Belief vs. Saving Faith

Warning: Ahead are a few statistics. Read them. Don’t skip ahead. 🙂

A recent article from the Christian Post had a lot to say about the disparity between those in America who claim Christianity and those who actually hold to a biblical worldview.

According to the Barna Group, in America in 2021, 51% say that they hold to a “biblical worldview”. But here are what those same people said.

  • 49% of the 51% believe that reincarnation is a possibility before they die.
  • Only 33% said they are born with a sinful nature, and can only be saved from the consequences of sin through Jesus Christ.

As it turns out, the percentage of those who fit into the ACTUAL definition of a biblical worldview, falls to a number of just 6%. Barna’s definition of a biblical worldview is as follows:

“A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do.”

In 2020 the Cultural Research Center did a study in which only 2% of millennials hold to a biblical worldview, even though 61% of them identify as Christian.

In 2017 the American Culture and Faith Institute found that while 46% of Americans claim to lead a “Christian life”, only 10% hold to a distinctly biblical worldview.

I give these rather bleak statistics to ask the question, what is the difference between those claiming to be Christians and those who truly live according to God’s word and put their faith in Jesus Christ?

Apparently, ALL these people have SOME type of belief or faith in Christ, but are all of them saved? The answer must be a resounding and tragic “NO”. But what constitutes a true, SAVING faith?

We see in scripture that not everyone who has a belief in Christ will ultimately be welcomed by God into heaven.
( Remember, even the demons believe! ) Not even all people who preach and teach from the bible have saving faith.

I believe we can see many today in the NAR and Word Faith movements who may fall into the Matthew 7:22 category:

Word Faith False Teacher, Todd White

They preach a false Christ, and hoodwink the masses into believing they are healing the lame and proclaiming the gospel, when nothing could be further from the truth. They are performing parlor tricks and inducing mass emotional hysteria. And unless they repent and come to a genuine, saving faith in Christ, they will be separated from God for eternity.

So, hopefully we all know and recognize these obvious, wolfish purveyors of falsehood. But what of the neighbor across the street, the co-worker at the office, or the college roommate who says, “I’m a Christian.”? We all know them. Maybe he is our mechanic who mentions the “man upstairs”. Or the patriotic friend who proudly displays his American flag and considers himself a lover of “God and country”. It may even be your aunt, or grandmother who attends church on Easter and Christmas and gives to the annual missions offering. If you asked them if they believe in God their answer would be “Yes”. Their answer might also be “yes” if you asked them if they believe in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection. Yet their sincere belief isn’t enough to save them. But, you may ask, “How can this be?” Let me answer that.

A person can have a knowledge of, even a belief in biblical things and not be a genuine follower of Christ. Maybe they grew up and attended church all their life, and have even attended through adulthood. But occupying a church pew doesn’t mean your soul has been regenerated. Some may ask, “But how do I know? How can I be sure??”
You will know because only God Himself can make a filthy, depraved soul into one that has been made righteous and that longs to please Him. It is nothing that we do ourselves. It truly is a miraculous work of God. It is more than mere belief.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

It is called being “born again”.

Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3:3:

 Jesus responded and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Ligonier ministries lays out the definition of saving faith in this way:

When the Protestant Reformers considered the question of saving faith, they found in Scripture three aspects that are essential for true faith. The first of these is Noticias, which is the intellectual content of what we believe. Saving faith is faith in the person and work of Christ, so we must know something about Jesus and what He has done if we are to have actual faith in Him. This is evident from the very existence of the Christian gospel—we tell people about Jesus, giving them biblically content for them to believe.

The second component of saving faith is Assensus, or belief that the content of the Christian gospel is true. It is possible to know something and not believe it is true, and in fact we know many things that we do not believe are true, such as the content of other religions. But as the Christian faith is dependent on the historical reality of things such as the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:17), we must not only know that Christianity proclaims the content of Christ’s historical resurrection, but we must also believe that the resurrection happened (Rom. 10:9).

