2 Timothy 4:1-18
Just about anywhere you go, you will come across some kind of warning, whether in the form of symbols, lights, barriers or announcements. It seems we are controlled and governed by warnings, from parents, the police, governments, doctors, employers and so on.
You would think all these warnings would have made our world a better and safer place to live. On the contrary, the world we live in is sinking deeper and deeper into lawlessness and despair. Laws are disobeyed or ignored daily. And each time we ignore a warning, there is the risk of paying a price.
The most ignored warnings are those from God. The first warning man ignored was given by God at creation and every subsequent law and warning given by God has been disobeyed. God’s warnings and laws are for our good and benefit. They are not there to deprive us from good things in life but, rather, to help us in our spiritual and daily lives.
Jesus warned His followers against sin and evil. He said: “Watch out! Be on your guard” (Luke 12:15). He warned His followers (us) against false and hypocritical religious people and leaders: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them” (Luke 21:8).
Let’s look at some other warnings in the Bible. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
Apostle Peter closed his writings by warning believers against error: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)
The devil has always attacked people through religion. Strange teachings and religions have been around for a long time and they are ever increasing. The Bible is very clear about what our response to false teaching should be: “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching” (Hebrews 13:9).
Strange teachings (ksenes didaskalies in Greek) are teachings that are foreign, unknown, unseen or unheard of before. Most of these teachings may be referred to as cults. The word “cult” is derived from the Latin cultus, meaning a ritual, liturgy or ceremony. A good definition given is this: “A cult is a teaching, group or movement which deviates from the truth while claiming to represent the true faith.”
In other words, cults claim to have the truth yet fail to teach the truth. The true believer should always be in a state of spiritual warfare to be able to stand against the deception and tricks of the devil. We must be equipped and ready.
Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Watch out because cults are all around us. Get to know what you believe in and then see if what they teach makes any spiritual or logical sense. Here are four warning signs that identify cults:
1. Extra-biblical Revelation
A false religious system claims as its authority some special revelation or teaching apart from the Bible. For example, the 8th Article of faith of Mormonism claims: “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.” They doubt the Bible, but absolutely no question is raised concerning the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism said that the book of Mormon was “the most perfect of any book on earth.” Yet it has undergone literally thousands of changes and edits since its first publication.
2. Salvation by Works
The Bible’s message of salvation by grace is hated by Satan and his angels. That is why he tries his hardest to fool people with the idea they must do some- thing to deserve God’s favour.
The Jehovah’s Witness who knocks at your door to announce the coming of a “Theocratic Kingdom” does not do it out of love, but because it is required by the Watchtower organization.
Members of most New Age cults sell books and flowers to raise money to meet their sales quotas. If they fail, they are told that they have failed God and are often the victims of verbal, emotional and physical abuse.
3. Another Jesus
The Jesus of the cults is not the Jesus of the Bible. If our view and understanding of Jesus is wrong, then our entire theology will be wrong!
Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of Christian Science), Carl Russel (the founder of the Jehovah’s Witness organization) and Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism) did not believe that Jesus is divine and neither do their followers.
4. The Exaltation of Human Leaders
A human leader is common to all cults. The cultists point to one leader and say: “He/She has the truth” or “He/She is the truth.” The cult leader says: “Follow me and I will show you the secrets of the universe!” or “Submit to me and you will find God!” All cults have this characteristic but there are other groups and even religions in the so-called Christian world that fall into this category.
There are hundreds of such false teachers and leaders, but only one who suffered and died and rose from the dead, and God has given him “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Fa- ther” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian