CHRISTIANS OF THE SHINING FACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-1-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Christians of the Shining Face, or The Road to Radiance. In your Bible turn to Psalm 34, Psalm 34; and if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him. Psalm 34, and let us read together the first eight verses. Psalm 34, the first eight verses, all of us, all of us reading it out loud together. Psalm 34, the first eight verses, now together:
I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.
My text, Psalm 34:5, “They looked unto Him, and were radiant.” The King James Version translates the Hebrew word “lightened, brightened, glorified.” The American Revised Version of 1901 translates it “radiant”; and that is as beautiful and as meaningful a translation as anyone could suggest. And what a glorious characterization of that soul that looks to God: “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]; Christians of the Shining Face.
A little waif was carried into a hospital and for the first time heard the story of the birth and coming of Jesus. After he heard it, such a marvelous message of good news, a nurse walked into the room, and the little waif looked at her, and said, “Have you heard of the story of Jesus? You look as though you hadn’t.” And the nurse said to the little fellow, “Why, why, how do I look?” And he replied, “Kind of glum.” Oh! However and whatever the depths of our sorrows, and sometimes the almost unfathomable reaches of our despair, yet the Christian, the child of God ought always to reflect the glory of the faith of the Lord in his soul. His face ought to shine. His heart ought to be lifted up. And his soul ought to exalt in God. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” [Psalm 34:3]; Christians of the shining face.
These who have been with the Lord do shine, unconsciously they shine. After Moses had spoken with the Lord on top of Mount Sinai, he came down, and those in the camp waiting for the presence of the lawgiver had to hide their eyes from the glory of God that shone in the face of Moses. “He wist not,” the Bible says, “that the skin of his face shined” [Exodus 34:29-35]. He had been with the Lord.
On top of Mount Transfiguration, the Book says that the face of our Lord turned like the brightness of the sun, and His garments like the whiteness of the brightness of light [Matthew 17:2]. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. “And we all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” [2 Corinthians 3:18]; Christians of the shining face.
I tell you truly, and I exaggerate not, I tell you truly, that these who are with God, who live in the presence of Jesus, somehow shine in their souls, in their eyes, and in their lives. Whatever kinds of people they are, and however strange and unusual and different, and whatever their backgrounds, if they have been with Jesus, they shine. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].
When I was a youth, I was walking down the streets of Chicago; and in a slum section in the heart of the city, I heard singing. I crossed the street. There was a mission there. I walked in and sat down. I never saw such a motley group in my life, nor had I ever seen such a service as they were having. There was a presiding officer up there. He was taking charge of the service. They didn’t have any preacher, didn’t have any singer—I don’t know how they could get along without us, don’t know how they could have a service—but they had the most unusual kind of one. Everybody there and it seemed to me they were all about fifty or sixty, everybody there had a song he wanted to sing, he had a poem about Jesus he wanted to read, he had a passage of Scripture that he wanted to quote, he had some kind of a testimony that he wanted to give. And the service followed that way.
They were the derelicts of life. They were the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. They were the funniest looking people I ever saw in my life and spoke with the strangest brogue. But when they sang their songs, and when they testified their witness, and when they quoted their Scriptures, their faces shined! They had been saved! “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].
In preparing the sermon for tonight, I read a story told by Dr. Ironside of the Moody Church in Chicago. He said, “I was walking up Market Street in San Francisco upon a day, long time ago, and across the street from me the Salvation Army was conducting a service. And they had a rather large group around them. So I walked across the street to share in the service.” And he said, “I made my way up to the Salvation Army band, and the captain recognized me, and said, ‘Dr. Ironside, welcome. Come up here and stand on the curb and give your testimony for Jesus.’” So the preacher took his place on the curb, and began to tell the folks on the street what Jesus had done for him.
