The warning didn’t stop there. She told us that a teddy bear cactus could actually leap toward us if we moved too close to it. My mind was spinning trying to envision this man-eating cactus that might attempt to chase me up the path. Apparently, this type of cactus has stems that disconnect quite easily. The spines have barbs that burrow into the muscle fiber and make it painfully difficult to remove. Needless to say, we spent our hike looking more closely for a loose teddy bear cactus stem than we did watching for rattlesnakes.
I’m grateful for the warning about the cactus and even more grateful for the warnings we find in scripture: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’” (Luke 12:1-3).
The danger of hypocrisy is how it can lead people astray. It can fool and blind those who are unable to discern. The teddy bear cactus appears to be soft and cuddly, but in reality, it is harmful to us. The Pharisees Jesus warned about were guilty of hypocrisy, and in His kindness, Jesus warned His followers.
Warnings found throughout scripture are there to guide and protect us. They are filled with God’s love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and blessing. Sometimes we hear warnings and choose to ignore them. Sometimes we disbelieve there’s true danger. But when we believe we are hearing a warning from God, we can focus on His nature and character. He loves and cares for us. He desires us to follow truth and not find ourselves at the hands of deception or a prickly, barbed cactus.
In order to strengthen our discernment muscles we can do two things: pray and read the Bible regularly. God delights in answering our requests to become greater discerners in a culture filled with competing ideas to Biblical truth. The more time we spend soaking in God’s Word, the more equipped we are to spot hypocrisy when it presents itself to us. We must be on our guard as Jesus warned us.
As I reflected back to our hike among the prickly teddy bear cacti, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithful warning and protection. He kept me safe from a plant that appeared soft and cuddly but in reality would pierce my skin and cause severe pain. His heart is to keep us on the safe path. His “word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105). On His safe path, we can trust that little by little we will see growth.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” 2 Peter 3:17 NIV
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