MCCU SUNDAY SERVICE – MARCH 2014
Jesus in John 14:6 claims to be the WAY, TRUTH and LIFE. In this age of postmodernism where truth is relative and not absolute, when liberalism is taking a center stage, religious pluralism has gained ground and cults and occults are on the rise, can Jesus be the only way to God?
- WHY JESUS IS THE WAY – despite religious pluralism and postmodern ideologies
Understanding the major world religions
|Bahá’í Faith||5-7.3m||Abrahamic religions|
|Korean shamanism||5-15m||Korean religions|
In looking at these major belief systems and their views of God, we find tremendous diversity:
- Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses. Most Hindus worship one Being of ultimate oneness (Brahman) through infinite representations of gods and goddesses. These various manifestations of gods and goddesses become incarnate within idols, temples, gurus, rivers, animals, etc.
- Buddhists say there is no deity. Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine, but rather he is viewed by Buddhists as having attained what they are also striving to attain, which is spiritual enlightenment and, with it, freedom from the continuous cycle of life and death. Most Buddhists believe a person has countless rebirths, which inevitably include suffering. A Buddhist seeks to end these rebirths.
- New Age followers believe they are God. New Age promotes the development of the person’s own power or divinity. When referring to God, a follower of New Age is not talking about a transcendent, personal God who created the universe, but is referring to a higher consciousness within themselves.
- Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God. Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind.
- Christians believe in a God who is loving and approachable.
In Hinduism a person is on their own trying to gain release from karma. In New Age a person is working at their own divinity. In Buddhism it is an individual quest at being free from desire. And in Islam, the individual follows religious laws for the sake of paradise after death. In Jesus’ teaching, you see a personal relationship with a personal God — a relationship that carries over into the next life.
Many religions focus on a person’s spiritual efforts. With Jesus Christ it’s a two-way interaction between you and God.
Unique characteristics of the God of the Bible as opposed to other religious teachings
The God in the Bible unlike other God’s is also;
- Experiential, Transformational and active
- Redemptive and loving (salvic)
- Real, Factual/historical
Unique characteristics of Jesus as opposed to other religious founders
- Sinless Life (others claimed – Pontius Pilate, solders after his death. He also claimed himself.Buddha, for example, never claimed sinlessness. Muhammad also admitted that he was in need of forgiveness.
- Resurrection – this is the pinnacle of our salvation and the hope for Christians –1 Cor 15:16-19
- Deity – He was part of the trinity – he was God (He is the way, others try to show the way
- KNOWING AND KEEPING THE (RIGHT) WAY
Uncovering Cultism and false teaching
- Galatians 1:6-9 – Paul speaks about the propagation of a “another gospel”
- Mathew 7:15,16 – Jesus in the sermon on the mountain warned “ beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.
- 2 Cor 11:13 – Satan masquerades to be the angel of light and his servants as servants of righteousness.
- 1 John 4:1 – Believers are instructed to “try [test] every spirit to check whether it is from God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- 2 Peter 2:1-3 – peter warns against “false prophets &teachers…who…bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. .and bring the WAY of truth into disrepute… in the greed…they will exploit you”
- 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1 – Paul spoke “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons]
The reading of Jude 3,4 yields four important conclusions.
- There is only one faith “the faith”
- There are enemies of faith
- Christians are to “earnestly contend” for that faith
Definition of a Cult
Cult is any religious movement that claims the backing of the bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by 1) an additional revelation, and 2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of faith with a secondary matter.
There are many ways in which the “cult” groups have deviated from mainline Christian theology. Jehovah’s Witness assert for example, that the Holy Spirit is a not a God, not a member of the trinity, not co-equal with Jehovah and not a person. Victor Paul Wierwille of the Way, International, teaches that Jesus is the son of God but not God since it is illogical that he could be both. For the Christian scientists, life, truth and love constitute the triune person called God, who is father mother. Christ is said to be the spiritual idea of son ship, divine science or the Holy comforter.
– From the theological viewpoint, any group or religious system, whether it calls itself “Christian” or not, that offers other criteria as equal to or superior to the Bible, including but not limited to erroneous and/or exclusive interpretations of Scripture, should be considered a cult.
