What Exactly Is Belief?

Posted by Pastor J.D. on January 3, 2013

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book I’ll be releasing with B&H Publishing on February 1, 2013 called Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved. 

(PS: You can pre-order the book here)

Here is how many Christians think of “getting saved:” You realize you’re a sinner and you need Jesus to save you. So you approach Him and ask. Of course He says, “Yes,” writes your name in the Lamb’s book of life, and gives you a “certificate” of salvation. If you begin to doubt whether or not you are really “saved,” you go back and replay the moment of your conversion.

Wrong image, I believe. Here’s the problem with it: What if you begin to ask, as I did, “Did I really feel sorry enough for my sin? Did my life change enough after I asked Him into my heart? Did I understand enough about Jesus, or my sin, or grace, when I prayed?” Uh-oh. Better ask again. Back you to go to Jesus, asking Him again to save you, and you feel better for a while. You can do this as much as you want until you meet Jesus in heaven, at which point you might finally be absolutely assured that you’re going to heaven.

That’s not how the Bible depicts salvation. Re-imagine the above example, but this time when you come to Jesus, instead of asking Him for a “certificate” of salvation, you tell Him that you believe what God’s Word says about His Lordship and His completed work at the cross. You then hop up into His arms, now depending on Him to carry you to heaven. You are leaning your weight on what He did, not on what you will do, to get you there.

If you begin to doubt whether or not you really belong to Jesus, what should you do? Do you go back in your mind to that moment when you first hopped up into His arms? You could. But perhaps it would be easier simply to think about where you are currently resting your weight. “Belief” is resting your weight on Christ’s finished work, and that is something you never stop doing. The way you know you are doing it now is not by remembering when you first started doing it, but by reflecting on the present posture of your heart. Your present posture is better proof than a past memory.

Pastor J.D.


J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

7 responses to What Exactly Is Belief?

  1. I like this illustration and have done exactly what you describe…”did I REALLY mean it/understand?” And it actually is really frustrating! But I do imagine my salvation kind of like a birth certificate. On that day I was born into God’s family. Not because I earned it (my children didn’t “earn” their birth), but by God’s grace through the faith He gave me. And I know that I can’t be UNborn. So when I have times, and I do, when I don’t FEEL like His child, or I’m feeling like a big whopping failure and there’s no way He likes me, I go back to my birth certificate. It’s not about how I feel, but about what my Father did. For me, that’s comforting!

  2. Looking forward to the release of this book! Praise God for an address to such need. Keep it up!

  3. “What exactly is belief” is a question I ask all the time and it is still not clear to me. Is believing a choice to live as if what the Bible says about Jesus is true or is it a confidence that what the Bible says about Jesus is true? It seems that the answer to this question is key to knowing for sure whether you are saved. If that mental certainty is required, and there is nothing one can do to make the self believe, that is not very hopeful. If it is not a choice or decision but a current posture it doesn’t seem that there can be assurance for the person who tends to question and ponder. There will always be the question of how sure am I that what I am living for is true. Do I believe enough? Is 51% sure okay but 49% sure not enough? Belief is required for salvation but what is belief and does it change? Does the book address this? Thanks.

  4. My righteousness is as filthy rags so I don’t think my present posture will ever give me that comfort of assurance, but yes, remembering that Christ’s finished work and my faith in that does give me assurance when I am in doubt. Relying in your present posture sounds like you are relying on your work, not His, for your salvation.

  5. Stephani Hutchinson January 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

    This has been a big issue for me. Preordered the book months ago and can’t wait to read it.

  6. Jason Wilkerson January 4, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for this. I go back to a scenario described by a godly mentor of mine, who, himself, was once deeply struggling with assurance of his salvation. After an extended time of prayer and begging God for assurance, he felt he still didn’t have it, so he got up and said in his heart, “God, if you don’t save me and include me in your heaven, it won’t be because I didn’t want it.” It was at that moment that he realized: Lost people simply don’t think that way. [Lights came on]

  7. These words are so needed…
    And the assurance is incredible, to rest in not a certain date or time, but in my present understanding of just how very much I need His rescue and redemption.
    Looking forward to reading your book (just agreed to review it for the blog tour).
    My husband and I want to communicate this message to our children…as we try to help them understand His love for them, their need for Him, and as we pray to see evidence of salvation in their lives.

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