Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God? This has been a question that has brought incredible peace and security to my own heart through many conflicts and trials throughout my own life. There have been many times that I have wondered why I am the way that I am in my own particular weaknesses and did God actually place these in my life. The only conclusion is that while God is sovereign and makes all things to work out for our good (Romans 8:28), He Himself does not place evil within us and cannot be culpable in our sin. Sin is the result of Adam's rebellion and because of his sin, all of us are born with the sin nature. Therefore, before we can consider the remedy of sin, we must admit that we are born in sin and are already condemned (John 3:18) before the most Holy and Righteous God. As such, we have no standing whatsoever to accuse Him of creating our sinful condition. It is only after our repentance can we say with Paul, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (I Corinthians 5:17) At that point, we can make a new start. It is with this background in mind that I discuss this news story.

As many of you have undoubtedly already heard, Ray Boltz, writer of such songs as “Thank You”, “The Anchor Holds,” and “I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb,” has announced that he is a homosexual. Before I go any further, I do not believe that homosexuality is any worse of a sin than any other. I have sin in my own life that rank right up there, so I do not want this discussion to come across as self-righteous in any way.

Honestly, my first reaction to Ray's announcement was one of pity, because any type of sexual sin, from simple lust while surfing the internet (a much too easy temptation these days!) all the way to the most brutal sexual assault, is devastating not only to the one committing the sin but to their family and friends as well. My second reaction was one of fear for Ray's soul. The Bible clearly teaches that the only path of reconciliation with God comes only through repentance and faith. In an interview with the Washington Blade, 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.'”

No mention of repentance. This is so typical of the “Come to Jesus, He has a wonderful plan for your life” message that is so prevalent in a great many methods of evangelism. In discussiong his conversion to Christianity, Ray later said,

“‘That evening 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, no repentance. It appears that Ray tried for many years to deal with his feelings by his own strength and merely used his Christianity to mask the problem in his heart. But isn't this all of our problem, whatever our besetting sin is? We have absolutely no ability whatsoever to be able to change ourselves. John MacArthur refers to this as total inability. Ray went on to discuss why he came out:

“‘You get to be 50-some years old and you go, ‘This isn't changing.' I still feel the same way. I am the same way. I just can't do it anymore.”

Ray is absolutely right. We cannot do it. Only by the grace of God and His transforming power through His gift of faith and the killing of our old sin nature and His gift of a new nature can we ever hope of changing. Ray continues,

“I basically lived an ‘ex-gay' life – I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

The problem here is that we cannot do it. It must be a supernatural work of God. If we had the ability to change ourselves, we wouldn't need God.

For me, the most disturbing part of the article came at the end:

“He doesn't want to get into debates about scripture and has no plans to ‘go into First Baptist or an Assembly of God church and run in there and say, “I'm gay and you need to love me anyway.”

For him, the decision to come out is much more personal.

‘This is what it really comes down to,' he says. ‘If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I'm going to live. It's not like God made me this way and he'll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.'”

This is the crux of the situation. Without the solid foundation of Scripture on which to build one's life and worldview, all that is left is what we FEEL is right. At this point, who is to say whether ANYTHING is right or wrong. Without the objective moral standard of Scripture, we could use any of these arguments to justify any of our behavior. Let's say if a heterosexual adulterer used the same logic that was used in the last quote, that would be an absolutely absurd argument. Why is this any different?

In Romans 1, Paul talks of those “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18b, ESV) Ray does not seem to be interested in the truth, but only seems interested in following his feelings. Honestly, I fear for his soul. Is homosexuality any worse than any other sin? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that when someone allows any type of sexual sin to take root in their heart, it takes hold and grows deep into the heart and can only be rooted out by the power and grace of God. This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (ESV) If you have never fallen to the temptation of lust, consider yourself blessed and do everything in your power to guard your heart! Christ did not pay the price of redemption so we could go and violate the very law He came to fulfill in us. Please note that I have no other agenda here but only to warn anyone who has fallen to this type of sin that when you are living in total rebellion against God, whether overt or covert, you are in a most dangerous place.

On a personal note, I had the privilege to work with Ray on his 1989 album “The Altar” and found Ray to be a genuinely friendly guy, which I hate to say was all too infrequent during my Nashville years. I still consider it to be one of the greatest events in my musical career and in my life. On that project, Ray wrote one particular song that I think is fitting in many ways. “Let's Begin Again” has one line that I believe sums this up. “Let's begin again, trusting Him and not our feelings.” The Gospel is the good news of Repentance and Faith. Without these, there is no way to begin any new life in Christ. Ray, there are many of us who are sad over your decision and certainly do not agree with you, but please know that we really do love you and are praying earnestly that you will come to repentance and “true” faith in Christ.

For anyone who is not sure of their faith, please take the time and go to http://www.needgod.org. There is nothing more important that your eternal soul and we want you to escape the condemnation that all mankind is under without Christ. Why not do it now!

As I said in a previous blog post (“Who's Responsibility Is it Anyway?“), I have been spending a lot of time reading and commenting on my good friend Paul Edwards blog, The God and Culture Blog. The discussions have been rather animated at times, but have always been issue based and very respectful. One particular post brought about an interesting discussion of how the doctrines of grace can influence how we vote in the upcoming election. The main point of the post was a video showing a number of Barack Obama's responses during the forum at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, to Pastor Rick Warren's questions and how Senator Obama's answers sounded as if he was unsure as how to answer the question and that Senator McCain was always ready with an answer to the questions no matter how difficult they may be. The full post can be found at “Remove the teleprompter and here's what you get…”

I had a great discussion with another regular commentator on the blog named Jeff, who was a Ron Paul supporter and always has interesting commentary. He and I do not see eye to eye on many issues, however, Jeff is always thought provoking and a true gentleman. The discussions do not get personal and they stick to the issues at hand and always make for interesting conversation. Here is one of the exchanges on the post listed above:

10. Jeff (AKA Pixelmaster) – September 2, 2008
Greg,

There are many Calvinist here, I am making the assumption that you are as well. We have been told for the last 30 or so years. Vote “biblical” principles, Vote God’s way etc. Now we have a candidate in McCain who doesn’t have much of a leg up on Obama in the social issues that social conservatives vote for, Abortion and Gay rights and now these same people that told us to vote for principle are now saying we need to vote for the better than worst. Wouldn’t it be more honorable to vote by principle and let the sovereign God, who many Calvinist claim when other societal issues arise, be in control? I am not demeaning Calvinism I just see the capitulation as a conflict to the terminology of the past. BTW I believe in a sovereign God but I am more of a Free willer. I think he let’s us mess up and I think he puts more control in our hands than Calvinist or Reformed would.

McCain is a poor choice for social conservatives bar none, his voting record is crystal clear, he does not care about the social conservative causes. In fact, I would me more concerned with him than Obama because after what happened to him in 2000 he has an axe to grind with the “agents of intolerance” as he put it back then.

12. Greg Rice – September 3, 2008
OK Jeff I’m back!

Your assumptions are correct. I am a fully convinced Calvinist, but have only been convinced within the last two years after many years of questioning all of the things I was taught all of my life. My journey to the Doctrines of Grace (a name I prefer since they have been taught for centuries prior to John Calvin and major Biblical doctrine should be known as such and not just by the name of a mere man that believed and taught them) is a long process that I will not discuss fully here due to the constraints of time (or your boredom, whichever were to come first!) So I will attempt to concisely answer your question, although that may be a real challenge! Here we go.

I do believe that we should vote Biblical principles, but there is more to it than that. Everything we do, no matter what area of life is involved, should be in the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because as the Bible tells us, it is the power of God unto salvation. I understand your reservations regarding McCain. As I have stated previously, I have my own reservations such as campaign finance reform (McCain-Feingold is a fiasco), immigration reform (McCain is not strong enough on border security and illegal immigration, which is a shame since he from a border state), global warming (he is much too squishy on this issue), and he tends to be too willing to pander to the other side in the name of bipartisanship (the gang of 14). On the other hand, He is strong on national defense (how can you fight with each other if there is not a free nation to fight within?!), he has been consistently pro-life (some my think he has not gone far enough of the life issue, but there is no way anyone can accuse him of being pro-death-I despise the term pro-choice, by the way!), and he also has proven that he is a man of character, something lacking in this current world of politics.

For the record, the Bible says in Proverbs 21:1 that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” God is sovereign and ultimately his choice for any elected office will be elected. This does not excuse us from discerning which candidate is the best choice in a particular election, based on our Christian faith.

