Applying the Bible to modern life is a phrase we can often say without knowing what we really mean. So what do we mean when we say “apply God’s word?”
“What does it mean to apply God’s word?” and “How to apply God’s word” are similar but different topics. In a past article I wrote about 5 practical ways you can be empowered to actually do what the Bible says.
That’s the “how” part of applying God’s word. Today, however, we are talking about “what” “applying the Bible to modern life” actually means.
Applying God’s Word to Modern Life Means You Do What the Bible Says
When I say the phrase “apply God’s word” I mean “live God’s word” or “do God’s word.” There’s a difference between knowing and understanding the Bible compared to actually applying biblical principles to modern topics and questions. You can know the doctrines and live a very secular lifestyle.
So when I say “apply God’s word” I mean the actions and patterns of your life are reflecting godly truths and Christ’s likeness in your modern day and age. It means you are actually doing what the Bible says in your life. James 1:22-25, for example, explains the difference between being a hearer and a doer of God’s word:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
It takes a lifetime to actually learn to apply the word of God to your modern life. There are many different things that you can do or not do that will affect your ability to actually apply God’s word. If you are not filled with the Spirit, if you never pray, if you don’t read the word, if you don’t have faith, and if you do not exercise your will, then you will not actually apply God’s word to your life.
But that is more about the “How to apply God’s word to your life.” There’s more to say about “What does it mean to apply God’s word to modern life?”
To Apply God’s Word, You Must Love God and People for His Glory
To know what it means to actually “live the word” or “do what God says” or “apply God’s word to your life,” we first must know what the Bible actually says we are to do.
Every book of the Bible tells you to do something. Should I now list every single command and instruction found in the Bible so we know what it means to apply God’s word to modern life? That would be a bit redundant I think. We can just read the Bible to see what it says we are to do.
What we can do is look at the largest overarching themes in the Scriptures. What does God tell humans to do? Again, he tells us to do many things specifically. Generally, though, I believe everything God tells us to do can fall into this phrase, “Love God and people for his glory.”
Matthew 22:36-40 is a Bible passage I quote a lot on ApplyGodsWord.com because it captures the whole essence of every instructive command in the entire Bible:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus is amazing. I love how easily he simplifies big questions for us. The lawyer who asked Jesus this question was trying to stump him (Luke 10:25). He probably wanted Jesus to pick one command knowing that whichever one he chose, there would be a group of Jews who agreed and another group who disagreed. They were always trying to trap Jesus in these lose-lose types of questions.
But Jesus was undeterred and actually answered the man’s question simply and beautifully, “You want me to tell you which command is the most important out of the hundreds found in God’s word? Simple: Love God. And not only that, I’ll tell you the second most important command: Love people. All the Law and Prophets depend on these.”
Boom. Mic drop. With jaws hanging in the crowd, Jesus exits stage left to let the people mull over what he just did, “Dang, he actually did it. He just summarized the whole book in three verses.”
So “What does it mean to apply the word of God to your life?” can seem like a big question. But it is drastically simplified with the answer: Love God and love people.
While I think we could end here, I also think there is one more major theme we need to cover to answer this question thoroughly regarding applying God’s word to modern life. While loving God and people are what we are supposed to do, those are expressions of the most ultimate thing we are called to do, which is to glorify God.
God Commands Us to Love Him and People Because it Glorifies God
If you want all the Bible verses and explanations about why the glory of God is the whole purpose of human existence and main goal God is always achieving, feel free to read my article What Is the Glory of God According to the Bible. I would also recommend my newest book, Intertwined: Our Happiness Is Tied to God’s Glory.
But for this article, let’s just hit the basics. God made us for his glory. But what does it mean to glorify God? Ultimately to glorify God it means to bear his image. We were made for his glory (Isaiah 43:7), therefore we were made in his image. When we sin we no longer reflect God accurately and thus we “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God’s commands are not random. They are reflections of his character. Therefore when we obey the word of God we are going to bear God’s image because we are going to be reflecting what he does.
So, why are all the commands summarized in loving God and loving people? Because the image of God is reflected in these commands. God’s nature, qualities, and actions are summarized in his love for himself and his love for people. Everything he does can be viewed through this prism. Thus, if we want to look like a child of God and bear his image and show the world what God is like, loving God and loving people must be our main aim.
To glorify God (to bear his image) we must obey his commands (love God and people).
Applying the Bible to Modern Life
Lastly, when talking about applying the Bible, I believe it also means we take biblical principles and apply them to modern life, to everyday life, and to our own life.
There are millions of things the Bible does not directly talk about. With every new generation there are unique problems and concerns that face humans. Since the Bible is an ancient text, does this mean it is irrelevant? No.
The Bible doesn’t directly mention by name smart phones, the internet, dating, college, stem cell research, science, evolution, atheism, Game of Thrones, novels, modern problems in marriage, parenting a disabled child, raising children in the digital age, abortion, capitalism, liberalism, gun control, modern laws about same sex marriage, vaccinations, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhism, the modern work place, nuclear bombs, America . . . and the list could go on forever. But just because the Bible doesn’t name things like this doesn’t mean there is not truth in the Bible that should directly affect how we respond to these modern issues and questions.
So applying the word of God not only means doing what the Bible says. Applying the Bible also means taking timeless truth and applying it to modern questions and topics. The Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12-13). The truths of Scripture never change, but their application is never ending. With every new wave of unique problems and circumstances humans go through, the Bible will always be the supreme authority because the Bible holds the ultimate truth about humans.
Modern man may be living through different circumstances and issues than humans did 100 years ago, but man will always be man. Humans are born sinful, we thus produce sinful actions, and therefore every human is in need of being born again through the grace and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Does “Applying the Word of God to Modern Life” Mean?
What does it mean to apply the word of God to your modern life? It means you love God and people. It means you apply biblical wisdom and the Spirit’s leading to everything you go through and to every question you have. And it means you do everything for God’s glory.