Religious Cults, How to Find Out if You Are in One

1984 big brother

The mesmerized crowd scene from the movie “1984”

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” — Amos Bronson Alcott, The Dial (1840)

In 1970 I had an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed my life forever. There were many young people at that same time that were touched by Him in a life changing way. Most of them had been into the hippie scene of free love, drugs, and other forms of hedonism.  Because America seemed to have no meaning for them with its constant wars, materialism and empty, cold religious systems, they went the other way. Some of them had even turned to Eastern mysticism trying to find some kind of reality in their lives.

Most of these young people, like myself, had a genuine conversion experience and this phenomenon became known as “The Jesus Revolution.” But as it is in most cases, when one turns to the Lord from this evil world, Satan is out to get us back any way he can and as soon as possible. Satan is a judo expert. He takes our fleshly forward motion adds his power to it and throws us off course. That is what happened to our group as well. Because we had a hunger to grow in Christ and become “mature Christians,” we soon found ourselves following a man who knew the Bible. We wanted to know what it had to say about Jesus, so we submitted to this man and his teachings. This happened all over the USA and anywhere God was working in the lives of these young people with their new found love for Jesus. Soon, Bible wielding leaders rose up wherever God had moved and subjugated many of these people under their absolute control, often isolating them from the rest of society. Our group soon pooled its resources under our new leadership and bought a ranch about thirty miles from town. It was a hippie’s dream come true. We were out of the city and back to nature. The trouble is that isolation is another tactic of cult leaders. Our teacher held himself up as having special knowledge of the scriptures that nobody else had and as a result we became isolated from other Christians. This way he didn’t have to constantly contend with teachings that were adverse to his and there were many older Christians that tried to warn us of what we were getting into. Many Christian cults like this still exist today that were started by these abhorrent leaders. Though they are sectarian by nature, some of them are even counted as “main line denominations” to this present day and no one in the dare stray from the teachings of “the Founder.”

Recently Susanne Schuberth wrote an article about religious cults that quoted a woman who grew up in an Indian cult under a guru who had settled in the northeastern USA. This man had total control over her life from her birth until she was twenty five when Jayanti Tamm got set free of his control. In her blog article, Susanne quoted a list of fifteen things Jayanti wrote that most cults, Christian or otherwise, have in common (1). I found that they fit my own experience, but are not complete. In my hunger to do the will of God in my life, I also stumbled into two Christian cult situations in the first ten years of my walk. The first lasted for six years and the second had control of us for less than six months. It seems that I had learned something from the first one that helped me see more clearly into what the second one was rapidly becoming. I must say here that one of those things I learned was to listen to my dear wife’s warnings instead of subjugating her under my “authority” and that of the cult as I had done the first time around. To this day she reads and proof reads all that I write and often has helpful comments to share before I publish a blog.

All that said, I wish to share my own observations of what cults do to gain and maintain control over those who get sucked into them. I think you will find that even some “mainline churches” use some of these tactics. Here are some of my own observations.

Most cults have a charismatic founder (alive or passed on) who has a magnetic personality that people fall prey to. Have you ever found yourself under the influence of a sales person that gets you to buy something that you really don’t need, want or can’t afford? This is what I am talking about. Not only cult leaders, but many pastors and evangelists today use their personal charisma and charm to get people to do what they want and donate money that they can’t afford to give. Many have lost their homes and even more because of this. Leaders with this kind of soul power can often get others to do their will regardless of their own personal well being and even to the destruction of their own families.

Another practice you run into in these groups is what I call “group think.” Everyone that does not act and think according to the “party line” or the precepts of the cult are castigated and made an example before the rest of the group. They might not be hauled before the Sanhedrin as the Jews did to their disobedient members, but in many cases the pastor or leader just preaches a sermon in such a way that all the members know who it is about and the fallen one knows that they will be shunned or worse if they don’t get back in line again. Peer pressure can be very effective when a person wants to be accepted in a loving family. As a result everyone becomes afraid to do anything that the leader might find fault with. They end up in abject obedience and become more fearful of disappointing the leader than of disobeying the will of God. This is not so hard to do in today’s Christianity where few are encouraged by church leadership to cultivate listening for God’s voice and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It was to this very thing that John warned the early church writing,

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him [the Holy Spirit] abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, ESV2011)

In an earlier verse, John was speaking of many antichrists that had already risen-up among them (see 1 John 2:18). The word in the Greek is antichristos and it not only means against Christ, but even worse, it means instead of Christ. These false teachers put themselves ahead of Christ in the lives of believers who submit to them. They “deny Christ” by taking His place in the hearts of His saints, just as a man might try to deny me of my wife by seducing her away from me. Imagine how Jesus feels when His church leaders do this very thing to Him concerning His bride!

