It’s an honest question. Some are asking it openly. Others wish for an opportunity to ask it. Still others have the question lurking deep inside. I’ve discovered from experience that all three groups are present whenever I speak. Also, I’ve learned from letters and personal conversations with readers of my books that you are a part of one of these groups.
There are those who are undecided, openly inquiring about the Christian faith. Then, there are those who are uncertain, Christians longing to be sure of their faith. And finally, there are those who are unfulfilled, growing Christians, desiring the full measure of the joy and peace Christ promised.
All three groups are asking this same honest question from different perspectives. It’s a very legitimate question and our answer will be all-important.
The question is, simply, “Why be a Christian?”
Those of you in the first group of inquirers really want to know what difference being a Christian makes. Does it work? You in the second group of uncertain Christians are wondering whether it’s worth it to try to keep on living the Christian life, struggling against the current of cultural values and the lure of self-satisfaction that dominates nine out of ten of the people around you. Is it worth it? And you in the third group are wondering if Christianity really has any power. You are not fulfilled by your Christian faith because you have not personally received the evidence of the abundant life you read about in the Bible, and which others talk about so glibly.
Beneath all these questions of all three groups — Does Christianity work? Is it worth it to be a Christian? and, Where’s the power? — is the more fundamental question (yes, let’s dare to ask it) “Why be a Christian at all?” Let’s throw caution, propriety, and pretense aside and ask this question. Why not? It’s on all of our minds!
A Powerful Answer To An Honest Question
The author of Hebrews gives us a powerful answer to our honest questions. It is in one of the most propitious and comforting of the Bible’s “He is able” ascriptions about Christ. It is also the one that needs the most careful explanation. One thing all of us, in all the three groups I’ve mentioned, share is a unison groan over theological terminology. We want reality, not lifeless words. So I want to be as free of “preacher talk” as I can be in considering this exclamation about the enabling power of the Lord: “He is able to save to the uttermost.” Remember that the words “He is able” mean that He, Christ, has all power.
Why be a Christian? Does it work? Is it worth it? Where is the power? Let’s take a look at this stunning promise.
Christ Is Able To Save
We’ve all been pressed with the presumptuous question “Are you saved?” It’s usually asked in a pious way, drenched with superiority, as if the questioner really knew all the many-splendored facets of a positive answer.
One Sunday, a new member of my congregation brought her parents to a Sunday morning service. While they sat in the sanctuary waiting for the service to begin, an usher, who was looking for places to seat people, noticed there were two empty seats in their pew.
“Are these two saved?’ the usher asked, referring to the two seats.
“They sure are!” the young woman responded, thinking the usher was asking about her parents. When they all realized the question had been misunderstood, they joined in a good laugh. It would be less than effective to have an usher, or anybody else for that matter, going up and down the aisles checking peoples’ spiritual pulses with the diagnostic inquiry “Are you saved?”
I can remember, as a lad of thirteen, being conscripted against my will to attend a children’s evangelistic service. At the end of a long sermon that went straight over the heads and hearts of all the children (most of all, mine!) the preacher started to “draw the net” — a term used by some evangelists to describe gathering in the converts. (What fish was ever brought willingly into a boat in a net?) For hours, the preacher went on explaining salvation in terms most adults would find irrelevant, if not boring. To the children, it was frightening.
As this 1940s Jonathan Edwards fervently waxed on with his own rendition of “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” I said to a pal next to me, “I want to get out of here!”
When the preacher said, “Those who want to be saved and washed in the blood of the Lamb, stand up,” I remained resolutely seated, just long enough to establish that I was not responding to the speaker’s invitation, and then I stood up and marched out, determined never to enter a church again. I remained faithful to my teenage promise until some years later when I really understood what it means to “be saved.”
Perhaps this is why I’m sensitive to all three groups. You may be put off by the word “saved” because you have heard it used carelessly without an explanation of what it means. Or you may have used the word yourself without the music of its joy. And you may be saying, “Sure, I’m saved, but from what and for what? What difference has it made in the rough-and-tumble of life?”
An enthusiastic young woman who is a new Christian has had what sounds like an authentic experience. “The thing I like about Christ’s salvation is that it’s so down to earth. It’s for me, it’s for now, it’s forever.” She didn’t leave anything out — her salvation was practical, it was working in her life now, and she had a peep at the last page and knew it included heaven.
What is said of some Christians could not be said of this young disciple. Ever hear it? “Some Christians are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good!” Not so among genuine Christians. The assurance of heaven intensifies their living on earth.
Now back to you. I’m fully aware that the word “save” in “He is able to save to the uttermost” may be tarnished for you from overuse or dulled by familiarity. And yet, maybe our task is not to find new words but to put the red-blooded flesh of life on the old ones through an explanation in contemporary phrases.
