, not a devotion. It’s like an eight-to-five job, and it’s not really out of love, even though in our heart and in our mind we say, “I love You.”

Today, listening to Nancy share about the church of Ephesus, I realize I get irritated with the church. I just want them to love God, or I just want them to love the Word of God.

We only get irritated at what we’re guilty of, so I have had to realize today that where I want them to love the Lord the way I’m thinking, God is wanting me to love Him the way He’s thinking. He’s revealed that to me today.

But I think I heard something a couple of days ago as I began to prepare for this session Nancy was doing. It’s one thing to be weary in the work of God. It’s quite another thing to be weary of the work of God.

I believe that over and over, I learn more and more in the area of leaving your first love, and I become self-sufficient. “I can pray the way I want to pray, when I want to pray. I can witness when I want to and when I don’t want to.”

I’m still doing the things of God, but really it boils down to “I don’t need Him; I can do it all on my own.”

So I think after the third time in a year-and-a-half of God bringing it back to my mind, of leaving your first love, that's the bottom line of losing my need. He reminded me of the Israelites when they began to build their houses and do all the things that they needed to do—they didn’t need Him anymore.

I think today I’m going away with a new sense of direction, first of all praying for God’s people, that God would cause us to love Him the way He wants to.

I've always had a love problem. I've been in relationships where I didn't know how to love. I never knew how to give that back to anyone. So cultivating a love relationship, I'm realizing, is a life-time experience. It's not just me wanting a quick fix. "I love you today, now let's just get with the next plan, the next stage of my walk." I'm realizing that I don't know how to love, the endurance it takes to cultivate a relationship.

I find my competitors are, even those in the body of Christ that I want to help . . . I love people, but sometimes people can be a competitor to me, because I love people. I find that I'm not loving the Lord my God first and then people. I get kind of mixed up there. Being intentional for that and fighting for that.

I got up to go to work one day last week. I was in a hurry. My Bible was laying where it always lays waiting for my time with the Lord. When I got to the door, it was almost like it was just calling me. Not calling me like, "You didn't do this." It was like I could sense the power of Christ saying, "I miss you."

I got in my car. I went to where I minister. In my car I put in one of Nancy's tapes. I quoted the Scripture I had memorized. I went through the whole thing. But I never did feel in my heart because I didn't have that personal, meaningful place with Him in the morning. So being with Him intentionally, and cultivating a relationship with the Lord . . .

So I'm just grateful today for conviction, for desiring to to make that adjustment. But also to realize it's a fight. It's work to cultivate and be in a relationship for myself. I just haven't had very many past relationships where I can say I've accomplished it. But I'm determined in this one. He’s more determined than I am, and that’s what’s so neat about it.

Note only do we cultivate our relationship, but we have to wait on Him. Sometimes I don't want to wait on Him, but yet I want Him to wait on me to have time for Him.

Kim Wagner: I think one of the most frightening things about losing your first love is that you don’t realize it’s happening at first.

One thing I have found helpful in my Christian walk is, in those times when I do have that close, passionate relationship with the Lord, to write out spiritual evaluation questions—to put some things into place in my life that will be like guardrails to protect me. The forty evidences that you shared with us through this series would be a great tool to pull out from time to time.

You may not realize that your heart is growing hard. You may not have yet been hit in the face with the fact that you need to return, but if you will just pull those things out as you’re having your daily quiet time, that’s helpful.

I do think it’s a very beneficial practice to develop of continually, with regularity, asking God to give us more love for Him—asking Him to do that—for that to be a very regular prayer and cry of our hearts.

That’s something I’m thankful that He asked me, or He taught me to do as a child. When we ask Him, He delights in giving that.

Nancy: I think the nature of leaving our first love is such that our hearts do become cold and hard, and then we’re not as sensitive to where we are. That’s why we need Christ to come and speak into our hearts and say, as He did to the Ephesian church, “You have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4).

I’m not sure they knew it. I think they probably didn’t know it until Christ came to them and in love pointed it out. That’s why we need to be in the Word, so Christ can be speaking His Word into our lives, as He has been to me as I’ve been studying this series.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read that text, how many times I’ve heard it preached on, but for me to be living in that text over the past weeks, it hit me one morning as I was getting ready. I’ve been studying this passage for a long time, but I was just meditating on them, and I started checking off in my head the things that were true of the Ephesian church.

