The Lord Jesus Christ has foretold that the end times will be characterized by spiritual coldness: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12). Perhaps it has become so common today that many have come to regard it as the norm.
What is the remedy for this? How can we be delivered from spiritual coldness? Our Lord Himself provides three steps that we need to take – “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” (Revelation 2:5)
1. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen…
Imagine yourself walking on a mountain path. Suddenly, you trip and fall down into a deep ravine. Now you need to get back up to the path. But in order to do that, you must first locate the point from which you fell and then survey how far you need to climb to get back to it.
Try to remember the time you first knew the Lord, the time when your commitment to Him was at its best. The best description of this can be found in Spurgeon’s devotional, “Morning & Evening”: “Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord . . . It was springtime in the soul.. . . the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood—let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devotedness to Jesus—is it the same now?”
Perhaps you were filled with devotion to the Lord. But the cares of this world and other pursuits have overtaken you. By subtle, gradual steps you have been led away from the dedication you once had for godly living. Worship, prayer and Bible study have become more of a routine for you than a delight. As Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.” (Matthew 15:8) You have changed, and you did not even know it!
Here is the good news: If you realize that you have left your first love, you have taken the first step that leads to personal revival – at least, you now see your need for it. But you must go on now to take the second step.
2. And repent…
Repentance is mentioned over a hundred times in the Bible. It was the theme of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1,2). When Jesus sent forth His disciples to preach, He commanded them to preach repentance (Mark 6:12). After Pentecost the disciples preached repentance (Acts 2:38). The burden of the heart of God is that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9).
What is repentance? It is a change of mind that leads to a change of conduct. It isn’t merely feeling sorry for one’s sin. While it is normal for repentance to produce sorrow for sin, sorrow itself does not indicate true repentance. Both Judas Iscariot and Esau showed sorrow for their sin but they did not repent (Hebrews 12:17). True repentance will result in a sincere desire to forsake sin and to turn back to God.
Perhaps through some message that you heard, God had spoken to your heart about your sad spiritual state. Your heart was moved to confess, “Lord, I have left my first love. Please forgive me. I repent and want to get back to it now.” For a while, you tried to improve yourself but soon forgot your repentance. Then later on, the Lord spoke to your heart again, and again you were moved to repent. But again, your resolve lasted for only a short while.
Perhaps the Lord is speaking to you right now, and your heart is moved again with sorrow over your condition. Will this turn out to be just another episode of ‘repentance’ that you had before? Feelings of remorse are of no use until they lead you to forsake the sins you have committed.
When people sin, they try to deal with it in all kinds of ways: Some try to ignore it and pretend that it never happened, hoping that it will just go away. Others try to excuse themselves and say, “I just couldn’t help it. And anyway others are just as guilty as I am.” Some try to reduce the sinfulness of the sin, saying, “Well, what I did is not as bad as what others have done. In fact, maybe some good may come out of it.” Some try to shift the blame to someone else, saying, “That person provoked me to do it. If he had not said what he said, I would not have done what I did.” Some might even say, “The devil made me do it!”
There is only one right way to deal with sin that will bring the relief, comfort joy and peace that your heart and mind needs. It is to repent of your sin and confess to the Lord, “Lord, I did it and what I did was wrong. I am the one to blame for it and no one else. I am so sorry that I have sinned against Thee and caused Thee so much pain. And even though I do not deserve forgiveness, please forgive me. With Thy help Lord, I solemnly promise not to do it again.”
3. And do the first works.
Some people mistakenly think that doing the first works merely means attending church worship services regularly and giving very generously during the collection of the offering. This is nothing more than a measure to salve a guilty conscience. It merely substitutes an outward form for an inward change. One may be regular in attendance and generous in giving and still remain spiritually cold. What God demands is a reformation of our priorities, loyalties, values and desires.
Here is an analogy: Parents sometimes feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children. What do they do about it? Instead of making changes that would enable them to spend more time with their child, they spend lavishly on the costliest toys and games. They give him everything he wants except themselves and hope that this substitute will work just as well, if not better. In that way, they get to keep themselves occupied with all their personal pursuits. But nothing can be a substitute for the personal bonding time parents should spend with their children.
In the same way, nothing can be a substitute for a personal walk with God. Make up your mind to rekindle your first love for the Lord. Resolve to love Him now with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Take careful stock of your life and remove every idol you are serving – whether it is your wealth, your comfort, or your career. Let God alone be at the centre of your whole life.
A rich young ruler came to Jesus earnestly seeking eternal life. He had faithfully kept all the commandments of God. Jesus looked at him with love and told him that he lacked just one thing: to sell everything he had, give the money to the poor and then become a follower of Christ. The young man went away very grieved and sorrowful, because that was the one thing that he could not do: He loved his wealth too much and could not bring himself to part with it. (Mark 10:17-23)
If there are things like that in your life now, you need to seriously consider giving them up. You need to regard Christ as being more important to you than anything else in your life. Let this attitude of the apostle Paul become yours: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8).
As we live in the end times, let us ensure that we do not follow the multitudes whose love for God has grown cold. Let us redeem our first love and live our life fully for the Lord Jesus. And let us be motivated to do this by His wonderful promise: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)
After you are revived, do not let anything come between you and the Lord again. Keep the flames of loving devotion burning in your heart. Your first love needs to be carefully maintained, because it can gradually wear out over time, under the constant flow of distractions and pressures from the world.
How can you maintain your first love? Remind yourself again and again about what Jesus means to you – He is your Lord and Saviour who loves you so much that He gave His precious life to save you from sin and eternal death. No love can ever surpass His love for you.
Now that you know how important it is to be personally revived, will you take the steps that are needed to rekindle your love for the Lord and to maintain it?