The compass. A simple yet life-giving tool for wanderers and adventurers. In my hands . . . useless. Sure, I know it points North, but what is North? I don’t even know which direction my house faces.
My mind is not calibrated to a compass. I don’t use one, so it’s unfamiliar to me. Yet for one who lives by it, a compass can literally mean the difference between life and death. Or the difference between coming out of the wilderness in New York City or somewhere in lower Alabama.
Most of us would be lost if we had to navigate out of the wilderness with a compass.
The Holy Spirit has been compared to a compass, but what does that mean? If a real compass is useless to me, is the Holy Spirit also useless to me?
The Holy Spirit is the means by which God reclaims His people and reorients them around knowledge of Him. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the blind and unstops the ears of the deaf. The Spirit reveals Jesus to those the Father gives to Jesus and enables them to follow Jesus.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. . . . This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.
John 6:44, 65.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth.”
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
The Spirit of Truth reveals Truth to the believer by internal programming. By the Holy Spirit, God writes His laws on the hearts of His chosen people.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
God sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His people, and then the Spirit reveals and points the believer toward God.
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3.
The above is why the Holy Spirit is described as a compass. Where the analogy breaks down, however, is that the Spirit is not an external compass, like a man-made compass, which is difficult to navigate with, absent training. The Spirit is an internal Compass, who points the believer to the path of righteousness.
As wonderful as this Spiritual indwelling is, the believer must still calibrate his mind with this Spiritual Compass. While the Spirit reveals truth to the believer, He does not make the believer follow the path of truth. The Spirit is a lamp to the feet. Psalm 119:105 (“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”). The believer must follow the light.
Paul describes this well, as follows:
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Paul tells us that we must follow the Spirit’s lead; the Spirit doesn’t do the work for us. We must learn to recognize and listen to the Spirit and drown out the world.
I was prompted to write on this topic by an article titled Heart Aches posted on the Jeffrey H. King’s Blog, in which he discusses the heart and the brain and the similarity of the cells. He then discussed how scripture talks about the heart of man as a living and breathing organ that works like a second brain. I thought that painted a really cool picture.
Mr. King is absolutely right that scripture speaks of the heart a lot. As shown above, God talks about reforming the heart from one of stone into one of flesh and of sending the Spirit into the heart as a Guide. By the “heart,” I believe scripture is referring to the soul of man, the internal influence that drives him in one direction or another. I believe scripture analogizes the soul with the physical heart, because the physical heart is the biological core of all systems within the body and gives life to the entire body. None of our biological systems would function without the blood pumping work of the heart.
The heart is distinguishable from the brain in that the heart is not adulterated by logic or reason. We have God’s laws written on our hearts like default settings. Where man louses it up is when the brain intervenes. By our brains, we interject personal beliefs and opinions, apply human wisdom and reasoning, and cozy up with experience. This is where we drift, when we choose what seems rational based on human experience over what God reveals to us to be true.
So, our spiritual path involves calibrating our brains with the internal Spiritual Compass–i.e., conforming our wisdom and reasoning with the Spirit of Truth. This can be difficult, because the wisdom, reasoning and values of the world often differ from our internal Compass.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
How many of us have experienced Paul’s frustration? When we know what is right but still take the wrong path? As Paul said: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15.
The great news here is that we are not lost in the wilderness with a guidance tool we do not know how to use. We are set by default to follow North. This is the “heart” of the Gospel.
Our challenge is to reorient or calibrate our minds with the internal guidance of the Spirit. Just as Boy Scouts take orienteering training–learning to navigate according to a compass–believers must train their minds to follow the Spirit. It takes a lifetime of practice, with failures and successes. But the Spirit living in our hearts is a guarantee that we will persevere.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22.