by Matt Slick
The Jesus Calling is a book released in 2004 that is a record of supposed revelations given to its author, Sarah Young,1 by God during her quiet times of prayer and devotion. It is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to Sarah. Why? Because she yearned for more from God from what her present prayer life and Scriptures could give her. She said she decided to “'listen' with pen in hand, writing down whatever I 'heard' in my mind."2
This method of listening with pen in hand is reminiscent of an occult practice called automatic writing where a person empties his/her mind and waits for contact from the spirit world that guides the hand while writing down messages. It is a formula for deception. What makes things worse is that Sarah was influenced by the book "God Calling" which was written by two women in the article who received it via automatic writing. The quote verifying this was removed from later versions of The Jesus Calling Introduction. Is that a concern? You bet it is. However, I'm not saying Sarah is participating in automatic writing. It is just that the connection is too close for comfort, especially when we find out that she was influenced by a book that was received in just that way.
The Jesus Calling is Inspired-ish
Sarah says that her writings are not inspired.
- "I knew my writings were not inspired— as only Scripture is— but they were helping me grow closer to God...The Bible is the only infallible, inerrant Word of God,"3
Okay, so she says her writings are not inspired. Good. But, if her revelations are from Jesus, then are they they partially inspired, not really inspired, or kind of inspired? I have to ask because she is recording in her book what she has sensed from Jesus and then writes them as though Jesus is the one speaking. Consider the following words from her writings that claim to be from Jesus...
- "I do My greatest works through people with grateful, trusting hearts. Rather than planning and evaluating, practice trusting and thanking Me continually. This is a paradigm shift that will revolutionize your life.4
- "Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love; see them from My perspective. This is how you walk in the Light, and it pleases Me."5
- "I AM ALL AROUND YOU, hovering over you even as you seek My Face. I am nearer than you dare believe, closer than the air you breathe. If My children could only recognize My Presence, they would never feel lonely again."6
Not only do these words sound like a feminized Jesus wanting to snuggle and comfort the readers, they are generic statements that sound very much like New Age philosophy. After reading about 70 of her devotionals in the book, all I found was a series of comforting messages written in a God-is-all-about-love-and-support style reminiscent of New Age thought. Generically warm readings that purport to be from Jesus can lull a person into believing that the Scriptures themselves aren't as beneficial as time spent alone with God with pen in hand waiting for something to come to mind.
A note of caution
She says that the messages are written as though they are from Jesus.
- "...from the perspective of Jesus speaking, to help readers feel more personally connected with Him. So the first person singular (“ I,” “Me,” “My,” “Mine”) always refers to Christ; “you” refers to you, the reader.7
Speaking for Jesus, no matter how well intentioned, is not a good idea. We should let Jesus speak for himself and not be so presumptuous as to put words into his mouth. This is a serious issue and should not be dismissed.
Is Sarah Young not satisfied with God's inerrant, inspired Word and has to receive feel-good messages while in prayer? Isn't the Bible sufficient? Yes it is and we are not to trust subjective, experience based, so-called revelations from Jesus and fed to us as his words. It opens us up to the possibility of self deception and a false Jesus. Furthermore, her methodology is dangerous because it can invite others to close the Bible, close their eyes, and sit with pen in hand, waiting to be fed from the spiritual realm instead of from God's word.
- It does not encourage learning from God's inspired word
- It risks putting subjective experience on the same level of Scripture
- It can encourage reliance on feelings as the means of learning what God wants from you instead of Scripture.
Again, I have to say that this is extremely dangerous and must be avoided. Consider what God says in Genesis 3.
- "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate,' (Genesis 3: 1-6).
If you study God's word you will learn the progression of deception offered by the enemy.
- Doubt God's word as being sufficient in itself.
- "Has God said...?" (v. 1)
- Contradict God's word.
- “You surely will not die!" (v. 4)
- Trust your own feelings for spiritual truth.
- "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate," (Genesis 3:6).
Now, I suspect that a lot of people reading this will be upset. Perhaps they might accuse me of not being open, of lacking love, of being too judgmental, or even name too legalistic. Maybe all of these accusations are true. But my job as a Christian apologist is to point people to Christ as revealed in the word of God and to help protect them from possible deception. Right or wrong, I cannot support an effort where a New-Age-styled Jesus is accessed through meditation and subjective experience.
Women love The Jesus Calling
While reading through the devotionals it did not take long to sense the portrayal of Jesus in a feminized form. So, I went to Amazon.com and discovered that the great majority of positive comments were from women. At the time of writing this article (5/28/2015) there were 9,554 reviews.
- 8,891 five-star ratings
- 389 four star ratings
- 97 three star ratings
- 49 two star ratings
- 128 one star ratings.
Those are impressive numbers. I then went through the top 10 pages of reviews looking for names of the reviewers to discern the male-female percentages. Of those author names that carried gender, this is what I found.
