Pastor Miles began this weekend's message discussing the disgusting yet amazing works of leeches. The purpose of a leech is to suck blood. Often times leeches are used to tend to ailments people may have. Leeches have an ability that far exceeds man made medicine. A leech has an anesthetic that they emit that numbs a person so that he or she cannot feel the bite of the leech, and therefore are unaware of the effect the leech is having on them.
This week Pastor Miles began teaching the first part of a series on cults. A lot of people are in religions or churches, and think they are getting something good out of them. They may even feel good, but the truth of the matter is they are getting life sucked out of them and they don't even know it.
The Basics on Cults
This weekend's message focused on a general overview of characteristics of cults.
Cults are religious groups who claim compatibility with biblical Christianity, but whose doctrines and practices contradict those of the Bible. Often times people aren't aware of the fact that they are in a cult because they aren't aware of the deception that cults teach. There are specific characteristics to note when it comes to identifying a cult.
Denial of Deity
Matthew 24:4-5 states, And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
Most cults deny the deity of Jesus Christ. The problem is that this teaching is contrary to what Scripture teaches. If Jesus is not God, He is a liar and we are not forgiven. Many people feel that it is intolerant to say that people can't believe whatever they want. However, truly no one person is a tolerant person if they disagree with another belief other than their own.
Keeping this in mind sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with others must be of utmost importance even if it puts us at risk of seeming intolerant, because we all are. Despite what cults may teach, the reality is that what the Scriptures say about Jesus is the truth.
Matthew 24:23-25 states, Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.
Some cults have made claims that Jesus has already returned to earth. However, there has been no valid evidence to prove that. If Jesus has already returned, we are deceived and the Bible is not true.
A Particular Person
Many Cults follow a particular person and place extreme pressure on people to stay involved. We as Christians may not even realize we have a cultish relationship with our own home church and pastor.
We may only go to church when we know for certain our favorite pastor is speaking, or to a service where we know we can get a good parking spot, or just the right seat. If we make our religion about the people or the place it can be dangerous.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 states, who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.
Christianity isn't supposed to be about us or any other person and what he or she can do, but rather about God and what He can do. Cults accomplish the exact opposite of this.
It is vital that we connect with God directly on our own, and not through what someone else tells us. Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, therefore, time in His Word and prayer on a daily basis is essential.
More than the Bible?
Cults rely on materials other than the Bible as their source of truth. Matthew 24:11-14 states, then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Mormons promote the book of Mormon as the necessary edition to the Bible; Jehovah witnesses have their own bible in which they have changed the original content of the Bible. The additions or changes cults make to the Word of God, is a contradiction of it. The Bible is the only book that can change lives. It embodies the integrity of Jesus Christ Himself.
The last, and perhaps most important characteristic to understand about cults is that they follow false prophets who preach a false gospel offering salvation by works.
The greatest problem here is that it makes religion all about the person and what they can do to earn their salvation. The Bible teaches a completely different lesson. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Cults give rules and steps to follow to receive salvation. The result is that you must be good enough to be saved. Christianity is the only faith that is based on grace. Salvation isn't something that is earned. All you have to do is accept Jesus through faith and by grace you will be saved. The point is we do not deserve it; Grace, after all, is undeserved favor.
A Personal Relationship
Humans are the most dependent creatures on earth. A human baby is the most dependent on the mother than any other creature. There is little a human baby can do on their own to help themselves.
Could it be that God made us this way to teach us that we need to depend on one another? As we grow up we learn to trust one another, and through this trust and dependence we can grow. Beyond daily time in the Bible and prayer to build a personal relationship with the Lord, accountability relationships, attending church, and ministry are crucial factors of the Christian life.
Thankfully because there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, there is nothing we have to do to earn it. Because it is a gift from God, we can now grow in Him through a personal relationship with Him.
Next week as we continue on in this series about cults we will look more in depth into specific cults beginning with Jehovah Witnesses.