by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: II Timothy 3:1-9


I.         Cults periodically make the news.

            A.        It is unfortunate that gullible people exist, willing to believe anything that will bring them contentment within themselves. Some people are willing to suspend all reason to have some hope.

                        1.         John 8:44 - Satan leads many away with his lies

                        2.         II Timothy 3:1-9 - It is a mark of the times.

            B.        People become afraid that someone they know will become involved in a cult.

                        1.         Often it becomes an irrational fear – emotional and not reasoned

            C.        Which should lead to the question: What is a cult?

                        1.         Never fear, authors are busily working away on definitive works to satisfy our curiosity.

                        2.         The definitions are often as bad as the cults.

                        3.         To many, if a religion is not a widely recognized “standard” group, then it must be a cult.

II.        As an example, a book called “Angels of Deceit” uses these points to define cults

            A.        “We alone know the truth of God: therefore, we alone are the people of God.”

            B.        “We alone have a special message from God which no one else possesses.”

            C.        “Our leader alone knows what is best for the group.”

            D.        “We alone will be saved.”

            E.        “Jesus will come for us alone because we alone are the people of God.”

            F.        “We are persecuted because we alone have the truth.”

            G.        They also include signs based on doctrinal errors, such as a denial of Jesus’ deity or salvation through works.

III.       Barring the last point, have you noticed something? Christianity is a cult!

            A.        Acts 4:10-12 - Salvation is only through Jesus Christ

                        1.         You see Christians believe they are the only ones to be saved. The Muslims, Jews, Buddiasts, Hinduists are all left out.

                        2.         There is no other God - Isaiah 44:8

            B.        Only Christians were given the words that can save man

                        1.         Reject any other teaching - Galatians 1:6-8

                        2.         A teaching that was delivered once and to no one else - Jude 3

            C.        Our leader, alone knows what is best for us

                        1.         Ephesians 1:3 - All spiritual blessings are in Christ

                        2.         Only in Christ can we boast - I Corinthians 1:30-31

            D.        Jesus will come for only those who obey him

                        1.         II Thessalonians 1:5-10 - Jesus will take vengeance on those that do not know God.

            E.        And of course, Jesus taught that his followers would be pursecuted

                        1.         Matthew 5:11-12 - Blest are you, great is your reward.

                        2.         II Corinthians 4:11 - We are always facing death, for Jesus’ sake

            F.        In their very attempt to exclude, they reject the one true religion.

IV.      People tend to label anything that is not like themselves as a cult

            A.        That is why they picked the denial of Jesus’ deity (an undeniable false teaching) and salvation through works (obviously they are believers in salvation through faith only) as signs of a cult.

            B.        There have been and will continue to be many false teachers in our world, yet we don’t often label them as cults.

            C.        The early church was viewed as a cult

                        1.         Saul spent his life trying to wipe out this menace to his view of true religion (Acts 9:1-2; Galatians 1:13; I Timothy 1:12-13)

                        2.         This same Saul became a follower of the very “cult” he tried to eliminate. He was saved by the power of the gospel - Romans 1:16-17

                        3.         Accused of being a ringleader of this nasty sect of the Nazarene - Acts 24:5

                                    a.         But it was not a man-made organization. It was the result of a powerful plan of God - Ephesians 3:10-11

                        4.         Everywhere Paul went, churches were started, disruptions would follow, riots would break out as people objected to this religion.

                                    a.         People persecuted the church - Acts 8:1

                                    b.         They spread false rumors about it - Matthew 5:11

                                    c.         Everywhere it was spoken against - Acts 28:22

                                    d.         Yet it spread like wild fire - Acts 8:3-4

                        5.         Eventually Paul died for his belief and teaching

            D.        Don’t be surprised if the label of cult is still applied to the Lord’s church today.

V.        A better definition of a cult [based on Julie Adam’s article on Cult Leaders]

            A.        Cult leaders tend to be overtly or covertly charming.

                        1.         They seek to discover your weakness - II Timothy 3:6-7; II Peter 2:14

                        2.         They disarm the follower with flattery, or a desire to help with a weakness, or an allegiance and alignment with the follower’s cause - Proverbs 26:23-26; 29:5

                        3.         Other define this as “love bombing.” - II Peter 2:18-19

            B.        Cult leaders tend to be authoritarian

                        1.         This will be subtle at first. It will rear its ugly head when a follower questions the leader.

                        2.         Cult leaders must have control in order to manipulate their followers - Luke 22:25-27

                        3.         When a follower speaks up about a questionable practice within the group, they will be targeted as disobedient.

            C.        Use of fear

                        1.         Followers will be “charmed” initially by the leader in order to gain control

                        2.         However, if charming is not successful, the confrontation will become abusive with words - II Corinthians 11:20

                        3.         The follower will be accused of disobeying God because they disobeyed the leader.

                        4.         This then creates fear in the other followers, and reduces the chance of anyone else confronting the leader.

            D.        A “you versus us” mentality

                        1.         Anyone outside the evangelistic mission is deemed an enemy - I Timothy 6:3-5; Romans 16:17-18

                        2.         That in turn means followers will need to distance themselves from anyone who questions their belief system.

            E.        Such ideas do not define the church or the behavior of its people.

                        1.         Yet, it does define most cults

                        2.         The church is not a cult

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