By John O.. Ex-Worldwide Church of God pastor.
Growth is always a tough thing to do. But its rewards are priceless and eternal.
For so many years, Worldwide Church of God members have been in the captivity of a situation where there has been a "no growth" syndrome. Inflexible laws and rules will always control a person's life and give no room for the exploration of new ideas and new study. Since fear is a cult's greatest weapon, the threat of eternal death (or equivalent) is held over a person, and any future growth into the higher thinking is automatically stifled.
Truth - according to the cult teaching - is something that can only come from the leaders, and anyone who is caught investigating or questioning the edicts that come from the pulpit is always considered a rebellious troublemaker or something else tantamount to witchcraft. The only way a person can proceed to find the truth is in a complete divorce from the cult, and the ability to enjoy the freedom to use their own minds the way God intended.
The whole idea here, is to encourage and help people seek the truth for themselves. Sure, a teacher can help, but any teacher can only point the way. A teacher can only whet peoples' appetite for more learning. But the desire to advance and learn more must come from within the soul of the individual
The best cure for coming out of cultism is to learn more of the REAL truth. After a while, the teachings of the cult will seem so idiotic that they will fade into the background. Much of the pain and suffering can also fade with the ignorant teachings and the heartaches can also be replaced (or at least subdued) with a set of new goals of joy, independence, equality, determination, open mindedness, and the pursuit of truth that will now dominate the thinking of the seeker.
We're not saying that anyone has THE truth here, but that a study or investigation into these matters - and the science of nature - will simply stimulate the desire to know even more. The truth must come to each of us individually and be confirmed by our own psyches as being "self evident."
Coming out of cults can be a horrendous experience, but I've found that with my family, friends, and acquaintances, it's a lot easier if we (soon thereafter) embark onto a course to find out what the "plain truth" really is. This investigation will, naturally, take years. It will take a lifetime. And the more we understand, the more we'll realize that it will take eternity. But this is a great starting point for the rest of our journey.
In all matters of truth and the subsequent growth, the responsibility is on the seeker to "seek and you shall find." If someone wants to be spoon-fed then they may as well be in some church somewhere. In such a place, as most churches and religions in the world, we can usually leave our brains at the church doorstep, then go inside and be filled with the minister's teaching, be it good or bad.
Growth is a tough thing. The hardest thing we ever did in this life was being born, and the biggest breath we ever took was our first one. But it was all necessary so our process of growth could continue. Now it's time to be re-born and breathe in the Spirit, and by proving all things, it's time to grow from our present condition and continue the eternal journey.
Over the years, and after the cultism of Worldwide Church of God, I had the chance to speak at a few other churches and religious groups. It was a strange thing, but for the most part, people in those congregations never wanted to learn anything new. I would throw all sorts of things at people, only to get blank stares in return. Occasionally, someone would come up to me and say: "That made me think," and that was good. That was the intent. They didn't have to believe me. They just needed to THINK.
One day, I happened to be in an area where a visiting minister preached the sermon. He got up in the pulpit and told people exactly what they wanted to hear. He told them they were God's chosen, how they had come to the right church, and how all the world was lost . . . but they (of course) were not. He told them that they were following all the right rules, and God loved them for it. He told them the biggest bunch of insipid slop that I'd ever heard, but the bottom line was that his sermon offended no one in the congregation, it made no one think, and it taught no one anything.
After the sermon, I saw one prominent member of that congregation walk up and speak to this minister. "Wonderful sermon," he said. "It was so inspiring. That's what we need here . . . good, strong meat."
That day I learned something. Most people want the slop. Most people don't want anything that makes them think. Most people don't want the challenge of proving all things. Most people don't want the truth. They'd rather someone fed it to them. And that's where the problem lies. People, all too often, don't want to work in order to grow spiritually. If regular congregations want to be simply fed the truth and just soak it in with no effort on their part, then how do they know it's the truth? How do they know they're not being scammed, as in the case of the Worldwide Church of God cults? How do they check out and prove (or at least investigate) all things as being correct?
With each grade that we pass in school, we move onto one higher. But it takes work to pass that previous grade, and like each step we climb, it takes effort. If anyone doesn't want to extend the effort, then they'll stay right where they are. Growth will take effort and if folks would rather simply cruise through life, they will never grow.
Cults don't expect people to grow. They give a rigid curriculum and that's that. From that point, no one grows, because - according to cults - there's no more truth that can be known. But when a person leaves and tackles the concept of seeking for truth, it's then that the work really starts. And if we're to grow infinitely and forever, then we must be prepared to put in the effort for the rest of eternity. If we're to grow forever, then it won't be an eternity of indolence.
After a while, we'll get used to it, and the effort we put forth in growth becomes a joy. The more we grow, the more we'll find all the work involved is, not only effortless but, something we constantly desire. And the rewards of growth will be obvious too. The more we grow, the greater will be our capacity for enjoyment. A baby that's playing in its crib is very happy, and so is an adult having sex. But the difference is very great.
Any growth is going to take a lot of effort and determination on our part. God will provide the food, as they say, but He won't cook the dinner.
A cult experience can be the very catalyst that provides the stimulus to grow. The exit from ignorance and stupidity can project a seeker into a new life, but this time, not a life of just soaking up teachings, but a life of gleaning out the self evident truths that will keep us growing forever. Simply because we're grown adults, doesn't mean that we don't have to work anymore. This phase of our growth will take more effort than ever before, and if we just "goof off" and let someone else do it, then our edification will mean no more than knowledge acquired. It will never lead to understanding.
Do we then need teachers? Certainly, for a while. But the time will come when we leave some teachers and move on to others. There will eventually come a time when we won't need teachers and the Infinite, Creative, Intelligence will guide us directly.
"But the anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him."
We cannot have growth without truth, and the discerning of truth will come to all in time. We don't need to be frustrated if our growth seems small. It's working. No one sees the seed growing steadily, until one day, it emerges from the soil as a plant. The painstaking work that was done in darkness was fundamental for its emergence as a life that is manifested in the light of day.
Truth cannot be taught by anyone. Truth always comes from the Infinite and is eternal. All any teacher can do is point the way. When folks are ready, they will understand, and either accept the teaching or reject it. But the responsibility is on the individual themselves to work at the details, then check and prove the facts given. Our greatest God given gift is our minds, and with the right Spirit flowing through it, the truth will come too. We can use whatever references we like, but the ultimate responsibility for ferreting out the truth is in our own hands. Without that truth, nothing is possible . . . but with it, anything can happen.
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