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.
As the academic year comes to an end on GCU’s traditional, ground campus, we’re wrapping up another year of Theology Thursday. As with every year on campus, I’ve been encouraged to see the ways that the Lord has used our humble efforts to change students’ lives and to strengthen their faith. God is always faithful and his ways are always perfect.
Our ways, on the other hand, are not nearly as perfect and we are not quite as faithful in the things that we say and do. Regardless, those of us who have contributed to the third season of Theology Thursday are hopeful that our readers have learned a few helpful things about what it means to follow Jesus. In order to wrap up the year, I’d like to share a few final thoughts about following Jesus with the hope that it brings you some measure of encouragement to continue following him in days to come.
As was Jesus’ custom, he regularly taught his followers in parables to connect the things they were familiar with to new insight about the nature of his Kingdom. In Matthew 13, Jesus shares that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:45-46). With only a few words he makes several profound points.
First, he reminded the earliest Christians that his Kingdom is of all-surpassing value and that its worth exceeds everything else they can imagine. Its value was so great, in fact, that all sacrifices one needs to make to secure that “treasure” would be wise sacrifices to make. Just like a man who sells everything in order to take hold of what only Jesus can offer, those who relinquish everything that gets in the way of the Kingdom are making a wise exchange. No matter how high the cost appears, the return on investment this treasure promises will be so great that only a fool would pass on the offer. Every other lifestyle, career, possession, hope or dream pales in comparison with Jesus’ Kingdom and can be safely set aside.
Second, the sacrifice is so small in comparison to the reward that one can make it with a joyful heart. As the great missionary Jim Elliot once put it, “He is no fool who can gives up what he cannot keep to get what he cannot lose.” The man in the parable sells everything joyfully and acquires the treasure. One can infer that he never regretted that decision.
As the year comes to an end and we think ahead about what it will mean to follow Christ throughout the hot summer months and thereafter, it is critical to remember that nothing else is of greater value than Jesus Christ. He offers himself freely and gives us all that we need for life eternal and abundant. I invite you to begin following Jesus or to continue following Jesus with full confidence the he has never failed us and never will. If Jesus’ promises are true and trustworthy then nothing less than the riches of heaven are at stake. Choose wisely!
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