I grew up in a Christian home. My parents both love Jesus and they did there very best to obey his commands and to raise my siblings and I up in the church and in the ways of God. They did a great job and I owe them so much for building a faith foundation in my life.
But despite my upbringing I approached high school I was weak to the temptations of the world and the yearning for popularity and fame through athletics. And so, for a season, I set my faith aside and I ran after the things that I thought I was missing out on, girls/parties/crude humor/and the like. For two years I chased these things despite the fact that I knew deep inside they weren’t giving me the joy I was looking for, and it wasn’t until late October of my senior year that the Lord broke me trough a serious of circumstances that involved a pig, alcohol, driving, and an extension cord.
The night I was pulled over by police and my Dad came to pick-up me and my car at 2:30AM was one of the worst nights of my life. I sat in a dimly lit living room staring at the blood shot eyes of my mother, who could say nothing through her silent tears but the words, “I am so disappointed in you.” The godly guilt I felt for crushing my mother crushed me, and I promised to do whatever it took to earn back the respect of my parents.
One part of my consequences from that night was that I had to meet with my high school youth pastor. Our church had hired a new youth pastor since I quit going so I didn’t know the new guy very well, and as I sat in a chair across from him at a Barnes and Noble store in Maple Grove I was unsure what to expect. We talked for awhile and I started to connect with him. He was a former high school athlete who seemed to understand the pressures high school kids faced. I was really enjoying our conversation until he turned the corner and asked me a few questions that made me really uncomfortable.
First he told me a story. He told me a story about a man who operated a life bridge. You know, one of those bridges that stays down for trains to drive across over a river, but then when a boat comes the bridge lifts straight up into the air so the boat can pass underneath. Well this guy had worked as the bridge operator for many, many years. And one year his son asked if he could go to work with his father for a day and see what his dad’s job was like. The father was overjoyed at the thought of spending a special day with his one and only son, and so they got up early one morning, packed identical lunches, packed in identical brown bags, and walked hand in hand along the mile long path to the bridge station.
The morning went by quickly and the father and son had a wonderful time waving at the train that passed by and enjoying one anothers company. After lunch the boy was restless and asked if he could explore around by the river for awhile. The father said Ok and off the boy went.
Soon after the boy left the father got a message over the intercom that an unexpected train was headed his way and he needed to lower the bridge. The man quickly flipped the bridge switch into the descending position, pressed a button and stepped out of his station as he watched as the large gears and pulleys began to lower the bridge.
Not long after he did this was the man shaken by the noise of a horrific scream. The scream came from the lungs of his precious son who had somehow become stuck in the gears. The man ran back towards his station to stop the bridge from descending, but as he did he saw a fully loaded passenger train carrying hundreds of men, women, and children come down the track. He was faced with a horrible choice: either he could stop the bridge to save his son and hundreds would die in a train crash, or he could sacrifice his son in order to save the lives of people on the passenger train.
It is a terrible decision no one should have to bear, but here is what he did - the father gave the life of his one and only son, so that the people on the train might have a chance to life.
Then that youth pastor looked me in the eye and he said this, “There are 4 kinds of people on that train. Those who were too busy reading their Kindles and iPads to notice what happened. Those who think they saw something, but they don’t get worked up about it, and they quickly forget. Those who are broken for what they saw but later, after the feeling goes away, they move on. And finally there are those people who see the sacrifice the father made, are broken by it, and who change the way they live from that point on out of a deep, deep gratitude to the father and the sacrifice of the son. Now Brenton - which person are you?”
And I ask you - which person are you? You see the story of the father and the son at the lift bridge is really the story of God in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to earth, to pay the penalty for yours and my sin by dying a horrific death on a cross, and raising up in victory from the grave. And you and I have a choice to make about our response to God. We can be busy and ignore what Christ did for us. We can think it over and then go on living like nothing happened. We can be moved by it, for a time, but eventually we return to our old ways of living. Or we can bow in gratitude and thankfulness to God, be broken by him because of the great grace shown to us despite our filthy sinfulness, and reorient our entire lives to life for him.
You must make that choice. I must make that choice.