You see an advertisement for a television at a can't-refuse price, so you head on down to the store. When you get there, the item is out-of-stock, but the salesman is quick to show you an even better (and more expensive) model. Your heart was set on bringing home that new set. You already had planned where you would put it. It would be so disappointing to go home without it now. So you relent. You buy the other model. Somewhere in the back of your head you wonder, "Did I really get a good deal? Was I just taken for a fool?" You squelch that little voice, though, as you set up the new set and assure your friends that yes, you really got your money's worth and it's just what you wanted.
You have just been taken by one of the oldest tricks in the salesman's book: the bait and switch.
Do we sometimes fall for spiritual bait and switch? The redeemed soul longs for God and longs for righteousness. When we go out and search for it, the hungry soul can sometimes be fooled. Some churches, some authors, some Christian teachers tell us they are offering us righteousness or holiness, but what they really offer is elitism and pride.
The pharisees made this offer. They tended to every external detail to project their image of righteousness. "Do as we say. Be like us. Then you will be holy, for we are holy." Yet Jesus said they were like whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones.
Is there no other good church within three hundred miles of yours? Can you not work on projects of common interest with other churches in your town because their doctrine is so inferior to yours? Are there no pastors but yours that are really faithful preachers? Would you disregard anything a certain author had to say because, "He's not one of us?" Is your favorite pastor/author/teacher without sin, or at least without any sin of consequence? Are the new Christians visiting your church assumed to be in need of some teaching and discipleship before they will rise to your church's standards and be a true part of your group?
If so, then perhaps you have been deceived by another bait and switch. Perhaps you went out for righteous Christian living and came home with prideful elitism.
I have been reading lately about spiritual manipulation. This author lists bait and switch as one of the tools of the manipulator. By convincing you that no other church/author/preacher is good enough, the manipulator baits you with righteousness, switches it with elitism, and keeps you close to home. I have fallen for this ruse in my life, and I know that those who long for righteousness are susceptible to the switch. Yet I know that while my pride was flattered easily enough, there was this small voice inside me wondering, "Have I been taken? Is this the real deal?"
The natural man may be content to remain a pharisee, but the redeemed soul longs for the things of God and will not be satisfied with anything less. That small voice will continue until it is finally heeded. Then we must look to the cross, look to our Savior, and remember what our real righteousness is. He is our Righteousness. He is our Perfection. Our own righteousness is like filthy rags.
Yes, doctrine is important, as is a spirit of obedience. Yet when Christ is our righteousness, our obedience, imperfect as it is, becomes an offering to God, and we find ourselves looking with love and grace at others who also bear the righteousness of Christ and offer their own imperfect gifts. We can listen to teachers and read their books and do that for which Paul commended the Bereans: test them by the Scriptures. Then we can find what is true and cast off that which is false--even if they come from the same fallible man.
Jesus Christ is our Righteousness! Christ is our Joy! Accept no substitutes!
My previous post Flattery and Our Pride.