Dr. Hiles is a native of St. Louis and Dean of the College of Theology at Grand Canyon University. He studied sculpture, completed an M.Div., and earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Seminary before becoming a professor. His interests relate to the doctrines of salvation and the church as well as the intersection of theology and culture.
Imagine a world in which everyone lives and loves as Jesus did. It would be absolutely incredible to inhabit a world in which people truly loved and cared for one another.
Unfortunately, that is simply not true of the world we live in. Much like people in our day, the crowds Jesus taught were fascinated by his ideas but few were moved to action by his teaching. Fewer still were willing to commit to his way of life. This came as no surprise to Christ because he knows what is in the human heart (John 2:25). Indeed, Jesus often concluded his teaching with an intriguing phrase that bears close examination: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Virtually everyone has ears, of course, but ears that hear are a different matter altogether. The phrase refers to an openness and attentiveness to what has been said along with a responsiveness and openness to change that goes well beyond taking in sound.
The phrase appears, for example, at the end of a famous parable Jesus recorded in Luke 8. In the parable, Jesus describes four common ways in which people respond to God’s Word through the analogy of a farmer sowing seed in a field. According to the parable, in some cases seed falls on hard ground, is trodden underfoot and is eaten by birds. In other cases, the seed lacks moisture or is choked out by thorns and thistles. In such cases the seed fails to grow and yield a harvest. All the seeds fail to grow, that is, except for seed that falls on good soil. In this exceptional case the seed not only grows but indeed yields “one hundredfold.”
After sharing the parable, Jesus explained that the seed in good soil represents “those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit” (Luke 8:15). Christ hardly needed to press his point because those listening were well aware of what seed is supposed to do. As all farming communities can attest, seed is supposed to grow and bring forth a harvest, which in this case had more to do with righteousness than produce. The problem that the parable draws out, however, is not so much the seed but the condition of the soil. And by analogy, the problem does not lie with the Word of God but with the condition of human hearts which so often remain closed to the things of God.
Much like those who listened to Jesus in ancient days, we also respond variously to the truth he shares based on the condition of our heart. Having provided a clear example of how people should respond to his teaching, the Lord simply encouraged those who were willing to receive his teaching to embrace it, be transformed by it and put it into practice going forward. In other words, he urged those with open hearts and minds to receive his Word like good soil and to bring forth a harvest of righteousness.
After nearly nine months of sharing about Jesus, his followers and the way of Christ through Theology Thursday posts, it is our hope that his teaching will change lives. Many have read, but for those with “ears to hear,” it is our prayer that they will respond well and enjoy the blessings of the Lord as his Word takes root and begins to grow, producing an abundant life and joy eternal.
By grace alone,
Thank you for reading the first series of Theology Thursday. The series will return in the fall with new content from College of Theology faculty. To learn more about the college, please visit our website or contact us using the Request More Information form.