The Truth About God's Love
Telling the truth is the essence of memoir. Jack Deere tells the truth about his own life in order to share with us the truth about life in his new book Even in Our Darkness.
In it, he offers an unvarnished look at the Christian life—with all of its disappointments and disasters, addiction and sin—to tell us something essential about the greatest truth: God’s love.
Below are some vignettes of his life showcasing the truth about God’s love, beginning with his early understanding of God’s posture toward humanity and ending with the ultimate truth about this love.
Jack’s dad was the first person to tell him about God, which left a lasting impression:
Dad told me we were born with immortal souls. After we died, our soul would be happy in heaven forever or tormented in hell by endless fire...
He told me that when I died, I would arrive at the gates of heaven and stand before Saint Peter. He would take out two books and a set of scales. The first book contained my good deeds, the other my bad ones. Saint Peter would place the good deeds on one side of the scale and the bad deeds on the other side.
“If the good deeds go down, you go up,” he said. “If the bad deeds go down, so do you.”
My heart sank. (17, 23)
I would imagine many people (at times, myself included) have viewed God as this sort of Justice of the Peace who weighed our life deeds, with our eternity literally hanging in the balance. It would take a Billy Graham crusade to show Jack a truthful view of God’s love.
During the day-long event, the stadium scoreboard alighted with the words JESUS SAID . . . ‘I AM THE WAY . . . THE TRUTH . . . AND THE LIFE’—JOHN 14. “I had no idea what that meant,” Jack explains, “and I didn’t care, for Saint Peter’s scales had long prevailed, staving off any serious consideration of God (51). A few months later he would let go of those scales after encountering God’s love through his friend Bruce:
I’m not sure what prompted me, but on December 18, 1965, at 2 a.m., as I lay in bed in the dark, I asked Bruce how a person gets into heaven.
“You trust Jesus,” he said. “Jesus died on the cross for you. He will forgive you, come into your heart, give you a new life, and never leave.”
“That can’t be true, Bruce,” I said. “What if I do something bad later?”
“Jackie, you will do lots of bad things the rest of your life.”
“But how do you know God will never leave me?”
“Jesus said so.”
“Jesus said in John 10:28, ‘I give my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.’”
Bruce rolled over in his bed and went to sleep.
I stared at the ceiling as the promises rolled over me in waves:
He died for you. He will forgive you. He will give you new life.
And the most important:
He will never leave you.
He will never leave you.
He will never leave you.
I let go of something inside me.
I believed. (52)
Decades later Jack would reflect on that moment: “at my moment of belief, the idea of Saint Peter’s scales was forever banished—at least as far as salvation was concerned. Perhaps the only thing of which I was still certain was that no one gains eternal life through good works. It is through faith in Jesus alone. And once he is in our heart, he never leaves.” (228)
Near the end of his truth-telling effort about God's love, Jack reflects on the beauty and grandeur of this love, and what it ultimately means:
As a child, I could lie to others, but hadn’t yet developed the sophistication to lie to myself. I knew my bad deeds would always push down the scale. So I chose to enjoy my darkness rather than feel guilty about it.
Then I discovered that Christ had already borne the weight of my sin, and that once I accepted his gift, he would never leave. Yet Saint Peter’s scales lingered. In church I was told that as a Christian, my good deeds eventually would outweigh the bad. Then I preached versions of the same message.
But the evidence always contradicted the promise. My life stayed messy. I never stopped needing God’s mercy…
One truly good person was born into this world. This is the truth. If it were the only truth, then Albert Camus would have been right: suicide is a legitimate consideration. But there is another great truth.
“I no longer call you servants . . . Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15), Jesus told his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion.
He said this over a meal.
The only truly good and holy person wants to be our friend despite our messiness and all our failed attempts to clean ourselves up. The harmony of these two truths is the seed from which obedience flourishes. (276–277)
Pastor Sam Storms writes of Even in Our Darkness: “Jack’s story is really a story about friendship with a God whose love and faithfulness are constant, whether we are on top of the mountain or walking through the valley of the shadow.”
Explore more poignant, probing truths about faith, life and everything in between in Jack’s moving memoir to discover how, “at [Jack's] worst moments, God overpowers me with his affection” (269).
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