Here’s my interview with Jeffrey D. Johnson about his book The Pursuit of Glory. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 113 pp., paperback.
Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed about your well written book which I enjoyed reading. Here are some of my questions for you about your work:
1. Can you please tell us more about yourself and the occasion in which you penned your book?
I am a pastor of Grace Bible Church in Conway, Arkansas (gbcconway.com) and the academic dean of Grace Bible Institute of Pastoral Studies. I have been married for 15 years to my wife, Letha, and we have four children (three boys and one girl). I love to snowboard, play the banjo, and write.
The book is a byproduct of the many years of counseling I have done. After teaching anger management for 10 years and counseling for 15 years, I saw the need for such a book. I wanted something I could give to people who were depressed about life. Our culture is screaming that our identity and purpose is found in ourselves. So many people feel empty, so it seems, because they have such a small and trivial purpose (such as getting a few “likes” on Facebook), and because they are unable to live up to this superficial and artificial standard. That is, people cannot even reach the low and insignificant standard they have place upon themselves. Deep down, we know we were created for something greater, something more lasting, and something real. If we can’t satisfy even a superficial purpose, what makes us think we can stratify a divine and eternal purpose? I wrote this book to explain that we were made for something beyond our abilities to reach, but also I wrote this book to show how God enables us, through faith in Christ, to obtain the highest possible objective—God’s glory. I am convinced that only when we live for the glory of God that we will find our happiness, purpose, etc…
Much of my counseling brought me to explaining these truths, so I thought, why not write a book on it.
2. Your work deals with nine topics: (1) glory, (2) happiness, (3) purpose, (4) freedom, (5) companionship, (6) truth, (7) peace, (8) holiness, and (9) life. In light of this, why did you entitle your book The Pursuit of Glory which is the title of your book’s first chapter? Why not The Pursuit of Happiness, or The Pursuit of Life?
I started with “glory” and ended with “life” because these two things are essentially the same thing. Kind of like a circle that brings the readers back to where we started. I titled the book “The Pursuit of Glory” because I believe the word “glory” best incorporates all the longings that God has placed within our heart. We all desire happiness, purpose, freedom, etc…, and all these things can be summarized by our longing for glory. That is, we long for something eternal, something lasting, something real, something truly praise worthy. Ultimately, we are all longing for God—to know and enjoy God.
And I believe that the world is seeking to replace the reality of the glory of God with some cheap counterfeit that can never satisfy. Man is depressed, guilt redden, and miserable, a state which leads him or her to be utterly discontent. Man longs for the glory of God, even though he or she does not realize it. And as long as they are seeking for glory in all the wrong places they will remain disillusioned and frustrated.
I have counseled hundreds of people over the years, and it seems that much of the time their emotional problems comes from having their eyes placed on the wrong thing(s), and their values being shaped by the customs of this evil world. Living for the American dream ends with dreamers waking up to a nightmare.
3. You state in your book that every human being is looking for glory that can truly satisfy him or her. What is this glory that people are looking for?
The short answer is God. God is the only thing that is truly glorious. The longer answer is that man is looking for glory, which can only be found in loving and enjoying fellowship with God. The Bible tells the strong not to glory in their strength and for the wise not to glory in their wisdom. Rather, the only ones who have the right to glory are those who can glory in the fact that they know God. We too often, myself included, want to find our purpose and happiness in ourselves—ether in who we are or what we have accomplished. Such thinking leads us to vain-glory and pride. Moreover, such thinking leaves us feeling empty and unhappy because we know that we are not even good enough for ourselves. It is a terrible enslavement to depend on the constant affirmation and praise of others. We all need something more, something greater, and something more glorious than self-praise and popularity. We need God. It is only when we are satisfied with God that we will ever be satisfied at all. He alone is enough. Everything else put together comes up short—way short.
4. What do you think is the unique contribution of your book to the study of glory? And if there are three important lessons concerning glory that you would like your readers to learn from your book, what would they be?
Overall, I hope my book demonstrates that our own pursuit of glory is tied to the glory of God. If we want to find glory, it will be found only when we enjoy God’s glory. Once our lives are satisfied in God’s glory, will we have glory—meaning, purpose, life, and others.
Three practical lessons would be:
First, having innate desires, cravings, and passions are not (in-and-of themselves) sinful. Even the longings of the body are good when we seek to satisfy them by lawful means and do not exalt the things of the world above God.
Second, the body and the soul both have longings/desires. The five senses of the body crave the things of this world, while the craving of the soul craves after God. Though our depravity and selfishness tell us that we can only be happy when the insatiable longings of the body are being contentiously fed, that real satisfaction is only found when the longings of the soul are satisfied in Christ.
Third, that every longing of the soul (e.g., the longing for glory, happiness, purpose, freedom, etc.) is satisfied in one place—knowing God through faith in Christ.
5. What projects are you currently working on?
For the last 10 years, off and on, I have been working on a systematic theology. I am about 1/3 done, so it will be a lifetime project. I have other smaller projects, however, that I am working on as well, such as revision and expanding a book I have written on the atonement, and a small little book on cessationism.
Note: To purchase a copy of The Pursuit of Glory, click here.