Many will remember Jim Jones. He went way out taking quite a few followers with him in a mass murder/suicide. From events such as that, the public has become aware of just how much influence an individual or a group can have on others. About the same time, I remember watching a movie dealing with getting a child out of the hands of a cult. The parents captured their son and kept him locked in some cult-deprogramming clinic. Of course, in the end, he could see what twisting had been done to his mind, and was grateful. The family was restored. Not all solutions are that clear cut, and certainly don't have happy endings. Even more, many cults have a certain amount of social acceptability. People may not like them, but they're not considered criminal. You also have the difficulty of the cultee being an adult with no parental correction.

What hope is there for these?

As a youth in Charismatic circles, I noticed the lack of discernment and obedience to scriptures. People went with the flow of the feeling. They became "feeling" dependent and neglected scriptural conformity. They ignored the type of guidelines listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. This negligence set the stage for a powerful drift into dangerous seas. These new waters became very captivating, essentially brainwashing with cult dependence. Up came a New Age/Christian hybrid out of this drift. This problem starts with simplicity.

I. Simple Minded

15 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going. Proverbs 14:15 Solomon gave powerful advice and a warning. He called for astuteness to examine what we're hearing and seeing. The simple person is a trusting individual, he doesn't suspect there are those who would mislead him in such a despicable manner. He believes the wicked are obviously so, and the good should be easy to spot. They're ignorant of the fact Satan appears as an Angel of Light: 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

They're sure they could recognize such deception.
Now, the prudent thoroughly checks and discerns. He relies on his bedrock of Biblical fact to discern appearances as fact or fallacy. Since the danger lies in being "simple", let's look at some major pointers of simplicity.

A. Trusting Without Validation
Not all validation is reliable either, every cult has numerous members who'll give you their validation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're to be cynics, which is an easy trap to fall into. We're to:

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

This means we're to check and discern. Examine it, no matter who it is telling you. Is it sound Biblically, or does it take special "revelation" to see it in the Bible?

B. Ignorant of Scripture
The simple are often so because they won't put in the effort to get a bedrock knowledge of scripture.

11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11 Here we see their prudence at work, they were viewed as "noble". Without knowing the scripture, you have no reliable way to ultimately discern and "Prove all things" - 1 Thess. 5:21. (2 Tim. 2:15,16*)

C. Afraid to Discern
You could even say, "simple by choice". Why would anyone be afraid to discern? One reason would be the answer could cost something dear. Think about the possible ramifications. What if a husband and wife are both caught up in this movement? If the wife starts practicing discernment, the discoveries could cost their marriage. It wouldn't be the first time. Discerning the truth could also place a person in a lonely position against friends and acquaintances. Discernment could also show light in many areas condemning one's own loves.

D. Unaware of Devil's Tactics
We find the Apostle Paul reminding the Corinthian believers:

11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Corinthians 2:11

At least, we shouldn't be unaware. Satanic deception is a planned out battle tactic. He takes into consideration the dead giveaways. He tries to lure us into error as a hunter lures his prey into a death trap. Since Satan is a master of camouflage, we need to be well alert to "new" elements that come presenting themselves. Simplicity takes something new at its face value. What does it declare itself to be? The suspicion level of the simple is set too low.

II. What Are The Devil's Tactics?

This brings us to a closer look at some of the powerful tactics and why each one works, with an example of each:

A. "God/Jesus appeared to me and said..."
I think this method tops the list. It carries additional weight the simple will fear to scrutinize too closely. If God appeared to this man and said, "such and such", we listen sharply. If it's a new doctrine being revealed, the simple will have added weight, in their mind, to accept the teaching, versus the words of "Joe Minister" who expounds the scripture without supernatural appearances or words of confirmation. Take note, the supernatural appearance may not present apostate teaching, but the testimony causes many to be convinced this minister has God backing his preaching. The simple think, "God is really with this man" and are awed by him and support his work. For example, we have a popular minister, Kenneth Hagin, who preaches what's known as "the prosperity gospel". He says the Lord spoke to him after a three day fast and started teaching him. This claim lends authority to the simple. They accept the scriptures he backs his new teaching with, without truly digging into these passages. They don't need to, in their minds, for the "appearance or hearing" is enough.

B. Relate Supernatural Experiences
These follow in line with the first, but have a slightly different effect. Unconsciously, the simple are convinced God really has a special messenger in front of them. They're afraid to question critically lest it be an affront against God in challenging His special "chosen one". I was listening to an interview on the "Praise The Lord Show" July 7, 2000 of Benny Hinn. He gave angel stories he claimed happened to him. He told the listeners that a death angel appeared to him one night. It tried to kill him and the angel Michael came in, with additional help, and kept this death angel back. He also told how, after his "Kathryn Kuhlman Experience", for about a year he'd wake up at night and find one or more angels sitting in his room, like they were a special guard detachment for him. Consider the effect of such stories. To the simple, a person with such testimonies, in the position of a worldwide evangelist, is readily believed and thought to be God's great, extra-special minister. They'll accept his teaching very readily, and support him financially. They feel the money is going directly to further God's great new work.

C. Have Confirming Witness Since we find:
15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. Deuteronomy 19:15

Having confirming witnesses appears to lend authority to people. Elsewhere in the Mosaic Law is another special kind of warning that directly appeals to this potential problem:

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. Deuteronomy 13:1-4

Even though some have "confirming" witnesses to the fulfillment of their prophecies, this passage warns us the actual messages of this prophet have to be tested. Are they Biblically sound? Is the prophet a godly man?
For example: On a religious telecast, a "prophet" was interviewed. The host said this man had prophesied to them before and it came true. Ah, the necessary confirmation! Doesn't this prove he's a true prophet? The Deuteronomy passage above says not necessarily so. Check this prophet more thoroughly. I heard this very prophet "ministering", using vile language and base illustrations. A man of God? I can't believe so, though someone "confirmed" his prophecy.

D. Appearances of Wealth & Health
For those who preach a "riches and health" gospel, the appearance of their being in fine health and living luxuriously can be deceiving. I once heard a traveling guest preacher. It was claimed people received gold fillings in their teeth in the shape of a cross at his services. When it came to the offering, he stressed his need, saying it cost a lot of money for him to travel all over and minister. His private jet was rather costly! One can have supernatural wealth and health, but consider that if having such furthers another gospel, Satan would be more than willing to help. The founders of the Unity Church, which is totally removed from true Christianity, believed health came by believing you have it. They are reported to have even lost wrinkles and started looking younger. (They're dead, by the way.) These things can come any number of ways: by taking good care of yourself, by being financially prudent, by chance, or even by treachery and deceit. Such appearances should never persuade anyone, one way or another.

E. Curse Those Who Contradict
This appears to be a newer one on the scene in Christendom today. The Bible does teach us to shake off the dust from our feet:

11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Mark 6:11

This isn't the same as cursing. The cursing I'm referring to makes people afraid to examine or contradict the teaching of a certain minister.
I'm aware of this being done by Benny Hinn. I saw a video tape where he abundantly blessed those who bless his ministry and cursed those who fight against it. He didn't curse those who challenge the Gospel, but those who challenge his ministry. His cursing was aimed at defending him and his work. It has the distinct result of squelching honest examination through terror.

F. Promise New Revelation
This is the same principal many advertisers use to hook you on their products: "You'll look better, be on the leading edge, you'll be a cut above the rest, you don't want to be left behind!" These passions and fears are used to pull the unsuspecting into their trap. It works quite well. I remember a radio advertisement on the Christian radio station that invited everyone out to hear a traveling preacher. He was going to preach on the end-times and promised to reveal who the coming world ruler would be. I went, his answer was, "Jesus Christ". His tactic was a come on, and he used dishonest methods to pressure contributions. This method of "new revelations" is becoming a frequently used tool. Many groups have prophets telling how God has specially chosen them to bring a newer revelation He has for these last days. Some even say the additional revelation is more than has been shown in the Bible, indicating increased "doctrinal" revelation. This is a scary road. People may doubt a little, but are afraid to walk away in case God might really do it, and they're left behind. This kind of stuff leads away from the Bible, but also clearly breeds an arrogant people. "God has revealed more to me. I know more than you do." Pride reigns while they view those not in the know as spiritual children. I have witnessed this result. The people are intolerable.

