I highly recommend this book!

Standing Strong in the Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith

As most of you know by now, I was taught very unorthodox beliefs growing up in what I now describe as a "blended beliefs" religious cult. I learned the term "blended beliefs" from the book, World Religions & Cults 101. I feel this term best describes the way I grew up because I truly believed myself to be a Christian and I know that the people who are a part of this group today consider themselves to be Christians. Not only are there good people in this group, some of their beliefs are in harmony with the historic Christian Faith. But others are not. One of William Sowders' revelations was the doctrine of perfection -- that believers don't go to heaven unless they have reached perfection in this life. I was emphatically taught that nobody went to heaven based on faith alone in Jesus as their Savior. That was considered a deception of the religious world.

The group was founded on a blended faith of mainstream Christianity plus the distinctive "revelations" and "interpretations" of a man, William Sowders (founder of the movement). However, where William Sowders departed from the historical Christian Faith, the teachings of William Sowders were -- and are -- regarded as God's revealed and restored truths. The group believes that what is today considered orthodoxy was really the initial departure from the true faith and the actual truth has been restored to them through the calling of William Sowders. The group believes they have a unique vision and calling; the restoration of the church in the last days and a return to the truth of the apostles and the early church.

I now realize that this is the common outlook of all cults. All cult leaders claim to have received something original or unique "from God" that no one else has the truth on; thus, the formation of a distinctive group with its own set of distinctive beliefs. William Sowders was our Joseph Smith, our Charles Taze Russell. I had no problem recognizing other cults, but I could not see that I was in one myself. And neither can those who are still there today. They feel persecuted by that word.

I struggled to call it what it was for a long time even after I left. To be perfectly honest, I still feel like I'm being unkind to define the group with the word cult even though I am convinced in my heart of what I've been delivered from.

If you have always known salvation through the cross, you cannot comprehend the baggage I (and others) carry. That was one of the reasons I wanted to write about my experiences. My primary reason for writing was that I wanted to help those who shared my wounds, but I also wanted to help those who have no ability to relate through shared experience to understand this unique spiritual baggage. I wanted to help the average person to understand why people don't leave and why it takes years to recover from these spiritual wounds. One of my newer friends (who was reading chapter by chapter as I wrote the book) said to me, "I keep wondering why you're still there, why you haven't left yet." I knew how far from leaving I still was when she was asking why I was still there. Leaving is HARD. And detaching emotionally even after you've left is also HARD. (Harder for some than others.) Looking back on my spiritual journey, I recognize how toxic and spiritually abusive my church was.

One of the worst forms of baggage is the heavy, false indoctrination (what you once considered "the truth"). It's "truth" you can't find in other settings, so you feel disconnected in Christian churches that embrace the historical Christian Faith. For me, I worried -- sometimes obsessively -- about being deceived and accidentally or unintentionally joining myself to the beast (the false religious system) described in the book of Revelation.

I wasn't sure what I believed when I left. And I wasn't quick to discard everything I had been taught. But I searched and I studied and I listened to sermons and I asked questions. I asked God to show me the truth and protect me from deception. I found myself being drawn to the cross and every message that focused on the cross (whether books or sermons) more and more. When I was still in CGT, I did not have a Savior. I had an example who died to give me a chance, an opportunity, a starting point. No wonder the cross didn't mean to me then what it means to me today! By the way, that is one of the BEST things to come from my unique spiritual journey. I am IN AWE of the cross and what Jesus did for me because, for the majority of my life, I bore the weight of my salvation on my own shoulders. When I found the truth of the Gospel, this weight was lifted off of me. And I will never take for granted the miracle of grace, the miracle of mercy.

Christianity is different from every other world religion because our God died for us personally to save us from our sins.

John 20:26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

If you change the doctrine of salvation from faith alone in a risen Savior to an earned eternal paradise, you have made Christianity the same as every other world religion. Every other religion and cult believes heaven is something one earns. They all deny the sufficiency of the cross. Only true Christianity teaches that eternal life is God's gift and something we cannot earn because salvation belongs to the Lord and it is by grace we are saved.

I began writing this post because I wanted to recommend the book I am currently reading, Conviction Without Compromise.

This book has been so helpful to me in understanding the core beliefs of the Christian Faith. Certain Scriptures that were stumbling blocks in the past (because of my indoctrination) have been illuminated for me through this book. For a book on theology and Christian Apologetics, it is easy to read and understand. And every statement is backed up by many Scriptures. At the end of every chapter is an explanation of what certain cults believe (differing from orthodox Christianity) and the Scriptures they use to support their teachings. It has been more than eye-opening for me; it has been eye-popping to see in black and white how many cultish beliefs were shared between the group I was raised in and many of the groups I recognized as cults.

For anyone who wants to more clearly understand the Christian Faith and learn the Scriptures on which Christian beliefs are based, I highly recommend this book. The authors are Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes.