On Sudoku, The Scriptures and Sinful Me…

Math in general and logic in particular – we just don’t get along very well.
Give me a word search, a game of Scrabble or a jigsaw puzzle any time.
But please don’t make me play a game that is all about logic.
I’ll be a good sport and attempt to play – but it won’t go well.
And if it is a partner game, you really want to pick someone else.

Don’t worry – I have learned enough math to get along just fine.
And because I found it difficult to learn myself, I can teach it really well.
To elementary school students.
But please don’t make me go above 5th grade math.

I tell you all of this to set the stage for a little known fact about me:
I play Sudoku every day.

Yes, a math game, used to teach logic.

I play it every day because I am bad at it.
I play it in order to exercise the part of my brain that is the weakest.

I do my very best to complete each puzzle without looking at the answer key in the back.
And for the easy ones – and even the medium ones – I don’t (usually) need to look.

But as I work through the book and get to the hardest ones in the back I have learned that it is in my best interest to check my thinking.
I will solve a square to the best of my ability.
But then I will double check that square with the answer key in the back.
Because just one fallacy – one wrong number – in one square – throws off the entire game.

I feel absolutely no guilt about checking the answer key, either.
I recognize that my logical brain has limits.
And that the answer key contains the truth of the matter.
Regardless of what makes sense to me.

The more I play, the more often I am correct when I compare my answer to the key.
But there are times when I am still badly wrong.

And so it is in my life.

My thought processes are weak in the areas of holiness and godliness.
I am naturally bent towards sin.
A lack of love.
A sharp tongue.

We all are.
Because we were born with a sin nature.

Yes, when I chose to become a Christ-follower, the penalty for ALL my sin, past, present and future was placed on Him instead of me.
But that was only the beginning of the journey towards holiness, Christ-likeness, godliness.
The author of Hebrews says that “…having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I stand before God fully justified – my sin-debt has been paid in full.
But I also walk with Him now in the process of being sanctified – being made more and more like Him.

And until I see Jesus face to face, I will wrestle with me, with that sinful bent, with temptation.

Just like playing Sudoku is a battle for logic for me, living a holy life will always be a struggle while I am in this body.
Because my brain and my heart are wired toward sin.
Therefore, I must keep a constant eye on the answer key, the Word of God.

Unlike Sudoku where I only have to heavily use the key on the “hard ones”, I have found that in life I need that “answer key” of the Word of God like I need oxygen.
Because everything about this life is “a hard one”.

I can never, ever sit back and say, “God, I’ve got this one. I don’t need Your perspective on how to handle it because I have complete understanding of the situation.”

I have never once been all-knowing, all-powerful or all-present.
I have never once been able to understand another person completely.
I cannot know the motive or the heart of anyone else.
Shoot, I don’t even understand my own motives or heart half the time!
I have never found it easy to love my enemy.
And I have never found that it comes naturally to put your interests ahead of my own.
I have never found my brain to be wired so that forgiveness is my default answer.
Even in the most mundane, day in and day out situations.

So I am utterly and completely dependent on the “answer key” that is the Word of God.
But the beautiful thing about this Answer Key is that it not only provides the right answer to any situation.
It also gives me an example to follow.
As well as the power to be able to do it.

The Word of God in written form is the Bible.
But the Word of God – Jesus – became flesh and lived among us.
He showed us how to live – how to love – by example.
But then He took it a step farther when He traded places with the Holy Spirit after He ascended to heaven.
And God walking around in the flesh, trapped in place and time by a human body, sits at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. But He sent the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit to live inside of every believer.

So that I not only have the knowledge of the written Word, and the past example of how Jesus lived, but the very Power of God inside me “to will and to act according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Incredible truth!
And astonishing, dumbfounding, amazing grace.

There have been times where I have played an entire game of Sudoku without ever checking the answer key.
And it all seems to be going well.
Until I get to the last square.
And nothing fits correctly.

And there are many, many times where I do not access the Written Word or ask for help from the Living Word.
And it seems to be going well.
Until it all falls apart.
Because I was leaning on my own understanding instead of trusting Him.

So take my advice, friends, and check The Answer Key often. Daily. In every situation. Even the small ones.
Know the Word well.
And then do what it says. Do what He did. Do what He tells you to do.
It is the only safe and Kingdom-successful way to play this game of life!

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