Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

December 27, 2013

Everything changes: Take a look at your faith

Associate Pastor Nolan Owings First Baptist Church of Centerville
The Daily Iowegian

---- — In my limited years as a minister, a husband, a father, and most importantly as a follower of Christ, I have come to one inescapable truth. Things change. Sometimes it is dramatic like the birth of a child, or the loss of a job. It can be beautiful like a wedding day or tragic, like the loss of a loved one. But more often then not, what I have noticed is that change is slow, unnoticed. Often it is only after the transformation is complete that we even notice that it began. This is a fact that is certainly true in the life of every follower of Christ.

In my five years of ministering to youth here in Centerville I have lost count of the number of times that the students have asked for a study through the book of Revelation. I have always refused. Not because I believe the book to be unimportant, but because I understand how little I truly understand when it comes to this particular book of scripture. And so for years I have refused, out of the fear of teaching the students falsehoods, to even touch this piece of scripture. Recently the topic of our next bible study came up, and as expected the students immediately said they wanted to study Revelation. But rather than turn them down, I made the decision that it was time that I came to understand this book, to the best of my abilities. So I gathered all of the books I could find on the subject matter and began my study of this mysterious book.

As expected when it comes to God’s word, I found truth. Today I want to tell you about a passage the struck me powerfully in the midst of my academic study. It is found in Revelation 2:1-7, and it forced me to take a long hard look at my life as a follower of Christ.

This passage is found at the beginning of a section of scripture that can most easily be described as the seven letters to the seven churches of Revelation. These were seven churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. The one we are going to focus on is the letter to Ephesus.

Ephesus was the leading city of the Provence of Asia. It was a religious epicenter, home to multiple temples, including three temples set aside for the worship of the Roman emperor, and also home to the temple of Artimis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and reported to be the largest structure in the Roman world. Ephesus was a trade center with roads from all over Asia Minor converging on its shipping port, and the main landing point for any ships from Rome. This was a major city. And also home to a church established by the apostle Paul, almost 40 years previous to John writing Revelation.

In this passage we find praise for a church that has stood strong in the face of adversity. A church that knows scripture and tests all those who would attempt to teach. A church was has not grown weary despite all the hardships it has faced. This is high praise; especially considering the one speaking in this passage is none other than Christ himself.

And yet despite this high praise, all is not well in Ephesus. While they are intellectually strong in the Lord, Christ says they “have forsaken the love you had at first.”

Here is the truth I want to share with you today. When we first come to Christ, it is often with love and adoration. That love pours out of us on to every person that we meet. I can still remember the uncontrollable desire I had for God’s word, because I wanted to know everything I could about this God who loved me enough to sacrifice His son for my failures. But over the years it is so easy to lose sight of that love. Our faith becomes a series Sunday morning services, perhaps a daily prayer, maybe even a reading of scripture on occasion. Everything changes. This is just as true of our walk with Christ. And what I have found as a minister is that often instead of falling more and more in love with Christ, we take the easy way out. We turn our faith into an academic routine. But in the life of a Follower love is the first and the last commandment. It is not enough to come to church on Sunday, to read your bible, to pray. Without love, nothing we do is enough.

I leave you with this. Everything changes, and perhaps it is time to take a long look at your faith, because you are either falling more and more in love with the Savior of the world, or you are forsaking your first love.

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:5. Remember the love you first had. Repent of your failings. And return to the love you had at first.