- Males, 6
- Females, 50
This means that 88% of the positive reviews were from women. This makes sense since women generally prefer emotional, experience-based truths than do men. Now, at the risk of raising the ire of the entire female populace, when I compare the Scripture where Satan went to Eve and appealed to her emotions in order to deceive her, I cannot ignore the statistics that say 88% of the positive reviewers on this book were female. Am I saying that all of them are deceived? No. Am I saying the book is full of evil? It has many good things to say. But, it appeals mostly to women because it is sentimental and comforting. The Jesus in its pages is gentle, patient, and soft. He is rather one-sided and, I think, it is a misrepresentation of Him. In my opinion, Sarah's so-called revelations are more in line with her subjective preferences than from Christ himself.
- "Deep within themselves, most people have some awareness of My imminent Presence."8
- Most people? Does she include unbelievers who are aware of Jesus imminent presence? Where is this in scripture?
- "If you want to work with Me, you have to accept My time frame. Hurry is not in My nature. Abraham and Sarah had to wait many years for the fulfillment of My promise, a son."9
- Really? Hurry isn't in God's nature? Yes it is. Jesus told Zaccheus to hurry.
- Luke 19:5, "When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” (NASB). The NIV says "come down immediately". The KJV says "make haste, and come down".
- If these devotions are really from Jesus, then why do they contradict Jesus' words?
- "Bring Me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you— space permeated with My Presence and My Peace."10
- Creating sacred space around you? Is this in scripture anywhere? No, it is not. It is more consistent with New Age philosophy.
- "The garden was filled with luscious, desirable fruits, but Eve focused on the one fruit she couldn’t have rather than being thankful for the many good things freely available. This negative focus darkened her mind, and she succumbed to temptation."11
- Again, this is phraseology that is used in the New Age movement. It is vague.
- "This sacrifice of thanksgiving rings golden-toned bells of Joy throughout heavenly realms. On earth also, your patient suffering sends out ripples of good tidings in ever-widening circles."12
- Really? Golden toned bells of Joy in heaven? Ripples of good tidings? Is that true? Where is this in scripture? This is exactly how New Age writers speak and it is a violation of 1 Cor. 4:6 which says NOT to exceed what is written.
- "LEARN TO LISTEN TO ME even while you are listening to other people. As they open their souls to your scrutiny, you are on holy ground."13
- "As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them."14
- This is a subtle heresy. Jesus is not freed to do something based on our behavior. He is the sovereign King who moves the heart of the King where he wishes it to go (Proverbs 21:1). The problem is that it implies that we have the power to set Jesus free to work in people's lives.
If these are really the words of Jesus and why are they changed? Consider the alteration for August 23 from the 2004 edition compared to the 2011 edition.
ENTRUST YOUR LOVED ONES TO ME; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one—as well yourself. Remember the extreme measures I used with Abraham and Isaac. I took Isaac to the very point of death to free Abraham from son-worship. Both Abraham and Isaac suffered terribly because of the father’s undisciplined emotions. I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love. When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. Watch to see what I will do.
ENTRUST YOUR LOVED ONES TO ME; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one— as well as yourself. Joseph and his father, Jacob, suffered terribly because Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons and treated him with special favor. So Joseph’s brothers hated him and plotted against him. Ultimately, I used that situation for good, but both father and son had to endure years of suffering and separation from one another. I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love, so beware of making a beloved child your idol. When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you as you relax and place your trust in Me. Watch to see what I will do."
So Abraham was accused of "son-worship" as well as "undisciplined emotions". Where in the heck is she getting this from? Furthermore, notice that these supposed words of Jesus have been altered. The 2011 version changes Abraham and Isaac to Jacob and Joseph and removes the blatant "son-worship" error.
I must ask that if what she receives in her meditations are really from Jesus. I would say that obviously they are not since they have to be corrected.
The Jesus of the Jesus calling seems to be nothing more than the musings of a woman who "feels" her way through devotional material and in the process makes numerous mistakes? I do not recommend this book. Christians should look to Scripture instead of it for their devotions and comfort.
- 1. Sarah Young has a masters in counseling and biblical studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Another degree in counseling from Georgia State University
- 2. ibid. (p. xii)
- 3. ibid. (p. xii)
- 4. ibid. (p. 85), March 22
- 5. ibid. (p. 168), June 9
- 6. ibid. (p. 247), August 24, capitals original
- 7. ibid. (p. xiii)
- 8. ibid. (p. 247), August 24
- 9. ibid. (p. 362), Dec. 11. underline added
- 10. ibid. (p. 157), May 30, underline added
- 11. ibid. (p. 101), April 6, underline added.
- 12. ibid. (p. 301), October 14, underline added
- 13. ibid. (p. 318), October 31, Capitals original
- 14. ibid. (p. 246), August 23