There is nothing like a great summer BBQ with your friends and family. The laughter, the sun, the conversation, and, of course, the food. Many like me tend to gravitate around the grill in anticipation for the coals to turn white hot in order to perfectly cook their patties, hotdogs, and my personal favorite: a ribeye steak. But it’s not just any ribeye steak, it has to be perfectly seasoned. Whether it’s a store bought seasoning or homemade blend, every steak needs a good seasoning.
Seasoning brings out flavor, it should enhance the experience. Not enough robs you of enjoying the full potential of your steak. Too much seasoning, it detracts and whets the appetite for water and the imbalance of flavor ruins the experience.
In the same way seasoning impacts steak so too does music impact theology. I love it when theology is rich, deep, thorough—meaty. Still, there are temptations in doctrinally rich circles to dwindle down into cold orthodoxy, blandness. That’s why I believe music plays an important role in keeping theology palatable for the saint.
To be clear, music doesn’t change the theology in the same way seasoning doesn’t change the makeup of a steak. It will or can enhance it and draw out its beauty, but it doesn’t change it. Steak is steak with or without seasoning. Similarly, theology is theology with or without music. My point is that there’s a reason why Christians are commanded to sing (Eph 5:18). There’s a reason why God gave a hymnbook in His Word (the Psalms). It’s because music does something.
Personally, I’ve had some dark days in my recent history; not because of the pandemic or political/social unrest, but due to God’s sanctifying hand in bringing me through trials. In the past year or so, I’ve felt a wide range of emotions including doubt, fear, grief, sadness, hopeless, and anxiety. In all of this, I strongly believed in the rich doctrine of the preservation of the saint. I knew that God could not let me, would not let me go, and would lead me through the valley—and He has so far and I anticipate He will till the end. He has taught me a lot during this season.
One of the important things He has taught me is how He preserves His saints. I believe one of those ways has been through the rich seasoning of Christian lyrics and music that draw us back to Him and His word. In my recent trials, my theology of God’s sovereignty, sanctification, providence, salvation, and discipleship have been enriched by the use of theologically sound Christian lyrics paired with the seasoning of great music. A rich catalog of songs held me up and kept me coming back to nutritious theological meat that I needed to keep me standing.
As I look back and anticipate what’s to come, I wonder how my life would be different if God did not give me the grace of music. Perhaps I’d begrudgingly feast on good theology in a way that dishonors the Lord? Or worse, maybe I’d walk away from rich theology and turn to the junk food of self-fulfillment, self-help, or any other me-centered solution. But what I do know is that God did not let me go down that path and He used music to keep me.
The Type of Songs that Whet the Spiritual Appetite
Everyone has their taste preferences, their seasoning of choice. In my case, there was a certain type of song that kept me going. We all know that musical genre is important and often times a matter of preference. We all have playlists dedicated to specific tasks like working, exercising, studying, driving, or even doing chores.
In my case, there was a particalular type of song that really kept me going back to the Lord. The type of songs that turn me to Christ are traditional Christian hymns. There are two main reasons why I believe these songs appealed to me.
#1: Hymns are Singable. I think the reason for this is because these types of songs are often singable for all Christians; they’re songs you can participate in on your own private times of reflection. An added benefit is that these songs are likely to be sang at church with other saints. This means that the truths will only be driven deeper, not to mention the shared joy in singing alongside other saints who believe, experience, and sympathize with you as we all strive to live faithfully before the Lord.
#2: Hymns are Poetically Objective. Generally, these types of songs have lasted the test of time due to their rich, deep, and clear lyrics. We should not take for granted the skill it takes to poetically communicate objective truth. We often associate objectivity with facts, linear thought, boring and bland; but many hymns are not so. Many hymns are poetically and artistically pleasing and objectively clear in content. This is where emotions and theology meet, they collide. When objective truths are paired with great music, the seasoning is in full effect—your mind and your heart are drawn to the Lord.
#3: Hymns are Dominantly God-Centered. Most hymns that have lasted the test of time are God-centered hymns. Even songs about personal sanctification often have the intention to draw your eyes to Christ in the midst of your trials. This is the ultimate point isn’t it? A life experiencing hardship tests the saint’s commitment to resolutely keep God at the center, if it be to our personal pain or sorrow. Hymns wonderfully point me back to Christ.
Are you going through a tough time right now? How is good Christian music serving as the seasoning to your theology? What are some of your favorite songs that help you continue on in a God-centered life?
If not, what are you doing now to build yourself a rich catalog of songs that will carry you when your faith is finally tried? Trust me, the day will come when you’ll need them.
I hope this encouraged you all and since it’s summer of 2022, please excuse me as I fire up the grill for a much needed, well-seasoned steak.