Cults: What is salvation? How does it change you? is a short article on how true salvation changes the person.
One of the most faithful signs that a group is a cult is how they define and handle salvation. To be honest, most cults do speak of some kind of “salvation”, but their concept of salvation is always different from the Bible’s. A cult desires things from people (control, money, power, fame, etc). To get these things from people, they work these people (“fleece the sheep”). To do this, they will use any means available to them, or that may occur to them. The issue of salvation is the easiest one to use, because every person in a church or religious group is somehow worried about going to heaven.
Salvation is only available to members of their group
So the most common tactic of a cult is to simply require faithful membership and full participation in their group as a requirement for salvation.
Examples – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, etc.
True Christians have to acknowledge and make totally clear that there are others in the world who have understand the base concepts of salvation as per the Bible, and some of them are saved.
They teach a works salvation
But it is dangerous to tell members of your group that they are saved and definitely going to heaven. So a cult typically either ignores salvation altogether, or they deny the point. They often will say that a person has to do good works in their group in order to be saved. They do that, but their definition of “good works” is basically to be a mindless drone bee for their group, sacrificing all they available free time for the group, and even more.
Many times the cult will substitute a moral salvation from sin for some kind of physical healing, or a rescue out of poverty.
A true, biblical church, on the other hand, defines salvation as being when a person admits his sinful condition, really repents of his sins, and then believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior. We call this our “Gospel” or good news of how people can be saved. Note that this really has nothing to do with earthly organizations, groups, denominations, nor individual churches. Sure, “our church” should have all saved people, but a true and biblical church will not define who are saved by their inclusion and support of “our group” but rather by the above Gospel,
Note that a group is a cult if they exclude people who are outside of their group simply because they are outside; and they are a cult if they include people simply because they are part of that earthly group. Salvation has to do with an individual’s relationship with God, not joining an earthly religious group per se. I would also add that EVERY SINGLE TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL or SHOULD JOIN A GOOD SOLID BIBLICAL CHURCH, but his salvation is not granted nor withheld because of his doing that, nor because of his not doing that.
Example – The Church of Christ Boston says that you cannot be saved if you move somewhere without first getting permission from them (which they base on one of their member churches being in that city you want to move to). The Jehovah’s Witnesses exclude all other groups from salvation, so if you are not a member of their group, you are not saved, and have no hope for eternal life or salvation.
Cult: You have to join our (earthly) group to be saved.
In John 3, Jesus crosses the path of Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Jews, a man that was an “expert” on religious, the Jews’ religion. The key thing that Jesus felt that Nicodemus (and all Jewish teachers) was missing was the great need of being born again. Without being born again, the person will go to hell.
The being born again experience leaves the person spiritual transformed. He is a different person by the power of God. If people “join your church” but experience no internal transformation, then they too need this spiritual new birth. But that is the point. It internally changes the person, their wants and desires as well as how they live their lives.