Jesus Called. His Voicemail is the Bible.

Let’s play a game! The name of the game is: Jesus or Jesus Calling?

Go through the statements below and decide if you think they were actually said by Jesus in the Bible or if they are from the popular book Jesus Calling. Answers are below, but no cheating!

  1. “My Peace is like a shaft of golden Light shining on you continuously.”
  2. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
  3. “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast in hell.”
  4. “I love you for who you are, not for what you do.”
  5. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  6. “Relax in My healing Presence.”
  7. “At the end of your life-path is an entrance to heaven. Only I know when you will reach that destination, but I am preparing you for it each step of the way.”
  8. “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
  9. “Come to me in all your neediness, with defenses down and with desire to be blessed.”
  10. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Answers:

  1. Jesus Calling (Feb. 11)
  2. Jesus (Matt. 10: 34-35)
  3. Jesus (Matt. 5:30)
  4. Jesus Calling (March 3)
  5. Jesus (Matt. 4:17)
  6. Jesus Calling (Jan. 2)
  7. Jesus Calling (April 14)
  8. Jesus (Matt. 7:14)
  9. Jesus Calling (Dec. 8)
  10. Jesus (Luke 9:23)

Scoring: 1,000 points if you recognize the stark contrast between the voice of Jesus in the Bible and the voice of Jesus as written by Sarah Young.

Young’s Jesus is shrouded in golden rays of light, and focuses on affirming people, positive thinking, and relaxing in His peaceful presence. Jesus of the Bible, on the other hand, seems to be a rather radical fellow, prone to exaggeration in order to get His urgent message across: you will die in your sins unless you repent, take up your cross, and follow Me.

To be fair, I did pick and choose quotes from both the Bible and Jesus Calling that would enable me to make a point. After all, Jesus is also the gentle Shepherd who comforts those who mourn and binds up the broken hearted. Likewise, as I looked through Jesus Calling I found a few days where she did talk about self-denial and submitting to the authority of God. Unfortunately, however, those days are few and far between, and shrouded in Eastern mysticism with a healthy dose of Western psychology. Which explains why her book has become a huge bestseller and spawned Jesus Calling Bibles, teen versions, and kids versions. On the other hand, if you look at how most people reacted to Jesus’ preaching in the Bible, many turned away and stopped following Him, complaining, “This is a hard saying, who can understand it?” (John 6:60)

Another key indicator that she misrepresented Jesus is that plenty of non-Christians read Jesus Calling and love it. According to 1 Peter 2:8, Jesus is a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Why, then, is Jesus Calling so widely popular?

Could it be that it contains neither an accurate representation of Jesus nor the gospel message?

This is what happens when you claim to speak for God, rather than directing people toward what He actually said in the Bible. It’s what happens when you make yourself a mediator between another person and God, which is essentially what she has done with this book. I don’t think true Christians will suffer much hurt from reading it, as long they are feeding themselves from the actual word of God in a Bible-believing community. But if they are, then Jesus Calling will soon seem to be unnecessary and superficial fluff. To non-Christians, however, reading Jesus Calling is like treating a gaping, infected wound with a band-aid. God does not like it when people offer superficial solutions to deep problems. In fact, He punished the prophets for doing this to His people in Israel, saying,

“They have healed the hurt of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, Peace!’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14).

He also warned His people not to listen to those who spoke from their own hearts rather than His words:

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”: And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.” (Jeremiah 23:16-17)

As I worked on this blog today, the mail arrived with a catalog from the local Christian book store, heralding a sale on all things Jesus Calling. My hope is that this post will cause you to think twice before buying this book for yourself or as a Christmas gift for someone you love.  Don’t let false proclamations of peace render you worthless or falsely secure. Get alone with God by reading the Bible, and see what He has to say without it being filtered through the mind of Sarah Young. Chances are you will find Jesus much more interesting, captivating, dangerous, and satisfying than the redundant and one-dimensional picture of Him in Jesus Calling.

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Regifting Jesus

When you were a kid, there were some Christmas gifts you would die for (like a Power Wheels Car or a Giga Pet) and some gifts you dreaded (underwear from Grandma).  As an adult, there are still some gifts that you appreciate (cash!) more than others (underwear from Grandma).  But when it comes down to it, you get underwear from Grandma because it’s such a practical gift that she knows you need and use daily.  Long after you stopped caring about the Giga pet and let it die in a pile of electronic poop, you were still wearing the underwear from Grandma.

Sometimes the gifts Jesus gives us are a lot like that.  They aren’t what we want, or anything we would ask for in a million years.  But before we wrap it back up for the holier-than-thou neighbor down the street, we should stop and ask if maybe, just maybe, we need a little more of what He’s giving:

Weakness

Jesus offers us the chance to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do this whole “life” thing on our own. He invites us to admit that we need Him to rescue us and we need other people, too, which brings us to the second gift:

Community

Jesus gives us the chance to become part of His “body”–the group of people who believe in Him.  We don’t want this gift because as Americans, we bleed individualism.  We don’t like admitting that we need other people to call us out on our crap and hold us accountable.  We don’t want the inconvenience that comes with close relationships–the caring, the sacrifice, the offenses, the forgiveness that are required.  But that’s exactly what He gives us.

Unanswered Prayers

Jesus often says “no” or “not now” to something we want.  It seems like He says “no” more often than “yes,” actually.  Yet this is not a reflection of His unwillingness to give good things, but our inability to ask for things that would actually be good for us.  Looking back on some of the ridiculous things I have prayed for over the years, I think this is one of the best gifts that He gives us.

Obedience

Many people desire the gift of freedom, or as they define it, the ability to make their own choice and live life how ever they want.  Often, however, this “freedom” leads them into unexpected slavery to alcohol, sex, food, acceptance, or love.  Jesus calls us to freedom, not just to make any choice, but the freedom to make a good choice.  He frees us from our old, oppressive masters to obey His commands, which are life-giving and made for our benefit.

Pain

This is the granddaddy of all re-gifts.  Although we hate to see other people go through pain, if we are honest, we would much rather it be them than us.  However, Jesus invites us to partake of the sufferings He endured on the cross, and has the audacity to tell us to rejoice in this “gift”!  Why?  Because it makes us like Him; it means we are His; it is the ultimate mark of His disciples.

Kingdom Membership

Raised in a democracy, we find this final gift quite unpalatable.  The idea that someone should have ultimate authority and deciding power over our lives goes against everything we believe in.  That is, until we realize this King loved us so much He first came to earth as a servant and died on our behalf.  Surely, this King will be a compassionate, wise, and loving ruler, orchestrating our lives better than we ever could ourselves.

These are never gifts we would ask for, but sometimes the best gifts are those you don’t even know you need.

This Christmas season, take time to think about what Jesus offers before supposing His gifts are better suited for someone else.