Exposing the Errors of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
“Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence,” by Sarah Young, is a New York Times bestseller, having sold over 17 million copies. This book was published by Thomas Nelson and here is the product description at their website: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior's voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace. Jesus is calling out to you in the same way. Maybe you share the author’s need for a great sense of “God with you”. Or perhaps Jesus seems distant without you knowing why. Or maybe you have wandered farther from Him that you ever imagined you would. Here is a year’s worth of daily readings from Young’s journals to bring you closer to Christ and move your time with Him from monologue to a dialogue. Each day is written as if Jesus Himself were speaking to you. Because He is. Do you hear Him calling?”
It is an odd concept to me that so many would purchase a book in search of words of “reassurance, comfort, and hope” when we already have such encouraging words in the Bible – God’s holy and inspired Words. Sadly, many seem to not be satisfied with God’s Word today and they seek more. They seek a personal experience akin to contemplative prayer a practice which is altogether dangerous for a true believer. Additionally, believers do not need this book to move our “time with Him from monologue to a dialogue.” We already have the ability to be in communication with God; we speak to God through prayer and God speaks to us through His Word and by laying things on our hearts. The Holy Spirit leads, guides, directs, and corrects each believer (John 16:13). If Jesus had laid words and scriptures on Sarah Young’s heart, they would be for her alone. In reading through this blog I believe the reader will come to the conclusion “another” Jesus has been communicating with her.
Here is some information from an article entitled “The Strange Saga of ‘Jesus Calling,’ The Evangelical Bestseller You’ve Never Heard Of” that highlights many of the problems with this book: “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in his Presence” is a devotional, a mainstay genre in Christian publishing and in the daily lives of many Christians. Christians who value the idea of nurturing a personal relationship with Jesus—or of the idea of spending time each day in quiet contemplation—often use devotionals as a tool to accompany prayer and Bible-reading. What sets apart “Jesus Calling” is that it is written in the voice of Jesus Christ, presented as speaking directly to the reader. This Jesus who spouts feel-good mysticisms like, “As you walk along your life-path holding My hand, you are already in touch with the essence of heaven: nearness to Me.” The book’s soothing tone has made it wildly popular among believers, but its apparent claims to contain new revelation from God have also made it controversial.
The other Jesus who supposedly said the words of this book to her refers to himself as Presence, with a capital P over 80 times. Here are just a few examples: From the Jan. 2 entry: “Relax in my healing Presence.” Jan. 8: “Softly I announce my Presence. Shimmering hues of radiance tap gently on your conscious.” From the Feb. 24 entry: “Be still in the light of my Presence while I communicate love to you.” From the March 27 entry: “Be still in my Presence even though countless tasks clamor for your attention.” April 24: “Rest in the stillness of my Presence while I prepare you for this day.” Sept. 3: “Let the dew of my Presence refresh your mind and heart.” From the Dec. 5 entry: “Let my Presence override everything you experience.”
And, this is the entry for May 24th: “Bring me your mind for rest and renewal. Let me infuse my Presence into your thoughts. As your mind stops racing, your body relaxes and you regain awareness of me. This awareness is vital to your spiritual well-being; it is your lifeline, spiritually speaking. 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. This dimension transcends the others, giving you glimpses of heaven while you still reside on earth. This was part of my original design for mankind. Adam and Eve used to walk with me in the garden, before their expulsion from Eden. I want you to walk with me in the garden of your heart, where I have taken up permanent residence.”
Upon examination of the way the term “Presence” is used in the book, “From A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” by Eckhart Tolle (new age guru promoted by Oprah) a comparison can be drawn. Tolle says, “Awareness is the Power that is concealed within the present moment. That is why we may also call it Presence. The ultimate purpose of human existence, which is to say, your purpose is to bring that power into this world…Only Presence can free you of the ego and you can only be present now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Only Presence can undo the past in you and thus transform your state of consciousness.” The new age influence in both books is quite apparent, but sadly those who are biblically illiterate and may be seeking to understand Jesus and Christianity, most likely won’t recognize the new age flavor in what they are reading.
According to bible study tools.com, the word presence is found 108 times in the Bible, but a good number of these times it is used to show location such as in Acts 5:41 which says, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” There are some scriptures which speak of worshiping and use the word presence such as Ps. 100:2 which says, “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” But, the critical point to understand concerning the word “Presence” is that there are no scriptures in which Jesus uses this word to refer to Himself.
Here are two portions from a video by Kent Philpott, Baptist minister, who has written on the trance state in pagan religions, which are quite helpful in understanding the unbiblical foundation of this book:
Please view the video from 4:02 to 5:11 and also from 6:33 to 8:18.It is quite interesting to hear this pastor say Sarah Young’s description of being enveloped in brilliant light, and profound peace, was similar to those who participate in neo-pagan religions. And, then we hear that she quoted Ps. 46:10 in her Jan. 1 entry. Many in the contemplative prayer movement use this scripture to justify what are actually new age practices. Sadly, we even have popular Bible teachers such as Beth Moore who was featured on “The Be Still DVD,” released in April 2007, promoting this practice. Other speakers include Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Max Lucado, and many others. Richard Foster and Dallas Willard are two of the main proponents of contemplative prayer in the modern church world today. An important point to remember concerning Ps. 46:10 is that a study of it will show this is actually a rebuke from God to those striving against Him, and in no way directs us to centering prayer, the silence, or any type of participation in contemplative prayer.
