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How to Discern Cults and Sects

H. A. Ironside used to say, “Where there is light there are bugs!”

He was referring to the cults and sects that take a truth and go to the extreme or form their own exclusive groups.

The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We are not to believe every spirit-controlled teacher! However, we know the Spirit of God is illuminating the teacher when they “confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,” “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (vv. 2-3).

I am convinced that the greatest need we have in our day is the gift of discernment. Many cults and sects claim to be biblically based Christian organizations. They will even use the historic Biblical Christian language, and even call themselves “the Church of Jesus Christ,” or “the Church of Christ,” but deny or redefine essential Christian doctrines to fit their eccentric teachings.

John said, “stop believing” because some of his readers were clearly carried away by the spirit of error. The spiritually gullible fall victims of the latest religious fads.

On Abide in Christ we clearly state that we believe in the great evangelical, Biblical convictions, and teachings of historic Christianity.

Cults and sects all teach that their religious group is the only one proclaiming the true message of salvation today. All other Christians are corrupt and their “inspired” leader is equal to Jesus Christ in authority. These groups claim to be the only correct church in the world, and salvation can be found only by being a member of their organization or following their teachings.

They usually have their founder or living “prophet, seer and revelator” who has received direct revelation from God as opposed to historic Biblical revelation that ended with the writing of the last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation about A.D. 85. Every true born again Christian needs to question any group that claims they possess new and inspired written scriptures that supplements or supersedes the true inspired and inerrant Word of God permanently recorded in the Bible.

When you come in contact with these false teachers of the antichrist ask some hard questions and demand that you get the right answers before you join up. The apostle John said to put them to the “acid test of truth as a metallurgist does his metals.”

1.            Do you rely upon the Bible alone for your doctrine and practice? What is your source of authority? Do you add some other books or human authority that equals or supersedes the authority of the Old and New Testament? Do you claim to possess new and inspired direct revelation from God that is just as authoritative as the Bible? Do you depend upon a certain person to interpret the Bible for you?

2.            Does the group accept the basic historic teaching of Biblical Christianity? What do they teach about the Triune God, the person and work of Jesus Christ (especially His deity, incarnation, and atoning substitutionary death for the sinner)? Ask for their specific teaching about the person and work of Jesus Christ. How do you know if it is of the Spirit of God? “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

3.            What do you teach regarding salvation? What would you say if you died today and stood before the Lord God and He asked you, “Why should I let you into My heaven”? Listen carefully to the response. Does the group teach salvation by grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Do they add or detract anything from, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”? Do they teach justification by faith alone? Do they add the requirement that you be baptized by one of their clergy in their church or temple? Do they add good works, church membership, tithing, etc. as a requirement for salvation? How can salvation be by God’s grace alone if baptism in their church is necessary for salvation? By their teaching it is no longer of God’s grace, but by the works of “obedience.” Do they teach that salvation depends on membership in their particular organization?

4.            What is the attitude of their group toward other Bible-believing Christians? Do they permit their followers to fellowship with other Christians? Do they consider themselves exclusive and think that only they have the true and correct teaching and authority of God? Do they suppress or respect other Bible-believing Christians regardless of the nametag they wear such as: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Assemblies, Independent, Bible, etc.? Is the group teaching, “I or we alone are all right and everyone else is wrong? Only we have the truth, and we are the only people God uses.”

Learn to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” They are so deceptive they even use the glorious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to accomplish their evil and destroy God’s eternal purpose.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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