The Three Elements of True Saving Faith
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
Faith Without Works is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 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. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (James 2:14-26).
Even Demons are Spiritual
Being religious cannot save you. Being spiritual cannot save you. Even demons are spiritual and believe there's a God (James 2:19). However, demons do not submit to God. In fact, they outright rebel against God while still possessing the knowledge of the truth in Jesus. Millions of people know about the truth in Jesus and even positively agree with it. And millions of these self-professing Christians fall epically short of saving faith in Jesus, simply because they do not submit their lives to Christ. They submit to their sins instead. They believe lies and choose sin instead of believing the Truth and choosing righteousness. The fruit they produce in their life contradicts their profession of faith in Jesus.
In my opinion, the bigger tragedy on Judgement Day is not the Muslim or Hindu who hears Jesus say, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). It's the self-professing Christian who knew about the truth in Jesus, who was around the truth in Jesus, who went to church and did Bible studies, who even performed mighty works in the name of Jesus, yet did not do the will of God.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The real tragedy is the self-professing Christian who lives however he pleases, does his own will, and consequently, will experience the most jolting surprise of his entire existence when Jesus says Depart from me, I never know you. There is a big difference between intellectual assent in gospel facts and true saving faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One is so close, yet is so self-deceived.
Faith and Grace According to Scripture
Millions of people intellectually assent to the historical facts of the gospel and positively affirm that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose again. Millions of people think that's all that it takes to obtain eternal life, so as long as they're "a good person." First off, they think that simply believing in the existence of God grants them eternal life. Second off, no one can be good enough to earn their way to heaven. It's impossible. There has only been one good person in the history of mankind, and that was the person of Jesus Christ. "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12). Furthermore, millions of people believe that God's grace means they can live however they want because they are "saved by grace," based on their own personal definitions of grace. That's called self-deception and willful ignorance to God's Word. Grace is not a term you want to get wrong as a Christian.
A shocking majority of people believe God's grace allows for unrepentant sin. Unfortunately, based on our own personal definitions of "faith" and "grace," (as I once had when I believed in a god of my own imagination), many people falsely believe this gives them the green light to continue living for themselves; doing their own wills and not the will of God; being self-seekers; living in self-sufficiency; chasing and serving money; having all sorts of idols in their life, playing around with witchcraft, fortune telling, and astrology; doing drugs and psychedelics (which is sorcery and pharmakeia), fornicating and looking at porn (which is adultery), living however they please; living a lifestyle of sin and disobedience in their own self-deception and personal truth.
Scripture makes it clear for us here:
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).
What Does God's Grace Really Mean?
According to Scripture, God's grace is given to those who put their trust in Him so that we may have the power by the Holy Spirit to choose that which is good, right, and true, and to glorify God through our obedience to His Word. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (Acts 1:8). Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20). And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). With the Holy Spirit living inside of true believers, God has given us the grace so that we can choose to obey Him and express our trust and love to Him. His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are born again, sin no longer has power or dominion over us because we are no longer under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). It’s God’s grace given to believers through the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability and desire to obey Him. We are not saved by works, but we are saved by faith. True saving faith naturally produces good works by God's grace, and a fruitful life lived out by the power of the Holy Spirit becomes evidence of one's salvation in Christ.
The Three Elements of True Saving Faith
1. An intellectual element (notitia), which is a positive recognition of the Truth
2. An emotional element (assensus), which includes a deep conviction and affirmation of the Truth
3. And finally, a volitional element (fiducia), which involves a personal trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This includes a genuine surrendering to His Lordship. (Meaning, we will have a real desire to obey the Word of God when we truly trust Him and His goodness for our life). We won't just glaze over Scripture and read it as if it doesn't apply to us. We will read His Word and seek to obey it because we trust Him. It's so simple! Obedience to God's Word is simply the by-product and outward expression of our faith in Him. Obeying God's Word is proof that our faith is real. Faith and obedience are inseparable. We can't have one without the other. They go hand-in-hand. They are two sides of the same coin. For the whole world knows that actions speak louder than words. Well, that basic, universal principle also applies to expressing faith in God.
True Faith Naturally Obeys
The words faith and obedience / believe and obey / disbelieve and disobey are synonymous throughout all of Scripture, and they are the exact same meaning in the original Greek. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). To not believe the gospel is to simply disobey God, since the Word of God commands us to believe in the sacrifice of His Son. And to say we believe in God, yet live a life of disobedience, is to really not believe in God or the truth of the gospel at all. Lordship Salvation teaches that surrendering to Christ as Lord goes right along with trusting in Christ as Savior. Lordship Salvation is the opposite of the heretical teaching called easy-believism, which is the teaching that salvation is obtained through acknowledging and intellectually agreeing to a particular set of facts.
Modern popular theology tends to recognize notitia and often assensus, but far too often eliminates fiducia. This is called easy-believeism which is a very popular, modern-day Christianity that runs rampant in the church. It is heretical, a radical distortion of God's Word, and just another type of self-deception that makes people think they're on their way to heaven but are really on the broad way to hell.
Easy-believism holds to the idea that we are saved by the intellectual belief in God's existence and the facts of the gospel, and it teaches that submission or obedience to God's Word is not needed. They believe in "sola fide" or "faith alone" to be saved. Easy-believism does not believe one needs to live a life of any commitment to Christ for proof of salvation. First off, that is not the correct definition of "sola fide" or "faith alone." True faith in Christ will inevitably produce good fruit and lead to a changed life; one that is committed to Christ out of love and gratitude. We are saved by faith alone, but it is not a faith that is alone. (Refer to James 2:14-26 again).
"Just Invite Jesus into Your Heart"
Another common way of using the term easy-believism is when people believe they are saved because they prayed a prayer one time "inviting Jesus to come into their hearts" - a prayer without any real conviction of sin or turning from sin, meaning no true faith in Christ. Praying a prayer is effortless and easy, resulting in the term easy-believism. There is more to obtaining salvation than just words or verbal professions. Committing your life to Christ is a daily and lifelong commitment, and it is not easy. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."(Matthew 16:24). We also know that in Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
People who follow the theology of easy-believism believe they can continue to sin without true repentance and still be saved. The foundation they stand on is that they intellectually believe the historical fact that Jesus died on the cross for sins and rose again. Millions of people have head knowledge of Christ, but it takes heart knowledge to truly know Him, walk with Him, and be His child, headed for eternal glory. Eternal life is a free gift from God, but it comes at the cost of forsaking our sins. We can't both cling to our sins as we cling to Jesus for eternal life. It doesn't work that way. That's not truly believing in Jesus when we still cling to our sins. The thing is, Jesus didn't come to save us in our sins. He came to save us from our sins and transform our hearts to live a life that glorifies God.
See, faith is not authentic saving faith if it lacks the attitude of genuine repentance and a genuine surrendering to Christ's authority and Lordship. Obviously, we are all fallen, we will all still sin, even as Christians (more than we even realize), and we will never obey God's Word perfectly. We will fall very short of His glory. But nonetheless, true Christians genuinely desire and genuinely seek to obey God's Word, and we do experience real victory over sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, as His Spirit sanctifies us. We will at times stumble and be drawn back into the ways of the world, but it's God's grace that will pick us up and put us back on His good path, and it's God's grace that will continue to give us the growing desire to obey Him through the faith He's gifted us with. By the power of His Spirit, we will become more like Christ little by little, just like Scripture says. And we are not robots in our sanctification. We have human responsibility in our sanctification, but it's the grace of God that is with us. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
Obedience Is Proof of Faith
True Christians will still sin, but we will never return to the broad and easy road and swim in sin ever again. It is impossible for real Christians to make a practice of sinning when we are practicing righteousness. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we will be convicted of our sin before we could swim in it ever again. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9). In Christians, there is a daily battle against sin.
We are all born in sin in the likeness of Adam, and that's why we must be born again. I used to be an example of someone who professed to believe in God (the god of my own imagination), but my actions and way of living said otherwise, until I was born again. Then I was given a new nature and came to know the real God of the universe where I desired to obey Him because I trusted Him. Verbal professions of faith in God are empty and futile if someone's actions continue to deny God. They profess to know God, but by their actions they deny him (Titus 1:16).
Before I was born again, I wholeheartedly "believed" in God. I prayed to God all the time. Unfortunately, I was only seeking a god of my own imagination and still living in rebellion to God without even knowing it. Relying on my own feelings and personal definition of what I thought faith and spirituality was to me, certainly couldn't save me. I was blinded by my own meanings I attached to spiritual things, and in reality I was spiritually dead. I had no idea what authentic faith meant, what it meant to be a true Christian, or what it meant to follow Jesus Christ and be His real disciple. I ignorantly professed to be a Christian, yet I didn't even know that Jesus was the way, the Truth, and the life and that no one came to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) I thought spirituality was relative to everyone, and I fell for the lie of the new age that there was no absolute truth. No matter what I believed, how true I was to my "authentic self," what my personal preferences were on who God was, what my own standards were, what my own definition of faith and grace were, how much I prayed to / praised / thanked the god of my own imagination, or how sincere I was in my beliefs - it certainly couldn’t change reality.
By God's grace, He gifted me with my faith to believe on His only Son, Jesus Christ. By the blood of Jesus, my sins are completely forgiven, and through His resurrection, I am granted eternal life by grace through faith. Praise my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Now, this is what I do:
• I take Scripture for face value
• I don't interpret spiritual things based on my own relative truth
• I make sure I understand the biblical definitions of faith, grace, and love
• I interpret Scripture responsibly, as God commands me, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
• I hold myself to God's standards and no longer my own, nor do I compare myself to others. I am just as fallen.
• I trust both His warnings and His promises for my life.
• I believe the Word of God in full measure, and I seek to obey what His Words says, in turn proving my faith to be authentic.
• I trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ; His sinless life of obedience, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.
• I live my life submitted to my Lord Jesus Christ because He saved me from the eternal torment to come and granted me eternal life by grace through faith. I trust Him in who He is, what He did for me, and I trust Him in everything He says.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves (James 1:22).
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
"The Truth is that which corresponds to reality only as it is perceived by God. It's because God sees reality in its fullest measure, from the perfect perspective, in the depth and of its dimension, as well as the surface. All things are known to Him. From the perspective of the One who is omniscient, there is such thing as an objective reality. And in fact, our eternal destinies will be determined by God's perception of reality, not ours." - RC Sproul