How can I recognize a cult?
A cult is very different from the occult, which is Satan worship. A cult is a religious sect that often consists of enough sprinkling of truth that it is accepted by many, but that never teaches the full Gospel. To determine whether a sect is a cult, you can ask several questions:
1. Whom do they say Jesus is? Do they teach that He is fully God and became man to save the world from sin? Or, do they teach that He was a good man, maybe even a prophet, and that we should all try to be like Him? When Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied, in Matthew 16:16, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
2. What is their stand on the infallibility of the Bible? Is the Bible the only true Word of God, or have they somehow come up with more sources? Is the Word of God a living book, relevant to today and fully inspired by God? Second Timothy 3:16 states, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
3. How does one become saved? Is there some method of works or tradition attached to salvation, or is salvation received only through faith in the saving power of the blood of Jesus? Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast."
Just for example, let's look briefly at the Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe that Jesus was a good man, but not that He is the Son of God. They also place divine authority on sources other than the Bible. Furthermore, they believe that they acquire salvation through their good works. These beliefs obviously indicate that Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult. But, a religion does not have to meet all of the above criteria to be considered a cult; just one characteristic will do it. Many mainstream denominations are deceiving people by not teaching the truth. But God does not make exceptions to His Word.