And while he was speaking, there was a distinguished looking man standing there in the street listening to his testimony, who reached into his pocket and took out a personal card, and on the back of it wrote something, and walked through the crowd and handed it to the preacher when he got through his testimony. First the preacher looked at the card, and he recognized the name of the man; an illustrious man, a man whose name he’d seen often in the press. He recognized the name of the man, and he turned it over, and the card challenged the preacher to a debate the following Sunday afternoon at four o’clock in the Academy of Science Hall, all expenses to be paid by the man. And they were to debate the subject, “Infidelity: Agnosticism versus Christianity.”
Well, as the preacher held the card and looked at the distinguished gentleman, he announced it to the people on the street: “I have been challenged to a debate next Sunday afternoon, four o’clock, in the Academy Science Hall, on the subject ‘Agnosticism versus Christianity.’ Now,” said the preacher, “I will be happy to accept this challenge under one condition: first, I want the illustrious gentleman to bring with him two witnesses. One, a man who has been in the depths of sin and has been raised to a glorious new life by the gospel of agnosticism and infidelity; I want him to bring one man as a witness and as a testifier to what agnosticism has done for him, raising him up of the miry pit and setting his feet on the rock.” Then he said, “I want the illustrious gentleman to bring one other witness: I want him to bring a woman who has fallen into the mire and filth and dirt of life, and who has been saved to a new and a glorious redemptive purpose in the gospel of agnosticism and infidelity.” Then he said, “My part will be, I shall come to the meeting at four o’clock Sunday afternoon, and I shall bring a hundred witnesses with me who have been in sin, and whom Christ has raised to a glorious new life in Jesus. Now,” he said to the gentleman, “will you accept my challenge, and I’ll meet you next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock, one hundred witnesses for me, and I ask only two for you?”
Why, you know what happened. The gentleman bowed out, bowed out, bowed out. Where could you find anybody who had been saved out of a life of sin and want and despair by the gospel of infidelity and agnosticism? Did you ever hear a song about it even? Where would anybody want to sing if he was an infidel? But say, but say: when we hear the gospel of the Son of God, and our lives are blessed and changed, and our feet are set on the everlasting Rock of Ages, who could but sing? “O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together…They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:3, 5]. There is something saintly, saintly about the looks of people who live in the presence of Jesus.
I was reading in the life of Dr. Trumbull, Henry Clay Trumbull. I was reading in the life of Dr. Trumbull. He was a boy born and reared in Stonington, Connecticut. And in the long ago day, they had trains that came to the seaport at Stonington; and at that place they caught ships that went down to New York City. And the little boys in the town of Connecticut, Stonington, used to play on the wharfs. They might see the face of some famous man who was passing through, coming from or to New York City.
And this little boy, while he was playing on the wharf, this little boy saw a man who had come through Stonington. And the little boy looked at him in wonder and in amazement. And the little fellow thought, “I believe I recognize him. I believe I do.” And he ran to the home of the pastor, and said, “Come, come, and see if it is not he.” And the minister hurriedly came, and running by the side of the boy, came to the wharf. And sure enough, sure enough, it was God’s great missionary, Adonirum Judson.
The pastor of the church forgot about the little boy who had come to get him. He was so engrossed in talking to the missionary, and the wonderful favor of God upon Adonirum Judson, that nobody paid any attention to the little Trumbull boy who was standing there looking and listening to God’s missionary. In the years and the years and the years that passed, Dr. Trumbull of course, as you know, became a great preacher and editor and author. And in the last days of his life, he wrote some memoirs.
I want you to know, one of the titles of the chapters in the memoirs of Dr. Trumbull is this. Listen to its title, “What a little boy saw in the face of Adoniram Judson.” What a little boy saw in the face of Adoniram Judson, the little fellow never got away from it, never got away from it, remembered the saintliness and the godliness shining in the countenance of God’s preacher and ambassador. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant [Psalm 34:5].”
