Let me begin by being very vulnerable. In the late 90s, after nearly 30 years of following the Lord, I opened myself up to serious sinful behavior, which (quite frankly) I enjoyed. Eventually, I recognized that I would have to choose between pursuing that sin or following Jesus. I knew it was an either/or proposition because singing contemporary praise songs during church always filled me with an awareness of my separation from the Lord.
You see, I had always loved praise music. At that point in time, I considered praise to be more important on Sunday mornings than the preaching of God's Word. (Obviously, many things in my life needed major adjustments.) So during that time of rebellion, I couldn't enjoy the aspect of life (singing praise songs) that I'd treasured the most!
In short, the Lord restored me to Himself through contemporary praise music. Of course, I'm oversimplifying the story, but I do believe music played a pivotal role in my repentance. So I do believe the Holy Spirit uses such music.
As I've gone on with the Lord from that point in my life, however, I find myself growing less comfortable with praise music. I've noticed its lack of sound doctrinal foundation, and that lack troubles me. My discomfort found confirmation a little over a week ago, when I read Style or Substance by John MacArthur. I strongly encourage you to read this article, as well as the chapter on music in the book, Fool's Gold. Both articles will challenge your thinking, certainly. But challenge is healthy!
As I ponder present day Christianity's emphasis on experience over doctrine, I find myself wondering if praise music hasn't contributed to this deterioration. As MacArthur points out, hymns were originally written to teach God's Word.
How much theology is in, for instance, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever as compared with Holy, Holy, Holy? Both are beautiful, I'll agree, but Holy. Holy, Holy offers such a deeper picture of our majestic, Triune God! That hymn fills me with reverent wonder at His holiness..."Though the eye of sinful man/ Thy glory may not see." That couplet alone offers hours of meditation on the doctrine of human sinfulness as well as God's glory and holiness!
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
I'm still processing my thoughts on Christian music, but I'm growing less enamored with much of the milky praise music. I'm hungry for the meat of hymns!