Sarah Young wrote a book in 2004 entitled, Jesus Calling, in which she recorded 365 daily devotions written in the voice of Jesus Christ, presented as speaking to the reader. While its beginnings may have been humble, Young’s book has now sold more than 10-million copies in 26 different languages. Its success has bred an entire line of Jesus Calling themed products. The book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, says that it sold more than 2.5 million Jesus Calling products last year alone, not counting sales of the original book. Such popularity has not protected Jesus Calling from criticism, however, as several evangelical pastors and teachers have spoken out against what one writer called, “an obvious attempt by our spiritual Adversary to get an even further foothold inside the Christian church.”1 Recently, I read the introduction to Young’s book, and I was troubled by what I read.
From the very outset, Young describes what she calls the Presence of God, as a unique and definite experience, although she fails to offer any sort of explanation of what she means by the Presence. Her first encounter with this Presence occurred on a moonlit walk on a Swiss mountainside. She described her first experience of it as a “warm mist” which surrounded her, and an awareness of a “lovely Presence,” prompting an involuntary response from her lips, “Sweet Jesus.” As she reflected on this shocking experience, Young says she “realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him. This was far more than the intellectual answers for which I’d been searching. This was a relationship with the Creator of the universe.”
What is most troubling in her conversion story is what is missing. Maybe the closest NT approximation to the event that Sarah Young describes is the story of the conversion of the apostle Paul. He recounts the details in Acts 26:13-15, “at midday…along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” With Saul there was a definite experience of God’s presence, but it wasn’t a “warm mist” or a “lovely Presence.” It was the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, who actually spoke to Paul and identified his self-righteous religious fervor as kicking against the goads and persecuting the Lord, Himself. Paul’s response included both repentance and faith which produced immediate obedience to the Lord’s commands. Young’s testimony of her own conversion does not include any reference to the risen Christ, nor to her repentance and faith. Instead of describing the life transformation which accompanies true conversion, she presents her own version of a relationship with the Creator, one which looks more like New Age mysticism than New Testament Christianity.
(To be continued next week.)
1Warren Smith, ‘Another Jesus’ Calling. Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2013.