The measuring rod that differentiates between deceit and truth is the Word of God. Truth is confirmed through rightly interpreting the Word of God. Sarah Young, author of “Jesus Calling devotionals, relies on her own experiences and then attaches scripture to validate them as truth. This method is an eisegetical (eisegesis) approach to understanding scripture and is dangerous. It is also known as *Contemplative Spirituality that relies heavily on one’s spiritual experiences rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit with understanding and in obedience to God’s Word.
Scripture: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
In this approach she determines spiritual truth through her own experiences, hearing from something outside of herself, rather than extracting the truth from its scriptural context. Yet the Word explains that scripture was written down as examples and warnings for us in these last days:
Scripture: These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 1 Corinthians 10:11
Therefore, the examples that God wants us to look at first and foremost are written in the Word of God and not given through any person’s spiritual experiences.
The Word of God teaches that the person of faith should test every spirit to see whether or not it originates from Truth and lines up with the Word of God:
Scripture: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” 1 John 4:1
Scripture: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17
Testing the Spirit of “Young’s Jesus”
In her devotional on *December 25th Young’s “jesus” says the following:
“Try to imagine what I gave up when I came into your world as a baby. I set aside My Glory so that I could identify with mankind. I accepted the limitations of infancy under the most appalling conditions—a filthy stable. There was nothing glorious about that setting, though angels lit up the proclaiming, “Glory!” to awestruck shepherds.”
The Jesus I know as related in God’s Word humbled himself and became our servant in order to reconcile us to God the Father and to pay the price for our sins. Young’s “jesus” speaks of the place of his birth as an “appalling filthy” stable. So we are led to believe it was not a joyous occasion for Jesus, but rather he was resentful and prideful of the humble conditions of his birth.
Scripture: “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. John 3:19
Scripture: “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2: 1-11
God’s Word instructs all believers to learn how to be content in every circumstance, but Young’s Jesus was not content with His birth:
Scripture: The Apostle Paul said: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Philippians 4:12
Scripture tells us that Jesus disregarded the shame of even death on the cross. But Young’s Jesus regards the conditions of his birth as filthy. Even God’s servant, David, expresses delight in doing the will of God, but Young’s Jesus grudgingly (my emphasis) leaves heaven in order to do His Father’s will to secure our salvation?
I think not. But let’s examine scripture:
Scripture: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2
Scripture: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalm 40:8 NLT
God purposed the place of His Son’s birth to be in a humble place in Bethlehem: Micah 5:2
Sarah Young’s “Original” Devotional
On Augugst 23rd of her original hard cover devotional, Young’s Jesus speaks of disciplining Abraham for “Son-Worship and idolatry:
“Remember the extreme measures I used with Abraham and Isaac. I took Isaac to the 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.”
God disciplines Abraham by forcing him to sacrifice his son, Isaac?
I think not. Let’s examine scripture:
Scripture: “By faith Abraham, when tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” Hebrews 11:17
Abraham’s submission to God’s will in offering up Isaac was faith in His promise that through Isaac the seed of redemption would come and bring salvation and blessings to the world. That is why Abraham was able to offer him up to God, believing also in Isaac’s and the Savior’s resurrection:
Scripture: “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.
We will worship and then “we will come back to you” (added emphasis). Genesis 22:4-5
Scripture: “Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together”. Genesis 22:8
Note: In later publishing’s of Young’s devotional, this entry concerning Abraham is eliminated, alternated by Jesus’ disapproving remarks instead directed towards Jacob’s favoritism of his son, Joseph: Young’s Jesus: “I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love.”
What’s the Problem with Sarah Young’s Devotional?
In Sarah Young’s devotional, “Jesus Calling”, she writes from a first person perspective, speaking Jesus’ words as she believes Jesus has spoken to her, personally. In her Introduction she mentions being inspired by two anonymous writers of a devotional book called “God Calling”. These two anonymous writers claimed waiting in God’s presence to receive messages from Him and then wrote them down. Their book, God Calling are those messages. Young desired to hear from God using this same method. Her desire was to be in God’s presence to receive His message. So, she too, would sit with pen and paper waiting to hear from Him (Her Introduction).
Her devotional book, Jesus Calling includes those messages. Unfortunately, many of her readers relate Jesus speaking to Sarah as also speaking directly to them through what she writes. But the truth is; Jesus speaks to only believers through His Word and Holy Spirit, and not through any other mediator.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:31
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25
In some areas she generalizes concerning a circumstance and weaves scriptural interpretation through her message:
Sarah Young’s Devotional on February 16:
“Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.” (Young)
This sounds to me as very similar to the message of a horoscope. (DF)
Since this is a devotional, then her readers may apply it, maybe, to their present circumstance. Perhaps you might say the reader should not assume this, but if the circumstance occurs for them personally, might the reader consider it providential?
The problem with this is that she presents herself as a “mediator” through which Jesus is speaking (calling).
She attaches scripture to her messages, following her devotional, rather than placing them first as a basis of application. She interprets scripture within her personal experience instead of understanding scripture within its context. More importantly, she doesn’t mention a relationship with Jesus Christ through accepting the” gospel message” as a “pre-requisite” to hearing Jesus’ voice. This is excluded from her Introduction.
The Danger: I, personally, see the danger is her messages can become a quick fix to seeking God’s guidance rather than meditating on the Word of God and waiting on Him to apply His Word to one’s own individual circumstance through obedience.
(Philippians 4: 4-7, Proverbs 3: 5-6, Isaiah 64:4)
She eliminates the importance of a personal salvation and a personal relationship with God as a basis of understanding scripture and hearing the voice of God.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28
There is safety and strength in praying and working together.
Scripture: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
There is safety and strength in the Body of Christ when we confess to one another our errors and remember to pray for one another. It is my prayer that by exposing what I believe is a counterfeit to God’s Word, it will be a help and a warning to all who are seeking the Lord’s guidance and Truth.
There are many counterfeits to having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I believe that Sarah Young’s messages are one of them. May the Lord through His grace and His Word, give you His wisdom and discernment concerning this matter (James 1: 2-5).
My Personal Testimony
I became a victim of listening to Sarah Young. It was during a time when I was earnestly seeking the Lord’s guidance. Her words where intriguing and there were times I experienced exactly what she said on a given day such as becoming sick on the day she said she was sick (February 16th). The Lord has disciplined me concerning listening to another voice instead of His own. Therefore, I hope to warn anyone who may become so intrigued as I was with this devotional and fall into Satan’s trap. Please read my following testimony:
At the time I came across Young’s devotional I was prayerfully interceding and relying on God’s Word for guidance and direction on behalf of my sick brother (bone cancer) whom God was restoring to faith. He was earnestly seeking the Lord. I had given him a devotional by Charles Stanley, along with information on how he could access Dick Woodward’s online Bible Study. We periodically would discuss scriptures and how it could apply to His life.
One day, he called, excited to tell me that he’d just received Sarah Young’s devotional, “Jesus Calling” as a gift from a friend. I had never heard of Sarah Young or her book. My brother along with his female companion immediately began reading Young’s devotional. They were so awed by her writing that I decided to download a copy and began reading it for myself. I had never read a devotional where the author writes in the first person, as “Jesus” speaking. My first impression was that it was quite similar to how horoscopes are written. However, I found the devotions intriguing and received much comfort from them. Ironically, I soon began experiencing exactly what the messages described on some of the same calendar days. I continued my own Bible Study, devotions and prayers but at the same time I was drawn to Sarah Young’s devotional as I began experiencing what she described Jesus saying in her journal.
On the morning of February 16, 2013 I woke up with flu-like symptoms. That morning I read in her devotional the message about being sick. This odd circumstance seemed “providential” and a confirmation that the Lord wanted to speak to me through her messages. As my brother’s health continued to grow worse and he became terminally ill, I felt drawn even more to her words, portrayed as Jesus speaking. It seemed prophetic as to how she described daily my own fears and misgivings through the words of Jesus followed by scriptures.
A month later, approximately 6:30 a.m. on March 20th, I received a call from my brother’s female companion, telling me that he had passed away. A few hours prior to receiving that call , I encountered a dark, foreboding presence with a visible message on the ceiling of my bedroom with the words- “free spirit”. What was unsettling was the fact that my brother’s companion used those same words to let me know that my brother had passed away, saying, “Your brother is gone and is now a “free spirit”. The words “free spirit” is “New Age” jargon. And to hear that, instead of, “He was with the Lord”, was devastating. I did not think I was going to recover from this, as this was far from receiving God’s comfort. I became confused and depressed, but I made up my mind to “wait” patiently on the Lord for His discernment and understanding. That is when God showed me through His Word that I had erred in heeding Young’s messages.
I survived the encounter through prayer and the study of God’s Word. Shortly thereafter, I asked the Lord to show me what went wrong, and received insight from the following scriptures: (Isaiah 8:19-22 & Isaiah 9: 1-7 & John 4: 12-17):
During the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s people were in darkness and were consulting mediums (Isaiah 8: 19-22). The region of the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali were occupied by gentiles and God’s people were influenced by their pagan practices. However, it was prophesized through Isaiah that in this same region Jesus would pierce the darkness with His Light (Truth). (Isaiah 9: 1-7, Matthew 4: 12-17).
Jesus pierced the darkness with His Word (light) and comfort, and I am so grateful to Him for His faithfulness to help me overcome this grave deception through the guidance of His Holy Spirit and His Word (Isaiah 9: 2, Psalm 37:23-24).
A year later, early in the morning on the anniversary of my brother’s death, I received God’s reassurance of my brother’s salvation and comfort that he was indeed with the Lord. However, before and even following the event of his death, it was God’s Word which gave me all the confirmation I needed ( John 3:16, Ephesians 1:13, Romans 10:9, 2 Corinthians 1:4).
As far as the person of Sarah Young, I do not judge her. Only God is our judge. I can only say that as believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, it is our ministry to lead others to salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ through obedience and faith in His Word and guidance through His Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:11)
Scripture: “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Mark 13:22
Resources & References:
What is Contemplative Spirituality by GotQuestions.org: http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html
Devotional Book: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Book Review: Another Jesus Calling by Warren B. Smith
The Bible’s Abraham an Idolater? http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=14315
My personal Book Review of “Jesus Calling” in Goodreads and comments: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381421.Jesus_Calling