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By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Q. What is a cult?
A. As a Christian, your first loyalties are to Jesus, and only secondarily to anyone else. But a cult places itself, or its leaders, in that prime position reserved for Christ. Subtly, a transfer of loyalties occurs. In a cult, men in hierarchic positions have assumed spiritual control and usurped prerogatives of lordship that belong to Christ. In the worst offenders, cult leaders even become mediators to members, flagrantly usurping Jesus’ mediatorial capacity (1 Tim 2:5).
Q. What are the identifying characteristics of a cult?
A. 1) Leaders are venerated or elevated in a special position over you, so you submit to them, not to God’s Spirit. While it is true that God does call certain individuals to serve in various offices under His direction, that does not make them infallible or superior to anyone else. We are all equal in that we are all human with the same potential destiny. The only difference with an individual called to an office in the body of Christ is that God puts His anointing upon that person so they can fulfil His call on their life. While we should not regard any such person as more ‘special’ than anyone else, we should respect that anointing or function given by God.
2) Leaders invariably expect absolute and unquestioning obedience from ‘laity’, and are regarded as more spiritual and even judges of a member’s faith and commitment.
If you have a dispute with a minister, you are often deemed to be in the wrong, because of a minister’s supposed higher spiritual standing. In the most cultic churches, ministerial authority is ruthlessly upheld at all costs.
3) Members of some cults are mainly preoccupied with fund-raising, recruiting and attending their meetings. Church membership is encouraged to bolster church funds!
4) To varying degrees, family relationships are made to come after ‘spiritual’ or church considerations. The church or cult becomes the convert’s new family.
5) Indoctrinated members put goals of the cult ahead of individual concerns, interests, education plans, career and health, as loyalties toward God gradually transfer to the cult.
6) Many cults use sophisticated psychological manipulation to encourage ego-destruction, thought reform and submission to the cult. Surreptitiously, they cause members to become dependent upon the church / cult, so the church effectively does their spiritual thinking and spiritual decision-making for them. In the worst cases, the effect is that members devote unquestioning loyalty to the organisation, believing it to be infallibly guided by God.
7) Cults exert other means of psychological control which can be quite subtle, leading to dependence on the cult.
8) Cults may exploit members financially, psychologically, socially and emotionally, and worst of all, always SPIRITUALLY. They limit members by capping their spiritual development to the level of the church’s leaders.
These are some of the common traits of cults – and churches that are actually cults. The main essence in all that occurs is that your loyalty to Christ is replaced with a substitute – a loyalty that is to man instead of to God. You still think, of course, that you are being loyal to God. You don’t perceive the delusion which you have believed and which you act out.
Further Reading: God Speaks To The WCG (GSW) provides more information about cults, and with Dreams From God About The WCG (DrW), explains what was so deviously wrong with this church. It was a ‘perfect’ example of a cult in disguise! Click Here to Order!
Q. When is a church a cult?
A. Nearly all churches are cults because God does not rule. Men rule. Human hierarchy displaces rule by God’s Spirit.
I have yet to find a church which is not a cult. The transfer of loyalties is very subtle in most churches, but it is there. Clergy have usurped Jesus’ place and they hold the ‘sheep’ in captivity as was prophesied in Isaiah 52, Jeremiah 5:31, and Ezekiel 34, even in so-called Spirit-led churches.
The biggest and most obvious cult on earth is the Roman Catholic Church. The pope is worshipped as God. Hierarchy is exercised in various tiers on down to the local ‘church’, and members are merely supports for the aggrandisement of the human rulers who are spiritual overlords not shepherds.
Further Reading: Understanding The Mind of God: A Message To Catholics.
Q. How serious is this cultic transfer of loyalties?
A. Very serious! People don’t see it, except in blatant cases. In Revelation 13:16 a mark is mentioned. This symbolic mark on your forehead and your hand depicts your allegiance.
Whom do you worship? Whom do you obey? There’s little difference between the two in the spiritual arena (Rom 6:16).
When God gave Israel His law to live by, He said:
Therefore, you shall lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes (Deut 11:18, NKJV).
Notice the underlined words. Your hand symbolises what you do, and your forehead ("between your eyes") depicts what you think. Likewise, in Revelation 13:16, the beast imposes his ‘mark’ upon his adherents. The mark symbol- ises your allegiance. Do you obey God before man? Or do you obey man before God? Whom do you put first? Those with the mark of the beast put man before God and commit idolatry. Many church members do just that when they comply with what the hierarchy of their church teaches.
It’s one thing to be genuinely deceived and not know any better. It’s another thing entirely to know the truth, but to deny it in favour of a compromised human substitute for the sake of human expedience. That’s why those who accept ‘the mark’ – knowing the truth but preferring to deny it – suffer the 7 last plagues (Rev 14:9-11; Rev 16).
Those who don’t want truth become deceived (Rev 13:14; 2 Thes 2:1-12). And do you know what the image to the beast is, mentioned in Revelation 13:14? It is church authority, fashioned after the imperial Roman model. Do not bow down to it. "Come out of her, My people!" (Rev 18:4.)
Recommended: God’s Church – Whose Authority? (GC)
Apostasy In God’s Church! (Apo)
Understanding The Book of Revelation (Rev)
Daniel’s Prophecies For Our Time! (Dan)
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