Video available here: http://youtu.be/ny6tKphwYsk
By nature, religious cults are a tightly knit group of
people with an unhealthy level of intimacy.
They are a very close, affectionate and caring group of people who over
time have become almost exact clones of personality. They look alike. They think alike. They start liking the same things.
The cult I escaped had an unhealthy affection for
wilderness, simply because the fables told by the cult leader included stories
from the wilderness. People who would
never have chosen to be the outdoors type were climbing mountains, hiking
trails, and hunting game. Some churches
within the cult even frowned upon many other activities, especially if it could
be associated with modern entertainment you would typically find indoors.
When you are on the inside, you become more than
family. You become part of the mold, and
over time, this mold actively changes the makeup of your personality.
Again to the example I came from, the cult leader died in
1965. Had he been alive for the next
fifty years, this man would have changed with the times. We find recorded example of his change during
the years that led to his death, but this change was stopped abruptly by an
As Hollywood started making an impact on society during the
early years of the leader’s ministry, and many churches were condemning this
change, the leader strongly opposed watching these movies. When television started spreading like
wildfire, this grew worse. Sermons would
include quotes like “Satan’s pulled one over on you! Now you’ve got it in your homes!”
But as these changes started becoming largely accepted, the
leader himself started frequenting movies.
Those in the cult who never knew this hold on to the earlier belief –
that movies are ‘of the devil.’ But
those who saw the leader in theaters or who have enjoyed a movie or ballgame on
the television with the leader’s own sons will no longer deny themselves the
entertainment they once forbid.
This presents a problem.
Now, the cult itself is split into two groups: those who now realize that they themselves
are in charge of their televisions, having the power to decide whether to watch
good or watch evil, and those who practice asceticism.
Asceticism is denying “worldly pleasures” to achieve a
higher spiritual state. It is the belief
that you are the one in control, not God.
If you want to be more like God, and be presented “holy,” then you must
abstain from the pleasures of this world.
This is a dangerous heresy, one that has been condemned
since Gnostic influence started to infect the early church. Irenaeus wrote an entire book, “Against
Heresies,” condemning this pagan influence that was infiltrating Christianity.
The Apostle Paul also spoke out against asceticism:
“Let no one disqualify
you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about
visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind”
Before you can accept asceticism, you must first deny the
cross of Jesus Christ. You must deny the
power of the cross, deny that His Grace is sufficient. You must believe that there is something that
YOU also must do before you can be saved.
In Mark 7, Jesus Himself condemns the Pharisees for letting
the tradition of their rules and “boundaries” take priority over the Word of
God. They had forgotten the very reason
the Law was given, and had denied themselves the love of their fellow man for
their own tradition.
He said to them, “All
too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your
tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your
father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put
to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says
to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is
Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for
his father or his mother, making the
word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And
many such things you do.”
Mankind, by nature, has always struggled with
tradition. Unless they remember the
underlying reason a doctrine or a law is given, they will start to focus on
that law. Over time, the reason is
Jesus knew this as he was having the Last Supper with the
Apostles. Though what he did has now
become tradition, the reason for what he did will never be forgotten.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to
them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
While many view the tradition of taking the Lord’s Supper in
their churches as some supernatural event, we find little or no support of that
in scripture. All scripture points to
the cross, and this that Jesus instructed the disciples was a beacon throughout
time. From the time He ascended to the
day He will return, people will remember the cross.
But a religious cult will take simple tradition and make it
become dangerous. Those who do not
follow tradition are cut off and scorned.
Those who follow it are filled with pride. That pride is amplified as the minds are
molded to become one personality.
We can find this example even in nature. If you throw a piece of meat to a pack of
hungry wolves, the first wolf that finds it will start tearing into it. If there’s room for a second and third, they
also begin to devour the meat. But when
those around, those who do not have the meat, start trying to get some of their
own, the three wolves will snarl and growl at them as if they were a different
kind of beast. Wolves will turn against
other wolves, even though they are the same creature.
Cults are no different.
Men and women who were once friends, family, or neighbors are seen as the
“ones who didn’t get the meat.” …
especially if they once “had the meat” and decided to eat something else.
The priority of cult members is to hold onto what they have,
because they are internally starving themselves of something new.
