Everybody has a favourite restaurant. Some are spectacular places with brilliant decor and exquisite food. Others are not. My favourite was a simple hamburger joint that has been around for decades: I will call it the fabulous D's. (not it's real name): the home of the famous pepper burger or as it now called, the #2.
This is a burger was made with a secret blend of meats and buns specially and exclusively prepared for D's. It comes with a healthy dose of tomatoes, spanish onions, lettuce and banana peppers. It is bursting with flavour, but man, was it hot !
This hamburger had a spicy kick that would knock the eyeballs out of your head. It burned your mouth out with a searing heat that was barely tolerable and yet people came from miles around to eat it. I can't count the times I have enjoyed the number 2 while sweating, eyes running, mouth ablaze, suffering from the scalding peppers while saying "So good. There is nothing like it anywhere"
It was served as simply as possible, wrapped in brown wax paper and placed on the table in front of you without plates, or cutlery of any kind. Most of the drinks came in cans. If you ordered fries with it they came in a plain plastic plate. The fries were standard frozen, just ok, but nothing beat the burger. It rocked. It burned. It was somehow alive, You could almost hear it laughing at you through the wax paper like a predator sneering over it's next victim. In spite of the heat, you had to eat more of them. It is THE POWER.
In the old days, the meat was tossed on the grill and scooped into the bun with no rhyme or reason. There was no semblance of a patty, It was just delicious ground meat. The banana peppers were merciless. Incredibly hot, downright nasty. Yet, this is what gave the burger it's identity.
Over the years I had stopped going to D's until one day the thought came to me to drop in. Without hesitation, after checking the menu to see if it was still available I ordered the number 2, pepper burger. When it come, I immediately noticed the wrapping had changed from plain brown wax paper to white with D's logo printed on it. The next thing I noticed is that the meat was now shaped into a solid patty. "Hmmm, that's different" I thought. Then I bit into it anticipating the fire that normally accompanied this unique hamburger. It wasn't there. It never came. There was a light burn for a moment but nowhere near the inferno of years before. The number 2 had lost it's power.
It was a huge disappointment to say the least.
It reminds a little of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the wisdom of God, ambassadors of Christ on earth. We are his body, the physical manifestation of who he is. We bear the message of salvation empowered by the Spirit of God. We are separated from the world, in it, but not of it. When we are at our best, Jesus flows through us, touching the world, freeing it from its bondage, setting men and women free from their sins. We are custodians and proclaimers of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe first the Jew then the Greek. We bear the glory of God. We are the Power. When Jesus is lifted up amongst us, men and women flock to him for relief, redemption and freedom from themselves.
There is nothing like the body of Christ on the face of the earth when we are operating in his fullness. It seems over the years we have lost our fire. Our power has diminished. The passion for Jesus has died down. Yes there is a mild burning in the hearts of some believers. Some are blazing for God. The majority are not. It is a disappointment, sort of like the number 2. When something has the reputation of being a fire and it turns out to be a flickering dying flame, there is bound to be a letdown. I know people come to church for answers. They look for Jesus where he can be found. When they encounter only a so-so lukewarm church, I wonder if they leave disillusioned. I think too frequently they do. It is the letdown felt when something has a reputation of power but is found to be powerless.
I want more than just the reputation of being powerful I want to BE powerful in Jesus, not for my own benefit but for his glory. Jesus is known as a great teacher, a miracle worker, who died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the grave conquering death.. His power and authority supersedes all the conditions of the human experience. He is mighty to save and he makes a profound difference in the lives of those who cling to him. His people ought to reflect that power. They like him, should be channels of the miracle working power of the living God..
When that power is not evident in the church, the whole world suffers loss. No one will be too badly hurt if a hamburger isn't quite what it used to be. The church cannot afford to fall short of being what IT USED TO BE. In that case, the results are devastating. May it always be that the body of Christ rise up to be what Jesus desires it to be and the world expects. THE POWER blazing with fire; May we the church be everything it is supposed to be: Jesus Christ in the earth working through people, wrapped in simplicity and humility but able to move mountains and transform the lives of all who come into contact with us. Let that fire burn. When it does there is nothing like it anywhere.
No doubt, I will visit D's again and have a number 2. It won't be quite what it was years ago but at least it's good enough to evoke a memory. It is a form of its former self. I hope the power and glory of the church does not diminish into a memory; a form of godliness but without power. It doesn't have to. Let make sure it doesn't .
How ? The number 2 lost its zip because the ingredients were altered. The meat was formed into a patty. The peppers were not nearly as hot. It changed the whole thing. If we don't compromise the ingredients that make the church powerful there is no need to lose our fire nor our power. I could go into great detail about how.
Simply put we need to make sure that Jesus is never # 2 but always # 1.