John Bradshaw - Free Fall
It's great to be with you today. I'm looking forward to opening up the Bible and getting in the Word. Before we do that, let's pray and thank God for His presence.
Father in heaven, before we open Your Word, we thank You. We ask Your guidance. We seek Your blessing. We appeal to You that Your Spirit would lead our thoughts. Bless us. Grow us. Thank You, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Nineteen seventy in Melbourne, Australia, construction was underway on what would become a magnificent bridge, the West Gate Bridge. Melbourne's central business district was growing, and so were the western suburbs. What was needed was a new roadway, a new bridge, to link the two. Now, if you would look at a map, you would notice that Melbourne sort of wraps around Port Phillip, which is, in a loose sense, a sort of a horseshoe shape. The Yarra River runs from Port Phillip up through the CBD of the city of Melbourne, which is really very beautiful. In 1970, construction was moving forward, and people were looking forward to this beautiful bridge being completed. However, trouble was spotted in the building of the bridge. As two spans were brought together, it was noticed that one and the other were off by 4 and 1/2 inches.
Now, there are times in life when 4 and 1/2 inches really isn't a lot, there are times when it's a whole lot, and this was one of those times. You cannot have a roadway on a bridge that isn't level. What do you do? "Well," they said, "we'll force one span down using 8 and 1/2 tons of concrete block". That's what they did. Now, before this time, some of the workers on the bridge had voiced concern. They they were worried that things might not all go to plan. A bridge very similar, of a similar design, that is, collapsed, part of it collapsed in Wales not long before this. So workers were saying, "How can we be sure the same is not going to happen here"? The superintendent of the entire construction project, the chief engineer, said, "This bridge is safe. You can be certain the bridge is safe. I guarantee it and stake my reputation on it". And so people believed everything would go well. They lowered the one span to meet the other, and that caused part of that span to buckle. Never a good thing.
And then it was realized the steel on that span was turning blue. Oh my! This was a real issue. And then at 10 minutes to midday, that great, big 2,000-ton span fell 180 feet to the ground, well, into the river and onto the ground, both. Some men, this is quite remarkable, rode the span down, and they survived. One man, in fact, fell from the span, and he fell onto some type of fabric that was stretched. It acted like a trampoline. He hit that and bounced away. He walked away. Some rode it down on top. Others, because it was a box design, were actually inside the bridge. It collapsed to the ground, and they survived. They were okay. But of course those were the exceptions. When that bridge fell, many people died. In fact, the bridge fell on top of the workers' huts, in which many of those men were eating their lunch. It was lunchtime. In total, 35 men would die. It was a terrible tragedy. It was due to human error. The bridge was in free fall. Disaster was the result.
Now, let me ask you a question. What happens when you are in free fall? It happens in our lives. Temptation comes, and before we know it, down we go. Temptation comes, and instead of running to Jesus, we...get everything wrong, and down we tumble. Bam! We collapse, with a crash. And that can be tragic. And that can have devastating consequences, and it's always human error, our error. What do you do after you've been in free fall? We were in Melbourne, Australia, recently, preparing for a large evangelistic meeting, and we filmed part of an It Is Written TV program right there, in fact, under that bridge, right under the bridge. Spoke to people who witnessed the cloud of dust rising when the span hit the ground. Hmm. And while we were there, we took the short hop to Hobart, Tasmania, because in Hobart in 1975, there was a similar collapse, similar but different.
Here's what happened. The Tasman Bridge connects downtown Hobart with what's known as East Hobart. There's comparatively little across the river. The airport is out there. Of course, it's grown in recent years, but in '75, not much. Still, the bridge connected those two sides of Hobart, and it spanned the Derwent River. I visited a little museum. In that museum, I read the very telegram sent by authorities to the captain of a ship called the Lake Illawarra. The Lake Illawarra transported zinc ore up the Derwent River to a plant where zinc oxide was extracted or manufactured. And the authorities told the captain, "You don't need a pilot on board the Lake Illawarra when you are going up the Derwent River. You can do it on your own".
Oh my. If that telegram had not been sent, history would be very different. Somehow the captain of the Lake Illawarra got way off-course, and that great, big ship collided with a pier, one of those uprights that rose up out of the Derwent River and supported the bridge. The pier came down, and so did part of the bridge. It came right down on top of the Lake Illawarra. Seven men lost their lives. But, in addition, there were vehicles driving across the bridge that came crashing down as well. A total of 12 people died.
