Should You Run From Jesus Always?

The following is a sample chapter from the "RUN! It's Jesus Calling" book.


Leading Christians have spoken or written about the problem of putting words in the mouth of Jesus, as has been done in Jesus Calling.

Personally... I would abandon it immediately. If she claims to be speaking Jesus’ words, I am no longer interested. - Tim Challies

It’s written in the first person for Jesus. “I, Jesus, will do these things. I am such-and-such, I know this.” Writes in the first person for Jesus. When you read it, it’s a very warm, fuzzy, emotional effeminate Jesus. Ladies are eaten up with this. There’s a shocking lack of discernment in the church today, shocking lack of discernment. - Justin Peters

I find Jesus Calling troublesome, and would not recommend it...I’m stuck on the fact that Young is selling these words as if they were God’s words. And that (as R. C. Sproul often says) “is a serious theological no-no.” - Cripplegate, August 22, 2012

Has Sarah Young attempted to answer the claim that it is wrong to put words in Jesus' mouth? I could only find one article that addresses this. It is an October 25, 2013 article in the NY Times, called “A First-Person Defense of Writing in Jesus’ Voice.” To get an answer, the NY Times writer interviewed both Sarah Young and her editor. (The article is available here.)

The article quotes Sarah Young's editor at Thomas Nelson books, Kris Bearss, as stating that Ms. Young’s critics just do not understand the nuances of her project. Quoting the NY Times article:

“It’s one thing for a person to relay what they feel that they have learned or gained through reading Scripture and prayer, and through time with the Holy Spirit,” Ms. Bearss said. “It’s another thing for people to turn that into her saying that she is writing a new version of Scripture or that she is speaking for the Lord. That’s not the case.”

Okay, let's take this statement at face value: she says Jesus Calling is not scripture. Ms. Bearss also says that Jesus Calling is what Sarah Young feels she has “learned or gained through reading Scripture and prayer, and through time with the Holy Spirt.” That’s interesting. This is not how Sarah Young described her experiences in the original introduction to Jesus Calling. But, putting that contradiction aside, Ms. Bearrs is clearly stating that what is in Jesus Calling are not the words of the Jesus, and Jesus Calling is not scripture.

So, if it is not scripture, why is it written as though it is scripture? To have God speaking these devotions is to directly imply they are scripture. When Jesus speaks, 100% of what He says is scripture.

The article then quotes Sarah Young. (Note: Sarah Young is responding to a questions sent to her via email.)

“I agree that revelation has ceased in the sense that the Bible is complete,” Ms. Young wrote. “However, what I am doing is devotional writing, and I do so by asking Jesus to guide my mind as I spend time with Him—to help me think His thoughts.”

What Sarah Young seems to be saying is that God guides her thoughts so that she is thinking the thoughts God wants her to think. But, because she is writing a devotional, when she writes down those thoughts as coming from the lips of Jesus, they are not scripture.

Does that make sense? No.

To pray and ask God to guide our thoughts and actions is a good thing. I hope you pray this way. I ask God to guide me when I am working on each week's sermon. I'm asking God to guide me as I write this book. And at times good ideas and phrases pop into my head—they just seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes a Biblical concept or teaching suddenly becomes clear. I don't know if these are from God, or are the result of my own studying and thoughts. I do know that God is answering my prayers. But, that does not give me the liberty to write my sermons, nor this book, as though God was speaking.

By the way, here is a thought that just popped into my mind. Who is the helper sent to teach us and help us understand scripture? Who’s “job” is it to guide our thoughts, when God desires them to be guided? Is it Jesus? No, it is the Holy Spirit. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be the helper who guides and teaches us:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. - John 14:16

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. - John 14:26

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. - John 16:7

Since it is the Holy Spirit who guides us, teaches us, and helps us, would it not be better for Jesus Calling to be written such that it was the Holy Spirit speaking? That would still be blasphemy, but it would be closer to what the Bible teaches.

What does it mean to think God's thoughts after Him?

In the NY Times article Sarah Young states that she asks, “Jesus to guide my mind as I spend time with Him— to help me think His thoughts.” What does scripture say about thinking the thoughts of God? We can never fully comprehend the thoughts of God:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

There is a familiar saying: “thinking God's thoughts after Him.” Is this what Sarah Young is talking about? Is this a Biblical; saying? No, it is not from the Bible. This is a quote from Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) in which he was describing science as "thinking God's thoughts after Him." What this means is that as science reveals more about the physical world, we learn more about God. Our understanding of God grows as our knowledge of our world grows.

Does the Bible say anything about thinking God's thoughts?

No, not directly. However, there are passages that indicate we should be thinking God’s thoughts. We are created in the image of God, so we should only be thinking thoughts that God would think. Our thoughts can never be as deep and comprehensive as God’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), but our thoughts should be in complete alignment with God’s character. This is what it means to think God’s thoughts.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2

1st Corinthians chapter 2 says we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and He reveals the thoughts of God through scripture, what Paul refers to as the “things freely given by God.”

The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. – 1 Corinthians 2:11b-12

The Holy Spirit is God, and knows the depth of God and the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit is also the author of scripture. John MacArthur writes:

“The process of the Spirit’s transmission of God’s truth is called inspiration. His truth cannot be discovered by man; it can only be received. In order to be received, something must first be offered. God’s truth can be received because it is freely given. The Spirit who is from God, not the spirit of the world (that is human wisdom) has brought God’s Word—which comprises the things freely given us by God. The Bible is the Spirit’s vehicle for bringing God’s revelation.” – John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians, 1984, pages 62 and 63.

How is this accomplished? What do we need to do?

A.W. Tozer writes: “To think God's thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God's thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God's thoughts. Those thoughts you are having—and your head buzzes with them all day long and into the night—are earthly thoughts—thoughts of a fallen race. They are the thoughts of a lost society. They should not be our thoughts.” - Tozer Devotional, Cultivating Spiritual Disciplines

Tozer then goes on to urge his readers to be in scripture. To think the thoughts of God your mind must be saturated with scripture.

“We ought to learn to live in our Bible... Begin with the Gospel of John, then read the Psalms. Isaiah is another great book to help you and lift you. When you feel you want to do it, go on to Romans and Hebrews and some of the deeper theological books. But get into the Bible. Do not just read the little passages you like, but in the course of year or two see that you read it through.” - Tozer Devotional, Cultivating Spiritual Disciplines

There's the answer. To think God's thoughts, you need to live in your Bible... constantly be in the Word of God. Saturate yourself with God's Word.

Although Sarah Young may be doing this, she never mentions it. She does say that “I knew God communicated to me through the Bible,” but then she follows that with, “but I yearned for more.” Implying that scripture was not sufficient. She needed more than what God provided in the Bible. Apparently, instead of going deeper into the Word as Tozer recommends, she preferred going directly to God to receive “personal messages from God.” That’s not what scripture tells us to do. (The above quotes, in italics, are from the Introduction to the 2004 edition of Jesus Calling, page xii)

Let the word of Christ [scripture] richly dwell within you, - Colossians 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

What about the devotions she wrote? Do they recommend that you saturate yourself in the Word of God? Again the answer is no. If anything, I’d say that Jesus Calling pretty much ignores reading the word as a spiritual discipline. The result of not being saturated with God’s Word will be that you’ll move further away from thinking God’s thoughts.

The Jesus Calling devotional is not truly Jesus calling. The true Jesus is calling you to be in the Word. To turn to scripture... read your Bible... dive deep into scripture... and as a result you'll be going deep into God's thoughts and will learn to “think God’s thoughts.”

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All quotes from Jesus Always are copyright 2016 by Sarah Young
Hebrews 7:25 -- 2 Corinthians 2:14 -- John 8:29 -- Matthew 28:19-20 -- Isaiah 57:16 -- Psalm 103:9