For in him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28
Most people think that cults are only those that are led by people with dreadlocks and who mumble unintelligible mumbo jumbo. But I can assure you that your average church could very easily be a cult. The Bible doesn’t mention the word “cult”; but the Biblical definition of a cult would be: “A place of worship – call it church or whatever – where men, and not Jesus, are placed on a pedestal”.
About 10 years ago, my friend Joshua and I were invited to preach in a certain church. I do not remember the exact details concerning the pastor of this church, but I do recall that we came away with the distinct impression that this was a man who was “full of himself”. He was in total control of everything and he presented himself in such a manner that he was revered tremendously.
To this day, Joshua and I still use the phrase “a man full of himself” since, in the course of our ministry, we have met many men of God who use their influence to draw attention to themselves.
Upon reading the Bible, however, it is evident that the Godly men of old did not talk about or draw attention to themselves. On the contrary, they talked of and represented God. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself being the prime example, talked so much about His Father that, one day, Philip said to Him,
“Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” (Jn. 14:8)
This scripture does not mean, as some people suppose, that Philip and the rest of the Apostles were telling Jesus off, or that they were tired of hearing Him constantly refer to His heavenly Father. On the contrary, it infers that they were so captivated by the kind of life that Jesus kept referring to as belonging to God the Father that they wanted to know, literally, what kind of God was this? And, could such a lifestyle be possible with man? It sounded so surreal!
Their jaws must have dropped when they learned, through Jesus’s answer that, in Him they were looking at the very God He was talking about! Jesus confirmed to them that, through the kind of life that He had lived with them, He was God. His was a perfect, blameless life.
God, and not man, is the subject of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the ages, Godly men have been full of God, and not themselves.
After Jesus had ascended to heaven and after the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, had validated that Jesus indeed was God, thereafter, in the totality of their ministry and lives, they laid it thick on the Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ and on the Godhead of our Heavenly Father. At every opportunity, they emphasized only these two things.
But concerning themselves, they had only the most abasing things to say. The Apostle Paul, talking of himself, could only say:
“…I be nothing.” (2 Cor. 12:11)
Recently, I was watching a documentary about a cult called the Heaven’s Gate, where members were told that they would be transported to heaven by an alien spacecraft. That farce ended with the suicide of 39 of the sect’s members. Incredibly, some of those who escaped the collective suicide, speaking in the documentary, told of how they still believed in the man who organized it and in his teachings. Unbelievable, to say the least.
In November, 1978, the Jonestown cult orchestrated the forced suicide of more than 900 of its members. They had all been brainwashed by a madman called Jim Jones.
These and countless similar incidents all point to the dangers of believing in men. Men, hearkening to seducing spirits, have long been leading multitudes of men and women to hell through demonic teachings and ‘revelations’. Some years back, in our neighboring country of Uganda, a ‘prophet’ named Kibwetere directed his congregation to sell all their property and to prepare to go to heaven. After taking all their money, he then locked them in his ‘church’ and torched it from outside. Everyone died, and to this day Kibwetere’s whereabouts are unknown.
In Nigeria, just last year, over a hundred people, many of them South Africans, were crushed to death when a poorly-constructed building fell them. They died at the very place they had gone to seek healing for their bodies and other miracles. The list of such things is endless.
Let me reiterate that, however holy, however sincere, however ‘good’; even if a man has the best reputation both in heaven and on earth, still, he is nothing. Christ is all in all. True, we are called upon to follow men, but the men we are called upon to follow are men who have crucified their lives with Christ.
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1)
We need the revelation of the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ to discern such men, for many will come in sheep’s clothing, but on the inside they are ravenous wolves.
Christ is the foundation of our faith, not men. Today, people are putting men on a pedestal at the expense of Christ. The reason for this, of course, is what Jesus said in John 5:41-44:
“41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
Men who love giving men honour also love receiving honor from men, and the Bible here tells us that such people have not the love of God in them. They do not love God, their claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Why should we want people to praise us, anyway? It is because we want to appropriate His glory for ourselves. Now, in worldly terms, that is called treason. And, in every country of the world, the punishment for treason is death. When you attempt to challenge the authority of the king, you arouse his highest level of wrath.
The same applies to God.
Many so-called churches today are nothing but cults. The reason is, simply, that men, and not Jesus, are exalted in these churches. And when we exalt men, we exalt nothing but the flesh.
But when we exalt Christ, we exalt Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And in Him alone who died and rose again is to be found the life of the Spirit.
Where is man in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified?
Here, man has been crucified with Christ.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
[There are a whole lot of fascinating things going on in this clip, from the shakings to the fakings. From the woman yelling, “Puuuuush!!” to ‘Manpower’. For me, though, it is the speed with which T.D. Jakes raises his hands as 1m. U.S. dollars closes in on him that generates the most interest]