When a person is asked to define what they believe makes a “cult” all sorts of answers will appear. Words like isolationism, exploitation, vulnerability, charismatic, and controlling come to mind. But within the Christian context, a cult is a group of individuals who have denied and distorted the gospel truth of Jesus Christ.
A cult will deny that He is the Son of God. That He “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,” (Gal 4:4); and that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation,” (Rom 10:9-10).
Wait a minute!
Don’t the Mormons believe in Jesus? Yes, but not the Jesus of the Bible. They see Jesus and Lucifer as “spirit brothers,” born to God the Father from one of His many wives on a different planet. [Learn more on Mormonism.]
Don’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus? Yes, but not the Jesus of the Bible. They see Jesus as a created individual and deny especially His physical resurrection. [Learn more on Jehovah’s Witnesses.]
Don’t Christian Scientologists believe in Jesus? Yes, but not the Jesus of the Bible. They see Jesus as simply a good teacher who was unfortunately crucified. [Learn more on Christian Scientology.]
In each instance, these groups are cults. Non-Christians. They don’t know God and they deny the gospel. However, I would argue that they are not always the most dangerous. Often it is the group known as the “evangelicals” who will potentially pose the greatest threat.
Why? Because there are many who reduce down the profound—attempting to adjust the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to some kind of convenient morality. Often they are ignorant of the gospel’s most basic truths, and may even be living a life marked by carnality. It is as if they have selected the cruise control for their journey, and we are unsure of driver’s spiritual identity. (Child of God or child of the devil?)
Our small group met last night and began a new study based on Paul Washer’s three-book series Recovering the Gospel. Washer served in Peru as a missionary for ten years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society which supports Peruvian church planters.
In the introduction to the first book, he beautiful lays out the gospel for us.1
In accordance with the Father’s good pleasure, the eternal Son, who is equal with the Father and is the exact representation of His nature, willingly left the glory of heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, and was born the God-man: Jesus of Nazareth.
As a man, He walked on this earth in perfect obedience to the law of God. In the fullness of time, men rejected and crucified Him. On the cross, He bore man’s sin, suffered God’s wrath, and died in man’s place.
On the third day, God raised Him from the dead. This resurrection is the divine declaration that the Father has accepted His Son’s death as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus paid the penalty for man’s disobedience, satisfied the demands of justice, and appeased the wrath of God.
Forty days after the resurrection, the Son of God ascended into the heavens, sat down at the right hand of the Father, and was given glory, honor, and dominion over all.
There, in the presence of God, He represents His people and makes requests to God on their behalf.
All who acknowledge their sinful, helpless state and throw themselves upon Christ, God will fully pardon, declare righteous, and reconcile unto Himself. This is the gospel of God and of Jesus Christ, His Son.
The Secret Service train their agents to suppress counterfeit U.S. currency by studying the real thing. Once they have mastered the identification of a genuine bill, then they are ready to spot the fakes.
In much the same way, the true Christian should become familiar with and fascinated by the real thing—the gospel—especially its most essential elements. It is only then that we can discern truth from error, and identify the counterfeit from the Christian.
Personally, I’m looking forward to this study and Washer’s three books. I want to know God and His gospel better; and I pray you do, as well. After all, this is to be the Christian’s boast:
“Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me,” (Jer 9:23-24).