Murray Ling was in one of those vehicles driving across the bridge. He looked ahead and noticed a problem. He wasn't quite sure what it was. If my memory serves me correctly, he noticed that some of the lights weren't shining. He said, "What's the problem"? Jammed on the brakes. The car skidded to a halt, and the front wheels ended up close to what now was the edge of a, well, how would you describe that? A cliff? A chasm? A drop-off? Hundred and fifty feet. The wheels of his car, but wait! There's a car coming up behind him that didn't stop in time. Boom! Right in the back of Murray Ling's vehicle. It pushed the front wheels off, of his car, off the edge of the bridge. Unh! Now, the car was not exactly teeter-tottering, but it was partly off and partly on the bridge. He and his wife climbed over into the back seats, no good going out the front door. Their two children with them climbed out of the car and onto the roadway.
Mr. Ling realized there'd be other people on this bridge: "What do we do about them"? He ran up the roadway to try to stop other vehicles driving towards death. He waved down one car. The driver paused; he looked at Mr. Ling like, "This is a crazy man. What's he doing on the bridge"? Drove around him, accelerated, and sped off the bridge... into the river below, and lost his life. It was another disaster, all due to human error. And there was a crash. There was a fall. What do you do after the falls in your life? What then? Because there are too many people who stumble, fall, flame out, crash and burn, and they become discouraged. They say, "God isn't with me". They say, "God can't help me. God certainly cannot love me after I've done what I've done. What do I do now"? Free fall. What do you do to recover from that? What do you do?
Now, I'm not trying to tell you that falling is an inevitability. It doesn't have to happen. What did Jude write in Jude verse 24? "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling". And I'm gonna read a verse to you from 1 Corinthians chapter 10, which speaks about God's ability to keep you upright and prevent you from falling. Temptation comes at us, doesn't it? But we've got to know this verse. First Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 13: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it". Did you get that? I hope you did. God says when temptation comes, there is a way to escape. But do we always take the way to escape? No, we don't. No, we don't, and disaster accrues. Disaster is the result.
God says, "I can help you. I can get you out of that". But do we always listen? No, we always don't. And we fall, and we end up bruised and bloodied and battered, and others, too. And what do you do then? What do you do then? What hope is there for you when you've fallen away from God? When you've fallen into sin? When you've embarrassed yourself? When you've shamed your family? When you've brought disgrace upon yourself or your employer or your church, and...? What do you do? Well, I want to show you a story in the Bible of somebody who brought great shame upon himself and his family and the church, if you'll allow me to put it that way. And I won't tell you his name, not just yet, but you'll figure it out pretty quickly.
Let's turn in our Bibles, or on our devices, to Exodus chapter 2. Exodus chapter 2, and as we begin reading in Exodus chapter 2, we discover this man was somebody who was called by God and who was raised in privilege. Exodus 2, verse 1, the Bible says, "And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi". Okay, this was the priest class. God said, "You Levites, you be the priests. You work in the temple services. You be the go-betweens between the people and the God of heaven. You are special, you Levites; you are special". So this is dealing with a Levite family. These were special people chosen by God. Verse 2: "So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him [for] three months". You know why, right? Because Pharaoh had said, the pharaoh of Egypt had said, "Kill all the Hebrew babies". And these parents couldn't bear that idea. They said, "No way. We will hide our son".
She hid him for three months, but, you know, 3-month-old children, typically their lungs are nice and developed by then, and it gets harder and harder to keep it a secret that you've got a 3-month-old child. "But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, [and] put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank". Okay, this will be good. I will hide my baby, and then what? Verse 4: "And his sister", this would be Miriam, "stood afar off, to know what would be done to him". What's gonna happen to the child? Can this possibly work out well? Verse 5 says, "Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river". Oh my goodness. Miriam is watching. How old is she? She can't have been a big girl by then. She's worried, what will happen to my baby brother? "And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept".
