What Motivates Cultists Matt. 23:15 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
A radio listener asked a great question concerning the zeal of cultists. He was wondering what motivates cultists. How can cultists, who do not believe the truth and who do not have the Holy Spirit, be so much more zealous in their efforts than Christians? How is it that folks who are so deceived can “compass sea and land to make one proselyte,” [Matt 23:15] and Christians won’t even cross the street to speak with a neighbor about the Lord? I believe that there are four things about cultists that explain their zeal.
The four main stimuli for cultists’ fervency, I believe, are the fear of man, superstition, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Cultists are motivated by self-righteousness [Lk 18:11-12, the idea that they can get into eternity by their own goodness], hypocrisy [Matt 6:2, 5, the desire to make an outward show], superstition [Acts 17:22, the fear that something bad will happen if they don’t do what they are told just the way they are told to do it; or the belief that certain blessings will come to them if they do something just the right way and often enough] and the fear of man [Jn 9:22, intimidation and manipulation].
Just look at the wild enthusiasm these four factors produced in the worshipers of Baal [1 Ki 18:26-29]. Couple these four with a little demon possession and you get an absolute fanatic!! In Mexico City, Mexico, and in Fatima, Portugal, I have personally witnessed Catholic parishioners crawling on their bloody knees for miles to make their pilgrimage to a statue of “the Virgin.” Most Christians won’t pray on their knees for ten minutes and yet these poor lost souls were on their knees for hours and sometimes days to show their devotion to Mary. Wild!!
Let’s look more carefully at what motivates cultists:
The Fear of Man – Prov 29:25 – the fear of man bringeth a snare – when you fear men you can be ensnared by them – like a marionette puppet, when they pull your strings you move – in a cult you are following a man [the prophet in Mormonism, the Watchtower Society in Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Pope in Catholicism, the Imam in Islam, and so forth] – they control you by fear and intimidation – they threaten you with excommunication if you don’t follow what they tell you to do [Jn 9:22, 34] – and that fear is a strong motivator – Hitler overthrew the Weimar Republic and subverted an entire nation by fear – fear mongering is what’s going on in the United States today, paving the way for a dictator, perhaps even the antichrist – so, cultists faithful to their religions don’t question their religious leaders and they don’t cross them – they submit and they do what they are told out of fear.
Superstition – Acts 17:22 – superstition is naturally akin to fear – superstitious people have phobias about certain things – when I was growing up in Catholicism I religiously crossed myself when passing in front of the church because I was told that something bad might happen to me if I didn’t – I was scared not to take the Eucharist because I thought I might die and go to hell – on the other hand, I believed that if I prayed the rosary I could count on God to bless me – all of this was based on superstition – there was not a shred of truth in any of it – in foreign countries superstition is even more evident as worshippers make pilgrimages to visit statues so that they can touch them and get some “holy luck” – we know cultists that we led to the Lord who were still so superstitious after receiving Christ that they wouldn’t come to church because of a superstitious fear that something bad would happen to them [like a curse] – this was engrained in their minds by their religious leaders – you won’t find more superstitious attitudes among tribal people.
Hypocrisy – nothing seems to turn a cultist on like an audience [Matt 23:5-7] – they do what they do as an outward show of their devotion – the feeling they get from their piety is a strong confirmation in their minds and hearts that they are doing the right thing – the piety on the faces of parishioners returning from communion is truly a sight to behold – they may have been blaspheming God on their way to church and they may blaspheme him again before the day is out but at the very moment that they have performed their most sacred duty for the week you won’t find a more pious disciple – I believe the reason Mormon missionaries ride bicycles is so that you can see their devotion and dedication – that church is unbelievably rich – I believe these public calls to prayer throughout the day are for show – I watched a Taoist worshipping in the Philippines and what a show he made of his “sacrifice” and prayer.
Self-righteousness – the basic problem in human nature that became apparent immediately after the fall is man’s self-righteousness – Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leaves – and men cover themselves in their own righteousness [Phil 3:9] – men do what they do in their cults because they think they are right and they believe that by their own works they can get to their eternal home – nothing is more pleasing to them than to be able to pat themselves on the back and proclaim their own goodness [Prov 20:6] – and the effect is doubled when others praise them and recognize them for their good works – cultists will do whatever it takes to get this feeling of self-satisfaction even if it means knocking on doors 40 hours a week as a Jehovah’s Witness to prove their worthiness to enter the kingdom.
Conclusion: you put all four of these in the mind of a young cultist following a man and he’ll blow himself up – listen the liberty that we have in Christ frees us from these four things and gives us the peace to walk following the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit so that through him you can truly do things that are pleasing to God – Paul pleased God by the grace of God and was more zealous than any of these cultists because his faith in Christ was real – he didn’t need the fear of man, superstition, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness to motivate him – and neither do you – stand against these cultish motivations and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free!!