Is “Jesus Calling” in your library?

Cover of "Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace i...

It’s time to revisit the topic of Jesus Calling, a book written by Sarah Young. I continue to get protest comments from a book review I shared last summer titled, Is “Jesus Calling” a wrong number? (Book Review).  Yes, a lot of Christians love this book, and you’ll find it in a growing number of church libraries. Even churches that were always considered to be “solid.” Other public figures are urging Christians to buy as many copies for their Sunday School and women’s ministries as the can, as one writer says:

Jesus is calling you! Can you hear Him? Will you respond? New York Times best seller-Jesus Calling, will introduce you to a different Jesus than the one you have heard about your whole life. Sarah Young shows us her Jesus, and He is your Jesus too. Listen…you will hear His voice…Jesus is Calling.

(emphasis mine) Source: 1nest.wordpress.com

So are we now supposed to find new ways to hear Jesus’ voice, speaking directly to us?  Look, I’ve no doubt that God does speak through His word and the Holy Spirit, who convicts us. But where does one draw the line between His Word to us, and us attempting to hear Him? And if we are hearing voices, how do we know it’s His?

Over at Apprising Ministries, Pastor Ken Silva dives into this topic and shares why many Christians like him are warning others to steer clear of this not-so-innocent book:

JESUS CALLING BY SARAH YOUNG IN LIBRARY OF CHURCH OF SINCLAIR FERGUSON

By on Dec 31, 2012, reprinted in part with permission

If you’re not familiar with Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling (JC) I’ll share with you what I brought out when I covered it back in Beth Moore Recommends “Jesus Calling” Book Claiming Direct Divine Revelation.

JC, which is said to be “Devotions for Every Day of the Year,” is published by Thomas Nelson publishing.2 There really isn’t a lot of information online about Sarah Young:

In his review of JC, which I’ll be returning to, well known Reformed Christian blogger Tim Challies informs us:

Sarah Young is the wife of a third-generation missionary to Japan who has earned post-graduate degrees from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, a Presbyterian seminary. (source)

Young tells us herself in the Introduction to JC:

I began seeking God’s Presence in earnest. My days started alone with God, equipped with Bible, devotional book, prayer journal, pen, and coffee. As I waited in His Presence, God began to reveal Himself to me.3

Now, we’ll hear that type of language in charismatic and mystic circles, which are now overlapping with the spread of so-called “spiritual disciplines” of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) under the guise of supposed Spiritual Formation.

However, what Young is describing is a form of divination, the occult; it is the attempt to gain knowledge of God outside of the Bible, a means of grace He has prescribed as the way to come to Him. Some time ago CBN ran Q & A with Sarah Young.

There she’s asked how she learned “to ‘dialogue’ with God?” Her answer should disturb you:

My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930′s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they “listened.” About a year after I started reading this book, I began to wonder if I too could receive  messages during my times of communing with God. (source)

There’s nowhere in the Bible that we’re taught about waiting in God’s Presence in order to write personal messages we allegedly receive from God. We must understand that the lives of the writers of inspired Scripture are simply not normative for the Christian.

In fact, this all begins to sound like what’s known as occultic automatic wriitng; and yet, Young still tells us “this little paperback became a treasure to me.”4 I happen to have a copy of that book God Calling (GC), which was cited by Young above.

You can actually find it online at the website of these women, who bill themselves simply as “two listeners.”5 They tell us they were personally receiving direct revelations from God Himself to instruct them, unlike us mere mortals who go to Scripture:

with my friend a very wonderful thing happened.  From the first, beautiful messages were given to her from the Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us.

We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by Him personally, when millions of souls who are  far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books and other sources.6

As you can plainly see, they do claim divine inspiration for their writings; and like her listening mentors, so does Sarah Young. CBN asks her how “awkward was it initially to begin a ‘dialogue” with God?” Young replies:

It felt a little awkward the first time I tried it, but I did receive a short message… at that point my journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. Day by day, messages began to flow more freely. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day.
(source, emphasis mine)

No way around it; Young is claiming she “did receive a…new way of communicating with God.” Those are her words, not mine. Young fully realizes that she’s describing divine inspiration for her messages so she then adds a caveat in order to try and deflect away that charge.

