grace – the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred

For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
Ephesians 2: 8 – 10

 As we move into the season of celebration for the birth of our Savior, I am reminded of the true meaning of this gift from God.

The message from the book of Ephesians has been my favorite scripture for a long time.  It is even written on the cover of my Bible to remind me of God’s promise. For years I leaned on this scripture to give my life meaning, but my spiritual life was out of balance.  I have always been involved in mission trips, good deeds, and service but I still felt empty.  Like many people I grabbed onto this one part of the scripture without understanding the entire message. 

I think it is interesting that Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison.  In this letter Paul was trying to get the people to see themselves differently.  He suggested that people who saw themselves as sinners would benefit by thinking of themselves as people in Christ:  “….remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” – Ephesians 2:11-13.  Paul is trying to encourage everyone that although we may be spiritually dead (separated from God) our salvation comes from our faith that Gods overwhelming love for us has reunited us to Him through Jesus Christ.

For many years I fought God calling me into prison ministry.  I was happy doing the “good works” that I wanted to do.  I did not want to be immersed into “jailhouse religion”.  At the time I was fighting Gods call, I was a simple man and I had simple understanding of the word.  I was convicted as soon as I entered the Chapel in the prison for the first time.  Prison ministry has been my passion for the last twelve years because I believe it is the “good works” that God prepared in advance for me to do.

I have been saved by God’s unearned favor given in Christ – Grace.   None of this would be possible without the birth of Jesus.  God’s ultimate gift of grace!

John Burns

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