A cult is an organization that claims to be a good Christian church, but in reality it is a work of the Devil. One of the ways to recognize a cult is when what they claim to be isn’t the same as what they are. When their projection of themselves (“a work of God”) is revealed to have deception, lies, half-truths, twists and distortions of the truth, you know that it is time to head for the door.
Why do Cults have to use Deception?
If you understand this correctly, it will greatly help your discernment of what is a good church, and what is a cult. The simple matter is that a true biblical church is founded on truth. By “truth” we mean the spiritual principles that God lays out for all believers and churches to use.
A cult is built by men on their foundation, what they want out of it. Therefore before a cult begins, the founders are excluding truth from their structure. They “use” truth as a farmer uses good grain and poison to kill rats. Even 99% good grain and 1% poison still kills, and does the job. So many cults and false religions actually have many points of doctrine and practice that are biblical, but they craft that 1% of falsehood to do its deadly work.
Deception is a necessity for cults.
That is because they refuse the model of a church that God has given us, and they want “something else.” The “church” as God gives us the concept is a body of redeemed people ministering to one another in the love of God. Whether they are just black hearted and want something they can control in bad and evil manner, or they are self deceived thinking that they are doing a great thing, but not following the Bible but what they deem best in their own minds, either way, it is a poisonous thing they are involved with.
Cults: They have to use deception to cover their real motives, objectives, and methods, because otherwise people would be forewarned and stay away from them.
Once deception, lies, and hidden methods and manners are allowed, the entire group takes a turn for the worse that few in the pew will discern. So in a real church as God wants it, there is a clarity of the motives, purpose, and actions of the people involved. Yes, in a real church people are still people and they make mistakes and they sin. But there is repentance (actually the entire church is “geared” towards repentance with abandonment of that sin). When a person confesses publicly, that shows a grain of repentance. It may be fake, but it is going in the right direction.
Christians, good Christians, and good leaders use the truth to reveal what they are doing, and that is helpful to everybody involved.
Cults: Use good works to disguise their evil objectives and manners.
For example, in groups like Hyles-Anderson churches, they boast that their soul-winning efforts gain them a certain impunity with God. Because they win so many souls to Christ every month, God over-looks their nefarious and evil methods and objectives, even their hideous sins of fornication, adultery, etc. With big churches come big offerings, and comes big salaries for those at the top.
God’s people, God’s work, and God’s methods are not hard to discern. Deception is never a part of them. The stature of a man of God is simply put, he is what he pretends to be, and he at least pretends to be a follower (imitator) of Jesus Christ his Savior. A real work of God has the leaders really imitating Christ in their own personal lives. If that is a given in any real church with real Christian and spiritual leaders, how does deception, lying, stealing, adultery, etc. fit in with a real man of God? The one is opposite of the other. Christ rejected all of those things in his ministry, so how can we be a part of Christ’s universal church if our local fellowship is full of things that Christ would not allow?
When you find the leaders of a religious making promises only to break them when convenient, you are looking at a cult. Every pastor and church can at times desire something and state that out loud, and then not achieve, but what we are talking about is willful negation of a promise that they have given, for the simple reason because they don’t want to do it.
Actually, as a pastor, there are times when what you ought to do and what you have to do is just not what you want to do. Some leader has sin in their lives yet they were very much a hard worker for the church. Do you reveal his sin and destitute him of his office or do you let it pass and hide it all?
I personally think that you need to exhort the individual to confess, repent, and abandon that sin, and then evaluate how much he needs to distance himself from the work of God and for how long.
For some people, a single grievous sin, and that person is out of ministering and even attending their church forever. Well that is a high standard indeed. But does it check with what we see in the Bible?
King David’s Sin with Bathsheba
In the end analysis, God saw David as a man after his own heart. So for all the failings of David, God liked him. God called him to be king of Israel, and he was a good king overall. David paid for his sins in his own life. God saw to that. If David was a pastor of a church doing those sins, most churches would have destituted him completely forever. We want high standards, but unilateral destruction of the leader’s life maybe overkill. It really puts pressure on the person to not confess publicly, and try to cover up things.
Judas’ stealing and betrayal of Christ
When we examine the ministry of Christ, we find that Judas was stealing from our Lord’s ministry, and he also betrayed Christ to the Pharisees. When we say Judas paid for his sins, we are not sure how that worked, but it went poorly for him. He committed suicide. The idea we get is that he went to the pit of hell. So he was not even saved.
Yet Christ allowed him to be a part of the 12. Christ fulfilled prophecy by doing this. Yes, Satan moved even in the heart of someone very close to Christ to betray him. This fulfills Christ man of sorrows. But there would appear to be a path even after gross sin. Perhaps this is seen better in Peter’s betrayal of Christ.
Peter’s betrayal of Christ
Both Judas and Peter betrayed Christ in different ways. In fact, the other 10 apostles all abandoned Christ when they should have been in solidarity with him. Yet Christ used these 11 remaining apostles to spread the gospel to the world.
God understands man much better than man ever can. Even within man’s failure, God works his will. Adam fell, yet this Messiah to save man was inherit in Eve’s seed. God works his will in with or around man’s sin.
Our “official” attitude
First of all, we never excuse, cover up, or “accept sin” as part of our lives. We identify things as sin, and we formally reject them. But as God is merciful, we should be merciful also. This means that maybe we give people a break when they truly confess, repent, and abandon their sins.
I as a pastor would never give somebody like Judas a place in our church as the church treasurer. Pasts sins still taint our present service, and we should not place recovering people in places of temptation where they have fallen before.
But Christians need to be both “not stupid”, and they should be forgiving people. We understand the frailty of man, and people fall, we fall also. So let’s do what is right in regard to dealing with a person who sins, but not totally destroy the person. Give hope. Let people find a place in the church somewhere even after they have gone through sin, confession, repentance, remorse, and then we help them with restoration.
Deception has no place in the church
Having confessed the situation publicly or at least publicly to the church leadership, we need to help people to continue on for Christ. We do not condone deception because it is the way of Satan. It has no place in the church of Jesus Christ, living truth.
More Posts on the Marks of a Cult
- Cults: What is salvation? How does it change you?
- FP: False prophets worship other gods
- FP: Using Scripture or Following Scripture?
- FP: Unshackled from God’s Will
- Cults: Double Standards and Hypocrisy
- Cults: Lies and Deceptions
- Cults: Biblical Definition of a Cult