The best way I have a heard a cult be defined is that it is a belief system that one disagrees with. Of course, there are some extreme situations such as Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre, but with all the religions in the world today, up to 50,000 denominations in Christianity alone, what is considered a cult? The following is from Britannica.com:
Jim Jones, by name of James Warren Jones, (born May 13, 1931, Crete, near Lynn, Indiana, U.S.—died November 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana), American cult leader who promised his followers a utopia in the jungles of South America after proclaiming himself messiah of the Peoples Temple, a San Francisco-based evangelist group. He ultimately led his followers into a mass suicide, which left more than 900 dead and came to be known as the Jonestown Massacre (November 18, 1978).
As a young child, Jones became a regular churchgoer, and, after graduating from Butler University, he decided to enter the ministry. In the 1950s and ’60s in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jones gained a reputation as a charismatic churchman who claimed to have psychic powers such as the ability to foretell the future and miraculously heal those who were sick. He was a vocal proponent of racial integration, a position that ran afoul of some church elders. In 1955 he established the Wings of Deliverance, a Pentecostal church that eventually became known as the Peoples Temple. During this time he was noted for his work with the homeless, and in the early 1960s he served as director of Indianapolis’s Human Rights Commission. Fearing a nuclear war, Jones relocated his church to northern California in 1965, first settling near Ukiah and then in San Francisco in 1971.
Jim Jones started a Pentecostal church that eventually saw 900 people commit suicide. How is this possible?
Mark 7:1–8 (LEB)
7 And the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered to him. 2 And they saw that some of his disciples were eating their bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands ritually, thus holding fast to the traditions of the elders. 4 And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions which they have received and hold fast to—for example, the washing of cups and pitchers and bronze kettles and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unclean hands?” 6 So he said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far, far away from me. 7 And they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 Abandoning the commandment of God, you hold fast to the tradition of men.”
Yeshua told the Pharisees that abandoning the commandment of God and teaching the commandments of men is vain worship. Would this not be how a cult forms? How far away from the commandment of God is mass suicide? When do we leave the non-cult realm and enter the cult realm? How many commandments do we have to ignore and how many traditions do we have to add before our worship is in vain? When do we go from serving Yahuah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to serving a god of our imagination?
Here are some examples to look for in cultist behaviors that someone shared on a Facebook group to which I belong:
- A charismatic leader: Cults always follow a charismatic leader, living or dead, whose teachings are considered of the highest importance. This leader may be considered a genius, or may be considered a religious figure like a messiah or prophet.
- Ideological purity: Members are strongly discouraged from questioning the cult’s doctrine and any doubts are met with shame or punishment.
- Conformity and control: Cult leaders often exercise an extreme degree of control over members’ lives, including dictating what they can wear and eat and what kinds of relationships they can have. Conformity is also enforced by group members who police one another.
- Mind-altering practices: Sleep deprivation, chanting, meditation, and drugs are often used to break down individuals’ defenses and make them more susceptible to cult ideology.
- Isolation and love-bombing: It is common for people in cults to be encouraged to cut contact with outsiders, including close family members. Within the cult, new members are often subjected to love-bombing, a practice where new initiates are showered with love and praise to bring them deeper into the cult and foster a sense of belonging.
- Us-vs-them mentality: Cult members are often encouraged to see the cult as superior to life on the outside and to feel that those outside the cult lack understanding or insight.
- Apocalyptic thinking: Preparation for a supposed apocalypse or cataclysmic event is a major characteristic of many cults, especially cult religions to the point that it demands and changes your life to their purposes.
- Time and energy: Followers are expected to dedicate huge amounts of time and energy (and often money) to the cult to the exclusion of their own lives, interests, jobs, and families.
Some of these cult characteristics are found in most religious sects, so it is not extremely helpful; however, the degree to which they are enforced may be an indicator. If one is not allowed to ask questions such as, “Why does the bible say the Sabbath is the seventh day and to remember it, yet we encourage working on the Sabbath?”, is that a cult? How about the question, “Why do we use trees and eggs for our most important holy days that are merely copies of holy days of the nation’s gods, when the Creator, Yahuah, says not to worship Him with these things?”. Those questions would not be entertained in Christianity because the answers would indicate they come from tradition, not scripture, and are actually contrary to scripture. Consider the Jehovah Witness brand of Christianity. They know not to celebrate pagan feast days in the name of Yahuah, but they believe the Messiah was the angel Michael. So, most evangelical denominations call them a cult, yet these same groups that call the Jehovah Witnesses a cult, go against the words of the Creator in an equal error. Does that not make them a cult also?
