He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 18: 9-14 (ESV)
I was watching a video this morning where John MacArthur commented on a prayer offered by Joel Osteen that said, "I thank you Father that I have your favor." Mac goes on to say, "Wow, did he meet the Pharisee in Luke 18 or what?" Of Osteen, MacArthur is 100% right. That prayer is silly. It is presumptuous. It is in error. It elevates Osteen and not God. It also encapsulates the Osteen theology of "me". Remember it was his wife last year who proudly proclaimed that we worship God "for ourselves" with her husband nodding approvingly. So when you look at the Parable of the Pharisee and Publican, as seen in our key verses today it is a completely fair point to say that Joel Osteen sounds an awful lot like the Pharisee. The problem is so does the Calvinist beliefs of John MacArthur.
It astounds me that someone as well versed as MacArthur cannot see the inherent hypocrisy in being a staunch Calvinist while mocking the arrogance of a me centered false gospel. There is no teaching more arrogant and self-serving than Calvinism. In the theology of hardcore Calvinism, God decided before the foundations of the world who would have eternal life and who would have eternal suffering. Having absolutely nothing to do with their lives and how they lived it. Essentially that God is like a bouncer at the door of the most popular nightclub but there's a special list to get in. The punch line for all believing Calvinists is that they are on the list! Hallelujah, how lucky can you be! Beloved this is far more self centered than Joel Osteen's nonsense. Osteen's "favor" is about getting more trinkets and baubles here on earth but for MacArthur? His favor is that God chose him before any human beings were even born! Wow. If that is not the gospel of how special I am I do not know what is. I reviewed a John Piper Sermon once where he was defending the key points of Calvinism and he recounted a story of a Calvinist missionary who "humbly" offered the following prayer:
"First of all, I am thankful for God's unfathomable grace in choosing me. I have done nothing to deserve this, and I continually marvel at my Father's goodness to me. The reason I am thankful to be chosen is because I know what I have been chosen for. Chosen to proclaim the excellencies of God; chosen to be eternally satisfied in God through Jesus; chosen to live in light and not darkness; chosen to taste and see that He is good."
I placed the word "humbly" in quotes because there is nothing humble about this prayer. It is the same prayer offered by the Pharisee in our key verses. It is "me" centered. Oh thank you lord for choosing me! Forget all these other losers! Saying you have done nothing to deserve how special you are does not make it anymore humble or any less arrogant. Now I understand that there are a handful of verses that lend credibility to the notion of pre-destination but that contradicts the remainder of Scripture. God did not create robots. The truth is that our "pre-destination" is found only in His foreknowledge:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. - Romans 8: 29-30 (ESV)
Ironically, these are verses often used by Calvinists but they miss the point. God sees all time therefore He foreknows everything. It is because He knows that Billy or Suzie will have trusting faith in Christ that makes them "pre-destined." Not that He pre-destined them to heaven or hell on a whim. The Bible does not present a capricious God. Look at the order listed here. Foreknew-predestined-called-justified-glorified. It starts with foreknowledge not election. It is the height of arrogance to think God has turned heaven into a members only club and lo and behold, you have an all access pass! Wow, how blessed are you! You ought to be thanking God for His favor. Except, how do you reconcile the rest of the Bible?
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2Peter 3: 9 (ESV)
Is God limited by Himself? This verse cannot be clearer! God does not want any to perish! He wants all to come to repentance! If you believe in hardcore Calvinism this verse should not be in the Bible. If everything is pre-decided this verse makes absolutely no sense. It is hardly the only problematic verse for Calvinists:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. - 1Timothy 2: 3-6 (ESV)
"For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. - John 3: 16-17 (ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11: 28-30 (ESV)