Finding True North – Part 1

Conviction is not a popular concept in our time. There are many, including some in the highest realms of academia, who advocate the idea that those who have strong convictions are dangerous people. And then there are those that have strong beliefs and opinions, but their source of direction for those opinions is nothing more than their emotional whims.

Our Freudian way of thinking has led us to a point where we have become so inwardly focused that we are often unable to see the big picture, and we fail to draw from the ultimate source of truth. Not only do we need to be men and women of deep conviction, but we need to be men and women with the right convictions. So the question is, how do we decide what the most important convictions are?

There is a navigational term that helps to illustrate what I’m getting at. The term is “true north”. For centuries, magnetic compasses have been indispensable to men and women who have needed direction. They have helped explorers, captains, generals, pilots, adventurers, and even, for that matter, people who have made wrong turns. What many don’t realize is that magnetic compasses don’t point you in the direction of true north.

True north is a straight line from wherever you are to the geographic north pole. The geographic north pole is the pivot point of earth’s northern axial rotation. This is different from the magnetic north pole. The magnetic north pole is a magnetic field that is in the far north but not at the same place as the geographic north pole. It is in fact several hundred miles away. When one uses a magnetic compass, it is pointing at the magnetic north pole not the geographic north pole. In order to find the north pole, one cannot simply follow a magnetic compass. Adjustments to the magnetic coordinates must be made in order to find true north.

Finding true north is not a simple matter. It takes thought and effort. It most assuredly is not something that can be found impulsively. However, if one successfully masters the art of setting their nautical coordinates in a true northerly direction they will eventually get as far north as one can possibly get. They will reach the true north pole.

My question to my readers is this: what is your “true north”? What are the coordinates of your life? What are the principles, values, philosophies, and ideologies that guide your decisions, your words, your actions, your attitudes, and your goals? What are those things that are shaping your world, your destiny, your fate? What gets you up in the morning? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What keeps you going? What guides your morals?

I hope to at least give all of us a starting point by looking at one extremely important and helpful text in the New Testament. In his book Exalted, Douglas Goodin calls this text, or more particularly verse 18 of this text, “the purpose statement of the universe”.[i] Meditate carefully on these words and see if you concur:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:9-23 ESV)

There are four convictions from this text that are essential to me. These are hills that I will die on! I would submit that they can be helpful to you as well.

I Must Grow in My Knowledge of God

My generation has been able to experience one of the most unique transitions that has ever taken place in history. We have lived through the experience of going from relatively limited access to knowledge to having virtually all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. Many of us can remember that feeling of sitting down at an internet access computer for the first time. The exhilaration of having the opportunity to find information on nearly anything. We no longer had to subscribe to a newspaper or periodical and then wait till it arrived. We no longer had to go to the library or the bookstore. It was all, for the first time in history, right there in front of our eyes.

As exciting as this transition has been, it has not come without its drawbacks. The opportunity to gain knowledge from Google has tantalized far too many of us when we should have been setting our eyes on the knowledge of God.

Paul’s prayer for his readers in Colosse was that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will”. This is paramount to the spiritual growth of believers. We absolutely cannot become complacent in our pursuit of the knowledge of God because this is how we learn to walk worthy of Him. Pleasing our bosses, our friends, our employees, our peers, and our critics should pale in comparison to pleasing God. And the way we learn how to please God is to learn about God.
A very important question of course is – how do we learn about God? There are two very important elements to growing in the knowledge of God:

  1. We learn about God by having our eyes opened by the Holy Spirit. John 16:13 shows us the role that the Holy Spirit has come to play: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

We need more than just a man-centered lust for knowledge. We need the illuminating power of Christ in us. Without this, we are blind. Without the Holy Spirit, not only do we have no desire for the knowledge of God, but we have no ability to grasp it. We need to have our eyes opened.

  1. We also need to learn about God through his Word. Although learning about God starts with a spiritual awakening, it is not nebulous, abstract, or mystical. It is rooted in something that is very concrete, realistic, and practical. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and when he does, we are drawn to learning about God in any way we possibly can. The primary way we learn about him is extremely down to earth and practical. It is in fact as practical as a book (or maybe more precisely a collection of books) given to us by God himself. It’s what Christians refer to as the Scriptures. The Bible is not just a helpful collection of writings, it is the Word of God. II Timothy 3:14-17 gives clear instructions as to the primary source of our knowledge of God:

”But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

Three adjectives from that last sentence are immensely helpful – all, complete, and every. Reread this verse and pay close attention to what it is saying. This is a clear defense of the sufficiency of the Bible. It’s not just one way of hearing from God amidst many others – it is the primary way that we hear from God because it is the way that God has chosen to reveal himself to us. This is why we need to study the Bible on our own and with others. This is why every sermon that is ever preached should be rooted firmly in this Book. This is why every other book, essay, and article (including this one) are less than the Bible. Christians should be people who saturate themselves in God’s Word, because this is how we know God.

I Must Recognize the Absolute Sovereignty of Christ

Christians must hold fast to a firm belief in the absolute sovereignty of God, or as these verses point out more particularly, the sovereignty of Christ. He is in absolute control of the cosmos. As verse 17 points out, “in him all things hold together”. Everything that happens is guided by his sovereign hand, and if at any point he relinquished his control everything would disintegrate into oblivion.

Of course, this brings questions about the existence of evil, the free will of man, and the purpose of suffering. There are things about this doctrine that are really hard. Many false teachings have spawned from these questions. We must remember that he is God and we are not. There are certain elements of his character and his ways that we simply cannot comprehend, grasp, or explain, and when we attempt to do so we will always get it wrong. Whenever we diminish Christ’s sovereignty, we diminish Christ (or I should say, we diminish our perception of Christ). It is a very serious thing to undermine his sovereignty. I would submit to my readers that a better response than attempting to explain Christ’s sovereignty through a variety of philosophical methods is to simply fall on our faces and worship.

Read part 2 here.

IMG_0859 Jeremy Weaver lives in Colorado with his lovely with Lanitta, six children, and two foster children. He is a graduate of Liberty University and the principal of Canon Christian Acadamy. He loves to read, mountain bike, hike, and camp with his family. He is very concerned about helping the next generation establish a solid foundation of truth from which to interact with a culture that is rapidly deteriorating.

[i] Douglas Goodin, Exalted: Putting Jesus in His Place, (Colorado Springs: Cross to Crown Ministries, 2012) p. 10

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