Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jesus Lives by Sarah Young

I eagerly anticipated reading this book, for I've had a lifetime fondness for devotionals.

Though I wanted to like it, I found myself disturbed right off the bat by the fact that it was written as if by the Lord Himself, which proved a constant distraction. The thing is, I just couldn't imagine Jesus actually speaking words such as in this passage taken from page 44:

You are feeling brokenhearted and bound: entangled in webs of discouragement. Pick up the pieces of your broken heart---scattered all around you---and bring them to Me. Place them on the white linen cloth I provide, and wait in My healing Presence. Sit still in My holy Light while I cleanse you from binding webs of discouragement . . .

I don't know what is meant by the "white linen cloth." Though it has a lovely sound to it there is nothing Scriptural to warrant its inclusion in this paragraph. (Also, I couldn't help thinking that this paragraph sounds a bit New Age-y.) While it is true that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted, He does not coddle us. To those with whom He interacted during His earth life, His words had about them a holy directive bordering on sternness. He assured the woman taken in adultery that He didn't condemn her, and then went on to caution her to "Go and sin no more." To Peter, who had miserably denied Him three times, His words were, "Feed my sheep." There was no commiserating with his human weakness or sympathizing with his cowardice but rather,  the command to move forward by engaging in what was to be his life's work.

God is not so much concerned with our comfort or happiness as He is with the molding of our characters into the likeness of His Son. Jesus walked amongst the common people of His day, healing the sick and imparting words of truth. What He didn't do was to encourage self-focus by lingering to give attention to the minute details of an individual's life. This is not to say that He had no care for one's burdens and the reasons behind them, but simply that life lay not in the scrutinizing of one's failures or wounds but in following Him.

Here is a passage from page 142:

The best strategy for accepting yourself, even when you make mistakes, is living close to Me . . . 

There is a new movement today in Christianity, and it is that of substituting the word mistake for sin. While the Bible abounds with verses regarding sin, it is never called by any other name. A mistake is mispronouncing a word, or perhaps forgetting someone's name. A sin goes much deeper for it is a deliberate act of the will. Jesus did not suffer and die for our mistakes, but for our sins.

I find myself uncomfortable with the presumption required in putting words in the mouth of our Lord. Rather than imagining what He might say to those in need of encouragement, surely such individuals would be better served by reading for themselves the words of Christ found in Scripture. Anything less than this is second-hand at best, and bordering on sacrilige. (Fortunately, the author (or publisher) of this devotional did provide Scripture with each day's reading.)

This book lacks the substance of spiritual food, except for the Scriptures included with each passage, and which I found to be its only saving grace.

2 comments :

  1. I think I completely agree with your assessment and feelings about this kind of writing. I tend to squirm at how easy it is to subtly insert humanistic concepts into such assumptions about how God thinks. However, I do feel that it can be very helpful to write like this as a way of expressing what I may sense the Spirit might be saying to me directly.
    I find your point about mistakes interesting. I agree with your assessment about the dangers involved in minimizing sin, but my problem as often been that many legitimate mistakes are viewed by an over-active conscience as sins and I too often felt condemned for mistakes as well as sins. It took many years to unravel and distinguish between these and even then to realize that condemnation never comes from God either. That is where Paul's words about our heart condemning us comes into focus.

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  2. Clay,

    I too have the tendency to be overly-conscientious when it comes to making mistakes and judging them as sins. While it is true that condemnation doesn't come from God, I guess my concern here is that I've visited websites where pastors talk about removing the words "sin" and "sinner" from their sermons, for fear of offending their congregation. I find this trend alarming.

    While we are never condemned by God, we do need the spiritual perception to see where we have fallen from His grace, and a heart to accept the gift of repentance.

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Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.