Ray Hoffman - Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa - Friday Afternoon, 2020

We will read from I Peter 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” So the thing that stood out to me, reading this letter, something we have been hearing about this convention, and hope you don’t mind, hearing about it again, and that’s obedience. It’s a very necessary part of our salvation…can’t go to heaven without it, and sometimes, not just easy to hear. I was thinking before the meeting, several years ago, this Cuban man was telling me about the time, he was visiting his sister and her family, and they had a little boy about five or six years old. Think it was a Saturday morning, the little boy was sitting on the couch, reading his Bible, so Uncle sat next to him, and had his Bible, and they were going to read together. So he thought he would pick out an appropriate verse for his little nephew, so he went to Ephesians 6, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The little boy heard that and just said: “Uncle, how about you read your Bible, and I’ll read mine.” Not easy to take at any age, is it?  

Obedience, it’s something that pleases the Lord. You notice there it said “Elect.” God chose us, He saw us before we saw Him. Foreknowledge! When He chose us, it was through the separation, sanctification; it’s just like a separation from the world, to the Lord, and it was with this purpose, that we would obey. That was His plan, He did not predestinate a people, but He did predestinate a way in His Son, and He wanted a family like His Son. You can’t be like His son, unless you obey. We were telling some folk the other night, about how we heard the truth, and this young man at school, he never told me he was religious, he just lived it. I remember wanting to be like him, and I tried to imitate him. But you know, I could not capture the thing I wanted most. That was this peace and contentment and joy, and you know why? Because I was not yet a child of God, and I was not obeying God, that was a secret thing that was in his heart towards God, and God gave him this peace that we read here too, and he gives us the grace to obey. There is just no way around it.  

I’ll tell you this story. A few years ago, we were at a convention in England, and someone told me that there was a lady there, that had professed, that was in the same religion as I was. She was a nun, and I wanted to meet her, and hear her testimony. So they arranged after lunch one day, that we would visit, at the back of the dining tent, so we introduced each other. She was like a kind of melancholy person, kind of sad in a sense, and I said, “I hear you have a interesting testimony.” She said, “My testimony is a sad testimony,” and that really surprised me, because my testimony is not a sad testimony, but a very, very happy one. She said, "My testimony is a sad testimony, because I professed before I became a nun." I had never heard that before, and so she went on to tell us the story, that she was about 18, 19, or so, and she became a teacher, maybe she was 20. She couldn’t teach there, because there weren’t any openings, but there was one in Spain, but it was in this religious school. So she was with these nuns, and she said, “I just admired them so much that I wanted to become one, too.” So she had to go through a three year schooling, and then she was a nun for 10 years. So we asked her, "So whatever turned you back?" She said, “Well, it all had to do with this one nun, they called her Mother Superior, she was over the others, and she was dying of cancer, she was in her early 50s. I loved her with all my heart, I adored her. Before she died, she gathered all us young nuns by her bedside.” She was really telling them, like a last message, and she said, “I should be telling you, that I am looking forward to seeing my Heavenly Father, but I am sorry to tell you, that I don’t even know the God I have been serving all these years - that was like a dagger in my heart.”  

But she was so involved, and well, she went to Peru, and she was there a little while, and she decided that she will just give her life there in Peru, helping the poor. But she had to come back, and take some courses, and there was quite an involved process that she didn’t realise in getting a visa to teach down there. So she had some free time. Her mother was professing in England, so she went back to where her mother was, and she had a little place there, she had to wait some months. So her mother invited her to a Gospel Meeting, so she went to the Gospel Meeting and after the Gospel Meeting, she went up to the workers and she said to them, “I have been sacrificing my life on the wrong altar, all these years.” Then she said: “There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t know that I was doing the wrong thing, but I just thought I could make up for it with sacrifice.” You can’t do it. That sometimes gets into our mind, we make some great sacrifice, and the Lord has to accept that. But there is no sacrifice that He will accept, aside from obedience, it’s a must. 