This mind control can become very strong in many groups to the point that members must get permission from the leader before they can make any purchases, move from one house to another, decide who they may or may not marry or even get permission to take their own wives out on a date! It is no wonder that every one of the marriages arranged by our first cult leader ended in divorce. It is no wonder that many of their kids grew up hating God.

Another part of this control mechanism is to keep the people busy to the point that they have no time for themselves or their families. Sometimes this even leads to sleep deprivation which makes the person even easier to control. In the first cult I was in we often were working or attending meeting up to 18 hours a day. This tool was perfected during the Korean War by the communists in their concentration camps on the American prisoners of war. Another thing that the guards used was that of giving special favors to prisoners who would spy on the rest and report if anyone said or did a negative thing against their captors. In these cases, such a violator was severely beaten while the rest watched. The enemy finally attained such mind control that a camp with as many as 150 prisoners in it might only need one guard to keep them in line. Sad to say, many of us have seen these same tactics (short of physical beatings) practiced in churches, often with the same results. Some cults actually spanked or whipped errant followers to make them and the others fear anything that might be counted as disobedience.

These groups also tend to be sectarian in nature. They believe that their leader or founder is the only one that knows the “whole body of truth” by which they may please God. Most of them are subjugated to a legal system that binds them in fear, the fear of being ousted from the group they have grown to love. When the ostracized are forced to leave, curses are often spoken on them and their families, and most of them turn from God and never want Him in their lives again. It is sad that such leadership often presents themselves as being God’s man (or woman) on earth who was sent to rule over their followers through their teachings. In this mindset to displease the leader is to displease God. When I was a young Catholic in parochial school, the nuns taught us that they were married to Jesus and to displease or speak ill of them was to insult Jesus with the accompanying consequences. Even non-Christian cults have their counterparts to most of the things I am writing about here. Former adherents of Scientology went through hell to get loose of that organization and this cult’s enforcers continue to harass them even for years afterwards. We had to finally move out of town to get away from the cults we were in.

There is a practice of meditation that is encouraged in eastern religions where the adherents blank-out their minds and open up to the spirits they worship. There is a form of this being practiced in some “Christian” churches today. We were told at “Toronto Fellowship” type meetings in the mid ‘90’s to let our minds go blank and “just receive the ‘father’s blessing.’” If we questioned what was going on while being prayed for, we were being “cerebral Christians” and were resisting what God wanted in our lives. Many people who followed their advice ended up getting “drunk in the spirit,” roaring like lions and making other animal noises and slithering around on the floor. The more outlandish the manifestation, the more we were considered “under the anointing.” Many of these people came under demonic spirits in these meetings that ruined their lives.

Some churches have even taken up the practice of Eastern mysticism like Yoga meditation and Kundalini with no thought whatsoever about the teachings of Christ against such things. They are told by the such meditation will release their captivity within and bring about greater creativity, sexual power and prosperity… everything a worldly person could want. No wonder Jesus told the Jews that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign. It is spiritual adultery to have encounters with demons and their signs.

Another tool that many cult leaders use is the subjugation of women. When Jim Jones was starting to go in an obviously deluded direction, it was the older women in the group that spoke up and gave warning at their isolated compound in the jungles of Guyana. As a result they were castigated and intimidated into silence and if that didn’t work they were finally imprisoned. Jones finally got his way and over 900 people drank poisonous Kool Aid in a fake communion service.

Remember Christian cult leaders know how to use the Bible [as do other cult leaders with their holy writ] for their own power. The worst of these is radical Islam where they are told that killing non-believers will get them special favor with Allah in heaven and their strict adherence to Sharia law is the worst form of bondage where even the women are sexually mutilated. In most cults the one who knows the holy writ is always the last man standing in any argument. We were in a “holiness cult” where the two leaders used their idea of “holiness” to judge and control the rest of us. They also encourage us in prayer meetings to confess our sins and desires out loud. We were in this group for a short time and were given the “left foot of fellowship” when I finally spoke out against their abusive ways. After we left the group their fear tactics and intimidation continued to increase until certain of the women were imprisoned in a rented house and kept under constant guard to shut them up. These two leaders also encouraged a heavy hand on the children by their parents. This finally ended up with one of the little ones dying from neglect of medical attention.  (The child was being spanked because it was fussing and would not stop crying. He finally slipped into a coma and died at the hospital.) At this point the authorities took notice of the welts on the child and the lack of medical attention and one of the cult leaders ended up in prison, as did the father.

