True North

Have you ever heard the expression “True North?” If that doesn’t sound familiar, odds are it’s among the items from elementary school that you’ve long forgotten. You see, a compass does not point to “True North.” It points to “Magnetic North.” True North is the direction that points directly to the geographic North Pole.

 Magnetic North Magnetic north is the direction that a compass needle points to as it aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. I learned recently that the magnetic North Pole shifts and changes over time in response to changes in the Earth’s magnetic core. It is not a fixed point. It can be several hundred miles from True North. Every few hundred years it aligns with True North. One is an unmovable, fixed, geographically unchanging point.  The other is subject to drift and scientists still don’t know exactly why.

I was reminded of this by something I read recently from author Paul Tripp: “True, humble, joyful and perseverant love is not born out of raw duty, but out of worshipful gratitude. We love because He first loved us.” Tripp made clear that he was using “true” in the same way we refer to “True North:” straight, accurate, consistent, reliable. The North Pole never moves. What about our Spiritual True North? How do we know ours is pointing to the spiritual fixed point of the Will of God and not to a drifting spiritual Magnetic North of our own desires? Tripp does not prescribe a spiritual compass. May I suggest Galatians 5:22-23?

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)

It’s important to note that the Apostle Paul uses the singular “fruit” but then lists nine fruits. He does that because all nine collectively portray the character of Jesus Christ. That character shining through us is the singular fruit of the Spirit, comprised of the 9 spiritual fruits.

Once we have accepted Christ into our lives, the fruit we produce should indicate that the direction of our lives is moving from the fleshy, Magnetic North, to the immovable Spiritual True North. By the 16th century, compasses had become the go-to navigation tool for mariners. Even they, however, detected that their compass was not pointing to true north. A routine check of your fruit will tell you if your spiritual walk is leading people to True Spiritual North.

Would those around you tend to say you are:

  • Loving and caring, or unloving and uncaring?
  • Joyful or complaining?
  • Peaceful, or worry and anxiety-filled?
  • Patient or impatient?
  • Kind or unkind?
  • Filled with goodness or with bitterness, anger, and jealousy?
  • Faithful, or lacking faith and lack trust in the faithfulness of God?
  • Gentle or harsh?
  • Self-control or self-indulgent?

Your spiritual compass should be built upon a very small group of Christ-followers in your life in whom you have a high degree of trust.

We are human, and therefore occasionally drift from our True Spiritual North. But staying connected with God through His Word, through prayer and being connected to a loving church body are all tools that can prevent us from straying all the way back to the fleshy magnetic spiritual north that we use to follow before we knew Christ. Who knew what a precious gift a compass can be?

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