Wearable Gadgets and Moving Closer to Jesus

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by Arnie Cole, goTandem

The latest wearable gadgets leave traditional pedometers in the dust. They track way more than the steps you take including your heart rate, hydration level, sleep patterns, and blood oxygen levels.

This use of technology to modify our habits intrigues me as a behaviorist. After all, I firmly believe that measurement and feedback play key roles in any endeavor.

That may sound funny coming from a guy who devotes his life to helping men engage the Bible and grow as Christ followers. What role could measurement possibly have in ministry?

Recently I delivered a short talk on just this topic at a Yale conference titled What works? Evidence on the Role of Faith in Poverty Reduction. Many ministry professionals attended along with representatives from the World Bank, US AID, the United Nations, and academicians, particularly from the field of economics. A significant number openly expressed hostile views towards anything to do with faith or Christianity. Among the academicians especially this hostility stemmed from what they saw as the impossibility of measuring faith or spiritual growth. They asked: how can you say faith helps reduce poverty when you can’t measure any changes in faith? Many claims have been made about raised hands and transformed lives, yet statistically the lives of self-identified Christians often look remarkably the same as the lives of non-Christians.

I don’t see this as an insurmountable hurdle if you break life transformation down into the specific behaviors that you’d expect to see. If life transformation really means moving closer to Jesus each day, becoming more like him and less like who you were before you met him, then you look for certain behaviors to increase and others to decrease.

Now I’m not saying that all spiritual growth can be boiled down to one number (e.g., Did I sin less today than I did yesterday?). What I am saying is that God does reveal in scripture what spiritual growth should look like. Consider this passage from 2 Peter 1:3-11 (NLT):

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This passage along with other such as Galatians 5:22-26 reveal the signposts or markers for spiritual growth. We may not have a wearable gadget (yet?) that measures the Fruit of the Spirit, but every man can examine his own life for these signs:

  1. Am I displaying more and more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my relationships with others?
  2. Am I giving in to temptations (i.e. those things that pull me away from Jesus) less and less each day?
  3. Am I spending time with God most days of the week, hearing from him through his Word? Do I respond to what he is saying to me in my life?

I challenge you today, friend, to consider these questions deeply. As you look over the past week, month or year, can you see where you moved closer to Jesus…and maybe where you’ve gone in the opposite direction? What can you do today to move closer to him tomorrow?

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