by JR Vassar
Life is a war for glory. Even those of us who have rested in Jesus to bring an end to our battle for glory still fight skirmishes in which we feel our reputations are at risk.
We live on a battlefield where we strive to attain glory and put it on display. We measure ourselves against others to see how we are stacking up.
Are we advancing in our careers fast enough? Is our romantic life lagging behind? Are our finances lagging behind? Are our gifted and talented children in all the right activities? Are we spiritual standouts?
We become slaves to our image and the glory that comes from being extraordinary. With every victory the glory counter goes up, and with every failure and folly the glory counter is reset, and we strive to recapture that lost glory.
The gospel has the power to liberate us from that because Jesus won ultimate glory for us. In Him we are given the unchanging status of justified and adopted children of God. We are fully known and fully loved.
God’s image is being restored in us, and we will one day “shine like the sun” (Matthew 13:43). What people say about us, what we say about ourselves, and what people do to us is trumped by what God has said about us and done for us in the gospel.
But the skirmishes rage on, and we still fight for the glory that comes from men.
When it comes to the issue of idolatry, pastors and theologians often refer to “near” and “far” idols, or “source” and “surface” idols.
Far idols, or source idols, are the few deep idols that rule our hearts, those we seek to secure for our identity and joy. These far idols consist of control, power, approval, and comfort.
Near idols, or surface idols, are those we use in an attempt to secure our far idols. For example, if our far idol is comfort, we might use a near idol such as food or pornography as an escape, a way to secure that comfort. If our far idol is power, we might use the near idol of money to give us a sense of power.
As we think through the issue of glory hunger and our desire for honor and recognition, we are dealing with the far idol of approval.
What we want more than anything is to have a sense of importance, significance, and worth, and it is possible that we treat Jesus and his gospel as a near idol to secure that far idol for us.
Jesus’s death and resurrection bestow on us glory and honor from the Father—absolutely. It is possible, though, that what we really want is not Jesus and God the Father but a sense of glory and honor that come to us from them in the gospel.
Our hearts are so inclined to self that we can use the gospel of Jesus as an attempt to make ourselves indispensable to God. The gospel says something wonderful about us, but it primarily says something wonderful about God.