What do people mean when they say they believe in Jesus?
The phrase "to believe in Jesus" is best understood by examining three different parts or components of belief.
First, in order to believe in Jesus we need to have some KNOWLEDGE about who He is. Jesus is the promised Messiah. Messiah means Christ or "anointed one" (John 1:41; 4:25–26). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God's promise to send a Savior who would reverse the curse of sin and death and destroy Satan (Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 2:14). Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God (Mark 1:1). He is second Person of the Trinity, God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). Jesus Christ took on human flesh, lived a perfect sinless life of obedience to God the Father, died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected after three days (1 John 4:2; John 4:34; 1 Peter 2:22; Romans 5:6; Acts 10:40). Jesus Christ ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9–11; Hebrews 1:3). He will return to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). Jesus Christ promises that all who believe in Him will be forgiven of their sins, be declared righteous because of His righteousness, be reconciled to God, receive the Spirit of God, and inherit eternal life in a new earth and new heavens (Colossians 2:13–14; Romans 3:21–22; 2 Corinthians 5:18; 2 Timothy 1:14; John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:13). Is having an understanding of all this knowledge necessary in order to believe in Jesus? No. However, in order to believe in Jesus we need to know that He is the Christ who came into the world in human flesh in order to save sinners, such as we are (1 Timothy 1:15).
Secondly, in order to believe in Jesus we must ASSENT to the knowledge that we have concerning Him. Knowledge alone will not save us, but we must agree with what the Scriptures tell us about who Jesus is if we are to believe in Him. However, assent or agreement alone will not save us either. This is demonstrated by the fact that even Satan and the demons know who Jesus is and even assent to the knowledge they have (James 2:19; Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24). So, if knowledge and assent are necessary but insufficient to save, then what will save us?
Thirdly, to believe in Jesus means to TRUST in Him. This means that we must embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and trust that through believing in Him we are saved (Romans 10:9–13; John 20:28). It is one thing to believe in the abstract that Jesus died for the sins of the world. However, it is another thing to trust that He died for you. To trust that because of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection, you can be personally forgiven of your sins, justified before God, and live eternally with Him is what it means to believe in Jesus. To know, to assent, and to trust in Him – this is to have eternal life.
If you have not yet believed in Jesus and put your trust in Him, you can do so now. There is no specific prayer that garners salvation, but you might want to say something like this: "Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God, that You came to earth and lived a perfect life, that You died the death that I deserve due to my sins, that You rose again victorious over sin and death, and that You offer me salvation. I believe You are who You say You are and that You alone can save me. I believe in You and want to follow You. Please forgive me of my sins and make me Your child. Thank you!"
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