Transformation: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 2

The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Matt Mikalatos‘s second novel, though I use the term loosely. Night Of The Living Dead Christian is like no other novel you’ll read, except perhaps his debut novel, re-released under the title My Imaginary Jesus. (You can view the original cover and read my review here).

The subtitle of Night Of The Living Dead Christian is “One man’s ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be truly transformed.” The tag line on the back cover is, “What does a transformed life actually look like?”

No beating around the bush here. This novel is less about the story and more about what Matt wants to say than any others I’ve read since I finished his first one. I like that about his books. It’s the same approach used by fathers of fiction such as John Bunyan. Few others besides Matt are doing it today. But I’ll discuss my reaction to it and why I think it works when I write my review tomorrow.

Today I want to focus my thoughts on the subject of transformation. As Night Of The Living Dead Christian clearly portrays it, the need for transformation is vital. We all are monsters of one variety or another.

Some people struggle against their monster-ness and seek transformation in any number of places — false religion, charitable activities, psychoanalysis. None of these activities, external or internal, can accomplish true transformation. At best we pretty up the monster to make him appear more respectable or hide him as best we can.

In the end, what we need, is the transformation that only Jesus Christ can bring. But what exactly does that mean? Some professing Christians say the change Jesus enacts is instantaneous and total. We have new life; the old has passed away. Consequently, the true Christian no longer sins.

That certainly would be radical transformation, and I think we all long for such. All we need to do is confess, and Jesus will do the rest. The fact is, anyone who claims he is living a sinless life is deceived.

Yes, absolutely Jesus gives new life, but like physical birth, becoming a new creature in Christ is a starting place, not a finishing place. It’s as if at the point when we turn to Jesus, we’ve crawled back up on the Potter’s wheel and laid our lives before Him so that He can remold us into the image of His Son.

The remolding process isn’t finished in a day. There may be days we don’t think there’s been any progress at all. We may look into the mirror of God’s word and be dismayed by all we see that needs to go. But that’s the nature of growth.

When we were little we couldn’t always tell that we were getting taller or more responsible or more independent. As Christians we can’t always tell when we are less selfish or prideful or unloving. We see Christ and we know we aren’t there yet, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. That doesn’t mean He isn’t ordering our lives in such a way as to bring about transformation.

Sometimes the growth comes in spurts, and we see dramatic change — which can then turn into a bit of a problem that can stunt our progress because we might think we’ve arrived, or we’ve figured this transformation thing out.

The truth is, it’s not actually a mystery. Paul says in Colossians that growth comes by holding fast to the head, which is Christ (see Col. 2:19). Peter says growth comes from God’s word:

like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2)

In fact, the word of God and its importance to the Christian is a theme in any number of books in the Bible. James says we are to abide in the word. Paul says we are to let the word abide in us, or “richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

Is transformation some kind of instant cure for our sin nature? Yes and no. Christ’s righteousness is now my righteousness, but I still don’t have any of my own. My motives are twisted, just as Paul described in Romans 7:

v. 15 – For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

v. 18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

v. 19 – For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

In chapter 8 Paul happily states that there is no longer condemnation for those who are in Christ. That’s the good news. But there’s still the matter of living transformed lives. After some digression, Paul comes back to the issue in chapter 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (v. 2)

Renewing our minds certainly seems consistent with abiding in the word of God.

Paul addresses the issue of transformation in his second letter to the Corinthians also, this time in respect to our looking to Jesus:

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cr 3:15-18, emphasis mine)

To summarize, transformation can’t happen apart from new birth, but it is resultant growth, not an instantaneous change. It comes from looking to Jesus Christ and engaging His word with our minds, with our lives. It’s also important to note that as long as we are alive we should be growing, so transformation isn’t a done deal here and now.

Tomorrow in my review I’ll let you know if my conclusions about transformation match up with those presented in Night Of The Living Dead Christian.

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Great Bible quotes…now I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t use any in my posts. :#/ Thank you!

    Like

  2. Wonderful post Becky… I always enjoy your tour post and your normal post haha. 🙂

    Like

  3. Great meditations! You outline the “now and not yet” of transformation really well. It was encouraging to me.

    Like

  4. Julie, Ryan, Janeen, thank you so much for your encouraging feedback.

    Janeen, I thought Matt did a wonderful job presenting the truth you mentioned through his story. It’s such a hard thing to do — offer hope and yet be truthful about the struggle, and do it all in 200 to 300 pages. 🙄 I seriously admire that guy!

    Becky

    Like


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: