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Watching Cults and Praying for Them

Cults are a pervasive and dangerous phenomenon, posing a significant threat to the spiritual, emotional, and sometimes even physical well-being of their members. Their danger cannot be understated, as many of you already know from the most extreme examples of some turning to mass-suicides, acts of terror and torture, and ritual abuse or polygamy. The most effective cults are often some of the most subtle and sneaky, having charismatic leaders who piggy-back off of established religions to lure in the unsuspecting and then subject them to brainwashing, while continously refining their methods of control.

As Christians, it is crucial for us to identify and avoid these harmful groups. First, cults often deviate from essential Christian doctrines. While there is room for diversity within Christianity, certain core beliefs are non-negotiable. These include the belief in one God, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace through faith. Cults often distort these doctrines, either by adding to them, subtracting from them, or twisting them. For example, some cults may deny the deity of Christ, or claim that salvation can be earned through works or gained knowledge.


Second, authoritarian leadership characterises cults. Leaders often claim to have a special revelation or authority from God that is not available to others. They may use this perceived authority to control and manipulate their followers, demanding unquestioning obedience and discouraging independent thought. This is starkly contrasted with the Christian belief in the priesthood of all believers, which affirms that every believer has direct access to God and is able to interpret the Bible.


Third, cults often employ manipulative control techniques. These can include information control, thought control, emotional control, and behaviour control. Information control is withholding or distorting information to shape the members' reality. Thought control is the indoctrination of certain beliefs and ideologies, often coupled with the demonisation of dissenting views. Emotional control involves the use of fear, guilt, and shame to manipulate members' emotions. Behaviour control refers to regulating members' actions, often through a rigid set of rules and rituals.


Fourthly, cults often exhibit an 'us versus them' mentality. They may portray themselves as the only true path to salvation, and view outsiders with suspicion or hostility. This can cause social isolation, as they encourage members to cut ties with non-members, including family and friends. This is contrary to the Christian call to love our neighbours and engage with the world in a meaningful and positive way.


Lastly, cults often promise secret knowledge or spiritual experiences that are not available elsewhere. This can be very appealing, especially to those who are spiritually hungry or disillusioned with traditional forms of Christianity. However, the Bible warns us against false teachers who tickle our ears with what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear.


In conclusion, it is important for Christians to be discerning and vigilant to identify and avoid cults. This requires a solid grounding in biblical doctrine, a commitment to critical thinking, and a healthy sense of scepticism towards anyone who claims to have a monopoly on truth. It is also important to remember that those who are caught up in cults are often victims who need our compassion and help, rather than our condemnation. May God grant us the wisdom and courage to stand firm in our faith, even in the face of such deception and manipulation.


Heavenly Father, we come before You today with humble hearts, seeking Your wisdom and guidance as we navigate the complex and often confusing world around us. We are especially burdened for those among us who have been ensnared by the deceptive practices of cults, and for those who may be at risk of falling into such traps.

Lord, we ask for discernment. Equip us with the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, light from darkness, and the genuine from the counterfeit. As the Apostle John exhorts us, help us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from You. Grant us a deep understanding of Your Word, that we may use it as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. May eloquent words or impressive signs not move us, but may we hold fast, never being swayed from the sound doctrine that has been entrusted to us.

For those who are currently trapped in cults, we pray for their liberation. We know that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but You give life, and life in abundance. Break the chains of deception that bind them, and open their eyes to the truth. Replace their fear with faith, their confusion with clarity, and their despair with hope. We pray they would come to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.

We also lift up the leaders of these cults. While it is easy for us to condemn them, we are reminded by Your words, that You desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We pray that they too would have an encounter with Your grace, that their hearts would be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. May they become like the Apostle Paul, who once persecuted the church, but was radically transformed by Your love and became a great witness for You.

Finally, we pray for ourselves. Keep us from being judgmental or self-righteous, but help us speak the truth in love. Give us the courage to confront deception when we see it, but also the compassion to support those who have been deceived. May we be a beacon of Your light in this dark world, reflecting Your love, truth, and grace to all we meet. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.