Deuteronomy 12:29–32 (LEB)
29 “When Yahweh your God has cut off the nations whom you are about to go to, to dispossess them before you, and you have dispossessed them, and you live in their land, 30 take care so that you are not ensnared ⌊into imitating them⌋ after their being destroyed from before you, and so that you not enquire concerning their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods, and thus I myself want to do also.’ 31 You must not do so toward Yahweh your God, because of every detestable thing they have done for their gods Yahweh hates, for even their sons and their daughters they would burn in the fire to their gods. 32 All of the things that I am commanding you, you must diligently observe; you shall not add to it, and you shall not take away from it.”
Maybe we need to stop following man made, religious rules and start doing what the Creator told us. “All of the things that I am commanding you, you must diligently observe; you shall not add to it, and you shall not take away from it.“
The first thing that will come to mind to those steeped in the “cult” of dispensationalism is: “But that was for the Jews, we are gentile Christians”. Sorry, there is no such thing as a gentile Christian. One is either a gentile, meaning from the nations and at enmity with God, or a grafted in believer into the covenants. Yeshua, called Jesus today, quoted the verse in Deuteronomy that tells us all how to live.
Matthew 4:4 (LEB)
4 But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man will not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’ ”
Every word that comes out of the word of God includes the following: Exodus 20:8 (LEB) “Remember the day of the Sabbath, to consecrate it.” and Isaiah 24:4–6 (LEB) “The earth dries up, it withers; the world languishes, it withers. The elevated of the people of the earth languish, and the earth is defiled beneath its inhabitants. For they have transgressed laws; they have passed by statutes; they have broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and the inhabitants in it suffer for their guilt. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth burn, and few men are left.”
“For they have transgressed laws; they have passed by statutes; they have broken the everlasting covenant.” This includes the whole earth, not just one nationality. Yeshua tells us eternal life is found in the commandments of God.
John 12:48–50 (LEB)
48 The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has one who judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken from myself, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So the things that I say, just as the Father said to me, thus I say.”
“His commandment is eternal life“. I thought Jesus gave us eternal life? Am I in a cult? No, He conquered sin and death, which is a different mission than we have. He is the word of God in flesh and is one with the Father’s commandments or word. If Yeshua told us to do something different than what the Father’s words say, then that would be a cult because He is the word of God. They have to agree or everything falls apart. For example, Yeshua never told anyone to work on the Sabbath, so that came from somewhere else. Satan is a Hebrew word meaning adversary or accuser. Are you an adversary to God by hating His commandments? Are you satanic?
Many people like to memorize and quote John 3:16, but don’t stop there! The one that practices the truth comes to the light.
John 3:16–21 (LEB)
16 For in this way God loved the world, so that he gave his one and only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, in order that his deeds may be revealed, that they are done in God.
What is this “practicing the truth” the Messiah is speaking about?
Psalm 119:43 (LEB)
43 And do not snatch the word of truth utterly from my mouth, for I hope in your ordinances.
Psalm 119:142 (LEB)
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is truth.
Psalm 119:151 (LEB)
151 You are near, O Yahweh, and all your commands are truth.
Psalm 119:160 (LEB)
160 The whole of your word is truth, and your every righteous judgment endures forever.
Psalm 43:3 (LEB)
3 Send your light and your truth; they shall lead me. They shall bring me to your holy mountain and to your dwelling places.
John 14:6–7 (LEB)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.”
The law, commands, words, ordinances and Yeshua are all equal with “the truth”. Therefore anything that is different than the law, commands, words, ordinances or Yeshua is a lie, deceit and error.
To conclude, it appears the definition of a cult should be anything that adds or takes away from the word of God. Deuteronomy chapters 12 and 13 spell it out for us. Once a person starts adding to God’s instructions, it becomes vain worship. When things are taken away, it becomes lawlessness. If God said to rest on the seventh day and not to work, no one can change that. If your religion has a bunch of rules that are not in the scriptures, they were added and are satanic by definition of the word pronounced sa-tan in Hebrew. Another term that fits is “the spirit of error”. The only two options are deceit and truth. The only way to know the Spirit of truth is to do what God instructs us to do.
1 John 3:4–10 (LEB)
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that that one was revealed in order that he might take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 Everyone who resides in him does not sin. Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you: the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as that one is righteous. 8 The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this reason the Son of God was revealed: in order to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Everyone who is fathered by God does not practice sin, because his seed resides in him, and he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are evident: everyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, namely, the one who does not love his brother.
If you are going to be part of a cult, make it one where the charismatic leader is Yeshua, the rules that cannot be questioned come from God’s word, keeping the commandments of God is superior to the ways of the nations, and also be sure to love Yahuah your God with all of your actions, heart, mind and inner being. The world will experience a cataclysmic event where the Creator will judge everyone by His word that He gave us before hand. Repent and believe the gospel, or suffer and burn when Yahuah “comes out of His place to punish the iniquity of the inhabitants of the earth against him”.
Featured image is by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
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