Cultism as a continuum
We have Christian groups with cultic tendencies, then mild cults and then acute cults and eventually occult. Each stage can grow/graduate to the next if not checked.
Distinctive traits of a cult
- An all-powerful leader whom the members believe to be a messiah – he is the absolute and final in authority. He determines the dogma. The cult leader is looked to as the infallible interpreter of Scripture, specially appointed by God to be a special saint, guru, or contemporary messiah, and thereby, has divine authority that must not be violated. Cultists almost always quote their leader rather than the Bible. The cult’s adherents often expound the virtues of the founders and seek to cover the founder’s sins and wickedness.
- An extra-scriptural source of authority (extra biblical authority) – Claims of Special Discoveries/Additional Revelation: Acceptance of new, contemporary, continual revelations that either deny the Bible or are allowed to explain it. The fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it is historical, not dependent upon private knowledge and secret, un-confirmable relationships, while the almost universal basis of cult religion is the claimed exclusive revelation that one person has supposedly received. Rather than conforming to Biblical rules of evidence (2 Cor. 13:1), cult leader revelations almost always emanate from hallucinations, visions, dreams, private discoveries, etc. These new revelations often become codified as official written “scripture” of the cults (e.g., The Book of Mormon), and are considered as valid as that of the apostles (and even more relevant because they are given in these end times).
- Denial by justification alone – Works Salvation/Legalism: Cults teach that eternal life depends upon something other than the Atonement; i.e., faith in the atoning, finished work of Christ on the cross is deemed not to be sufficient (usually replaced with human works and human responsibility). Rather than relying on the grace of God alone for salvation, the salvation message of the cults always boils down to required obedience to, or abstention from, certain obligations and practices (some even including obedience to the Old Testament law).
- No Assurance of Salvation:The issue of a cult member’s salvation is never settled, but is constantly affected by the changing circumstances of life; in this way, cult leaders are able to produce continued obligation and spiritual bondage, rather than spiritual freedom.
- Defective Christology: Cults always have a false view of the nature of the Person of Jesus Christ; a cult will usually deny the true deity of Christ, His true humanity, His true origin, or the true union of the two natures in one Person.
- Out-Of-Context Scripture Use as Proof-Texts/Segmented Biblical Attention: Cults tend to focus on one verse or passage of the Bible to the exclusion of others, and without regard for the context in which Scripture is given (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:29 used by Mormons to justify baptism for the dead). In addition, cults have made an art form out of using Christian terminology, all the while pouring out their own meanings into the words.
- Rational thought is discouraged, forbidden or under suspicion. Terms are redefined by the leader and members should not challenge the new knowledge.
- Often uses deceptive recruiting techniques. The potential or the new recruit is not told what they getting into. Most members would probably not join if they knew ahead of time what they will be involved in.
- The group as the exclusive community and an Enslaving/ Entanglingorganization structure – the cult leaves the members with the impression that his problem can only be solved within the group. All help from the previous support systems is discouraged and sometimes forbidden. The cult members are also isolated from the outside world – cut of from past acquaintances including the media. They might be told that the outside world is evil and doomed. Salvation only comes by remaining in the group and giving up everything else. Indifference towards the authority of the state “The Only True Church Syndrome.”
- Cults manipulate guilt. Members are often forced to confess their inadequacies and past sins before the whole group or circle of leaders.
- The cult may make basic career and life decisions for the follower. The cults determine every part of the member’s personal life, including sex, diet, use of drugs, career, no of children to have etc.
- central role to eschatology – some cult members believe that the world is coming to end soon and that they are part of the elite survival group – adopt new ways of purifying themselves e.g. new clothing, names etc
- Economic exploitation by the cult leaders – The cultic practitioner strongly implies that money contributed to the cause will earn the contributor numerous gifts, powers, and abilities, and in many cases, outright salvation.
- WAY FORWARD
- Fear not but watch out, we shall know them (false teachers/prophets) by their fruits (Mathew 7:15-16)
- Be firmly grounded in the word – let it dwell in you richly (Colossians3:16). Know and interpret it correctly. Know the genuine in order to discover the counterfeit.
- Contend and defend your faith – Jude 1:3 and 1 Peter 3:15. It is a treasure – Mathew 13:44
- Be accountable in a healthy growing fellowship.