And she knew the score; she knew what was going on. "So she had compassion on him, and said, 'This is one of the Hebrews' children.'" What would she do with one of the Hebrews' children? What would she do? She certainly wouldn't take a Hebrew baby and offer it to one of the Egyptian young mothers and say, "Would you nurse this child"? That would be below an Egyptian. I tell you, compassion's a wonderful thing, isn't it? Compassion saved the life of this boy, saved his life. God worked this great miracle here, a great miracle. Look at this. Verse 7 says, "Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and call a nurse for you [of] the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?'" Wait a minute. I know just the woman. I know someone who can do this, and she and the child would get on just fine. "And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Go.' So the maiden went and called the child's mother".
Then God worked an incredible miracle, I think a phenomenal thing. Notice what it says in verse 9: "Then Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed him". At the beginning of the day, there's Moses' mother placing the basket, but maybe weeping as she did so, maybe crying out to God, "Will we see our child again? God, protect the child"! She must have sensed the injustice of it all, the great pain of losing a child. By the time the day was over, she got her child back, and she was being paid to raise the child by the rascal who had sentenced the child to death. What a turnaround. What an amazing God! "And the child grew," verse 10, "and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, 'Because I drew him out of the water.'"
Now, I want you to think about the miracles here. And I want you to think about the intervention of God here. A Levitical family, anointed by God, chosen by God. A death decree, but somehow, by the grace of God, he cheated that death decree. God paid his parents to raise their own child, and then Moses was raised in the lap of luxury and in the very heart of privilege. Moses. So what would Moses do in response to the blessings of God? What would Moses do in response to God's extravagant grace? What would he do? Well, we find out in verse 11: "Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand".
Did you notice this? This wasn't just murder; this was premeditated murder. This wasn't manslaughter. This wasn't something that was done in a fit of sudden rage. This was cold; this was calculated. It was. Moses saw the injustice being carried out. And so he looked around. Who would see me if I took care of this myself? Ah, nobody. And then he killed him deliberately, and then he tried to cover up his crime. Oh my goodness! How are the mighty fallen! Moses, chosen by God for greatness, committed a disastrous, disastrous crime and sin. And so the Bible says, "When he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, 'Why are you striking your companion?' Then he said, 'Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?' So Moses feared and said, 'Surely this thing is known!'" But God was not done with him. He wasn't done. Listen. You fall? God is not done with you.
Now, please, be very careful how you hear me. I'm not suggesting it's okay to fall. I don't mean that. But I do mean that when you fall, God is not done with you. God can put you back together again. Think of 1 John 2, verse 1. John wrote, "My little children, I write these things to you so that you [do] not sin". That's emphatic. It's clear. "I write these things to you so that you do not sin". But look at the very next words: "[But] if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous". Don't sin, but should you do so, there's an Advocate, and His name is Jesus. His name is Jesus. In the book of Hebrews, we are told to come boldly to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace to help in time of need. I'm not suggesting, as Paul said, "Shall we say, 'Oh, let's sin, then, so that grace may abound'? Oh, God forbid!" Paul said.
But when sin comes, when, when you find yourself in free fall, you can't just make the mistake of staying on the ground and wallowing in the mud of self-pity. You gotta let God pick you up, and go to Jesus and say, "Jesus, I can't do this without You. Lord, You've gotta save me. Lord, help me". That's what you've gotta do. You must pray that prayer. You must! Don't sin, John wrote, but if you do, there is an Advocate. Hallelujah! Would you say "amen"? I think I ought to hear you say "amen" from here. Amen. It's what God can do. You know, when we start the day, we don't typically start the day saying, "You know, I think I'm going to mess up today". Not typically. Sometimes, maybe some people. But a typical person who's longing to please God, look, even your typical person who's not longing to please God doesn't start the day saying, "I plan to be a louse today. I plan to be a scoundrel today". No one does that.
Many years ago, I was working in my hometown at a gas station, a BP gas station, and I was out on the forecourt pumping somebody's gas when a vehicle drove in. It was right on the main highway, right on it. You could easily pull in straight off the road. Somebody did, going way too fast, and he stopped in front of the pump, clearly didn't stop to buy gas. Ah, now I know what was going on. Somebody was in pursuit, drove up to him, screeched to a halt on the gas station forecourt right behind him, and a man mountain climbed out of a car, great, big South African man, an Afrikaner by the sound of his accent. How do I know? Well, because he spoke like one, and I could hear him bellowing. Who couldn't? "What were you doing"? He said, "You just about killed us! And we have our baby in the backseat"! This was road rage, long before road rage was a thing.
