Question: I realize that some investigation of cults and the occult and false teachings in the church is necessary if we are to rescue those who are thereby deceived. But it would be too disquieting for my soul to spend enough time to investigate and understand every current error. How far is one obligated to go in explaining what the Word means to those who have been led astray? In my own experience, nothing anyone could tell me would have made any difference until God himself opened my heart.
Response: The time one spends pointing out error and attempting to persuade others of the truth depends upon one's God-given ministry and the people whom the Lord brings across one's path. Confronting and correcting error is apparently considered by God to be an important ministry, since so much of the Bible is devoted to it. Much of Christ's teaching was corrective, as are all of the Epistles. Paul corrected Peter publicly, named those who were leading others astray, and continually combated error. We must do the same if we are to obey God's Word and contend earnestly for the truth.
We are told to be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pt 3:15). Sometimes that asking may come in the form of a challenge from two Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses knocking at one's door, or from a colleague at work who is a Buddhist or Muslim.
One needs at least a minimal understanding of opposing beliefs, but most important is the gospel. Paul was conversant enough with the Greek philosophers to be able to dispute with them in the marketplace and on Mars' Hill. In fact, he disputed daily (Acts:17:17,23). Sunday-school classes and youth groups ought to train our youth to such an extent that they can stand toe-to-toe with atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, cult members, etc., and confound them not so much by pointing out their errors as by presenting the truth.
You say nothing could have convinced you until the Lord opened your heart. But didn't God use someone's words and efforts in that process? We must be ready always to be used of God in the same way. Christ set the example for us to follow. He was gentle with those who had been deceived, but He sternly rebuked the rabbis who had perverted God's Word by false teaching, and He did so publicly.
One need not become an expert on cults and false religions. Many who thought that was their calling and immersed themselves in such studies have become obsessed with false teachings to such an extent that they have fallen by the wayside for lack of nourishment in God's Word.
Love the Lord your God and His Word, study it daily, meditate upon it with the intent of being always prepared to "preach the Word." The Bible itself is the sword of the Spirit. Therefore, our primary focus should be on knowing God's Word and presenting it convincingly in the power of the Holy Spirit. A workable knowledge of the cults and false religions should only take a secondary place.
This is a "vintage Dave" answer to a tough question. Reprinted from an earlier newsletter.