“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set
my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new
song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:2-3).
We’ve heard the tune before. We heard it from the Pharisee in the temple who boasted of himself before God. We heard it from the poet who bragged: “I am the captain of my soul, the master of my destiny.” We heard it from a popular advice columnist who assured her 60,000,000 readers: “God will not deal harshly with you as long as you’re nice and kind to others.” Like a broken record we keep hearing it over and over again. It’s the song of What must I DO to be saved?
A New Song For The Middle Ages
Loud and proud was heard that song during the Middle Ages. With a heavy emphasis on making satisfaction for one’s own sins, Roman Catholicism held the people in a bondage of fear. The monk Martin Luther tried hard to dance to the church’s tune. He beat and starved himself in an effort to drive sin from his soul and merit God’s favor, but to no avail. Of his experience he would later write: “Life had become a living hell, so firmly sin possessed me.”
But one day while reading his Bible, Luther came across a passage in Habakkuk which read: “. . . the just shall live by his faith.” It was then that Luther said that heaven itself was opened to him. The Spirit caused him to discover that salvation is a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. With great relief, Luther, like David before him, could now say: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth.”
Luther was whistling a different melody, one soon heard all across the land: Ninety-five theses pounded to the Castle Church in Wittenberg rang with the promise of liberty for all. Flyers and books, circulated throughout Europe, praised the blood and merits of Jesus as full payment for all sin. Salvation through Christ alone sweetly sounded in the hymns of Luther and the other reformers: “Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor!”
Now, true, the new song of the Gospel had been playing from the earliest moments of history, when God first promised Adam and Eve a Savior to crush the power of Satan. Yet its amazing message was new to the hearts and ears of most of the people living during the Middle Ages. Satan, through the antichrist Church of Rome, had managed to muffle its glad tidings so that they were barely audible in the days prior to the Reformation.
A New Song For The Modern Ages
In this modern age we see Satan working harder than ever to muffle the sound of God’s gracious new song. As a pop hit from the sixties once said: “The beat goes on!”
Satan’s handiwork is seen in the “look inside yourself” doctrine of the self-esteem movement. It appears in the “I keep myself . . . morally straight” oath of the Scouts. We see it in churches which have abandoned Gospel truth for work-righteous based human psychology. It is shown in the TV evangelist who teaches his audience that they must cooperate with God in bringing about their salvation. “Have you made your decision for Christ?”
In each case “the arrangement” might be slightly different, but it is always the same song of self-salvation.
There remains today, as much as ever, a crying need for the pure, unconditioned song of “a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Today, as in every age, the sinner must be pointed entirely away from himself to Jesus’ cross where full satisfaction for all sin has been accomplished! Only then can the unbeliever be lifted out of the mud and mire of damning sin. Only then can the believer maintain full confidence of his acceptance by God. Only then can the guilt be driven away and the accusing tongue of Satan be silenced.
May our new song be the same song of Luther, of Paul, of David. For it is God’s everlasting song of triumph for all through Christ. What music to the soul — a new song to give us peace, joy — to bring us safely into the new heavens and the new earth!
–Pastor Michael Wilke