Here is some more information concerning the problems with “Jesus Calling,” and its influence, from an article entitled: “10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling” from November 11, 2015: “Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus Calling’ is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. Its publisher, Thomas Nelson, is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through these segments.”
Also, from this article we learn, “Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphasis of the Bible. For example, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. Michael Horton says, ‘In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.’ While this is not necessarily an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Horton adds, ‘The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history.’’
Additionally, this article points out that, “Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, middle-aged woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) speaking like this: ‘When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.’ Or again, ‘Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe.’ And, ‘Bring me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My Peace.’ Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?”
Another important point from the article is, “Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that “Jesus Calling” has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed references to “God Calling” (a new age channeled book), but also in the words she claims to have received from Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of the revelation she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here, other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive. As for the message, it can be reduced to one point: ‘Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.’ Compared with the Psalms, for example, ’Jesus Calling’ is remarkably shallow. … The Psalms first place before us the mighty acts of God and then call us to respond in confession, trust, and thankfulness. But in ‘Jesus Calling’ I’m repeatedly exhorted to look to Christ, rest in Christ, trust in Christ, to be thankful and long for a deeper sense of his presence, with little that might provoke any of this. Which means that I’m directed not actually to Christ but to my own inner struggle to be more trustful, restful, and thankful. It is noteworthy that the first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history. The message of ‘Jesus Calling’ is, thus, very different from the message of the Bible.”
Here is some important information to consider from Warren Smith’s (a former new ager) 2014 booklet, “The New Age Implications of Jesus Calling.” He brings out examples of such new age practices, ideas, and terminology as visualization, new age meditation, co-creation, etc.
“Sarah Young engaged in the occult/New Age practice of ‘visualization’ when she ‘pictured’ her family ‘encircled by God’s protective Presence.’ In the book entitled ‘Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs’ that described ‘God Calling’ as a channeled New Age book, a specific chapter on visualization warns about the spiritual dangers of this New Age practice: ‘Visualization’ and ‘guided imagery’ have long been recognized by sorcerers of all kinds as the most powerful and effective methodology for contacting the spirit world in order to acquire supernatural power, knowledge, and healing. Such methods are neither taught nor practiced in the Bible as helps to faith or prayer. Sarah Young just assumed that the ‘light’ she visualized enveloping her family and herself was from God. But one cannot assume anything in regards to spiritual experiences and spiritual encounters—especially after engaging in the occult practice of visualization. Because ‘many false prophets are gone out into the world,’ we are told to ‘try the spirits’ to see whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). The apostle Paul warned of deceptive ‘seducing spirits’ (1 Timothy 4:1) and how Satan can come as ‘an angel of light’” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
“’Jesus Calling’ readers are led to equate Sarah Young’s contemplative prayer process with biblical meditation. Biblical meditation, if you will, is an active attentiveness and thinking upon Scripture. Eastern/New Age meditation is more subjective and open to spiritual suggestion. In his August 5th message, Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus’ promotes this New Age form of meditation and contemplative prayer: ‘Make your mind like a still pool of water, ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it’ (p. 228). Stilling and quieting one’s mind may seem to be peaceful and godly, but passively stilling the mind is what New Age channelers do to make contact with the spirit world. Throughout ‘Jesus Calling,’ Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus’ casually introduces New Age terminology in his channeled messages. Not that long ago the following terms were sure indicators of someone’s metaphysical/New Age orientation: co-create, p. 362; Love-Light, p. 139; Light-bearer, p. 214; supernatural plane, p. 241; living channel, p. 303; paradigm shift, p. 85; true self, p. 381; ultimate reality, p. 209, and universal presence, p. 5. But, now these terms are commonly found in ‘Christian’ books like ‘Jesus Calling’ and are rapidly becoming part of the everyday language of the church.”
“Regarding other overlapping New Age terminology in ‘Jesus Calling,’ Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus’ states: ‘I can glean Joy out of sorrow, Peace out of adversity. Only a Friend who is also the King of kings could accomplish this divine alchemy’ (P. 260). However, the term ‘divine alchemy’ is an ancient, mystical, occult/New Age term that raises multiple spiritual concerns. The word ‘occult’ is defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary as follows: ‘. . . designating or of certain alleged mystic arts, such as magic, alchemy, astrology.’ By Googling divine alchemy on the Internet, one will see countless references to the occult. The term divine alchemy is frequently found in the teachings of New Age leaders such as Marianne Williamson. In her book, ‘A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles,’ she uses the term divine alchemy to reference the same practice of meditation Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus’ is advocating. On page 281, she writes: ‘Meditation is time spent with God in silence and quiet listening. It is the time during which the Holy Spirit has a chance to enter into our minds and perform His divine alchemy.’ Once again, it is inconceivable that the true Jesus Christ would ever use a term like divine alchemy that is so highly identified with the occult.”
