Ned produced Robert's letter. "Lord Varys, be so kind as to show this to my lady of Lannister."
The eunuch carried the letter to Cersei. The queen glanced at the words. "Protector of the Realm," she read. "Is this meant to be your shield, my lord? A piece of paper?" She ripped the letter in half, ripped the halves in quarters, and let the pieces flutter to the floor.
-excerpt from A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
Ned ended getting the bad side of the deal. He banked on the words that King Robert wrote before his death and thought that words on paper was enough to become the Lord Protector of the Realm. Unfortunately, Queen Cersei had a greater hold on the throne, she had Joffrey, the Kings son, and rightful heir to the throne.
Cersei's question to Ned before she ripped Robert's last requests was the very inspiration of this blog. Is this meant to be your shield, my lord?
Being a Christian, it has always been a question of mine if I really am one. There are countless times where I see myself down on the ground limping because of my sin compared to the times wherein I'm comfortable standing and banking on the righteous deeds that I have just done. Where could I base my Christianity? Where could I firmly hold my belief, even through the life I live, that I am indeed a Christian? Do I have that piece of paper that would say that yes, I am in good standing and, figuratively speaking, rightfully able to claim that place? Or do I have that same assurance, like Queen Cersei had, that no matter what happens, through blood and the hierarchy of their family that Joffrey, and not Ned would rule? What is my shield?
I want to share my thoughts from my journal regarding this matter. I want to share with you the thoughts that I've wrestled with and what I've thought to be my shield and my conclusion.
Shield: Good Deeds...
As a sinner, and a human filled with pride, I guess, we do have a tendency that would always make us want to help ourselves rather than seek help from others. What I'm getting at is, talking about the topic of salvation, we have that tendency to make sure that our salvation is from our own so that we could control it. For me, I want to have that assurance that even if I do what I want to do now, I'll have that fail safe deed that would buy my way into paradise.
Here's the problem though, that doesn't work. It's as weak as the appeal of Ned to grab the throne. It could easily be ripped apart in halves and in quarters.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
(Isaiah 64:5b-7, ESV)
We're sinners, all of us, and none of us have ever lived a perfect life. That in itself makes us unworthy of any time spent in paradise. I would always think of myself. Even when I try and do selfless acts, I would always want to point the spotlight on me. See that charitable donation right there? I did that. That's how I would always look like, and with that, I can relate to what the verse says, all our righteous deeds are like polluted garment. It's basically clean water that's inside a poison dabbed glass, and whoever would drink of that glass would still be poisoned.
Sometimes, I try to view my words and how I talk and my theology to be my shield. The way I talk, preach and teach would sometimes tend to be enough for me. Theology could act as such because you can say the right things, know the right things but in the end your heart isn't really geared up for the right things. Theology may be at the top of your head, but a man's heart would desire to be on a pedestal and be known. Theology can lead to man and not Jesus to be the reason why the nations should be glad.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians warning them that this "knowledge" puffs up. Knowledge is indeed dangerous, because a heart that cares about self and nothing but self would lead to arrogance and pushing people away from the Gospel, whose message is supposed to be attractive and beautiful.
You see, there is a great comfort to be talking about the things of God. There's that great satisfaction within me when I write down my notes to share towards my small groups and mold them all together to make sense. Yes, there is that great temptation to hold out what you know and make people believe that you're a righteous guy in words and in deed. There is that great temptation to rest on and place your hopes on what you've said, how you appeared, how you're perceived, how you're loved by people because of what you know and how you deliver it and such, and that is the very danger of knowledge.
Here's what Jesus said for the people who place all their hope on their own theology:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
(Matthew 23:25-28 ESV)
There are more woes than this, but for me these caught my own attention and made me revisit my own actions. This was fresh from a reminder of a friend regarding reading Matthew 23, in fact reading the Bible in itself. It's easy to view other people when you read this chapter, but try to look at your own self while you read Matthew 23. That I did, and this is what gripped me the most.
I may have talked a lot about Christ which made me attractively holy in the outside, but in reality, my innards are made out of greed and self-indulgence. I played the tune to the crowd and the appreciation of the crowd was what I wanted out of it. I was a whitewashed tomb, beautiful and appealing on the outside that would fool anyone but dead in the inside, featuring a heart that beats rebellion and sin against the God who I pretend to glorify.
I talked a lot about the book, but never lived a life that is worthy of my calling.
Ripped in Halves and Quarters...
There could be more shields than good deeds and theology that can act as a persons shield when the time comes that we face Christ sitting as the judge. Here's the thing, even if these actions may appear as a beautiful white cloak that we wear over ourselves, the fact remains that our heart can be as dirty as filthy rags.
Here lies the problem. We have a lying and sinful heart. Personally, it's hard to decipher what our hearts contain since it's the most deceitful thing above all things (Jer 17:9). We won't know what it really wants till we're lying face down on our own vomit. We'll talk big about God yet our heart truly doesn't want God. We'll walk bravely showing off our "kindness" to other people but we're not really big on God's kindness that is known to have lead men to repentance. We may have done things right, but with an unchanged heart, our righteous deeds are like polluted garments. This is the dilemma we have when we face our Judge, we don't have anything to show him that's as sturdy as a bloodline. All we have are papers showing of our deeds that can be ripped in halves, and then in quarters. Is this meant to be your shield, my lord?
I would want to run back to scripture as the basis for my conclusion. I don't want my own opinion to be the driving point of this one since we've already reasoned out that we're no good and not meant to be trusted.
Thus says the Lord;
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
Like what I've seen in myself, it's dangerous to trust ourselves because that would be the very proof of the curse that the verse was pertaining to. Our own strength, our deeds, our knowledge nor our hearts should be trusted. We would be like a shrubs in the desert that will not be able to see nor experience anything that's good. We'll be stuck in a wasteland trying to look for water when or food when there's none to be found. We'll die trying to fend for our own survival in a land that promises no survival. As people that possesses poisonous hearts, it's impossible for us to manufacture clean deeds. It's like a dirty well trying to produce clean water.
That in itself is death. There's no place for the promises of Christ if everything would be about ourselves. Trusting in one's self for salvation is a dead end. We're broken cisterns, not capable of holding nor giving water. We're sinners, nothing more, nothing less. Cursed, and probably on a highway to hell.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit"
Christ should be our only shield. How he lived, and how he died should be our very basis for our salvation. Not with what we've done nor what we know, it is all about what Christ has done.
Paul pleaded to the Galatians that our only boast should be of Christ and him crucified (Gal 6:14). Because only through Christ and him crucified that we gain our identity.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Our identity, our shield, the very thing that would cover us and proclaim us righteous is in Christ alone. We would be proclaimed holy and blameless because Christ is holy and blameless. By our own we'd just be filthy rags. This is why we're nothing apart from Christ. We'll be like branches that withers, meant to be thrown into the fire. Christ is our only hope and only through Christ shall we be saved.
Christ is our only shield. He can't be ripped apart in halves or quarters. Believe me, they tried. They whipped him to the point of death, crowned him with thorns, made him carry the heavy cross from one point to another, nailed him to a tree, dislocated his shoulders, poked his sides, and buried him. Christ only came out 3 days later and shook everything off. He lives.
With that, let's try to review and look into our hearts and see why do we do the things we do? Is it because of the joy that God has placed in our hearts through Christ that we find serving Him and sharing the hope that we received? Or is it because of the joy that we'd be accepted and recognized. Let's drop our own shields, kneel in prayer and ask for forgiveness. Let's be boastful of our weakness because from there Christ and God would be glorified.
Let's all pray to be given the heart that genuinely loves God and people, for I believe that is the very proof that we'll have that our hearts are changed from what was sinful and deceitful. Let's place all our hopes in Christ and not ourselves. So that, towards the end, when we face our Judge, we don't hold up with our own righteousness, for we have none, but we come forward and beg for the Judge's mercy as we present ourselves to be a person who holds Christ before us. He is our shield and our only hope, now and forever, Amen.