Another thing that cult leaders do is to try and pit husbands against wives and vice versa. They use the old “divide and conquer” method when one has something that the leader wants (sex, money, talent, power, etc.) and the other one is less desirable. Sometimes this occurs when one of them speaks out against their abuses, or are otherwise in the way of them getting what the leaders want. This also happened in the cult mentioned above when the pastor of the church they took control of was made to look like a buffoon and his fair blonde wife was told she was a “prophetess” — of course she prophesied words that the leaders wanted to hear. That marriage ended in divorce and the father was not allowed to see his children until they finally grew up and sought him out many years later.

In short, Satan is more than happy to make leaders like these appear as “an angel of light” through their personal soulish charisma and “giftings.” This is why Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” Demons love to give signs and God gave us One true sign, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again from the grave on the third day (see Matthew 12:39-41).

Paul wrote a strong warning that applies today:

 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”(2Thess 2:9-12, ESV2011)

These leaders I have observed and their lieutenants all wanted power, and thus they loved a lie and hated the Truth who manifested Himself as a gentle lamb who laid down His life for us all and loved not His life unto death. Why is seeking power even in the Church a sin? Here is what Jesus warned two of His disciples when they were vying to sit on His right of power and on His left in the kingdom of heaven:

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45, NIV)

It is not just Christian cults that abuse power, all cults do. That is the siren song of the devil. Satan tempted Eve by saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Only Jesus is like God and there is no shortcut to being conformed into the likeness of Christ. The way of the cross that kills our carnal soul nature is the first requirement and it is no easy road. Jesus said, “He who finds his [soul] life will lose it. But he who loses his [soul] life for my sake and the kingdom’s sake will find it.” There is an old country western song that had a line in it that is very poignant, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

Dear saints, be aware that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and is often manifest in the form of charismatic Christian leadership. As for our Christian growth? It was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Give your hearts totally to Jesus and pray that He does whatever it takes in your lives that pleases God and He will get you to the goal that the Father has laid out before you in His kingdom. For me it has been learning some very hard lessons in cults and churches. Like my friend George Davis put it, “God rubbed my nose in everything He wanted me to never do.”

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/what-is-a-cult-recognizing-and-avoiding-unhealthy-groups-by-jayanti-tamm/

For further reading, here is another site that has listed the earmarks of cults:

http://csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

47 comments on “Religious Cults, How to Find Out if You Are in One

  1. Kenneth E Dawson says:

    What you said at the end of your article is the thing I have done in my Christian walk of 44 yrs.—Its the fulfillment of Ezekiel 36:27—-Give your heart totally to Jesus and pray that He does whatever it takes in my life that pleases God and He will get me to the goal that His Father has laid out before me in His kingdom

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Kenneth, that is one of my favorite Old Testament verses about the New Covenant we walk in. Couple this with Jeremiah 31: 31-34 also quoted in Hebrews ch. 8. We are under a NEW Covenant, much newer than most churches allow for sure.
      Love you, my brother!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Michael, what you have shared coming so closely to what Susanne shared has emboldened me to accept that what I was in for close to ten years was a cult. As I read through the characteristics, I was telling myself, “yes, that one too, that one also….”I think for a long time I’ve been living in denial that I could not have been deceived. It wasted so much of our precious time that we still suffer the effects to this day.My wife has written a book on that phase of our lives and we hope to publish and share it with others soon.
    Thank you for your part in exposing these works of darkness.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Patrick,
      We are so blessed to here that your eyes have been opened to see how cults work and that you are back to following Jesus. It sounds as if your wife saw through that delusion before you did, just as I wrote in my blog. As it says in the OT, “He who has found a wife has found a good thing.” We men need to understand that that they are a gift for spiritual wellbeing as well as our temporal here on earth ! Hard lessons to learn for most of us, but God gives them grace.
      I would love to read her book about your cult experience. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, my dear brother. I feel so close to you in Christ!
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yes indeed Michael, so very close by God’s own odering. I’ve come to see in new light the truth in Rom 8:28 that regardless of what a child of God goes through, there is a sovereign hand odering their path to eventually be refined for His eternal purpose. It is true when our beloved bridegroom says, ““I have not lost one of those you gave me.”(John 18:9)”, and ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” “. When I first came out of the group and started seeing how much liberty that is in the family of God I had been denied, my reaction was that of anger and resentment, but over the years the Lord has made me realise that my heart needs to be healed of the need for revenge and the need to take matters into my own hands – think disciples wanting to call fire from heaven (Luke 9); ” 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?” ..I disgress..

