Three Stages of Relationship with Jesus, [Episode 46]
Recently, I preached about three stages or zones of being in relationship with Jesus. The three zones are the Celebrity Zone, the Savior Zone, and the Lord Zone. In today’s post I am going to lay out the three zones for you, so you can profile where you are in your relationship with Jesus right now. Hopefully, with this knowledge you also see what may be the next step toward greater maturity in your walk with the Lord.
Click the image below to download a chart that will serve as a handy guide as I walk you through the three zones.
Download the Three Stages of Relationship with Jesus Chart
These zones are reflected in a story in which Jesus confronts the disciples with a simple and yet life-defining question, “Who do people say I am?” He pushes the question further with the follow-up questions, “Who do YOU say I am?” How you answer that question will say as much about you (may be more) than it does Jesus.
Let’s begin by looking at the story as told by the Gospel writer Mark, in Mark 8:27-38.
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
ZONE 1: The Celebrity Zone
At first, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The people respond, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah, and others, one of the Prophets.” In short, people liken Jesus to authority figures they are familiar with. Essentially, they are pointing to the celebrities of their faith and saying, “Jesus is one of these exemplary guys.”
To the people who answer that way, Jesus is basically a celebrity. He is a famous person who everyone knows about. Yet, like most household name superstars, they don’t actively have any relationship with him. They might see him as a good role-model or a captivating speaker.
For many people today, that’s who Jesus is. He is just one of many great people. In their mind, nothing is unique about Jesus. They think of him as someone who led an exceptionally compassionate life and we would do well to adopt some of his teaching. But again, they have no relationship with or allegiance to Jesus. He has little to no personal impact or relevance to their lives.
ZONE 2: The Savior Zone
Next, Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” The word “Christ” isn’t Jesus surname. Christ is a title. The term comes from the greek word “Christos” meaning, “the anointed” It’s the greek equivalent to the word Messiah which is hebrew in origin, but means the same thing.
Who or what was the Messiah, God’s anointed, the Christos? If we look at those whom God anointed in the Old Testament, we find that the anointed were leaders chosen by God for a specific task, such as Kings and Judges.
Typically, those anointed by God were in a unique position of authority. They usually held an intermediary role between God and his people. They also often times where leaders called by God to free the Israelites.
When the disciples declare Jesus to be the Messiah, they are basically saying, “You’re the one. You’re THE guy who is going to save us. You’ve been sent by God and You’re our deliverance.”
The disciples understand Jesus as their Savior. He is a necessary and life-changing link between themselves and God. No one else can do for them what Jesus is going to do.
This is where the discipleship journey begins. We become disciples when we recognize the unique nature of Jesus as fully divine and human, sent by God to deliver us from our sin and death. We acknowledge that we are incapable of saving ourselves and look to God to save us.
Many, if not most Christians, get stuck in this zone, what I call the Savior Zone. This zone is a good and necessary stage of faith, BUT there are some limitations or inherent problems to this zone.
First, when you are living in the Savior Zone, the focus is mainly on you and your needs. Christians trapped in this zone can unwittingly have a consumer relationship with Jesus. They easily get stuck in reading and studying as a process of self-fulfillment and self-development. Savior Zone christians almost exclusively have a relationship based around their needs.
When we are in the Savior Zone, we talk in terms of “accepting Christ into my life” or “allowing Jesus into my heart.” Did you know that this language appears almost never in scripture? Instead, what repeatedly appears in scripture are words about being “in Christ.”
In some ways, the language we use is a bit audacious. Saying, “I’ve accepted Christ” is a bit like being a harden criminal, standing on the White House porch and saying, “I’ll receive the president now and allow him to pardon me.”
With maturity though comes humility. Maturity lead to greater submission which leads us into the Lord Zone. In the Lord Zone our relationship with Christ stops revolving around our needs and becomes about God’s desires. We see the Lord Zone reflected in Jesus’s explanation of himself following Peter’s acknowledgement of Jesus as the Christ which will look at in a moment.
In the meantime, until we mature, we strive to keep life the way we like it. We follow God only when obedience is convenient or fits our expectations. God is with us as our back-up and support. As a result, we experience only intermittent peace rather than a lasting expression of the peace that surpasses all understanding. Peace is fleeting during this stage because we waffle between doing things our way (resulting in pain and discord in our lives) and doing things God’s way (resulting in peace unlike the word’s peace).
Perhaps, you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “God is my co-pilot.” That sticker is reflective of a Savior Zone relationship with God. The unspoken sentiment is, “God, I’m in control here and you’re here to help me as needed. If something goes wrong, I’ll let you know and you can help.”
If that’s where you are, you might want to consider this bumper sticker which is reflective of the Lord Zone, “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats.”
ZONE 3: The Lord Zone
Jesus continues on and explains that he is going to have to suffer, die, and rise again. It’s a truth that doesn’t fit in the disciple’s expectations. Jesus’s words are a truth that the disciples don’t want to hear and it upsets Peter. He pushes back against the truth. Nevertheless, Jesus pushes on after rebuking Peter and declares,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
We see in Jesus’s response that the mature christian life isn’t about us at all. In fact, if we make it about us, we will lose everything. The mature life involves trusting God even when God steps outside of our expectations and comfort zone.
Whether we are living in the Lord Zone will be evident in our behavior. The Lord Zone is marked by obedience and service. Jesus’s words from Luke 6:46 come to mind,
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?”
The transition into this zone can be scary because it involves trust and submission. However, on the other side of trust and submission is the peace that surpasses understanding, because in trusting we come to witness God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness, and God’s divine wisdom.
Ideally, we come to a place where we realize not so much that we have accepted Christ, but that despite our sinfulness God has accepted us. We have the privilege of being allowed to be a part of His kingdom by His grace.
Paul captures the essence of The Lord Zone in his letter to the Colossians when he writes,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)
So, who do you say Jesus is?
How to mature and move forward…
I’ll go into specifics about how to move forward over the next couple of posts, but for now let me just say this. The journey from knowing Jesus as a celebrity to knowing Jesus as your Savior AND Lord, is primarily a journey of combined knowledge and experience.
Moving from the Celebrity Zone to the Savior Zone
The early transition from knowing Jesus as a Celebrity to knowing Jesus as Savior, revolves around recognizing certain truths. Specifically, realizing the reality of sin in our lives and that we are incapable of earning God’s forgiveness. We must recognize the need for God.
Many times this knowledge and awareness doesn’t occur until someone has a crisis. We do not however have to wait for a crisis. We can study God’s Word and learn. We can turn to God in pray and acknowledge our need. In doing so, we begin to establish a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus no longer will be just one of many exemplary figure. Instead, he comes to be the person in our lives who is THE person, the one person, who can save us from our sin.
Moving from the Savior Zone to the Lord Zone
The shift between these zones is one of greater obedience and making God the center of life, and not an extracurricular activity. Studying God’s word and striving to be faithful to the principles you discover in it is one way to yield your will over to God’s will.
Using your God-given gifts for the benefit of Christ’s body, is another great way to learn obedience. You may want to consider taking The Practical Disciple Course Fire Up Your Purpose, when I offer it again this fall. In it you’ll learn how to identify your life’s purpose so that you are using your gifts to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those whom you are passionately concerned about.
Focus on submitting. I have a simple morning ritual I do each when I wake up that reminds me to keep God my highest priority. I say when I arise, “I greet this day with joy for I am blessed. Lord help me to be a part of what you have in mind for this day.” This is a simple way to acknowledge that I want to put God’s desire above my desire.
The bottom-line of knowing Jesus as Lord is following even when it’s costly. How can you more thoroughly yield to God’s will today?
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