SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR ANALYSIS
As always, the Word of God is to be the foundation of our discussion. In addition, it is often necessary to dig deeper into the essence of a Word in a verse to truly understand what the Lord is trying to convey. Before we can get a fuller grasp of the errors in Jesus Calling we need to first look at the command of “proving” and what it entails.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21(KJV):
Prove is a metallurgical term wherein a test is performed to assay the purity of a stone. Iron pyrite’s metallic luster and pale brass-yellow hue give it a superficial resemblance to gold. But it is not gold; it merely appears to be gold. This brings to mind the saying, “If it looks so good, how can it be deception?” Iron pyrite can look even better than gold because it shimmers and shines so brightly. But it is all superficial. That is the exact reason why we use the Bible to “prove” all things. The Bible does not appeal to our senses and emotions. The only standard of truth is the Word of God. Since the Bible cannot be added to or subtracted from, one of its characteristics is that any time someone proposes any kind of teaching, it must be substantiated by the already written Word of God. Jude 3 stresses the permanence and unchangeableness of God’s Word:
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
– Jude 3
As we continue with our study of both God Calling and Jesus Calling it will become apparent that both these books have extrabiblical meanings; they offer teachings not at all contained in the Word of God
For links to the entire series:
- Week 1 God Calling Gives Birth to Jesus Calling
- Week 2 THE TEACHINGS OF “GOD CALLING”
- Week 3 A Look At “Jesus Calling”
- Week 4 DENIAL OF SCRIPTURE IN “JESUS CALLING”
MY TESTIMONY WITH JESUS CALLING
My husband John and I did not come to know the Lord until we were in our late thirties and our children Tracy and John were 12 and 10, respectively. For that reason we brought a lot of unclean “baggage” into our Christian walk in the forms of books, games, etc. One night I had a dream of a bathtub seemingly filled with an innocent liquid. It was, however, filled with a caustic solution of lye that would have horribly burned or scarred anyone who put even their “little pinky toe” in it. This seemed to be a personal message to me. I knew that the Lord spoke through dreams in the Bible as He did in the OT and NT (Genesis 15:1; 37:1-11; Luke 1: 5-23; Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Acts 10:1-6). Even though I was a relatively new Christian I was also aware that this dream had to be proved by Scripture before I could accept it as coming from the Lord. The Lord led me to read Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 and Acts 19: 18-20. The first group of verses gave my husband and I direction about what was dangerous. The second group of verses told us what to do before and as we prayed for discernment. We were convicted. It was surprising how large a garbage bag we filled with books, toys and even some costly art objects. We had even received a beautiful and costly signs-of-the-zodiac plate from a relative. Somehow, even though we were new believers, zodiacs and the One True God didn’t seem compatible. We decided to go by that old motto: when in doubt, throw it out. If it offended our eyes, we thought it would offend the Lord’s eyes. An old ouija board was the final item we stashed in the garbage bag. Here are the verses that convicted our hearts about removing the caustic “lye” from our lives:
10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord;
– Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (NIV)
18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas
– Acts 19:18-19 (NIV)
After our family diligently prayed and discovered that we had a lot of physical housecleaning to do, we also went through a period of spiritual housecleaning. Psalm 51 was our guide. I remember an old song based on that song: “Cleanse our hearts oh God; make us ever true; cleanse our hearts oh God, let us be like You.” About two years later when we taught a youth group, the Lord helped us realize that the word “lye” has an alternate spelling – “lie.” From that point on we became even more diligent over allowing anyone we loved to come in contact with a lie in case they were horribly burned or scarred.
In 2014 a series of events began that prompted my doing a great deal of reading. In the space of less than three weeks three different women of my age group at church discussed the book Jesus Calling in my presence. I had ignored the popularity of the book purposely because over 20 years ago I had been repeatedly presented with its predecessor and inspiration God Calling and had not wanted to read that either. Eventually, however, someone gave me God Calling as a gift and I realized the Lord wanted me to review it. I sat down and read it through in its entirety in 3-4 days. It was a book written by two anonymous “listeners” who were in fact being used as “channels” or “mediums” – an occult practice. The book was written in the first person so that the reader was to believe that God Himself was speaking. It did not stand up to any Biblical tests and especially failed the most important test: it did not use Scripture alone as an authority. And now twenty years later a woman named Sarah Young is using God Calling as an inspiration for Jesus Calling and it has become a 15 million copies best seller.
