Christians of the Shining Face

Psalm

Christians of the Shining Face

July 21st, 1968 @ 10:50 AM

Psalm 34:5

They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
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CHRISTIANS OF THE SHINING FACE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 34:1-8

7-21-68    10:50 a.m.

 

On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And blessed and fortunate are those people who are privileged to be here in this glorious congregation this morning.  The title of the sermon is, and this is the pastor delivering it, the title of the sermon is Christians of the Shining Face.  And I am not talking about noses that need powdering.  I am talking about the light that shines in the countenance of a child of God.  Or another title to the sermon would be The Road to Radiance.

Now the text is in one of the most gloriously beautiful psalms in the Book, Psalm 34, the text will be verse 5, and the context is this:

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 of my fears.

They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

The 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.

[Psalm 34:1-8]

How do you like that?  Isn’t that all right?  And the whole psalm, that’s about a third of it, is of the same tenor.  Now my text, “They looked unto Him, and were” and the King James Version out of which we read God’s Book together says “lightened.”  “They looked unto Him, and were lightened” [Psalm 34:5].  That’s all right, but the American Revised version translates that Hebrew word “radiant.”  “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].  And that’s my sermon.

A little waif, a ragged little boy was taken to a Christian hospital, and for the first time he heard there the story of Jesus.  It thrilled the little fellow:  how Jesus was born in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1], and blessed God in His life and ministry [Matthew 11:36; Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38], and died for our sins to save us [Matthew 27:32-50], and someday coming to take us home to Himself in glory [John 14:1-3].  The whole story thrilled that little boy.  So after he heard it for the first time, into his room walked a nurse.  And the little ragged fellow said to that nurse, “Have you ever heard the story of Jesus?  You don’t look like it.”  And the nurse said to the little boy, in surprise, “Why?  How do I look?”  And he said, “Kind of glum.”

I couldn’t help but think about this Chapel Choir of ours that is over there in East Germany.  You never saw such glum people in your life as the people who live under a communist regime.  Nobody smiles, nobody.  Nobody’s glad.  Nobody’s happy.  After you look at them awhile you can see and understand they don’t have anything to smile about, or be happy about, or to be glad about.

When I was in Russia, and I wasn’t there about two weeks, I had enough of it for ten thousand years.  I never saw such people, but I guess I’d be that way to if I didn’t have any Lord, and if I didn’t have any God, and if I were a blaspheming atheist and a time serving communist.  I guess I’d be that way too.  Live in a little old room with eighteen people and the only place to go is out on the street; don’t have any cars, don’t have any money; don’t have anything, just go out on the street and mill around on the street.  And everybody you saw was down in the mouth and as glum as you are.  Can you imagine living like that?  That’s how folks are when they don’t know God and when they don’t have the Lord.

“They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].

Now did you know you get glum like that sometime?  I see you.  Yeah. Yeah, you do too, yeah, once in a while, yeah, and that’s terrible.  That’s awful.  No child of God should ever be that way, and it’s a downwardness in us, it’s a drag in us when we are.

Legends, you know, accumulate about these great Christian leaders of old.  And I don’t know whether any of them are true or not.  Any great leader has the tendency to collect legends about him.  Well, this is one I’ve read several time, and heard repeated several times, about the great Reformational leader, Martin Luther.  He got down.  He got way down.

And by the way, I’d like to say, that of all of the men of God that have helped shape the Christian world, I like Martin Luther among the best because he was so human.  Just like the apostles, I like Simon Peter.  Same way about these great men of God, I like Martin Luther.  He was so human, so down to earth.

For example, in that tremendous Reformation there was the intellectual genius Melanchthon, and Martin Luther, who was the driving power through it.  Well, upon a day Melanchthon said something that made Martin Luther ask him, “Melanchthon, do you ever doubt whether there’s a God or not?”  And Melanchthon said, “Martin, I have to confess, I do.  Sometimes I doubt whether there is any God or not.”  And Martin Luther surprised Melanchthon with an exclamation.  “Thank God!” he said, “Thank God that you doubt.  I thought I was the only one in the world that ever doubted whether there was a God or not.”  Well, that’s Martin Luther.  Very human and very like all the rest of us.

Well, anyway, he was down.  He was sitting under a juniper tree, he was blue and discouraged.  He was way down.  And he stayed that way.  And the days passed, and he was in that depression and that melancholia.  He was down.  Well, he had married, as you know, a glorious Christian woman.  And what did she do?  She dressed in black, solid black, like widow’s tweed.  She dressed in solid black, and Martin Luther came to dinner, and there she was, seated and dressed in black.

And he said, “What’re you dressed in black for?”

And she said, “I’m in mourning.”

“Well, what are you in morning for,” he said.

She said, “Somebody has died.”

“Oh,” said Martin Luther, “I didn’t know somebody had died.  Why, why didn’t you tell me?  Who is it that has died?”

She said, “God!”

Martin Luther said, “God has died?”

