What does it mean for Jesus to be your true north?

On a compass rose, there is north at the top, east at the right, south at the bottom, and west at the left. Every compass in the world is oriented to the magnetic field of the North Pole. That is what draws the tiny compass needle north. It cannot help but always be pulled in that direction. "True north" is not exactly the same as magnetic north. True north is oriented to the geographic North Pole, which does not change, while the magnetic North Pole does vary.

When we say that Jesus is our true north, we are saying that we have decided to orient our lives to Him and His truth, according to the Bible (John 17:17). He is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8) and "the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Peter 1:25). Just as people use a compass to orient themselves to their location and point them in the direction they need to go, Jesus is our point of orientation. He is the standard by which we understand and navigate our world. When Jesus is our true north, we also look to point others toward Him and His saving grace through His work on the cross and His resurrection (Matthew 28:18–20; Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Timothy 4:1–3). Making Jesus one's true north is a conscious choice that is made possible by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus is our true north, we regularly look to God's Word (the Bible) to know Him and to know truth (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We believe what He says and we act on it, obeying what He commands (John 15:1–17). We trust that His ways are right, and we arrange our lives to live in fellowship with Him and in accordance with His will. Philippians 2:12–13 puts it this way, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Ephesians 4:11–16 talks about the body of Christ being built up and maturing in part, "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine." When Jesus is our true north, we aren't easily sent adrift. Paul exhorted Timothy to "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16; cf. 2 Timothy 3). John warned his readers, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:1–2). Jesus is the "true north" by which teaching is evaluated.

For centuries, humans have tried many things as their true north, such as money, power, politics, doing good, social reform, sex, and drugs. They orient their lives around one or more of these, and they will always find them lacking and destructive (James 1:13–18). King Solomon was the wealthiest, wisest human on the planet, and even he said: "Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after" (Ecclesiastes 1:1–11).

Solomon tried and did everything there was and found them lacking. He learned his true north could only be God. The narrator of Ecclesiastes concludes, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14). It is only from God's Word that we will find what is worth seeking and building our lives around—and that is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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