Prone to wander

One of the misconceptions I had when I became a minister was thinking that my most important job was to bring people into the church and get them to join. I think churches that consider themselves “evangelical” make a similar mistake when they urge people to say the “sinner’s prayer.”

As if bringing people in the door and getting them saved is all there is to a life of faith.

Now it is important to join the church. Jesus called the church his “bride” (Ephesians 5:22-23). It’s his gift to humankind. Its purpose is to put hell out of business (Matthew 16:18).

And without confessing your sin, the blessings of salvation can’t flow into your life.

But joining the church and confessing your sin are just the beginning of a life of faith.

This week we’re going to sing one of the most beloved traditional hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The hymn was written by Robert Robinson in 1758.

Robinson was born in England in 1735. He father died when Robinson was eight. When Robinson was 14, his mother sent him to London to learn to be a barber.

Robinson fell in with the wrong crowd and became part of a gang. One day the gang decided to crash a meeting where the great evangelist George Whitefield was preaching. It seems they went to “scoff at the poor, deluded Methodists.”

Instead of scoffing, Robinson was converted. He became a minister and went on to write books and hymns, of which the most famous was, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

The second verse of the hymn includes the phrase, “Here I raise my Ebenezer…” a reference to 1 Samuel 7:12, where Samuel raised up a “stone of help” as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to Israel. We need “Ebenezers” to remind ourselves that God is faithful, even when we’re not.

And we need Ebenezers because, as Robinson wrote in the third verse, we’re “prone to wander.”

Robinson knew his own heart. It turned out that even he was “prone to wander.”

The story goes that sometime later in life, Robinson was riding in a stagecoach where a woman passenger was studying a hymnbook. The two struck up a conversation. The woman asked Robinson what he thought of the hymn she was humming. Through tears, Robinson replied, “Madam, I am the poor, unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”

We may be saved once and for all, but our hearts are “prone to wander.”

We need “stones of help.” We need the church.

We need something to point us, again and again and again, to the ultimate “stone of help,” Jesus Christ.