Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cults: Part 1

We think of cults as those unorthodox religious bodies with a charismatic leader who use mind-boggling techniques to mislead the members, usually to control and wield power. We think of Jim Jones of Guyana, and David Koresh of Waco. A cult normally has dedicated followers obedient to the directions of the leader. Those in cults follow the will of the leader even when the leader is at odds with scripture. Usually, the spiritual battle with Christians is between our own will and God's. With cults, the battle is between our own will and the cult leaders. The leaders have the capacity to win the battle of spirituality, because their gods are led by the powers of darkness.
Acts 8:9 "But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10  to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.”  11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 18  when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,19  saying, 'Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' 20  But Peter said to him, 'Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.'”
This is the story of Simon the Sorcerer. We need to be clear what a sorcerer is. Sorcerer and magician is not the same, although this sorcerer was called Simon Magus by the Romans. A magician uses illusions, slight of hand and trickery to deceive. Sorcerers use  the power of evil spirits to actually do supernatural things. We can be deceived or entertained by magic, but Simon was powerful and deceitful for his own purposes.

Simon practiced sorcery, not magic, although with superstitious people, they appear to be the same. Of course, I'm sure much of what Simon did was trickery, but some of it was the real thing. Where have we heard this before? In Pharoah's court where the magicians were matching Moses, feat for feat, with the help of what must have been evil spirits. Why is that demons rather than trickery? Because Moses would have pointed out the slight of hand because God was with him.

Christians, and everyone else for that matter, must understand that there are indeed spiritual powers working in the world. Just as angels can be revealed, disguised, or be invisible; evil spirits can as well. Angels appeared often to mankind to guide and comfort God's people. Likewise, dark angels appear to misguide and antagonize God's people.
Job 1:6  "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' So Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.'”
Angels can only do what God allows them to do. Righteous angels do God's will, which is good. God allows Satan to test righteous people. Satan can only be in one place at a time because he is not God. Hence, "sons of God" - dark angels, but God's sons because He created them, do Satan's work for him.
Revelation 12:3 "And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth."
The fiery red dragon is symbolic of the angel Lucifer who we know as Satan. The "stars of heaven" are the rebellious angels who were thrown "down to earth". Earth is the kingdom of Satan, and his legions are the rebellious angels which we call evil spirits. Of all the angels which were in heavenly places, fully one-third were cast down to frustrate and test mankind. They are limited to doing only what God wills in the case of Christians but can harm others at their discretion. Christians have a hedge of protection around them. They are safe until they die! Only the righteous person can relinquish their safety if Satan's tests are failed. The rules are: you can do anything but touch (Job 1:12).

As a Christian, I know that I'm protected, and as such, I have safety.  Satan is not allowed to touch me, so he must use different means. We all should know that the M.O. of Satan is deception because he was a liar from the beginning.(John 8:44). Satan, then, can use either deception, magic, or sorcery. I believe that because of the limited number of dark angels compared to righteous angels, two to one, that sorcery is the last resort. Most of the time, we're deceived by words already sown in the world from olden times. Satan's job is easy because mankind is already his children! However, the Book of Job makes it clear - Satan and his legions have supernatural power to cause chaos, despair, and even the death of loved ones.

Simon believed and was baptized. As such, he became a Christian, albeit for only a short time. Immediately, the cunning serpent went on the attack. He wasn't on the job because Satan's legions usually prevent anyone from believing, but who would have thought that Simon would be convinced?

With each second, Simon was nearer salvation than when he first believed. (Romans 13:11). Satan failed to stop Simon from first believing. Now he must immediately go on the defensive!

Note here that people aren't attacked by Satan until God calls them to repentance. They already belong to Satan.
John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. "
Sinners who are not born-again and adopted by God are sons and daughters of Satan. Their uncles and aunts are demons, and it is the will of their father which they do. Simon did those things with his sorcery. When he first believed, his faith was in Jesus. He saw the miracle of the Holy Spirit entering Christians, and he wanted that power. Satan stopped just for a minute, or maybe one of his evil spirits, and tested him with profit. The love of money, being the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10), it didn't take long for Simon to become unsafe. He traded his faith - his very soul, for the love of money. Ironically, he never got the money even though he offered to buy that power.

God is not for sale. Philip rejected profit for God's miracles. Simon was tempted to learn the power of God, obviously for power, prestige, and profit. His temptations were the same as Adam's and Jesus's but whereas Jesus didn't fall to temptation, Simon was more of an Adam! He failed. Satan smiled!

Simon was for a short time washed clean. With the smell of gain in the air, whose prince is Satan, Simon's heart became not right with God, and God's hedge was removed. Simon went from safe to unsafe because of his wickedness. Note that Simon had not actively sinned, but his heart lusted after gain! Satan uses temptation to cause lust, and lust is sin.

We must realize that we're no different than Simon. God can call us to belief just as he did Simon. Satan can deceive Christians just as he did Simon. He told Simon something such as this: "If you change, you will have to give up your sorcery." That was Simon's way and his living. He believed that be could be safe and do Satan's will at the same time!" We are much like him! Being born-again means change, and like Simon, many Christians fail to make that transformation! We become vulnerable to sin, just as Simon was.

It may not yet be obvious, but we have taken the first step toward understanding cults. Simon learned something about God's power by experiencing faith for a short time. He realized that faith can be used for gain, and thus, right then and there, a new religion was born. In part 2 we will learn more about that religion which almost smothered Christianity if it had not been for God's plan.

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