This “Application” column goes with the Study for Jan. 31, 2021: Different Discernment (Matthew 7:1-27)
A year ago this month, on January 26, 2020, basketball star Kobe Bryant boarded a helicopter along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and other passengers headed to a youth basketball tournament. The helicopter was a high-end model with a reputation for safety, and the pilot was known for his experience and reliability. The sky was blue when they took off, but soon a thick fog settled in and the pilot became disoriented. He thought they were going up, but actually they were plummeting toward the ground at a high rate of speed. In a horrific tragedy, the helicopter crashed on steep terrain, killing all nine people on board.
It’s extremely dangerous when you can’t see where you’re going and you lose your bearings.
Like a defroster that melts ice from a car’s windshield, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount clarifies our vision in several key areas.
A clearer view of others. Unselfishness is an underlying theme throughout the sermon. Love others—even those who mistreat you. Pray with plural pronouns: “Give us today our daily bread . . . . Deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:11, 13). Don’t just seek forgiveness for your own sins; forgive those who sin against you (6:12). Don’t view others through the distorted lens of a harsh, critical spirit. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (7:2). Don’t try to perform cataract surgery on someone else’s eyes when a two-by-four obstructs your own vision (7:3-5).
A clearer view of prayer. “Ask, Seek, and Knock” (Matthew 7:7)—the first letters of those English verbs remind us to ASK! But prayer isn’t just about asking; it’s also about seeking. Discerning disciples seek God and his wisdom. We seek “first his kingdom and his righteousness” (6:33). We seek lost, straying sheep. And we knock—persistently trying to identify and enter any doors God opens. “Knocking” in prayer means exploring new opportunities and finding new ways to serve. We can ask, seek, and knock with confidence because the heavenly Father knows our needs and wants to “give good gifts to those who ask him” (6:8; 7:11).
A clearer view of truth. In foggy, confusing times, we need a well-thought-out biblical worldview. “Enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus insisted, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). “Watch out for false prophets,” he warned (7:15). Phony religious leaders create fog, not clarity. Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord, Lord” truly knows him (7:21). Truth isn’t always popular, but it always matters.
A clearer view of obedience. Jesus’ teachings aren’t just nice ideas; they are marching orders. The Sermon on the Mount isn’t a philosophy course; it’s a call to action. Like a homebuilder who constructs a house on a solid foundation, the wise person hears Jesus’ words “and puts them into practice” (Matthew 7:24).
Ignoring Jesus’ instructions is like trying to fly a helicopter in blinding fog. It’s like trying to drive a car while the windshield is covered with ice. Let’s learn from the ancient psalmist who prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see,” and then went on to promise the Lord, “I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly” (Psalm 119:18, 167).
Personal Challenge: Using a highlighter or a pencil, read through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) this week and mark key verses in each chapter that challenge you to action. Ask God to help you put these principles into practice.