Jesus Calling is a very popular devotional book by Sarah Young, published in 2004 by Thomas Nelson. It has a devotional for every day of the year. The devotionals are written in first person ("I"), as if Jesus were speaking. Many have found this book to be very helpful and inspiring when it comes to practical Christian living. The author does share some very helpful thoughts about focusing on Christ and trusting Him in our daily walk.
In spite of the positive aspects of this devotional book, I was very concerned when I read the preface. One of the key issues facing believers today is this: Is the Bible totally sufficient or not? Is the Bible all that we need for faith and for practice, or do we need something else? Is the Bible all the truth that a believer needs, or is it lacking in certain respects? Do we need something in addition to the Bible or is the Bible enough? Do we need additional revelations that are not in the Bible?
One of the clearest declarations of the all-sufficiency of
God's Word is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly
furnished unto all good works." The expression "thoroughly furnished" means
"completely equipped, fully fitted."
In Western states such as Colorado, hunting, fishing and camping are a big part of life. There are people called “outfitters” who pack horses with all the needed equipment and provisions, so as sportsmen go into the mountains to hunt or fish, they have everything they need. They have their bedding, their food, their matches, their ammunition, their fishing tackle—everything they need is provided. So also as believers we are outfitted with God’s Word, and God’s Word has everything we need to serve Jesus Christ. Nothing is missing; nothing is lacking. God knows what we need and He provides it through His Word. God's Word is totally sufficient.
Sarah Young wrote in her introduction (page xii), "I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more." To her, the Bible was not enough; she needed more. She appreciated very much what God has said in His Word, but she yearned for additional communications, additional revelation. Here is how she described it:
|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.
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 knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more...I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message....
Soon, messages began to flow more freely, and I bought a special notebook to record these words...I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him.
[from pages xi and xii of the Introduction, emphasis mine]
The devotionals are these personal messages which she claims to have received from God, which is why they are in the first person, as if spoken by Jesus. Sarah Young is saying that she received new communications and fresh revelations from God, thus claiming herself to be a direct channel through whom God speaks to us today. Though she does not see these messages as contradicting the Bible, she does view them as additional communications which God has given especially to her, that she might share them with others. These are extra-Biblical revelations.
Though she does not say this, she is in effect claiming to be a prophetess, receiving direct messages from Jesus Christ, and writing them down exactly as He gave them.
In two places Sarah Young tried to offset these amazing claims. On page xii she wrote, "I knew these writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God." But if these were direct communications from God, why would they not be inspired? Did she really receive messages from God or not? On page xiii she wrote, "The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard." But again, if these communications came directly from Jesus, would they not be without error? We appreciate Sarah Young's desire to elevate the Bible above her revelations, but we still have major concerns about her claims that she is receiving direct communications from heaven.
Careful Bible students have always made a clear distinction between revelation (the truth that God reveals to His chosen prophets and Bible writers) and illumination (God shedding light on the Scripture so that His people understand the truth). God does not give new revelation today because He has already given to us His Word, and He has given strong warnings about adding and subtracting from that body of truth (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). Today, by the illumination ministry of God the Holy Spirit, the Lord can help His children to understand and apply His Word to their daily situations. We do not need new messages from God, but we need help and illumination from the Spirit of God to understand and to apply the God-inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16) which God has already given to us.
The gift of prophecy has been done away (1 Cor. 13:8). The apostles and prophets were foundational men (Eph. 2:20). They were needed in the infancy stage of the church, but when the Scriptures were completed, the gift of prophecy was no longer needed. God's Word is totally sufficient; what more do we need?
The key issue then is the sufficiency of the Word of God. Is the Bible really sufficient? Is it really all that we need, or do we need something additional? Is God's communication to man found in the Bible alone, or must we look somewhere else? Is the Bible complete, or does it lack vital information that believers need to know?
1) Christ promised the Apostles that the Spirit of truth would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit did guide them into all truth and this truth was incorporated into the New Testament Scriptures. What more do we need?
2) Paul tells us that the God-breathed Scriptures are
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all
good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What more do we need?
3) Peter says that we have a more sure word of prophecy than
even the eyewitness account of an apostle, namely the Spirit-moved, infallible
Word of God (2 Peter 1:15-21). What more do we need?
4) Jude tells us that we are to earnestly contend for "the
faith" (the body of truth) which was once for all delivered to the saints. This
body of truth was once for all delivered to the saints in the first century and
is found in written form in our Bible today. What more do we need?
5) John puts the final "PERIOD" at the close of God's
completed revelation, warning us not to add to or to subtract from this book
(Revelation 22:18-19). When the final word was penned by John in the book of
Revelation, this marked the time when the Bible (all 66 canonical books) were in
completed form. What more do we need? The canon of Scripture is closed and what
God hath closed, let no man open. If God says, "The Bible is enough!" let not
man say, "We need more!"
That many should be claiming to have received visions and
revelations from the Lord is not surprising in light of 1 John 4:1-3; 1 Timothy
4:1; 2 Timothy 3:13; 4:2-4; Matthew 7:15-24; 24:4-5. In these last days before
the coming of the Lord Jesus for His church (1 Thess. 4:13-18), we can expect an
increase of subjective, experiential religion: "It must be true because it
happened to me!" What we need is revelational religion, based upon objective and
absolute truth: "It must be true because God said so in His Word."
Today we need humble men who will tremble at the Word of God (Isaiah 66:1-2). We do not need new revelation today. We need to obey and walk worthy of the revelation that we already have! We do not need more light today. We will stand before Christ and give an account for the way we responded to the light that we had!
Spurgeon: No New Revelations from God Today!
There is enough in the Bible for thee to live upon for ever. If thou
shouldest outnumber the years of Methusaleh, there would be no need
for a fresh revelation; if thou shouldest live till Christ should
come upon the earth, there would be no necessity for the addition of
a single word; if thou shouldest go down as deep as Jonah, or even
descend as David said he did, into the belly of hell, still there
would be enough in the Bible to comfort thee without a supplementary
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
There is a sense in which the church is in desperate need of a vision today. We need a fresh vision of God. We need to see the Lord high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1-9). We need a glimpse of all that GOD IS (Isaiah 43:10-11). The more we see Christ as He really is, the more we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). As we fix our eyes upon Christ as He is seen in the written Word and as we look unto Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2) with a steady gaze, we will reflect the glory of the Lord as our lives are conformed to His image, from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
One additional comment on Sarah Young's devotional book. As I flipped through the pages, I read very little about the cross or the resurrection. The believer's identification with Christ in His death and resurrection are foundational truths for living the Christian life as the following document shows: The Christian Life and How It Is to be Lived. For a fuller discussion of how the cross and the empty tomb relate to the Christian life, I would recommend The Complete Green Letters by Miles Stanford.
George Zeller, November
The Middletown Bible Church