Wednesday, September 30, 2015
THE DANGERS OF MODERN, BIBLE-BASED CULT GROUPS
We are now near the end of September and it looks like we are going to make it through without previous apocalyptic predictions regarding this month coming about. The ‘blood moon’ has passed, and the pope’s visit has passed. The end of the world did not happen, and the economy has not yet collapsed. We are still here and we should still be moving forward as good and faithful stewards who are making progress to advance the Kingdom of God.
So without trying to sound sarcastic, I can say that yes, we are living in trying and perilous times. Have we entered the period known as ‘the great tribulation’? I do not know for sure. I do know that tribulations and persecutions will continue and they will increase. We cannot deny that the stage is being set and the events which did unfold this month continue to move us closer to the culmination of all things.
However, as I stated in the newsletter sent out earlier this month, we need to find the balance. If you did not yet have a chance, I would encourage you to go back and read that letter titled, “Circumcised In Spirit: Liberty vs. Bondage & Looming Events”. In it, I highlighted some important things regarding awareness about potential looming events and scriptural prophecy being fulfilled, versus focusing and dwelling too much them, or allowing them to drain us of precious time and energy which could be much better focused elsewhere.
So moving on, the time has finally arrived to begin our discussion about modern, bible-based cults (sects). In all honesty, this is something that’s been on my heart to write about and discuss for a number of years now. However, I also felt it would be beneficial and prudent to wait and first make some observations of friends, family members, and associates whom I have personally witnessed get drawn into some of these cult-oriented groups and circles.
Now, we don’t find the word “cult” in the authorized King James new testament, but we do find the word “sect” five different times in the book of Acts. These sects specifically referred to religious groups or circles such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Strong’s Greek concordance interprets the word ‘sect’ as, “a choice, i.e. a party or disunion – heresy”.
With that understanding in mind, we are not going to talk about the more obvious kinds of cults and sects out there. Meaning, we’re not really going to address people involved the satanic “occult”, or demonically inspired groups like it which may be more obviously deceptive in nature. Neither are we going to talk much about some of the mainstream religious cults and sects such as Jehovah Witnesses, or Mormonism, or a whole other list of more apparent anti-scriptural, anti-biblical, or anti-christ centered groups and organizations.
What we are going to focus on and discuss is the not-so-obvious kind of cult group; the kind which can quickly suck a believer into its divisive and segregated captivity because it is subtly ‘bible-based’ and shrouded in partial truths. Meaning, they may teach a lot of scripture centered around the bible, and will even appear to profess certain new testament gospel principles.
However, we will also see and find particular characteristics and traits which set apart and differentiate them as cult-oriented. These are the characteristics which can help others to recognize and distinguish their potential dangers and deceptions. While their signs may be obvious to certain believers, they may remain obscured and/or difficult to spot by other believers.
Over the years, I’ve been able to observe some of the “how’s” that draw individuals and families in, as well as they “why’s” that they become involved in these dangerously deceptive “ministries”. Oftentimes, the warning signs were quite similar, but it is really the alarming subtleties of such organizations that cater to, appeal, and draw on a believer which makes them so very potentially dangerous.
Now please understand that modern bible-based cults/sects are nothing new. Ever since the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the real and pure new testament Acts church, the adversary has been attempting to subtly and divisively draw and lead believers away from the foundational truths of the real gospel and sound doctrine.
Religion, as a form of godliness which denies the true, unequivocal gospel power, has been around for a long time. However, when Christ appeared on the scene, the adversary took religious deception and delusion to an entirely new level of operation. To see what it has done in and to the modern church of today and among believers is truly and profoundly grievous.
The spirit of religion, and the prideful, self-centered draw and allure that comes with it, is truly one of the most damaging assets and assignments of the enemy. Since the power behind deception is in the fact that people who are deceived do not know or realize they are deceived, it has become a destructive tool the enemy is using today by many present-day pastors, leaders, and believers. Some of these folks do start off well-intentioned, but are drawn into error and delusion at some point down the road in their lives or ministries.
We are truly living in a time and hour where our foundation in the holy scriptures must be absolutely firm, grounded, and secure as we study to show ourselves approved so that we can rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We are in a time and an hour in which we must become utterly and totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit of truth to guide and to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). We must KNOW and understand our Teacher, and we must ALLOW ourselves to continually be led, taught, trained, and guided into the truth of the scriptures, based on a proper, and accurate foundation of the word.