“Yes,” said his wife, “God has died.”

And he said to her, “What makes you think God has died?”

“Why,” she said, “You, you.”

“Well,” he said, “What makes you think I think God is dead?”

“Why,” she said, “Martin, you’ve been going around here days and days and days and all down and discouraged.  You would think God is dead!”

Well, Martin Luther got up.  He got up every way.  He got up in his heart, and in his soul, and in his face, and in his words, and in his attitudes.  He got up!  All of us when we are down are at our worst!  When we are up we are at our best!  “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].  Now that’s what it is to know God and to associate with the Lord.  It reflects itself in your face, and in your eyes, and in your ways, and how you do, and how you are.  Now I think this text here, “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5], I think it reflects a very glorious thing, come-to-pass, experience, delineated here in the Bible.

For example, in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, it says that when Moses came down from the top of the mount, “He wist not that his face shone” [Exodus 34:29-30], and the people could not look upon him, for the shining of God in his face.  So Moses put a veil over his face [Exodus 34:33].  When he went on top of the mountain to talk with God and came down, always that shining face.  Isn’t that glorious?  He’d been with the Lord and his face shone! [Exodus 34:29-30]. It shined!

Or take it again.  In the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the Lord was on top of Mt. Hermon with three of His disciples, the Book says, “And the Lord was transfigured before them: and His face was bright like the sun” [Matthew 17:2].  God was there, and deity was shining through.  And that gave rise to what I think is the most beautiful sentence in the English language and one of the most glorious verses in the Bible.  It is 2 Corinthians 4:6: “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 the light of deity shined through [Matthew 17:2].

Now, I’m not done.  Did you know you are to be that way?  I’m not talking just about Moses [Exodus 34:29-30].  Nor am I speaking just about the transfiguration of the Lord [Matthew 17:2].  I’m talking about you.  You are to be that way.  “Well, what makes you so persuaded, pastor, we ought to be that way?”  Because God says so.   And I believe every syllable of that Book, all of it.   And God says so.  You are to be that way.  You are to shine as Jesus shined, as Moses shined [Exodus 34:29-30].  The light of God is to be reflected iridescently, gloriously, charismatically in your face too [2 Corinthians 4:6].

“Well, what is that verse in God’s Book that makes you think that?”  I will quote it for you.  Second Corinthians 3:18, the last one, the last verse in that chapter, now listen to it:  “For we all,” all of us not just one or two, “all of us, for we all, with open face” all of you, “For we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory,” glory on top of glory, “as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Now how do you like that?  All of us, even you deacons down there; all of us, and these saints who sit up with me here on this platform, that includes you; all of us, and these songbirds, these nightingales, and mockingbirds; all of us, and you out there who know the Lord; 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 to glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” [2 Corinthians 3:18].  You are to be that way.

Now may I make an observation?  There’s no doubt about it.  There is no uncertainty connected with it.  When people associate with God it does something to them.  It just does.  You can’t help it.  It just appears.  You are somebody else, you are somebody different, and you are somebody finer, and somebody sweeter, and somebody prettier, and somebody more affable and amenable and lovable and glorious.  You just are.  You can’t help it.  You just shine through when you are with the Lord.  You just reflect it.  You can’t help it.  You may not be even conscious of it, but it’s there, the glory and presence of God in your face; it just is, people who associate with the Lord are somehow different [2 Corinthians 3:18].

Long time ago, long, long time ago the ships used to come into Stonington, Connecticut, and the trains used to meet there to get all those famous passengers off of those ships and take them down to New York and then New England.  And the little boys who lived in Stonington often played on the wharfs in order to catch a glimpse once in a while of a very famous personality that was coming to America.

Well, in Stonington, Connecticut was born and reared a little fellow who became a very famous minister.  His name was Henry Clay Trumbull.  And upon a day, playing around the wharfs, a ship came in, and a man got off that ship and remained there waiting for the train to take him to other parts of New England.  And the little boy was excited and entranced and enticed by the look on the face of that man.  And as he looked at him, and looked at him, and looked at him, and watched him, it came back to the little boy’s memory.  He had seen a picture of that man.  It was the great, first American missionary, Adoniram Judson.  And the little fellow ran up the street to the minister of his Congregational church and said to him, “On the wharf, on the wharf is standing Adoniram Judson.”  Well, when the minister heard that he gathered himself together and rushed down there with the little boy to see if it was so, and it was.

And the minister was wrapped up in conversation with Adoniram Judson, God’s great first American missionary, and forgot about that little boy.  But the little fellow stood there listening to the conversation between his pastor and the missionary, and looking at that face, and looking at Adoniram Judson.  I want to show you what happened.  Years and years and years later, long, long time later, Henry Clay Trumbull wrote the memoirs of his life [The Memoirs of Henry Clay Trumbull].  And one of the chapters in that autobiography is entitled, “What a Little Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson,” never got away from it.

