Identifying Cults


Richard G. Mendoza, MPH, PHD

Pr. Richard Mendoza works at the Central Luzon Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. An educator and promoter of health, he complements his advocacies with spiritual and values-oriented insights.

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What if a religious leader leads you to the wrong direction? What if a leader is leading you away from truths as recorded in the Bible? What if you follow a false religious teacher—a leader of a cult?

Cults are growing today, new cults are appearing regularly and they mislead people. In order not to be deceived and perish, you must know from the Bible how to identify a cult.

But what is a cult? There are many definitions of a cult. It is defined in dictionaries as “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object: and as “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members.” However, “From the Christian perspective, a cult is any group that does not accept Christ as Lord and Savior and the Bible as the foundation of faith.”

So, if there’s any guide or saviour besides Jesus, it is a cult! Teachings of humans that take the place of the Bible is a cult!

There are at least five ways to identify a cult:

1. A cult will substitute a human teacher for Jesus.

Whether “Christian” or “new age”, if it substitutes a human teacher for Jesus, it is a cult! Some new age cults will say, “I am God” while many teach that as you meditate, you develop a god in you or that you need a “guru” to teach you to find God in you.

In an interview, new age cult spiritist channelers Ramtha said: “What is termed God is within your being…And that which is called Christ is within your being… And when you know you are God, you will find joy.”

What does the Bible say? Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

Cults deceive people with the teaching that Man is God, and with such no moral responsibility–no accountability—no judgment—no sin—no need for cross—for a Saviour–for repentance. But the Bible says in John 1:29, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

No priest, minister, bishop, cult leader, human can stand between you and Jesus. Anytime you put any human being between you and Jesus, you are preparing your mind to accept deception and put yourself in danger.

2. A cult will substitute human teachings for the Bible.

In a cult the word of the leader is supreme, it takes the place of the Bible and becomes law for that group. Anytime you substitute the word of another human for the words of God, the Bible, you’re on a very dangerous ground. One reason the youth are caught in cults today is because the society has turned away from God’s Word. It says in John 17:17 “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” If you reject God’s word, you have no trustworthy basis to identify the truth.

The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11 “And with all unrighteous deception among love of the truth that they might be saved…” Verse 11 adds “…And for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” If you reject truth, refuse to follow God’s will, doing what you’ve always done, you prepare yourself for a strong delusion, to believe the lie. In the end there’s only truth and lies, only God’s word or Satan’s counterfeit.

3. Work miracles to establish their claims.

Some believe that if a miracle is worked it must be God that’s working it and that it’s impossible for the devil to work miracles. Jesus made it clear this was not true, in Matthew 24:24, He warned, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Satan uses signs and wonders to try to deceive even God’s own people. Revelation 16:14, “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles…” Although many have done wonders through fraud and trickery, if ever something is of supernatural phenomenon, then it could be from evil spirits. They would claim miraculous healings, assure financial prosperity and solutions to all types of problems, victimizing those who are gullible and vulnerable.

4. Urge group conformity.

Cults often urge group conformity. Many cults practice some form of mind manipulation. Members have a group mentality, they must conform to the cult, follow the rigid rules, and puts pressure on individuals. They exert pressures to coerce uniformity. Jim Jones, a fundamentalist minister of a large congregation in San Francisco, California, USA, demanded his members to get up at 1:00 in the morning, sit in lectures for 8, 9, 10 hours. He asked each to drink ‘Kool Aid’ with Cyanide, said he was testing their loyalty to him. Jim Jones led 900 people to death, because they conform.

But the Bible says: Romans 14:12 “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Where does moral responsibility lie before God? With yourself, individually, Joshua put it clearly when he challenged the children of Israel, Joshua 24:15 “… Choose for yourselves this day that you will serve…”

We need courage to stand for God’s truth, only His word should shape our thinking in order not to be deceived by a cult in the future. Let us not follow any earthly leader, cult leader. Let’s follow Jesus Christ.

Jim Jones led 900 people to death, because they conform

The Bible says, we should no longer be children. What are children? They must be told what to think, what to do! Ephesians 4:14 says… “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” “…trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

5. Attempt to establish heaven on earth.

Cults confused people by claiming that God will establish heaven on earth, have Armageddon (final battle between good and evil) and earth will be destroyed. New age cults talk about heaven on earth, teach age of euphoria, of Aquarius here.

Doomsday cults talk about Armageddon, some like David Koresh of Waco Texas, USA stockpile guns and other weapons. Order of Solar Temple from Switzerland said end of the world was approaching; begin by fire–burning them—caused fiery death of 53 people. Japan’s Aum Cult, very new age—very high tech, attacked Japan’s subway with nerve gas, thought to unleash Armageddon.

Of course, there are leaders and members of cults who are sincere in their beliefs, but sincerity is not enough for the Bible says, people may be sincere, but are deceived.

Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end leads to death.”

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