The word ‘Cult’ often portrays an image of a group of people dressed in similar attire, possibly dancing around fires, holding candles and chanting mantras from some eastern origin, or of a hippiesc long-haired bearded somewhat Jesus looking figure, surrounded by a harem of young female devotees. However, the word ‘cult, means a system or group of people who observe or follow a figure to which they ascribe devotion. It can apply to a trend or fashion within society as well as to a person. In the realm of celebrity, these people might be called ‘fans’. The word for the person they adore becomes the idol of their lives. With regards to religious cults who often appear small, society often sees them as misguided, strange, and sometimes imposing. I will refrain from highlighting those cults that have appeared or appear to misguide people for gain and manipulation, let alone those which have caused many to lose their lives through ignorant, charismatic teachers.
The worship of a pantheon of gods was common practice among ancient cultures. Even Rome wanted to include the worship of the Christian God among their collection of divine beings. Though it might seem odd to acknowledge this, the following of Yeshua/Jesus is also a cult, why? Because by accepting ‘The Way’ of Christ, we are transferred from one realm/kingdom to another and our very culture changes. So whatever we follow and adhere to becomes our nature and culture.
Believers in Christ are a small community and even out of the great numbers of believers throughout time, YHVH has extracted an even smaller number that He calls the remnant. All true believers are part of this company. The great passage in Isaiah 60 declares the gathering of God’s people into the glory of Zion. The Bible is a great paradox and that is the focus of this ramble. Yeshua/Jesus, when He was with us, chose the most unlikely among men to be His closest friends.
Each one of them, through the chronicle of their lives and writings, brought to us a different characteristic of Christ. Yeshua did not choose to dwell amongst the crowd, though He spoke to them in their multitudes. He walked with a few and died upon the cross with His family close by. We can only surmise whether a multitude watched as His spirit departed from Him. He even sent out the disciples in two’s – no big media marketing campaigns in those days. It would seem that attention should not be drawn to Him or to His disciples. When a hurting world needs solutions and help, a message of hope and the chance to come out of despair and discouragement is welcome at any time. These messages are not often shouted from the rooftops but in the quiet places where few are gathered. The few who have heard then become attached to another few, and so on and so forth, and soon the few will grow, just like a cell in the human body.
This is what Isaiah 60 says, v21 Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour. v22 The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.
The saying goes like this: ‘we become like the company we keep’.
Therefore the ‘company we keep‘ becomes our culture. That culture educates us and teaches us in the way that we should go, but it goes far deeper than that.
Once it reaches and permeates into our thoughts, it is almost impossible for us to turn away from it. There is a sublime interdependence on it; it builds fences around us that we are too happy to keep because it makes us feel safe. We don’t therefore, have to think too much about the things we need because the world says ‘we have provided it for you’.
From the food we take into our bodies to the knowledge we take into our minds, that’s what we become. That is our culture and woe betide anyone who wants to think differently and disturb the peaceful apple cart.
But friends, what if there really was a way that is far better than all of that? What if there was a better way, a purer undiluted way of living a life that can change a person’s thoughts and habits — that can make everyone’s life far far richer. What if suddenly the parameters of our fences were suddenly widened or removed. What if that interdependence no longer rested on the powers and authorities of this world, but upon the greatest power that exists today and that has ever existed.
Why do so many choose not to even look at that alternative culture?
The answer is ‘FEAR’.
We need reassurance and a guarantee that the choices we make, will turn out well. You see, for the most part, we are only comfortable if we know someone has gone before us, and the more celebrity or status that person has, the more credible it will be. That, for us, is a far better witness.
For example, let us take a famous person who has found Jesus. His reputation precedes him, and the change of circumstances from his previous life is so extreme, that surely it must be heard by everyone. So as many churches do, they get him to arrive and speak and the word spreads, and the adverts go out. So the person arrives and the house is full, after charging a ticket price of course. The speaker receives his reward and gets to sell a few books or CDs, and we go away telling everyone about the person we have just listened to. What for instance would be the scenario if we met a man on the street; his demeanor and dishevelment tell us that he may be at a point of need. Maybe if we took a little time we might find out that he really has given up all for Jesus. I wonder what the chances are of getting that man on the stage of the church to tell his testimony. This man has neither sought a platform nor any type of fame nor indeed a reputation. He would much rather that Jesus take the attention than himself.
Now those two examples might seem extreme but Jesus teaches us this:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Luke 12:33 (NIV)
When He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
I wonder how many will leave their services and boast about meeting the HOLY SPIRIT and go out and buy His book — the Bible I mean.
John 10: 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.
The better way comes by being renewed through a transformed mind and having in possession a new heart. Choice and freedom are not doing what we want but doing what is right. God gives us the choice to live righteously by receiving the righteousness of Christ.
The ‘better way’ is not the ‘big way’ that the world offers and as we are led to believe — no! It’s much smaller than that. The better way goes beyond our set parameters and the thoughts and systems of a fallen world. The enemy of our souls has presented to us, as he did in the garden, an alternative where we can be who we want, when we want and how we want. We have the ability to make and conjure up our own celebrity, identity, and our own cult, pursuing it at any cost.
However, the spirit of truth says this:
25 Now large crowds were going along with Jesus; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]—he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross[expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow after Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me] cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:25-33 Amplified Bible (AMP)
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
My friends, the challenge of change demands that we overcome fear and begin to trust in God. If it means that we go against the so-called norm, then that is what we need to do.
It may come as a shock to some but this is the truth; the world is not how we see it but how God sees it. It was His vision that began it and it will be His decision when He brings it all to an end. But the redeemed can rejoice because our eternity is in the habitation of our Great King.
Our Dedicated Service
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]. Amplified Bible (AMP)
The choice for us today is: Get with the plan!