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Nolan: ‘From sinking ship to workmanship’

ORLANDO, Fla., (BP)–Evangelist Tony Nolan told messengers that salvation in Jesus Christ took him “from being a sinking ship to being a workmanship” during the closing sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla., June 16.

Taking his sermon from John 10:10 — “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” — Nolan said most commentators believe the reference to “thief” refers to Satan.

“You know what Jesus is doing here?” asked Nolan, who lives in Woodstock, Ga. “He’s calling the devil a thug. This thug isn’t preoccupied with being a drug dealer; this thug is a hurt dealer. He’s out to hurt every human life possible by stealing, killing and destroying their souls.”

But Jesus will help “those who have suffered from the hurt dealer,” Nolan said. “The devil is a hurt dealer, but the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is a hurt healer.”

Born to a homeless prostitute who was institutionalized in a psychiatric facility, Nolan was placed in foster care at a young age.

“For the first three years of my life, I suffered unimaginable abuse at the hands of some sick, twisted, perverted predators,” Nolan said. “They would throw me up and down flights of stairs because, I guess, they thought it was a humorous sport to watch a baby get multiple concussions. They would torture me with burning cigarettes, and all the evidence points to sexual molestation.”

Adopted at age 3, Nolan lived in a ghetto in Jacksonville, Fla., which he said is popularly called “Sin City.” Murder, drugs and gang crime plagued the area.

But “we all live in a bad neighborhood, and it’s called earth, and it’s under a curse,” Nolan said. “And it just seems to be getting worse and worse and worse,” causing many to respond in fear, just as Nolan said he did as a child.

“Fear has a way of taking its ugly fingers and wrapping them around the jugular of your joy, and slowly extracting the life out of your soul, doesn’t it?” Nolan asked.

Nolan recounted how his alcoholic father would beat him mercilessly, telling him he was worthless and never would amount to anything. Nolan soon began abusing alcohol and drugs himself.

“The hurt dealer has a way of [tearing] your heart apart, little piece by little piece,” Nolan said. “The high never got stronger than the hurt,” he said, and suicide “looked like an attractive option.”

“Those were horrifyingly dark days of my life,” Nolan said. “But I praise God that in the midnight of my life, a ray of light from the Son of God broke through because a member of an evangelistic Southern Baptist church shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me.”

The person who told Nolan about Jesus asked him: “Did you know that Jesus came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly?” Nolan recounted. “That staggered me…. I said, ‘Me? How in the world can this salvation be made possible for me?”

Nolan prayed a prayer of repentance and committed his life to Christ. “That night, after years of suffering from the hurt dealer, Satan, who was wrecking my life — that night, Jesus, the hurt healer, rescued my life for the glory of God. He set me free!”

Stressing that Jesus is not only Savior, but Lord too, Nolan said, “‘Lord’ is key, here, people. He’s not the religious icon Jesus. He’s not the denominational Jesus. He’s not the T-shirt Jesus, or the jewelry Jesus, or the homeboy Jesus. He’s the Lord Jesus. You must be willing to surrender your life to Him as the boss or the leader or the ruler of your life.”

“I went from being a sinking ship to being a workmanship,” said Nolan, noting that the word “workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10 “carries with it the idea of a work of art.”

“Our lives are a canvas on which God wants to paint a masterpiece of Himself to show the whole world how glorious He is,” Nolan said. “Once you come to God though faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross, then the Christian experience is … giving God the brushes … and then letting God pick the colors.”

The picture God paints tells the world “that the tomb in Jerusalem is empty, and the throne in heaven is occupied by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.”

Nolan said he eventually met his mother — still mentally troubled, but claiming to know Jesus — and challenged the crowd to examine whether they knew Christ. He invited those who didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus to walk to the platform area for prayer and counseling.

“We have some people down here to meet you, who love you,” Nolan said. “You may ask, ‘How can they love me? They don’t even know me.’ Welcome to the family. That’s how we roll.”

An estimated 20 people responded to the invitation.
Norm Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va.

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