CHRISTIANS OF THE SHINING FACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-21-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christians of the Shining Face, or The Road to Radiance. And it is a textual sermon, from the thirty-fourth Psalm, verse 5:
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, 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.
The text is verse 5, the whole psalm is a glorious psalm, but the text is verse 5, “They looked unto Him, and were lightened” [Psalm 34:5]. I am reading out of the King James Version of the Bible. The American Revised Version will translate that Hebrew word like this: “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” and that is my text, “They looked unto him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].
There was a little waif that was brought to a charity hospital run by Christian people, and there in that hospital the little boy heard the story of Jesus: His birth, and His wonderful life, and His incomparable love, and His goodnesses to us. This little ragged lad heard that story for the first time, and after he heard it, there was a nurse who came into the room and to the boy, and the little fellow asked that nurse, “Have you heard the story of Jesus? You don’t look like it.” And she said to the little fellow, “Well, how do I look?” And he said, “Kind of glum.”
I do not know whether these legends that grow up about great, godly, and effective servants of Jesus, I do not know whether they are true or not, but they are continually repeated, and this is one that I have read several times and that I have heard several times told concerning Martin Luther, the great Reformation leader. Martin Luther, as you know, married and he married a very devout Christian woman. But Martin Luther was of all of the saints of God, I suppose, the most human. I read a story about Martin Luther that comforted my heart. Melanchthon was the intellectual genius, the scholar back of the Reformation, and Martin Luther, of course, was the driving force. So upon a day Melanchthon said something that made Martin Luther ask him a question. “Melanchthon,” he said, “Do you ever doubt whether there is a God?” And Melanchthon replied, “Well, I have to confess that sometimes I do.” And Martin Luther replied, “Well, thank God. Thank God you do. I thought I was the only one in the world that ever doubted whether there is a God.”
Well, upon a day Martin Luther fell into a depression. He acted it. It was everywhere visible about him. And he stayed in it. He was blue. He was down. He was discouraged, and as that continued, why, his wife put on black, solid black, everything black in widow’s tweeds mourning, black. So he came in and saw her as they sat down at the table, and he said, “Why are you dressed in black?”
She said, “I am in mourning.”
Well, the great Reformation leader said, “You are in mourning for what?” She said, “Somebody has died, and I am in mourning.”
And Martin Luther said, “Well, I did not know we had a death in the family. Who has died?”
And she said, “God!”
He said, “God?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Luther, “God is dead. God has died, and I am in mourning.”
“Why,” Luther said, “what makes you think God has died?”
She said, “You. You make me think He has died. You have been going around here down, and blue, and depressed, and discouraged—so I just supposed that God is dead, and I am in mourning over it.” Needless to say, Martin Luther cheered himself up, brought himself up, lifted himself up.
Did you know that you are that way part of the time? Good night, law me alive, great sakes in heaven and in earth. To be around some of you sometime is like visiting the morgue. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant!” [Psalm 34:5].
I suppose that that text that I am preaching from this morning is but a reflection of what we find in the Bible. The Book says, in the thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus, that when Moses came down from the top of the mount where he had been communing with God, that he “wist not but his face shone, the skin of his face shone” [Exodus 34:29-30], and they couldn’t look at the light that shined in his face. So when Moses came down from the mount and from communing with God, he put a veil over his face because his face shone [Exodus 34:33]. What do you think of that? He had been in the presence of God, and the light of the glory of God shined in his face.
Another instance, in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, as the three disciples were with the Lord on Mt. Hermon, “He was transfigured before them: and His face became bright and shining like the sun” [Matthew 17:2]. Paul writes of that glorious deity of Christ shining through in what is to me one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible and one of the most meaningful sentences in the English language. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, he wrote, “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.” And His face was transfigured, illuminated, iridescent, gloriously brightened and radiant, above the brightness of the sun [Matthew 17:2].