Christianity, by nature, is spreading the Good News that
Christ came to save the lost. We are
sharing our meat with others, and there is a bountiful supply. In fact, the more we give to others, the more
spiritual meat we get for ourselves.
But a religious cult is just the opposite. Rather than freely give, those who did not
receive the meat are scorned and condemned.
Those who once had the meat will never be given another piece, they are
denied and rejected.
One of my favorite chapters in the Old Testament is Ezekiel
16, “God’s Faithless Bride.” It is a
love story, one that all should know by heart.
A vision is given to Ezekiel, describing how the Children of
Israel continually fell to idolatry and were not faithful to her True Husband,
the One True God. And God does not tell
Ezekiel that the Children of Israel were a different race of people, intended
to rise above others to scorn and condemn them.
God says this: “Your origin and your birth are of the land
of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born
your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor
rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.” Ezekiel 16:1-4
The Children of Israel were comprised of human beings. They were the same flesh and bone as the
Amorites and the Hittites, and yet God chose them. They did not earn their being chosen by the
worldly pleasures that they could have forbade.
And more than that, God tells Ezekiel that they were not
“holy” when He chose them. God calls
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at
the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered
your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you,
declares the Lord God, and you became mine.”
Throughout the chapter, God reminds Ezekiel how Israel fell
to idolatry time after time. She had
become nothing more than a harlot, unfaithful to the One True God and becoming
intimate with the idols of Baal.
Israel had taken pleasure with the cults of Baal, and that
influence had turned her into a harlot. God
describes how displeased He is with the Children of Israel, and says that she
has become like her mother, the Hittites.
God’s description of how the Children of Israel had become is no
different than what we see in religious cults today.
“Behold, this was the
guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food,
and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination
before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.
Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more
abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the
abominations that you have committed.
Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your
sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they,
they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your
disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.” – Ezekiel 16:49-52
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, and many cult pastors
give an unscriptural reason for this.
The reason they give usually supports their own agenda, whether it is
the type of clothing, appearance, music, and even homosexuality. But that is not what God says.
God says that Sodom would have been spared had they showed
compassion to the poor and needy. They
were haughty, filled with pride.
They had become like the religious cults of today.
But while we could point to example after example to show
the similarities between a cult and the destruction of Sodom, that is not the
point that God is making. Their hearts
and minds had been molded into a similar personality. Abraham pleaded with God on behalf of Sodom,
begging the lord to spare the city if fifty were found righteous. All the way down to ten people, Abraham
pleaded with God and asked for mercy.
But there were not even ten to be found in the city. They had all become of like minds, similar
personalities. All filled with pride,
none caring for the poor and needy. They
only cared about themselves.
God says that the Children of Israel had made the city of
Sodom look righteous! They were worse!
But they were chosen.
They did not save themselves through works-righteous
faith. Israel was worse than the city
that was destroyed by fire, condemned by God, and was a prostitute in the eyes
God chose them.
“For thus says the
Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath
in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days
of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you
will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your
elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account
of the covenant with you. I will
establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you
may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your
shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”
– Ezekiel 16:59-63
What God did in this vision to Ezekiel is something that
many cult pastors will never do as they condemn those who are outside the
boundaries of their cult. God was very
harsh and condemning in his words, telling the people not to serve other gods
and rebuking them for the gods they served.
God wants the people to serve Him, and Him alone.
But then, after calling Israel the greatest prostitute that
ever would walk the face of the earth, after calling her the mother of harlots,
God lifts her up. God shows His mercy
God pointed to the Cross.
An unhealthy intimacy with those in your chosen place of
worship leads to pride. If your religion
gradually transforms you into seeing other humans as lost and dying creatures
unworthy of the Cross of Calvary, then you have become no better than the pack
While unhealthy intimacy seems loving from the inside, and
those inside the boundaries view this as “like-minded and in one accord,” those
on the outside are starving for the piece of meat. And they are rejected with a snarl. They experience the opposite of love.
Paul describes healthy Christians, those who are following
the words of Christ. He describes how we
are to interact with one another, even those who are not within the boundaries
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does
not boast, it is not proud. It does not
dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no
record of wrongs. Love does not delight
in evil but rejoices with the truth. It
always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are
prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness
comes, what is in part disappears.”
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-10