We may have spiritual manifestations and powerful gifts but if we have not love we are nothing. We may give all our goods to the poor but if we have not love it profits us nothing (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
The church at Ephesus had worked hard to stand against false teachers and heretical bodies from taking over the church. They were commended by the Lord for their stand against this evil attack by the enemy, however there was a problem in the church, they were so busy making a stand against the false apostles and heretics that they had left their first love. Now the Lord warns them they must repent and do the first works or else they would have their lampstand removed from its place. They would no longer be a church that was noticeable or having an impact on others. They would eventually not exist anymore unless they repented and turned back to their first love (see Revelation 2:1-5).
Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21).
The person that loves the Lord is the one who is able to keep His commandments. When we love Him we have a natural desire to please Him. When we keep His commandments, He promises us that we will abide in His love (John 15:10).
Who is he who will abide in His love? It is the one who keeps His commandments. Who is he who keeps His commandments? It is the one who loves Him.
But what are His commandments?
“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him ---”. (1 John 3:23-24).
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17)
Without a heartfelt love for Him, given us by the Spirit of God, then to keep His commandments would be an outward effort of the flesh, in other words we would be back under the law. No one can keep His commandments on the inside except by the Spirit of life producing love in our hearts; otherwise it is by an effort on the outside under law.
How can we have a heartfelt love for Him?
“----- The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5).
When we believe on Jesus then God gives us the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into our hearts.
His word to us is that we love Him continually, if we don’t love Him or we stop loving Him we are not keeping His words (see John 14:23-24).
But how do we love Him continually? How do we keep from being occupied with other things which cause us to forget our first love?
The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). That is why we love Him, so to maintain and develop our love we need to meditate on God’s love for us. There are three things here we need to recognise, the first is how sinful we really are in the flesh. If we look at ourselves as being quite decent and good people, a lot better than many of our neighbours then we need a revelation of what we are really like before God. We are so vile and sinful and unable to change ourselves, once we see this we can only cry to God to have mercy on us.
The second thing we need to see, and once more we need a revelation from God, is how pure and holy God is and yet even though there is a vast difference between our holiness and God’s holiness He still loves us with such a vast love that He was willing to die in our place for our sin. One so worthy, so holy so pure, was willing to die for someone so unworthy so vile and so sinful, and why was this? Because of a love so vast, so wide, so immeasurable, that He who knew no sin was willing to be made sin for us and pay the full price of our sins in order to save us and reconcile us to Himself. (Luke 7:44-50).
The third thing we need to see is what we are now because of what He has done for us, and once again we need a revelation.
When we first come to Christ we come to the cross where He has died for our sins, as we grow we see His resurrection and our justification. Later we see our death with Christ on the cross and that our “old man” is dead and buried. Then we see that we too are raised up with Christ to serve Him in newness of Spirit. We also see His ascension and that He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, in the heavenly places. We see that we too are raised up and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Now we come to a place where we behold His glory and as we look by faith on the glory of the Lord we are changed from glory to glory.
Even as we behold His glory and are changing to be like Him we are not forgetful to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. But even while we are growing in the faith and beyond our initial salvation we need to remember the cross of Jesus, to have it ever before us, remembering Jesus and the great sacrifice He made on the cross for us because of His great and vast love for us. While ever we remember the garden of Gethsemane, His agony, His love and the cross of Calvary where Christ suffered and died for us, the Just for the unjust, then we won’t fall into the error of the Ephesians who left their first love.
The Hymn writer aptly wrote, “Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary”.
We need to continually remember, by looking to the cross, what great love God has for us.
The way we maintain our love for Him is by thinking on His love for us and all He has done for us. We love Him because He first loved us; therefore let us meditate on His love for us. The more we think on how much He loves us and what He has done for us will cause our love for Him to grow.
Jesus gave us the cup (the wine representing His blood) and the bread (His body) and said “Do this in remembrance of Me”. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).