How might a person confuse acceptance of a belief with acceptance of Christ as Savior? How are the two related? How are they different?
This series of questions appears in both the Explore the Bible Personal Study Guide and the Explore the Bible Daily Discipleship Guide. These questions define my spiritual journey. My parents made sure I went to church whenever the doors were open. I learned Bible stories and could repeat the books of the Bible with the best of them. When a fifth grader, I was asked some questions (are you a sinner, did Jesus die for your sins, do you believe Jesus was raised from the dead, etc.) and answered “yes” as I had been taught. The next week, I was baptized.
Believing about Jesus is different from believing in Jesus. I confused the word “believe” with accepting a fact. Certainly we need to know the facts about Jesus, but salvation comes by trusting that His sacrifice was sufficient to declare us righteous before the Holy God. In Him, we no longer need anything else to secure that salvation. We are then free to live in light of that salvation as God changes us from the inside out, as opposed to us changing our lives in an effort to gain God’s favor and earn our salvation (and I do mean our as opposed to His).
I did not discover the difference until my junior year in high school. God is still working on some of the more stubborn edges, but there was a change that resulted when I traded my intellectual understanding for a genuine trusting faith.
James 2 raises a difficult but necessary question: To what evidence can you point that demonstrates that you are a believer? To say we need no evidence is reckless and uninformed. We are not saved by our works, but there should be a change that points to Jesus being our Savior. I do not intend to cast unnecessary doubt, but I do not want to be presumptuous either. Did you accept the facts presented or did you express faith in Jesus as your all-sufficient Savior? Our answers are seen not only in our works but also in why we do those works…doing them to earn our salvation or because God has granted us salvation through faith in His Son.