Young tells us, “I knew that my writings were not inspired (as only Scripture is).” But she can’t have it both ways; when God speaks, it is Scripture. Or are we supposed to believe He also speaks non-authoritatively, which is a view common in charismatic circles.7

Here the following from my friend Dr. Gary Gilley will prove helpful when he tells us people like Sarah Young:

would claim that while they believe that God speaks to His people apart from the Bible today, that these revelations are not on par with Scripture. That is, God speaks today but not with the same authority as He did in His Word. So do not accuse us of adding to Scripture, they would say.

Interestingly enough, this brings up another issue. We find in the Bible that God did speak, either orally (including through His prophets) or through the written Word, but in both ways — alwaysHis Word is authoritative. It was nothing less than a word from God — one that must be obeyed and heeded! (source, bold his)

Like I said before, that supposedly conservative Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore would recommend her readers buy this book by Sarah Young ought to be cause for serious concern about her discernment. All the more curious to see it added to the FPC website.

In his review of JC, which I referenced earlier, Tim Challies now gets to the heart of the matter concerning this kind of neo-gnosticism of these supposedly superior listeners:

As I have spoken to others about the book, I’ve heard some people say that this book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader. But it’s important to know that Young makes a far more audacious claim—this is Jesus speaking, through her. The messages he has given her, she now passes on to us.

This is a very good time to pause and consider this claim. Sarah is claiming some kind of new revelation from God. She is saying that God speaks to her and that she then passes these messages to others. Immediately we need to ask what she believes about the Bible. Is she claiming that these messages are equal to Scripture? That they trump Scripture?…

Young begins to share those words of God as daily devotionals, saying “I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him. The more difficult my life circumstances, the more I need these encouraging directives from my Creator.”

James Montgomery Boice once said that the real battle in our times would not be the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture, but its sufficiency—are we going to rely on the Bible or will we continually long for other revelation? In Jesus Calling we see this so clearly. Young teaches that though the Bible is inerrant and infallible, it is insufficient. It was not enough for her and, implicitly, she teaches that it cannot be enough for us…

Jesus Calling is, in its own way, a very dangerous book. Though the theology is largely sound enough, my great concern is that it teaches that hearing words directly from Jesus and then sharing these words with others is the normal Christian experience. In fact, it elevates this experience over all others. And this is a dangerous precedent to set. I see no reason that I would ever recommend this book. (source)

So, why has First Presbyterian Church of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson added these dangerous resources to its library?

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10 Responses to Is “Jesus Calling” in your library?

  1. Cindy L says:

    Thank you for revisiting this topic! When I've brought up the issues with JC in Christian circles, everyone looks at me as if I have two heads. But it's important for people to really see what's going on here. Thank you for standing up!

    Like

  2. Cindy says:

    Matt 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

    Mark 13:21-23 "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here [is] the Christ!' or, 'Look, [He is] there!' do not believe it. "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. "But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

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  3. bart van veen says:

    Hi Mike,

    I really wonder if this is as serious as it is made out to be. You know me, and I do not read this JC as superceding Scripture. As always, I try to measure her devotions agains the grid of Scripture. If it flows with Scripture, I suggest, let it be an inspiration. If it does not: throw it out. As your critic suggested, her theology largely lines up with Scripture.
    As I pray, i sense the Holy Spirit confirning to my heart the Scriptures, and largely I sense this is what Sarah Young shares with the reader.
    Other claims, or charges, against this book, perhaps, should also be leveled against any other devotional books?

    Love you my brother,
    bart

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  4. Maggie says:

    I did not buy the book initially because of some of the same concerns I had heard about God Calling after I'd picked it up in a bookstore and read it as a teen. When LifeWay stopped carrying it because some were complaining, I was very surprised. It helped me realize we have to take it very seriously when we take on "God's voice" to speak to people. This is something I largely overlook. I take it as godly based wisdom from an older woman in Christ on living biblically.

    While I do not take either as "The Word" of God, it inspired me to intimacy with God. His Holy Spirit is said to "remind of of all things he has taught us". In these messages, I do not perceive them to be prophetic or on equal footing with God's word at all. I do take them as three women who take God at His word and let Him speak to their souls on the topics that concern them. God "speaks" to us in this way.

    I bought this book a few days ago examining it again. In the several I read, the devotions were simply reiterated scriptures put together in a way that we can apply to daily life and struggles today. It is an attempt, I feel, to show how Gods word is be living, and active, and relevant to the concerns we face.