        Speaking of our wives as a gift for our well-being, you can say that again – In my case I had joined the group ahead of her and she only joined after we got married. There were a lot of issues surrounding my marrying from outside the group, but now when I look in hindsight, She was used by God very much in getting us out of that toxic environment. There were things she was seeing from back then that I am only seeing now, I guess male ego can be a big stumbling block to receiving counsel, but thank God for the cross, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. “. I will make the book available to you when it is ready.

        Blessings to you dear brother.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Michael says:

        My dear brother Patrick,

        I did not find your comment at first even though I looked under “comments.” WordPress does some weird things at times. I have to admit that I was afraid that I might have overstepped my relationship with you by mentioning your wife’s foresight regarding the cult you were in. Reading your reply gave me much relief. Sometimes I hear the Spirit and then worry about whether I heard correctly later. :-/

        I know what you went through after leaving that cult. My wife and I were both wounded by the one we were in the longest as well as the second one that took over the church we were in. Not only the leader openly criticized us while in it, but later another brother I always felt close to (he was in both cults, also) asked me if I ever knew Christ? I was already wounded, but that was like a knife that went right into my heart. By the grace of God after two year from the time we left He had done a miracle in my life and flooded my hear with love and forgiveness for that leader and I went to see him with tears of love flooding my heart. On another time when a Christian tried to take advantage of me I asked the Lord, “Am not I supposed to love him?’ He said, “Yes, love him, just don’t trust him.” I will never put myself under the authority of anyone again just because they claim to be a Christian. God does give us special relationships with certain saints, but not ALL of them. I am reminded of the following passage.”

        “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25, ESV2011)

        Even though they were “believers” He did not trust them. Then there were those whom the Father had given Him. To these He said,

        “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15, ESV2011)

        That about says it all. Learning the difference has been a hard lesson for us to learn. It has shown us how it is of utmost importance that we hear and obey the voice of the Spirit.

        “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:21-23, ESV2011)

        Bless you my dear brother,
        Michael

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael,
        Thank you once again for sharing your life. Concerning the worry of whether you heard the Spirit correct, it’s encouraging to hear you also experience that – I was also worried I was going too far linking to my post here on your blog, but now glad for the mutual relief.

        You said in your response, “He said, “Yes, love him, just don’t trust him.” “: This is one big lesson I have learnt and still learning, “not to put my trust in man, however good.”. Man can fail, but our God never fails, He is forever faithful and we can therefore entrust our lives fully to Him.

        Blessings in Him dear brother.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Michael says:

        Patrick, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps 118:8-9, KJ2000)

        You wrote, “I have learnt and still learning, “not to put my trust in man, however good.” I think Jesus is your teacher…

        “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said unto him, ‘Why call me good? none is good, except one, that is, God.'” (Luke 18:18-19, KJ2000)

        Liked by 3 people

  3. “The more they called themselves philosophers [teachers, leaders, etc], the more stupid they are, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation, for the image of mortal MAN, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles.” Romans 1:23 comes to mind. They are more serious in themselves and their acquiring riches than of saving souls for Christ. In there appearance and mannerism is their fruit, meek and mild, I think not.
    Thank you for putting it forward in the simplest form of understanding. Blessings always.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      TLC (I like what that stands for, it says something about you),
      You are correct, these men might start out with the right motivation on occasions, but the machine they are building turns people into objects needed for success. I coined a phrase for this, “They can’t see the trees for the forest!” I have a brother in Christ who was a logger and one day we took a walk in the woods together and he told me that when he looks at a tree or stand of trees, he is seeing hundreds or thousands of board-feet of lumber. What an illustration of what happens to people who are out to build an empire for themselves instead of building up the family of God in His love.
      Thanks for your insightful comments on our blogs and for being who you are in Christ.
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, very nice of you to say. The Holy Spirit attracts kinder spirits and it brings out the love inside us.

        How true and I agree, is the analogy you quoted from your blogger friend. Sad really and stresses the importance of being watchful not to be deceived by wolves dressed like a lamb. But to ‘test all things, hold fast to what is good’. 1Thes 5:21.
        Thank you again. Peace be with you and
        Blessing always, In Christ, Aida

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael says:

        Aida, our TLC sister. You wrote, “The Holy Spirit attracts kinder spirits and it brings out the love inside us.” I had never thought of it in these words, so after praying about it He led me to see two things about the truth of what you wrote, “God is love.” And the second one is, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (Grk. huios – siblings or kinship) of God.” His Spirit in us stirs up the love of God in us for one another and we often feel such a strong kinship for another saint for this very reason. Wow!

