The Word says, "The desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Mark 4:19, NIV), and "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
At one time promotion on the job was not your primary source of satisfaction, nor was a big paycheck, a nice home, a new car, a special boyfriend or girlfriend, an exciting sports event, or even a happy family. (Yes! Spouses and children can take away from your delighting in the Lord above all.) Walking with God used to satisfy you.
Does it still satisfy you? Fully and completely? If not, you have left your first love.
Has my passion for spiritual work decreased? This will be reflected by a decreased burden for the lost (both at home and abroad), a decreased burden for revival (often replaced by good works, and more subtly by good spiritual programs), and a penchant for respectability in place of radicality. Holy zeal makes you uncomfortable, and you are becoming ashamed of Jesus and His reproach.
Witnessing used to come naturally, but now you almost avoid the subject. You simply don't care about the ones Jesus died for. Or maybe you don't fully believe that they are lost. Unbelief is always a result of backsliding somewhere, somehow. Do you find yourself spiritually numb?
And what about revival and visitation? How would you feel if the Spirit fell in power? (Not necessarily in some cultured--and "containable"--way, but with intensity and suddenness and upheaval.) Are you willing to let Him be in control--of the service, of the leadership, of you? Or have you become satisfied with a comfortable seat in the theater while the show itself never goes on? Beware of a powerless spiritual sophistication. The world admires it, but it has no teeth.
Have my standards of holiness become lower? Perhaps you have permitted things into your life, family or congregation that would have been unthinkable when you were on fire. You now find you are able to engage in certain activities, watch certain movies, enjoy certain sports and forms of entertainment, and attend certain functions which the Lord at one time convicted you of--but now there is no conviction!
Beware! This type of backsliding is often done in the name of spiritual maturity. I warn you as one who once fell into this very error: It is a trap and a lie!
The fact that something doesn't "bother you" may be the loudest warning you will ever hear. You are not experiencing the freedom that comes as a result of trust; you are experiencing the insensitivity that comes from hardness. Absence of divine conviction does not mean absence of divine displeasure. It may actually point to a withdrawing of His presence. In fact, if the Holy Spirit is dealing with you even now, cry out to Him right where you are for restoring grace.
Am I backsliding in spiritual authority and personal victory? Perhaps you are experiencing a lack of victory over the flesh, falling back into old habits and lusts, finding yourself unable to resist and drive out the devil from strongholds in your life or the lives of those to whom you minister.
Remember: You can fool others, but you can't fool the flesh--and you can't fool the devil. As Leonard Ravenhill often asked, "Are you known in hell?" Are you moving from victory to victory, or do you find yourself more and more entangled every day (or month, or year)?
Peter taught that "a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him" (2 Pet. 2:19). You must ask yourself if Jesus is your Master or if you are mastered by sin.
CHOOSING TO RESTORE FIRST LOVE The Lord speaks of our first love as a height--a glorious, wonderful height. We forsake--not lose--our first love, meaning that we leave that place of spiritual passion by the choices we make and the lifestyle we adopt. Our first love is not something we accidentally misplace.
The Lord calls us to repent of the sin of forsaking our first love, meaning that we can be restored to that place of spiritual passion by the choices we make and the lifestyle we adopt.
What then are those choices and what is that lifestyle? Jesus gives us the answer: "Repent"--meaning make an about-face--"and do the things you did at first" (Rev. 2:5).
Have you ever read a Christian book on rekindling love in a failing marriage? Such a book would diagnose the nature of marital problems and give practical steps to correct them. It might give as an example the husband who, in the early days of his relationship with his fiancée or wife, called her several times a day, sent her flowers once a week, took her on a special date every Saturday and so on. He knew how to keep the home fires burning.
But five children, three apartments, one house, four moves, six jobs and about 20 pounds later, he's forgotten what it takes. This husband needs to do the things he did at first. He needs to set aside time for his wife and love her again as his bride!