True North

Suppose today Jesus was to ask you, “What are you seeking?”

What would you say? What would you tell him? Could you tell him that you were seeking God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your strength and all of your mind? Could you even tell him that mostly you were trying to seek him but you slip just a little now and then? Could you say that? 

While world leaders today are busy talking about the Great Reset, a new start, a new beginning for humanity, (really, the humanistic new creation is what they’re talking about!), I want us to consider today a Great Spiritual Reset! That is, us getting our lives reoriented to True North, where True North means Jesus

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It’s wise to, once-in-a-while, be reminded of what we already know so as to make sure we’re still moving in the right direction.

As I stand before you today, I am conscious of the fact that it was fully one year ago when Canadians were mandated to come home. I remember that because at that time I was enjoying the tropical weather of the southernmost part of Florida. Since then, life has been very different! Covid-19 is everywhere! It has had a huge impact. 

When I say Covid is everywhere I mean: There is Covid aggression. People telling you, “You’re too close! Stand in the right spot! Put on your mask! Stay home!”   

There is Covid depression. Lonely people. People losing loved ones that they cannot even visit. People losing their businesses. People losing their jobs and their income. Many losing their hope as they fall behind the economic curve. 

There is Covid oppression. Big Brother(can you use that name now?) is looking out for you. Sounds like Brave New World! Big Brother tells you where you can go, how far apart you must stay, how many of you can be together, when you can get a vaccine, where you can travel, and what you must do when you come back. Sounds so good! Looks and sounds a lot like Russian history to me. All you need to have is a little fear and a little more government control and pretty soon your freedom is gone. Incrementalism! The re-set or re-start as it is called. 

I was talking with some of my Russian friends a couple of weeks ago. (High-level Russians, I might add.)  They were living in fear. They have seen this scenario before! Of course just thinking things like this or saying things like this makes me a terrorist in some circles. I always thought I was simply conservative. 

Let’s Talk About Focus

But I am not going to go down any of those trails this morning. I am not going to delve into Covid economics, or Covid politics, or for that matter, Covid psychology. What I am here to speak about is this: FOCUS!

I don’t know about you, but I do know about me! I needed God to remind me of the fact that Covid is not and never was the centre of the universe. In reality it is but a blip on the radar screen of human history. It is what Paul calls “a temporary and light affliction” (2 Cor 4:17, 18).  

And, if you think Covid is bad, read the Book of Revelation. I am not saying Covid is not real. I am not saying throw caution to the wind. But what I am saying is this: for the Christian, the fear of Covid has been far more potent than the fact of Covid. 

It is a fear that disorients us. It is a fear that distracts us. It is a fear that derails us! And, it is a fear that will destroy us. Because, whatever takes our attention off of God, whatever takes our eyes off God, is destructive! The Devil loves it! He loves Covid. 

As I was asking the Lord what I should share today, four things were happening in my life. 

My Motivations

First, I was reading Thomas a Kempis’, Immitation of Christ. It is a most interesting book. Lots of practical spiritual advice! But one theme comes up over and over again: the only thing that can satisfy the human heart is Jesus. But the desires of this life, the desires of this world, keep pulling us away from God. And the more they pull us away from God, the more we live in dissatisfaction.  

First John 2:15–16 puts it this way: “Love not the world not the things that are in the world because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” As Richard Foster puts it:  Money, sex, and power! No matter how hard you go after those things, you will end up frustrated. You were not made for those things. They cannot fill the vacuum in your heart. 

Second, I was reading both Daniel and Revelation over and over and over. I don’t pretend to understand everything in these books. But I understand enough to know three things:

  1. There is no perfect church, but there are some pretty incredible saints.
  2. The world is in a battle with God. What we call the ‘culture wars’ today is nothing less than Kingdoms in Conflict: The Kingdom of this World and the Kingdom of God. We live in the reality of Psalm 2. 
  3. The earth is a passing fancy; HEAVEN IS THE REALITY. Heaven wins! Or as Peter puts it, “this world that we love so much is going to be burned to a crisp (2 Pet 3:10). God is in control every step of the way. I like the way Daniel puts it: “at the appointed time!” God is the FIRST WORD in history and he is the LAST WORD in history. 