        Yes, my sister, we should “Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1Thess 5:21, KJ2000). This requires the Holy Spirit being active in us once again that we might know the mind of Christ. Some teach that Satan can counterfeit everything that God does except His love. To this I say, yes and no. There is a very strong form of human love that can be confused with His love and our enemy knows how to stir that up in us as well. But when God’s love is active, it is “self denying itself for others” not “self seeking, giving out so it can receive back.” His love is unselfish.

        “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJ2000)

        THAT is selfless love in action even though He gets very little love back in this world. May He continue to stir up His love in our hearts for all, dear sister.

        Michael

        Liked by 2 people

  4. A deeply chilling post, Michael. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is a warning to the rest of us. Sadly, many who end up in cults are in search of the very love and acceptance Christ has to offer. ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    • Michael says:

      Yes, Anna, this is so true. In my case I was looking for in a “father figure” the love and approval that my natural father never gave me. I think that most of us in that group had the same problem. All the pains of being subjugated by men has given me a deeper understanding of what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Call no man father, for only ONE is your Father and He is in heaven.”
      Bless you in His love, my sister ❤

      Liked by 3 people

    • I agree with you Anna, Many are genuinely seeking for the the true love and acceptance Christ offers when they land in the wrong hands. My own life has been characterized by that search which landed me in a cultic group. Michael allowing me, I share a link to a post I wrote (contrasting the Jesus in the cult and the one I am knowing now) a bit about that sometime back here: https://lifebeyondthewalls.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/who-are-you-lord/#more-431 .

      Liked by 3 people

      • Michael says:

        Your own story seems to be interlaced with those who also have eternity in their hearts, my brother. I am glad you found us.

        “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Eccl 3:11, ESV2011)

        Liked by 2 people

  5. A very touching testimony and warning you shared here, Michael! ⭐ As you know I can relate to most of it… :-/

    Thx for the link to my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      You are so welcome, Susanne. Like I said, God used your recent blog to stir me up to write about my past and His deliverance in my life. Thank you so much for being who you are IN Him. ⭐ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Yes, Susanne, once again you and I have been through so many of the same things for His present glory in which we share. I can say now that it is behind that I am glad that going through these things has been used by Father to comfort others. This passage comes to mind,

      “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2Cor 1:3-5, ESV2011)

      You are welcome for the link, dear heart. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Judi says:

    * Like 🙂

    I have been reading but not commenting awhile 🙂 letting what is shared sink in.
    Thank you for sharing and being so transparent. Took me back a bit…
    I was saved in 1976 so can relate to much of what you experienced. We were just hungry babies in the Lord and thought those leaders were gonna feed us!
    Having come from a Catholic background also, I did what the priest told me and thought what they told me was true. I did not question the priest which then carried over to the pastors when I left the RCC.
    It is possible that the rebellion of those days may be the blessing in disguise since I also did not always “do as I was told” after being born again. I was rebel to the core against all “authority” (before Christ) – except I did respect the priests (not the nuns though lol) SO when I started this walk I was easily “led” by whoever was the leader. This was the case even though I’d been born again.
    I did not understand what it was to be led by the Spirit or taught by Him. I barely knew any scripture since the RCC did not exactly encourage “bible study” or reading.
    Then having no frame of reference other than RCC made it difficult to even use discernment before getting involved in various groups. I did not even ask the Lord if I should go – I’d just go. Quite a bad idea in hindsight…
    So amazed how the Lord by His Spirit has changed that! He had to take me off the grid to do it though and I thank Him daily for it!
    AND I thank Him for you and the saints here (and at Susanne’s blog)! Greatly encouraged by all 🙂 Judi

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Dear Judi, Thanks for sharing with us more of your past and His hand in your life. Yup! I had the much the same mindset as you in my early days. Obedience to all authority was driven into me from my birth. I got my first spanking by my dad when I was about one year old because I was fussing and frustrated by my inability to make the walker I was in work. My dad was an army vet from WW2 and he believed in strong dissapline and unquestioned authority. The nuns in parochial school were viscous and could hold a class of 50 kids in rigid control under threat of pain, and oh, yes, peer pressure. This kind of fear of authority continued on once I got away from home and in the military. I soon became the same kind of husband and father that I grew up with (I have had a lot to repent of). So my understanding of God and respect for “His authorities” was modeled by what I grew up with. “Yes, sir. No sir. Right away, sir.”

