April 10, 2015

Marks of a cult

Deuteronomy 18:1–20:20, 2 Corinthians 5:1–10, Psalm 37:23–40

In working on these degree courses, I’ve had some challenges. The previous one required a fairly long paper. I choose to write about how what we believe affects how we live, comparing the Christian life with the lives of those who belong to a specific cult. Because one of my family members belongs to this cult, I’ve a closer look at them than others might.

It was a difficult project, partly because of the topic, and partly because of personal involvement, but mostly because my spiritual enemy did not want me to put together what I knew and had been learning. There were hours when the burden became so great that I was immobilized. However, it was completed on time and received high marks and encouraging words from my professor.

I’m thinking about this today because some of the signs of false teachers came up in the above readings. Here is one of them:

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (This points to Jesus) But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18–22)

The cult that I wrote about has made dozens of prophecies that have not come true. Not only that, they have dismissed Jesus as God the Son, are working hard to earn their salvation as dictated by their head office, and they have no assurance of their eternal destiny. They claim to be the only true way to God, that is, their organization is the only true way to God, despite the words of the NT: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Another claim they make is that they must be the right way because their numbers are large and growing. My OT reading included this passage:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’” (Deuteronomy 20:1–4)

God knows that sometimes His people will be outnumbered. Note that this passage and the one about false prophets both say that we ought not to be afraid of them. God assures us that acting like a prophet or having many members are not the issue. If God is our God and we believe the truth, then even one true believer by himself is a majority!

The NT reading was about eternal assurance. Paul wrote that while we are alive, we long for the time when we will be with Jesus. We know that our destiny is secure because we believe what God says, and because His Spirit is with us, telling us that we are His children: “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:4–5)

My relative does not have this assurance. He and his cohorts are mostly fearful of dying. Any assurance they have is based on performance. If they do all that their organization tells them, they are told it will go well for them. If they fail to keep all the rules and cannot keep up to the requirements, they have no hope. Their salvation is all about them.

In contrast, the salvation that Jesus gives is all about Jesus. The psalmist puts it this way: “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” (Psalm 37:39–40)

I have to admit that I do not always run to God when I’m in trouble. However, that does not make me a loser, as it does a cult member. The reason is that when I fail, God forgives me and pulls me to Himself. If I neglect to take refuge, He reaches out and pulls me into His stronghold. He is my Savior; I am not.

Great is the burden on my heart for cult members. I not only pray for my family member, but for the entire organization, that God would deliver them from the power of false teaching and bring them into His place of refuge.

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