The Season of Advent began our new Christian Year. During our worship together we considered the gifts that God offers to all who are willing to answer the call — mercy, hope, comfort, and deliverance. All of these good gifts were shown in the events of the Incarnation of Christ that we celebrate during the Advent Season each year.

Now that Advent has ended we turn our thoughts from what God offers to what God expects. We have just begun a series of messages that will take us to the beginning of Lent on the theme, “Jesus Says: Hearing the Commands of the Master.” Each week we focus on a particular command of Jesus and its relevance for contemporary Christian practice.

This approach is obviously predicated on the understanding that what Jesus said matters. These are not simply the wise sayings of a master teacher, though they are certainly that. These are the revelations of the divine will for the followers of Christ who make up the Church and who seek to transform the world that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

It is well that we say we are sinners saved by grace made possible through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, but that is an insufficient statement of faith. We have to continue by saying that we are followers of Christ who do what he commands. A practical question to ask yourself is, am I confident that I know what Christ expects of his disciples? We are in no position to consider how well we are fulfilling those expectations if we aren’t clear as to what they are.

As we consider the texts each week, we will see some of the most important commands of Jesus, instructions about repentance and willingness to renounce bad habits and acceptance of others and relinquishing of worldly goods and self-sacrificial service of others, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. It may not even touch on the command that you need to hear the most.

This is why so often I advocate immersing oneself in the life and teachings of Christ by reading the Gospels. I do not believe there will be a situation you face in your life that cannot be addressed with confidence and clarity of purpose if you consider how Jesus teaches you that you should conduct your life.

This approach, we believe, is greatly enhanced if the text is approached with humility and a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to guide both your understanding of the Bible and your application of its truth. All that you face as an individual and all that we confront as a church in trying to be a force for good in our society is addressed in the life and teachings of Jesus. If only we would learn and apply them!