How to Spot a Counterfeit Religion

We presently have 109 members on DepartingUPC. A number of you became members through the Christian Challenge 'Ask the Pastor' site. I encouraged you to subscribe to this forum. Some subscribed, others did not. But I still do quite a bit of counselling to Pentecostals through our Ask the Pastor site.

A couple of things I wanted to draw attention to. First, I am always available for personal counsel to any of our members. If there are areas of concern that you are not comfortable with posting to the group, I remain available for counselling through private email. My purpose in having you join DepartingUPC was so you could hear from others who understand where you are coming from.

Note: Any of our members are also welcome to call me or my wife Betty, if you need personal counsel.

The second thing I want to draw attention to has to do with recognizing a false religious system or even false teachings. Through the years I've invested a great deal of resources in the study of religions. It has been my desire to help people who are trapped in systems that do not present the truths of God correctly. The three primary religions that I've studied intensively are Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism. (Also others.)

But it all really began when the Lord opened by eyes to the false salvation teachings of the United Pentecostal Church. For many years I refused to apply the term cultic to the UPC. But because of the deceptive salvation teachings of that group I have had to put my personal feelings to the side. A false teaching is a false teaching.

This brings me to the purpose of the following study. The greater need of any believer, and especially those of you who are yet struggling over the misteachings of the United Pentecostal Church, is to learn how to spot what is true from what is not true. It isn't as hard as you may think. However, it is not enough to simply list the signs of a cult group. There is a better way. This is what I want you to see. So let's begin.

This is Bible Study DU024 - How to Spot a Counterfeit Religion.

Forgive me for the technical side of the study but it is important to understand a couple of Greek terms.

The Greek term that describes the freedom of a believer's life is the term 'epignosis.' Often it is translated 'true knowledge.' Epignosis is an intense form of the word gnosis. It involves the acquiring of a deeper knowledge of God and of the ways of the Lord. It is this kind of knowledge that powerfully influences a believer's walk with the Lord. This is also the kind of knowledge that brings an increase of blessings into a believer's life. (Especially the blessings of grace and peace.)

The terms gnosis (or ginosko) and epignosis both speak of knowledge. Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know [ginosko] You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

So, salvation is an issue of coming to know the Lord. Salvation is not simply a mental or an emotional experience. It is a knowing experience.

Then we have this wonderful word epignosis. Epignosis addresses a deepening realization of the truths of God. Listen to how epignosis is used by the apostles (I'll place an * where the Greek term is used):

"...[I] do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge* of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..." (Paul. Eph 1:16-18)

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge* of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge* of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." (2Pet 1:2)

Notice that the apostles are writing people who are already saved. Once again, epignosis is not a salvation issue. It is a deepening of a believer's walk with the Lord. This is why I speak of epignosis as the crown of a believer's life. Believers who truly know the ways of the Lord, walk with a peacefulness that is unknown to the less instructed believer.

Is there truly a key to spotting a counterfeit religion or even false teachings? Absolutely. The key is not a matter of studying what a false religion teaches. The key will always be the knowledge of truth.

Think about it for a moment, and I'm sure you've heard this. The way bank tellers are taught to recognize counterfeit money is to study the real thing until they have it firmly fixed in their mind. It is the same with the true doctrines of Christ. False teachings are always a distortion of true teachings.

Here is another area of understanding. The true doctrines of Christ always have a single objective. They are designed to generate freedom and peace in a believer's life. Truth delivers from bondage. Jesus told the Jewish peoples, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31,32)

Consider these Scriptures that speak of the freedom that God's children are to enjoy:

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," (2Co 3:17)

"For you were called into liberty, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Gal 5:13)

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law [the gospel of Christ], the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25)

Jesus said that He came to 'proclaim release to captives', and to 'set free those who are oppressed.' (Luke 4:18)

There are many such Scriptures, but what I want you to see is how the truths of God actually produce freedom in a believer's life. This is why it is so important for a believer to spend time studying the Scriptures for himself. The Word of God carries its own freedom-releasing power.

Here is another Scripture that bears witness to this awesome truth of freedom. Paul said, "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God [true gospel of heaven] which you received from us, you accepted it as not the word of men, but for what it really is, THE WORD OF GOD, which also PERFORMS ITS WORK IN YOU WHO BELIEVE." (1Th 2:13 - Pardon the caps. For emphasis only.)

The work of truth is freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from religious bondage. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from cultic teachings and false doctrines. Freedom from fear of punishment. Freedom from a fear of separation from God. Freedom from a fear of losing your salvation. Freedom from pulpit oppressions.

Where does our freedom walk begin? It begins with truth. Open your Bible and ask the Lord to let you see wonderful things from His Word. Study for yourself. Invest in a good study Bible. Read good evangelical books that are put out by recognized writers. Avoid books put out by religions that are known sectarian or cultic.

The Spirit of the Lord will bear witness to the truths of God.

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."


This study was originally shared on February 24, 2007. It was written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.


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Page added February 24, 2007

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