A Tale of Two Hearts
NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 10 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.
NOTE 2: This is not a love story.
There once was a man named Samson. Samson was powerful beyond measure in his day. The very omnipotence of God flowed through Samson’s muscles it seems. Samson’s feats of strength included killing a lion with his bare hands (Jdg. 14:6), killing 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone (Jdg. 15:15), and ripping out a city gate (also with his bare hands) and carrying it up a mountain just to make a point (Jdg. 16:3).
But as Charles Spurgeon put it, “though he had great physical strength, [he] had but little mental force, and even less spiritual power.” Samson seemed to have an uncanny ability to make really bad decisions. His actions seemed to be born out of the most base impulses. His stomach led him to break his Nazirite vow to God for a few handfuls of honey. His sex drive led him to marry an idol worshiping Philistine woman (Jdg. 14), and sleep with and then marry a prostitute (Jdg 16). His temper led him into all sorts of troubles. He once tied 300 foxes together, lit their tails on fire and sent them through an enemies field out of pure rage. Even the examples given above of his feats of strength were driven mostly by rage and seem to have no higher motive.
In the worst view, Samson was a guy who, given any scenario with multiple options, always seems to land on the wrong one. With a more gracious lens though, Samson was just being himself. He was just doing exactly what he wanted to do in any given scenario. In modern terms, Samson followed His heart.
There once was a man named Jesus. Jesus was powerful beyond measure in His day*. The very nature of God flowed through Jesus in every way. Jesus’ powerful deeds included making the blind see, making the lame walk, healing the lepers, raising the dead, and rising from the dead himself.
But Jesus didn’t just do great things. He had an uncanny ability to always do the most gracious, loving, and perfect action. His actions seem to be born out of His most natural impulses, which were always perfectly aligned with the will of God. His love for the Father caused Him to obey the law perfectly, His grace caused him to be kind to a prostitute, and a woman who had been divorced many times. His anger burned only against those who would defile the house of God, or twist God’s law for their own gain.
Jesus was a man who given any scenario with multiple options always chose the wisest, best possible choice. Of course, Jesus was just being Himself. He was doing exactly what He wanted to do in any given scenario. In modern terms, Jesus followed His heart.
Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God in every action because His will was God’s. It may make us squirm a bit to say, “Jesus followed His heart.” I realize that is not the most precise language. Let me be clear, I don’t mean Jesus always did the most fun thing, I mean Jesus always acted consistently with His nature.
The Two Hearts
So here is the question for us. Are we best described by Samson or Jesus? Now this isn’t a simple question, and it isn’t a conundrum that a WWJD bracelet will solve. The reality is, at some level, we all “follow our hearts.” When you gossip, lust, lie, etc. you are “following your heart.” Yet as a Christian, when you give grace, offer an encouraging word to a hurting friend, or even battle with sin, you are “following your heart.” This is because within the believer there are two wills. Though painful to admit it, we all have the capacity to be like Samson. Blindly acting on impulse as we dishonor God, and destroying ourselves and those around us as we live out our most depraved desires. But for all who believe, Christ works in you a heart of flesh through His spirit.
Paul speaks about this issue in Romans 7 when he laments:
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Romans 7:18-25 ESV
As a believer, there is a real inner “delight in the law of God.” We ought to be concerned if we don’t have that. Yet there is also a humbling tendency to violate Christ formed in us and do the very evil we don’t want to do.
So are we best described as Samson or Jesus? Short answer? Yes. We think too much of ourselves if we believe our natural desires lead us in any better way than Samson’s did. His actions may have been more dramatic, but that is likely just a result of his incredible strength. Do we not find that in our flesh, we tend to do as much evil as we can get away with?
Oh but dear brother or sister, the cross does not leave us as it found us. In Christ we have a new heart (Ez. 36:26). In Christ we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:16). In Christ, “we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Rom. 6:6)
Jesus gave himself not simply to help us avoid hell, but “to purify for himself a people zelous for good works.” His blood bought us a new way of life. The Christian lives in a daily struggle to embrace the new nature of Christ in us, and put to death the old nature that we share with our friend Samson. With the cross in view, how will we walk?
NOTE3: Maybe this is a love story.
*insert profound clarification about Jesus’ eternality for the theologically precise.