It's amazing how easily people can believe a lie. As I was reading through Romans recently, I came across a verse that, while I had read it dozens of times before, it never really quite resonated with me until now. It's Romans 8:9, which says, "...And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." I think if the American church embraced this truth, not only would the church look very different, but our country would be changed as well. Why? Because right now, the common perception of salvation is false. It's incorrect; a lie; completely bogus. It preaches prayer as our salvation instead of the Spirit of God.
As a child, I was taught that all I had to do to become a Christian was Admit that I was a sinner and in need of God's grace, Believe that God sent His Son to die on the cross for me, and Confess to everyone that I was a Christian. And admittedly, at first glance, this does seem like a nice representation of the gospel. But here's the problem: With that kind of faith, the Spirit is no where to be found.
Romans 8:9 says that if you don't have the Spirit of Christ, then you don't belong to Christ. Thus, if you have the Spirit, you belong to Him. The problem is that most people think having the Spirit is just a nice addition or a special power-up. They think we can belong to Christ by simply praying at the altar after an emotional experience or by being a "good" person. But the Bible is telling us that we need the Spirit in order to actually be a Christian. Attending into church doesn't make you a Christian any more than frequently eating at Chick-fil-A makes you a chicken fillet. And what does it mean to be a Christian? The name Christian actually means "Christ-follower", or "little-Christ." Being a Christian means you imitate Christ. And we, being simply human, have absolutely no way and no hope in imitating God in our own strength. Sheer willpower, muscle, or elbow grease won't help. The only way for us to imitate God is if God helps. Here's where the Spirit comes in. The Spirit enters and makes His home in us. So then we have the Spirit of God living in us, but not only that, He's helping us imitate God. Why is this so important? Because He is very good at being God. Only God can imitate Himself. If you try it on your own (and I have: it doesn't work), you will become a fake.
Romans 8:11 says, "And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you." See, this is I love Romans 8! This chapter is overflowing with amazing verses! But let's settle down and, using logic, let's break this verse down. We know that A) the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, B) that same Spirit is living inside of every Christian), and C) that same Spirit will also raise us to life spiritually just as He raised Christ physically! Isn't that incredible? Romans 5:5 says, "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." It's by the Holy Spirit that God pours out His love! And Romans 8:15 says, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." There are two major truths about the Spirit here: It's because of the Spirit that we can be called sons and daughters of God, and it's because of the Spirit that we can pray. But let's look at the next verse, Romans 8:17, which brings everything into perspective. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Not is is it because of the Spirit that we can be called sons and daughters of God, and not only is it because of the Spirit that we can pray, but according to this verse, it's because of the Spirit that we are heirs in the inheritance of His glory. Wow. We have an inheritance in heaven, "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade" (1 Peter 1:4), and we have that inheritance all because of the Spirit.
And people think you can be a Christian without the Spirit? That prayers or actions are what earn our justification? No. It is undeniably and irrefutably the Spirit. Anyone who tells you different is a liar.