There was a third thing influencing me. Pastor Josiah has been preaching on the Gospel of Matthew. It is such a powerful book. And if there is one thing that Matthew drives home it is choice! Matthew is a Gospel about choice! Everyday you make choices. Choose God or choose mammon. Choose the Narrow Way (God’s way) or choose the Wide way, the way that leads to death. Choose to build on Rock (God) or choose to build on sand (the world). In the simplest of terms Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God”! Choose God. Choose the Kingdom!

But God was not done with me yet. There was a fourth thing that influenced me. On Sunday the 21st of February, I was watching a couple of church services, one out of Waterloo and the other out of Orangeville. But here is the interesting thing: both pastors preached on exactly the same text! Coincidence? For them, maybe. For me, I don’t think so. I think God wanted me to get the message pounded home. 

The text was John 1:38. It is the first time that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John. Andrew and John have been following John the Baptist. But then they see Jesus. They not only see Jesus, they hear John say that this Jesus is not only the Lamb of God but that He is the Son of God. That this Jesus was greater than John! So they begin to follow Jesus. 

As they are following Jesus turns and says to them, “What do you want?” (Sounds Sarcastic!) Actually, his question is much more powerful than that. Literally, Jesus says, “What are you seeking?”

It is interesting in the text: Andrew and John don’t know how to answer Jesus. They are taken by surprise! They say, “where are you staying?” 

Suppose today Jesus was to ask you, “what are you seeking?” What would you say? What would you tell him? Could you tell him that you were seeking God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your strength and all of your mind? Could you even tell him that mostly you were trying to seek him but you slip just a little now and then? Could you say that? 

So while the world leaders today are talking about the big re-set, the new start, the new beginning for humanity, (the humanistic new creation, because that is what they are talking about); I want to speak today about a spiritual re-set! Getting your life re-oriented to True North, where True North means Jesus. 

And as I speak about this topic today, there are several things that I want us to note together. But, where to begin?

Consider Creation

I suppose that the best place to begin is the beginning: Creation! Now, without doubt, creation is under attack in our present world. Remember, the mantra of our secular world is stated in Henley’s poem Invictus: “I am the captain of my fate, I am the pilot of my soul … my head is bloodied but unbowed.” Individualism in its purest form! No wonder there is such a nasty reaction to the creation story.  

  1. If there is a creator there is someone superior to us
  2. If there is a creator there is a purpose
  3. If there is a creator there is responsibility
  4. If there is a creator there are rights and wrongs

You see, from the worlds perspective, a creator is downright inconvenient. Inconvenient for Science! Inconvenient on the Spiritual level! From the secular point of view, a creator really cramps your style. 

But as Christians, we acknowledge a Creator. And if we are going to re-set our lives, if we are going to re-start, that means getting back on track. It means getting back in sync with the plan that God had for us when He created us.  

Now that plan is clearly set out in Genesis. The plan is simple: it is to reflect the image of God. This, of course, is the story of the Bible. For the believer it is a story with three chapters: 

  1. Created in God’s image 
  2. Fallen from God’s image 
  3. Restored to God’s image

To re-set our lives means to focus on reflecting God’s image in every area of our lives. As Paul puts it in Romans 8, “to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.”

Re-setting Our Lives Means: SUBMIT TO THE MANDATE 

It doesn’t make any difference whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament. The Old Testament version, the Great Shema, is quite simple. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your mind.” Simply put: God first over everything. 

The same is true back in Exodus 20: “You shall have no other God but me.” Allowing anything but God to take control of your life is sin! It can sound good. It can look good. It can feel good. But if it is not putting God in first place in your life, it is sin!

The New Testament says the same thing. In Colossians 3, Paul tells the believer to “set his mind on things above” and to “seek things above.” To put it simply: to think as you would think in Heaven. It is the same thing in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the Kingdom of God”.

Now what all of this comes down to is one question. Is what I am doing pleasing to God? Is how I am treating my wife or my husband pleasing to God? Is how I am treating my children pleasing to God? Is how I am using my time pleasing to God? Is how I am using my money pleasing to God? Is how I treat my neighbours pleasing to God? Are my thoughts pleasing to God? Is my language pleasing to God?

The questions are endless because we must have this mindset every time we make a choice. IS IT PLEASING TO GOD? This is what guided the life of Jesus. He did always only those things that were pleasing to the father (John 8:29).

But, we don’t just have a mandate. We have models!