You know, I could tell you about King Saul, it’s a story you know in I Samuel 15. Samuel was sent by the Lord to tell King Saul, this is a very nice chapter, we studied at preps last year, “Samuel also said unto Saul, 'The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel. Now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord.'” That was very, very kind of the Lord, because two chapters later, He told him, “Your kingdom will not continue.” But He sent to give him another chance, because our God is a God of another chance, isn’t He? So He said, "You go out and destroy these Amalekites, destroy them all, and everything that they have." So he gets about 200,000 footmen and 10,000 men of Judah, and goes after those Amalekites, and as you know, he destroys all of them, but he saves the King and he saves some sheep and oxen and so forth. Here comes Samuel, and King Saul saluted him, and says, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” So Samuel the Prophet says, “What does this mean, 'The bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen?'” An old brother worker said one time, “You know the thing about our flesh, and the things that we don’t put to death, is going to be crying out to be fed.” These were crying out to be fed. And Saul said, "…I did, I did, but I just saved this King alive, and the people were the ones that forced me to save them, but they were just going to sacrifice it to the Lord…."

It all sounded so good, and oftentimes our excuses for not obeying sound so very good to us. But as far as the Lord was concerned, partial obedience, was disobedience. Samuel told him, "When you were small in your sight, God put you over the tribes of Israel, but now He is going to take the Kingdom from you." You know what the problem was with King Saul? The description of King Saul was that from the shoulders upward, he was higher or taller than any man. The problem with King Saul was that there was just too much of King Saul. When he was like a servant, he did well but this thought of a King went to his head, and he stopped thinking like a servant, which is to obey your master, and he started thinking like a King, which is to do the ordering, and, "If I get something from Samuel, well, I’m the King, I can change that if I want to." You know, we can all think like Kings at times and, "….Well, I know the workers said this but you know…I’ve got my excuses, and then you know, it is so and so’s fault that I didn’t do what was right." Blame others like King Saul. But wonderful if we can be like David and say, “I have sinned.” Saul eventually had to say that, because there was no way out, but he lost his Kingship. There is no way around obedience, and partial obedience is disobedience.  

I will say one other thing about this, before we move on to another verse. I am going to go to I Chronicles 28, and I will just tell you the setting. David now is about to die, and he had all the important leaders of Israel there. Captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, all the valiant men, princes, they were all there, and he is giving like a little charge to his son Solomon, who he is told in front of them all, that he was going to build the temple. But then he said in the 7th Verse; it was the Lord speaking through David to Solomon, “….Moreover, I will establish his Kingdom forever, if he be constant to do My commandments and My judgements, as at this day.” So that was the command, everyone heard it. They could relate to anyone that did not hear it, they could have told them, "This is what he told Solomon:  if you be constant to keep My commandments, I’m going to establish your Kingdom." You notice who did the establishing, didn’t you? It was God. You don’t establish yourself in the Way, we don’t establish ourselves in the work. I appreciated what we heard about getting settled, and it’s God that does that, and He does that if we are constant to obey.  

King Solomon prayed for wisdom, and he got that, and the Lord added riches, and it seemed like this thought of obedience, got onto the back burner, didn’t it? I have got to be careful what I say about King Solomon, because I can almost hear my older companion talking to me right now and saying, “… Don’t be too hard on King Solomon. He was given a task, that hardly any other man was given. His task was to portray the glorious coming of Jesus, and David for much of his life, was portraying or representing the rejected Christ. Man can deal with rejection, better than what they can deal with prosperity.” We heard that already, so we don’t want to be too hard on Solomon, but it is a little bit of a lesson to us, about not letting anything interfere with obedience. Obedience needs to be up on the front burners, we call it (don’t know if you use that expression here) but it needs to be foremost on our minds. Because that’s what is always very important, we are never above the law, we can never be an exception to the law, like some are, and think they can do. From the oldest worker, to the youngest saint, we are all here to obey God.  

So the next verse we will talk about, is in I Peter 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Now these people that he was writing to, already had a revelation of truth, but I think this revelation that Peter was referring to, is the same one that Paul referred to in the 2nd Letter, when he spoke about, “…You who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels.” It’s the Lord’s return, so how do we want to be found at the Lord’s return? We want to be found as obedient children, that’s how we want Him to find us. Simple! There’s nothing difficult to understand about this, it doesn’t take intelligence, it doesn’t take talent to obey, it just takes willingness to submit. We heard this morning, to obey, and it’s in range of all of us to obey.  

