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Transformation
November 23, 2015

As a young man, I often spent time around older men so I could receive their wisdom and counsel. I wanted to hear about their experience of living as Christians, and especially their experience of growing in holiness. I wanted their assurance that they had seen significant success in the battle against sin—not just that they had made hesitant little tip-toes toward holiness, but that they had become far more holy than they ever would have thought possible.

Sadly, few things were as alarming and discouraging as hearing older men talk about their sin. This was especially true of sexual sin. Not once did I hear men testify to pronounced, significant success in this area. Rather, I heard them speak of it as a constant trial and as an area of very little progress. Most often it was said not with brokenness but with a kind of wink-wink nudge-nudge. “I’m only human, you know.” “I may be fifty, but I’m still a man.” These men had given up the most blatant outward expressions of sexual immorality, but still had eyes that wandered and they still lived with fantasies playing in their minds.

What I kept hearing was, “Give it your best shot. Get rid of the most blatant sins. Don’t look at porn or commit adultery, but be realistic as well.” It’s like these men had reached a grudging, reluctant point of obedience that had smoothed out the roughest edges. And then they had determined that this was far enough. They thought it was unrealistic to expect much more of themselves. I was devastated when I heard an older friend I admired more than just about anyone else say, “I don’t think it matters where I get my appetite, as long as I eat at home.” Was that really the best I could hope for, that I’d be outwardly faithful to a wife but inwardly I would wander? Could I expect that I’d never really progress much beyond where I was as a young man? Did I have to resign myself to living forever with a mind that wandered and dreamed of all I didn’t have?

All the while I was reading the Bible and heard God say “[Treat] older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all [or absolute] purity” (1 Timothy 5:2) and “but among you, as is proper among the saints, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity” (Ephesians 5:3). I read about Job and the covenant he made that he would never look with lust upon a young woman. What I longed to hear from an exemplary older man was, “Yes, you can be far holier than you ever thought possible. I know, because I am far holier than I ever would have thought possible.”

It took many years and a lot of pondering God’s Word before I realized that God really can make his people far holier than they thought possible. The change began with a simple but life-changing realization: God would not tell me to do something I could not actually do. I read, “[Treat] older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2) and understood that God was saying, “You actually can treat older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. You actually can be far purer than you ever thought possible.” I read, “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity” and understood God was saying, “You actually can live without the constant sin and guilt of wandering eyes and a daydreaming mind. You can when you’re walking with me.”

I came to understand that God’s commands are not suggestions. They are not vague notions of propriety. They are not tasks or to-dos. Not to the Christian, that is. To the Christian, God’s commands are promises. They are promises that you really can be this, you really can have this, you really can do this if you take hold of what he offers. God does not merely give the command and then leave you to your own devices. That would be impossible. No, God gives the command and offers the means to obey and fulfill the command. He gives you the desire to put that sin to death, he gives you the desire to come alive to righteousness, and he gives you the Holy Spirit to make it all possible. When he gives you all this, there is nothing more to need! God commands so you can take hold of his promise and see him prove himself faithful. You actually can obey him all the way. You actually can be free from the sin, and not just in its broadest, most blatant forms.

To young men I want to say this (and young women and older men and older women): You can be far holier, far purer than you ever thought possible. You really can. You may not see your sin so completely and utterly vanquished that it never raises its ugly head again. But you can see massive, unbelievable success against that sin. You can, because God gives you a command. And where he gives a command, he also gives the means to obey.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Letters to the Editor
November 22, 2015

Blogs were never meant to be one-way communication. Because of the increasing difficulty in maintaining a helpful commenting section, I have recently added a Letters to the Editor feature. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received recently. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

Comments on Comments

I know others are disappointed with the demise of the comment section but I wanted to let you know how much more I enjoy the letters to the editor feature. While it wasn’t a huge problem with this blog, comments sections too often become a place for disrespect, argument, and unrelated rabbit trails and can be frustrating to wade through (not to mention the occasional raising of my ire!). With the letters feature, I just get the highlights (and a few lowlights) that are relevant to the topic at hand. Keep up the good work!
—Rick E, Hillsboro, OR

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I miss the comments section. I miss the encouragement of people who agree and the thought provoked by those who don’t… Or those who wish to add something. I’m not a commenter, but I’m a reader. Thanks!
—Jenny S, Mankato, MN

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Tim-I sure appreciate your Best Commentaries recommendations. What I REALLY miss is the comment section where many other Bible students and seasoned expositors added their recommendations to your list of helpful commentaries. The collected experience and wisdom was much more than comments- but help for us other expositors always seeking the best tools. Please bring these back. Thanks!
—Dave S, Dover, PA

Tim: To this point I have not found a way to maintain the old commenting threads without also opening up new ones. For now it looks like the section is either on or off. I’m working on it.