Well, the first man made one mistake: He left the window down. That was enough room for our South African friend to, Bam! Punched him. This man didn't even have a fist, he had a sledgehammer. Bam! I saw the hit. The window was wound up quickly. His wife: "Wind up the window quickly! He'll hit you again". It wasn't pleasant. He yelled at him again. He said some choice things, went back to his car, and one drove away, and then the other did. Evidently the first fellow had done something to upset the second man, and in a fit of rage, he pursued him and committed an act of violence that he should not have committed. Now, that morning, our South African friend I don't believe woke up and said, "Ah, seems like a great day to punch somebody. Seems like a great day to be violent".
I don't think so. Seems, you know, based on his ethnic background, more than likely he was raised in the, in the church, probably the Reformed Church, if I want to generalize, the Dutch Reformed Church, where he was not taught to be violent. But in that moment, anger got the better of him. A protective instinct kicked in. He was worried for his child, for his wife, maybe for himself. He took matters into his own hand. What do you think transpired later that night as he and she, his wife, lay together in their bed, head on their pillows? Do you think she said, "Way to go! I'm so proud of you, punching a defenseless man in the face like that, my hero"! I don't think she did. How do I know? But, more than likely, she turned and she said, "You proud of yourself for what you did today"? He'd have said, "I did it for you, honey". "Yeah, but did you need to do that? You could have killed that guy".
Upon reflection, I'm expecting, he would not have felt proud of himself at all. But he would've realized that in that moment he stepped on a banana peel, and down he went into sin. Free fall. What do you do then? Can God recover you when you fall? Oh, wait a minute. I don't mean when you get frustrated. I mean when you fall. There are a lot of people in this world who have really fallen. Maybe you're one of them. And if you're not, you know somebody who is. You see, we can give up hope in ourselves. We can give up hope for our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings. We can easily lose hope. We say, "Look, they've just fallen too far. They're outside the grace of God. Gone too far".
Aren't you glad that God is a God who goes after those who have gone too far? To what extent? I shall read you, based on what we've just looked at, one of the most remarkable collections of verses in all of the Bible. This is God we're talking about and how God deals with the fallen. Matthew chapter 17, starting in verse 1: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light. And behold", who? Who? "And behold", who was there with Him? "And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him".
The Bible says in another place they were discussing "His decease which He would accomplish at Jerusalem". They were there talking about His death. Hold on a minute! This is a murderer! He would have got the death penalty in some places. There was no justification for what he had done. It was in cold blood. It was premeditated. It was cold and calculated, and that brother who died was then resurrected (read about it in the book of Jude) and taken to heaven. And long afterwards, he appeared on the Mountain of Transfiguration as, as a token, as a representative of all of the people who would be saved through the death of Jesus after having been raised from the dead. Amen. This man fell. His fall was way more spectacular than the fall of the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne, Australia. Oh, it was terrible! This man who was in the grip of God's grace, had been, had been, this man, God had great plans for him. He said in the moment, "God, don't bother me now. I've got a work to do. I've got to kill somebody". And he killed him. Yet God restored him.
You see what God can do? God is in the restoration business. He's in the transformation business. Oh, no, don't sin! Oh, no, don't kill anybody! Oh, no, don't steal! Don't commit adultery! Don't... you know the list. Don't do that. No, no. But if you do, we have an Advocate. If you do, you remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Christ died for our sins". There's something many people, too many people, forget, and that's this: On this earth, we are called to grow, grow in the grace of God. Okay, so plant an oak tree. Plant one, and you come back two years later. What ya got? A little flimsy thing sticking out of the ground. That's all you've got. You could trample it and destroy it. You come back 70 years later? Oh my goodness, you have a magnificent, majestic masterpiece. It's huge, and it's beautiful.
What happened between year 2 and year 70? It grew. It grew. And the one thing we must remember in our Christian experience is growth. Jesus spoke about this in the book of Mark when He talked about salvation, saying, "You put the seed in the ground, and first the blade appears, and then the ear and then the full corn in the ear". We grow. We grow. Children are not born driving the car, feeding themselves, tying their shoelaces. They're born perfect. Yes, they are. They are born just like they should be at that stage of development, all going well. They're born right, and then they grow. At 1 year old, they can't even talk. Maybe they can't even walk, but they're growing, and you love 'em.
