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Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence

July 13, 2011

Tim Challies:

I had no knowledge of either the book or the author when I began reading Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling (having been asked by some of the readers of this site to do so). I had seen the book as a fixture on the Christian bestselling lists, but had never taken a look at it. The first thing I learned is that it has over 450 reviews on Amazon where it is holding down a 5-star average, something that is no small accomplishment. I downloaded it to my Kindle and began to read.

……………………………………………………..

You will not be surprised to learn that the content of this book, each of the devotionals, is a message Young has received from the Lord—a message meant to provide a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.”

We cannot miss this. 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?

She makes no such claim; not directly, anyway. At one point she says, “I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God.” Later she says “The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant [without error] Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard.” But this is all she says. While she clarifies that her writings must be subservient to the Bible, she does not actually tell us what they are or how we are to regard them. Are they authoritative? Are they in any way binding on her or on us? If they are not inspired and not inerrant, what exactly are they? There are no answers forthcoming because immediately 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? InJesus 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. After all, it was not reading Scripture that proved her most important spiritual discipline, but this listening, this receiving of messages from the Lord. It is not Scripture she brings to us, not primarily anyway, but these messages from Jesus.

On this basis alone this book is very suspect and needs to be treated with the utmost care. Young offers us words that she insists come straight from the Lord. But she gives no proof that we should expect the Lord to speak to us this way; all she offers is her own experience of it. At this point we are left with a few options. We can stop reading altogether, we can continue to read while rejecting her claims that these are words from the Lord, or we can read and take her at her word. Personally, unless reviewing the book, I would abandon it immediately. If she claims to be speaking Jesus’ words, I am no longer interested. However, for the sake of reviewing it, I continued to read.

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