The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit. * * *
1 Corinthians 2:14
Are all religions true?
Youth for Christ
A cult can be defined as a religious group which teaches doctrines or beliefs which deviate from the broad consensus of orthodox Christian doctrine down through the ages. Cults either distort truth or focus on half-truths. The small amount of truth which they do proclaim is often mixed with doctrinal error and is therefore dangerous. Cults succeed in deceiving many. As Paul warned, “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. . . . They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4, NIV). Jesus said, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many” (Mark 13:6).
What Has Caused the Proliferation of Cults?
Cults thrive on ignorance and uncertainty. Christians who do not know what they believe or why they believe it are especially vulnerable. Churches are lax in their responsibility to teach God’s Word and disciple Christians. Paul admonished Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV).
Features Common to All Cults
• Extra-biblical or special revelation. To the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, cults typically add their own revelations, which take precedence over the Bible. Or, a limited number of Scripture passages are used completely out of context, resulting in erroneous interpretations. The Bible is explicit in defending its own integrity: “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:9, NIV; see also Revelation 22:18–19).
• Salvation by works. Any teaching that encourages people to seek a right relationship with God apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ is in error. This can take the form of a complete rejection of Christ and His work, or a partial rejection that tries to add to His work. The Gospel consists of grace—plus nothing and minus nothing (Ephesians 2:8–9).
• A denial of or lack of full recognition of Jesus Christ as God’s Son. Cults either totally deny Christ or relegate Him to a place that is less than He merits.
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
“Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth” (Colossians 1:15–16, TLB).
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17, NIV).
“The Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
False Teachers, False Doctrines Prophesied:
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15, NIV).
“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 17–19, NIV).
How to Discern Error:
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:21–23, NIV).
“Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:13–15, NIV).
“Dear friends, 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. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1–3, NIV).
How to Resist Error:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
“. . . that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:10–11).
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 20–23, NIV).