Some 913 members of the People's Temple followed their leader, Jim Jones. They followed him to death in the jungles of Guyana. Multiplied thousands more are following cult leaders to certain spiritual, if not physical, death.
Cults are sprouting up all around us and thousands are being deceived. How can you and I identify a cult immediately? How could the members of the People's Temple have identified Jim Jones as a fraud? What should have tipped them off? This study will give you five identifying features of a cult so you need not be deceived.
1. What did Jesus say regarding false religious leaders at the time of the end? Matthew 24:24.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
2. How can we be kept from the powerful delusions of the enemy? John 8:32.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Identifying Feature #1:
Cults usually have a single powerful human leader who becomes the cult's messiah.
3. What do the Scriptures say regarding placing implicit confidence in a human being for salvation? Psalm 146:3.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help."
4. Who is the sole source of our salvation? Isaiah 45:22.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."
Identifying Feature #2:
The cult leader's word, or the teachings of the cult, become absolute truth, overshadowing the teachings of the Scriptures.
5. What does Jesus say about placing the teachings of men above the Word of God? Mark 7:7
MY BIBLE SAYS: "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
Each cult uses "pressure" tactics to coerce it members into submission.
6. How does the Bible emphasize the necessity of freedom of choice? Joshua 24:15; Revelation 22:17
MY BIBLE SAYS: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
Identifying Feature #4:
Each cult denies the central truth of the gospel that Jesus is the divine Son of God, without beginning or ending. They deny His death has provided salvation for the entire human race. As a result, salvation is earned by adherence to the teachings of the cult rather than accepting Christ and obeying Him through love. Ephesians 2:8; Romans 6:23.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "For by grace you have been saved . . . it is the gift of God." ". . . the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Identifying Feature #5:
Cults often urge their "converts" to leave their families. By isolating family members they accomplish their "brain washing" tactics. Biblical Christianity calls men and women to follow Jesus and stand for truth, it does not call them to leave their families. (I Corinthians 7:13, 14; Matthew 10:38: Ephesians 5:22, 23).
7. Why will thousands be deceived by the rising number of cults in our society? What is our greatest safeguard? II Thessalonians 2:10-12.
MY BIBLE SAYS: "And with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
We are living in an age of "hero" worship.
With the advent of television, our hero need only be a good orator or actor, and how easily we follow. Teenagers respond in masses to "rock" groups and mimic their lifestyles, no matter how bizarre.
We dress according to the latest fashion mode. We dine at the latest "in" places. We follow whoever and whatever is in vogue. If it's chic to have a martini for lunch, we have a martini for lunch. Why? What has happened to the individual?
There is a certain type of caterpillar that will follow its leader devotedly. It can be placed on the rim of a clay pot within reach of food and starve to death because it will not break its rank. Yet caterpillars are not people.
God is looking for men and women who will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's pleading—who will listen to His voice and follow Him in spite of the obstacles—who will not devotedly adhere to the voice of an earthly religious leader rather than His voice—who will not deny the voice of the Spirit to their heart to listen to some human voice. God is looking for men and women who will be true to conscience at any cost.
"The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall." —Education, page 57.
Will you be God's man, God's woman? Will you say, "Lord, I choose to listen to Your voice and Your voice alone. I cannot, I must not, I will not allow another's voice to drown out the voice of Your Spirit. I will be loyal to you at any cost."