Confession: using a compass is a challenge for me. I wish I could be cool like soldiers in the movies by whipping out the compass, giving it a quick check, and then stuffing in back in my pocket. But, truth be known, I have to stare at the compass for a few minutes, then I have to turn around in a circle until I can get it lined up, and finally I look up to see which way I need to go.
Recently, President Obama presented the commencement address for the Naval Academy graduation in Anapolis, MD urging graduates to follow their “inner compass.” That “inner compass” idea has become popular over the past few decades. People say it different ways –“follow your heart,” “listen to your gut,” “let your inner person guide you” –but it all means the same thing: Trust yourself.
I don’t mean any disrespect to our President, but “following your inner compass” is a dangerous idea.
Would you tell Charles Manson to “follow your heart?”
Would you suggest that Jeffery Dhamer “listen to your gut?”
I know what you’re thinking: but those guys are evil! It’s always strange how we can miss our own depravity by comparing ourselves to others.
But consider the picture Romans 3:10-18 paints of all of us (you, me, everyone).
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Still want to trust your inner compass? I’m afraid it doesn’t point north!
That’s why Jeremiah 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Still feel confident in your “inner compass?”
The fact that man cannot trust his inmost creates a deep-seated need within us for an external compass that we can trust whole-heartedly. That is why God has provided us with the unfailing compass of His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
We never have to worry about God’s compass changing direction: “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
In contrast to the President’s encouragement to follow an “inner compass,” the founders of the US Constitution did not trust men’s hearts. That’s why they established an external rule to direct all citizens consistently. That’s what God’s Word provide for us.
However, Scripture possesses something the US Constitution does not have: The power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21). Moreover, the Spirit resides within the heart of believers helping them understand and obey Scripture. That’s why the Bible describes itself as the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:7). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In other Words, you don’t just read the Bible –it reads you!
Here’s the issue: As believers, the Holy Spirit indwells our beings. But we can’t say, “since the Spirit dwells in my heart, I’ll just listen to my heart from now on.” The problem with that line of thinking is that, as long as we are on this earth, we still battle the desires of a wicked heart. The Spirit and the flesh are at odds and do battle daily.
So how do you distinguish between the Spirit’s leading and your flesh-influenced desires? By using the compass of God’s Word. Test every thought, desire, and decision by the Word.
And trust me –this is a compass you can have success in reading –the Holy Spirit will make sure of that!