In ‘Jesus Calling,’ Young’s ‘Jesus’ introduces the idea of co-creation in conjunction with the term ‘collaborating.’ Webster’s New World Dictionary’s sole definition of a collaborationist is ‘a person who cooperates with an enemy invader.’ Young’s ‘Jesus’ plays right into this New Age collaboration when he talks of humanity collaborating and co-creating with him: ‘This is a very practical way of collaborating with Me. I, the Creator of the universe, have deigned to co-create with you,’(P. 362). Co-creation is a crucial New Age concept that entails the necessity of man recognizing he is God and then acting as God to affirm, visualize, envision, and to ultimately co-create with God a positive peaceful future. Thus, there is a definite overlap of terms as Young’s ‘Jesus’ similarly teaches that humanity can partner with God through the co-creation process. Barbara Marx Hubbard’s New Age ‘Christ’ refers to a future world peace that can be visualized and co-created by mankind. This co-created world peace is referred to as the ‘alternative to Armageddon’ in her book ‘Revelation.’ But the prophet Jeremiah warned about a peace that seems to heal but is, in reality, no peace at all in Jeremiah 8:11 – ‘For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’
“Consistent with many of the other New Age implications contained in her channeled messages, Young’s ‘Jesus’ introduces the New Age idea of ‘God’s Dream’ in ‘Jesus Calling’ when he states: ‘I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach,’(p. 6). ‘God’s Dream’ is a deceptive scheme. The term ‘God’s Dream’ is yet another part of the overlapping New Age language streaming into the church. ‘God’s Dream’ is a vague, loosely defined New Age metaphor that attempts to unify different religions and faith groups in an unbiblical effort to attain world peace. However, the true Jesus Christ warned that deception and the coming of Antichrist—not a ‘God’s Dream’ peace movement—will be what actually precedes His ultimate and glorious return” (Matthew 24:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5).
This is the last paragraph from Warren Smith’s article: “This much is for sure. The true Christ doesn’t mix truth with New Age teachings. This is what a false Christ does. When asked by His disciples what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the world, the true Jesus Christ said that deception would be the sign—that many would come in His name and pretend to be Him (Matthew 24:3-5). And while this might be hard for some people to accept, His warning specifically applies to false Christ's like Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus.’”
Recognizing all the concerns addressed in this blog about “Jesus Calling,” it is interesting to note some of those who have wholeheartedly endorsed it.
Max Lucado - “It would be hard to overstate the impact of the writings of Sarah Young. She is a stream in the desert. Her words quench our thirst.”
Mark Batterson (Author of the Circle Maker) - “I believe that God honors bold prayers and is often just waiting to be invited to intervene in our lives with answered prayers, miracles, and fulfilled dreams. That’s why I love Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling.” On a daily basis, it invites people to enter a place of powerful prayer where their hearts are open to His words of encouragement, comfort, hope, and peace.”
Dr. Jack Graham - “’Jesus Calling’ is a source of spiritual peace and personal hope to millions of people. In the last decade, this amazing devotional has ministered God’s love and strength and has lifted believers into the presence of Christ. I have personally read ‘Jesus Calling’ regularly and have been blessed beyond measure. I am grateful to God for this devotional masterpiece, which will speak life into generations to come.”
Robert Morris - “’Jesus Calling’ is this generation’s ‘My Utmost for His Highest.’ When you read it, you’ll be drawn closer to God and His Word.”
James Robison - “Sarah Young’s devotions are incredible. ‘Jesus Calling: Peace in His Presence’ is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Roma Downey (new age Catholic) - “I love my daily devotional, ‘Jesus Calling.’ It’s a blessing in my day to read.”
Rev. James Martin, (Jesuit priest and author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage”) - “Sarah Young won me over when she said, quite bluntly, that clearly her book wasn’t Jesus speaking! Rather, as she writes, the presence of the Lord in her life inspired her to write what Jesus might say. The result, then, is that rare combination of sensible, sensitive, and sympathetic. It’s easy to hear Jesus’ voice in Sarah Young’s words: the calming voice of the One who says, ‘Don’t worry,’ ‘Have courage,’ and ‘Trust in Me.’ For those who have not encountered His own words, “Jesus Calling” offers an invitation. For those who have already encountered His words, “Jesus Calling” offers still more encouragement.”
It isn’t as if no one has warned about the dangers of this book. Lighthouse Trails has actually been warning about it for three years now. On October 25th, 2013, they announced they were publishing Warren Smith’s book entitled “’Another Jesus’ Calling.” Since that time they have also published three booklets by Smith, along with several articles. Additionally, Lighthouse Trails sent Smith’s booklet “10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book” to over 100 Christian leaders. (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=21599)
As we move closer in time towards the One World Religion we see more and more “Christian” leaders endorsing books promoting unbiblical practices. In addition, we see the inclusion of Catholics in mainstream Christianity. True believers understand the commands to remain separate in 2 Cor. 6:14-17, Rev. 18:4, and elsewhere. We pray for people to recognize the warnings concerning these unbiblical books, as well as the false unity all around us.