Finally, saving faith includes Fiducia, which is placing trust in the One revealed in the content that is believed to be true. Knowing what God has revealed and believing it to be true is a good thing, as we read in today’s passage, but it is not enough (James 2:14–19). Even demons know and assent to the truth of God’s revelation, so merely knowing and believing necessary truths for salvation such as the oneness of God are insufficient for redemption (v. 19b). Mere knowledge and belief, as John Calvin comments, “can no more connect man with God, than the sight of the sun carry him up to heaven.” We also need to place our trust in Christ personally to save us. We must believe that Jesus came to save us personally. We must place our lives in His hands, pledging ourselves to follow Him no matter the cost.

So, breaking this down, even if you never remember the terms Noticias, Assensus, or Fiducia, you must:

1. Know the gospel intellectually.
2. Believe the gospel is true.
3. You MUST place your trust in the ONE revealed in the gospel.

What IS the gospel?

The word gospel means “good news,” so the gospel of Christ is the good news of His coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who will believe (Colossians 1:14Romans 10:9). Since the first man’s sin, mankind has been under the condemnation of God (Romans 5:12). Because everyone breaks God’s perfect law by committing sin, everyone is guilty (Romans 3:23). The punishment for the crime of sin is physical death (Romans 6:23) and then an eternity spent in a place of punishment (Revelation 20:15Matthew 25:46). This eternal separation from God is also called the “second death” (Revelation 20:14–15).

The bad news that all are guilty of sin and condemned by God is countered by the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. God, because of His love for the world, has made a way for man to be forgiven of their sins (John 3:16). He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the sins of mankind on Himself through death on a cross (1 Peter 2:24). In placing our sin on Christ, God ensured that all who will believe in the name of Jesus will be forgiven (Acts 10:43). Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the justification of all who believe (Romans 4:25).– From “Got Questions”.

“NO MATTER THE COST”. And for those with true, saving faith, it will cost. We are called to walk in a whole new way, turning our backs on the old way of living our lives. We may lose friendships or even family as we walk this new and often lonely pilgrimage of Christianity. The Holy Spirit draws us to repentance, and that lifestyle of repentance carries on, day by day, not allowing us to be ruled by sin any longer, but confessing our sins to Him daily.

Saving faith means we will no longer identify with or practice a lifestyle of sin.

The website “Got Questions” lays out the recognizable characteristics of a genuine believer based on the epistle of 1 John:

1. The believer enjoys fellowship with Christ and His redeemed people (1 John 1:3).
2. The believer walks in the light, not in the darkness (1 John 1:6–7).
3. The believer admits and confesses his sin (1 John 1:8).
4. The believer obeys God’s Word (1 John 2:3–5).
5. The believer loves God rather than the world (1 John 2:15).
6. The believer’s life is characterized by “doing what is right” (1 John 2:29).
7. The believer seeks to maintain a pure life (1 John 3:3).
8. The believer sees a decreasing pattern of sin in his life (1 John 3:5–65:18).
9. The believer demonstrates love for other Christians (1 John 3:14).
10. The believer “walks the walk,” versus just “talking the talk” (1 John 3:18–19).
11. The believer maintains a clear conscience (1 John 3:21).
12. The believer experiences victory in his Christian walk (1 John 5:4).

I was watching a very good video in which John MacArthur was asked the question, “How do I know if I’m really saved?”. He talks about the characteristics of someone who has been genuinely changed by saving faith. Watch his amazing and clarifying explanation in this short video:

As Dr. MacArthur says, a saved life will never mean a perfect life. But it will be a different one.

There are so many around us who are going about their daily lives, believing they are Christians, when in actuality, they are living with a false security about their eternity. This is why we must be ready and willing to discuss the gospel with those around us. They may have never truly heard the good news. They may come to saving faith. They may not. But at least it won’t be because we just went along as always, never discussing it with them. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to see your friends, family, and neighbors go from a non-saving “belief” in God to a life-changing, saving faith in Jesus Christ? This is our job in this world. To tell the good news. Let our lives be marked as being ones who contributed to adding to the Kingdom!

10 thoughts on “Belief vs. Saving Faith

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