The question then becomes, as Christians, are we more concerned with just being right or are we more concerned with the advancement of the Gospel? In this election, there are only two candidates that have any kind of prayer of winning and ultimately effecting society at large. It seems to me that if we do not vote at all or we vote for a candidate we know has to chance of winning, we then are just as responsible the outcome of the election as we would be if we had voted for the winning candidate. If I vote for Chuck Baldwin, Alan Keyes, or Bob Barr (all of whom have stronger convictions on many issues than the major candidates do and all are fine honorable men and would serve the nation very well), I have essentially given my vote to either John McCain or Barack Obama. Personally, I could not live with myself if I contributed in any way to the election of Barack Obama. I have stated my problems with his beliefs in other posts.

Now for the question of the ages, how do we reconcile the Sovereignty of God against the Free Will of Man? I would be totally arrogant if I were to claim that I fully know the answer. But here goes.

The whole crux of the argument begins with what you believe regarding the Fall of Man and how it affects the Human Race. Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” We are in total rebellion against God because of our sin. (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3. Romans 3:10-12). At the moment of Adam’s sin, Man became spiritually dead and became incapable to choose the right path to salvation. In other words, his free will became incapacitated. The free choice of whether to follow God is still there because God in his general mercy did not annihilate Adam at the point in time for his sin. The problem is that Man no longer had the ability to make that choice. In other words, he was and is in bondage to his will. You can tell a dead man all day long to pick himself up and follow God but until there is a quickening of his spirit, he will not be able to get up.

It is only after the quickening of the spirit can there be a free will. Even after we are truly saved we do make the choice to sin because of the unredeemed flesh in which we still live. The difference is that we as Christian now have a new nature brought about by the Spirit of God in the quickening work of salvation and now we despise our sin. The Apostle Paul discusses this fully in Romans Chapter 7.

Where does all of this lead? For me it means that since John McCain has picked a running mate that is not only pro-life in her words, but pro-life in her actions, I can now put my full support behind his candidacy. The comforting thing to me is that even if the candidate I support does not win the election, I have thought through all of the ramifications of my choice and can go to bed at night knowing that I have been consistent in my faith. I cannot possibly know the plan of God for this nation, but if He wants Obama as president, He will work out all the details and work all things for His Glory. Whoever wins the election, I am still going to praise my God because whoever it is, it will be the choice that brings Him all glory and praise. Thanks for listening and God bless!

13. Jeff (AKA Pixelmaster) – September 3, 2008
Good stuff Greg, I have visited your site and blog and didn’t see a post on this. Personally and respectfully, I still think it a pragmatic choice, although the choosing of Palin does strengthen his commitment to social conservatives. I don’t think McCain is strong on Pro-life issue, I don’t think he is strong on Gay rights issues he has a long history of not being so. I have brought this up before; I would be very concerned with a McCain 1 term presidency. I don’t know if you are familiar with all that happened with the social conservative leaders and him back in 2000 but he has made it quite clear he does not like social conservative. He is saying all the right things now, but I wouldn’t trust him to fight for social values at all if he gets office. Palin may but he would be VP and can’t sign a thing into law.

The idea that social conservatives are considering him, to me, solidifies that we (evangelicals) or more political than religious or faith based. We have been told to vote “God’s way” now we have a guy that has not been for our causes and we are told vote better than the worst choice. Not me. I appreciate you taking the time to explain, Greg, I guess we can conclude that we will agree to disagree

14. Greg Rice – September 3, 2008
Hey Jeff,

I kind of thought we would disagree, but that’s alright. If any two people agree on everything, one of them is totally unnecessary! I do understand your reluctance to support McCain and you have a valid gripe. I was not happy in the least that he became the nominee (I voted for Huckabee in the primary) and have been struggling with how I would vote in November. The ticket ain’t perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. Steven Wright once said “Well you can’t have everything, where would you put it?” Nobody on the right gets what they want in this election, but we sure don’t want what the left will force down our throats. Thanks for the dialog.

To me the bottom line is the advancement of the Gospel and it's effect on society. This includes our involvement in the political process and how our faith guides our choices in that arena. If our faith does not guides our actions in every arena of our lives, we are nothing but hypocrites. I believe this is what the Apostle Paul was driving at in Philippians 2:12-13 where he said,”Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Our faith is to be worked out into every arena in our lives because our only reason as Christians for remaining here is to reach more people for Christ.

Let make sure our lives reflect what we say that we believe and totally integrate our faith in every arena in our lives, first by reaching the lost, then standing for righteousness. But in the end, it is God who will work all things for His glory, which has been His plan since before the foundation of the world.