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Beware of "Jesus Calling"
Steven Long 3/17/13

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The book Jesus Calling is making waves in the evangelical church. The book is a devotional type book by Sarah Young. The devotionals cover a year and meant to be read every day. However, don't be too quick to pick up this book  to hear "Jesus calling" you. The book is a mixture of a dangerous practice called Contemplative Prayer. Even from the description given by Amazon one can see the dangers of such a book:
Jesus Calling is a devotional filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year. After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. She knew her writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but journaling helped her grow closer to God. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages. They are written from Jesus' point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling. It is Sarah's fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.

I've put in bold some things that caused some red flags to immediately go off in my brain.
  1. My first concern was the fact that Young admits that she believed these were the things Jesus was saying to her. There are many problems with this: First, we don't base what God is saying on what we believe He is saying but what His Word actually says what it is saying. If we live the Christian life looking for what God is saying rather than obeying His clear, written word, we will never be certain of anything. Does God actually expect us to guess what He wants us to do?
  2. Another concern was with the sentence 'her journaling turned from monologue to dialogue.' The connotation seems to be that Sarah moved from simply listening to God speak to interacting with Him through her journaling. Journaling is nothing new and the practice of writing down things we learn from Scripture is not in and of itself a dangerous thing. But to actually state that you dialogue with God through journaling leaves one to believe that her methods are a way to intimately communicate with God. Scripture is clear that God's Word is sufficient for everything a believer needs (2Tim 3:16, 2Pe 1:3-6).
  3. The next red flag came when the review stated that people all over the world were "using her message." This is a concern mainly because people in the Church lack so much discernment that they would abandon the sufficiency of Scripture for a new and "fresh" message. I wrote a little diddy about that danger in a previous post.
  4. My last concern was the idea that these devotionals were written from "Jesus' point of view." This is, whether Young would admit it or not, an affirmation of extra-Biblical revelation. When we claim to have revelation from God then we abandon God's already sufficient Word for what we "believe" God is telling us.
For those who think I am being a bit over-critical, blogger and author Tim Challies offers a review of this book. In his review he gives a direct quote in Young's own words of her first encounter with Jesus.
One night I found myself leaving the warmth of our cozy chalet to walk alone in the snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, feeling vulnerable and awed by cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to whisper, ‘Sweet Jesus.’ This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him. This was far more than the intellectual answers for which I’d been searching. This was a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Challies' full book review can be found here.

Reading her own description of her encounter one would be left with the idea of an esoteric experience. Are we really supposed to put our trust in warm mist that envelopes us? The esoteric experience is what John warned his congregation about in 1John. The book is written to warn of false teachers called gnostics. The Gnostics believed in the the higher power of knowledge and that this knowledge would lead one to "experience" the same kind of things that Young has described in her book.

All-in-all, Jesus Calling is something to stay away from. At best, the book leaves you with the warm fuzzies, and at the worst will lead your soul to trust in something other that God's promise to His people. For more information you can listen to the podcast Beware of Jesus Calling.

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