Click here to listen to Nancy on Moody Radio with Kelli and Steve.
To answer to this question we must ask, “what do you mean by “believing” and being “saved”? Does “believing” mean giving mental ascent to something, but does not influence how you live? Or, is your belief in Jesus transforming the way you think and live your life? Would people in your family and at school or in the workplace see you as someone who is self-promoting and self-centered.
For the majority of self-identified Christians, they say they believe in Jesus, but only in name only. He is like someone on their team that they go to when they need help or healing. Jesus is reduced to a Santa or a pal, who will do their bidding. Sadly, these people have not made Jesus their Lord and do not use biblical truths to frame their worldview. They will live with the standards and truths set by the culture.
- 9% of born-again teenagers believe in moral absolutes. (Barna)
- 2%-6% of Christian teens are living out their faith. (Barna. Thinking Like Jesus, pg. 28)
- 80 to 90% of Christians lose their faith in God by the time they graduate from college.
- 91% of students from evangelical churches do not believe in absolute moral truth.
There are different depths of belief, and different understandings as to what Jesus expects of those who claim to be His followers. If a person claims to be a Christian because he or she prayed a prayer that someone told them to pray, does not make that person a follower of Jesus. If someone merely believes that there is a God but not Savior, then that person has the same faith as the demons of hell. Even though it involves a measure of belief, that is not saving faith, Therefore, yes, a person can “believe” in some sense, but not be saved.
“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life” (1 John 2:23-25).
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31).
Some people have an initial positive emotional response when hearing the about how Jesus hung on a cross and died to forgive us of our sins. They might love hearing stories about Jesus and His disciples in the Bible, but that does not make them a believer. They may get baptized, join the church and sing in the choir, but those things do not make them a Christian.
Matthew 7:21-23 is a somber reminder that unless our lives reflect the truth and light of our Savior, we are not saved. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Jesus was speaking to people who were deeply involved in ministry, but were not genuine believers. They acknowledged with their words who Jesus is—but they had no personal, moment by moment relationship with Him. As a result, Jesus says, “I never knew you,” meaning that these people were never followers of Christ and have no hope of Heaven.
We are saved from our sins by believing in our heart that we are sinners and that Jesus died personally for our individual sins. Our life will reflect the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus gives to all who truly believe in everyday life.
”But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:18-20).
God knows our hearts. We, however, cannot see the hearts of other people and may often be deceived about our own hearts as well. That’s why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”. If we want confidence about our our standing before God, we need to see if there is evidence of God’s work in our lives today. Are we reading the Scriptures, loving God and others sacrificially?
Eric Metaxac writes in “Letter to the American Church” the following: “Isn’t that precisely the issue with what we believe? We say we believe that Jesus has defeated death on the Cross. Many of us affirm it when we recite the Nicene Creed. But God knows we actually believe it or are just claiming to, He sees it by our actions. God asks us:Will you trust me with your income? Will you trust Me with your life? Will you trust Me with your spouse’s life or your child’s life? Who do you say that I am?” God is not satisfied, or fooled, by what we say or we believe” any more than the devil is fooled by what we say we “believe.” or any more than our neighbors are fooled, or our friends or enemies. People see precisely what we believe by how we behave. Can there be any doubt that we don’t believe much of what we claim to believe? What will it take for us to genuinely to believe what God says? What will it take for us to understand that God is not fooled by what we claim to believe?
Jesus asked Peter three times,“Do you love me?”