A very old scam with a long history, is called the “Bait-and-Switch”, were people are promised goods or services at a substantial discount, and then later come to find out that what they were promised is either not available, or not as good as was originally expected. The customers are then often highly-pressured to consider more expensive items instead of what they were originally promised.
In the United States, such actions are generally considered to be “false advertising” and many lawsuits have been filed over the years for such practices.
So it saddens me when I see people falling victim to the exact same type of bait-and-switch tactics in modern Christianity. There’s a lot of this going on today and most people don’t even realize that it’s happening to them. In many ways it happens very slowly and subtly, over a period of years, and it ruins people’s spiritual lives.
Well, the scriptures are not shy in warning about it, and so today I want to share with you some common bait-and-switch tactics in Christianity that I have come across, and how you can avoid them by knowing the truth of Jesus Christ.
Now as I said, this is happening in many places, with completely unaware that this is happening. And just so that I am completely clear on this point, the leaders who are activity instituting these bait-and-switch tactics are often not even doing them on purpose! They have grown-up into it and have been taught and trained by the same deception, and they are oftentimes just as unaware as everyone else.
The issue is that these tactics and deceptions have been going on for so long, that entire generations have been subjected and subjugated in them to such a degree that they have lost the discernment to see what is really going on.
You see, a lot of people today, especially those in church buildings, who take on the name of Christ and call themselves Christians, have been deceived, through man’s theology, man’s knowledge, and man’s arguments, to live far below all of the vastness and richness that Christ brings.
These are not my words alone, Paul had the very same observations even back in his day. Take a look at Colossians 2:1-5:
“For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Notice what he is saying here, starting in verse 1. He has great conflict for them – he is in great struggle, and even for those who have never met him face to face (that would be you and I today).
Now what is this great conflict, this great struggle that Paul has? He explains it in verses 2 through 5, as He says that his desire is that our hearts would be comforted (or encouraged), having been knit together in love (that’s the love of Christ), and that we would have all of the riches of full assurance, in their understanding of God, of the Father and of Christ.
So there are indeed riches in Christ, more than you can possibly imagine; and don’t just think of money here when you see the word “riches” – yes I believe completely that financial prosperity is there too, but there are also riches that go far beyond money. There are riches also of health, riches of peace—for your spirit, soul and body. There are riches of wisdom, and riches of joy and happiness of every kind. And yes, riches of finances as well. All riches are included here.
Notice how these riches come: Through full assurance in the understanding of God the Father and of Christ.
It doesn’t come through efforts, or sacrifices of man, or through any of the religious rites, rituals or traditions that we might think or dream-up.
These riches come through faith. They come through the information of God, through understanding and receiving what Christ has done, and who we are in Him today.
Verse 3 says that in Him (that’s Christ)… in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
And as verse 4 says, the reason why he is reminding us of this is to prevent us from being deceived by enticing words (or words that seem reasonable, good or right).
He would much rather see us be and remain steadfast in our faith in Christ.
And this leads us to our main point today, because there are a lot of enticing words out there today – there are a great many deceiving doctrines, and things that seem reasonable and right to our worldly nature and thinking. Things that actually end up moving us away from Christ and talk us out of our faith instead of into it.
A perfect example is one of the very first bait-and-switches that most people encounter – and it happens right at the typical church “altar call”. Picture it… A pastor gives a call to salvation saying “Jesus is merciful, just come to Him as you are. He will accept you.” And a person who has been beaten down with guilt and condemnation and the stain and marks of sin all of their life, finally has their chains broken for the very first time.
For the first time in their life, they feel light and free, as the Gospel of Grace in Christ penetrates their heart and flows into them – they experience true joy and excitement as they receive the love of Christ.
Then as soon as it’s over, an elder, or leader, or maybe even the pastor, tells them that now they are a Christian, they must do this, and this, and this, and that – and all of the joy and freedom and peace in Christ is suddenly gone; because the Spirit of Life, has been replaced by the stone tablets of the Law all over again. And I’ve seen this particular bait-and-switch play out over and over again to countless people… and it wrenches my heart every single time.
Now, Paul didn’t stop speaking in verse 5, so let’s continue now with verses 6 through 10:
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him:
Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
Notice what he says right in verse 6. As you have received Christ… Now, stop here, and ask yourself, how exactly did you receive Christ? You see, a lot of times we speed through this verse on some kind of mental autopilot, and we don’t stop to consider what it is really saying.