I want to tell you a personal story, if you don’t mind? When we were children, there were six of us, and it was very rare that my parents would leave us alone, for good reason. But there was a time or two, that we were on our honor, you might say. One of those times was when dad and mom had to go to the school, and have a conference with our teachers. So they would tell us to behave and all that, and then they would go off. I was thinking of two times, they took off, and it was just my older brother and myself there, and when they left, the thought was, "They’re gone!" That brought about a behavior, and we started jumping on the couch, and getting the cushions off, and jumping on them, and hitting each other with the cushions, and we just lost track of time and we were having a great time. The next thing you know, we hear that key going into the door, and there is no time, and we are just caught on the cushions, off the couch, and it did not matter what kind of the report the teacher gave us, we got punished. Then there was after that, maybe the next time, they went, same kind of scenario, my older brother and I. This time when they left, the thought was, "They’re coming back!" They are coming back with our report card, and we weren’t too sure, how that was going to turn out. When they came back, we were just sitting on that couch, like a couple of angels, and then we were just as obedient children. I can’t remember how we did on the report card, but I remember my parents being very, very pleased, because we were found as obedient children.  

That again is how we want the Lord to find us, aside from anything else that we could be doing. We want to be found as obedient children. In the 22nd verse, “Seeing ye have purified yours souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” So a person could be sitting here, and not have that happen. So I’ll give you a case. When those 12 disciples were having their feet washed by Jesus, and He also gave them a little talking to. We read in Luke 22, and it didn’t benefit Judas, in fact it wasn’t the first time Jesus talked to them that Judas would have heard Jesus, when He first sent them out to preach, and He told them about trusting the Lord. He told them how the lilies of the field were more beautiful than Solomon in all his glory. The birds of the air, they are not starving, and told them to trust Him. Then He told them about the time, about that rich man, whose ground brought forth plentifully, "What shall I do but tear down and build greater?" His thoughts were just toward this life. Judas heard all that, and it wasn’t purifying his soul, you know why, because he was not submitting to it. You can sit in all these meetings, I can sit in all these meetings, and it could be like a lovely song, and we could even go home and say what a wonderful convention we had, but it might not have the effect of purifying our souls, if we are not obeying that voice that is speaking to us.  

Not only does it purify our souls, but did you notice it said, "Unto this unfeigned love." This love we did not produce, it was not something we produced by our human nature. You know when Jesus told Peter that He was going to be delivered to the hands of wicked men, and that they were going to kill Him, and that He would rise on the third day. Do you remember what Peter said? "Lord, this be far from You, this won’t happen to You." You know what? I think Peter loved Jesus, but at that time it was not a divine spiritual love, it was just a human love for Jesus. A divine love is submitted to the Will of God, it loves the Will of God, it would accept the Will of God, whatever it was. It comes to us, like it says in Romans 5, “….that this love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.” That’s when we submit to the Holy Spirit. We can’t even get the Holy Spirit, unless we obey Him. In doing so, He puts this Love of God in us, and we come to love. As one line in a poem says, “Love is divine love, hurts love (that’s that human love), to meet its higher need. Love leaves love, though the heart may bleed. Love loses love (family and friends), yet keeps on giving, unto the end.” That’s this love of God, that the Holy Spirit puts within our hearts. We get that from our Master by obeying.  

Some years ago before I was even in the work (I have never heard this expressed since), but I like the thought very much. The worker was mentioning the time when Jesus blessed the five loaves and the two fishes, and He made them sit down in companies of 50 and 100. Then He gave that bread and fishes to His disciples, and they gave it to those people.It wasn’t Jesus, it was His disciples. Every one of them would have touched that miracle, every one of them would have had more than five loaves and two fishes in their hands to give to the people, there in 50s and in 100’s. This worker said, “Those workers, those disciples, those apostles, were learning compassion, because it says Jesus looked on these people with compassion. They were learning compassion by submitting to Jesus. His compassion was coming into their hearts, as they took part of that miracle. As we submit to the Lord, His love, we learn compassion towards others.” 

