Ok here we go. I’m probably going to get yelled at for this one.
There’s a line in the hymn that bothers me. In our church we sing an updated version that dropped “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” Basically nobody in our church knows what that means anyway (probably because of my poor instruction). We think it has something to do with Ebenezer Scrooge but we don’t know exactly what.
But there’s another line that bothers me. The one I don’t like is: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
Now before you start screaming, “Dont’ mess with Come Thou Font!” We’re not going to change it or stop singing it. Years ago I wrote new lyrics to Joy to the World because I didn’t understand what a lot of the original lyrics meant. Man did I get the flack for that one. “Don’t mess with Joy to the World!” people screamed, including my wife. But I still don’t like the line, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Here’s why…
Though I know believers are tempted to wander and tempted to be unfaithful to Christ at times, I don’t see that Scripture says we are still “prone” to sin and wander.
The doctrine of sin is one of the most important and helpful doctrines. However we should not emphasize indwelling sin more than our resurrection life in union with Christ and the glorious truth that he has made us new creations, given us new hearts, new desires and new power to obey him.
The Bible says believers are “prone” to obey the God they love. Prone to follow Jesus.
For example, we read in Ezekiel 36:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
So although sin still remains in believers to some degree, it’s no longer the dominating factor in their lives – now the Holy Spirit is the driving force. The Holy Spirit within us “causes” us to walk in God’s statutes and be careful to obey his rules. The Holy Spirit fills us with love for God and powerfully motivates us to obey him.
Yes we once were prone to wander. But Jesus’ death on the cross cured us of that tendency:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25).
Jesus’ death had a life-altering effect upon us – now we can die to sin and live to righteousness. And when Peter says “by his wounds you have been healed,” he doesn’t mean physically – he means we have been healed of our tendency to stray like sheep. Our proneness to wander.
The doctrine of sin has helped me immensely over the years. But we must put indwelling sin into perspective. It’s there, but it’s nothing in comparison with the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We should not have an expectation to live defeated lives. Rather, we should expect to live victorious lives by the Spirit’s power.
So, yes we are still tempted, but are we “prone” to wander? Maybe I’m splitting hairs. But I want to be sure we have a proper emphasis on God’s mighty power in our lives.
So I’ll keep singing Come Thou Fount – after all, I love to sing a “melodious sonnet” to my Lord. But when we come to the “prone” part of the song I might quietly sing “Prone to love you, Lord I feel it, prone to please the God I love….”
Ok, let me hear your thoughts. Go ahead, blast me. I probably deserve it. Maybe “prone” is just a poetic description. Hey, as a songwriter I understand poetic description. Just want to be sure we’re singing the truth….