    If I find something that does not adhere to scripture, I'll simply take it as wise advice from a godly woman. We should always consider the source when we take spiritual advice.

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  5. Jason Guidry says:

    I can see where this can be more of a danger, as it could make others more curious about God Calling and look to have a more "experience driven walk with Christ". What I have heard in a lot of replies on blogs is that many speak of their experiences being positive (Pragmatism), with them being led to a closer walk with God. However this needs to be thought out, as someone not as familiar with scripture might look to duplicate this effort. Sarah Young claimed to be inspired by God Calling, and I briefly looked through God Calling and it did not seem to be ground in scripture. There are attempts to dissect scriptures, that seem similiar to self help psychology driven quotes that erroneously try to say "what Jesus was really saying". This is dangerous and can lead people astray. There is a scripture that talks about a little leaven, leavens the whole lump "Galatians 5:9. Obviously the context is legalism, and this seems to be more about mysticism. The danger is how do you know it's Jesus? Most of what he said to the disciples was in the form of parables, and then later explained in more detail. If you are saying you are more of an authority than an disciple who then became apostles, that is also a problem. Because it also said in the word even the prophets whose words are authorative didn't fully understand fully the word God was giving them context wise. You can't say it is inspired and not authorative, you can't have it both ways. Remember also "God is the Author of our faith, not the Author of confusion"

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  6. Allie says:

    Sarah Young—>Two Listeners—> A.W. Russell—>Frank Buchman—>Oxford Group–>A.A.—>Moral Re-Armament—>Inititives of Change—> Hope for the Cities.
    This is the trail when looking for Sarah Young's influence for Jesus Calling.
    The "first person" approach is what immediately set up my "red flag" with this book.

    I believe the Oxford Group is cult like. I do not know if Sarah Young follows the Oxford Group beliefs, but the "Two Listeners" from, "God Calling" were part of this group.

    I found a message H.A.Ironside preached, about this group possibly in the 1920's. http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-Ironside.html

    There is much more to be found via Internet. Taking a cue from a couple of ladies from the 1930's who were involved with the Oxford Group is disconcerting to me.
    Sarah Young may not know the history of the "Two Listeners," but it is not wise to imitate their practice of "listening to the voice of God."

    Researching this has opened my eyes to the fact that we as Christians really do not believe the written word of God is all sufficient. We want more, just as Sarah Young wants more.

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  7. D. V. Aguiar says:

    True regenerates understand what is going . This is just another"foot in the door" for the evil one. A little leaven here, a little leaven there, before you know it it's infected the whole lump. Let's use some logic. 1/ GOD inspired the writers of script. 2/ They then had it put in written form. 3/ We accept that it is GOD BREATHED. This same logic MUST BE USED by Sarah's defenders. Using this logic proves Sarah's work to be new revelation which script. says ended. Where does it end, Moore- Hinn-etc. all claim divine revelation. According to these facts our bible needs to be expanded for all this new GOD BREATHED revelation!!!

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  8. meg says:

    I am well aware of false teachers and emergent junk. God calling has been around for years and is a great help. Jesus calling is like God calling but in more modern terms. Maybe immature christians should stick to the bible…but MANY very strong
    evangelical's, and baptists I know love this book and know the bible. Sometimes to think of Jesus saying this to us is comforting. If it misquotes the bible then …yep it's bad. If it's biblical…I can't see a problem.

    Like

  9. meg says:

    I am well aware of false teachers and emergent junk. God calling has been around for years and is a great help. Jesus calling is like God calling but in more modern terms. Maybe immature christians should stick to the bible…but MANY very strong
    evangelical's, and baptists I know love this book and know the bible. Sometimes to think of Jesus saying this to us is comforting. If it misquotes the bible then …yep it's bad. If it's biblical…I can't see a problem. Oh now God wants you to know on Facebook…is emergent…non biblical junk…That is to be avoided.

    Like

  10. Mike says:

    Having not read the book, I only feel qualified to say that I'm in agreement with the concerns … in general. Yet I'll add that while I'm a bit of a conservative/fundamentalist, I also think that the Holy Spirit energizes and personalizes God's Word for us at times and I'm all for being sensitive to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us in our circumstances. Write it down or whatever, just be sure it passes the litmus test of scripture before running with it. Also worth mentioning that IF a message like that is received fro the Holy Spirit, it's not necessarily going to resonate with others as much as it did with you … just sayin'.

    Like

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