So then let’s go to Chapter 2:7, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling….” You notice there, that he interchanged those two words. He didn’t say, “To those that believe, He is precious, and those who don’t believe.” He didn’t say that. He said, “..To those who believe He’s precious but unto them that disobedient…” In Peter’s mind and in God’s mind and in our mind that they are equated. So a person can say, “I believe in God’s way, I am just not doing it…” Well, the term that they are using, believing, is not what this verse is talking about. This verse is talking about, what it mentions I think four times in the Scriptures, about, “Just shall live by faith.” You might believe and in a sense acknowledge this is the right Way, but that is not living by faith. Living by faith is being obedient to that voice, and faith like love is not something we conjured up, it is not something we produced, it was a response to the voice of God. When we were listening to the Gospel, and those promptings and troublings in our conscience, and we were wrestling with this, and we finally submit.We are obeying that voice, and that’s what puts faith in our heart. We are a people that are just led by His voice, and we must be constant, we must be constant with this till the day we die. It doesn’t matter if you are 90-something years old, you still have to be obedient, that’s just a mark of all God’s children. So those things were like being obedient to the Lord.  

Now these next one’s mentioned briefly in chapter 2:13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme, or unto governors…..”  Now these next three are dealing with man. The first was talking about kings, or even lesser one’s, governors. Just to get the setting, he was talking to these people that were scattered. There were Jews, and they were under the Roman government, and there was not any great love affair, between the Jews and the Roman government. You may or may not like the present government in South Africa, that has nothing to do with it. This was a mark of a child of God, that they would submit unto the leaders of the government. Whether it be the king or just somebody in the precinct or the municipality, just a mark that identifies God’s children, you could be a good citizen, and not be a child of God. But it is very hard to be a child of God and not be a good citizen. Pay your taxes and whatever, and be obedient. This just marks us as lights that shows to others, that they can be trusted. I remember this lady that was over in Ukraine, a very faithful lady, she worked at one of these big grain bins, that the government ran. The convention was in July. It was the first convention in Ukraine in 1996. She had not been paid since January, and here it was July, and they would not let her go, because she was the only one they could trust. The other people that were working there, they knew that they will steal the grain. But they knew that this lady could be trusted. That was her reputation, because she was submitting to the laws of the land and she was trustworthy.  

Then it says in the 3rdchapter, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” Powerful! Sometimes you think about submission like that, that the world looks on that as weakness. Like the powerful one is dominating over the weak one, and the weak one just has to submit to the powerful one, because they are weak. But that’s not what this is talking about. This is actually the strength of God and the power of God, that enables a godly woman to submit even to an ungodly husband. We were hearing about Abigail and Nabal, and I think that that’s the kind of woman she was. You could tell by the Spirit she showed David. She was submissive to Nabal, but it didn’t help Nabal, but it brought condemnation to him because he just would not submit, but it did win the heart of the King. Some of you woman or men, maybe even you’re the best example to your husbands that don’t profess, and maybe they won’t, but you will win the heart of the King, and that’s the one that we’re the most interested in impressing. Then in the chapter 5:5, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility…..” Humility goes with submission, it’s the manifestation of humility.  

I will just tell this one little story. A brother worker, we were at preps and we were studying the Bible around the table in the morning. The overseer had just died, and another man, actually a little bit younger than him, was designated to make the plans in the state, and he was good friends with that fellow. Maybe he thought he should have been, I don’t know, but I think it might have been this verse we were studying. Anyhow he mentioned that verse in I John 4, “If you don’t love your brother whom you do see, how can you say that you love God that you don’t see?" He just turned it around and said, “I do believe, if you don’t submit to those that you do see, that God puts over you, how can you say that you submit to Him that you don’t see?” It was like a little test, and he passed that test wonderfully. So, it says in the 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" So that just lets you know how it’s going to be judged, it will be. Did we obey the Gospel, or did we not?