Again, I had no desire to read it. I came home and told my daughter about the latest encounter at church with the women of my age. She told me that quite a few women of her age had asked her to read it also; and then my granddaughter overheard us and relayed the same message. They asked me to read the book. A week after this discussion Warren Smith, a respected discernment minister, published a book titled Another Jesus Calling that shares his concerns about this devotional. Later I learned that Pastor Bob DeWaay had also written a lengthy article titled “Toxic Devotion: A Review of Sarah Young’s—Jesus Calling.” I found it interesting that he would call the book “toxic” recalling that “lye” is also considered toxic. Substantial excerpts from both of these men in their excellent reports will be included later in my analysis
In my reading I first noticed that even in the introduction to Jesus Calling Sarah Young makes some troubling remarks:
I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. (Jesus Calling, p. xii)
I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God. (Jesus Calling, p. xii)
I have written them [my writings] 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. (Jesus Calling, p. xiii-xiv)
Yet these comments seem to me to totally contradict these Scriptures:
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
– Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
– Deuteronomy 4:2 (NIV)
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.
– Revelation 22:18 (NIV)
Has not Jesus already said everything that He came to say? Has He not said in 2Timothy that what He has already given us is all we need and that only those words in the Bible are “God-breathed” and inspired by Him? If He Himself has said in His Word that no more is to be added to what He has said, then isn’t the Jesus of “Jesus Calling” contradicting Himself? Isn’t this “another Jesus” (2Corinthians 11:4) speaking?
Is not Sarah Young challenging the sufficiency of Scripture?
Another topic mentioned over 300 times is that of “His Presence.” It implies the presence of the real Jesus Christ but careful examination proves (1Thessalonians 5:21) otherwise. The following points are from the website report of noted discernment author, Pastor Bob DeWaay, titled “Toxic Devotion: A Review of Sarah Young’s—Jesus Calling.” This excerpt from Pastor DeWaay’s report begins with a quotation from Jesus Calling:
“Let Me infuse My Presence into your thoughts. As your mind stops racing, your body relaxes and you regain awareness of Me…. There are actually more than four dimensions in this world where you live. In addition to the three dimensions of space and the one of time, there is the dimension of openness to My presence.” (May 24)
Here Young teaches Eastern ideas, claiming their spiritual source as Jesus. This is rather shocking, as is the entire book. The apostle John teaches the tangibility of Jesus who bodily ascended to heaven. John was an apostle who spoke authoritatively for God who had seen “Jesus Christ come in the flesh.” Sarah Young has not. Here is what John said in his first epistle:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus Calling portrays a spirit Jesus (Young does not claim to have seen the bodily raised Christ, but rather experienced an encounter with a spirit Jesus through an experience she had with nature) and thus fails the test of spirits. This lack of tangibility that the apostle John describes is fatal to her claims. Anyone can claim to have had a subjective encounter with a metaphysical being and call it “awareness of Presence.” Even [Eckhart] Tolle does that. Yet Young has sold far more than 5 million books. [See Pastor DeWaay’s report: http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue125.htm]
I found myself in full agreement with DeWaay’s report. Christ sent the promised Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. His presence with us is a promise we already believe and have experienced; it is not an altered state of consciousness. Sarah Young refers to this mystical “Presence” over 300 times in her book. Yet Scripture tells us
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
– Acts 1:8-11 (NIV)
Notice that Jesus went up in bodily form and will come back in the same way and not as a spirit presence as Sarah Young presents a Him.
Warren Smith has written a book entitled Another Jesus Calling which is devoted to the details of God Calling and Jesus Calling. In his book Warren delves even deeper into the extensive topic of the “Presence” that is so often emphasized in Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. Warren Smith noticed, “In Jesus Calling ‘Jesus’ promotes the experience of his ‘Presence’” above God’s Word. [Source: https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17704]
On p. 233 Ms. Young incorrectly misquotes Scriptures by adding the words “My Presence”: “My Word is a lamp to your feet; My Presence is a Light for your path.” [Emphasis mine]
Additional references may be found on pp. 3, 13, 135, 352, 314 of Jesus Calling.
Yet that is not Biblically correct as we see when we compare it to Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” See additional Bible verses: Psalm 119: 103-104; 138:2; Luke 11:35; 2Timothy 3: 16-17. Yet the word “Presence” seems to appear more than the Word “Jesus” in Sarah Young’s writings.
Interestingly, Jesus did promise that while his “Presence” would not be with His followers after He left them the Holy Spirit would be forever with them. Pastor Larry DeBruyn makes this clear distinction below in his beautifully titled article “The Present of ‘His Presence’.” Below are selected excerpts. I would encourage you to read the article in its entirety.