Did we receive Christ through our works? Did we receive Christ through our performance/ Did we receive Christ through our fasting, rituals or sacrificing?
We received Christ by Grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 4:16).
So as you have received Christ (in the same way, likewise) so also walk in Him. Walk in Grace through faith. Through the grace and the knowledge of Jesus and His finished work on the cross, and who you are in Him, your true identity, who Jesus has made you to be.
Verse 7, being rooted and built-up in Him, established in the faith. As you have been taught. Well that’s the problem today isn’t it… not many are being taught this, they are being baited and switched. They are being taught to start with Jesus and then to finish with works. The problem is that’s not the truth. That’s not the Gospel. This says here to walk in Grace and Faith in the same way that you first received Christ, with that same joy and innocence, with the same excitement from the beginning – you should never let that go! You continue in that! You live in that!
He then continues in verse 8, Beware… what a word. Beware; watch-out; be on-guard – why? Beware to not allow anyone to spoil (or rob) you…
So all of these riches, all of the wonderful benefits and blessings of Christ… you are the steward of guarding them in your life… not earning them (you already have them as a free gift in Christ) but guarding them. Because there are many message and things and people in the world today who would spoil you of them if they could. And notice specifically how they would try to spoil: through philosophy, vain deceit, the traditions of men and the rudiments of the world; and not after Christ.
This is another big one! Because these things have tied so many people up and kept them bound, even through the Truth came, Jesus Christ came so that we could be made free in Him.
This is the second big bait-and-switch, and this happens to people young and old, to adults and children alike. Consider the fact that we have all of this accounts in the Bible, all of these records, all of these testimonies of amazing things. We have the Red Sea parting, food being multiplied, people being healed, the mouths of lions being shut, people being thrown in fire and not being burned, the dead being raised.
All awesome accounts of the miracles of God. And as Romans 15:4 says, the things from before happened for us to learn from, and be encouraged and to have confidence in God.
Yet here we are in our modern church… and many people are totally consumed by the very things that this scripture says to beware of! Traditions of man, human philosophies, vain deceit, ways that seem good and right and logical… but none of these things are following Christ.
The last time that I had a symptom in my body, and I went around to my Christian brothers and sisters, would it surprise you to learn that none of them even offered to pray with me? They all said the same thing to me… “what did the doctor say?”.
And when I told them that I was standing in faith and that my Jesus is a Healer, they all shrugged it off and discounted and said “yeah, I know, but…”
These “yeah, I know, but…”’s will get us into a lot of trouble spiritually. They are very dangerous. Because here we are with this Bible that we claim to believe, which shows us a Jesus that we claim to trust for the very salvation of our eternity – and here we are talking each-other out of basic healing for our physical body?! Really??
And then people say “well yeah, I know, but… you need to be smart too, and face the reality of your situation.”
Did you read this scripture? Beware, to not let anyone spoil you, from the vast riches in Christ.
This is the second-bait-and-switch – we sell people the story of a miracle-working, healing, attentive and caring God. But the moment someone tries to actually stand in that faith, the very ones who are supposed to stand with that person; their Christian brothers and sisters, are sometimes the first to attack, and call the person crazy and out of touch.
I’ve seen it not just in my own life, but in the lives of others as well.
This doesn’t mean that these people are our enemies, but what it does mean is that we don’t have to accept what they are saying when it clearly doesn’t line up with the truth of Christ.
Beware, to not let anyone spoil you.
So to the people that told me that I needed to be smart and face the reality of my situation. I told them, that I choose to be wise in Christ, and I have faced the reality, it’s the reality of my identity in Him, and you will see His power in me.
They wrote me off as crazy, until a week later, when they asked me how I recovered.
Beware, to not let anyone spoil you.
You are righteous in Christ, and with that divine righteousness comes all the benefits of it.
Verse 9 of our text says that in Christ dwells all the fullness of God. Think about that. What does that include? What does all of the fullness of God include? Does that include healing? Does that include provision? Does that include protection and peace? Yes! It includes everything!
And look at what verse 10 says, and you are complete in Him! All that is Christ, is yours in Him!
Don’t let anyone rob you, tie you up, or talk you out of the truth of Christ and who you are in Him.
I encourage you today. Don’t fall for the bait-and-switch. Remain steadfast in Christ and your reality in Him, and enjoy all of the riches which He has paid to give you.