“Save” is a power word. In fact, it’s the most powerful verb in the Bible. The entire sweep of its use in both the Old and New Testaments means deliverance, healing, wholeness, new life now, and eternal life forever. The cornucopian word of the Scriptures overflows with matchless treasure. “Save” encapsulates all that Christ came to do, has done, is doing, and will do for us.
Through His life, death on the cross, victorious resurrection from the dead, and present power, Christ is able to deliver us from the loneliness of separation from God; is able to free us from guilt over past failures, able to repattern our minds with a new image of ourselves and our potential; able to liberate our emotions of debilitating fear, anxiety, and worry; and is able to make us whole, integrated, complete persons, altogether new in every way for this life and eternity.
Christ has the power to save the inquirer in his or her sense of estrangement, the struggling Christian from discouragement, the unsatisfied, unfulfilled believer from dissatisfaction with his or her present stage of growth.
The Christian life is dynamic. (Reminder: the word comes from the Greek dunamis — power. So does dynamite!) It must have a definite beginning, it is constantly growing, and it is never fully complete until we reach heaven. It is a personal relationship with Christ. And as we’ve said repeatedly, the power He has to save is released in us by His indwelling presence.
We are permanently saved when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord. Once and for all — our souls, minds, bodies. We have both the status of saints, people who belong to the Savior, and security that our standing will never change. Life’s biggest insecurity is healed; we belong to God our Father.
What power this security gives us. It meets the deepest longings of our hearts, fills the empty void inside, gives confidence and courage. We are free from having to earn our status by competing with others or establish our worth by trying to be adequate. We have been elected to receive power, not continually to struggle for human control.
We are also saved persistently. Dwelling in us, Christ continues the process of salvation, healing our character and personality, and consistently presses us on to what Paul calls the “fullness of the stature of Christ.” We are people programmed for progress. Being saved is being made in the image of Christ. We have His inner power.
So to those asking, “Is it worth it to be a counter-Cultural Christian?” my response is “Yes!” But it depends on what’s really important to us. If we spend all our energies gaining the approval, accolades, and awards of human success, we’ll probably get plenty of cheers from culture, though it may mean some costly compromises along the way. Each compromise cuts off Christ’s power — stalls us in our soaring. Christ’s power is not given to make us culturally successful, but to be His servants in our culture. If professional or monetary success comes our way without compromising our commitment to Christ, we can use our positions to forward the Kingdom and our money to support Christ’s mission for the spiritually and physically hungry.
I had the privilege of giving the invocation at two banquets, each honoring a personal friend who has risen to a position of human power without losing the flow of Christ’s power. Both have eight things in common: they have put Christ first in their lives; they are filled with His indwelling power; they spend time in the Word and in prayer and consistently commit their decisions to Christ’s guidance; they are husbands in long-term marriages and are caring fathers; they are dedicated to excellence in their work, with Christ as their real boss; they are involved in personally sharing their faith with individuals and are actively leading causes to alleviate social suffering and remove injustice. It just so happens that these two men work for the same company and one has succeeded the other.
The retirement banquet for George Moody, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Security Pacific Corporation, was a celebration I’ll not forget. The important thing for me was to listen to the account of George’s rise to being one of the truly great business and humanitarian leaders of our time, while never missing a day of growth in the depth of his salvation. He was saved at an early age and he is being saved as Christ continues His work in him, opening the floodgate of His power in response to George’s commitment of his immense challenges as lay leader of the American Red Cross and countless other causes, including being chairman of the board of my radio and television ministry.
John Singleton, following in George’s footsteps, is now Vice-Chairman of Security Pacific Corporation and Chairman and CEO of Security Pacific Automation Company. The banquet honoring him was in support of one of his primary ministries as a servant of Christ. He has on his heart the poor, homeless, hungry, and broken men and women on the streets of skid row in Los Angeles. He believes that, through the power of Christ, people can be redeemed, rehabilitated, and returned to a positive place in society. This has involved him in leadership of the Union Rescue Mission and as the stemwinder of a campaign to raise missions for the work and a new building to house the homeless.
With equal zeal, John teaches an adult Sunday School class. Every time I visit with him, he’s on fire about some new discovery he’s made in his study and teaching of the Scriptures. Christ has him on the growing edge on all fronts, including developing a network of other top executives across the nation committed to servant ministry.
I see the same quality of growth in “being saved” among people in my congregation who are in the entertainment industry. I think of Clint Holmes, who is one of the rising singing stars in America. I’ve seen him bring tears to the eyes of the most secular audience imaginable, and the same audience to their feet for a standing ovation. And then to top it off by singing them into the agape heart of God.
If you were to ask Clint and his lovely wife, Brenda, if it is worth it to hang in there against the cultural currents that could easily take their life in a very different direction, they would answer that there’s no other way than to keep on growing in Christ who saved them and is saving them. They express this commitment to grow in their salvation by daily prayer and study, involvement in support groups with other Christians, and by sharing their faith with nonbelievers.
