Friday, September 30, 2005

Your First Line of Defense

Ever wonder why people end up in a cult?

Many times, it is because a cult appears to answer human needs that are not being met elsewhere. The attraction to a particular cult may be because that cult seems to offer practical solutions to problems like loneliness, spiritual emptiness and the desire to find a way to please God by serving Him faithfully.

There are five major characteristics of cults.

1. They reject the Trinity; that is, they disbelieve in Jesus Christ as God. Some cults may even say good things about Jesus (others don't), but they almost always attack or undermine the true biblical deity of Jesus Christ, either lowering Him to the level of man or raising man to His level.

2. Cultists usually believe that all Christian churches are wrong and that their group has the only real truth about God.

3. They claim to believe the Bible but they distort its teachings to suit their own peculiar view of mankind, God, the Holy Spirit, heaven and hell, salvation and many other doctrines. They usually find the source of these peculiar beliefs in their leaders, who claim to have new interpretations of the Bible or even valuable additions to it.

4. All cults deny that people can be saved by faith in Christ alone. They teach their members that they can make themselves right with God through good works and through obedience to the doctrines and requirements the cult has set down as "God's will" for their lives.

5. Cults are skillful at using Christian terminology, but they are not talking the same language as biblical Christians. Beware of the semantics barrier. Commonly understood words like "God," "Christ," "faith," "sin," "salvation," etc., mean entirely different things to a cultist and a Christian. The first task, then, when sharing your faith with someone who seems to have different ideas, is to define terms.

(List source: "So What's the Difference?" by Fritz Ridenour, Regal Books, 2001)

No matter how real it may seem for a while, what cults offer is counterfeit salvation. The fellowship in many cults is conditional-that is, you must stay in line. When a member of the cult attempts to express even the smallest deviation in doctrine, it can mean immediate rejection. The person may be shunned or expelled. People who are needy in their lives would rather keep in line with the cultic demands rather than suffer any hint of rejection or expulsion. So, even if they have that little voice in their heart telling them that something is wrong with a certain demand or doctrine being espoused by the leader, they will suppress it or ignore it in order to keep the 'love' that they think they are participating in.

Another clue that you might be in a cult is that being in one is hard work. Keeping pace with all the effort you are expected to expend can easily wear you out, if not physically, then mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Deep down inside, some members of a cult may have the gnawing doubt that works aren't cutting it. They find that they can't possibly do (or be) what the cult says God demands.

How does one recognize a cult? One clear clue is that most are involved in an all-out frontal assault that leave no doubt about their disagreement with Christianity. They could have many different approaches that range from a subtle, almost unnoticable rejection of Jesus Christ, to the blatant and unrepentant blasphemy spouted against Him. The subtle ones are hardest to recognize at first because they may look genuinely Christian. Some cults are odd, even bizarre; others are deadly to the spirit, mind and even the body.

Remember the cult group in 1978 where 913 followers of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple committed a mass suicide? The charismatic leader of Jonestown, was Jim Jones. In case you are not familiar with this incident, I have provided a brief history here.

The History of Jonestown
In 1978, 913 followers of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple committed a mass suicide in northern Guyana at a site called, Jonestown. The charismatic leader of Jonestown, was Jim Jones, a preacher who set up the Peoples Temple in San Francisco and ultimately moved his followers to a more clandestine site in Guyana. While Jones was preaching in San Francisco, he helped out many local and even national campaigns and was seen as a healer with much power in the community. However, once he had all of his members in Jonestown, his personality changed. Away from the constraints of American soil, Jonestown and its members became very cultish. Jones heightened regulations on his followers and their engagement to the sect. Eventually, Jones began to claim his 'true' divinity. "Jones, for example now claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, as well as Ikhnaton, Buddha, Lenin, and Father Divine."(Galanter, 1989)

Paranoia and complete control became Jones' personality, once he obtained such a close knit group. Jones began to stage rehearsals of his eventual mass suicide plan that he would eventually enact. These drills, called "white nights" began with sirens going off in the middle of the night and none of the members of Jonestown would know if it was real or not. "A mass meeting would ensue... we would be told that the jungle was swarming with mercenaries... we were given a small glass of red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told."(Galanter, 1989)

In 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan went to Jonestown to investigate supposed abuses by the People's Temple onto its members. After staying for a day, Ryan tried to leave, taking four of the cult members who had decided to defect. Realizing this, Jones ordered them killed, as was done. Sensing that his utopia in the jungle would surely come to an end after word got back to the states about Ryan; Jones decide to put his suicide plan into action. Telling his subjects that it was a "revolutionary death," he had a large quantity of fruit punch laced with cyanide prepared. After making all 276 children at Jonestown drink the punch, all the adults proceeded. In the end, after Jones apparently killed himself with a gunshot to the head, 914 people had died.