More often than not, the adversary looks for and targets a specific weakness in a believer which may be the perfect window or door of opportunity to draw them into such a group or organization. While all people can be susceptible to the error and deception that surrounds bible-based cult groups, there seem to be certain kinds of individuals which have more of an appeal to be led astray. Let’s discuss that for a moment.
What I have personally found and witnessed is that single or unmarried individuals without much spiritually accountability tend to become a high level target. Primarily, single women. I believe that the enemy specifically recognizes and preys on the need and/or desire of single women to have a spiritual covering and/or leader in their lives. Meaning, they may be looking or longing for a husband with strong spiritual leadership qualities and/or giftings.
They may find certain bible-based cult leaders appeal to those longings and desires. Or, they may have been in past relationship where the man was weak spiritually, whether a dating relationship or even marriage. We are seeing more and more women justify leaving and divorcing their husbands today because they don’t feel their man is strong enough spiritually. They may also have been hurt or wounded by a man in a previous relationship. A past, unhealed hurt or wound is the perfect opportunity for the enemy to draw them into the kind of counterfeit spiritual relationship/covering which can be found in these types of cult groups and circles.
Time and time again, I’ve witnessed women and wives slowly give way to a Jezebel spirit that begins to subtly emasculate, manipulate, and try to control their husbands into becoming the kind of spiritual man or leader that they want them to be; regardless of where the husband is spiritually, or if that is what he does or does not desire himself. Over time, they begin to threaten their husbands using fear-based tactics if they don’t conform to their hopes and wishes. That, my dear friend, is very dangerous ground to be walking on!
Sure, this can and does go either way, but more often than not it is the woman who tends to be more susceptible to the deception of this process. The couple could even have been married for a long period of time and may even have multiple children. It is a sad and confusing dilemma. This type of behavior typically does NOT have the desired end result in drawing the other spouse closer to God, but rather, inflicts such damage, hurt, and pain that it ends up pushing the spouse further away from a relationship with God and/or destroying the ordained, covenant marriage partnership.
Now, as married folks, we can definitely encourage our spouse into a deeper, more meaningful relationship and walk with Christ. However, this must be done with utter wisdom, sensitivity, love, and grace. The primary way this should be accomplished is through prayer alone, as well as by being a daily example to our spouse through our words, actions, and in the way that we live. It is not our job or our responsibility to force them to grow or mature spiritually; especially if they are not ready or willing to do so! Such negative pressure will almost always backfire and have the opposite effect.
For the married folks, at one point or another, we’ve probably all been guilty of trying to pressure or force our spouse to change something we don’t like about them spiritually, or whatever. It may very well be a reflection of something we don’t like about ourselves, or something the Holy Spirit is trying to show or to reveal to us which we personally need to change as a husband or as a wife.
We need to learn to allow and provide grace for our spouses to grow spiritually at their own pace and rate. If we loved and accepted them for who they are and the way they were when we married them, why do we all of the sudden want to change them?! Sure, one spouse or the other may have found salvation after marriage or had some kind of radical spiritual encounter which transformed their life or perspectives, but we can’t expect the other spouse to just follow suit. Here again, we see how the enemy works through the spirit of religion, which is rooted in pride and self-righteous deception.
We are also seeing a wave of believers, who were once regular ‘church-goers’, leaving both their denominational and non-denominational organizations and churches by the droves. Individuals, couples, or families who may just be dissatisfied with the fact that there is no real sense of intimate fellowship, communion, or community with other believers. They may be longing to be a part of something smaller, or more ‘connected’ which is more ‘family oriented’. Nothing wrong with that at all.
However, without true discernment and a proper spiritual awareness and doctrinal foundation, they may also become the perfect prey of the enemy to get drawn into a false, bible-based cult; especially if they were hurt or wounded by a former pastor or leader whom they were associated with, and someone whom they respected, admonished, and/or admired.
The sad reality is that by the time you or I may recognize that a friend, family member, or loved one is being drawn into a false, bible-based cult circle, it is often already too late to warn them. Meaning, by the time you are ready to say something to them, they may already be convinced in their own mind that this group is right, or is on track with their teachings and/or beliefs. By that time, usually any well-meaning warning or loving caution to them will be viewed as a personal, antagonistic attack against them or the group they are now involved with.
More often than not, the result is a spiteful or even hateful retaliation against you in which they will possibly even cut off and sever their relationship with you. Even worse, they will go to the cult group/sect leader and tell them what you said. Many times the group leader will tell them that you are being used by the devil and will encourage your family member or friend to cut off their relationship with you. This is yet another warning sign that we should be aware of.