Well, that’s as it ought to be.  Isn’t that right?  That’s as it ought to be.  We ought to reflect the presence and the glory of God.  You know, I had an experience like that.  Never till I die shall I ever forget the face of [Hudson] Taylor of the China Inland Mission.  And I’ll tell you somebody else whose face I will never forget; the face of Dr. George W. Truett, who stood behind this sacred desk, this one, this actual one here, for forty-seven years.  I’d see him at a convention or in a revival or down at Baylor, and as I’d look at him, it seemed to me that that is the way God would look if God had a form and a figure.  The face of God’s saints, “And they looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5], and I don’t think we can be with God and love the Lord—and not shine and not show it.  It breaks through, like the deity of the Lord on top of Mt. Hermon [Matthew 17:2].

Now, I want to make a comment about the kind of happiness that is.  “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].  They were glad.  They were happy.  Well, what kind of a happiness would that be?  Well, most emphatically and certainly it is a happiness disassociated from outward circumstances.  “They looked unto Him, and were radiant,” a happiness, a gladness, a fullness of soul and life disassociated from outward circumstances [Galatians 5:22].

How things are on the outside has nothing to do with it whatsoever, nothing.  Paul and Silas, beat until the blood ran down their backs; I know that because when the Philippian jailer was converted [Acts 16:30-31], he washed their stripes [Acts 16:33], the blood from their backs; beat and on the inside of an unspeakable dungeon.  We’re not talking about a modern jail such as we have today.  We’re talking about the filthy, vermin-ridden, rodent infested jails of the Greco-Roman Empire—beat, and in a dungeon like that and weighted down with stocks and chains [Acts 16:23-24].  The Book says that at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, think of it, and sang praises unto God [Acts 16:25].

I don’t think you realized it, but did you know the passage I had you read this morning out of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul when he was in a Roman prison?  You’d never know it from the Book.  “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” [Philippians 3:1], I turn the page, “Rejoice in the Lord; again I say Rejoice” [Philippians 4:4].  And again “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly” [Philippians 4:10].  “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” [Philippians 4:11].  “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” [Philippians 4:13], written from a Roman prison.

Happy in the Lord though in jail, though incarcerated, though beat, though in stocks and in chains, though facing execution, happy in the Lord [Acts 16:23-25].  It is a gladness disassociated from any outward circumstance [Galatians 5:22].  Poor, happy in the Lord; rich, happy in the Lord; well, happy in the Lord; sick, happy in the Lord; in sorrow and tears, still through our tears see the face of Jesus, happy in the Lord.

While I went through Africa, at one of those mission meetings, one of those men stood up and said, “I am grateful and thankful to God that I’m a leper.”  Now isn’t that something?  “That I’m a leper.”  And then the man explained:  “When I was well I was a pagan.  I was a heathen, and I was worshipping gods of sticks and stones.  When I became a leper I was brought to this Baptist hospital, and here I found the Lord and became a Christian.  Had I not been a leper, I would never have been saved.  I thank God I am a leper.

Would you sing a little song with me if I were to teach it to you?

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He’s so good to me.

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He’s so good to me.

Coming again,

Coming again,

Coming again,

He’s so good to me.

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He’s so good to me.

Now you instrumentalists you might as well learn now, you won’t be any younger.  Ms. Mitz, come over here, you might as well learn now.  It’s a good song for you to learn.  Everybody sing that!

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He’s so good to me.

Can you raise it a little?  Yeah, can you raise it a little?

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He’s so good to me.

Well, let’s just think of some:

He satisfies,

He satisfies,

He satisfies,

He’s so good to me.

Coming again,

Coming again,

Coming again,

He’s so good to me.

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He’s so good to me.

[Words and music, Traditional]

Oh, y’all are the best.  God bless you.  Friday night, Friday night when I got through preaching, an old white-headed saint of God shouted all over that auditorium.  I met with the preachers after the service was over and those preachers, grown young men, said to me, “I never heard anybody shout in my life.  I never heard anybody shout.”  I don’t guess most of you have, but he was an old sainted man of God, a white-headed old man.  I asked about him.  They said he’s truly a saint.  I preached Friday night on Jesus is coming again, and that old man shouted.  That’s the way we ought to be.

Lord, when I am down, forgive me; and when I act and live as though God didn’t answer prayer, and God didn’t know, and God didn’t choose, and the Lord doesn’t help; when I am that way, Lord, forgive me.  I ought to be up.  We ought to be up all the time.  “They looked unto Him, and were radiant” [Psalm 34:5].

Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing the song, a family you to give yourself to Jesus, a couple you to come to the Lord, or one somebody you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal, shall say the word, shall open the door, come, come.  There’s no happy life but the life in Jesus.  There is no rest except the rest we find in God.  The Lord made us that way.  And when we come to the Lord we come to the fountain of every blessing.  God is so good if we’ll let Him; He is so good to me.  Come.  In the balcony round, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  As the Lord shall say, shall lead, shall invite, come, and angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.