“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Rev 2:2-4) These are chilling words. You can stand against evil. You can be very sound in your doctrine. You can guard the church from false teachers. You can persevere in the face of persecution. You can do all those things and still be guilty of not loving Christ.
On Sunday, I preached from Matthew 22:37 on what it means to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. If you remember, I stated that love, whether used of God or man, is an earnest and anxious desire for and an active and beneficent interest in the person and well-being of the one loved. One of the many places that we see this kind of love for God modeled is in Psalm 63:1-8. Just the first verse says, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we often love Christ too little. We know we are saved, we know we must obey, and we have some basic desire to do better, to love Him more, but the lures and demands of this life get in the way. How do we overcome such obstacles to recover our first love? Here are some pointers.
(1) Remember that feeling will follow doing, not vice-versa. If you wait until you feel in love with Christ to start pursuing Him, the pursuit will likely never begin. The story is told of a woman who hated her husband and wanted to divorce him. She went to a lawyer and told him that she wanted to take everything from her husband and hurt him in every possible way in the divorce. The lawyer told her that if she really wanted to hurt him, she should go home and feign love for him and serve him and honor him and care for his needs faithfully for several months, then slam him with divorce papers out of the blue and take everything from him. She thought the plan was delightfully diabolical, so she went home and did so. After about four months, the lawyer contacted her to see if she was ready for the papers, and she responded, “I would never leave my husband, I love him with all my heart!”
You may not feel like spending time with Christ in the Word and in prayer every day. You may feel like you don’t have time to read and study and praise Him. You may feel like it is too hard to find time to pray with your spouse and to lead your family spiritually. But the truth is that you need to stop using your feelings as an excuse for your spiritual apathy. Do what you know you are supposed to do, regardless of how you feel, and your love for Christ will be fed and will grow strong as you spend time with Him. Feeling will follow the doing.
(2) Examine your heart to see what your first love really is. Where does your time go? Where does your money go? What delights your heart? Those are your idols. The sad truth is that even good things can be idols. We can idolize our children, our work, our religious involvements, or even our spouse by putting them before our pursuit of Christ. However, it is often lesser things that steal our time and attention — our favorite movies, shows, or video games, obsession with possessions, our hobbies, or our time with friends.
I John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves 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 boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” What aspects of the world have you fallen in love with? What are you putting before your pursuit of Christ? Make no mistake; if there is anything before Christ in your life, you are in spiritual adultery. Repent. Obey.
(3) Consider your faith. What beliefs have you founded your life upon? Do you really live your life as a person who believes in the promises of God? Do you believe that what He has for you will satisfy your soul in a way that nothing else ever will? Do you truly believe that Christ loves you with all His infinite goodness? Do you believe that your inheritance in heaven is far more glorious than anything you will ever have or experience here? It is easy to give lip service to such things; it is harder to walk by faith in such things. Your faltering love for Christ may be rooted in a faltering faith in Christ.
Your faith and your love will be deepened through the Word and through prayer and through fellowship with other faithful believers. Feeding your mind and your heart a constant stream of worldliness will only numb your spiritual sensitivities. Feed your mind and heart that which is true and good and right in the sight of God. Believe, and be filled with Christ, and your affections will follow.