Comments on Jesus Calling and last week’s Letters to the Editor

I assume that I will not be the only one to comment on the Letters to the Editor #5. I want to commend you for posting the article that you did regarding Jesus Calling. You asked to become very unpopular; it shows that you’re not about blogging in order to gain the affirmation of the populace. Thank you for writing articles that are concerned with the approbation of God. Let me make three observations about the responses to your article. 1) All of the responses that you posted were written by women. Was that purposeful? Would you say that most of the responses you received were from women? I just want to point out that the demographic that love Jesus Calling the most seems to be middle aged women (like Sarah Young). Funny how Jesus sounds like a middle aged women in SY’s writings. 2) Many of the objectors to your article used their own experience as an argument for the validity of the book. The readers are so quick to justify their use of the devotional by the fact that THEY, and those dear to them, use it. Hmmm. Since when have our experiences fully vindicated us with respect to our opinions? 3) Why are we glossing over the fact that our hero (SY) has claimed, via her preface, that she wanted something more than Scripture? That claim alone should set off red flags. She has just claimed that God’s voice in Scripture is not, and was not, enough for her; there are no two ways about it. You can’t get around that. Sarah Young’s claims are alarming.
—Caleb H, Cambridge, ON

Tim: You were not the only one to comment on the fact that all the letters to the editor related to Jesus Calling were written by women. That is because all (or nearly all) the letters I received about Jesus Calling were by women. In my view this simply shows the core demographic that is purchasing, reading, and sharing the book.

Comments on A Call for Christian Extremists

Applause for your article, A Call for Christian Extremists. A couple of reflections: Among my like-minded heirs of the Reformation, the principled reaction to these thoughts are that Jesus saved us, He’s sanctifying us, that there’s nothing really to require that we get very extreme. This is the response of both orthodox and Arminian groups. My response to them in turn is that there are a lot of scriptures that hold out for us our high calling in Christ Jesus, and encourage us to press in. The other note is that from fellowship with Catholics I heard the idea, “The only tragedy is not to be a saint.” That came from some literary source. Being a saint is another name for Christian Extremist. It seems to me that there’s no room among the heirs of the Reformation for heroic holiness, especially as it resembles Catholicism.
—Bruce M, Arlington, MA

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Hi Tim, I want to agree completely with your article about Christian extremism - as I agree with nearly everything else you post. And yet, I don’t. Not quite. Here’s my quibble.

I think that the call to Christian extremism, to be zealots for a cause, finds expression only secondarily in good works. That’s hard to say, because I don’t for a moment want people to think they are unimportant. I agree they are essential. I am glad to have you calling us to be zealous for good works. Yet I believe they are still secondary. Because our true cause, the area where we truly need to focus our zeal and extremism, is the gospel of Christ. Like Paul, in the end we must be determined to know nothing except Christ crucified. That’s what it’s truly all about. That’s our cause. And the reason I think this is a point worth making, is because it’s this very distinction that differentiates Christians from the world. The world loves good works. The world hates Christ’s cross. Good works will earn us the world’s approval, but only the gospel of Christ crucified will change hearts. By all means let’s be extremists. But our cause is not good works. Our cause is Christ.
—Tim Z, Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia

Tim: I don’t disagree with you. However, a zealous love of the gospel will necessarily work itself out in good works. And these good works will be a distinctly Christian kind—done for the good of others and the glory of God. Anyone can do good works, but only Christians can perform the biblical definition of good works which are those done to God’s glory.

Comments on A Charle Brown Religion

I have always loved Peanuts and good old Charlie Brown. The Christmas special is much loved in my household and is watched numerous times each Christmas season. In fact I even trace my conversion to the special. When I was in my late teens, one viewing I was so overwhelmed by Linus reading from Luke, that after the show was over I had to leave the room and compose myself. It’s not cool or tough to see a 18-year-old weep. Raised in a non-Christian home with respect towards the Church, this special was all the Bible I would hear. Although I did have believing grandmothers, I was indifferent to religion. This began for me a serious look into Jesus and I began to read my Gideon New Testament. A few years later I was converted through a sermon that I was in Church for because of the young woman I was dating, whom I was trying to impress. She is now my wife of 28 years. But I look back at moment and it’s clear that God’s word—thanks to Sparky and through Linus—began something in me. So has been always a bit sad knowing Schulz drifted. But he stilled used Linus and the Bible throughout Peanuts. I will always enjoy Peanuts.
—Reg S, New Minas, NS

Comments about Protect Your Family With Circle

Thanks for reviewing Circle. I’ve look at the website and contacted the company and am very excited about this and how it will help families. It should be noted however, for your Canadian readers (I am one), Circle will be available for sale in Canada in 2016 according to the contact I’ve had with the company.
—Jon D, New Minas, NS

Tim: Wait, there are 2 comments in the same week from New Minas, NS? Wikipedia says the town has a population of 5,000. What are the chances?

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Hey Tim, would love to use this but when I went to order there was no option for Canada. How un-Canadian of you bro! Thanks for all you are doing for the kingdom. You and your family are in our prayers.
—Quentin W, Calgary, AB

Tim: This is correct. Circle plans to release the device beyond America in 2016. But, if you are like most Canadians, you ought to know how to work around such geographic limitations!

General Comments

I just had a brain spasm because my husband asked me if I knew that there was a new Indelible Grace album. Back in April, I pledged to support the IG VII on Kickstarter. I discussed this support at the time with my husband. Over the last several months, each time there was an update, I told him about it. On Sunday I got the download code for the new album and downloaded it, and have been listening since. This morning I put a link to the Bandcamp page on my facebook. So when my husband asked if I knew there was a new Indelible Grace CD, I looked at him like he was from another dimension. He explained that nothing is real to him until Challies links to it. Thought you’d want to know.
—Lindele E, Alexandria, VA

Tim: Now that’s just plain funny.

 

Satans Great Trick
November 18, 2015

One of Satan’s greatest tricks is to convince you that the sin you are being tempted with is a very small sin. “This is just a little one. It’s not like you’re going to kill anyone. It’s not like you’re committing adultery. You’ve done it before and God didn’t strike you down. The joy will by far outweigh the risk. We will keep this one between just you and me.” And too often you believe his lie. You indulge in what seems like just a little sin, a harmless peccadillo.

One of Satan’s greatest delights is to convince you that the sin you have just committed is a very big sin. That same sin that was so small in the future looms so large in the past. Now he whispers, “Oh, you have sinned so badly. You have sinned so big. How could you have done this? You’ve gone and done it this time—you’ve sinned beyond his grace.” And again, you believe the lie. You wallow in guilt and sink into despair.

Do you see the pattern? Do you see the cycle? Do you see the sheer evil of it? Satan’s great joy is to convince you that the sin you are about to commit is very small and the sin you have just committed is very large. He convinces you of this even when they are the very same sin. Don’t believe his lie! Don’t fall for his trick! But if and when you do, don’t give him his great delight.

There is hope, even when you fall for his trick for the thousandth time. The terrible reality is that there are no small sins, no minor offenses. There are always grave consequences for recklessly disobeying God’s commands. But your glorious confidence is that those consequences have already been faced and met and paid by God’s own Son. There are no sins so small that you can enjoy them with impunity, but no sins so big that they can take you beyond God’s saving grace.

Image credit: Shutterstock

A Call for Christian Extremists
November 16, 2015

The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem.

But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We are to bring glory to God by doing good for others. Allah may be glorified in maimed bodies and blood-soaked city streets, but God is glorified in acts of love and deeds of kindness. He is glorified in deeds done not to earn favor with God, but deeds done as an expression of gratitude because we have already received the favor of God. God is glorified as we serve others in his name. God is honored in the costly sacrifice of love.

Jesus himself spoke of the primacy of good works: “Let your light shine before others,” he said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His friend Peter said it as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [those who do not adhere to Christian teaching] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Apostle Paul would also echo the theme: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The theme pervades and dominates the New Testament. Does it pervade and dominate your life?

We make God’s love and presence known in these good works, these deeds done for the glory of God and the good of other people. These deeds communicate something of the heart of God and his love for mankind. And so he calls us to take every possible opportunity to love others with the love of God. We are to be thoughtful and creative, to apply ingenuity in our attempts to shock others with our deeds of love and kindness. We are to give generously of our time, talents, money, and whatever else God has given us. We are to forget about ourselves in service to him, to be willing to face pain, harm, or even death as we do these deeds.

So Christian, with zealotry on every heart and in every mind today, perhaps this is a time to ask about your own level of extremism. Are you eager to do good for others? Is this what motivates you? Is this the natural expression of your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said that you are a good works zealot? God calls you to nothing less.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Letters to the Editor
November 15, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

God Actually Spoke To Me
November 13, 2015

I want to hear God’s voice. I want him to speak to me in a personal way. I want to know that it’s really and truly him. Is that too much to ask?

It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is God’s joy to communicate to each one of his children in the most personal and intimate way. Our Father speaks to us. He speaks clearly and he speaks personally. He really does.

John Piper wrote about this once, describing a vivid encounter with God during his early-morning quiet time:

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning … God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.

As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

He goes on to share some of what God said to him in that time together—God spoke of his deeds, of his power, of his authority and sovereignty. And then, “Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites — this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.”