Resetting our Lives Means FOLLOW THE MODEL 

Now there are two models that I want to bring to your attention. First, Abraham. Abraham is known as a ‘friend of God’. He is not perfect. He makes mistakes. But as far as men of faith go, he is a prime example. And he is a prime example because he follows God. God tells him to leave home and to go to a country where he has never been before. God tells him that he is going to give Abraham this land. 

In spite of the fact that there are inhabitants living in this land Abraham believes God. In spite of the fact that he lives in tents, and he lives like foreigner in the land. Abraham believes God. In spite of the fact that he only ever owns one little part of the land, a cave where he buries his wife Sarah. Abraham believes God!

In spite of everything, His focus is on God. His focus is on heavenly things. The author of Hebrews puts it this way, Abraham was not just looking for the Promised Land, Israel, he was looking for something much better! He was looking for a city whose builder and maker was God. His focus was not on earthly things. His focus was on heavenly things (Heb 11:10).

He didn’t look for stuff on earth. He doesn’t even want the spoils of battle that are offered by the King of Sodom but he wants the blessing of Melchizedek. He wants the heavenly blessing. It is his driving value. 

We turn our attention now to a second example: Jesus.

Heaven is the driving value of Jesus too! Think of Jesus. Co-creator of the Universe! Son of God! Heir of all things! Glue of the Universe! Abiding in Heaven! And yet he comes to this world. In comparison to where he lived in heaven he comes to a sin sick slum called earth.  He humbles himself and takes on himself human form. He submits himself to mockery. He submits himself to ridicule. He submits himself to beating. He submits himself to betrayal. He submits himself to desertion. He submits himself to the cross. He submits himself to the grave!  

Why? Hebrews 12 gives us the answer. “Who for the JOY that was set before him – endured the cross, despised the shame and is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high.” He has a heavenly focus. 

As Peter puts it, we are pilgrims and strangers in this world (1 Pet 2:11). As the old spiritual puts it, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” Or, as Buddy Green puts it, “I don’t belong—this world ain’t home…”

As I said before, earth is a passing fancy, heaven is an eternal reality! With Abraham we must come to the place where we are focused on that city whose builder and maker is God!

Now, as believers, deep down inside, we know this truth. We know that this world is temporary. We know that Heaven is eternal. BUT, earth seems so real and heaven seems so much like a dream. How do I get past this difficulty? How do I follow the model of Abraham and Jesus?

Re-setting Our Lives Means Commit Yourself to the Makeover 

First, recognize that you are in a battle! We have already noted that we are in a battle with the Kingdom of this world. Satan will do all that he can to keep our mind fixed on earthly things while it is God’s intention to have our minds fixed on heavenly things. As Paul puts it in Galatians 5: Flesh wars against spirit and spirit against flesh! That is our reality! If we are going to be victorious in this matter, if indeed our recommitment to a heavenly mindset, heavenly behaviour is to be successful we will need to do several things. 

Second, we will need to fill our hearts and minds with the Bible, the eternal word of God and the final truth with reference to God and our relationship to Him. God’s word is God’s cleansing agent. Jesus puts it this way: Make them holy by your truth, your word is truth (John 17:17). In a sense this is the same message that the Apostle Paul has for us. In Romans 12:1–2 he calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells us to that to be approved by God we must rightly divide the word of truth. In Philippians 4 he tells us to think on Good Stuff: whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report – if there be any virtue or any praise – THINK ON THESE THINGS. 

Third, take control of every thought (2 Cor 10:5).

There can be little doubt that there will be battles in the thought life. Sometimes a most evil thought will pass through your mind and you wonder where that garbage came from! It comes from the Devil. He doesn’t give up easily. But Paul tells us that we must ‘bring every thought into captivity’ (2 Cor 10:5). Paul says in this text that we must bring our thoughts into obedience to Christ. 

Fourth, root out evil. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Kill it! Don’t justify it. Don’t be gentle with it. Kill it. Because if you don’t kill it, it will kill you. Sin is no little thing. It is no laughing matter. It is a poison. 

Fifth, never give up! You may struggle. You may slip. You may fail. But you must never give up. Because the one who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

So, re-set your compass today. Heaven is the ultimate reality. Heaven is the ultimate goal. 

Ask yourself three little questions today:

  1. Do I love God with all of my heart, all of  my soul, all of my strength, all of my mind? If not, where is the problem and what are you going to do about it?
  2. What would I have to do to be like Abraham or Jesus?
  3. How serious am I about rooting out sin and filling my mind with godly thoughts and Godly truth?

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