Summary: This sermon is the third in a series on Romans. It addresses Paul’s comments concerning pursuing human nature or pursuing what is pleasing to the Spirit.

bibliography: Harry The Dirty Dog, Galations 5:19-, Romans 7:14-25, ADHD, John Wesley

I want to tell you a story from my childhood. It’s not about me or my family. Its a story from a book I got as a child when my mother enrolled me in a book of the month club. Its amazing how those stories stick with you as you grow up, but I remember it very clearly.

As I tell you this story, I want us to pay attention to how the story parallels our own story of justification and salvation in Christ. As we listen to the story, I want us to focus on the similarities to the human condition and the role of God’s grace in our life.

Because salvation begins for us like that of the story of Harry.

Harry is a dog. Harry was a white dog with black spots and he lived with a family who loved him very much. There was only one thing about Harry’s life he didn’t like.

Harry hated baths.

He would do anything he could to get out of a bath. He’d hide the scrub brush. He’d hide himself. The family got very good at tricking Harry into taking a bath and Harry got very good at picking up on the smallest of clues that a bath was in his future.

Now, of course, a bath was in Harry’s best interest, but Harry didn’t care. Even though Harry had everything he could possibly want or need, Harry didn’t appreciate it. And so it was that one day when Harry heard the bath water running which he knew was for him, Harry took control of his own life, ran away from home, and escaped through a whole he dug under the fence in the backyard.

Harry left home to pursue his own self serving desires.

Suddenly Harry found himself with a great deal of freedom. He decided he was going to go and do all the things he had always longed to go and do but hadn’t bee allowed to.

He met up with children he had never met before. He visited restaurants and construction sites. He wandered into streets and alleys and explored places he’s never been before.

But Harry discovered something. Pursuing his own desires brought him no satisfaction. He found the world was an unfriendly place. People who were not his family didn’t greet him the same way they did. Places he thought would be so much fun, didn’t provide him with the pleasure he thought it would. In fact, Harry found himself, lonely, scared, hungry, cold, friendless, and shelterless.

In his despair, Harry sought to return to his home and family, so he crawled back through the hole he had dug under the fence in the backyard.

Harry just had one problem.

His worldly travels had made Harry unrecognizable to his family. Harry was no longer a white dog with black spots. Now he was a black dog with white spots, and when the family found him in the backyard while searching for Harry, they didn’t know who this strange dog was.

Fortunately this family had an unconditional acceptance about them, because when this strange dog they didn’t know indicated he wanted a bath, they were happy to comply.

And of course, through Harry’s bath, something amazing happened. Being made clean, Harry’s family and Harry recognized Harry, and they entered into a new relationship together. And so happily ends the story of Harry the Dirty Dog.

Salvation begins for us like Harry’s story.

Earlier in the letter to Romans from which we have read, Paul speaks of the redemption we don’t deserve but receive in Christ Jesus.

Our initial response to life is to take control of our own lives, to follow the pursuits of our human nature. But just like Harry those won’t provide us with the satisfaction we desire. The thing is, without the unconditional love given to us through Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to rectify our condition, make our life right, fix our situation. It’s all about Grace.

Paul has emphasized this point, wanting to make it perfectly clear, wanting us to get our priorities straight, wanting us to focus our attention on what God does, not on what we can do.

Its all about Grace.

And the words of Paul we read this evening tell us what God’s grace does for us:

“...the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.. The law of Moses could not save us...But God put into effect a different plan to save us.”

And that plan is Christ - grace given to us freely through faith in Christ.

In the school district and also as a parent, I learned about attention and focus. Noises and movement are distracting. Having the television on makes it difficult to get homework completed. Sitting by the pencil sharpener or by the door makes it difficult to pay attention to the teacher. If you truly want to learn, you move away from sources of distractions, closer to the teacher. You find a quite place to do your homework. You do things that help you focus your attention better.

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