A commentary on Christian cults
The following is a sermon on Christian cults by Jacob Prasch which we strongly recommend to both former or current message followers.
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Excerpts from the sermon
The full transcript of the above sermon is available at Moriel.org
The Assemblies of God rejected the ideas of people like William Branham when he was around. The ideas of E. W. Kenyon were abhorrent to mainstream Pentecostals. The Manifest Sons/Latter Day Rain deceptions – Restorationism, Kingdom Now, and the rest of it – these things were popularly rejected by the mainline Pentecostal denominations including the Assemblies of God in the 40’s and 50’s. They were seen as cultic. Now these things once seen as cultic and heretical have become increasingly mainstream and there are people today who are Branhamites.
The leader of the cult could be a dead person. These are not cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon cults, these are cults where people believe the true Gospel. When somebody is saved through one of these groups there is a problem. When a Mormon is saved, no problem: Joseph Smith was a false prophet so we know that the whole Mormon church has gone the way of a lie. When a Jehovah’s Witness gets saved, no problem: Charles Taze Russell was a false prophet so we know the whole Watch Tower Society is finished. But when people are born again through a Christian cult there is a big problem with groups which are theologically “churches” but sociologically “cults”.
Eventually these groups, which are theologically “churches” but sociologically cultic, become heretical. Eventually these groups get into apostate doctrine. But in the beginning they begin with the true Gospel.
When somebody is born again through one of these groups the leaders or the leader has a tremendous amount of spiritual and psychological influence and even control over people because they really were born again.
The First Marks of a Cult
Notice the apostles like Paul went against this mentality. Did Paul save you? It is Jesus who saves, it is the Gospel which saves – it is not a church. The Roman Catholic Church claims it is the instrument of salvation, that the sacraments administered by their priests is how people are saved ex opere operato. These groups will preach Christ, but somehow the distinction is not made between the Christ and the cult.
Paul has a go at their first characteristic, something that later in Galatians he calls “a deed of the flesh”. (Gal. 5:19) or “…factions,” (Gal. 5:20)
Sometimes translated “partyism”, perhaps better translated this way as “factions”. The first mark of a cult is what Paul calls “the sin of party spirit”. The sin of party spirit is where the group claims a monopoly on biblical truth. With the party spirit and what will engender the party spirit is some form of Gnosticism, from the Greek word “gnosis” meaning “mystical knowledge”.
When “party spirit” is present it is usually attached to something called “Gnosticism”. “Oh, but he understands the Bible better than we do.”
There was one case where the guy went totally nuts and said things that were utterly heretical, yet he did have a lot of insight into the Bible. Beware of leaders who believe their own publicity. When somebody who is genuinely gifted allows people to put them on a pedestal, look out. “We don’t understand what he’s doing, but he’s closer to God than we are. He has more insight.” That may be true, but when that person is observed doing things directly contrary to Scripture, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15) But by that point they are usually too far in bondage.
The next thing is Nicolaitanism, the heavy shepherding. “Who are you to question us? Who are you to challenge us? You have a spirit of rebellion.”
How This Comes About
Before Satan paganized the church in the 4th Century, we know from the New Testament his first trick was to Judaize it. This is not the same as “Jewish-ize” because the church isJewish theologically. Israel is the natural root. (Rom. 11) We should understand the Scriptures from a Judeo-Christian perspective, not a Hellenistic one. The Lord revealed His given Word through His people, a nation with a given culture, and we have to understand that. It is necessary to theologically understand biblical Judaism to understand biblical Christianity. Jesus fulfills the Law. Satan’s first seduction was to put people back under the Law instead of the Law pointing to Christ.
When it is asserted that it is necessary for salvation that is “legalism”. When asserting it is necessary for sanctification, where one is saved by Jesus but they also have to do “this”, “this”, and “this”, that is known as “nomianism” from the Greek word “nomos”.
Once people get into one serious, fundamental doctrinal error like trying to live under two covenants, they become automatically prone to a more serious one. Once people accommodate one fundamental doctrinal error they automatically predispose themselves to something more serious and even more dangerous. It is only a matter of degrees.
Taking It a Step Further
Once it is forgotten that Jesus is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30) they begin looking to a man for the wisdom. When believers stop being a Berean, when they stop testing things, they forfeit to that person a kind of control over their life that God never wanted anybody to have except Himself. (Even He never forces Himself that way or manipulates.)