Now I am not done with that. That is the way you ought to be. “Well, why are you so positive of that, pastor?” Because I believe that Book, and that Book says so, that’s why. Second Corinthians 3:18, the last verse, the one before we get into that glorious passage in the fourth [chapter] of 2 Corinthians [2 Corinthians 4:6], [2 Corinthians 3:18]: “For we all, with open face,” all of us who are Christian with open face, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord”—I’m talking about that transfiguration of our Savior [Matthew 17:2], the glory of the Lord where all of us with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord—“are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” [2 Corinthians 3:18]. That’s the way we are to be.
Now, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it but that an association with Jesus, close contact with God, does something to people, it just does: they are a different kind of people, they look different, they act different. And if we don’t look different and if we don’t act different, we haven’t been with God.
Yesterday, coming about one o’clock in the morning, coming here to Dallas from my preaching engagement this last weekend, and God surely blessed us; we had an Encounter Crusade in our capital city of Austin, in a big auditorium. Not only do we look different and not only do we act different, but we smell different. And what brings that to my mind was, there in the middle of the night seated on that airplane, I smelled somebody coming up behind me. It was the stewardess. You know, there is a smell about the mixture of cigarette smoke and perfume and whatever else goes on that is very distinctive of its own. Now I am not saying one can’t be a fine Christian and smell like that. I’m not saying that. But I am just saying, if you ever got real close to Jesus, you wouldn’t smell that way, you just wouldn’t.
There is something about association with God that makes people different. And you can’t deny it. Why, I read about that Boxer Rebellion in China, that they had no difficulty at all in picking out the Christians to cut off their heads. They just couldn’t hide themselves. They couldn’t hide the light that shines in their eyes and in their faces. They are just different.
If you ever have opportunity, I want you to read a book. It is The Memoirs of Henry Clay Trumbull. And in that book is a chapter entitled “What a Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson.” What happened was this. Long time ago, long time ago, there was a town in Connecticut named Stonington, and in that town Henry Clay Trumbull was born and grew up. It was a port city, and trains connected with it in order to carry people from New England down to New York City. And boats came in there from afar, and the boys in Stonington, one of whom was Henry Clay Trumbull, used to play around the wharfs in order to get a glimpse of some famous person who was passing through.
Now upon a day when the boy was playing around the wharf, he saw a man, and the look in his face captured the imagination and the interest and the curiosity of the little fellow. And he walked, following him, and looking at him and looking at him, and suddenly it came to the little fellow’s mind. He had seen the picture of that man, and it was the great missionary. The little fellow ran up the street to the home of the minister of the Congregational church and told the minister of the church, “I think on the wharf in the port is the great missionary. Come and see, come and see!” And the minister hurried himself and went with the little boy down to the port there in Stonington, Connecticut, and sure enough it was Adoniram Judson, God’s great first missionary from America.
Now the minister was engrossed in talking to Judson and forgot about the little boy. But the little boy stayed there and listened to the conversation and looked at the face of God’s missionary. Henry Clay Trumbull became one of the great ministers of America, and was for many years, as you know, the editor of the Sunday School Times, was a great ecclesiastican theologian in his own right. But in writing his memoirs, that’s one of the chapters in that book, “What a Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson.”
I had an experience like that. I never in this earth can forget the face of Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission. Nor can I ever forget the face of Dr. George W. Truett, who pastored in this church for forty-seven years. As I would see Dr. Truett from time to time at a convention or at Baylor, I, it’s almost blasphemous sometimes to say it, but, I, I thought that if I ever saw God that’s the way God would look.
I am just avowing that there is no doubt, it is indisputable, association with God does something for people. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]. There’s a different look in the eye. There’s a different countenance on the face. There’s a different attitude, an atmosphere about you, if you know God. And if you live in the presence of the Lord, you are a different kind of a person. You just are.
Now in the few minutes that remain I want to speak of two things about this radiance. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]. First of all, it is a happiness. Money can buy pleasure but not happiness, as a house can be made a place to live but not a home, as a bed can be soft but not bring sleep. Happiness, happiness is an inward quality of the Spirit of heaven [Galatians 5:22].
