Majoring in Life
Cautions about false cults and knowing the acid test about someone's beliefs.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 17: Spotting Satan's Smiles
(Knowing a cult when you see one)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
He can't believe his eyes.
Not only is she cute but she also has a Bible. It sits on top of her books, right where every God-abhorring student and professor can see. What guts! This he has to check out.
He pops three Tic-Tacs, adjusts his collar, and makes his move.
"Hi, my name's Brian." He eases into the library chair opposite her. "Nice Bible. Don't see many of those in this den of iniquity." Brian winces, not sure his attempt at humor will work. A little too preachy, not enough laugh.
She smiles. What a smile!
Brian leans forward. "You actually read it?"
"Every day," she says, the smile still perfect.
“Wow, that's impressive!" Great, another Christian at last. "Wish I knew more people like you," he continues, pouring on the charm. He sits back, totally relaxed.
"What's your favorite book of the Bible?" she asks.
Brian feels his face twitch. "Uh, well, er ... Proverbs, I guess." Ouch. Got to read that Book more, starting tomorrow. "Yeah, Proverbs. Good food for the mind, that one." Lame, but, hey, she's still smiling.
"A really helpful book," she agrees.
Brian watches her lips pucker at the word "book," his eyes dreamy. What a voice. Keep talking girl.
"It's helped me make some big decisions."
Brian nods encouragingly, fighting the crazy urge to drop on one knee and kiss her hand. Nice hands, by the way.
"But there's another book from God I enjoy even more." She gently pats the Bible, then waits for a response. Cool. She's eager to keep the conversation going.
"Well, I definitely want to hear all about it." Yeah, like for the next hundred years, Brian decides. "But before I do, what's your name?"
She smiles afresh. "Marcie." She holds out her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Brian."
The crazy urge strikes again. Brian contents himself with a simple handshake.
That smile is plenty enough.
A Couple of Mistakes
In his puppy dog excitement, Brian made two bad assumptions.
Naive Notion #1
Brian assumed the attraction was mutual, that Marcie liked him as much as he already liked her. He had no idea about the true motives behind that lovely smile.
Dangerous ground, to say the least.
It wouldn't pay to get too paranoid about this, but some religious cults do use physical attraction to draw others into their ranks. The tactic is brazen, but it's done without shame. What seems to start as just a guy-girl thing slowly leads into a web of strange beliefs. Such webs are all the more sticky because of the emotional ties involved. Often the relationship breaks off as the "spider" leaves the new convert heartbroken in order to draw another victim into the web.
You need to carry a healthy skepticism into life, especially when meeting new people. Understand that the world is peppered with manipulators, cheats, and outright seducers. They'll use smiles, flattery, gifts, and even money to win you over, mesmerizing you into their system of belief. Remember, if the devil's in the picture, nothing is what it seems to be.
Brian's supposedly favorite book of the Bible touches on this.
"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps" (Proverbs 14:15).
"A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it" (Proverbs 22:3).
Get prudent. You don't want to suffer in the arms of someone who believes Jesus is Satan's younger brother. Yes, there are people in this world who believe that. Some are good-looking. They smile.
And they even carry a Bible.
Naive Notion #2
That brings us to Brian's even more foolish assumption. He thought that because Marcie read her Bible every day, she must be a Christian. Sorry. That's like saying, "Marcie takes a bath every day. She must be an Olympic swimmer."
Just because a guy carries the NIV Student Study Bible doesn't mean he understands it. Remember Nicodemus? He was an influential religious leader in his day, a Bible-toting Pharisee. But while discussing religion, Jesus had to ask him, "You are Israel's teacher, and do you not understand these things?" (John 3:10). Imagine the amazement in Jesus' voice. Jerusalem University's Old Testament professor didn't understand his own textbook.
A wise man once said, "All that glitters is not gold." You may be hungry for a spiritual friend, desperate to spend time with anyone willing to say "God" as anything other than a curse. Great. That's a valid, God-given desire. You need healthy relationships with spiritual people.
But make sure they're healthy. Be certain you're dealing with true believers in Jesus—the Jesus of the Bible. Any other "Jesus" is trouble. If you pour out your soul to someone who believes Christ was only an archangel, or merely a moral teacher, you'll get spiritually sick—fast.
The apostle John encourages you to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). In the miasma of religious beliefs circulating today, there is one simple test to distinguish true spiritual gold from the gold of fools.
The Acid Test: Jesus
Jesus is God's Son, equal with God, one with the Father (John 17:20-23). He's the only Way to heaven, the only Truth personified, the only source of eternal life (John 14:6). Only Jesus stands as mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the King of kings. At his awesome Name every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10). When it comes to true faith, Christ is the beginning, the end, and everything in between (Hebrews 12:2).
This is the Jesus of the Bible. No name demands greater reverence or worship. The Bible lifts Jesus high, extolling him as supreme.
And Satan hates it. Invariably, every cult the devil has ever spawned attacks Christ's exalted position. Satan seeks to drag Jesus down any way he can. He wants you to think Jesus was a mere man who gradually made himself a god. If that doesn't work, the devil will get you to focus on "the christ within," the Jesus from Jupiter, or a Savior in army fatigues.
Satan doesn't care which deception you choose, as long as you don't see Jesus as the almighty Second Person of the Trinity, seated at the right hand of the Father, existent in eternity past, all you need for your earthly joy and heavenly acceptance. Paul says it even better:
"For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body, and you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe" (Colossians 2:9-10, NLT).
The devil's masks are many, but their design has one common element: present the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as less than what the Written Word, the Bible, claims him to be. In understanding that, you have your acid test: Is Jesus exalted to the highest by what this person believes?
If the answer isn't a loud yes, you're dealing with a perversion of truth. A cult. Something to be rejected.
So get to know Jesus. When you read your Bible, see him on every page. Imagine him high on a cross, high up in heaven, high on the throne. Make it an adventure to discover the splendor of Jesus. The more you discover, the higher your heart will lift him, the more he'll draw you to himself (John 12:32).
And the less likely you'll be seduced by one of Satan's smiles.