It gets to the point where even if they say and do things not biblical, people will not question. Even if the say and do things which are immoral, people will not question. They lose their capacity to think rationally. Again, it only becomes a matter of degrees between the so-called “Christian” cults and the ones which are obviously pseudo-Christian.
Further Down the Same Road
The psychological bondage which happens has a demonic character. When the people leave they are automatically ostracized by the other people still in the cult. It is like Catholicism. You left the one true church so it is a mortal sin, go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200. That is it – the unpardonable sin. The other people will turn against those leaving because those leaving are free while those remaining are in bondage. But are they free? No they are not, not right away.
A person can be taken out of the cult but they are so confused and have been so hurt and manipulated it takes a longer time to take the cult out of the person. It is like that rock song, Hotel California – “you can check out any time you want but you can never leave”. The person can be taken out of the cult but to take the cult out of them is not so easy. They remain in psychological and spiritual bondage to it, particularly if they were saved in it. And they cannot be accommodated in other churches because other churches cannot understand what they went through. There is a secret fear that they have, “What if they were right?” This battle takes place within and sometimes it goes on for years.
Another common phenomena is they have been so hurt and so burned they can never trust another church or another leader again. The solution to a bad church then becomes no church. The solution to bad leadership becomes no leadership. Actually the right solution to wrong leadership is right leadership, and the solution to bad church is good church. But they cannot accept that. Others do not understand what they have been through. No one understands what is going on inside of them. They can come to a church but they do not fit in until something happens. It takes time for that to happen, but it eventually happens.
This is a big problem and it is getting bigger. And before Jesus comes back it will be bigger still.
First formulated by a social psychologist named Leon Festinger, he was interested in the social psychology of religion and he identified the phenomena called “Cognitive Dissonance”. I do not know if he was a Christian or not, but even secular sociology and psychology can see the phenomena.
Cognitive dissonance states when people become cemented to a sect with this heavy control by the leadership, and the leaders make predictive prophecies which fail to happen, instead of the people using their noggin and coming out, they will become even more committed to the sect.
In the Same Manner as the Sanhedrin
If somebody was saved through this and it was the only thing they ever knew, it is understandable how this could happen to them. But what happens when people get into this who are not saved through it? That is even worse in terms of being even more pathetic.
Suppose you have been in one of these groups. It will follow the same pattern shown here. The way the leader operates, the fear of knowledge – anyone who knows what he does not, using others to be his messengers, he has some special insight into the Bible where if someone does not see it they are into rebellion because they do not submit to his authority, others turn against you to put you under condemnation or put a curse on you. (They will always tell you about the people who left the group and died; they will not tell you about the ones who stayed and died.) They are very selective about how they handle things. These people operate just like the Sanhedrin.
Jesus said to the Sanhedrin, “Why do you arrest Me and bring Me in here for a kangaroo trial? Why didn’t you come after Me in the Temple where everyone could see it?” These guys will never openly debate in front of a video camera or in an auditorium in front of the open public; it always has to be in front of their cronies.
Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it has even taken people years to take that person out of that central role in their life and put Christ in that role instead. These people are in unspeakable bondage. And unless you have been in that bondage you do not understand where they are coming from. You will not even be able to grasp what their problem is. Why can they not fit in?
Not only that, but they will even say a lot of true things. “The church is lukewarm.” “The cult was more zealous.” “You are Laodicea.” Well, that is true. That is the danger. They are not just telling “lie” lies, they are telling Satan’s lies – perversions of truth. But look at the results, look at the damage; it can be found every time.
They begin sociologically as “cults”, theologically “churches”, but give them a few years – not more than ten. Then you will find heresy, you will find financial corruption, you will find immorality. But maybe at the end of it you will find Jesus.
If you are in bondage to one of these groups the Bible says…
- “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
By virtue of the fact you are in bondage tells you that is not God’s Spirit.. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. If you are in bondage that tells you it is not of God’s Spirit – it is a different spirit: a “party spirit”, a deed of the flesh, a sin, the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. The deeds of the flesh are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. You are in bondage.
It might take a couple of months and sometimes it has even taken people a couple of years, but the sum of the matter is this: you keep your eyes on Jesus and one verse will become a reality like you have never known.
- So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (Jn. 8:36)