Out of the many, many things, Dr. Wood, that I remember as a blessing to my soul when I was in Baylor, one of the highest, one of the highest and the most memorable to me was a visit on the campus of Howard Taylor and his dear wife, the son of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. I never had seen people like that before. I never had heard people like that before. They lived by faith: “Give us this day our daily bread” [Matthew 6:11]. And all the days of their lives they had lived where bandits, and violent men, and heathen, and pagan, and demon-possessed threatened their lives every day; yet they honored God in a great witness in the interior of China. And it was written on their faces. It could be heard in their voices. It shined in their eyes. And as a student in the school, the spell of it seized upon my soul, and I remember it poignantly to this present hour. Christians of the shining face: “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]; God’s triumphant disciples.
I haven’t much time. I want to share this with you. I was amazed, I was amazed in my vacation; I attended a service of a church that belongs to the largest branch of Protestantism. Well, I go ahead and say it; I didn’t mean to. But I attended a Methodist service, and as I entered into the church auditorium, there was a tract rack, and I picked up a tract entitled “Methodism’s Road to Radiance.” And I was amazed, I was amazed. It is written by one of their most gifted and famous bishops. And here’s what he says in the tract: “If spiritual renewal is to take place, we must recover the radiant New Testament faith and experience in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then he says:
Illustrations of the loss of this radiancy are found in the five m’s of Methodism. First: music; in most churches where I preach, only about half of the people sing the hymns and then with lackluster apathy. Second: ministry; for fifty years Methodism has not been replacing the ministerial members of her annual conferences who retire and who die; yet other professions are providing better trained men each generation. Three: membership; our growth in membership has so tapered off that we are not even keeping up with the growth of the population. Four: missionaries; we have one-third fewer missionaries today than we had forty years ago.
I never dreamed—
We have one-third fewer missionaries today than we had forty years ago. Five: the fifth ‘m’; we are forty-first or forty-second in per capita giving among the forty-nine largest denominations. We need, the bishop wrote, “spiritual renewal.”
Now this is his “road to radiance,” road to spiritual renewal; listen to him, and he has five of them: “One: we must return to the Scriptures!” O God, amen! “We must preach the Book, the Bible, the Word of God; we must return to the Scriptures. Second: we must recover a sense of mission, that God has sent us and that we have a message for the world. Third: we must discover the gift, and we must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. A majority of Christians would not even know what that phrase means. They have scarcely heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” In these days of study and study, I have collected a shelf of books on the Holy Spirit of God. And when I have studied and prayed and soaked my soul in the Scriptures, I’m going to preach a series of sermons here on the Holy Spirit of God. O God, and when I do, do something, Lord; do something. This great bishop, “We must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Four: we must enter into the disciplines of holy habits: Bible study, meditation, and prayer. And five: we must follow the road of recovery of witness, of witnessing, of testifying.” Then he quotes a man before a great conference, who said in his address, “How long has it been since you spoke to an individual about accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?”
I have this to say. If that great bishop is able to lead his people back to those five things, he’ll have a revival in his churches and among his people as the world has never seen, since the days of John Wesley. The road to radiance, coming back to God, looking up to the Lord. My text, “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]; reflecting the glory of God in our souls, in our lives, in our eyes, in the very tone of our voices. God grant it to us. Christians of the shining face, of the triumphant life, of the victorious day, O God, the glory and the blessedness of the upward look.
We must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you, tonight turn his life, maybe with all of our mistakes and sins and derelictions and shortcomings, turn our lives over to Jesus; come, stand by me. Stand by me, “Preacher, tonight I give you my hand; I give my heart, and soul, and life, and day, and destiny to Jesus. And here I am, here I come.” A family to put your life this blessed evening, God’s Lord’s Day evening, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, “Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children; all of us are coming.” Would you make it now? Or one somebody you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, shall make invitation to come, make it now. Make it tonight, come and stand by me, while all of us stand and pray together.
CHRISTIANS OF THE SHINING FACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Radiant Christians
1. Happiness disassociated with external circumstances
2. Peace and rest knowing we are God’s will
3. Jesus is ours and all heaven besides
II. Associating with the Lord does something to people
1. H.A. Ironsides
2. Chicago mission
3. Sainted face
III. Happiness found in Christ