Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "Prone To Wander" Fallacy

One of the verses to the old hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," goes like this:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
I realize that the hymn in its entirety, and even this verse, is an expression of the writer's hope in grace and mercy, but yet I see him hoping in an anemic grace.  For one, I see him stating some mistruths, and secondly I see him asking God for what God has already given him!  My intention is not to criticize the writer, but to point out more of the fullness and power and vitality and far-reaching-ness of grace that seems to be lacking.

One of the first thoughts I have is that the hymn speaks of a "wandering heart."  It even says we are prone to wander, and prone to leave the One we love.  The word "prone" implies that it is our default position.  The word means "having a natural inclination or tendency to something."  To have a heart that is "prone" to something means that the heart is always set toward it.

To say that a "wandering heart" is the condition of a person who is in Christ is to be ignorant of the fullness of the reality of what has happened to that person due to the grace of God and the life of Christ that richly indwells them!  We have been given a new heart.  God took away our old stony heart and replaced it with a brand new heart and a new spirit that is one spirit with Him and that partakes in His nature!  He has made us a new creation. This new creation life is not prone to be a wandering heart.  It's not prone to leave God.  The complete opposite is true!  Our new heart has already been established in Christ, and sealed and anointed and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor 1:21-22).
Again, we are joined together with God as one spirit (1 Cor 6:17) and have become partakers of His very nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Peter encourages us in the far-reaching effectiveness and sufficiency of God's grace by saying that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises..." (2 Peter 1:3-4).  This hardly suggests a heart that is "prone to wander!"

Do we get this?  Or do we continue to give more credit to the flesh than to the Spirit?  Yes, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal 5:17), but is not our confidence in the overcoming strength and power and sufficiency of the Spirit?!  The fact that the flesh lusts against the Spirit is no reason to believe that the lusts of the flesh are what we are prone to do or follow!  Seemingly unbeknownst to many Christians, "the flesh" is not who we are.  However you want to describe the entity or power known as "the flesh," it in no way whatsoever represents the reality of who we are, and it is in no way an equal match for the Spirit!

Just because we do things that don't line up with the reality of the New Creation that we are, doesn't mean we are "prone" to do those things.  If we "feel" prone to wander or prone to leave the God we love, those feelings don't make it a reality.  We are putting more trust in our feelings than in the sufficiency of God to keep us.  He Himself has bound us to Himself, and Himself to us, and we cannot for a moment do a thing to break that binding!  Do we not realize that it is not "us" who keeps us bound to Him, but Him who lovingly and faithfully and forever keeps us safely and securely bound to Him?  If we have become partakers of the divine nature, then do we not realize that it is our natural inclination to walk according to the Spirit!

Having been wrongfully taught that they are victims of two warring natures (a sin nature vs. a righteous nature), rather than being taught that their old nature died with Christ and then a brand new nature was born and made alive with the resurrected Christ, many Christians are confused and perplexed about their behavior, and they think that because they sometimes sin (or even often sin), that they are helpless victims who will always have a propensity to sin until they leave their earthly bodies.

Now I'm not saying that I never do anything that goes against the reality of my new nature.  That's not the case for me or for any Christian.  But just because we do things that are contrary to our true new nature does not mean that we are prone to do those things or that it is our nature to do those things.  It doesn't even mean we like to do those things!  I know that I may get temporary pleasure in doing certain things that are contrary to my nature, but yet the reality is that I hate it when I do those things. And because my true nature is one that is infused with the divine nature, it's my very nature to be identified with the Holy Spirit and to do "divine nature" things.

Be assured that as a Christian, you are not a "sinner."  You are not identified by your behavior.  You are not prone to wander.  You are not prone to leave God.  You may "feel" like it sometimes, but those feelings are not the reality.  The grace of God has provided something for you that is far greater than a helpless existence as a sinner who can't help but sin and who ebbs and flows and wavers in your relationship with God.  He has sealed you in Himself and has established you as a saint who is seated with Him in heavenly places.  Rest in who He is and who He has made you to be, and get yourself established in His unconditional love and grace, and you will never have to worry again about this fallacy of a heart that is prone to wander!

21 comments:

  1. Amen! Good preaching! I was told once that a church sang that hymn the day they invited Leonard Ravenhill to preach. He changed his sermon to attack the fallacy of the hymn. He despised it.

    James

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  2. I loved what you said here, Joel!

    In the past I've often felt "prone to wander" off into sin. It's great how He shows us we're really "prone to follow" the Good Shepherd Himself!

    The Holy Spirit is a gazillion times stronger than the flesh. No contest! How wonderful that we live by the Spirit!

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  3. Thanks for your article. Its true we still struggling between the two natures and unless we
    know our righteous nature and source we are prone
    to fall back into our fallen nature which has died. sunnyli

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  4. Hey James! Good to hear from you. I still read your blog but haven't commented or interacted much on blogs as of late. I enjoyed your recent "The Rest of the Gospel" posts. Yeah, good for Ravenhill. This is a fallacy that is well worth countering.

    Sparrow Girl, I hear you on that. I've 'felt' prone to wander too, because of the direction my mind and actions sometimes go, but it's so freeing to know that that's not really who I am, and that who I truly am is prone to goodness and righteousness!

    Sunny li, yep indeed, our fallen nature has died. It seems many people think that it's still alive somewhere, but in reality it was crucified with Christ, never to rise again. Our new nature is now the core and reality and essence of who we are!

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  5. I LOVE THIS!!! I have had a beef with that same line and the mentality behind it! Though I have in the past thought I was prone to wander, when I actually wasn't - I just believed that if I ever 'sinned' that I was wandering, and that if I ever didn't have enough 'time with the Lord' that I was wandering. Nope, cause deep down I really wanted God, just not the guilt associated with a performance mentality.
    I am so glad to see that you are still posting away regularly Joel - I have been very busy launching my book and my business, but I think it's high time for me to join the blogging gang again!!! I am sharing this post on Facebook for sure!! Peace!!

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  6. I actually like that hymn and, when it's sung in church, I sing along with everyone else. When we get to the prone to wander part, I get creative and instead of singing it as the hymn writer wrote it, I change the words. I'll sing:

    And thy goodness, like a fetter, has bound my loving heart to thee
    I'll not wander, Lord, I feel it
    I'll not leave the God I love
    Here's my heart, Lord, you've already sealed it
    Sealed it for thy courts above.

    Singing it this way works well for me.

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  7. Lydster,

    I used to have those very same thoughts about "wandering." I really thought that I had wandered or strayed from God when I wasn't doing "right" or when I wasn't spending regular time with Him or reading my Bible, etc. I felt "prone" to be so far away from God, and it was a work and a struggle to remain close to Him.

    Living now with the mentality that He Himself has brought us near to Him, and that my life in Him isn't sustained at all by "me," but rather fully by Him, has taken the pressure and worry away, and I've seen that He began a good work in me and He is faithful to carry it out to completion!

    Aida,

    I really like your rewording of the song! There are many great songs/hymns that have perhaps a few lyrics that could use a little tweaking like that.

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  8. Heres an old sunday school song,...

    "give me oil in my heart keep me burning burning burning.
    give me oil in my heart I pray I pray I pray"

    Heres my version,

    "I've got oil in my heart and i'm burning burning burning
    I've got oil in my heart I know i know i know"

    Heres another song that not 2 years ago I was singing with gusto.

    All who are thirsty
    All who are weak
    Come to the fountain
    Dip your heart in the stream of life
    Let the pain and the sorrow
    Be washed away
    In the waves of his mercy
    As deep cries out to deep (we sing)

    Come Lord Jesus come
    [repeat 3 times]

    Holy Spirit come
    [repeat 3 times]

    As deep cries out to deep
    [repeat 2 times]


    Jesus is here, why are we asking him to come. His holy spirit is in us why are we asking asking asking.

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  9. Pucky! Yeah, I hear ya on both of those songs. We do indeed already have oil in our hearts. This we know! You're right... no need to pray for it. Same with that second song. "Come Lord Jesus?" Well, where was He??? Did He go take a break somewhere? LOL I think we (the church) often ask Him for what He's already given us.

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  10. i think some people definitely do ask God for things that He's already done because they either never understood the promises or they've been deceived into believing something else because of the wording of some songs and prayers.

    The way that I understand asking the Holy Spirit and Jesus to 'come' is really asking Them to manifest their presence. [Let you feel Their love, Their power, Their comforting, etc.]
    by singing it, you are agreeing to let God do what He already wants to do or may even already be doing.

    But yeah, I wish these songs had better wording so that it wouldn't be so tricky to people.

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  11. Hey Tommy,

    Yeah, I agree, it could very well be the case at times that when people say things like, "Come Lord Jesus," they realize He really is already right there with them, and they are simply asking Him to 'show' or 'manifest' Himself in a way such as healing (emotional or physical), a prophecy, a word they 'need' to hear, or in any number of other ways.

    Sadly, if they don't get that sense of connection with Him that they were looking for, they leave the church building or the gathering thinking that God didn't 'show up,' and that's where I think we as the church could do a better job... teaching the truth that life with God is an ongoing journey, and we may not always 'feel' or 'sense' Him in those more tangible ways. We walk by faith, not by sight. :)

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  12. We have been singing that song at church and I have always been bothered by it. I think that I am going to suggest the re-wording. There are many other songs that could use re-wording as well and made into present in Christ realities. Thank you for your blog! I love it!

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  13. Yep indeed, Jean, I agree that there are many songs that could use some re-wording. :) So many songs seem to fall short of presenting the reality of who we already are in Christ and of the finished work of Christ. Hopefully as more and more of the church become aware of these realities, there will be better songs coming out!

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  14. I disagree. The songs particularly older hymns are meant to remind us of what to do, of where we started with Jesus. When we were first saved, to never wander far from that line when for some of us who did wander away from Him cried out in the darkness and He scooped us up out of our darkness.
    Any Christian who says they don't drift a bit and need to be reminded to draw close to Jesus, is absolutely not being truthful. This world is full of distractions that bit by bit keep us distracted.
    I think it's wrong to debate the lyrics of these worship songs, especially since the person who wrote them probably did so filled with the Holy Spirit.
    I understand what you are saying, but "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" is a beautiful song. It is an absolute favorite of mine. I think it like so many are written for the believer to recount, reclaim, and draw closer to Christ and also to bring those who have fallen away or have conviction in their heart to seek Jesus. No doubt, whatsoever.
    In His grace and mercy,
    Cass

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  15. Hi Cass,

    Thanks for your comments. As I said in the post, my intention is not to put down the writer of the song (nor the song itself), but rather I personally believe that in Christ we have a brand new nature, a brand new identity, a brand new heart and a brand new spirit. This new nature is not prone to wander. It is not prone to leave the God it loves. 1 Cor 6:17 says that we have become one spirit with Him. 2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13 and Eph 4:30 all say that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

    The good news of the gospel is that our old Adamic nature has died and we have been re-created as new creations that are righteous, holy, justified, clean and who have become partakers of the divine nature.

    But since people don't take all of these biblical truths as the reality of what is really true about us, the church today has an anemic view of God's grace and our new identity. We are taught that we're still mere sinners. We're taught that we're sinful worms who are prone to wander. But that's not what the Bible says about us! That's not what all these New Covenant scriptures say about us! We have been brought near to God by nothing less than the blood of Jesus, and it's nothing less than the blood of Jesus that keeps us near! We are prone to be near to Him, because He Himself has sealed us with His Spirit and made it that way!

    So again, I don't intend to knock the writer, nor the beautiful sound of the hymn. But the lyrics, in my scriptural opinion, fall short of the truth of who we are in Christ, and that's what this is all about for me.

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  16. Joe:

    just randomly ended up on this blog.
    In my experience: I understand I am a saint by the completed work of Christ. I know I have been crucified with Christ. But I do not see those lyrics as an anemic view of grace. On this side of heaven, we are positionally (legally) saved and made holy, but progressively (real-time) we are continued to be made holy. Yes, I a new creation and the old has gone, positionally, but in real-time, the truth is, we still war with the sinful nature that exists in us (Romans 7). On this side of heaven, the devil, world and the flesh, the unholy trinity I would like to call it, continues its attack.

    As a Christian, I have set my sails toward Christ and His kingdom. I may waver to the left and to the right, but I will ultimately be on course. But at the same time, there are impulses, past wounds, addictive behavior and the likes, that pulls me in different directions. I know my heart is set towards Christ, but even still, I do like the lyrics feel prone to leave God and His truth when faced with a temptation. I am not forsaking him altogether, but moment by moment, the daily battles to stay holy, all Christians honestly fall and fail. I will never be sinless in this lifetime, but it is my duty by wisdom and the power of the Spirit to 'sin less'. The Spirit and the flesh is not a ying-yang battle, but there is definitely a battle for the throne of my heart. Yes, positionally, Christ is on the throne when I received Him into my life, but on a day to day basis, I find myself escorting Christ off the throne and me sitting there like a foolish dethroner.
    ....continue below....

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  17. ...
    I do feel "prone" to sin. I believe Christianity is like swimming upstream, or climbing a slippery rope. If we are not disciplined and alert, if we do not go against the current of the flesh(internal traitor), the world (cultural delusion and influence) and devil's schemes, we will be sucked in it's whirlpool. It is because many Christians do not build self-control, acquire the wisdom to flee from sin and in general, do not resist these sinful inclinations or proneness that they become victims and not victors. When Jesus told me to deny myself, in one sense, He is telling me to deny the proneness of my flesh. I don't see it as anemic view of grace, but more, it is the reality of the human condition on this side of heaven. That is why God allows suffering and hardships of all kinds to keep our minds and hearts of track; to help us recheck our priorities; and help us be heavenly minded. There is a proneness to sin even after salvation. But after salvation, we now have the ability to say NO and do what is good, which we were unable to before.
    Fortunately, my church does not teach that I am only a mere sinner, like a worm who slithers into sin. The things you write, in countering the lyrics, I believe are true. But in the grand picture of reality in the life of a Christian, the lyrics are true as well. And if you read the lyrics in context of what the writer was going through, in his struggle against sin and in learning to live from his identity, the lyrics do not fall short of reality. The writer cannot compose a panoramic theologically exposition on the entire Bible in a single song. But we give the writer the benefit of the doubt that he understood the power of grace, but was simply writing a song of his struggles.
    I agree with the things that you said for the most part. I don't know how long you have been a christian. I don't know if you had profound suffering in your life. I don't know if you had a severe addiction before. i don't know anything about you except my interpratation of your writing. But if you have not experienced the "proneness" to sin and commit idolatry in any shape and form, I am amazed at your maturity and keeping focus on the straight and narrow. The bible is breeming with the people of God leaving Him and departing from the truth, only to be disciplined by God to repent. It takes only three chapters in Genesis for man to fall and fall miserably.
    I am a sinner saved by grace and who lives by grace each moment and day. And like u said, if i understood the entirety of his grace, or had a clearer picture of it, I would be living a more victorious life. I am learning and learning to appreciate his grace more fully. Thanks for making me think. Blessings.

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  18. Hi Anonymous, I have put off responding here because I wanted to give it due attention, but alas, I never seem to have that much time these days. :) So I'll try to get to the real substance of what I mean here.

    The core thing for me here is that I believe the church has wrongfully made "sin" the issue. That is, "sin" has been made into the issue that separates us from God. We think that when we sin, we have "departed" from God or "left" Him. We therefore think that because we think ungodly thoughts or have ungodly actions, we have then followed what we are "prone" to do.

    So let me just clear up what I believe about the truth of what God has done for us. He has taken away our old sinful nature (the nature we were born with in Adam) and has given us a new nature that is "one spirit" with God (1 Cor 6:17) and that is a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This IS who we now are! We have not merely been made "positionally" righteous, but we've become righteous as part of our new nature!

    I think you've correctly identified our enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. And so let me ask you to think about something. If indeed the flesh is our enemy, then are we our own enemy?? I've got good news! "The flesh" is not who we are. The flesh is an enemy, and indeed it has its ways of trying to pull us one way or another, but it is not what we are prone to follow! We are prone to follow our new righteous/divine nature, because our new nature is who we are!

    If Romans 7 happens to be talking about the life of a Christian, let's point out what it doesn't say. It doesn't say that the flesh is who I am. And it doesn't say that sin defines me. It says there there is a law of sin that dwells IN my members (my body). What is IN me isn't "me." And again, it doesn't say that that's what I'm prone to.

    And there are those who would say that Romans 7 is talking about the individual person before they came to Christ, and that indwelling sin is no longer an issue at all.

    But my goal here isn't to make either case, but rather to point out that in Christ, our actual (not just positional) identity and nature is righteous and divine, and not sinful nor prone to sin.

    Yes... we sometimes walk "after the flesh," but again that's a matter of us not acting like who we truly are. And as I began to say at the beginning, "sin" does not define who we are. It's not an issue that keeps us separated from God. In the midst of the worst of the worst of our behavior, we have not left God nor has He left us. We cannot escape Him! And that's the best news ever!

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  19. A friend of mine died in a car wreck. Well for 10 days he was in a coma on a machine..he died. Well he went to the Throne and Jesus sent him back. He was nervous before the Lord he said because of his recent sins he was aware of..The Lord looked at him with such LOVE and didnt know what Chris was talking about...thots can be easily read There...Pete, he proclaimed, WE ARE BEING DUPED BY SIN!! THERE IS NO SUCH THING IF YOU KNOW HIM!!!

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  20. I'm late to this blog but I've always interpreted this song as a non believer coming into the life of Christ and binding himself to the Lord because in his past state he was prone to wander. Or as a believer who has strayed far off track and coming back. The hymn is written based on 1 Samuel 7 which in fact is the Israelites turning BACK to the Lord and ridding themselves of their idols and false Gods. I think too much "religion" is being read into this song.

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    1. Hmm. I guess that's possible. But when the lyrics say, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, I'm not so sure it's an unbeliever talking there. :)

      Anyway, the point of this post isn't so much about the song, but about the false notion of a believer being "prone to wander" from God. Aside from this song, that's sadly a common theme in the church. In the blog post, I attempted to quell that notion. And not only that, but to show why it's false, and why we have something so much greater living on the inside of us. :)

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