Remember that, more often than not, these cult-type groups can look very good, desirable, and appealing on the outside. They are also very proficient at targeting other future members for recruit. Meaning, they know how to initially appear very loving and accepting to outsiders who may be considering joining their circle or organization. They know the mind tricks and soul tactics that can be used to draw on and make a potential believer believe that they are right and accurate, as well as why other groups of believers may be ‘wrong’ or ‘off-track’.
Trust me when I say that the spiritual and psychological manipulation that takes place within such circles can be overwhelmingly intense and hard to spot for the unwary or undiscerning individual. This is why it has become such a wickedly powerful weapon and a fertile trap of the enemy in drawing believers in. Often, it is the very believers who recognize the true new testament blueprint and the original Acts church prototype seen in the scriptures. They may hope or believe they have finally found what they were looking for.
The adversary has managed to do far too good of a job keeping that true, new testament prototype at bay, knowing the damage it did to his kingdom of darkness when just a few good men and women turned the world upside down. The result was radical kingdom harvest and true new testament revival! I too believe that original blueprint is going to be restored as we travel further down the timeline of history.
However, I am also all too aware that the counterfeits are everywhere. To say that it legitimately and accurately exists today is difficult… as much as myself and/or others desire to see it restored. What we find today are predominantly counterfeit groups and circles who have nowhere near the proper foundation of truth and sound doctrine necessary to survive the tactical onslaughts of warfare and deception which the enemy brings against any group of believers who is willing to contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the early church and saints!
Even as Jude referenced way back then, the adversary was already hard at work to break up and divide the early church by leading individuals, couples, and families astray into the errors of various bible-based cults and sects. I’m sure these pawns of the enemy could have very well been believers who at one time or another even fellowshipped with the original apostles and/or disciples. Again, there can be nothing more dangerous or deceptive than partial truths intermingled with counterfeit deception, heresy, or doctrinal error. If it looks blatantly evil or wicked, then it wouldn’t have the appeal necessary to draw believers into its segregated and divisive tentacles!
Now, once again, we have to thank God for the tools of the internet and technology. Although created and used predominantly for evil, they are also being used for the good by those of us who recognize and utilize them as a tool for righteousness. As difficult as it can be to get out and leave some of these dangerous bible-based cults, by the grace of God, many believers have managed and are managing to do so. Once they have recognized the error of their ways and true repentance, healing, and restoration has occurred, they are then able to help guide and warn others away from it.
The internet is a great place to begin researching any organization that may potentially be a bible-based cult group; especially if it’s a group that’s been around for a while. Chances are, there is likely a former member or associate who had their eyes opened along the way. They are then willing to share about their experiences and post it on some blog or website on the internet in order to help prevent others from being trapped in the same cult circle or group they were formerly involved with. It’s going to take some time to do the research, but it is well worth the effort to do so.
Now I should also mention that this is not to say that there are not good, legitimate ministries out there who someone has gotten upset or offended with, and may have posted some negative feedback about them. It could even be a former, disgruntled ministry employee or associate. Let’s face it: If you are of the minority ministries who are preaching and teaching uncompromising truth and sound doctrine, it is far more probable than likely that someone, or even many people, are going to bash and attack you and your ministry. They did the very same to Christ Jesus and His disciples, and those whom religion hated and despised. Such is life. Sometimes this just comes with the territory. Like I said earlier, the enemy is not going to leave people like that alone.
However, I do want you to be able to recognize and to distinguish the difference. As we pray, seek the Lord, study His word and recognize the subtle warning signs, we will be able to discern the difference between a good ministry being attacked, and a potentially dangerous ministry being exposed. You will recognize a person who has truly been delivered from a deceptive, bible-based cult group and who has been properly healed and restored from it. Their heart’s desire is to help bring their fellow brothers and sisters out, as well as to caution others. It is not to bash or to attack the former organization they were associated with, but rather to help bring illumination, understanding, and awareness to the very dangers that first subtly led them into it.
There are some incredibly powerful insights and testimonies from people who have been delivered from bible-based cult/sects and organizations. In addition, you will see and find more scriptural truths shared which may help yourself and/or others recognize these types of deceptive circles and groups. Over the years of my life and ministry, I have been associated to and even previously worked with what I eventually recognized to be a bible-based cult group. I could even share some names of ministries whom I unequivocally know are just that. In order to avoid any offense or oversensitivity, I will not do so at this time.
What I will do, however, is share some of the potential warning signs which I’ve personally witnessed and come across in these groups I’ve encountered and worked with over the years. After you read through the rest of the content I’ve included from other people’s testimonies who have been freed from a bible-based cult group, you will also see and learn more.
One of the major themes or signs I’ve come to recognize in these kinds of groups and circles is that of isolation, separation, and segregation from other believers, as well as from the rest of the body of Christ in general. Their pastors or leaders will often suggest, profess, and/or teach that they have a better handle on scriptural revelation, truth, and/or doctrine than other believers or ministries. Since they believe this to be the case, they will slowly separate and isolate themselves from other believers and ministries who don’t think or believe as they do. Typically to the point where they become their own spiritual ‘island’, and completely cut themselves off from anyone else within the body who may be able to ‘call them out’ or caution them from going down a wrong path.
This leads us into the next point: The group leaders usually have no spiritual accountability relationships. Time and time again, as these pastors and leaders begin to separate and isolate themselves from the rest of the body, they feel they no longer need or require any type of accountability in their lives. Meaning, they basically believe that they do not need to answer to anyone else for their teaching, beliefs, and /or actions. Since they feel that they know or understand more about the scriptures than the rest, they will not allow anyone else to speak into their lives to bring accountability or correction to their potential errors. They also teach and encourage their followers to do the same.
Another danger or warning sign I’ve come across more than once is this: Since these pastors and/or leaders believe they are receiving more accurate or divine revelation regarding the scriptures than others, they will begin drafting or writing their very own ‘biblical translation’ or version of the scriptures. Meaning, they believe they personally discovered or interpreted some ‘biblical code’, often numerological based, which allowed them to transcribe a more ‘accurate’ translation or rendering of the scriptures than even some of the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic transcripts and writings. If this is new to you, you would probably be alarmed at how prevalent it is becoming these days.
Oftentimes, they will believe the source of their revelation is coming from the ‘Holy Spirit’ and/or ‘heavenly angels’. However, the reality of the situation is that they may very well be entertaining familiar, seducing, and/or other counterfeit spirits that are merely masquerading as ‘angels of light’. A more obvious large cult organization or sect by the name of Mormonism was founded this very way.
A man by the name of Joseph Smith believed in the bible to some degree, but felt God’s inspired word just wasn’t enough by itself. He went on to ‘receive’, he claimed, the book of Mormon from an angel on golden plates. It is one of the largest and most deceptive cult organizations of our day, with a huge number of followers. As the lyrics of a song go: “Joseph Smith a Mormon god, murdered men condemned a fraud, angels gave him golden plates which no one ever saw…” I’d say that pretty much sums it up. I could go on and share more, but those were some of the main highlights I wanted to point out.
I believe as you personally pray, study, and research it yourself, you will also begin to see and recognize some bible-based cults groups which you did not formerly realize were so. Once again, I highly recommend that you do your own research and study into these things, both in the scriptures, as well as on the internet, so that you can come to and draw your own conclusions.
If you already know someone involved in one of these dangerous cult groups or circles, please continue to earnestly pray for their deliverance and escape. While we may not be able to directly say anything to them, there is much power in true intercession. If they do decide to attempt to leave the group, I can tell you that it is likely not going to be easy to do so; at least not without much pain, persecution, and warfare. They may not be freed from it in the timing that we personally hope or desire, but our standing in the gap for them, as well as the information and testimonies you will find below, can and will help to aid and assist them in their eventual exodus from the cult…
Since I have already shared a fair amount of information with you, we will bring one section of this letter to a close so that we can now move into another section. The information which will follow below comes from various sites, blogs, and pages on the internet which I have researched in order to share with you. I did not personally write that content. I will include the page source links throughout the text, as well as at the bottom for your verification.
I hope and pray this has been a helpful, eye opening encouragement to you and I do exhort that you pass it on and share it with others. God bless you!
with love, grace, and truth in Christ, Caleb
WARNING Signs of a Destructive Bible-Based Group
These early warning signs may serve as a useful checklist to determine if you, a family member, or a friend has become involved in a destructive Bible-based religion.
- Isolation from everyone or everything outside of the group and its control.
- A we/they mentality. All those outside the group are somehow negative or not equal; one must be a member. Partial commitment or belief is not tolerated (no shades of grey).
- Everything outside of their particular group is evil, of the devil, or worldly – including other churches or denominations.
- Excessive fasting and praying, extreme tension or stress, which may result in eating disorders, chronic depression, acute anxiety, physical exhaustion, or illness.
- Compulsively talking about the group, its leaders, and its doctrines. Repeatedly quoting certain scriptures emphasized by the group.
- Refusing to engage in conversation that may question the group and its leaders. Such criticism may even be characterized as satanic.
