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The preacher who claimed he was Jesus and the power of a cult

Matthew 24:5  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Matthew 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

José Luis de Jesús Miranda called himself the second coming of Jesus Christ, and almost a million people around the world believed him. Reality came crashing down upon them when he died from cirrhosis of the liver in August 2013. It was then they discovered their messiah was nothing more than a cult leader.

Mr. Miranda claimed that in 1973 the resurrected Jesus came to him and integrated himself inside his body. He said entity he called Jesus lived in him forever afterwards. In 1988 Jose formed the Ministerio Creciendo en Gracia or Growing in Grace Ministry.

His ministry was very successful worldwide and expanded in over 20 countries. There were 30 of his teaching centers in the United States. His ministry also owned and operated a 24 hour cable channel, net casts, and radio programs to spread his beliefs. His followers joyously embraced his unique interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Mr. Miranda did not believe in sin. He said God already saw us as perfect spirits. He also said Satan was not real, just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination. He called prayer a waste of your time and declared all other religious leaders to be liars. Only he preached the real truth he said. He accused Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical Christians as having it all wrong and proclaimed their churches were corrupted with falsehoods. His followers believed he was the only one preaching the true Gospel.

Miranda did pass the collection plate, most churches do. Tithing is an acceptable practice in the Bible and it is how most houses of worship attain funds for their operating expenses. Numbers 18:21, "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." The children of Levi were the official priestly family of the Israelites. The tithe was given for them to focus their attention on God's work rather than worry about earning wages from a job.

Miranda's followers gave everything. They gave him their companies, estates and cars. Unlike Jesus’ biblical teachings, Miranda did not have a problem with people accumulating material wealth and said, “Everybody should be rich.”

His believers followed him at great personal cost as well. Many severed ties with their families if Miranda’s motives were questioned. The families of his church members believed his followers were being brain-washed. His version of so-called Christianity was very destructive.

Anytime a person stands up and says I am God, you must follow me and do what I say their followers can become radicalized and dangerous. Miranda’s followers aggressively harassed Catholics in the Miami area. Growing in Grace even admitted it formed formal protest campaigns against other religions. His followers were very in-your-face and confrontational. People eventually began to worry that his church was actually a cult.

The primary criteria for a cult would be an organization with an absolute, authoritarian leader, who uses charismatic persuasion of thoughts and ideals to eventually exploit the members. In this old NBC Today Show report you can see the power this man held over his believers. You can hear Miranda himself describe the event of the spirit he called Jesus entering his body and his distorted biblical teachings. Something may have entered Miranda that fateful day in 1973, but as any Christian can tell you, it was not Jesus Christ.

The Bible speaks of unclean spirits and false Christ’s leading the faithful astray. We are warned not to be deceived. Jesus taught us to be humble and not to be materialistic, the opposite of Miranda. Jesus had interactions with Satan, a real entity, and Satan is actively causing the deception of Christians today. The Bible describes the evil forces out to steer us away from the path of salvation, yet still Miranda’s followers were fooled.

Often cult leaders can appear very nice at first. They target vulnerable people who are seeking answers. Lonely, normal people are fooled by these tactics because the leaders are very good at manipulation and can get people to believe anything. People often confidently feel they would never be taken in by such a person and don’t even realize it is happening to them.

When you hear the term cult, Christianity might not be the first type of group to come to mind. Christians often think of cults as something foreign or new-agey, but there are Christian cults as well. Be a believer in God, but be discerning when it comes to humans. Just because someone or something is labeled Christian it doesn't mean you can through caution aside and leap forward with absolute trust and abandon.

Cult leaders maintain their followers’ intense allegiance through social and psychological practices and conditioning techniques that constrict attention, devalue personal relationships, and lessen an individual’s reasoning. Cult leaders all seem to use destruction to gain control over their followers and brain-wash them towards the new way of thinking.

If you or someone you care about may be involved in a cult, check out the Cult Education Institute for more information. Author Steven Hassan’s book, Freedom of Mind, can also provide some good information to help yourself or a loved one breakaway from a dangerous situation. Remember, Jesus, God and your church should help you make positive choices for your life. These choices will help you grow as an individual and a spirit. Through these choices you will find your way to the truth.