“Born-agains believe they can live any way they want once saved.” This is one argument of those who want to work for their salvation. They may even turn to James 2:17 for support, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
But throwing in an isolated verse, even a verse that out of context seems to support one’s point, does not make this concept biblical truth (the verse is true, the assertion is not). James makes a very different point. The context of James 2:17 reads (verses 14-18):
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 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.
James is telling believers that faith is shown through works. The one who believes will have accompanying evidence in their life. Paul said similar to those who believed in Christ in Romans 6:11-12, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” One who believes in Christ is to live for Christ.
However, no amount of abstaining, giving, living, or confessing is able to save us from the debt of sin we all possess. There is a danger of changing behavior to conform, and But faith in Christ makes us new creations, and as new creations, we are saved to glorify God, not saved to sin. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Are you a new creation through your belief in Christ and actively living out your faith daily?