Occasionally I get emails questioning quotes or videos I posted on Facebook or Pinterest. If you are on social media and someone questions something you post, don’t get upset. It is a good thing. Rather than accept every teaching, discerning Christians diligently study the scriptures.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1John 4:1
As believers we are commanded to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” The test is to compare what is being taught with the clear teaching of the Bible. The Berean Jews in Acts 17 were commended because, after they heard the teachings of Paul and Silas, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
If you have not read any of Jesus Calling you can read several devotional excerpts here. Jesus Calling was released in 2004, currently ranks number one on numerous lists and has sold more than ten million copies worldwide.
My Jesus Calling Knee Jerk
The first time I opened Jesus Calling, in the middle of the book I had a knee-jerk reaction with Young using first person. I just didn’t feel comfortable about it. Young said in her introduction:
“I have written from Jesus’ point of view; that is, the first person singular (‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine’) always refers to Christ. ‘You’ refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.”
People all over the Internet are blasting her for writing first person. Then I remembered one of my favorite Christian authors, W. Phillip Keller, did the same thing! NO ONE ever had a problem when he spoke in first person.
W. Phillip Keller (1920-1997) wrote more than thirty-five books on Christian subjects, including his most popular book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (amazing, eye opening, and a Christian best-seller). His books have over two million copies in print. Why don't they question him for his first person writing in What Is the Father Like?: A Devotional Look at How God Cares for His Children (MUST READ BOOK!!) Here is a potion from the first devotion by Keller:
I was pleased that each of Jesus Calling's devotional is followed by several Scriptures, and when Scripture is quoted in what she has written, it appears in italics.
When I read the Introduction I was intrigued that she studied at L’Abri in Switzerland in the Alps. My grandmother, whose life reflected spiritual fruit in abundance, gave me my first L’Abri book when I was 16.
L’Abri is a French word that means shelter. The first L’Abri community was founded in Switzerland in 1955 by Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith. Dr. Schaeffer was a Christian theologian and philosopher who also authored a number of books on theology, philosophy, general culture and the arts. I’ve read several of the Schaeffer’s books and recommended them for years. How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer was a huge help for me when I wrote Ancient History: Adam to Messiah. I like his wife Edith’s books even more. My favorite books by Edith Schaeffer include:
Back to Sarah Young
Young also mentions reading several books by Andrew Murray, another of my favorite authors. However, just because someone recommends books by authors I like it doesn’t mean their work is beyond reproach, so I prayed about it and read some online critiques.
My Comments on One Jesus Calling Critique
Not only do we have have the responsibility to test the spirt of the author, we also have the responsibility to test the spirit of the critiques.
I do not like giving critiques (so I usually don’t) but this one diatribe makes it necessary.
The Critique #1 Problem: term “Presence of God.”
From the post:
I will identify a number of key category errors in Jesus Calling and correct them biblically. I will show that Young’s book is New Age panentheism and does not portray a biblical, Christian worldview.
The post went on to explain that Young used the term “awareness of presence” 50+ times and since New Age author Eckhart Tolle also used the term “awareness of presence” 50+ times therefore Young must be a New Ager.
????? WHAT? Is this qa joke? Whoa!! Using this faulty reasoning, the poster would also have a problem with the Bible. The Bible uses the term “presence of the Lord.” over thirty times in the KJV, forty times in ESA and more than seventy times in the NIV. Here is a list of 141 verses about God’s presence.
The “awareness of presence” or “presence of God” is a very common topic in the Bible and in the Christian community. See Charles Stanley’s Sermon : The Awareness of God’s Presence. When I searched my commentaries on Logos I found hundreds of references. On Google I found thousands.
If we say anyone that uses phrases that are used by New Agers is evil is akin to saying that referencing the rainbow makes one a homosexual.
In the same critique it said “Tolle then cites Buddha.” Sounds more like a critique of Tolle’s book doesn’t it? Saying Tolle cites Buddha has nothing to do with Young’s book.
The Critique #2 Problem: Romantic Intimacy
From the critique's post: A popular but horribly unbiblical understanding of Christianity portrays Jesus as a romantic lover with which one should strive to find greater intimacy. I identified this issue seventeen times in the book.
I completely disagree with this statement. This critique makes no sense to me, unless the author does not think God wants an intimate relationship with us.
A person who knows God has an intimate personal relationship with Him. Where intimacy abounds, fruit will abound. Life in the Spirit is relational. The Holy Spirit will meet us where we are. God seeks us out. He wants to be intimate with us. As our intimacy with God grows, we develop wisdom and skills as we desire and seek to know Him, His plans and His ways. Prayer and spending time in His Word are the ways we show desire and passion for Him. It is building a relationship, not religious discipline.
Colossians 1:19 sums this up: “For in him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form,” The Father, Son and Spirit sharing all things in intimate, face-to-face fellowship.
This relationship, this camaraderie of love and mutual delight, is where God wants us to be. Being rooted and grounded in His love means our hearts are beating with the very heart of the Father.