At 5 years old, they're ready for school, but they can't do long multiplication, and there's barely a 5-year-old in the world, outside of Uzbekistan, who can tell you what the capital of Uzbekistan is. They'll learn these, you don't know, either. It's Tashkent. They'll learn these things as they grow. They'll learn. You grow. Seventeen years old, driving a car. Fanta...well, maybe not, but that's growth. But are they running a business? No, probably not. Program a computer? Well, maybe, maybe some, but generally, no. Can they speak multiple languages? Some, but not all. You grow. We grow in this world. We grow physically; we grow socially; we grow mentally. Hey, we grow spiritually as well. Will you let yourself grow?
Now, when you've fallen, you've experienced that free fall, and the damage that occurs when you experience a sudden stop at the bottom. What do you do when you're broken? You look to Jesus. What do you do when you're battered? You look to Jesus. What do you do when you're in a mess? You turn to Jesus. And our God...is able. He can keep you from falling. Oh yes, He can. But should you fall, there was Peter walking on the water. The Bible doesn't say exactly what happened, but the waves were boisterous around about him, and we believe that he got distracted and took his eyes off Jesus. He began to sink. Oh, you fool, Peter. There you are, walking on the water, doing what no other person has done in history, other than Jesus. God has given you this great opportunity, and you blow it, and you're sinking now.
Did Jesus put His hand on His hips and say, "Hope you can swim"? He didn't say that, and He didn't do that. "Lord, save me"! And Jesus reached out, took him by the hand, and saved him. By the way, let me tell you something about these bridges, and you'll get the lesson right away. I have driven backwards and forwards across the West Gate Bridge one, two, three, four, I'm guessing 12 times, maybe more, round about. It's working perfectly. It didn't collapse, and it's not going to. It is now one of the busiest roads in all of Australia. That's really saying something. And nobody drives across that bridge worrying that it's gonna fall over like it did back in 1970. Nobody. You know one of the reasons why? After that collapse, they doubled back around and made sure that they did everything to a higher level of safety than they'd ever done before.
Workplace practices were improved, labor relations were improved, safety procedures were improved, and the bridge undoubtedly was made safer than it otherwise would have been made. I'll tell you something remarkable about the Tasman Bridge in, in Hobart across the Derwent River. What I read was you could knock down one of those piers today, and the bridge won't collapse. They re-engineered the bridge to make it safer than it ever was before. Isn't that amazing? So, in other words, the bridges are better after the fall than they would have been had the fall not happened.
Now, I don't want you to take this too far and run to an illogical conclusion. The fact of the matter is that you can be better after the grace of God, you just can. When Jesus restores you, He doesn't make you a revised version of who and what you otherwise would have been. He makes you better than you were before. When Jesus remakes you, He re-creates you, pours Himself into your life. And when Jesus comes back, and gravity no longer holds our feet on the ground, and we go up, we won't remember our stumbles and falls, our spectacular failures, we just won't. When we've been there bright shining as the sun, "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun". "Look at us now," we'll say. "Look at us now. Look at what God has done". And He'll do it, He'll do it for you.
Will you let Him do it for you? Will you? We experience free fall in our Christian experience way too much. But we can experience re-creation through the grace of God. You can. Your children can. Your grandchildren can. Your spouse can. Your friends and family can. Yes, friend, even you. You can. Do you have any doubt about what God can do in your life? I have no doubt. And the Bible has no doubt. There is no doubt, based on what this book says about what God can do for you, and He'll do it when you let Him. Let's let Him. Let's tell Him now. Pray with me.
Father in heaven, do Your work in our lives. Oh, we are sorry for when we have fallen. We get into a groove, into a rut, into a track. Seems sometimes like we can get stuck there, but You're able to keep us from falling. You are, according to the Bible, able to deliver us from out of any temptation that comes. We want You to do it. Take our hearts; make them Yours.
Friend, would you pray that prayer? Raise your hand if you pray that prayer. Lord, make my heart Yours.
Lord, forgive me for falling. Lord, keep me upright. Do that. Lord, I believe. I believe You can remake me.
Let's pray that prayer now. Would you raise your hand?
Lord, I believe; we believe. We accept You today. We ask You to work in us, "both to will and to do for Your good pleasure". Live in our lives now, we pray, and thank You, in Jesus' name. Amen and amen.