I’m thinking, “Hard labor, exhausting work—check, I’ve got that. Perseverance, fortitude, you stand up under pressure—check, I’ve got that.” I mean, not always as well as I would like to, but as I look at the whole course of my life, that’s something that pretty much checks off.

“Doctrinal correctness.” I had just come off teaching a whole series on deception and discernment, and I had been seeing spiritual deception everywhere since then. I’ve become very much more in tune to it and alert to it, and I found myself really exercised over how many violations there are of biblical teaching in Christian books and Christian media today.

That was really getting under my skin, and I was quick to analyze this and assess it and point it out.

And then I come to, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

I think the first point of conviction to me was in this area of doctrinal discernment, realizing that my spirit had become harsh and critical and fault-finding toward the very people I was supposed to be loving into truth, and that I had slipped over that razor-thin edge into exalting truth but leaving love behind.

So I remember as it hit me. I’d been studying this, but it had been kind of academic for me. I’d been meditating on the passage, and one day it was, “This is you I’m talking about here! He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7).

Then I found my heart becoming softer and more tender and more responsive, and saying, “Lord, You’re right. I’m the one who needs to repent, not just all these people I’m teaching the series for. I need to repent that I do not have, in some of these areas, the love for You that I did at one time.”

I think, too, of the days before we started Revive Our Hearts; I thought life was complicated then! I have “life before radio” and “life after radio.” That’s kind of how it divides up.

Before then, I thought I was busy; I thought I was active. Then we started into radio—daily radio. And whereas I had been preparing maybe three or four new messages a year prior to that time, because I was in itinerant ministry and could use the same ones over and over again, then I found myself responsible for 260 programs a year.

It’s been a privilege to be doing so much more studying and developing of material, but in the process of studying and preparing to teach the Word, that can become a very academic thing for me, and at times it has.

The busyness, the activity, but not the love, not the devotion. I can slip right past Christ into the academic study of the Word of God.

This is where God finds me so often needing to repent, to remember from where I’ve fallen; to repent, and to redo the works I did at first; to make sure this isn’t just getting into my head and into the transcripts of Revive Our Hearts content, but that it’s penetrating my heart before I try to get it to penetrate anybody else’s heart.

So I repeatedly find myself having to go back and say, “Lord, forgive me. I’ve run past You. I’ve left the love. I’ve lost the love. I’ve forsaken the love.”

There are things that are competitors for me, usually busyness. For me, it’s usually ministry that is a primary competitor for God’s place in my life.

It can be other things, but I find that most often, that’s what it is. Then I become insensitive. I don’t even realize it’s happened. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to point it out to us, to show us and to call us back to that place of tenderness.

Now, I want to make sure I stress that we’re not just talking about emotions, although emotions will be involved in our relationship with Christ.

I do think for me—some people are naturally just more emotional, so this might not apply to them—but I find that if I go a very long period of time without any tears of love, devotion, repentance, faith, humility, something—if nothing moves me to tears in terms of the Word or preaching or church services or singing hymns to the Lord over a period of too very long—that, for me, is an indicator that my heart is not as tender as it once was.

Now, I’m not saying if you don’t cry every day, you’ve left your first love. Some people cry every day, and they don’t even know Jesus. So that in itself is not an indicator, but for me that can be an indicator.

There have been times where I’ve asked the Lord to give me back the tears, not because I want to cry but because I want a tender heart toward Him. God will show you ways to measure and assess the condition of your heart.

I think what Kim said is a good thing. Take a spiritual inventory, like one of the worksheets we have available at Revive Our Hearts, and like the one about forty evidences of leaving your first love.

People have shared with me how God has used the list of characteristics of proud people and broken people, how that has been something to wake them up to where they are in their need for fresh love, fresh oil, fresh intimacy with Christ. They’ll use something like that.

But don’t let the tool become the Law in your life. Let Christ and His love become the Law in your life.

Woman 2: As we were going over the forty evidences of leaving your first love, I was thinking about my reactions lately to either my husband or my children, and a new evidence kind of popped in my mind.