      Like you, this carried right over into my attitude toward pastors in Protestantism and many of them knew how to get what they wanted from me as a result. I was always looking for the approval I never got from my Father, so I submitted to a lot of crap that was not from my heavenly Father. I am still learning ever so slowly that God is a God of love, not a self seeking tyrant that uses us for to further His own program or wants. His love should be the only motivation we are moved by, I am glad to see that you are learning this lesson, too. 🙂 I am so glad He has not had me go back into that system every again, aren’t you? 🙂

      You wrote, “So amazed how the Lord by His Spirit has changed that! He had to take me off the grid to do it though and I thank Him daily for it!” Yes, same here. He had to get me away from all religious institutions and trappings for many years to detoxify me and shut out all the false teachings that fed my old fear based mindset, so He could start teaching me His ways and about His heart for me and His saints like yourself.

      Thanks for sharing some more of your story with us, dear sister. You are an encouragement to us as well. “star”
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Judi says:

    Thank you so much, Michael, for your further sharing and kind words 🙂

    In answer to your question/statement:
    (you said:) “I am so glad He has not had me go back into that system every again, aren’t you?” ( end quote)

    YES I am so glad I do not need to be a part of that system ever again! Not only RCC but any man-made religious system! Thanks be to God!

    Today’s Open Windows by TAS summed things up beautifully I think. So encouraging!

    Quote:

    “We must take our eyes off ourselves, but not look out into space and be vacant. “Look off unto Jesus”, and you know how that sentence is finished – “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. Did you start this thing? Are you a Christian because you decided to be a Christian? Well, the Lord help you if that is so! No, He started this thing. Are you not glad that you can say: ‘It was the Lord who found me. It was the Lord who put His hand on me.’? What He said is very true: “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). He was the author of our faith, and it says that He is the finisher – He will finish it.

    When we get to heaven we will be full of wonder that we ever did get there! We will just look at one another and say: ‘Well, we are here! It is a wonderful story! How we got here we do not know. We have thought a thousand times that we never would get here. We had given up all hope – but we are here!’ And it will be because Jesus is the finisher. Believe that, dear friend! In the day of your despair and difficulty, look off unto Jesus. He has said: “Where I am, there shall also my servant be” (John 12:26). Though it takes a thousand miracles, He will work them to get us there. Do believe it! Take hold of it with both hands and trust Him to see you right through to glory, for that is one of the great things in this Letter: “Bringing many sons unto glory” (Hebrews 2:10). That means you and it means me.” (end quote)

    http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000974.html

    “- He will finish it”

    Grace! Grace! Judi

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michael says:

      Yes, Judi, I also read this excerpt by TAS and was touched by it. I am so glad that what God starts He always finishes and doesn’t give up on us. I am reminded of what angel told the women who went to the tomb to anoint His body after He rose again. Peter had betrayed Him and afterward had cried bitter tears, “But go, tell his disciples AND PETER that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7, ESV2011). Jesus might have scolded and corrected Peter a few times, but He never gave up on him neither did the Father. As you might be able to tell, I relate to Peter.
      May His great grace be upon you as well, Judi.
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. […] Checklist from a checklist I would find years ago on a German website. Michael recently published a great blog article in which he described his own painful experiences in cults. The picture he attached to this post […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ay mi querido amigo Michael, cuando leo esto que escribes, no sé si ponerme a llorar o enojarme. Esto es tan lamentable. Yo lo viví por muchos años y el Señor duró otros años más despojándome de todo esto en mi corazón.

    Por mencionar solo unas cosas:

    Me acuerdo que en uno de esos cultos, se practicaba “la risa ungida”, era una abominación todo aquello, el que más reía y se tiraba al piso, era el más ungido.

    También nos hacían practicar la “visualización espiritual” para alcanzar las bendiciones de Dios, nos hablaban de la cuarta dimensión, predicada por el tal Paul Yogui Cho. Era algo detestable. La frase favorita de este pastor es “sueña y ganarás el mundo”.

    Cuando el Señor me sacó de esa organización religiosa, que llaman Mega Iglesia, entró en mí una culpa por no congregarme en algún lugar, ahora sé que eso provenía del diablo. Llegué a otra organización y en esta tocaba darle cuenta al pastor de todos los movimientos, lo que leía, lo que compraba, lo que comía, con la excusa de que él era el pastor y había que obedecerlo.

    Yo me revelé y le dije que al único que tenía que obedecer era al Señor y que él no tenía la autoridad de eso. Ese hombre se puso furioso y según él, me dijo que satanás había pedido mi vida para zarandearla, este hombre sin escrúpulos se acercó para orar por mí e imponerme manos; yo me puse más furiosa y le dije que ni se atreviera a imponerme manos que no quería tener nada que ver con sus demonios. Salí de ese lugar muy atribulada.

    Dios tuvo que liberar y sanar mi vida por muchos años de todas estas cosas.

    Doy testimonio para que muchos huyan de estas congregaciones y salgan del sistema, todavía el Señor está llamándonos a salir fuera del campamento.

    Un abrazo.
    ———————
    Patricia wrote,

    Oh my dear friend Michael, when I read this you wrote, I do not know whether to cry or get angry. This is so pitiful. I lived it for many years and the Lord lasted other years more stripping me of all this in my heart.

    To mention just a few things:

    I remember that in one of those cults, the “anointed laughter” was practiced, it was all an abomination, the one that laughed the most and threw himself to the floor, was the most anointed.

    They also made us practice “spiritual visualization” to reach the blessings of God, they told us about the fourth dimension, preached by Paul Yogi Cho. It was something detestable. The favorite phrase of this pastor is “dream and you will win the world”.

    When the Lord took me out of that religious organization, which they call Mega Church, a guilt came into me because I did not congregate myself somewhere, now I know that it came from the devil. I came to another organization and in this one I had to tell the pastor about all the movements, what I read, what I bought, what I ate, with the excuse that he was the pastor and that I had to obey him.

    I revealed myself and told him that the only one who I had to obey was the Lord and that he did not have the authority of that. That man was furious and according to him, he told me that satan had asked for my life to shake me, this unscrupulous man came to pray for me and lay hands on me; I got more furious and told him that he did not dare to impose on me hands that I did not want to have anything to do with his demons. I left that place very troubled.

    God had to release and heal my life for many years of all these things.

    I give testimony so that many may flee from these congregations and leave the system, still the Lord is calling us to go out of the camp.

    A hug.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michael says:

      Dear Patricia,

      I am sorry to hear that you fell victim to these two cults, the Toronto Blessing cult and the Discipleship Movement. Both were two sides of the same coin; one was the flesh being allowed to run wild at the encouragement of fleshly men and the other was giving up our spiritual freedom that is ours in Christ and coming under the bondage of fleshly men. In neither one were we following the leading of the Holy Spirit, but false anointings (false christs). With this in mind, consider Jesus warning to the early church,

      “And he said, Take heed that you be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [saying, “I am anointed] ; and the time draws near: go not therefore after them. But when you shall hear of wars and tumults, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet… But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues…” (Luke 21:8-12, KJ2000)

      This is what happened to us, dear sister. We received a lie from men and women who claimed that they were God’s anointed ones. These are of the many false christs He was warning us that would come! Oh, how they love to lay hands on us! This is an act of placing on us the same spirits that are in them. This is done all the time by the gurus of eastern religions. And if we do not go along with these false christs we are persecuted and made an example of before their congregations, just as you told about in your comment. And consider His words to the religious Jews as a warning TO US,

      “I am come in my Father’s name, and you receive me not: IF ANOTHER COMES IN HIS OWN NAME, HIM YOU WILL RECEIVE. How can you believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?” (John 5:43-44, KJ2000)

      They come in their own name all the time, “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” “Kenneth Copland Ministries,” Kenneth Hagin Ministries,etc. and we go after them. As for me, it was the mercy of the Father that this last cult I had given authority to laid their hands on me and sent me out into the wilderness [scapegoat-ism (see Lev. 16:5-10)] for it was what I needed to finally get my eyes off of seeking honor from men instead of from my Father only.

      Remember, my dear sister:

      And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:27-28, KJ2000)

      All these things are working together for our good because we have been called by Him to abide in His love.

      Holy hugs back,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Amen. Todo tiene sentido si lo miramos desde Romanos 8: 27 – 28, si ellos no nos hubieran lanzado al desierto, no hubiéramos encontrado en Jesús nuestro Todo. El Señor arrancó todo el peso de un sistema que asfixiaba la Vida de Dios en nosotros y robaba el propósito del señor en nuestras vidas. Gloria a Dios por Su obra.

    Hoy daba gracias a Dios con lágrimas por haberme sacado de las tinieblas a Su Luz. Cuando miro hacia atrás, veo que lo que dejamos no se compara a lo que tenemos ahora en Él, LIBERTAD para seguirlo, amarlo, obedecerlo y dejarnos tratar el corazón, sin la presión de hombres que parecen más vampiros que otra cosa.

    Gracias Michael por tus palabras. Abrazos fraternales.

