House Church Talk - Cults and other Illusions
goodword at bresnan.net
Sun Aug 8 08:20:48 EDT 2004
Aside from the temptation to spiral down into a bog of bickering, the topic of
cults (and/or cult leaders) is always an interesting one, I think. Cults are
always out there. And they always do well in recruiting people, it seems.
Likewise, genuine Christian groups will continue to function in questionable
and sometimes even harmful ways. We are not always perfect in our wisdom, our
maturity, or even in our devotion to Jesus Himself.
But are cults the real problem? In our culture, for instance, is drug abuse
or violence or pornography the real problem?
Is corrupt (or even misled) leadership the real problem facing believers
today? Is doctrinal perfection and purity the real answer? Or is the whole
idea of church perfection, and absolute purity in all doctrines, beliefs, and
practices part of the problem?
I guess I see things differently than many in the church -- the body of Christ
It's common in civilized societies to have various kinds of religious wars and
conflicts and competitions. "My religion is better than your religion,"
someone might say. Or, "My religion is right and yours is all wrong."
My question: What good is any religion at all, if that's all we have?
Is there a religion that gives us eternal life? Is there a religion that
makes us right with God? Does it really matter to God that the tenets and
practices of a religious group are essentially correct, if the lives
themselves are lost to Him?
Did Jesus tell the Jews of the first century that as long as they were true to
good Jewish traditions and beliefs, they were ok? Or did He turn their eyes
away from traditions, and away from conflicts with the Romans, and back to God
I think we're mistaken to look merely to a style of leadership for signs of a
problem. The fact that a group has a single leader is not a sign of gross
evil. The fact that a group has plural leadership is not a sure sign of truth
and guaranteed safety. The fact that any group meets only in homes is not a
sign of genuine spiritual life. Participation in decisions and activities by
the whole group means nothing at all, if that's all we have.
If we fall for such ideas, then we've already passed from real life into
another kind of religious tradition. HC has then become just one more
movement or cause or theological persuasion. And I think there are already
What we each one need is a real walk with Jesus. What every Christian group
needs is Jesus Himself, not a better method. Jesus keeps us. Jesus corrects
us when we stray this way or that. Jesus will lead us all the way home to the
Father's house. And, need I say it? Jesus saves us.
To me, the core of life, and the truly meaningful thing to any believer is
Jesus Christ Himself. Our faith, our lives, our devotion must be to Him,
about Him, and always centered on Him -- not on anyone -- ANYONE -- else, or
We must not meet in homes because some guy, or any group, is telling us that
we really need to do this in order to be spiritually and Scripturally correct.
We meet because we know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and He Himself is
directing us this way. Yes, He will probably use the Bible to convince us.
He may even use some guy's book, an invitation, a friend, or anything else to
get our attention. But in every case, we should take any such move or
decision back to Him for approval and direction.
Jesus Christ Himself must be the center of each believer's life. Christian
life is about being with Jesus. It's not about sorting out good religion from
bad. Follow Jesus, and He will lead you in the way you should go.
I accept all Christians as my brothers and sisters. I see only one church in
this world, not many. To me, a person is not made godlier or more orthodox
(in God's eyes) by meeting this way or that way, by having only one pastor or
a host of elders, overseers, or even by maintaining massive group
participation. Only as a person knows, loves and walks with the Lord is that
person right or not.
Cults, then, as tragic as they can be, are not the real enemy at all, as I see
it. They're just one more inevitable symptom of the darkness that infects the
Anyone who is not following Jesus is already walking in darkness, whether they
are in a cult or in a really good group of true believers. And it does not
really matter, what forms that darkness may take. Spiritually speaking,
everything that is not Jesus is darkness and false. Only Jesus Christ is the
truth, the life and the way.
I do not believe that a cult can snare someone who is obedient to God, paying
attention to the Spirit of the Lord. Nor do I believe a cult can insulate any
lost human being from God's saving grace, or His power to rescue, deliver and
teach. Satan has many methods to steal wandering sheep, and to keep human
souls in darkness and bondage. But none of them are ultimately effective.
Everything the devil does is an illusion, and God is the big illusion-breaker.
Only those who absolutely reject God Himself and His truth, and willfully
remain in that state, can be deluded to their own ultimate destruction. God
Himself sends them a delusion if they continually refuse the love of the truth
(2 Thess 2:10,11).
If we're not walking as we should with the Lord, and if we're not in His Word
each day, seeking and waiting for His direction in our own lives, then we're
already in trouble -- and it doesn't matter what form that trouble may take.
God can use anything to wake us up, if we're willing to respond to Him. But
if we're not willing to be shaken awake by the Lord, then the outer form of
our sin and unbelief is never the real problem. The real issue is that we've
turned back, as old King Saul, from following the Lord (see 1 Samuel 15).
The question, then, as I see it, is not which religious tradition, which
religious forms, and methods are best and right and safest for our families.
No, the real issue is whether or not we're right with God, through a living
faith in Jesus Christ.
Christian life not about religious wars and conflicts, or theological debates.
It's about who knows the Lord and loves Him for Himself -- who will follow
the Lord, and who will find some other thing or idea, or person, or group to
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