It is absolutely true that God works over time in our lives to mature and sanctify us. Each day for the saint is a day of learning, growth, and a continual drawing near to him (1 Peter 2:4). Each experience, each moment of suffering, each opportunity for service provides the disciple with gradual steps toward the final goal of full sanctification and eternal life.
At the same time, God works in ways that cause immediate and abrupt changes. The miracles and healings performed by the Lord Jesus Christ remind us that spiritual changes may well occur as quickly as physical ones.
One of those immediate healings came to the woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years. She came up behind the Lord as he was surrounded by a crowd and touched his cloak.
Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition (Mark 5:29 NLT).
The most obvious spiritual application is immersion. In that one act sins are forgiven, the new creation is born, and we are transferred from the dark kingdom into his light. “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 NET). With the verbs referring to a one-time event, these verses look back to conversion: “the readers are reminded of their baptism” (IOVC).
There may be other moments, however, in the walk of the faithful when great insights or major shifts of behavior may occur.
Peter seemed to have one of these moments in Cornelius’s house. “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people” (Acts 10:34). Yes, God had done much in the past for him in order to reach this point. When the church was established on the day of Pentecost, Peter had even affirmed that the gospel was also for those who were “far away,” a phrase that indicates the Gentiles (Acts 2:39). But it appears that, finally, at this moment, in Cornelius’s house, Peter makes the leap of understanding. “Now I get it!” From then on, everything changes. The gospel is for all! Christ is “Lord of all!” (v. 36).
It wasn’t an inspired message nor a heavenly vision that made it click for Peter, but Cornelius’s statement about why the apostle was there. The divine communications were obviously important in order that he might reach that point, but it was looking into the faces of the centurion’s family and friends when the pieces fell into place. “Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you” (Acts 10:33 NLT).
At intervals in our lives, we may find similar leaps occurring. Certainly, it is because God has already been working in us. But in the blink of an eye, everything changes. Understanding dawns. A sin no longer tempts. Service becomes a pleasure. Sharing the Good News flows naturally. Forgiveness is extended to others.
We must comprehend that gradual growth is the norm of the disciple. But we must also leave room for that sudden, blessed shift that God may effect in us, which can propel us forward immediately to new heights of maturity and service. His power is unlimited, and its workings in us and through us will produce amazing changes, to his eternal glory.