It is two sides of the same coin. When someone comes to follow Jesus, he is first their Savior. That means he rescues people from their sins. One Christian told me that the image conveyed is of a ship going down, and the people are saved from certain peril.
This image is not the end of the story. Once we have made Jesus our Savior, then he becomes our Lord. The picture here is that of a king sitting on his throne directing his kingdom. He tells people what to do and expects them to follow.
In the New Testament, the word for Savior is only used a few dozen times while the word Lord is used a few hundred times. Both ideas are equally valid for the work of Jesus, and his followers need to be familiar with both. The struggle always comes with Lordship and must be addressed repeatedly.
Everyone I know likes the idea of Jesus as their Savior. They love the idea of being free from their guilt and shame. No one rejects the good news of a God who wants to love and forgive them. Even non-Christians are easy to sell on the idea of someone removing all their stains and making them free for a new future.
Not everyone likes the idea of having a Lord. If I believe that Jesus is my Lord, then I need to do what he says. I must adjust my life and make changes to my actions. The words of Jesus will have the final authority in my life, and his ideas for my future may look different than my dreams. Making Jesus your Lord is the hard work of daily routines, changing behaviors, and adjusting my heart to look like Jesus.
Recently I received an anonymous card in the Church offering requesting that I “preach more Jesus.” Then I was told by another person that I do not preach enough about Jesus and grace. As a result of these criticisms, I have looked over my sermon list from the past year. The interesting discovery is that I did not preach that much about Jesus as our Savior. The past twelve months have been sermon after sermon about Jesus as Lord. Things like, if we follow Jesus, then it will affect our decisions, mouths, attitudes, outlook, and the way we treat others. This year I have spoken a great deal about Jesus; it is just that I taught about following him as our Lord.
We love to hear that Jesus is our Savior, but the struggle of the Christian life is also making him our Lord. You do not get to chose one without the other. Following Jesus is not about receiving a “get out of hell free” card, but about being transformed into a right relationship with God in every way. To make Jesus Savior without placing him as your Lord is to miss half of his reason for his coming. Be assured of this, the Jesus who was crucified is now both Lord and Savior (Acts 2:36).