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Tired of Living as Predictably as a Facebook Advertisement?

Photo of Debbra StephensDebbra Stephens | Bio

Debbra Stephens

Transplanted in the South from her home state of Michigan, this suburban mom-of-two loves her Lord Jesus and His wonderful Word. A dedicated student of the Word, she loves to share what she learns in the classroom, at events, and on the page—dependent upon the ever-faithful Holy Spirit to turn thoughts to text.Debbra has authored four Bible studies, all published by 21st Century Christian Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee. She launched the series Advent Living Books for her seasonal daily devotionals in 2018. Debbra blogs at her website debbrastephens.com and has been published in Christian Woman Magazine.

Headlines were buzzing with the announcement. Facebook had introduced a new metric that would significantly revamp their algorithms.

I imagined shifty eyes of a techie scouring screens, pounding out a complicated formula on lettered keys. Crouched in shadows, beyond a labyrinth of cubicles, programming bits to track our every cyber-click.

Or is my overactive imagination more cynicism than actuality?

Tracking used to be about hunting. But hyper-developments in technology have made it possible to track just about everything.

Algorithms track where we’ve been online in order to point us where they presume we want to go—whether it’s good for us or not. They’ll offer up the same fare tomorrow based on yesterday’s wants.

Their predictions reduce our need to search endlessly, therefore limiting our chances of finding alternative options apart from what we’ve typically looked for, leaving the forest where I hunt to the recommendation of the algorithm. It becomes the chief influencer when it comes to online content—tracking with truth is irrelevant.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how a recent internet search displays itself across every other site you visit. There, in the glow of our monitors appears a reminder of where we’ve been online—haunted by the past. Like when I searched the web to make a hotel reservation, hotels in that same town were ever before me . . . until I started shopping for boots, that is.

So, what does this have to do with discipleship?

In my ongoing series for Renew, I’ve been reflecting upon lessons Jesus taught the disciples through His encounters with women found in the gospel record. When I came to the account of His encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4, the following analogies surfaced.

The Gospel Truth

[Jesus] told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

(John 4:16-18)

Jesus knows the truth about us. The whole truth. He doesn’t filter truth, only offering what is popular, trending, appealing, or pleasing to hear.

Artificial intelligence will never know what’s better for us than Jesus. He knows exactly what we need . . . and when we need it. He’ll never direct anyone to anything other than what is for their ultimate best.

He doesn’t “remember” like a computer does. What’s been forgiven won’t become a pop-up reminder. What’s in the past stays in the past. Knowing a person’s past is not for the purpose of shaming or condemning, but lends opportunity to make a decision that allows Him to change the trajectory of where they’re going and how they’re living.

The gospel also reveals the truth about us. It addresses that truth and has a solution to change that truth. It provides the means to transform the rhythm of your life to sync with Jesus’ will for His disciples.

It won’t send us back the way we came, stuck in the same trend. It moves us onward, to a place of regeneration. One lesson Jesus taught His disciples through this encounter, applicable to His disciples today, is that the rhythm of a person’s life can change. Tracking with the gospel always empowers change.

The Samaritan woman didn’t remain stuck in the same algorithm of her old life. Her encounter with Jesus set a new pace, on a new path….forward and outward.

Syncing with the Lord

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

“He told me everything I ever did.” 

So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.

And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said;

now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

(John 4:39-42)

The woman’s experience of Jesus became her testimony—one she then faithfully shared with others. What you have experienced makes for just as compelling a testimony as hers.

She moved past her past. And beyond herself.

She synced with Jesus, as His mission became her mission.

The people listened to her testimony and were drawn to Jesus. He continued to teach them until they believed for themselves. Isn’t that the epitome of discipleship?

When the rhythm of life aligns with the truth of Jesus’ teachings and the truth of His gospel, it’s in sync with Jesus, the Master of Life.

A New Rhythm

The well in Samaria was a point of convergence—where the past no longer dictated the future. And the algorithm of the woman’s life was altered. As she listened to the words of Jesus, truth took hold of her heart. She could not help but share what she came to believe about Him. And in sharing this truth with her neighbors, she influenced an entire community for Christ.

Her life synced with His—as discipleship became the new rhythm of her life.

(For more from Debbra, visit her blog at debbrastephens.com.)