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14. Modern Cults Identified Five Ways

Avoiding Deception in Today's World

Cults are on the rise. False religious teachers continue to attract multitudes. Sincere people are being deceived. The stakes are high. It makes all the difference who you follow.

More than 900 members of the Peoples Temple followed their leader, Jim Jones, on a path of death into the jungles of Guyana in the late 1970s. David Koresh's followers died a fiery death in Waco, Texas. Members of Heaven's Gate evidently listened to their leader, Marshall Applewhite, and committed mass suicide in an affluent southern California suburb.

Why were these people deceived? Are there some clear ways to identify false religious teachers? This lesson will present straight from the Bible five clear identifying features of a cult to help you keep from being deceived.

01. What did Jesus say regarding false religious leaders at the time of the end?
Matthew 24:5, 11, 24
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

02. How can we be kept from the powerful delusions of the enemy?
John 8:32

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Cults usually have a single powerful human leader who becomes the cult's messiah.

03. What do the scriptures say regarding placing complete confidence in a human being for salvation?
Psalm 146:3

Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.

04. Who is the sole source of our salvation?
Isaiah 45:22

Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
Acts 4:12
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the only source of our salvation. Cult leaders focus attention upon themselves rather than Jesus. They manipulate the minds of their followers. They become substitute saviors or counterfeit messiahs.

The cult leader's word or the teachings of the cult become absolute truth, overshadowing the teachings of the Scriptures.

05. What does Jesus say about placing the teachings of any human being above the Word of God?
Mark 7:7

And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Luke 11:52
What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” (New Living Translation)

06. What counsel does the apostle Paul give us to help us avoid being deceived?
1 Thessalonians 5:21

Test all things; hold fast what is good.​
Isaiah 8:20
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

07. What is the ONLY standard by which we can evaluate what is truthful?
John 17:17

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
There is only one source of truth. God's Word is a reliable guide. The old poem states it correctly when it asks,
"What says the Bible, the blessed Bible to me?
The teachings of men so often mislead me.
What says the Bible, the blessed Bible to me?
This my only question be."

Each cult will use "pressure" tactics to coerce its members into submission.

08. How does the Bible emphasize the necessity of freedom of choice?
Joshua 24:15

And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Revelation 22:17
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

The devil's methods are to use deception and force. He uses lies and pressure. He uses falsehoods and coercion as his weapons. God uses the freedom of choice, the power of truth, and the attraction of love.

Cults regularly appeal to miracles as a sign of their "divine credentials."

09. How does the ultimate false religious teacher, the "Beast Power of Revelation", deceive the majority of the people of Earth?
Revelation 13:13

He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
Certainly God can and does work miracles even today. False religious teachers exploit this truth for their own benefit. They appeal to the spectacular, the sensational, as some sort of outward divine sign rather than a inwardly changed life.

10. Can the devil perform supernatural signs?
Revelation 16:14

For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Revelation 19:20
Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

11. Why will so many be deceived by the false signs and miracles?
2 Thessalonians 2:9–12

09. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10. and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
12. that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

The only safeguard against deception is a love for the truth. Truth is more important than so-called supernatural signs. Satan can counterfeit signs. God's truth provides a solid foundation for our faith.

Cults often urge these "converts" to leave their families.
By isolating family members, cults can more effectively accomplish their brainwashing tactics. Biblical Christianity calls men and women to follow Jesus and stand for truth, but it also calls them to witness to their families (1 Corinthians 7:13, 14; Ephesians 5:32, 33). Cults flourish because they offer broken, lonely people a friendly, family atmosphere.

12. When we are united to Christ, what does He offer us?
Ephesians 1:7

07. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Ephesians 2:19–20
19. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20. having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone...

In Christ we are accepted. We are forgiven. We are children of God. We become members of the royal family of heaven. Jesus is a leader worthy of our allegiance. His Word is a safe guide. The greatest miracle is the miracle of a changed life. In Christ we have the greatest sense of belonging.

13. Who does God's last-day message call to worship supremely?
Revelation 14:7

saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
God's last-day message is a call to give our undivided allegiance to our loving Creator. It is a call to give our total allegiance to Him. God is looking for men and women:
- Who will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's pleading.
- Who will listen to the voice of Jesus and follow Him in spite of the obstacles.
- Who will reject the voice of any earthly religious leader, rather than His voice.
- Who will not deny the voice of the Spirit to their heart to listen to some human voice.
- Who will be true to conscience at any cost. "The greatest want of the world is the want of men - men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall" (Education, p. 57).

14. What amazing promise does Jesus give each one of us regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
John 16:13

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
The Holy Spirit is Christ's divine representative on earth. We need not to make any religious leader our source of truth. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

15. What is the simple most important factor in understanding truth?
John 7:17

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
When we long to know truth and do God's will, the Holy Spirit will lead us. God is looking for men and women with pure hearts.

Concluding Question
Will you be God's man, God's woman? Will you say, "Lord, I choose to listen to Your voice, and Your voice alone?" Are you willing to choose to be loyal to God at all costs?

01. God is a God of TRUTH (Deuteronomy 32:4).
02. God's TRUTH is our SHIELD (Psalm 91:4).
03. God's LAW is TRUTH (Psalm 119:142).
04. God's WORD is TRUTH (Psalm 119:160, John 17:17).
05. Jesus spoke the TRUTH (Malachi 2:6).
06. Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE (John 14:6).
07. The LOVE of TRUTH KEEPS us from DECEPTION (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
08. The LOVE of TRUTH PRESERVES us from FALSE TEACHERS (Psalm 40:11).
09. The HOLY CITY is the CITY of TRUTH (Zechariah 8:3).
10. ACCEPTING His WORDS of TRUTH PREPARES us for our ETERNAL HOME (Colossians 1:5)