Jesus Calling: Are Sarah Young's Claims Biblical?

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If you are a Christian reading any of Sarah Young's popular books such as "Jesus Calling," you need to be aware that she is not speaking for Jesus and her claims are dangerous. #JesusCalling #GodCalling

I have been asked to give my perspective on the extremely popular book Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young. 

I have chosen not to evaluate specific content of Young's books although I give a brief summary at the end of this article. Instead, I will evaluate Young's claim that she writes the words Jesus speaks to her. 

Most Christian authors, myself included, would like to think that what we write is prompted by the Lord. I know my writing often flows from time I spend with the Lord. But Young does not simply claim inspiration. She claims to be writing down the words Jesus speaks to her, and she claims the "I" in her books is Jesus speaking.

Below, I have used Young's explanations of her method from the foreword to Jesus Calling 2004 Edition because certain facts about Young's method were deleted or amended in newer editions.

I have used excerpts instead of the full text because the foreword was quite long and contained a great deal of background on Young's life that is not directly applicable to this discussion. But I have taken care to share these excerpts in context.

In Her Own Words

“During the same year (1992), I began reading God Calling, 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. The messages are written in first person, with ‘I’ designating God…this little paperback became a treasure to me. It dovetailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.”

“The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, 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. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying…”

“I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God. I have continued to receive personal messages from God…”

“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…”

“Certain Bible verses figure rather heavily in my writing. That is because God often uses these passages to strengthen and encourage me…”

My Concerns

1. Her Inspiration for Her Method

If you are a Christian reading any of Sarah Young's popular books such as "Jesus Calling," you need to be aware that her inspiration comes from this book that contradicts Scripture and is based on occult "channeling."   #JesusCalling #GodCalling
Even though Young's remarks about God Calling were removed from later editions, Young clearly credits God Calling as the inspiration for her method of writing. 

God Calling, published by A.J. Russell in 1935, was said to be written by two anonymous women who also claimed that what they wrote came directly from God. However, things they wrote sometimes contradicted Scripture. 

Despite its popularity, God Calling has always raised concerns in Christian circles.

Taking Young's claims about God Calling out of the foreword in editions after 2004 may have helped to avoid some of the controversy surrounding Young's methods, but it doesn't change the fact that Young was deeply influenced by this book.

2. “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”

Why did Young long for more than the words of Scripture? 

Is there something we need to know that isn’t found in Scripture? 

Is there anything that can bring us more comfort, peace, assurance, instruction, or guidance than God’s divinely inspired Word?

2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

If you are a Christian reading any of Sarah Young's popular books such as "Jesus Calling," you need to be aware that she is not speaking for Jesus and her claims are dangerous. #JesusCalling #GodCalling
Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Matthew 4:4: Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

3. "I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day."

Throughout Scripture God gives His children specific guidance for their particular situations (e.g. Abraham: Genesis 12:1; Ananias: Acts 9:10-15; Cornelius: Acts 10:1-6; Peter: Acts 10:9-15; Paul: Acts 16:9-10, Acts 18:9-11, 2 Corinthians 12:1-6).

It's appropriate for a group/church/family to seek God's guidance for specific decisions. And it's important for individuals to ask God's guidance for things that are not directly addressed in Scripture. We should pray about what job to take, which person to marry, where to live, and even about insignificant decisions in our lives. God wants to direct our thoughts and show us His specific plans and purposes for us as individuals.

But if we are looking for truths about God's love, if we are looking for hope, peace, encouragement, correction, comfort, etc., Scripture is our most reliable source. We don't need new words from God.

4. “I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God. I have continued to receive personal messages from God…

I'm glad that Young makes this distinction because it's an extremely important one. But it doesn't change her claim that she is writing messages from God.

5. “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…

What are the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life? This answer may vary, but everyone would agree that the most essential disciplines are Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and obedience.

But Young feels writing down the thoughts Jesus dictates to her – something never mentioned in Scripture – is a better tool for increasing intimacy with God than the disciplines mentioned in Scripture. Young’s emphasis isn't biblical. 

Conclusion: 
If I were to critique the content of Jesus Calling, I would summarize by saying that it does not balance sin and grace, encouragement and correction in the same ways that Jesus balanced these things in Scripture. This would not be a problem if Young were simply writing a book of encouragement, but she is claiming to speak for Jesus 365 days a year. 

However, as I stated at the beginning, this article is not written to critique the specific content of Young’s books. I am examining her claim to write words of Jesus not specifically found in Scripture. 

There is nothing wrong with unique and innovative ways of sharing God's truth, but to claim that the words we write are His words is a dangerous practice. A more accurate and honest title for Young's book would be: Things Sarah Young Believes God Would Like to Tell You.

3 Things Christians Must Remember If They Choose to Read Young’s Books:
If you are a Christian reading any of Sarah Young's popular books such as "Jesus Calling," you need to be aware that she is not speaking for Jesus and her claims are dangerous. #JesusCalling #GodCalling

1. Despite Young’s claims, the words in her books are hers, not Christ’s (unless she quotes Scripture).

2. Everything in her books, just as everything written by any other human author, should be tested against Scripture.

3. Neither Jesus Calling nor any other book with a human author can bring the same quality of truth, comfort, guidance, and assurance that Scripture brings to us.


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Note: While Young's newest book Jesus Always maintains the same voice and format, her introduction to the book is more acceptable. I'm sure she has changed her explanations based on criticism. But readers still need to be careful to understand the three points above when they read a book written in the voice of Jesus.

Young not only makes this claim to speak words of Christ in the foreword of her book, but she permits it in every description of her book on major publishing sites. 

Excerpts from publishing sites:

Thomas Nelson website:
“In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart.”
Amazon Book description:
"After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her…written from Jesus' point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling."
Christian Book Distributors
“Then she decided to start listening for what Jesus might be saying to her in her daily journey… These 365 days of readings share the words and scriptures Jesus laid on her heart to share. As you read these words of inspiration and encouragement you'll be brought closer to Jesus presence, experiencing His love and peace.”

Some other articles expressing concerns about Jesus Calling:
Got Questions: Jesus Calling
Developing Discernment in Devotional Reading
10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling
The Strange Saga of Jesus Calling
When I published this article in May 2018, I thought the above articles were the best resources available, but in June Randy Alcorn published an article that may just be the best one I've read: Some Concerns About Jesus Calling.

Bible Love Notes

24 comments:

  1. Really? I'm not critiquing but if I was I would say... How disingenuous. The whole point of this article is not to critique but to criticize. I think none of us has the right to judge, make comment or question what happens between Sarah Young or anyone, for that matter, and God. I don't believe I am alone in having many times wished to hear personally from God. Not to replace scripture but to enhance, expand and clarify. So, the fact that Ms. Young found writing down what she believes Jesus says to her helpful is not as scandalous or unbiblical as the author intimates. Ms. Young never advocates replacing Bible study with any other method of communing with God. She never advocates, nor says that her writings are as comforting, truthful or assuring as the Bible is. In fact she never compares her writing to the Bible at all. She does, however, use scripture to illustrate the connection of what she writes to the truths, principles and themes of the Bible. Everyday I hear pastors, and even lay persons say, "God told me to tell you" or "Jesus laid it on my heart to share with you" so how is this different from what Ms. Young does with her book? Just because these others don't relay their message in the first person does not mean that what they are doing is not the same as what Ms. Young is doing, relaying a message that she believes was given to her from Jesus. I think that this article finds fault where there is none, I believe it is unkind, unnecessary and unchristian; I think it is, to quote another popular writer, Much Ado About Nothing.

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    1. Hi Unknown,

      It's a popular belief that we are not supposed to judge anyone or anything, but it's not Scriptural. I encourage you to read the long list of Scriptures in my article titled "How, Who, and What to Judge According to Scripture."
      https://biblelovenotes.blogspot.com/2015/07/how-who-and-what-to-judge-according-to.html

      However, if you do feel it is wrong to judge, then I am wondering why you have judged me and my article saying they are "critical," "unkind," "disingenuous," and "unchristian." Is that not judging?

      If you read this article carefully, you will find that I disagree with Young's methods and claims, but I have not called her names or judged her character.

      You have explained Young's methods as you see them, but your explanations are different than Young's explanations.

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    2. Many people are encouraged by reading this devotional. Did you find content that was blasphemous or sinful?

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    3. Hi Patty,
      Many false things encourage people. Being encouraged is not a sign of truth.

      It is a dangerous thing to trust another person to speak the words of Jesus unless they are quoting Scripture.

      Is Sarah Young's claim to speak for Jesus blasphemous? I think it is.

      And since her books are written on this false premise, I don't want to read them, and I will recommend that other Christians not read them. But, if they do read them, they need to understand that they are not the words of Christ - they are Sarah Young's words.



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    4. Well, I understand your point. It would have been better if Sarah Young had said, "I believe Jesus said to me..." or even just "Jesus said to me..." since He told us that his sheep hear his voice. I'm glad that He communicates with us directly!

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    5. Hi Patty,
      Jesus definitely guides and directs us personally and He helps us makes decisions and He encourages us.

      But Sarah Young isn't simply claiming that Jesus does these things. She is claiming that she is writing down His actual words and they aren't simply to guide and encourage her. She is selling them in book form as if they are meant for everyone. That's not the same as receiving personal guidance.

      It would be enough for her to say "I believe Jesus said to me" if she was talking about her personal life. But she is claiming that Jesus is telling her things to direct your life and my life, and that's a dangerous thing. That's how many cults start. And most of them start using part of the Gospel, but not the full Gospel, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.


      In addition, her message is lopsided and that's one reason it's so encouraging. It's not the full Gospel, it's part of the Gospel.

      Scripture tells us that Jesus was hated and those who love Jesus will be hated:

      John 15:18:“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
      Matthew 10:22: And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
      1 John 3:13: Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

      The Jesus that Sarah Young proclaims would not be hated by anyone because "he" only shares half the message.

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  2. Wow! Thank you very much! I have a good friend that reads those books faithfully and I have another friend that writes poetry, saying Jesus wakes her up at 2 or 3 (etc.) in the morning and speaks these poems to her and she writes them down.I always secretly wondered about the last friend mentioned and the poetry, but I dint want to offend her, so I've kept quiet. Thank you very much!

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  3. Excellent blog and conclusions! This is a topic with which I have also been concerned, and have even written a book expressing my thoughts from a biblical perspective, "Snatched from the Jaws of the Lion." My unique background and experience as the daughter and granddaughter of spiritists, allowed me to identify the issues you wrote about regarding Sarah Young’s writings. As a young Christian from a pagan background, I too struggled to discern truth and now am passionate about communicating that truth to others. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. Someone in my life is very into Jesus calling. I had always had a caution in my heart about the title of God Calling and Jesus Calling. It's very dangerous to read books anyway, other than the Bible (even some translations of the Bible are scary) but the seductively sweet luring of the underlying message of her book is deceptive. It makes you think that these are the divinely inspired Words of God. If she merely used scripture with the same attitude, it could be taken out of context too. The enemy is so cunning! We have to be vigilant! Thank you for being like Ezekiel, a watch"woman" for the flock of Jesus Christ. Bless you sister!

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  5. Thank you for tackling some of these hard topics and for being willing to share truth no matter the "flack" you may receive. Truth is truth and God's Word speaks for itself.

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  6. Thank you for bravely stating these unpopular concerns!

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  7. Thank you. One must stay in the Word (Bible), to know the truth. Thank you for speaking. God bless you!

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  8. Excellent article. And very fair and balanced perspective on a very important issue. No matter how one views Scripture, claiming to write the words of God or Jesus is claiming words that are on par with Scripture.

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  9. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NLT
    Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. [20] Do not scoff at prophecies, [21] but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. [22] Stay away from every kind of evil.

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  10. I have never read her book & I didn't think you were being judgmental, just discerning her claims against scripture truths.

    On a similar note, My Mom signs the 'trinity's' name on her paintings by using 3 dots. This bothers me for some reason that I can't quite articulate - like it's forgery on some level - but not with bad intentions by my Mom. I just don't 'feel' right about it in my heart.

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  11. I will not say God did say he pour his spirit out on all. I trust God words. I do feel that there more information out there it have been hide from the world when Christ when back to be with the Father, They killed many people that Love Jesus some group do not want is to come out I hope I live to see more one day.

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  12. ‭ Didn’t Jesus Himself say “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” There is another scripture which implies God reveals things to us beyond what we find in the Bible. That scripture is found here: ““This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”
    ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭33:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
    https://www.bible.com/111/jer.33.2-3.niv

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    1. Hi Vickbo,
      I assume you read the entire article above and you know that Young got her inspiration from a book that taught errors about God. And you have read that she gets more out of the words she writes down than she gets out of any other Christian discipline (i.e. reading Scripture itself). And you have read that she thinks she is writing the actual words of Christ, not just being guided and directed by the Lord. And you have read that what she writes does not have the same balance and message as the Words of Christ Scripture. And you confess that you believe Young's words are Christ's words, words telling you "great and unsearchable things you do not know."

      Joseph Smith and other cult leaders have made the same claims as Young and perhaps they took this Scripture in Jeremiah out of context as you are doing in order to justify their claims. If you believe that Young and others can tell us things we don't know about God, then you are putting yourself in a dangerous position.

      Let me share another Scripture passage from Jeremiah to balance the Scripture you've given:
      Jeremiah 23:16: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD."

      And one from the New Testament as well:
      2 Timothy 4:3-3: For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

      My purpose in this article is to warn people to trust Scripture above all else.

      The book of Revelation ends with this strong warning against anyone who would add to or take away from the words of Revelation:
      "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

      If God feels that way about 1 book in Scripture, He certainly feels that way about Scripture in general. Even though Young claims her words are not on the level of Scripture, she claims to be adding words of Christ to those already recorded in Scripture. That's a dangerous claim.

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    2. P.s. I forgot to mention that the first verse you gave, Vickbo, is exactly what we should do: Search the Scriptures. They will give us the accurate words of Christ. In fact, that verse pretty much sums up why you shouldn't trust that Young's words come from Christ. Christ says we should search the Scriptures, not search extra-biblical writings.

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    3. You did not confirm my prior mention of Jesus' promise to believers: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice…" John 10:16
      "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…" John 10:27
      Rather, you responded that Jesus "guides and directs us." Perhaps you have not heard his voice?

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    4. Patty G.

      I'm sorry I didn't respond to John 10:16. I thought we were talking about Sarah Young's claim to speak for Jesus and that verse has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject.

      But it you wish for me to address it: That verse is Jesus speaking to Jews and explaining that Gentiles will also be included in the family of God.

      It's interesting and quite revealing that you feel my disagreement with Young's methods is a sign that perhaps I don't know Jesus. If that is your litmus test for salvation, you will find a great many pastors, missionaries, and Bible scholars don't know Jesus either.

      Have you heard the term ad hominem? It refers to a method of arguing where you attack the person instead of their position. It's a non-Christian way of approaching differences and it's typically used by people who cannot defend their position.

      You will note that I did not question your Christianity, nor did I even question Young's Christianity. I addressed Young's methods and I responded to your position.

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    5. I am horrified that you misinterpreted my simple question so as to believe that it was an attack on your Christian identity and unrelated to the topic at hand, namely hearing Jesus for ourselves. Although I only first encountered your website only a few days ago, on a link from Pinterest, it is obvious from your years of blogging that you are a committed Christian. I do not question that. I just wondered if you had heard Him speak to you.
      If one were to conduct a poll, perhaps the majority of born-again Christians have yet to hear His voice. But we should expect to do so! Yet, it seems that, for some reason, you don’t want to talk about it. What gives?

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    6. Hi Patty,
      You quoted John 10:27.

      Let me share the context of that verse:

      John 10:25-30: Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

      This is clearly a passage about salvation. To quote John 10:27 and to say "Perhaps you have not heard his voice?" is to question a person's salvation.

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    7. An Additional thought Patty,

      When you say born-again Christians need to hear God's voice. They hear God's voice whenever they read their Bibles. It is the only 100% reliable source of truth from God. The only source of God's truth that applies to every man, woman, and child 365 days a year.

      Sarah Young writes: "I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more."

      When I read the Scriptures below (which are a mere sampling of the Scriptures describing God's Word), I think Sarah Young's desire for more than Scripture means she doesn't have a clue what Scripture really is, and I don't want to read a Christian book that holds that view of God's Word.

      2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

      Romans 10:17: Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

      Isaiah 55:11: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

      Matthew 24:35: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

      Joshua 1:8: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

      Psalm 19:7-11: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

      Hebrews 4:12-14: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

      Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

      Matthew 22:29: But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

      Psalm 119:9: How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

      Matthew 4:4: But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

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