Archive for 08/08/2017

3 John 1:9-10
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church

Here, John writes of a man named Diotrephes who had made it his ambition and desire to ‘have the preeminence’ among the people within this particular church. As a result of his own pride, haughtiness, and thirst for power, he had evidently refused to share an epistle from the Apostle John which had been addressed to this congregation and, adding insult to injury, he even refused to allow the people access to John or any of the other elders who were acquainted with him. In his description of Diotrephes, John presents us with a picture of a man possessing a desire to control people for the purposes of accomplishing his own agenda and for his own glory, rather than the Lord’s. Due to his deep-seeded disdain for (and, no doubt, jealousy of) the disciples and their rank in the Kingdom of God–coupled with his strong desire to be the sole recipient of honor and allegiance from those under his authority–he had not only forbidden the people from fellowship with John and other true Believers in Christ, but also sought to turn the peoples’ hearts against them through the devilish means of slandering them with malicious words whenever the opportunity arose.

In case that wasn’t enough to achieve this devious goal, Diotrophes also retaliated against any who dared disobey his unreasonable and ungodly commands by making public examples of them in casting them out of the church. Though he may not have physically thrown them out or even demanded that they leave in every circumstance, he would have no doubt made remaining in his presence (and under his authority) unbearable for those who would not bow to his self-centered demands and, in a sense, would have ‘driven them out’ via hostilities and abuse. Hence, if these dear saints were not ‘cast out’ in word and deed, they were certainly done so in spirit; being forced to choose between remaining in such a hostile environment or departing in the interest of their own spiritual and physical self-preservation (which is really no choice at all). It is a terrible thing when those who are charged with the nurture and care of the Lord’s sheep take it upon themselves to become ‘Lords over God’s heritage’ and, as a result, become tyrants and taskmasters over those whom they have been charged to love and protect. Such is the sign of a wicked and perverse generation which is to precede the coming of the Lord. As it was in John’s day, so it is in ours.

Diotrephes’ overbearing behavior is reminiscent of the type normally associated with many of the modern day religious cults that seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays. Normally, when we hear the term ‘cult’, we usually think of the more obvious and most extreme examples such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, Scientologists, Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, etc. However, many of the same unhealthy and destructive behavioral patterns found in these groups have crept into many mainstream Christian churches where they are cultivated, promoted, and at times, even celebrated (though often inadvertently and in more subtle, less obvious ways). Here are some warning signs to look for which may indicate that you are indeed part of a cult:

1) You are told not to question what is being taught because the leaders are honest and want the best for you, so you must trust them.

2) Someone in your group has replaced you as the one who makes your choices in life.

3) You are told not to ask questions why anyone left your particular group or church. Rather you are to accept the answers the leaders give you such as: ‘they fell into sin’, ‘they didn’t receive correction’, ‘they weren’t open’, or ‘they had a bad heart and didn’t want to be disciples’.

4) You are told that you must be with their certain church or group to be saved (rather than by faith in Jesus Christ alone).

5) If you want to leave, you are being told there is no other church/denomination that practices truth and you will be led astray or go to hell in doing so.

6) You are constantly being made to feel inferior, having your past failures brought up again and again in a non-constructive and condemning fashion.

7) You are taught to have an excessively exalted view of the leaders of your group or church via their use of (primarily Old Testament) scriptures that are taken out of context in order to discourage you from ever challenging them and as a means of making themselves appear above reproach.

8) Those in authority put down other churches (and people) as a means of building themselves up or making themselves look better.

9) Your leaders call those who leave their particular group or church ‘fall aways’, ‘enemies of the cross’, ‘dogs returning to their own vomit’, etc. while using the examples of Korah and Judas or citing Bible verses out of context (such as I John 2:19, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:14, and Hosea 4:17), as a means of discouraging you from fellowshipping them.

10) They recommend for you to primarily be around their people, expecting you to be at all the group activities; if you aren’t, your spirituality and dedication are questioned.

11) Those in authority defend or justify all that they do (sometimes to irrational and absurd lengths), even though it can be unbiblical, harmful, or wrong.

12) The leaders of your group lack humility in their shepherding duties and arrogantly demand that you blindly obey what they say. In addition, there is subtle manipulation in the way they deal with you (and others) on an individual basis via statements such as: ‘real Christians obey their leaders’, ‘if you were truly following Jesus you would see what I’m saying is right’, or ‘true disciples did not question Jesus’.

13) The personal preferences/opinions of those in authority are taught as doctrine and forced upon the hearers, who are then expected to adhere to them with the same (or greater) esteem as that of actual sound Biblical truths.