Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Shape of Gospel Partnership| Part 4: Partnership Shaped by the Gospel

We have seen that for partnership to be 'gospel partnership' means three things. We have looked at how gospel partnership is, firstly, founded on the gospel and is, secondly, for the sake of the gospel, now we turn to our third aspect: partnership shaped by the gospel. Under this heading I want to address the fact that the way we relate to one another in gospel partnership must be shaped by the gospel.

This is a vital area, but one which is easily overlooked. Without it all of what has been discussed in the previous section will not happen. If we are not relating to one another as brothers and sisters for whom Christ has died, but instead letting something else (such as background or denomination etc) define how we relate to one another then gospel partnership will fall to pieces.

Under this heading I want to focus in on one specific area. It is a theme that runs through Paul’s letter to the Philippians: sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others. In chapter 2 of his letter he calls the Philippians to “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (v. 3-4). This is the mindset he wants them to have (v. 5), which they have as those who are in Christ. The way they ought to relate to one another is by seeking the good of others before their own. The foundation Paul gives for such an attitude is spelt out in v. 6-11. Jesus is the ultimate example of such an attitude. He is the ultimate example of sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. He set aside His rights to all the glory and riches of heaven, and humbled himself in giving himself up to the most shameful and cursed of deaths, death on a cross. He did not do this for His good, but for the good of His people. Therefore, if the way we relate to one another is to be gospel shaped, we must be giving up ourselves in sacrificial service of one another, not seeking after “our rights” but gladly giving them up in the service of the gospel. Instead of seeking to please ourselves we ought to be seeking the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because Christ did not seek to please Himself (Romans 15:2-3). Gospel partnership is not about me and how I can use the resources of others to serve me or to build my own empire. Rather, it means changing our mindset to think about how I can use the resources that God has given me to serve others for the glory of God.

May God give us grace to be those who humbly give up all of who we are, what we have and all we do for the sake of the gospel, to help us to be gospel shaped in the way that we relate to one another as we think through and grapple with what gospel partnership involves. It has been my prayer in writing this series that it might please God to use it for His glory’s sake, that we might be spurred on to strive together side by side to see Him glorified in the gospel being proclaimed throughout Ireland, knees bowing to the Lord Jesus, the church being built up and workers being sent out in to the harvest field to proclaim Christ both in Ireland and across the world. To Him alone be the glory in Christ Jesus.

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