Now, what did this do in Piper? How did the shock of receiving this word from the Lord affect him? This is where he springs the big surprise.

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind — and your mind. We hear his very words. …

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5–7. That is where I heard them. O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.

Piper heard God’s voice and experienced genuine relationship with him through the Bible. Was it an impersonal experience? Did it leave him longing for something else somewhere else? No, not at all. It increased his intimacy and communion with God. It increased his confidence in the power and beauty of the Bible. It satisfied his desire to commune with God, yet made him long to experience even more of God in the pages of his Word.

So many people long for personal communication from God. They want to hear an audible voice or experience his whisper in the silence or see a sign. They want something, anything personal. But what they may fail to understand is that God’s voice in and through the Bible already is personal. In fact, it is the most deeply personal communication we can experience in this life. Why? Because it is truth divinely illuminated and applied from within. The Holy Spirit takes words given to all humanity, testifies to their truth, and applies them to us in the most precise and intimate ways. He speaks hope where we are hopeless, strength where we are weak, joy where we are sorrowful, rebuke where we are complacent. The believer, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, knows and discovers that the Bible is the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). It is as personal as personal gets.

Do you accept the Bible for what it is? Do you rejoice in it? Just read Psalm 19, Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and 4:1-2, Hebrews 4:12, and let yourself be amazed at all the Bible claims for itself. The Bible declares its uniqueness, its goodness, its necessity, its worth, its clarity, its sufficiency.

Piper says, “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation.” The sufficiency of the Bible means that we can be supremely satisfied in the voice of God as it comes through the Word of God. We don’t need to yearn for anything else. The Bible is sufficient to live a life that honors God, but also a life that is deeply intimate with God. The Bible is not abstract or distant. It is personal communication from a personal God. We have no reason to think that we will find a better or deeper experience of God anywhere else, at least on this side of heaven.

Piper aptly lays down the challenge:

The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling…

Whatever you desire outside the Bible will not be as good as what you find within the Bible. It will not be as clear. It will not be as trustworthy. It will not be as pure. You need nothing more.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Christians Know Better
November 12, 2015

I guess it could sound like the most arrogant claim a Christian can make. I guess it could come across as pride or outright hubris. But the boldness of the claim does not diminish its truth. The fact is, Christians know better.

Christians know better than Muslims. Christians know better than Hindus. Christians know better than “nones.” Christians know better than atheists. It’s just reality. But let’s be clear, Christians do not know better because of who they are or what they’ve done. Christians do not know better because of anything earned or innate. Christians know better only because they accept guidance about this world from outside this world.

We humans live with the grave misunderstanding that we have a deep and accurate understanding of this world. We convince ourselves that we can get it, that we can solve it, that we can know what life is all about. But we fool ourselves because our view is far too narrow and our wisdom far too earthly. We inevitably frame the world around ourselves. We make ourselves ultimate and indispensable.

But God offers us a remarkable privilege—the privilege of seeing the world from outside the world. Through the Bible he offers us his view, his perspective. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he illumines the words of the Bible to our minds and hearts. He assures us that the starting point is him, not us. He frames the world around himself and his purposes. He makes himself ultimate and worthy of worship. He instructs us on how we can, should, must live. And then, and only then, do we begin to see it and get it. Real knowledge begins the very moment he awakens us through the gospel.

So, Christians know better because God knows better. Christian, you know better. You can confidently believe that you know better when what you know is consistent with the Bible. And one of your responsibilities is to tell non-Christians what is best for them, too. It is to share the wisdom you have been given and to do so with love, concern, and humility. It is to introduce God’s wisdom over and against the wisdom of men and, in that way, to slow the inevitable march toward ever-deeper darkness and depravity. Primarily, of course, you share the gospel in the hope that they, too, will be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. But you also call them away from wrong-headed choices and warn them of the consequences of sin. Always your authority is the book, the guidance God gives. Out of love for the world, you call people away from the darkness of the world. Because, through him, you know better.

10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling
November 11, 2015

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units sold each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA reports that “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.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare company.

Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed these warnings.

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “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 (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the BibleJesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so far as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “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.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way she modeled her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this information. God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling. It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson says, “She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no substantial difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia describes as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which point they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the thoughts, personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphases 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.”

8. 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?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about the disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians. Michael Horton addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from God to us) and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction between God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both confusing and unhelpful.

10. 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, 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. This comparison from CARM highlights one significant correction to the text:

Jesus Calling Comparison

The point is clear: Jesus Calling is a book built upon a faulty premise and in that way a book that is dangerous and unworthy of our attention or affirmation. The great tragedy is that it is leading people away from God’s means of grace that are so sweet and so satisfying, if only we will accept and embrace them.