Now, “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]. Association with God brings a happiness that is disassociated from outward circumstances. It has nothing to do with outward circumstances at all, nothing.
Can you imagine Paul and Silas beat until the blood ran down their backs? [Acts 16:23]. I know that because when that Philippian jailer was saved [Acts 16:30-31], he took them the same hour of the night, and washed the blood off of their backs [Acts 16:33]. They were beat [Acts 16:23]. Paul refers to that, “Of the Jews, forty times received I, of the Jews.” Five times? I have forgotten. “Received I forty stripes save one, and thrice,” this is what I am getting to, “thrice was I beaten with Roman rods” [2 Corinthians 11:24-25]. Now this is one of those times; with Roman rods their backs were beaten into a pulp—with Roman rods [Romans 11:25].
Now, not only beaten, but thrust on the inside of an inner dungeon [Acts 16:23-24]. Now that’s not a jail as you have down here, airy and light and up. A dungeon, a prison in the days of the Roman Empire was a place hollowed out in the earth, and you entered it from a little aperture at the top. Have you ever been in the Mamertine dungeon in Rome where Paul was incarcerated before he was martyred? Now that’s what it was. Let down in there, let down, dark, foul, rodent infested, filthy beyond any way you could imagine. That’s where Paul was imprisoned and then loaded down with chains and in stocks. I would say that would be just about as miserable an outlay as any piece of anatomy could be identified with, tied down. Wouldn’t you?
And yet at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God [Acts 16:25]. Oh, I so often think about that. Had that been we, man alive, we would have been down there grumbling and finding fault with our lot. Look at all these other people, how affluent and how free and how blessed and how on and on, and now look at me. Look at me. Just grumbling and complaining of our lot and fortune and fate in life, but not Paul and Silas. “Beat and in that dungeon and loaded down with chains and in stocks, they prayed and sang praises unto God” [Acts 16:23-25]. What do you think about that? What do you think about that?
Ah! What a different kind of a person, how very different! And that’s why I had you read out of the fourth chapter of the Book of Philippians. This is a letter written from prison and that kind of a prison. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” [Philippians 3:1], he says. In chapter 4, verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” [Philippians 4:4]. Verse 10 [Philippians 4:10], “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly.” Verse 18 [Philippians 4:18], “I have all, and abound.” Verse  [Philippians 4:11-12], “I know how to abound and I know how to be in want, and I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Isn’t that a remarkable thing? It doesn’t matter what the outside is; we are happy in our hearts. We are blessed of God in our souls, and we reflect it in our lives.
As some of you know I went through Africa one time and through Nigeria where this awful civil war is now between the federal government and the split off state of Biafra. And over there at one of those meetings, one of those mission meetings, there was a man who stood up and said, “I thank God I am a leper.” Well, that is the most amazing thing you could ever hear of in your life. I thank God I am a leper. And then he continued in his testimony. “When I was well I was a pagan, and I was a heathen, and I worshiped gods of stone and of sticks. But now that I am a leper, I have been brought to a Christian hospital, and I have been won to Jesus, and I would never have been a Christian had it not been that I became a leper. And I thank God for my leprosy.”
That is the blessing of heaven upon a soul. It is disassociating from all outward circumstances. I’m happy in the Lord. I ought to be. I may be poor, but I’m happy in Jesus. Or I may be sick, but I’m happy in Jesus. I may be dying, but I am happy in Jesus. I may be overwhelmed by troubles and trials, but I am happy in Jesus. “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]. Are you that way? Now, I want to make one other comment. Not only is it a happiness disassociated from all outward circumstances, but it is a joy and an infinite peace and gladness that comes from our contact with heaven, our contact with God [Psalm 34:5; Galatians 5:22].
