A great concern I have heard from many Christians is when to know whether or not you have forsaken your first love. Most of this concern comes from the letter Christ writes to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2::2-7,
"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."
The general fear is that our love for God becomes tainted in some way. At first we have an awed wonder type of love. Just beginning to trust, to understand, and completely full of passion and excitement. As we mature in our relationship with Christ we have more of a trusting, mature, solid love for God. A love that trusts, has faith, hope, perseverance, still has passion, but is more mature and stable. We have been taught that this verse is showing us that the first love, excitement and passion filled love, is much better. That we should never forsake that type of love and if we have we must come back to it.
This is not the truth. The word forsaken in the Greek is "afiemi" which means "to leave." Christ was saying here that the church of Ephesus left her first love. First love did not mean a type of love for Christ. Rather it meant a person you love. The first love of the church of Ephesus was Christ. This verse is literally saying, "Yet I hold this against you: You have left me, your love."
How could the church of Ephesus have left Christ and still be doing good works? Would not they have then turned back to sin? The church of Ephesus in the time of Paul and John, who wrote Revelation, was a healthy and mature church body. Full of the love of Christ, full of the works of love, and was an example to all the other churches of a mature people of God. We see the recording of this in Paul's letter Ephesians which was written to the church of Ephesus. This changed at about 200 AD when the Church of Mary was established.
At some point after John's death, about 70-90 AD, and 200 AD the church os Ephesus left Christ. The church of Ephesus became inflamed with love and passion for Mary, hence the naming of the Church of Mary. They believed that Mary was a great woman, worthy of praise, because she gave birth to Jesus Christ. That she had to have been a most holy and perfect person, to have conceived Christ. Though this may be true, we were never supposed to praise anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father.
The church of Ephesus warped in the Church of Mary who praised Mary instead of Jesus. In fact, the Church of Mary is noted as being a church who performed the "work of the saints." Meaning that they took care of the poor and widows and orphans, tried the false prophets, and preached the truth. But they did it to honor Mary and not Christ. Meaning that they had left their first love, who is Christ.
The Church of Mary (aka church of Ephesus) performed the works out of duty. They came to believe that by their works, including praying to the saints, they would be saved, thus they performed the works out of duty to save themselves from hell. Instead of performing the works out of an overflow of love for Christ and others.
Unfortunately we cannot be saved by works alone. Paul in fact warned the church of Ephesis when it still loved Jesus that they could not be saved by works alone! In Ephesians 2:8-10 Pauls warns the church of Ephesus of tthe danger of this reasoning,
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
God has prepared good works for us to do in advance and we do need to do those good works! But we are not saved by good works! We are saved by grace from God and faith in Christ! Good works mean nothing unless they are done out of obedience and love for Christ. Paul warned us that good works without love mean nothing. Faith, good works, and amazing miracles mean nothing without love for God and others. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 warns us of this,
"If I speak in the tonguesof men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
The only way to ever become like the church of Ephesus is to stop loving Christ and others. As long as you love both Christ and other people with the love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, then you will not forsake your first love. But if you become caught up in performing good works, having faith, and other things you will leave Christ. You must keep your heart, mind, and soul focused on loving Christ and others. Christ knew the secret in this and shared it with us when He said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." -Matthew 22:37-39.