God’s Presence – Jesus’ Promise
Jesus promised that He would not leave His disciples to be orphans in the world after He departed. He would not abandon them. He promised to send to them another Comforter to be as equally present with them as He had been; the marvelous difference being that while Jesus had been present with the the disciples, the Spirit of God would be present in them! The time of the Spirit’s indwelling presence however, would not come before Jesus’ glorification – that is, until after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. Then Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter or Paraclete, to be His proxy Presence. Through the Holy Spirit Who proceeded from Him and the Father (John16:26, “whom I will send unto you from the Father”), the Lord Jesus Christ would abundantly infuse His Presence into the lives of those who by faith belonged to Him, both individually and collectively. As Jesus stated and John interpreted:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast [The Feast of Tabernacles], Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
That coming of His Presence Jesus did not compare to a well, a creek or a stream, but to “rivers of living water” (plural), the supply of which might be compared to the Mississippi River and all its tributaries. But unlike the Mississippi, His divine presence would not be polluted, but pure – it would be living water.
Questions: Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? What is it that some Christians are seeking after that the Spirit of Christ does not already supply? Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what in God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest? (See Hebrews 4:9-10.)
God’s Presence – Pentecost….
This presence is real and abiding. Christ dwells in believers. This is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In Christ, the Holy Spirit, who “is the earnest [down payment] of our inheritance,” has “sealed” [stamped] “us until the redemption of the purchased possession [our. persons]” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Our eternal destiny involves His Presence until the completion of our redemption. As Jesus told His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Although Jesus would no longer be physically present even with His faithful followers, the Spirit, whom He would send to take His place, would, and by faith we have that presence NOW! The Spirit of Christ is both with us and in us! (Romans 8:9b) Hebrews tells the people of the promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” ( Hebrews 13:5)
Question: Of this pledged-permanent presence, I would ask, “How can we meditate or contemplate ourselves into it?” The answer is, “We can’t!” By faith God gives it (Galatians 3:2). For this reason, I never pray for the Lord to be “with” me. He already is!…
His Proactive Presence….
The divine presence descends to us (John 3:13). Unlike Mystic Spirituality, we do not ascend to it. Jesus illustrated that the presence of the Spirit may be compared to a wind which blows upon a human soul (John 3:8), and we can no more control the presence of the Spirit than we can control the wind or the weather. As such, union with Christ cannot be activated or initiated by Mystic disciplines or rituals, but only cultivated. Union with Christ is reactive and interactive. God initiates, we respond. As to this important distinction, A.J. Gordon wrote that,
The method of grace is precisely the reverse of the method of legalism. The latter is holiness in order to union with God; the former, union with God in order to holiness.
We do not get at this union via the legalism of our own works or by engaging in rituals called “spiritual disciplines.” This union with Christ comes to all believers for reason of Holy Spirit baptism whereby they are “union-Ed” with Christ and with one another (1Corinthians 12:13). In the aftermath of the Spirit’s baptism, communion with the indwelling Spirit of Christ can be facilitated via our Bible reading (the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit do testify concerning Christ, John 5:39; 15:26), meditation on Scripture, prayer, witnessing, singing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” in our hearts and to each other, being thankful, submitting to one another, corporate worship, observing the Lord’s Table, and so forth (Acts 13: 48-52; Ephesians 5: 18-21)….
These thoughts of Pastor DeBruyn warrant our fullest attention not just because we respect his stature as a discernment writer but, more importantly, because they will keep us from spiritual peril.
We began this writing by citing evangelical Christians who are in the mood of trying to experience the divine presence. Seemingly, they want to “feel” their way into it. Yet, the Bible teaches that the experience of God’s Presence in our lives depends upon His initiating His work both for us and in us. We can no more experience God’s Presence than we can resurrect ourselves from the dead or seat ourselves with Him in Heaven (Ephesians 2:1-10). This wonderful union can only be appropriated by objective faith, not by subjective feelings. [Source: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-present-of-his-presence.html]
Question 1: Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? What is it that some Christians are seeking after that the Spirit of Christ does not already supply? Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what in God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest? (See Hebrews 4:9-10.)
Question 2: Of this pledged-permanent presence, I would ask, “How can we meditate or contemplate ourselves into it?” The answer is, “We can’t!” By faith God gives it (Galatians 3:2). For this reason, I never pray for the Lord to be “with” me. He already is!…
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on 1 Peter 3:7”. “Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-peter-3.html. 1870.