I often think, do you, when you read about these stars; “If I were looking for a candidate for an overdose of sleeping pills, where would you look? If you were looking for somebody who is seeking a way out of this life, where would you look?” Well, would you look among the missionaries who live on a penance and who have left home and friend and family, and sometimes in indescribable loneliness in the heart of a half-savage country, over there by themselves? I have seen those missionaries, especially those who would work in the Amazon jungle or in the heart of Africa; I have seen them filled with every kind of a disease you can name. They never get out of malaria, never. They never get away from it. And all the doctors in the world apparently cannot deliver them from it. They are full of malaria. They have medicines that allay it, but they never are healed from it. They have malaria the rest of their lives.
I have seen them where they had been so eaten up by blood-sucking gnats and those places become infected. I have seen them from head to foot, covered like that. And I have heard them as they would josh one another; kid one another, about which one was going to sleep on the side toward the jungle, by the river, which one is going to sleep on the jungle side because of the jaguars there, because of the wild beasts there. I have seen them, as you would say, “They are the most wretched people in all of this world.” Think of the house they live in. Think of the food they have to eat. Think of it. But they are the happiest people in the world; the happiest people in the world. And it shines in their faces, and it’s seen in their eyes, and it’s felt in their talk.
Where would I go if I were seeking a candidate for an overdose of sleeping pills? I tell you where I would go. I would go to Hollywood. That’s where I would go. I’d go to Hollywood, and I would look among the most gifted, and wealthy, and famous of all of the stars in the world. That’s where I’d go. And if I were looking for somebody that had been divorced five times and was so miserable in every association they had in life, that’s where I would go look for it.
Isn’t that an amazing thing? Happiness has nothing to do with the outside, nothing at all. Happiness has to do with God and the inside. You know, and I have to close, when everything is all right with you and you are singing a song, why, I come and see you and I say to you, “An infidel can sing a song when everything is going his way.” That’s not what it is to be a Christian.
Now here is what I want to do. “I want to come to your house when affliction comes, and trouble comes, and trial comes, and sorrow comes. And as old Job, sitting in an ash heap, covered with dust, afflicted, Satan tormenting him [Job 2:7-8]; then I want to come to see you. And then I want to see if the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in your face [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Then I want to hear if you can sing a song in the night” [Acts 16:23-25].
For we don’t glorify God by being up when everything is going our way, the world can do that. The infidel can do that. But we glorify God when we sing songs of praise, and when we are up, and when we are glad and when we are happy in our hearts, when deep trouble comes, and you can’t keep from crying, and you don’t have any answers. The doctor says the little boy has leukemia. Then what do you do? Or the doctor says you have cancer and have three more months to live. Or the boy has been hurt in a tragic accident, or the girl has fallen upon evil days, all the things that can happen to us to which flesh is heir. This world is a world of troubles. “But they looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5]. The Lord knows and the Lord understands, and He will give grace and glory, and God will see us through.
“Well, preacher, we sure are going to be interested when the day comes and you are cut down. We really are. You have been preaching up there in that pulpit all of these things about rejoicing in the Lord no matter what sorrow or what difficulty or what trial. We sure are going to be interested in you when the doctor makes the announcement that you have cancer or when the doctor says you have three months to live.”
Do you know what I believe? I think God gives us grace for each one of our trials. And though right now if I were told in a little while I would die, I suppose I would be full of fear and trembling. But when that time actually comes, God is going to give me dying grace, and I hope and pray that when the time comes that you all are going to say, “I tell you that pastor of ours, he rejoiced in God in the days of his health and his strength; well, he is still rejoicing in God in the days of his illness and death.”
I want to be that, Lord. I want to magnify God all the days of my life with every breath that I breathe. Lord, grant it. Grant it. Grant it. Now let’s live like that, and let’s be like that. We’re going to smile, and we’re going to rejoice, and we’re going to be glad, and we’re going to praise Jesus, and we’re going to sing our songs, and we’re going to have faith, and going to look to a Savior for answers, and we’re going to be up all the days of our lives.
Now let us sing us a song. If you are going to Sunday school this morning, you had better sing this song. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you to give himself to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, come. Make it this morning. Make it now. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.