Excerpt taken from Thad's first book, "Real Identity" (pg 303)
“You have to read the book,” a pastor told me. Turns out he’s a personal friend of the author and it’s on every best-seller list in the country.
I got the book and read it. It felt to me like a delightful infusion of a child’s faith pouring into my veins.
This little four-year-old boy, during a life-threatening operation, caught a glimpse of heaven and slowly, over weeks and months, told his dad and mom about what he saw. His dad wrote the book. His dad’s a pastor of a church.
“Daddy, what’s a funeral?” the boy, Colton, asked.
“Well, buddy, a funeral happens when someone dies. A man here in town died, and his family is coming to the church to say good-bye to him.”
“Did the man have Jesus in his heart?” the four year old asked.
“I’m not sure, Colton,” his dad replied, “I didn’t know him very well.”
With that, Colton got worried and insisted, “He had to have Jesus in his heart. He had to know Jesus or he can’t get into heaven!”
The same scene repeated at the church. It was the first time Colton had ever seen a casket. When he learned the dead man was inside, the worry came back.
“Did that man have Jesus?” Colton said, nearly shouting. “He had to! He had to!” The outburst caused his mom to snatch him up and take him outside. “He can’t get into heaven if he didn’t have Jesus in his heart,” he kept saying.1
A little boy who’d spent a little time in heaven. With a simple message. One that grown-ups have a hard time hearing.
At least that’s been my experience.
A few weeks ago I was at a funeral. I could tell the pastor loved the dear woman who had died. She had spent years in the church. A gentle soul, a person overflowing with kindness. That, of all her gifts, was her legacy.
The pastor’s message was heartwarming as he remembered story after story of this great woman’s life. He encouraged us to make godly choices and live godly lives as she had done. He wanted us to know how much God loved us. And that she was safe in heaven now. Cheering us all on.
It was a gentle, sentimental message, touching the heart. I could hear people around me responding with quiet sobs. The pastor honored the remarkable character of this woman, but in doing so forgot the simple message.
Then came the eulogies. One of the woman’s sons rose to the microphone. So like his mother—gracious and kind. After a few minutes of remembrance, he told us the most comforting words possible for a grieving soul. His mother knew Jesus.
“It may seem strange,” he told us, “and hard to understand. But having cancer might have been the best thing that ever happened to her. Not that God caused it, but that He used it for her good [see rom. 8:28]. It was this diagnosis, and the ominous ‘less than two years to live’ that moved her to turn to the Lord. We all saw her prayers answered because He changed her from being an active church-going woman to being a real and courageous follower of Jesus Christ. I am so proud of her.”
There was comfort in his voice. Comfort that it was all true. What the pastor said. His mom was safe in heaven now. Because of Jesus Christ.
And then he did what Colton did. With compassion and sincerity, gentleness and care, he invited the people to have the same personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To have Him in our hearts. Now and forever.
Funny how we grown-ups avoid the subject. We get so afraid that people will think we’re pushing our religion on them. But Jesus said it so clearly, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The message is almost too simple. The way to the Father, the way into heaven, only happens through His son.
Because He’s the only “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Because His blood is the only blood that has been presented to, and accepted by, our Father in heaven securing the forgiveness of our sins (see Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:11–28).
Because His death tore in two the veil that separated us from God, thereby giving us “confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil” (Heb. 10:19–20).
He is the way to the Father. The only way.
It’s why the early Christians called themselves the people of the Way (see Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It’s why their message was a simple one.
A Colton message.
No one else. No other name.
So many people hate this about Christians. They say we’re “narrow-minded”; “intolerant” of other faiths and personal beliefs; “arrogant” to think we’re the only ones in the world who have the key to get into heaven. They find it hard to hear that a Champion has come. That He has done what no one else has ever done—or could do. He has opened the gates of eternity by His blood.
And then sent a four year old to tell us the good news.
Questions for Reflection
Sometimes when the news is so bad, so frightening, what we need most is simple faith, a childlike faith, to see and believe in Jesus. Have you ever longed for that infusion of a child’s faith and received it?
In Ephesians 2:18, we are told the best news: We have access to the Father through Christ by the Holy spirit.
Access is one of the most profound and beautiful words of the Bible. It can be yours today in Jesus. Can you imagine it?
Are you different because of it?
1Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville: Thomas nelson, 2010), 57–59.