Two more recent examples of deadly cults are the Branch Davidians and Heaven's Gate. You can go to this site, click on the link for "Cults and Sects" and read about them, as well as several others.

http://www.theologywebsite.com/internet/Religions/

Another great site is CARM at:

http://www.carm.org/cults/cultlist.htm

As you learn about these various groups, be aware that your first line of defense against their lure and attractiveness is to know God's Word and be able to "test all things" with biblical truth (see 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22; 2 Timothy 2:4-16).

Only by knowing the real difference between what you believe and what certain cultists believe can you reach out to them with the all-fulfilling truth and power of the gospel.

Of course it is important to know the written Word, but also even more important to know the living Word. Trusting Jesus Christ alone for salvation is a good start; knowing Him as a friend and helper will spur you to do good works - not to earn or secure your salvation (a VERY important differentiation) but simply to live out what comes from within - a love for God and man because of what Christ has done for you.

King Solomon certainly showed a lot of wisdom when he said, "It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new" (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NLT).

In the case of today's known cults, even the new ones that are springing up at a more rapid pace than in previous generations, there is no heresy which they have not invented (or reinvented).

2 Timothy 2:14-19 (NLT)

An Approved Worker
14 Remind everyone of these things, and command them in God's name to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.


15 Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

16 Avoid godless, foolish discussions that lead to more and more ungodliness.

17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples of this.

18 They have left the path of truth, preaching the lie that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; and they have undermined the faith of some.

19 But God's truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his,"* and "Those who claim they belong to the Lord must turn away from all wickedness."*

8 comments:

Susan Smith said...

Another good post, Christine.

Knowing the "written" and "living" Word is important for those who wish to avoid cults. The way to know a lie is to know the Truth.

The enemy is out to kill, steal and destoy anyone he can. Many do not realize that spiritual warfare is not devil-centered, but God-centered. We should not strive to be more brilliant, but to be more obedient so we will more fully abide in Him. True spiritual authority is measured by the degree we are abiding in the King. Shabbat Shalom ! (ss)

Anna said...

Hi Christine -

Thanks for the post. I think this will help a lot of people. There are many cults out there - so many voice trying to get our attention. We must be firmly set on the rock, Christ Jesus!

Blessings,
Anna

Roger Lordblessed said...

Dear Christine,

I do not know if you were referring to my faith and my temple as a cult in your entry, but it felt like you did and it made me very sad. I hear people call my personal relationship with the Lord a cult and it leaves me very confused -- for I do not see a connection of love between a human being and the Fountain of Life can be abusive or corrupt. On the other hand I have heard the Lord describe apostate Christian and Mormon churches as cults, and now I understand why. For those churches are based on the idolatry of words written by men. Idolatry is defined as when we take God away from the center of our being, and replace that void with something material or perishable. This is why you need to attack the God of Israel with the false Gospels which were placed on this earth to deceive men. I shall trust in NO voice unless it be the Voice of THE LORD! And the Lord has revealed to me Her plan of Authorship, which began with the Torah, was resumed with the Nevi'im of the Prophets, and which was terrminated in last age of this earth with the Ketuvim, or the Holy Writings. YHWH, the Lord on High, inspired no divine scriptures between that age and the Present -- and now the Lord is returned in the flesh to complete Her Gospels in light of truth.

Christine, I would be nothing without the strength and sanction of the Lord. The Lord has told me of your rejection of her Gospel, and we both wept at blindness of the race of Eve -- yet the Lord has revealed to me that you are emong the elect, and that She has a plan of redemption for you, my sister! Praise Her Name!

In YHWH,
Roger

(These GospeliIdeas are very sensitive, sister Christine, and may at any time startle the masses if the truth became known too soon. I am happy to communicate with you by private email if you prefer. Public communication may become impossible if government persecution continues the way it has been going. God bless you Christine.)

Christinewjc said...

Roger,

You stated: "I do not know if you were referring to my faith and my temple as a cult in your entry, but it felt like you did and it made me very sad. I hear people call my personal relationship with the Lord a cult and it leaves me very confused -- for I do not see a connection of love between a human being and the Fountain of Life can be abusive or corrupt."

It is for that very reason - corruption - that I had written my blog post on cults.

You stated, " I shall trust in NO voice unless it be the Voice of THE LORD!"

Do you REALLY mean that? If you do, then by what means would you KNOW that what (or whom) you are listening to is FROM the One True Lord God of the universe? How do you know whether or not you are being deceived?

If it is true that people who sincerely believe in something can be deceived, how would they discover whether or not they are, in fact, being deceived? Simple. Turn to God's word.

Your comment about being sad that I have included your current beliefs in my cults list is actually a good start, Roger. You see, it is imperative that you step back and see another point of view so that you can recognize the deception you are involved with.

Matt Slick, who runs a Christian Apologetics ministry called CARM (www.carm.org) had some really important information that I would like to share with you. It goes to the question of judging your beliefs vs. my beliefs. I hope you will take the time to read and study his posts:

*******


Do we have the right to make these judgments?

To pronounce another religious group to be false can seem a pompous undertaking, especially in a culture that preaches tolerance for everything from homosexuality to a mother's "right" to kill her unborn child. Tolerance is the banner that unites much of our culture and anyone who points a judging finger at someone or something is often ridiculed.

But Christians are told in the Bible to separate themselves from the sinful practices of man and to expose error. "Examine all things and to hold fast to that which is true" says God's word (1 Thess. 5:21). So we do.

What does it mean to examine if we do not judge what is right and wrong? Jesus judged the Pharisees as hypocrites. Peter judged Ananias and Saphira as liars (Acts 5:3-4). Paul judged the Galatians as fools (Gal. 3:1).

The reason something can be said to be right or wrong is because the Bible has laid out before us a moral and doctrinal standard that is clear. It is wrong to lie. So, we are able to say to someone who lies, "What you are doing is wrong." That is making a judgment.

Likewise, with the cults, as Christians we are commanded to be able to give answers to everyone (1 Pet. 3:15) and to contend for the faith that was delivered by the apostles (Jude 4). If we do not fight for the faith, the faith will be lost. If we do not expose the errors of the cults then the cults will move unchecked in the world and lead even more into eternal destruction.

To make a judgment means that we must recognize that there are absolutes. In a world that worships relativism, absolutes are not welcome and the cults that espouse their demonic doctrines beg tolerance.

CARM stands for the truth of God's word, not a compromising collection of beliefs that changes as people's whims change. The cults are cults because they deny the true God, add works to salvation, and corrupt a multitude of biblical truths. Their end and the end of all who follow them is damnation. To do anything other than warn people about them would be unloving.

Christinewjc said...

Another important point from CARM on escaping deception:

I believe that in order to escape deception, a person would need an authoritative and reliable source of information outside his "testimony" by which he can judge spiritual truths and compare his experience. He must be willing to subject his "testimony" to something other than the grilling of his own subjective experience which he claims to be from God. Why? Because if the person used his own testimony to validate his experience then he could not determine whether or not he is deceived since that is appealing to that which is part of the deception to discover truth. It won't work.

Therefore, in order to discover if you are being deceived, you must appeal to God's word and compare your "testimony" to it. If what your testimony points to is in contradiction to God's word, then your testimony is not true.

More details:
http://www.carm.org/cults/testimony.htm

Susan Smith said...

"He must be willing to subject his "testimony" to something other than the grilling of his own subjective experience which he claims to be from God."

"If the person used his own testimony to validate his experience then he could not determine whether or not he is deceived since that is appealing to that which is part of the deception to discover truth. It won't work."

That is great logic and I wanted to hear it again. Keep us the great work, Christine! Love from the City of God. (ss)

Christinewjc said...

Yes Susan, we are to "test all things" according to what is written in God's Word, not
another human being's
word(s).

Those paragraphs you reiterated certainly do sum it up quite well and I sincerely hope that Roger heeds them.

Love in Christ,
Christine

Jojo said...

Susan,
"Many do not realize that spiritual warfare is not devil-centered, but God-centered. We should not strive to be more brilliant, but to be more obedient so we will more fully abide in Him. True spiritual authority is measured by the degree we are abiding in the King." - this is excellent! Clearly spoken thru the Spirit of God.

Christine, You have done a good job of explaining truth here. I am praying Roger will study the truth and come to a new understanding.