I heard a really good Bible lesson recently at the Community Bible Study at ANM. A good friend, and excellent teacher, Eric Vess taught on grace, basing his study on Galatians 3. Wonderful stuff. In this lesson, Eric was talking about how the law causes us to realize that we are sinful and in need of a Savior. It is so important that people understand this. As Eric stated, people need to receive the bad news before they are able to receive the Good News.
I think that this is what Paul was alluding to when he talked about the law in his first epistle to Timothy. He said, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:8-9). The Law of God powerfully exposes all of us as lawbreakers, sinners in need of a Savior. To realize this truth is a first step in a person coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
If you have ever taken a course in personal evangelism you have learned the importance of the “bad news.” Most witnessing methods address the issue of our sinfulness right away. It doesn’t matter whether it is the Four Spiritual Laws, the Roman Road or Evangelism Explosion, somewhere near the start of your presentation of the Gospel you emphasis that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and that there is “none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). It is a basic fact in understanding the full Gospel message. People must realize their need of a Savior. In a sense, you have to get a person lost before you can get them saved. The bad news precedes the good news.
This same truth applies to witnessing to cultists, and those who have been seduced by false doctrine. If you have ever taken a class or read a book on witnessing to someone in a cult, the usual approach is to point out the errors and contradictions in the teachings of the cult. If you are witnessing to a Jehovah’s Witness you may point out the many times that the Watchtower Society has falsely predicted the date of Armageddon and the beginning of the Millennium. Or you may expose the errors in the teachings about the deity of Christ, even using their own Bibles to accomplish this. If you are witnessing to a Mormon, you might point out the contradictions between the standard LDS beliefs and what is actually taught in the Book of Mormon. Or you could point out the errors, changes and revisions in the Book of Mormon itself. But think about it—why take such an approach?
Sometimes Christian apologists who deal with cults are criticized for pointing out the errors and contradictions in a group’s belief system. Some think that this is a mean-spirited and petty approach. They say that “attacking” someone’s beliefs is just not fair. However, this is not the case at all. This approach can be very effective. And besides being effective, it is also being compassionate and loving. It is a legitimate part of proclaiming the Gospel to a cultist.
With a member of a cult, as with any person who is lost, you must help them to see their lostness before they will come to the Savior. But the Roman Road is probably not going to work with them. Their minds are programmed differently than the average person. You need to break that programming. And you need to bring them to the point of understanding that the belief system they hold to, that they are trusting for their eternal destiny, is wrong. They are basing their salvation on a false premise. By pointing out the errors and false teachings of the cult, or the group leader, or their “scriptures” you are revealing their true spiritual condition. You are giving them the “bad news.” To present the true Gospel to them you must first expose the falseness of their belief system. Only then will they realize that they are lost, doomed by their false beliefs, and in need of the truth, and the One who is Himself the very Truth of God itself.
Of course, not every Christian who points out the errors of cults does so in an appropriate manner. You can reveal error and declare the Good News in a spiteful or arrogant way that only alienates people instead of drawing them to the truth. The Gospel is indeed Good News. And our aim in pointing out error should always be to show the love of Christ, and help people to receive the Good News of salvation in Christ. “Watch your motives and your attitude” is good advice for anyone involved in personal evangelism, whether to a cultist or the unsaved, nice church-going guy who lives next door.