G. You Are The Special Vessel God Has Chosen
Besides breeding arrogance (the opposite of humility); this promise works much like the "Promise New Revelations" does. Any of these tactics work by getting us off God's word. We start looking to a special minister or group and even ourselves. Mormonism began this way with Joseph Smith's claimed "revelation" from God. He claimed he was told all Christianity was apostate and he was chosen to restore true Christianity. Now don't get me wrong. God does call special ministers and raise up ministries. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called in such a manner (Jeremiah 1:4-8; Ezekiel 2:1-10). They were loners declaring to a deaf audience. Such calling, however, never departs from God's Word, doesn't reveal "New" hidden doctrines and doesn't cohabit with pride. This raises in us the idea we're not expendable. With true humility comes the realization we are very expendable. God can accomplish His will with or without you. Look at Mordecai's response to Esther:

13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:13,14

Even Esther was expendable.
Now understand this clearly: We may be expendable, but not without grief. We're not just soldiers in an army. If Uncle Sam loses a soldier, he's not stricken to the heart. God considers us sons and daughters and He is stricken. I ask you, how expendable are your children? We need to balance the sides. He loves us, but we're not "God's gift to mankind".
I know of a woman who felt she was the special chosen vessel. She didn't believe in the Trinity. She claimed she heard God speaking to her and He expounded all sorts of stuff man had apparently erred on. She felt she was the only one saved on earth, (she probably included her husband), so she couldn't receive the truth of the Gospel.

H. You Receive A Supernatural Manifestation
Many accept this as prima-face evidence it's from God. Some current examples are in "slaying in the spirit" and electric shocking and jerking. I've seen Benny Hinn reaching his hand out and shouting "fire on you". The people fell down and moments later start to get up. He would do it again until they stayed down. Some would begin convulsing almost like an epileptic seizure. I heard one woman testify she was "slain in the spirit" and couldn't get up for about three hours. She was left alone, the church had emptied. She kept trying to get up, but couldn't. The next day the back of her neck ached from her trying to get up so much. Unfortunately, many just accept supernatural phenomena as from God. We're to discern all such phenomena carefully. In the above examples, we have a violation of the freedom God designed us with. Back in Genesis, we find the pattern laid out. God created us with a free will. He wants us to be able to decide and follow Him, having control of our own bodies. He never enslaves our bodies, that's Satan's delight. Satan brought man under the bondage of sin and seeks to be man's master. His method is by taking our ability to freely act or not act, from us. This "slaying in the spirit" and convulsions are a perfect demonstration of an enslavement of our bodies. We have no control. If you look carefully at the gifts, in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, you'll notice their exercise is controlled by the person. He speaks in tongues if he chooses and he prophesies if and when he chooses. The person is always in control. This is God's way.

I. God's Condemnation If You Don't Forgive or If You Judge
This is a fear tactic. I heard one person say they had to forgive a certain minister, who did a lot of bad. This meant, to this person, the minister had to be accepted as a continuing minister. Fear of examining fruit and condemning the person as apostate, if need be, wasn't to be considered. This fear tactic holds people in terror. They think judging and discerning wrong, for the Lord's Prayer says:

4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. Luke 11:4a

They misunderstand this as saying that if we don't openly forgive, we'll not be forgiven. Thinking all the while of verses such as:

26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:26
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Luke 6:37

Repentance is always called for. We're called to forgive as we're forgiven. How are we forgiven? Through the vessel of repentance:

3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. Luke 17:3

I can only afford to look at this subject briefly, but this is an important basis that must be understood. Error in this leads to catastrophic results, bondage and unequal yoking of Christians with non-Christians.
I was visiting the website of the TBN TV programming. There was a curious side article they temporarily had attached to their web site in the month of July, 2000. It effectively made use of this "God's Condemnation" technique. It was a letter from someone to them that was unsolicited. It may have been unsolicited, but it was deliberately put on their web site. The letter was from someone who said they were changing the channels of their TV and saw the hosts of the TBN PTL show. He didn't care to watch it because he didn't like the way they looked. He told how he heard God say something to him like, "you don't like the way I made them." The letter went on to say how that condemnation broke him for his judging and how evil that was. He accepts them now without criticism. As far as his distaste for Paul Crouch's appearance, I don't know what it was, but for Jan, her hair and makeup are what pop into my mind. So I will address this line of reasoning in regards to Jan's appearance. We're told:

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 1 Timothy 2:9

This verse tells us clearly how a woman makes herself up, isn't a matter of "how God made them". A woman is to purposely deck herself out in controlled modesty, not showmanship. The challenge which broke that man, simply isn't scriptural. How they dress is not a matter of how God made them, as if this was equal to speaking with a lisp or stuttering. How one does oneself up is a personal choice based on, or ignoring, Biblical principals. Such a letter, put for view on their web site, actually fits the "God/Jesus Appeared To Me and Said.." tactic combined with the threat of "God's Condemnation If You Don't Forgive or If You Judge". It works as a powerful tactic, and is dirty pool.

J. Continually Repeating
I heard this one warned against by an ex-cult member. He said they tell you some doctrine over and over again. You may question it at first, but if you continue to stay around and listen to it repeated, you eventually believe it. In fact, you become sure of it. This not only goes for cults, it goes for anyone repeating things over and over to you. It's a form of conditioning (1 Corinthians 15:33). This is how our society acclimatizes us through radio, television, books and magazines. We see it over and over again, and instead of just refusing to listen we suffer through it. Eventually we no longer find it offensive. From there we begin to believe it, and end up defending it in the long run. We hear slanders of someone we know. We don't rebuke it and suffer it. We hear similar talk again and again and eventually we believe it. Many churches have suffered as a result of the congregation taking pot shots at the pastor. They complain about something imagined or superfluous about the pastor. They eventually loose respect for him, and actually dislike him. If only they could retrace their steps to that first careless talking or careless listening. Beware of being acclimatized by hearing it again and again.

K. Redefine Terms
This works well because it catches so many off guard. You may be a newcomer. You actually hear many apostate teachings, but don't realize it, because they use the correct words. You continue to attend and slowly have words defined for you, one at a time. You accept these new definitions, and bit by bit are indoctrinated in the cult. In the end, you might use all the famous terms, so sound right, but the meanings to each makes the belief system all cultic. I heard a missionary to the Mormons talking. He said that the Mormons have redefined every important word in the faith. He said there's not one single doctrine of theirs that's correct. Through redefining of terms, they have strayed in every doctrine.

III. How Should We Proceed?

A. Be Heresy Hunters
We're told to test (or try) the spirits:

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

This is a call to examine, discern and judge. It not only calls for thorough examination, it warns us there are many false prophets out there. Your finding them will not be just an occasional incident.
We found Luke's comment:

11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

We looked at this verse, but the weight is so important to this matter. The desire to know for certain was so strong, these people daily dug into the Word. They weren't afraid to be thought "judging" or be viewed as "heresy hunters". Luke tells us they were far from this, they were "more noble".
Those who cast the venomous accusation of "heresy hunters", are those seeking to shame you from checking them out. Such an accusation itself should give a loud warning.
As I said earlier, we're not to be cynics, but we are to definitely exercise discernment.

B. Beware of Whose Influence
The following verse is a form of the popular saying, "Birds of a feather, flock together": 33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 1 Corinthians 15:33 This verse does reflect on the issue of brainwashing. It gives a clear warning - Beware!

C. Separate From The Devil's Workers
Peter and Paul gave warnings directly relating to dangerous teachers:

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:1-3

3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 1 Timothy 6:3-5

You read passages like this and you picture a devious looking person holding a mask in front of his face, posing as a good guy. Better yet, a wolf walking among the sheep with a sheep skin draped over his back. As I said, the emissaries of Satan are cleverly disguised.
Take a close look at the passage in 1 Timothy. These teachers may not necessarily try to subvert people. They could fulfil this passage and be sincere. If their heart is deceived through wickedness and hardness of heart, they can be convinced they're living for God. Since they aren't ready to face their own true state, they'll continue to live to satisfy their own desires, but fool themselves thinking they're doing the Lord's will. Such is the state of those Jesus referred to:

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:4,5

Looking back at Timothy, we see "doctrine which is according to godliness". The wolves may hold to some sound doctrine about who God is, but in the area they are hardened in, they'll transgress and have reasoning to excuse themselves. Paul pointed out to Timothy, their wicked thought "gain is godliness". Now the gain doesn't have to be financial profit. It may also be through gaining followers of their way. They reason that if they win others from the way they detest, (which is true Christianity) they'll be helping them and consider that godliness. They are gaining followers, fulfilling their desire, but not God's desire. From such withdraw thyself. It couldn't be clearer.

D. Test & Discern
1 Corinthians chapter 14 lays down guidelines for the use of the Gifts of the Spirit. It calls for discernment and lays out orderly and profitable guidance.
It calls for a protective system to be exercised in the use of the gift of prophecy:

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 1 Corinthians 14:29,32

These verses call for other prophets to discern the prophecy spoken by any other prophet. Any prophecy is subject to public criticism by other prophets as a safety check feature.
I witnessed an example of a failure in this at a prayer and worship meeting one Sunday evening. A woman prophesied and said essentially, "You are my children and I love you so much. You always come to me in Jesus' name, but I want you to know that my love is so great for you that you don't have to always approach me that way. Just come to me directly, for I want to see you." I was a teenager and wasn't matured enough to challenge anyone. I was really bothered by such a prophecy. The other prophets in the group should have spoken up and declared such a blasphemous statement. No one spoke against it. Who knows? Maybe someone else at the meeting took the prophecy as directions and follows them, leading away from Christ, instead of toward Him. See why such discernment is absolutely essential?
Another abandonment of following this passage, is in speaking in tongues. 1 Corinthians 14 calls for people to speak in tongues "silently" unless there's an interpreter, and then limits the amount of tongues and interpretation. This is ignored! Everyone speaks in tongues out loud and the one, people are supposed to listen to, shouts extra loud. This is ignoring chapter 14's instructions.
Yet again, the women are restricted from speaking out loud in the whole congregation, specifically in the exercise of the gifts:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 1 Corinthians 14:34

This is very plain, yet totally abandoned, as women prophesy and speak in tongues for the congregation. These violations are only in one area, the exercising of the gifts; however, the lack of practicing discernment and obedience to the Word is a landslide problem today. This negligence is what has allowed the great apostacies of the day to gain such a large number of adherents from Christ's body.

E. Check Its Nature - Its Goal
Checking the nature and goal of a ministry will give a warning or a confirming of that ministry. First, does it further Christ's glorification? If it doesn't point to Christ and the Cross, stay away from it. Paul told us this is the hub of any matter:

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

The Holy Spirit never looks at Himself, but causes Christ to be glorified:

14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:14

Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit in this verse, yet I see a major departure with many charismatics. They pray to the Holy Spirit or ask Jesus for things. Both of these are contrary to the Bible. The Catholics pray to the Holy Spirit, yet they admit such a practice is nowhere found in the Bible. We're called to ask the Father in Jesus' name and we can praise Jesus, but praying to the Holy Spirit violates the principal of His abiding in us and His ministry of causing Jesus to be looked to and glorified. He never glorifies Himself. Jesus glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son. The Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, but never is the Holy Spirit glorified. His goal is fulfilled in causing us to look to the Son and in turn the Father. This is why we worship God in Spirit.

23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. John 16:23, 26,27 (John 17:1)

The Point: Return to Christ. Stay away from the drifting that has become so predominant.
Second, what did it really accomplish? Think about it! Was holiness called for and specifically directed? Was scripture called to be adhered to? Was Christ glorified and our position of fear and trembling in humility furthered? Was a fear tactic used that would cause you to be afraid to look honestly?
I've seen Pentecostal Revival meetings that got the people all worked up. They all streamed forward at the end of the service to receive a "double portion of the Spirit". I couldn't help but wonder though, "what change in lives did the sermon call for?" I couldn't find any. Scripture was used, but holy living wasn't called for or specific directions given. Jesus was simply a name many shouted. Some may have worshipped in truth, but I fear many were just emotionally charged. I couldn't see a true position of humility was aroused and directed. I couldn't say that the day after, the people would be able to say, "the preacher told me I needed to separate from this and adhere to this," or "the preacher told me I live the victorious Christian life this way." Don't get carried with the charged atmosphere, thoroughly discern.
In all types of churches I've heard inappropriate humor from the pulpit. The whole congregation laughs. This demonstrates the lack of discernment in churches today. The preacher leads and the congregation blindly follows without discernment. Where is the true love for God? Where is the diligence for Him? Why do we all play games? Believe me, we do suffer the consequences for this lack of nobility.
Third, the focus must stay established on Christ. We have looked at this, but the alternative needs to be warned against. We can take up the alternative and not realize we've abandoned the goal.
Looking at the gifts of the Spirit. They're a tool, not an end. Many "desire spiritual gifts" (from 1 Corinthians 14:1), but focus on the gift like a child on Christmas morning. They don't really look at the giver, or for what purpose the gift is given. With God, the gifts are always for the purpose of edifying in Christ. They're designed to mature us into the image of Christ. Allowing Him to abide more fully in us. Look at this messed up use of gifts in the great King Solomon. He had the gift of wisdom. He forsook God and still had the gift. His gift told him how messed up his life was, but didn't result in correcting him. In the end, the gift did him no eternal good. The purpose of the gift wasn't able to be fulfilled.
In looking at the gifts, instead of pursuing the goal for which they're given, we further selfishness and self-centeredness. We actually go the opposite direction for which the gifts were given. It's kind of like giving that child a Christmas gift and instead of their looking towards the giver, he becomes covetous and wants more gifts. What an ugly sight to see! Is a state of arrogance developed? We find an example of this in the Korah, Dathan and Abiram story in Numbers chapter 16. Their focus departed into self-glorification. They considered their own spiritual calling a sign of greatness. They became arrogant in looking at themselves instead of keeping God the focus. This happens often today and when such a person actually becomes a leader, he leads others from God and creates more arrogant people such as himself.
The point of the goals is to further Christ, build Him up. Holiness will be exalted and scriptural diligence will be called for. Discernment will naturally flow from this good foundation.

IV. What If You're Part Of A Cult?

A. Recognize Its Powerful Influence
Since you've already been swayed and pulled into the circle, recognize how powerful a control it has on you. From this, you should realize it's more than you can conquer. If you go back to it, you will be overcome. (1 Corinthians 10:12; 15:33)

B. Flee It
The next step follows as an obvious conclusion of the first one - flee it! You may be afraid and not see how, but you must now know it's necessary. Whenever you cast yourself upon God, He will take care of you. He will bring you through and provide for your needs:

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:6,7

C. Beware Of False Confidence
This comes as a reiteration of the warning against the first step. The great danger can't be stressed too strongly. Jude said he had the need to yell this warning again and again:

3b it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3b

In a false confidence, we feel we can handle the risks that have been enslaving us. We have seen light and know we can handle the darkness now. If the danger wasn't so great, Jude wouldn't have written as he did, neither would Peter have written likewise (2 Peter 1:12,13; 3:1-3).
You may be thinking that since you're aware, you'll now discern better. There are these additional dangers: emotional dependency (a powerful addiction), isolation fears (powerful enough to be used in prisons in solitary confinement), and standing alone (not only isolation but facing criticism, attacks). These are a lot of powerful attacks to potentially face. Not only face head on, but when newly shaken up, having realized what darkness you have been part of.

D. Recognize Its Spiritual Influence
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 2 Corinthians 10:4

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 This battle is a spiritual one. Don't think you understand all there is in the deception, and so can intellectually overcome it. There's spiritual power behind the darkness. It has a far greater influence than you can intellectually grasp or reason away. This is part of the reason for: 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

The power of influence crosses another dimension.

E. Seek Biblical Fellowship/ Teaching
Coming out of darkness leaves one in a vacuum. The void left of the doctrine's of devils must be filled with that which is true and good. Just as you found strength in the fellowship with those in darkness, you must realize you need fellowship with those who follow God in truth:

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

F. Be Honest
This can be the most difficult step. It means facing what lies you've chosen to believe. Lies are usually chosen because they're easier. They cover up an area of your life you're unwilling to face. You may not have wanted to face the truth, because it would mean you have a basically corrupt, selfish heart. This sounds rough, but it seems to be what I've witnessed. We want God, but inside we also want a lot of things that are "ours". We want to decide our own likes and dislikes. We want to have our particular pleasures. We don't want to face certain responsibilities godliness demands. This will mean contention and confrontations in life. Peace is so often much easier, but in this world, it's not right:

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12

The Christian life won't be easy, but it's worth it.

G. Recognize Your Temptation
Realize why you entered this cult in the first place, and avoid that pitfall again. Just like alcoholics realize they can't handle the bottle, so don't touch it at all, we need to face our weakness. Only then can we purposely flee it and keep a safe distance.

Take Action Now!
I have a great grief over the vast deception and hardness that's happened amongst Christians. These deceptions have a great hold on people. If you've been cleaving to one and can now, momentarily see it, turn now! It may be the only, and last, chance your mind will perceive reality. If you reject this momentary light, the blindness will most assuredly redescend:

12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Luke 8:12

The blindness will not only redescend in its original power, it will usually be intensified (Matthew 12:45). I've seen the enemy actually try, and succeed, in recovering its wavering prey by raising up a cry of, "Deceiving Spirit!" When a person is presented with clear Biblical truth, to a momentarily open heart, that truth will convince with the power of the Holy Spirit. The enemy doesn't like this, and will blame this powerful influence on an evil spirit. It's a quick scapegoat and puts fear into the wavering individual, who already has reasons for going into the cult in the first place.
It's easier to accept the charge of "Deceiving Spirit" and not face the consequences of getting right with God. There's also the spiritual influence of darkness that captivates the mind of the wavering individual, as you can hopefully see. The battle can be fierce.
While you can discern, run to the light before the darkness overcomes you again. Turn and finally and truly glorify Christ, while there's time!

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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