Oct 13, 2021Liked by Mark Smeby

Thank you Mark! I am a strong believer who is without a physical church (meaning a building/congregation). I have found a close personal relationship with Jesus is the most important thing - flawed human beings (as we all are) can never take HIS place.

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Oct 13, 2021Liked by Mark Smeby

I was involved in a para-church ministry that was very cult-like. Then I attended many evangelical churches that had their own sets of rules. Each of these thought that their way was the "right" way. I also took part in The Weigh Down Workshop years ago in a church basement. I lost weight. Mostly out of guilt. Needless to say, I gained the weight back.

Thanks for sharing this, Mark.

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There’s a lot to unpack here, and most of my comments don’t have anything to do with cults, but the meat of what you were talking about wasn’t really cults. It was your disagreement with how church leaders *sometimes* make their congregants feel.

Ultimately, it comes down to this. Everything rests on one’s belief in, and submission to, the inerrant Word of God. Not the word of a leader who says someone should feel bad about themselves or even how *you* say someone should feel good about themselves. What does the Word of God say?

It says that we are helplessly depraved, we are dead in sin, we are of the flesh and hostile towards God, and that our hearts are wicked.

It says that God loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us this way and created a beautiful plan for penal substitutionary atonement through the willing death of His Son that allows His wrath towards our sinful nature to be satisfied.

It says that our ONLY hope to change our wicked, sinful nature is through salvation which involves repenting and believing.

It says that no man is perfect and that we will all fall short of the glory of God, BUT that daily dying to self through the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells in those who have been saved and being dead to those sins we repented of is part of the continuing work of sanctification in us.

It says that we are called to judge fellow believers (and in turn be judged by them) when we have sinned and we are hold each other accountable to promote restoration and reconciliation among the body of believers and with God.

And while all these things can be weaponized, and not spoken as truth in love, there is also danger in over correcting and promoting an “all love” message that is counter to scripture.

True salvation and faith (according to scripture) involves BOTH. Without repentance and turning away from sin (even the ones that are more culturally accepted today), there can be no salvation. Without allowing the Holy Spirit to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh which allows us to love even our enemies, there can be no salvation.

If there’s nothing more to do than be loved and thereby let that love flow through us to everyone else, then there’s no need for salvation at all. If God loves us just as we are, then there’s no need to change or allow Him to change us. And if He doesn’t change us, then again, we are hopelessly bound for hell and unable to truly love our neighbors, or to do any of the things we’re called to do.

It also means Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, and every other NT author should make your bull crap meter ping off the chart with that whole, “repent and believe” thing they kept saying over and over and over again if there’s nothing more to it than just allowing ourselves to be loved.

So yes, there are a lot of cult leaders and religious zealots that have spread an incomplete or bastardized gospel. But there are a lot of over correcting folks who are sharing a gospel that’s just as incomplete. Read the Word. Study the Word. Dig into the systematic theology of the Word. Unpack the doctrines of the Word. Trust the Word. Not man. Not what someone said *about* the Word. But the Word itself. That’s the real point.

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Having gone to a Christian school that was based in a church that believed they were the only church truly following God and the only ones close to being right were other baptist churches (other denominations were not even discussed because they really weren't right) and my wife who grew up for some time in a church that also believed the same way (ironically they joked many times about those baptists who were further than other denominations in their mind) I made terms up to describe it. You have soft cults, ones where you still are allowed to think slightly but they make you segregate from everyone else, and hard cults, where you're not allowed to think and they are the only way. This is where the term cult comes from is sub-culture, a cult-ure. Hence cult followings of shows and movies are sub-cultures created around those things. Most churches I've seen are not like this, though, thank God. That said as more and more churches adopt beliefs that go directly against what the Bible says is truth, more and more churches are saying that those beliefs are in the wrong. A real good test is, do they associate with churches outside their denomination and if when they talk about those not believing in the Bible as truth if they refer to the beliefs being the enemy or the people themselves. Our fight isn't against flesh and blood.

Unfortunately, there's the other extreme when dealing with people coming out of cult-like churches; one gets so burned by people they hide away from others. Meanwhile, the Bible says to not forsake the gathering of the assembly. That isn't a "Go to every church service and if you don't, shame." but rather a "you may think you're okay to be on your own, but that's not true. It takes a community to keep one strong, so don't neglect gathering, it's important for you."

I very much appreciate the comment of someone on that video that you shared, about the nugget of truth. That's what makes a great lie. There are many churches that go off on heresy and even blasphemy. Some of the soft cults have used those examples to say "see, they all got it wrong." when it's not all, and then they themselves go off by misusing scripture to hang onto their narcissistic power. But in the same breath, we gotta be careful, because there's plenty of churches that preach about Jesus' love and then go directly against scripture on everything else. While salvation is only about the love and blood of Christ's sacrifice, it does say there will be those that are saved as one just barely out of the flames. Then there's actual different interpretations that are within an understandable difference of interpretation of scripture and we shouldn't get caught up on that either. But when the Bible says "Don't do this." and someone says "That doesn't mean anything, we should do it because it's love." then that isn't just a difference of interpretation, that's a problem. Especially for the grouping that says in the new testament to expel people practicing these very things, of which more and more churches are accepting because they've bought into the lie that this is how certain people were made, as opposed to being a choice of the heart.

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Aug 20, 2022Liked by Mark Smeby

I’ve been part of a church where the pastor was toxic. I’ve also seen members within the church be toxic, rather than the pastor, and it destroyed multiple staff people. It’s one thing to recognize a person with clear gifts of leadership, preaching, etc. It’s quite another to revere them and believe that all they say is to be swallowed whole. Micah 6:8 needs to be our practice: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Nov 16, 2022Liked by Mark Smeby

I love what you say about letting God love you Ive also decided its the most nb thing...!

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