It appears the critique against Young is attempting to twist encouragement into a controversy that has no merit. The blog has a lot on God’s wrath and little about God’s love.
Jesus Calling has been a comfort and source of peace for so many because of the beautiful intimacy Young portrays. I want intimacy with God and I will not apologize for it.
The Bible is about romantic intimacy. ““A godly ‘romance’ is at the heart of the universe and is the key to all existence. From all eternity God purposed that at some time in the future His Son should have an Eternal Companion, described by John the Revelator as ‘the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’” Rev 21:9.” (Paul Billheimer)
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
The word know is often used in the Septuagint and sometimes in the Greek to describe the intimacy between husband and wife.
|Adam, First Man ||Christ, Last Adam |
|Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. Rom 5:14||The first man, Adam, became a living person. But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 1Cor 15:45|
|Eve, First Bride ||Second Eve, Bride of Christ |
Horribly Unbiblical? Unbelievable! Can you say WITCH HUNT?
The critique complains that Young used the term “whisper” because it is part of Young’s “romantic intimacy.”
One request that Young attributes to Jesus a number of times is “Whisper my Name.” This contributes to the sense of romantic intimacy she portrays. For example:
When you are with other people, you often lose sight of My Presence. . . When you realize this has happened, whisper My Name; this tiny act of trust brings Me to the forefront of your consciousness, where I belong. (May 2)
Why would Jesus want His name “whispered”?
The critique against Young has a problem with whispering Jesus’s name? Does that really seem ” horribly unbiblical” as stated by the critique? The words “horribly unbiblical” are pretty strong.
The critique complains that Young misrepresents Jesus in this sentence “When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. (January 28th).
I have no problem with this sentence.The Bible tells us to focus on Christ:
- Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
- Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25
- But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
- For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
The critique made it sound like Young’s appeal to focus on Christ means we are looking for something beyond scripture. Re-read Young’s sentence: “When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. (January 28th). She doesn’t say any thing like that.
The critique said, Jesus and His apostles never equated the promise of Christ’s presence to a state of awareness, consciousness, or source of special revelation beyond Scripture. We need faith in God’s promises, not some version of Christ-consciousness!
The critique is not only putting words in Young’s mouth but also stretching simple encouragement to mean something entirely different to the point that it reminds me of the Witch Hunts.
The critique has a big problem with Young saying, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”
The critique twisted that sentence to say , “…she confesses her dissatisfaction with what God has revealed in Scripture.”
Whoa again. Yearning for more of God is dissatisfaction? I guess I am guilty because I want more of God too.
All of the above being said, I still do not feel comfortable reading writings from Jesus in the first person, and I completely understand some concerns relating to Young.
Sarah Young said, "I write with the help of Christs’s Spirit, who guides my thinking while I listen in His Presence. I believe the Bible is the only infallible Word of God. My writings are based on that absolute standard, and I try to ensure they are consistent with Scripture.”
I could say the same thing. I feel I have heard from God. After prayer and Bible study I have felt prompting to go in a certain direction. I feel God has prompted me to write encouragement to others and I pray over those word to be sure I express what God wants me to say. I also know as much as I want to do His will, I still miss it at times.
God’s Word tells us how to be spiritually discerning. By their fruits (Matt 7:15-20) Refusal to acknowledge Christ (Mark 9:39; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3;6) Glorifying self (John 7:18; 16:14) Unfulfilled prophecy (Deut 18:21-22) Enticing strange worship (Deut 13:1-5) Preaching “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-9) Contrary to the Word of God (Isa 8:20; Gal 4:30; 6:16; Phil 3:16; 2 Tim 3:16)
I see nothing on this list describing Sarah Young’s writings. Sarah Young doesn’t say that Jesus speaks to her. She’s clear about that in her book Introduction. In no way does she believe her own writing is sacred or that she has new revelations.
Sarah Young does not offer another gospel. I do not see anything unbiblical or any wrong theology in Young’s books (please let me know if I missed something). In fact I only see love and encouragement to trust and obey God. I just wish she had written in third person.
I believe people hear from God. I sincerely pray I am hearing from Him in this post. God speaks today but never contridicts Scripture.
As always my disclaimer: Anything that you read on my blog that encourages you to seek God is probably from God, and anything in error is from my flesh. I think Sarah Young would say the same thing.
Sarah Young also makes no pretension to be adding to Scripture. She makes it clear that the Bible is the only infallible word of God. In the foreword to a follow-up book, Jesus Lives, she says she has written what she “heard” (quotation marks are hers) and has tried to make sure it aligns with Scripture. So she is careful to indicate she is not hearing the infallible Word of God and she checks what she eventually writes with the Bible.
Ms. Young wrote,
“…what I am doing is devotional writing, and I do so by asking Jesus to guide my mind as I spend time with Him—to help me think His thoughts.”
We all struggle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). We must never move away from simple message of God’s unconditional love demonstrated through Christ. We are saved by the love of God, changed by the love of God and grow through the love of God. It’s a shame some are afraid of it.
I need to close this for now as I have several pressing matters awaiting.