The People

"Go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you,..for I have many people in this city." Acts 18:10

In my red letter edition of the NASB these words are crimson on cream. Roll Tide! Sorry! Couldn't help it. But it's true.

Jesus spoke these words to Paul in the night by a vision. There is not a preacher worth his salt that hasn't needed the reminder, "I am with you!" No matter what time it is, day or night, The Presence of Jesus is promised and delivered by the work and the wonder of The Spirit of Christ. Thank God.

Still, there are times when the eyes of the preacher are clouded by the intimidation of the immediate. There is always the relentless stress of discerning the difference between the urgent and the important. There is a huge difference between them. Those that can't tell them apart will be devoured by the urgent, and never accomplish what is important. Praying clears the air. Breathe deep. Choose wisely.

Preaching is a lot like writing poetry while wrestling with alligators. It is hard to do, and under-appreciated. While putting out fires and fighting off the alligator closest to the boat, a preacher can lose sight of his mission in life...people. Paul did. Don't make the same mistake.

When preachers focus on preaching the truth and paying the price, they lose sight of the reward. So did Paul. You will too.

Note to self: Don't make the same mistake.

The call to preach doesn't end with a withdrawal to one's study, or downloading an app on line to access the work of someone who did. Never step into the pulpit to deliver the mail with all of the intimacy and expectancy of a "Current Occupant" mass mail out. High volume and low expectations rarely result in a great harvest.

Jesus came to Paul in a vision and reminded him, "I have many people in this city." (v.10) This is an interesting statement given the fact that Paul had already seen some remarkable results from his preaching in Corinth.

"Many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." v. 8

What kind of results? The city of Corinth was not a melting pot, but a stew pot of the exotic, excessive and the extravagant. This environment was a toxic cocktail of great commerce, and enormous wealth. It was a crossroads where various cultures collided, resulting in moral and political corruption of everything it touched. Anything and everything was available for a price. What couldn't be bought could be rented, and whatever perversion a person had in their heart was available on the open market. This was not Mayberry. It was Vegas on steroids.

In this kind of setting, Paul preached Jesus as Christ, and "many of the Corinthians...were believing and being baptized." They were not transferring their letter of membership from a sister church down the street. They were being transformed. To a discouraged preacher, and disheartened missionary, Jesus came to Paul in a vision and said in essence, "You aint' seen nothing yet."

The Corinthian Church would improve Paul's prayer life. It would always be one of his greatest loves and biggest heartaches. Any pastor who has ever loved the people of his church will know what this feels like. Take a look at the leadership pool of the Corinthian church. Paul would have to write them to recall what they left behind, when they believed in Jesus and were baptized into His church.

" v. 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, v. 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. v. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." I Corinthians 6: 9-10

Now that is quite a laundry list. Even in the middle of a revival, one could hardly fault Paul for wanting to get out of town, and move on down the road. This place was in need of a cleansing of monumental proportions and Paul was running out of soap. Jesus came to Paul to remind him, keep preaching, and He would do the rest. "I have many people in this city." Jesus still does. Preach Jesus!

Note to self: #2 - Don't try to clean the fish before you catch them. It annoys the fish, and you will never get them in the boat.

"Such were some of you." v. 11

This statement is the antidote to any sanctimonious self-righteousness that tries to infect the church. The local church is the only gathering of people on the face of the earth that requires a person to admit they don't deserve to be a part of it, before they are allowed to join up with it. Get over yourself.

According to the word of God, before someone becomes one of the justified and the sanctified, they must be one of the horrified. Those who see themselves for exactly who they really are in God's eyes, never want to go back to what they once were. Conviction of sin and forgiveness of sin is God's form of shock and awe in the battle against sin. Look in the mirror, and look at the list in 1 Corinthians. When Jesus died on the cross, His blood covered a multitude of sin. Don't dig up what Jesus buried. Leave it. Die to it. Daily.

Praying for the people of a city is the way God turns a preacher into a reacher. Praying preachers become reaching preachers because praying tenderizes the heart of the preacher. Talking about people sharpens a preacher's sarcasm, and cuts people to pieces. Praying for them softens the hearts of those who hear the preacher. Praying transform preaching into reaching by touching the heart of the preacher and speaking to hearts of the people who need to be reached. Turn your preaching into reaching. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!