    ————————–
    Patricia wrote,

    Amen. Everything makes sense if we look at it from Romans 8: 27-28, if they had not thrown us into the desert, we would not have found our All in Jesus. The Lord pulled out all the weight of a system that asphyxiated the Life of God in us and stole the Lord’s purpose in our lives. Glory to God for His work.
    Today I give thanks to God with tears for having led me out of darkness into His Light. When I look back, I see that what we left does not compare to what we have now in Him, FREEDOM to follow him, love him, obey him and let us treat the heart, without the pressure of men who seem more vampires than anything else.
    Thanks Michael for your words. Fraternal embraces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Patricia, Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36, KJ2000)

      And Paul said the same thing,

      “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1, KJ2000)

      Paul makes it clear that RELIGION is the “yoke of bondage.” Jesus did not come to establish a new religion to hold us captive to its creeds and desires. To walk after the flesh trying to be righteous by the works of the flesh is just as much sin as living after the lusts of the flesh. Christ has made us free by giving us His Spirit to lead us into all righteousness, not by our might or power but by His Spirit says the Lord. Stay free, my dear sister.

      It is a joy to know you IN Christ.

      Like

      • Adriana Patricia says:

        Gloria a Dios por la libertad de Cristo, que me hizo libre del sistema religioso y de las doctrinas de los hombres. Aleluya.

        Para mí también es una alegría conocerte en Cristo, Dios me dio una gran bendición al tenerte como mi hermano. Abrazos santos.
        ———-
        Patricia replied:
        Glory to God for the freedom of Christ, who set me free from the religious system and the doctrines of men. Hallelujah.

        For me it is also a joy to meet you in Christ, God gave me a great blessing to have you as my brother. Holy hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Patricia, you and your encouraging comments have been a joy for me as well. ⭐ We stay free as we abide together IN Him.
        Your brother,
        Michael

        Like

  11. alan haungs says:

    Michael,

    One way to look at what you wrote is to conclude “on the rare occasion should you find yourself in…”

    But the way I view this is: “typically among any religious collective this is what WILL EVENTUALLY go wrong”.

    It is a rarity that when any saints get together, THAT someone isn’t ascending in preeminence, thus I treat all such arrangements as one treats a Styrofoam cup, useful for a few instances, but quickly discarded before the rot takes hold.

    Its kind of like after you awake from knee replacement surgery and immediately they have you MOVE AND WALK ON IT, even though it hurts. Movement prevents clotting, improves circulation, reduces the possibility of infection and ultimately aids healing.

    God gave us heart replacement surgery, so we too must learn to be like the wind and keep moving.

    Al

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Alan,
      There is a lot to learn about what God desires from us when it comes to fellowship with Him in this passage.

      “Go and tell David my servant, Thus says the LORD, You shall not build me a house to dwell in: For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wherever I have walked with all Israel, spoke I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedars?” (1Chr 17:4-6, KJ2000)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Truth Welcome Here and commented:
    This is an excellent description of how religious groups can use isolation, overwork, and other control tactics to thwart true spiritual growth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alan haungs says:

      By coincidence I am now reading First John, with my Greek tools handy. I am presently considering this idea: ……..denies…..Jesus is the Christ…..is anti-Christ. I am looking closely at DENIES, as a Greek word, which is more expansive then our English word “deny”. When we NEGLECT the Anointed One as our teacher by accepting a substitute…..I suspect we are an anti-Christ. I am still weighing this idea out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Michael says:

        Alan, When we consider the context of the rest of 1 John ch. 2, I believe you are right. When we neglect the leading of the Spirit in us or oppose His leading in another, we are subject to the antichrist spirit. The Holy Spirit within is our Teacher, but when we would rather heap to ourselves human teachers to tickle our ears we are denying the Christ’s Spirit within us of His rightful place. Thus the meaning of antichristos: against Christ or instead of Christ.

        All of Christendom is waiting for “THE Antichrist” to sit on a throne in a new temple in Jerusalem when there are many antichrists among us already. According to the New Testament, the temple of God is the human heart not one made of bricks and stones. Because of this false teaching, very few Christians bother to examine themselves for this evil spirit that denies Jesus Christ His proper place in their hearts.

        Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; by which we know that it is the last time. (1John 2:18, KJ2000)

        What makes a false Christ, false prophet, false teacher, or false apostle? These are they who lift themselves up and over the ecclesia in the place of the unction in them with their own false anointings and those who submit to such an anointing are under the antichrist spirit.

        As Paul warned…

        For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2Tim 4:3-4, ESV2011)

        Like

  13. alan haungs says:

    As a young man I viewed these verses about denying Jesus is the Christ as regarding persons who say the actual words “I deny Jesus is the Christ”. But being a Christian for years I saw persons who said Jesus is the Christ but by their actions deny him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Allan,
      The same Greek word is used in these two verses:

      And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34, KJV)

      Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1John 2:22, KJV)

      We deny Jesus as our Christ the same way we deny our selves to follow Him. We must deny one that we may have the other. We can’t have both.

      Like

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