It's time to throw out all the fancy schmancy -isms—Calvinism, Arminianism, dispensationalism—and just deal with the question. What exactly IS a Christian? Could it be different that what I've been taught? And, most importantly, how can I know for sure if I am one?

What is salvation? And the oft over-complicated answer to that question is…belief. That's it. We've tried to make it other things…the sinner's prayer, going to the front in church, baptism. But the simple truth is that only belief in the Messiah changes our hearts, lives, and eternities.

Interestingly, the crucial words "belief" and "faith" are used over 550 times in the Bible. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved (Acts 16:31) and, …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). But therein lies the question…

What is belief? From the Greek word, Pisteuo, belief means "to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in." To me, this is the difference between faking it and staking it—that is, staking your life on what you profess. Believing something "in your heart" means that the core of you is wrapped around that belief. Belief is what you feel, think, depend upon, and therefore, what you do, who you are, and what you become.

There are too many "Christians" who say they believe in Jesus as their Messiah, but there is little significant evidence from their lives—decisions, attitudes, behaviors, convictions, conversations, morals, values, goals, habits—that would reflect their lip service. If you really believe Jesus died for you and set you free from bondage to sin and spiritual death, and if you really believe that the Creator of the Universe wants to have a personal, daily, intimate, and eternal relationship with you, your life should be radically, beautifully, permanently, tangibly, and consistently changing in every day life.

The New Testament is chock full of verses that point out the necessity of our outward lives being a reflection of our inward belief. It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds (James 2:26), …work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away (2 Peter 1:10), Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you (1 John 2:15).

Those in history who have demonstrated this tangible, outward faith in their daily lives are a shining beacon and example for us to follow: Armed with only a shepherd's staff, Moses led several million people to the banks of a giant sea while enemy chariots bore down from behind. Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his only son and his only hope for the fulfillment of God's promise of a great nation of offspring from whom the Messiah would come. Gideon, the self-proclaimed weakest person in Israel, headed into a valley filled with giant warriors to destroy them with the help of only thirty men. Esther dared to approach the powerful king—uninvited—to ask a questionable favor that incriminated his trusted advisor. David volunteered to take on a freak of a giant in hand-to-hand combat, one that even the king was afraid to face. Twelve men gave up everything to follow a man around the countryside who would end up dying a shameful death on a cross. What does this mean for us? We must understand that the requirements of faith for those people are really no different than the requirements for us today.

Can you "lose" it? Some people say, "What difference does it make? Just make sure you're there." Well, that's all great…until it comes to the belief system I raise my kids with. What if I'm wrong? What if I teach them in such a way that jeopardizes where they spend eternity? Or what if I teach them in such a way that cripples their view of God's character?