Glory Hunger by JR Vassar: A Book Review
A favorite scene from one of my favorite movies is the moment when Anne Shirley learns that she has won the Avery Scholarship. Her fellow students pick her up, carrying her on their shoulders, and they laud her accomplishment with cheers! There’s something supremely satisfying about that kind of glory — better than a thousand clicks on any “like” button could ever be.
According to JR Vassar, my identification with that scene points to a condition all humans have shared since our kind first drew breath in Eden’s sweet garden. In our deepest hearts, we were made for glory. We are designed to value greatness, to respond to it in others. We want to possess greatness, and we want to be recognized and appreciated for it. Tragically fallen, however, our God-given response to glory has become a selfish, enslaving need. I want “a ‘yes’ spoken over me by everyone.”
This quest for “rogue glory” results in Christians who measure their worth by their Klout score or the number of re-tweets they can rack up in a day. “We are broken people looking to other broken people to fix our broken lives,” when something far greater is available: the glory that comes from God. This comes in the form of a verdict of fully-loved-and-completely-accepted, handed down from the highest court in the universe. With that foundation firmly in place through the gospel, the believer is free to:
- Quit rolling the Sisyphean boulder of approval up Mount Expectation every day.
- Renounce narcissistic concern over image management.
This freedom leads to priorities based on a clear view of reality. Hence, even a fallen creature can “love what is most lovely, value supremely what is supremely valuable, and glorify most what is most glorious.”
Chapters 1-4 of Glory Hunger set up the tragedy of this preoccupation with self, while chapters 5-8 shift the focus from diagnosis to treatment: what to do about “our affections, [which] tend to be disproportionate to the objects loved.” Vassar uses Scripture to showcase the ultimate worth of God, extracting practical guidelines for maintaining a right and reality-based view of a man’s or a woman’s identity and urging the reader to consider some ultimate questions:
- What does the cross say about humanity? Before the cross, “we shrink to our true size,” says John Stott, and yet see evidence that we are loved and worthy before God.
- What is the source of all blessing? A thankful heart is the sure antidote to competing with God for glory.
- How important is human praise? The discipline of obscurity ensures that our righteousness is practiced before an audience of One.
- Is ridicule worth the greater glory of following Jesus? Full-blast discipleship is costly in a culture that does not applaud radical devotion to holiness.
Vassar comes back to the gospel at every turn because the glory hunger that gnaws away in the heart will be legitimately satisfied only in pursuing glory for God and seeking approval from God. This satisfaction is borne out in a life characterized by service to others and concern for their glory rather than exploitation of others in greedy self-promotion. Glory Hunger is an invitation to die — to fall to the ground like seed and bear fruit, not in the limelight, but in the warm, life-giving glow of God’s approval.
This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my unbiased review.