This is what I do. It’s so funny how God uses children in your life to show you so many things. I so vividly remember saying to my son, “Elijah, when someone sins against you, you always have a choice. You can respond in sin, or you can respond with grace.”

My husband sinned against me the other day, and I found myself responding in sin. I was not giving grace; and for me, that is one of my barometers, if you will, of how close I am to the Lord.

Lately, I have not been responding with grace at all, either to my husband or to my children. I’ve been responding with sin.

So I guess another way to sum it up is, when I feel like I can justify my sin and feel comfortable in the justifications and not broken in my sin, that’s when I start realizing how far away from the Lord I’ve come.

Nancy: Jane, I want to put you on the spot. I remember the first conversation we ever had on the phone. You had connected with our ministry, and you were sharing with me some of the things God did in your heart as a young believer, and how you had such a passionate love for Christ.

The Lord put you in a position where you could spend hours seeking Him and in His Word, and I got off that phone call really hungry for the Lord and with a greater desire to have that kind of relationship with Him.

I remember you telling me about how you even made some tough decisions. You were a runner, if I remember correctly, and you started refocusing your energies and efforts to try to cultivate your love for Christ.

Let me ask if you would take just a moment and share anything you would relate to, as you look at your spiritual journey, from what we’ve talked about today, about the how-to of cultivating intimacy with Christ and love for Him. Your life has impacted mine along that line, and I’d love to hear what you have to share on that.

Jane: The time you’re referring to in my life, that I shared with you, Nancy, came after when I was first saved. That summer, I saw in Scripture, in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know him.”

I decided that would be my summer goal, and at the end of the summer, I decided that was my lifetime goal. But then, a few years later, I saw there was a little bit more to that verse.

Then it said, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Through a message I heard a pastor give, I realized that I had wanted to know Him without the suffering. And interestingly enough, it was through a very painful relationship and things that happened in a church that He allowed me to experience suffering.

At the end of that time, I remember that a friend (a cousin who is also a friend) came to visit me. After I took her to the airport to go home, I was so lonely, and I thought, What am I going to do?

I lived in Oregon at the time, and I went to the Metolius River. It is a beautiful river. People come from all over to world to fly fish there. There is a two-mile hike you can do on a section of this river. I decided that I would do that every Sunday. The first two Sundays I hiked that whole way and tears would just come, and I didn't know why I was crying.

The third Sunday I decided that I wanted to memorize the song "For Those Tears I Died." I think it is the second verse, where Jesus says, "I know you are thirsty, come to the waters, you won't be denied." I kept singing "I know you are weary." But I knew I wasn't getting the word right. So I went home and looked it up and it was the word "thirsty."

In that process the Lord let me know, “You’re thirsty for Me.” He let me see that thirst in the suffering. I was still battling with Him in what had happened and why it had happened and could I have done something to prevent it and why me—kind of in a pity party place.

That’s when I realized something about this verse that’s interesting: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings.”

I thought, You suffered before You went to the cross. And I realized that, oh my goodness, He gives us His power to go through the sufferings.

After that time, those that had known me before and knew me then said they saw in me a gentleness and a softness that hadn’t been there before. That was something I’d been crying out to the Lord, that I wanted that gentle and quiet spirit, but it came out of great pain.

Nancy: Let me close with this. You know the story of Hosea in the Old Testament. Hosea’s wife is an adulterous woman, and God uses that marriage as an object lesson of His love for Israel, for His people.

Hosea is told he is to pursue this woman. He is to be faithful to her even though she is unfaithful to him, and his love is to win back her heart.

Ultimately, he does. He will not give up. It’s a love that will not give up. And Hosea’s faithfulness in that situation is a picture to us of the love of God.

So as we repent of having left our first love, we don’t come back in our own strength, out of our own desire. We would never come back if we didn’t have a Lover who won’t give up, who says, “I love you. You are Mine. You belong to Me. I have bought you, and I will love you, and I will woo your heart back.”

He is the jilted lover who keeps on wooing and seeking to win our hearts back. It’s the love of Christ, not our love for Christ, that is the constant in this universe.

If the test of endurance was my love for Christ, it would not hold up. But His love holds up. It never fails.

