One of my last posts was called Who is Matisyahu’s God? In it, I explained that Matisyahu is not worshiping the God of the Bible because Jesus says anyone who claims to believe what Moses said but rejects Him, does not actually believe Moses.
I hope this does not become a regular series, but a recent event has triggered a similar question to be asked of Ray Boltz. If you don’t know who Ray Boltz is, take a peek at the music videos below. He’s won 3 Dove Awards and was a huge Christian artist in the 80s and 90s. Well, if you have not read, He recently announced that he is gay in an exclusive interview with Washington Blade. You can read it here: http://www.washingtonblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=13258
In short, what the interview reveals is that Boltz told his family a few years ago, divorced his wife, and moved to Florida to anonymously dive into fulfilling his homosexual desires in the gay community there.
For those not familiar with Boltz, take a look at the following videos. I think it’s worth taking a close look at his songs in light of his interview. Please read the interview before continuing.
Watch the Lamb
This very emotional song ends with:
What have we seen here,
There’s so much
that we don’t understand
I believe these words apply to Ray Boltz as much as the children in his song.
This song is a tribute to the “altar call” prevalent in so many places. I’m sure you’ve experienced them before. It’s generally a very emotional setting with music playing, calling you to come to the front of the church and “accept Jesus into your heart.” Boltz’ song is a drawn out plea for people to come forward and use the altar to solve their problems and change their lives. The following lines are repeated throughout:
The time has come to give them (struggles) to the Lord
That’s what this altar is for
Now, one thing that strikes me about this is that I’m not sure what altar he is talking about. I don’t have an altar at my church. Furthermore, there is hardly any mention of altars in the New Testament. However, there are a lot of references to altars in the Old Testament. If you want a deatiled description, read the book of Leviticus. Here is one such passage:
Leviticus 4:22 “When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 23 or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24 and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26 And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. So the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.
This seems to be somewhat similar to what Ray Boltz is singing. If we have sinned (or have struggles, burdens as Ray Boltz refers to it), then we are to bring it to the altar and offer it to the Lord. He says that’s what this altar is for. But the problem is that there no longer remains an altar for Christians to come to offer what they have. The most an altar is mentioned in the New Testament is in the book of Revelation where it is described throughout John’s description of heaven as being before the Father.
Christ’s Finished Work
Many of you at this point would simply remind me that Boltz is talking about Jesus, not Old Testament altars. Well, I know he is, sort of… The problem is that Ray does not understand Jesus or His work on the cross. Hebrews 10:11-14 says:
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Christ offered His sacrifice at the altar of His cross. The Father accepted it as a worthy sacrifice and Christ was raised as a result. Christ’s work is finished. There is nothing we can add to Christ’s finished work and as a result, there no longer remains an altar for us to use on earth. Jesus is not, as Boltz sings, waiting for you to come to the altar and offer yourself. He has offered Himself and now He sits at the right hand of God.
Finally, note that Ray’s song about the altar is a song about us. It is not a song about what was done at the true altar. It is not a song about Christ. It is a song about us and about changed lives.
Lives are being changed
And those who call upon Him
They will never be the same
I read a great commentary on such songs:
People view their Christian walk and struggle as awaiting some “second blessing” to be delivered from further temptation and sin. The gospel of grace that announces Christ’s righteousness and not our own is rarely preached from pulpits. Even the song “Thank You” is a song of the victory theology that permeates the “Christian” music scene.
Christianity is viewed as something that “works” or it doesn’t. What kind of “testimonies” are on display with respect to sin? “I was delivered from alcohol and never desired another drink” or “I was gay and now I like women because God healed me completely”. Those who never hear the true Gospel but simply hear the stories of victorious living by those who “dare to be a Daniel” are left hoping, week after week, that if they try really hard or “really let go this time” that they’ll break through and their sincerity of effort will deliver from sin.
Feel the Nails
Another of Ray’s songs reflects this lack of understanding of the Gospel.
One of the blogs I read made a post about this song one year ago, long before any news about Ray broke. The link no longer seems to be active, but the blogger said:
I can appreciate the fact that he does not want to grieve the Lord thorough sinning. I also like the way that he emphasizes God’s holiness. However, note the chorus and verse 2. Anyone whose read Hebrews knows the book emphasizes the following truth repeatedly: But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…( Heb 10:12). Does He still feel the nails? No. Does He hear the crowd shout Crucify, again? No. Does He re-live the agony He felt on that tree? No.
Now, it is true that I am being very critical of these songs. In all honesty, there is much worse music out there (theologically speaking). Boltz at least mentions Christ’s blood and the idea of appeasing God’s wrath in His songs. However, I am being very critical in an attempt to understand how it is possible for someone to sing these songs their whole life and then end up like Boltz is now. It is true that he could have simply been singing these songs without believing them. But it may also be true that he fully believed them, yet they did not accurately communicate the Gospel to him.
In his interview http://www.washingtonblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=13258 , Ray said “I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.'”
Notice that he says he chose to be a Christian, not because he was convicted that he was a wretched sinner in need of a Savior, but because he thought Christianity solved life’s problems. He looked at Christianity as the best 12-step program out there. Note that he still does not believe he is a sinner in need of a Savior.
He continues: “”That evening (a concert) had a profound impact on my life,” he says. “I realized that this was the truth and that Jesus was alive … that’s really where I made a commitment to Christ. I decided I could be born again and all of the things I was feeling in the past would fall away and I would have this new life.””
Again, he says his reason for professing to be a Christian was to get rid of the feelings he was struggling with. He also misunderstands what it means to be born again. He thought it was something he could make himself do. Nobody can make themselves be born again.
How can a man be born when he is old?
John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
At the end, Jesus shows us that we cannot control the process of being born again by explaining the work of the Holy Spirit like the wind. The Holy Spirit sovereignly blows where He wishes, regenerating the hearts of whom He pleases. We hear the sound, we see the changed life, but we cannot determine where it came from or where it is going next.
Also, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he should understand this because it is not a new teaching. Nicodemus, someone who was an expert in the Old Testament, should have understood Ezekial 36:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Thus, regeneration, being born again, is the work of God. It is not something we do to ourselves. We cannot remove our own hearts and replace them with new ones. Note also that a result of being born again is a desire to walk in God’s statutes and to obey His rules.
Emotional Altar Calls
It is worth noting that what Ray calls his conversion experience took place at a large concert in the Jesus Movement. There was most likely a large emotional emphasis at the concert to make a decision for Christ. Consider this in light of his song “the altar” that we discussed above. He was probably assured by those putting the concert on that he was saved if he said a prayer. Thus he was assured throughout the rest of his life that he was saved because he could point back to that moment. In contrast to this, Jesus says in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments... 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” This does not mean that only those who perfectly obey the commandments are Christians. What it means is that a hatred of sin and a desire to obey Christ’s commandments are the marks of a Christian, not a profession or prayer that may have been prayed.
I would highly recommend listening to Paul Washer’s sermon on Matthew 7:21-23 (though please take not of the concerns I express in the comment section of the video on youtube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncEhCvrVgQ
*side note, the article says: There was some exploration of “ex-gay” therapy though Boltz never attended an “ex-gay” camp or formal seminar.
This is not the biblical way of dealing with sin. Christian “therapy” is discipleship. It is being sanctified by the Word in a local church setting. For more on this I recommend the ministry of Martin and Deidre Bobgan.
A New Understanding of Sin
“I had a lot of questions [about faith], but at the bottom of everything was a feeling that I didn’t hate myself anymore, so in that sense I felt closer to God.”
Compare his attitude with that of the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.
Is Ray Boltz Saved?
So, does Ray Boltz show the marks of a Christian?
Is he remorseful of his sin?
Does he desire to obey Christ’s commandments?
You might say yes. He spent his life trying to overcome his homosexual desires. That may be true, but that does not mean he saw those desires for what they are – an offense against God.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
David committed adultery yet he says that his sin was against God alone. Our responsibility is to God. Ray saw his desires as something he didn’t like and didn’t want to have, not primarily as an offense against God. He saw his homosexual desires as a bad habit that God could cure him of, not as a heinous sin that a just God must punish.
So is he a Christian? Is it possible for him to have once been a Christian, but not anymore?
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (Note what Scripture says here and compare it with Boltz when he says that his homosexual desires are from the Father, therefore they are ok). 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
I think watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzhFyNp3Ja8 shows us something important. These words are being sung by a man who does not, and did not while he was singing, love Jesus.
Consider the words of Christ:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Here is a good blog post about Ray: Thoughts About Ray Boltz Declaring His Homosexuality
As I have grown to understand God’s providence, His sovereignty over the course of history, down to the minutest detail, I have felt the need to adjust some of my vocabulary. This is reflected in a great shirt from New Fire Paradise that says “Deo Non Fortuna”
Often, when we desire to wish someone well, we tell them “Good luck!” But where does luck finds itself in a Biblical worldview? It doesn’t. History is not goverened by the blind hand of the Roman goddess Fortuna. Neither is it influenced by the younger, hipper Lady Luck, ruling from her roost in the Bellagio.
An appropriate replacement of “Good luck!” might be “Providential blessings!”
But what about: “I was driving home yesterday and I ran out of gas. Fortunately I was close enough to a gas station that I rolled in just as my car died.” ? That’s easy: “By God’s grace, I reached the gas station just in time!”
However, one of the sayings I use the most is “Unfortunately I can’t make it tonight. I’ve got other plans.” I tried to find an equivalent phrase that reflects God’s providence, rather than some idea of fortune, but I couldn’t. That’s when I was reminded of A. W. Pink’s words:
Truly, then, God governs inanimate matter. Earth and air, fire and water, hail and snow, stormy winds and angry seas, all perform the word of His power and fulfill His Sovereign pleasure. Therefore, when we complain about the weather we are, in reality, murmuring against God.
There is no Biblical equivalent of “Unfortuante” because nothing that God decrees is “2 a: infelicitous , unsuitable b: deplorable , regrettable”
So consider God’s sovereignty next time you are tempted to call something unfortunate.