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Questions and Answers

Why doesn't the Holy Spirit intervene in the lives of people deceived by cults and lead them to Jesus Christ?

Many of us experience the pain of knowing a person led astray by a cult. We might wonder, Why didn’t God intervene in that person’s life? People join cults because they are spiritually blind (Eph. 4:18–21). They reject the gospel of their own volition because they have “refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). The fact that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives new life should motivate us since it means God can work in a way that we cannot. God is sovereign, He has the freedom to do as He wills (Psalms 115:3; 135:6). This includes saving whomever He chooses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). We also know that God’s mercy flows from His character as “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

Understanding the character of God should give us a sense of hope as we reach out to the people in our lives who have not heard or understood the gospel. The surprising conversion of the apostle Paul is a reminder that Jesus “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). We should not assume that anyone is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

I've known people who join false religions, yet seem sincere in their quest to seek God. If people unknowingly believe a lie, are they still condemned to hear, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23)?

It is true that many who join a cult or false religion do so with a sincere desire to please God as He has been presented to them by other members of that religious organization. However, sincerity does not equal innocence before God. Each person comes into the world sinful, fully rejecting God spiritually. As Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

It is important to determine what any belief system teaches about the deity of Christ. The Scripture is clear concerning the Word (Jesus) becoming flesh, and that Jesus is the true God and the only way to eternal life (see John 1:1–18; 1 John 5:20). The New Testament reveals that Jesus is equal with God the Father in all attributes of deity, and thus the substance of deity: “[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Phil. 2:6), and “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus]” (Col. 1:19). Our confession of Jesus as Lord includes acknowledgment of His deity: Only God can save us from sin.

Believing the lies of a false religion is not what condemns a person. Only a failure to place faith in Christ—God the Son—dooms one to perish. Therefore, we pray for the Lord to reveal the truth of Christ, in mercy, to all people.

Jesus said to "go and make disciples" (Matt. 28:19). Yet it seems we lack intentional discipleship within the modern church. How can the church more faithfully make disciples?

Making disciples begins the moment a person trusts the gospel message. At this moment we enter into a relationship with this new brother or sister in the Lord that will allow for intentional, patient, long-term instruction in Christian living.

Instead of leaving the work of disciple-making to a church program, every believer has a responsibility to model Christ before those new in the faith. It is our privilege to give personal attention to the new believer’s growth in prayer, to model the knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God and the use of spiritual gifts, as well as share our faith and serve others.

While using a published study guide or curricula might help the discipleship process, it is no substitute for allowing a new believer to see how you handle pleasure, pain, loss, or success. We can model how a Christ-follower responds to the joys and stresses of marriage, parenting, friendships, vocation, and relationships with church members. They can watch our reading, eating, health choices, and use of leisure. As we “make disciples,” we show the other person how to yield to Christ’s Lordship in all areas of life, not only in spiritual disciplines. No class or program can replace years of walking with another person, day in and day out.

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as a professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Say It!  Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody Publishers), Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men's’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).

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