It’s easy to be critical of a lot of what comes out of Hollywood. What many do not know is that there are a great number of actors and actresses, writers, producers, directors, and technical people who are deeply committed to Christ. At great cost to their careers and time, they take their stand for what they believe.
Growing in “being saved,” realizing the full measure of Christ’s transforming, healing, repatterning power, is the goal of so many people whose stories I’d love to share. They are discovering that Christ saved in several in ways: initially, intensively in their inner lives, and inclusively in all phases of their relationships and responsibilities. And let me add another important in: their discipleship is intentional. A spiritual awakening is taking place in our congregation because of those who are convinced that Christ is able to save to the uttermost.
Spiritual Formation
As a congregation, we are so convinced of our need to grow on in the experience of uttermost salvation that we have established on our pastoral team a position called Pastor of Spiritual Formation. Dorothy Cross, a national leader in the spiritual formation movement, has joined our team to work with people who want to experience a complete, thoroughgoing renewal of their total lives.
Our prayer for ourselves and our congregation is the same as Paul’s for the Galatians — that Christ may be formed in us (Galatians 4:19). We want to press on in being saved, so that our assurance of salvation is coupled with assimilation of Christian character. Bible study, prayer, classes, small groups, retreats, along with joyous worship, are the church’s programmatical responsibility to encourage uttermost salvation.
Christ Saves Perpetually
Why be a Christian? Because Christ saves — perpetually and for perpetuity. It is a great comfort to know that the Father gave Him the assignment of watching over us — now, during the years after our conversion, and finally as He sees us through death and on to heaven.
Does that sound a bit old-fashioned? If so — I’m guilty as charged. There’s no other clever way to say it. Christ does, in fact, take you and me on as His responsibility. He watches over us, ever attentive to our needs. But what about death?
The Frightening Loose End
One big, dangling loose end that twists about in so many of us is anxiety over death. We all want to live as long as we can here on earth. The thought of all that we will leave behind — unfinished, unexpressed — haunts us. Departure for the walk through the valley of death also means the anguish of leaving loved ones behind. But all of this is on the surface of our anxiety.
Death really troubles us because we can’t control it. With good health habits we may postpone its arrival, but eventually it will come. Our need to be in control of our lives, people, and circumstances is threatened each time we think of death, our own dying, or go through the death of a loved one or friend.
We can’t live to the fullest now until we are sure that we will live forever. Christ alone can put the fear of death behind us — but not until we give up the need to control even this final scene in the last act of the drama of our life on earth.
Be as honest with yourself as you can. Has the Lord of the Loose Ends tied down this final loose end for you once and for all? He is able to save to the uttermost; from death for heaven. Are you sure of that for yourself? Christ not only conquered death, but conquers fear of death in us — our own dying and the death of those we love. The only passport to heaven is faith in Christ. It’s not what we’ve accomplished that will qualify us, and our failures will not disqualify us.
Why be a Christian? Because Christ is able to save us from a lifelong anguish over dying.
For Whom Is The Promise Given?
Now we are prepared to ask, for whom is this “He is able” exclamation given? Whom does Christ save to the uttermost? The author of Hebrews draws us on, telling us it is for “those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). The Greek word for “those who come,” proserchomenous, is from a verb meaning to come with consent. The idea is that we come in response to a call, an invitation. We would not come if we were not first called; we could not elect to respond if we were not elected. The Father is behind it all.
We turn to Jesus’ promise to underline this astounding grace. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). In the Greek, “no means” is a double negative for an unlimited positive: I will “no, not” cast out. For you and me, Christ’s invitation is initially and consistently “Come!” “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”
The gift of faith is given to us so we can come to Him. Not even the ability to respond is our self-generated achievement. “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to the cross I cling.” The ultimate loss of control brings our lives under Christ’s control — now and forever.
How does Christ do it? The last phrase of this “He is able” assurance in Hebrews 7:25 tells us: “since He always lives to make intercession for them.” As our High Priest, Christ is constantly interceding for us. He is our link with the Father’s heart, bringing our needs to Him and then bringing to us the Father’s guidance, wisdom, and power.
Christ is our eternal cheerleader. He’s for us, not against us. He desires His best for us and is working in and around us to accomplish it.
Why be a Christian? Christ Himself is the answer. A personal relationship with Him is life’s greatest joy. He alone has the power to save us now, in the days to come, and when we face the transition we call death. He is pulling for us each step of the way. This is why we should be a Christian.
It’s the most powerful life, the most joyous life, the most exciting life, the most creative life, the most challenging life, and the most hopeful life! It’s the only way to come alive and stay alive — now and forever.
From Lord of the Loose Ends by Lloyd Ogilvie, (c) 1991, Word Books, Dallas, Texas.

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