- Almost complete or total domination of the participant’s time by the group. Attending Bible study, crusades, revivals, prayer meetings, services, or other group activities constantly. Little if any time is left for family, old friends, or other interests.
- The group discourages questions concerning its leaders or doctrines. Doubt may be equated to an attack by the devil upon the follower’s mind.
- Compulsively and constantly witnessing their beliefs to everyone, often in a confrontational or extreme manner.
1. Oppose critical thinking versus demanding that people think for themselves: Cult members must accept what the cult leader believes without ever challenging their doctrines. They do not want their members to think critically for themselves.
2. Dishonoring the family unit versus insisting on the biblical priority of the family unit: Children are taught to be more loyal to the leaders than to their parents. Women are taught to be more loyal to the leaders than to their husbands, and husbands are taught to accept this as normal behavior.
3. Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving versus helping them to do God’s will: Cults isolate their people from their families, the church and society. They reject any who leave and warn them, saying that they will be judged by God or will lose God’s best if they leave. People are taught to make lifelong commitments to the group. Some groups teach that their members must get permission before joining another ministry.
4. Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders versus loyalty and connecting people to Jesus: Cults seek to connect their members to the cult leader and require loyalty to him instead of to Jesus. Loyalty is defined as not questioning the leader. It is very dangerous, when the leader cannot be questioned.
5. Crossing biblical boundaries of behavior versus walking in purity and financial integrity: Cults cross biblical boundaries of behavior especially in immorality and finances. False teachers can be detected by their covetousness and immorality (2 Peter 2:3-18).
6. Separation from the church versus a culture of honor towards the church:Cults separate from the wider church and operate with an elite spirit, believing that they alone have a special status with God. They have a polarized mentality of “us versus them.” They criticize the larger body of Christ and often claim to be the only ones truly saved. They view all other ministry and denominations as being in error.
7. Emphasizing special revelations that contradict Scripture versus loyalty to Scripture: Cults emphasize the special revelations of their leader that contradict the Scripture.
To summarize, the traits we designated above as early warning signs of ‘bad religion'” are:
- The organization is willing to place itself above the law. With the exceptions noted earlier, this is probably the most important characteristic.
- The leadership dictates (rather than suggests) important personal (as opposed to spiritual) details of followers’ lives, such as whom to marry, what to study in college, etc.
- The leader sets forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which the leader is exempt.
- The group is preparing to fight a literal, physical Armageddon against other human beings.
- The leader regularly makes public assertions that he or she knows is false and/or the group has a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders.
Finally, we noted that, while many benign religions establish semi-segregated communities, socially dangerous religions are almost always isolated or partially isolated from the larger society.
These five traits are about as close as one can get to legitimate, objective criteria for judging whether or not a given religious organization is going–or has gone–“bad.” With the exception of placing the group’s actions above the law, none of these characteristics, taken by themselves, are necessarily cause for alarm. On the other hand, a group possessing more than one or two of the above traits might well bear closer scrutiny. As a corollary to this line of analysis, minority religions possessing none of the above traits are, from a public policy standpoint, almost certainly harmless.
Rick Ross (20 Characteristics)
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
- There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
- Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
- The group/leader is always right.
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.
- Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
- Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
- Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
- Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
- Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
- Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supersede any personal goals or individual interests.
- A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
- Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
- Former followers are at best considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
When leaving, prepare for warfare and a cross.
If you and when – you obey the warnings the Lord is speaking to you- and you separate from error- you may have word curses spoken over you.
You will have to pray against those and break them. Jesus bore our curse…and the demons get very angry when someone slips away. You may hear yourself labeled son of perdition, a false brethren, a Judas, a Jezebel, evil, factious, and lost…or maybe all of the above. You may have personal communications, counsel, and emails quoted out of context and emailed to many people. You will NOT be permitted to speak in your defense…if you try to share warning…many former friends will delete your emails and rebuke you. You will lose friends that you prayed with and loved.
Be prepared for this…Bless those who curse you and pray for them. The cost of following Jesus is worth this!
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt 5: 11-12)
Some questions you will have to deal with. Seek the Lord. He is now REALLY our head. And He will probably be making some significant changes in your life.
Should I remain silent when I see my brethren being led off the path- into darkness?
You must pray about that. Just don’t be led by fear…even fear of persecution.
On the other hand, if we do not warn of a sin leading to death, that person’s blood is on OUR hands according to Ezekiel 33: 6
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
The Pharisee spirit certainly wants you to quiet.
That sounds familiar…who else said that?
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speakor teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18)
They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. (Acts 5:40)
But my Bible says this:
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24: 15)