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12,000-plus teens attend youth evangelism conference

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BP)–More than 12,000 teens descended on Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center March 4-5 for the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Youth Evangelism Conference, with 1,570 of them making spiritual commitments during the Friday night session — the conference’s largest response to a decision time in the past seven years.

The youth and their sponsors –- who topped last year’s attendance of 11,500 — gathered Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Murfreesboro, Tenn., university and met in smaller groups in area churches on Saturday morning.

Youth evangelist Tony Nolan from Woodstock, Ga., who addressed the conference’s two main sessions, asked the youth on Friday night to imagine they had just been diagnosed with a terminal infection of the heart, and then a famous person gave them a heart for a transplant.

That is what Christianity is, Nolan said. Every person is sick. God’s Son, Jesus, is the famous person who can provide each person a new heart. Finally, in the spiritual analogy, the transplant recipient gets to live forever.

Nolan likened the Bible to a health book and God to “the greatest doctor in the world.”

Everyone has the same terminal infection of rebelliousness, he said.

Dr. God says the infection is so bad that it will lead to death, as cited in Romans 3:23, Nolan said.

Many students say “No, not me, Bro. Not me.” But he challenged them by noting that many of them are taking drugs because they think it is fun; they are engaging in premarital sex because somebody is “so hot”; they’re lying and cheating; and they’re hating others because “you don’t know what they did to me.”

He asked the teens what they are all about — shopping, clothes, TV, movies, guys, girls, being cool.

“Most of us are all about ourselves,” Nolan said.

In response to the question, some might say, “Yeah, there’s a trace of that going on, but so what?”

“God’s health book says it’s a very big deal,” Nolan declared, noting that sin can lead to physical and eternal death.

They might be afraid of death, which is the top fear of Americans, Nolan said, but more importantly, the question is, Are they prepared for death?

God will judge their lives after death, Nolan said. It’s like “the ultimate report card day,” he told the youth, when God will “evaluate the condition of your heart” and decide where they will spend eternity.

In today’s postmodern culture when many people don’t want to accept responsibility for their actions, hell is something people “don’t like to talk about,” Nolan said. Hell is a place where people are in a “state of dying that never ends.”

“If you never treat your rebellious heart condition, you will spend eternity burning to death,” Nolan declared.

Some of the students are “just gaming with God,” he said. “It’s not a game.”

God is not mean or hateful because of hell and its suffering, Nolan said. “Not Dr. God. Have you heard of John 3:16? God loves you.”

God showed that He loves people by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for their sins, Nolan continued.

He referred to the brutal death Jesus suffered, noting that Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of The Christ,” showed only “a slight hint of what happened to Him.”

What Jesus really did was “give up His heart to give you a new one,” Nolan said, referring to His death for sin as a “spiritual heart transplant.”

The metaphor also is confirmed by the psalmist when he says God gave him a new, clean heart, he said.

Students must beware of the devil, who will try to distract them from choosing God and His way, Nolan said.

He noted heaven will be a place without terrorism, death, war, tears, alarm clocks, watching siblings, curfew and school lunches.

“What people kill for here we will walk on there,” he said, referring to gold.

To go to heaven, they must stop trying “to figure it all out,” admit they need surgery from a specialist and sign the consent form, Nolan said.

“Listen, stud, stop arguing with God. Agree to change your rebellious heart. Wouldn’t you like to have a heart transplant?”

Students were then invited to commit themselves to God. They stood to show their commitment and then filled out cards that were gathered by their adult sponsors for follow-up.

In the Saturday afternoon session, Nolan used the story of a convenience store robbery to show the students the devil is trying to rob them, although in reality he is unarmed.

The devil is known for ambushing, attacking and raging at Christians who then give over their emotions and thoughts and say, “Just don’t attack me anymore.”

Christians need to know that Satan and his followers are the principalities and powers referred to in Colossians 2:15. They have been disarmed by God, Nolan said.

In the Garden of Eden, God warned Satan and then “ignominiously defeated the devil.” The battle has already been won, although Christians are needed for smaller struggles, such as witnessing.

Students don’t witness because they will be ostracized and won’t be in the clique anymore, Nolan observed.

“Go back to your campus and go back with a passion, a passion for the Word of God,” he exhorted said. “Share the message of Jesus.”

They shouldn’t worry about the results, but leave that up to God.

Students of another faith who believe they serve the true God strap bombs to themselves and die for their God, Nolan noted. Yet Christians “won’t go out and spread life.”

“What is true about you is not what Satan is saying about you. What’s true about you is what God says about you in the Word of God.”
Youth evangelist Tony Nolan is on the Web at www.tntgogod.com.

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  • Connie Davis Bushey