Partners in the Gospel

Philippians 1:4-6 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

“Aww, do I hafta?”

How many of you parents have raised your children, yet never heard those words come out of their mouths? When you have asked them to pick up their rooms, do their homework, take out the garbage, clean the cat’s litter box, wash the dishes, or do any small chore, was their response a gleeful, “I would love to do that, dearest Father or Mother”? Or was their response a whiny, “Do I hafta?”

If that sounds familiar, I point you to the country of Spain where the national legislature is studying a bill that would make children legally obligated to help with housework. If the proposed bill becomes the law, “children under the age of 18 will be expected to participate in family life, respect their parents and siblings, and perform household duties.”

If you are a parent like me, you are probably wondering, “Shouldn’t children be doing these things anyway?”

Of course they should. But we parents have all given birth to little rebels who refuse to listen. Spain’s lawgivers want to break children’s bad habits by forcing them by law to be part of the family. Although, there are no legal penalties for children who refuse to help around the house and break Spain’s new rules.

Children aren’t the only ones who are being targeted by such laws. Spain’s lawgivers also know that men don’t always help with the housework. That’s why they enacted another law which penalizes men who are slackers at home. These laws do carry legal sanctions.

It’s all part of a plan to force people to do that which they should gladly, willingly, and voluntarily do.

So, what do you think about these kinds of laws? Are they a good thing? Do you think they are beneficial? Do you think houses will be cleaner and people will be more respectful to each other if they are forced to be so by law?

I have been looking through the Gospels to find those times when Jesus forced people to do those things they should voluntarily do.

Jesus said people should love one another (John 14:34-35), but He doesn’t tax them if they don’t. He says we should take and eat, take and drink, in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:14-20), but there is no jail time threatened for those who decline. He tells us to go, teach, preach and baptize (Matthew 28:18-20), but He doesn’t give anyone a ticket if they decide to stay at home.

Spain is trying to force slackers to be part of the family. Notice how St. Paul deals with the Christians in the congregation in Philippi. He doesn’t force them to be partners in the family of God. He writes, “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

“Partners in the Gospel” has been our theme for this past school year. Paul rejoiced that the Philippian Christians were partners in the Gospel with him. They shared the conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord. They shared the joy of knowing Jesus as their Savior, and together they savored the hope of heaven. They were partners in the Gospel – using the Gospel as a source of strength in difficult times, sharing the Gospel as encouragement with those who were undergoing trouble, blessing one another with the Gospel in regular worship, prayers and study of the Scriptures.

Do St. Paul’s words describe you? Would you see yourself as a glad and willing partner in the Gospel?

Let’s start with you, the students of WLS. 8th graders – I probably know your class as well as any class ever at WLS. That’s because you and I arrived at this school around the same time – 10 years ago. Have you and your fellow underclassmen created a groove in the seat in Mr. Patterson’s office? Have you lied to your teacher? Gossiped about a classmate? Bullied on the bus? Rolled your eyes and been disrepectful to your parents? Cheated on your homework?

I’ve been your pastor in the church, your teacher in the school and your coach and fan on the sidelines. I know what you’ve done. And I don’t have enough time to list everything I’ve seen and heard.

Admit it. You have not been a glad and willing partner in the Gospel. Your sinful nature all too often was a willing partner with the devil.

You parents are not off the hook, either. I’ve read your rants on Facebook. I’ve heard your comments in the stands. I’ve seen how you refused to believe that your “little angel” could ever be so cruel in the classroom. I’ve witnessed how your first response to any school issue is with anger and venom instead of love and patience. I’ve noticed you and your children’s absence in worship on Sunday mornings.

Parents, you may have been able to curb your sinful nature at times a little better than your kids … but not much. Answer honestly, have you been a partner in the Gospel or a partner with the devil?

God has created laws to break all of us of our disrespectful behavior. We call those laws “God’s Ten Commandments.” And we call our disrespectful behavior “sins.”

Thank God that He does not treat us as our sins deserve! Praise the Lord that He does not repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10). If God did punish us for not working well with others, that punishment would be the fires of hell. If God did put us in timeout for failing to love Him and others, that timeout would be an eternity separated from God’s holy presence. If God did penalize us for breaking every one of His laws, that penalty would be served with billions of lawbreakers in the place reserved for the devil and his demons.

That’s what we deserve. But the Gospel is the good news about Jesus. Jesus endured the punishment of hell while He was on Golgotha’s hill. He suffered the eternity of separation from God’s presence as He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He paid the penalty for our insistence on breaking God’s laws by shedding His innocent blood and having His perfect body pierced with nails and thorns.

By God’s grace, the Lord does not punish the spiritually underachieving Christian. That’s because the Father believes any Christian who considers His previously lost condition and the fires of hell which were once his final fate, is going to be thankful for his deliverance. Anyone who sees God’s Son carry his sins and die a terrible death on Calvary cannot remain unmoved and untouched.

This is what you have learned about at Wisconsin Lutheran School this year and all your past years. Have there been problems in the school? Have there been short tempers and long accusations? Has everyone gotten along perfectly well all year long – teachers, parents, students, pastors?

Certainly not. That’s because we still have 170 plus little sinners in our school, taught by 11 sinful teachers, and led by 4 sinful pastors. We have all been partners with the devil!

It is only by God’s grace that we have been made partners in the Gospel.

Our 8th graders have won lots of awards and medals over the years, but the greatest reward they have is the faith that the Holy Spirit has planted in their hearts through Holy Baptism and fed through Holy Communion. The best medal they have is still waiting for them in heaven – the crown of life. They have proudly worn their Lancer uniforms for various sports. They will gladly exchange that uniform for the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. They have lifted up plenty of championship trophies. One day they will be lifting up the palm branch of victory. They have had coaches leading them to victory. But it is always Jesus, their Savior, piloting them to greater victories over the devil and their sinful nature.

Jesus began this good work in you at your Baptism. He has kept this good work going throughout your years of Preschool through 8th grade. Now, we pray that He will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God brings us together to share our Christian joy and encourage each other in the Christian faith. The partnership we have through faith in Jesus is maintained and strengthened by the power of God’s Word. We express our fellowship by gathering to hear and learn the truths that God wants us to know and believe – in our churches, in this school, and in our Christian homes.

By God’s grace, we are Partners in the Gospel. Churches, school, members, parents, students, teachers, pastors – all working together to curb our sinful nature that whines, “Do I hafta?” All working together, with the Father’s favor, the Son’s forgiveness, and the Spirit’s motivation, to worship together, pray together, praise together, study God’s Word together, share God’s Word together, grow God’s Kingdom together, as partners of the Gospel.

So in this closing service for WLS, we thank God for the Christian partnership we have through the Gospel of Jesus. Let us learn to appreciate this blessing of walking together with our fellow Christians.

We are all one in mission. We lift high the cross. We stand in the love of Christ alone.

That’s what it means to be a Partner in the Gospel!

Not because we hafta … but because God allows us to do it, by His grace. Amen.