There’s never any response on my part that can diminish His love for me. It’s His love that pursues, it’s His love that initiates, it’s His love that clings to me when I’m clinging to other things.

That woman in the story of Hosea was using the money her husband gave to support her—she was using it to buy things for her other lovers. It’s a horrible story in that sense, from the standpoint of the unfaithfulness on her part.

But it’s an awesome story in the sense of the love of God and His faithfulness, His pursuing love. He does things. He says, “I will hedge up her way with thorns” so that the other lovers will become repulsive to her (see Hosea 2:6ff).

Sometimes God hedges up our way with thorns. He makes life miserable, in a holy sense, so that we will be distanced and detached from the other things we’ve come to think were satisfying.

The greatest thing God can do for us is to make us dissatisfied with anything other than Him, in an ultimate sense, so He does that. He makes other things be like cardboard in our mouth—undesirable.

It’s a blessing when God does that so we’re driven to Him. In thirst, in hunger, in passion, in humility, and in repentance, even those thorns become a blessing, because they pull us off a path we were going on that was deadly, and they pull us back to the One who is the Lover of our soul.

Someone has said that revival is really just the church falling in love with Jesus all over again. The ministry of Revive Our Hearts is one of calling people to remember from where they have fallen, to repent, and to do the works they did at first.

And that is revival, as the church collectively or we as the people of God fall in love with Jesus all over again. But I want to remind us that it’s His grace, His initiative, His drawing power, His sustaining love, His faithfulness.

Christ is the supreme lover. He is the one who initiates and empowers and motivates our love for Him.

So don’t get under the Law. Don’t run back to Mt. Sinai, where the Law was given. Even as you hear a series like this one on first love and start beating yourself up and berating yourself . . .

And we do need to acknowledge where we have sinned. We need to confess; we need to repent.

But to try to go back to works, to climb back up into God’s lap and say, “I have failed. I am so miserable. I haven’t loved You as I should . . .” To say that may be very true and a good thing to say, but then don’t try by yourself to work up that love for Christ. Say, “Lord, I love You. Help me to love You more. May it become Your love, the oil, the fuel, the flam for my love for You.

Even that renewing of love for Christ in our hearts is a work of the Spirit of God. It's a work of God's grace. If He left me to myself, I wouldn't have that kind of love for Him. It's His love for me, and His love flowing through my veins, through my heart is what empassions and inflames my love for Him.

Oh, Lord, how I pray that You would take the things we’ve talked about in this series and connect them to our hearts. Show us who we are, where we are, what we need; speak to us, O Lord. You have spoken to Your churches. Give us ears to hear, that we can hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Oh, God, how I pray that there would be a revival within our hearts and within the hearts of Your people for churches that are orthodox but cold, that have a reputation for activity and believers who have that reputation for activity, but the fire, the passion, the love for Jesus has diminished or has gone.

Oh, God, I pray that You might not have to remove our lampstand from its place, but that You would, in mercy and kindness, come and fuel that love. “More love, O Christ, to Thee; more love to Thee.”

May there be such a revival of love for Christ in our hearts and in our churches that those outside the church will be compelled, will be drawn, not by our doctrinal correctness, not by our activity and our busyness, but by the intimacy they see in our love relationship for Jesus Christ, that they will be drawn to say, “I want to have that kind of relationship with that kind of Savior.”

Lord, revive our hearts. For Jesus’ sake I pray it, amen.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. If you’ve missed any of Nancy’s teaching on this letter to the church in Ephesus, you can hear or order the series "Your First Love Relationship." Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

It’s one of many series we’ll cover this year on the letters to the churches in Revelation. During this series we’re encouraging you to read these letters for yourself, and we encourage you to live out what you’re reading.

To assist you in the process, we’d like to send Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches in Revelation. You’ll use this booklet to explore ways the letters of Revelation affect your whole life. You’ll close your Bible after reading, but you won’t forget what you’ve learned each day. When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you Ears to Hear.

Our website and radio program would not exist without gifts from our listeners, and we need to hear from you. Donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow, discover why envy can lead to so many other sins. Please be back with guest Melissa Kruger for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to hold you up as you endure difficult situations. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion