In the process of getting a divorce after five painful years of separation, Chip and Cindy Altemos had begun seeing other people. Then without warning, Chip’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. After Chip was hospitalized with kidney failure, Cindy made the decision to donate a kidney to her soon-to-be ex-husband. “There was no way I could walk around with two kidneys and he had none,” she said. “It was the right thing to do.” The transplant took place on February 21, 2007.
Recuperating in the hospital, a surprising thing began to happen. Chip said, “We slowly fell back in love again.” The couple reunited as a result of Cindy’s act.
Such sacrificial love carries with it the power to transform the recipient. Have you ever been loved like that? Whether you realize it or not, the baby born in Bethlehem grew up to love you deeply! The writer of Hebrews writes about the overwhelming, personal nature of Christ’s love for you.
For me, He went where I could not go.
“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” – Hebrews 9:24
In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle contained an inner sanctuary where God’s presence was believed to dwell. On the annual Day of Atonement, a high priest was allowed to enter that space and represent the people of God (9:7). He carried with him the blood of an animal sacrifice—killed to atone for the sins of the nation. No one else could enter there. Not me. Not you. No one was worthy.
When Jesus entered heaven following His death on the cross, He was worthy. Going before the very face of God as sacrifice and priest, Jesus entered God’s space “for us”—literally on our behalf. He is our access into God’s presence. He did it for me!
For me, He gave what I could not give.
“…not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another…” – Hebrews 9:25
Intimate contact with God came at great cost. Before a God who is holy, I am helplessly immersed in sins that will keep me from ever knowing His love. When no other human being could rescue me, Jesus “would offer Himself” as the atoning sacrifice for my sins. Only one without guilt could die for the guilty (2 Cor 5:21). He suffered (9:26), bore my sins as his own (9:28), and then put them away (9:26). He did it for me!
For me, He offers what I cannot imagine.
“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” – Hebrews 9:26
When I think that sin bars me from access to God’s presence, it leaves me with a sense of hopelessness. Even if I repent and “make it right,” sin recurs in my life. In the Old Testament, the high priest made atonement for the sins of Israel every year—a constant reminder that the way to God was opened ever-so-briefly through an imperfect, sacrificial system. No one could imagine an access to God that was always available.
Jesus opened up the way to God “once” for all time (9:26-28). Stressing the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice and decisive handling of my sins, the writer of Hebrews wants me to know that the doorway to God’s presence is permanently and always open to me. I will never be good enough to enter God’s space on my own merits, but I will always be welcome there. It really is hard to imagine, but He did it for me!
For me, He is coming.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” – Hebrews 9:27-28
According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus will leave the Holy Place of Heaven again and will come for His people, to complete the salvation begun during His first coming. The purpose of salvation goes beyond forgiveness. Salvation is about God coming after a people for Himself. He is not coming again because my sins have been inadequately done away with. He is coming for me!
How do I respond to a Savior who does so much for me? When Jesus returns, the Bible says He is coming for a people who are eagerly waiting for Him (9:28). Does your life reflect a core longing in your heart to be where He is?
Has your life been changed by the Christmas Revolution?