Free Mulch and Gospel Skepticism
A call not to skimp, but to overfill the buckets and load down the truck bed.
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” — Colossians 1:22 (NIV)
There is a huge mound of mulch at the end of the country road that runs past my neighborhood. And I mean, huge. It is an industrial sized, 18-wheel trailer dump.
I don’t know who put it there. But the sign says free.
Now and then, I’ll see folks shoveling the shredded pine into the back of pickups or large buckets to carry home and spread in flower beds and on hillsides.
I live in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge in the southern Appalachians.
It is beautiful country.
Along with the beauty comes the threat of erosion, as many homes are built between high ground and low ground. My house is one of those, which slopes from a hill in the front to a creek in the woods behind my house. The in between tends to erode if not properly covered with vegetation.
To cover the entire erosion zone is an expensive endeavor, which is why I’ve opted to let weeds and wildflowers spread their roots rather than me spread bags of mulch. Thankfully, my weeds provide a great snack for the deer, who tend to keep things trimmed for me in the erosion zone.
And yet, pine mulch would be far more aesthetically pleasing.
So, why haven’t I hauled a load from the free mulch mound down the road?
If the mulch is free, there must be something wrong with it, right? The trees must have been infested with termites. And it goes without saying that termite infested wood is not something you want to spread around your home.
But people show up for the free mulch. They shovel it and spread it. All at no cost.
They seem to be pleased with the product.
Maybe I should take a closer look.
Reflecting on my skepticism over free mulch being too good to be true, I’ve realized that I treat the shed blood of Jesus the same way.
Sometimes, it just sounds too good to be true.
Consider Colossians 1:21-23:
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. (NIV)
Alienated. Enemies. Evil behavior.
Paul pulls no punches on the reality of the erosion. It’s bad. Worse than bad.
Yet, the premise and promise of grace is that the shed blood of Christ covers (atones for) my sin completely.
Here is the question that arises from my skeptical heart.
In the gospel, can we really go from guilty as charged to “presented” before the world and heaven as “holy,” “without blemish,” and “free from accusation?”
Does this not sound too good to be true? What is the catch? Where is the string?
The only requirement to access Jesus’ blood is to receive it by believing it is true. By faith. With hope.
We simply stop at the mulch pile of the cross, recognize our need, and take all we need.
The blood of Jesus is not there to be looked at. It’s there to be spread.
So, don’t skimp. Overfill the buckets. Load down the truck bed.
There is enough. No, more than enough. Far more.
And don’t forget, it is free for the taking. In fact, it is only free. It can’t be purchased at a store or online.
But it’s not cheap.
This is the most premium mulch the soul could possibly possess. It covers and keeps covering.
That is why we believe and keep believing.
This is what my friend Francis Schaeffer taught me, where he writes in True Spirituality,
“This is when we begin to make our forward steps as Christians: When I know through experience that I can lay hold of Christ’s blood by faith to cover my sins this morning, and then to cover my sins this afternoon, even if they’re the same sins. When I know this, the preciousness of Christ’s blood becomes a tremendous reality. I begin to live in the light of His presence and in the light of His work—not just in the past or in the future, but in the present.”
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