Robert Morris - The Four Foundations
Alright, so the series you've all been waiting for: The Four Living Creatures mentioned in Revelation and Ezekiel, And so we're going to talk about The Four Living Creatures. Let me just let you know that I'm going to spend the majority of the message building the foundation for this today, talking about the four living creatures, because I believe these, the faces of these creatures represent an aspect of the church and of our personal lives that we need to understand. So I'll spend most of the message doing that, just so if you're one of those that you think, it's been 15 minutes and he's not even to point 1 yet. We need to call the restaurant and move our dinner plans. We'll still get out on time. I just have to build a foundation first. Okay. And so we're going to do that.
So I call this message The Four Foundations because the four faces of these four creatures are foundational to the church. Any church you attend needs to have these four foundations, and you need to have these four foundations in your life. And I'm going to show you, they're not just foundations, but with God, he builds on these periodically so that we go higher and higher in these four areas. Alright? So we're going to start in Revelation 4, and I'm gonna read the whole chapter to you. It's only 11 verses, but I'm going to give you a little bit of background on the four living creatures. Alright? And this has nothing to do with end times, by the way. That's not, you won't hear that at all in this part, because I don't believe that's what the four living creatures represent.
So Revelation 4:1..."fter these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.' Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat the..." now, I'm going to talk about this in just a moment..."ike a jasper and a sardius stone in appearanc..."...well, let me go ahead and read the rest of the verse just, and then I'll talk about it..."there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emera..."
Okay. So a Jasper and a sardius stone. In Exodus 28, the priest had a breastplate on, and that breastplate had 12 stones, and each stone represented a tribe of Israel. The jasper represented the tribe of Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, and the sardius represents the tribe of Benjamin, his last born. So he says this, and the person sitting on the throne was like Jasper and sardius stone. So in other words, this is so good when you think about it, he was Jesus, because he's the first and the last. The Bible fits together perfectly. It's absolutely incredible. So when Israel would see these stones, they knew God is talking about the first and the last. In chapter one, when Jesus reveals himself to John on the Island of Patmos, where the book of Revelation was written, he says, here's the way he introduces himself: I'm the first in the last. I'm the beginning and the end. I'm the alpha and the omega.
So that's what the jasper and the sardius stone represents here. And then it says that there was a rainbow around the throne. Now, if you'll think about this, a rainbow is a semi-circle, it's only half a circle. But it's around the throne, so it's the full circle. And the rainbow represents the promise of God of grace. And here's what he's saying: at the throne, the promise is complete. It is now completed because God's done what he wanted to do. So that's verse three. So then look at verse four..."round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their head..."
Now, just to let you know, most theologians believe, and I believe this as well, that the 24 elders represent the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 apostles in the New Testament. So that's where you get the 24 from. Verse six. No, verse five..."..from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of...." Just again, giving you background, Isaiah, if you want to know what the seven Spirits of God are, they're in Isaiah 11:2. So they're listed right in Isaiah 11:2. The middle five are easy to see. The first one is the Spirit of the Lord. The seventh one is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. And then the other five are simply just listed. They're very easy to see.
Verse six, "the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a ca..." this is a young ox..."..third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!' Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.'"
Now remember, these 12 stones, I talked about a moment ago that the breastplate of the priests had 12 stones, the 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 stones are also in the foundation of New Jerusalem. So what I'm, what I'm going to be sharing is that these four living creatures represent the foundation of the church and the foundation of our lives. Just show you one more, you can go read the the rest of Revelation chapter six, seven and then some of the other ones, to about verse 19, you'll see the four living creatures, but let me just show you in chapter six. These are all the odd verses. if you want to try to remember: one, three, five, and seven.
Watch the four living creatures, verse one, "..I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, 'Come and see, "Verse three, "hen He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come and see..."Verse five, "Then He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come and see..."Verse seven, "Then He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come and see..." the living creatures speak, and what are they saying? They're saying, come and see the unfolding revelation of Jesus Christ. And let me tell you something about book of Revelation, and I believe that many, many people miss it. And they say, this is end times.
The book of Revelation does have some passages about the end times. The book of Revelation though tells us about what happened before the fall, before the earth was ever created. It actually tells us about the fall of Satan and a third of the angels falling. That's in Revelation. That's not future. It also tells us about the coming of the Messiah the first time. It also tells us about the birth of the church. So the book of Revelation is so much more and we write it off as something we can't understand, but you will miss Revelation If you think this is the revelation of end times. It is not the revelation of end times. I'll tell you what it is. It's in the first five words of the book. Revelation 1:1 says, "evelation of Jesus Christ...."It doesn't say the revelation of end times. It says the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
If you read the book of Revelation and you don't see Jesus, you've missed it, you've missed the whole point. You're missing the whole point. And so many people get caught up on so many things instead of Jesus. He's what it's about. So here we go, My three points. Alright? And again, I'll spend more time on the first one. Number one: The Four Foundations of the Church. The four living creatures represent the four foundations of the church. Now we're going to go back to Ezekiel 1:4, "Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber..." this is very similar to the vision John had..."..of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creature..." Here's Ezekiel.
We just read it in Revelation. Watch the faces, same thing in Revelation. Ezekiel 1:1..."s for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox..." or again, Revelation says a calf. It's a young calf, a young ox..."..on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle..." Verse 15..."..as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four face..." Now this is important because the wheel represents the Holy Spirit. And I'll show you that in a moment. Verse 17, "Then they move..." when the four creatures moved..."hey went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they we..." So they didn't turn, they just moved. The creature never turned. Verse 19, "Then the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up..."
So there's a raising up. You get higher and higher from the earth..."..the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go..." So the Spirit is in the wheel..."wherever the spirit wanted to go, they [the creatures] went..." That's the church..."..because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the whee..." Alright, so let me just, just a little overview. Four creatures. Each creature has four faces. Face of a man, face of a lion, face of an eagle, face of an ox. Wherever the Spirit goes, the creatures go. But they don't turn. Alright. So I'm going to give you a visual, so you'll never forget this. So guys, if you'll come up here and help me. My son James, Mike Brisky, Michael Bethany here. So you guys come up.
Now, we're going to socially distance, okay? So just don't write me an email. We're going to socially distance, okay? But I was actually, I wanted to do this illustration where our shoulders were touching. And then someone said, man, you might want to socially distance, I thought, yeah, you're right. We do. And we want to for safety, too. I'm not trying to make fun of it. We want to be healthy as well. But, then as I went back and read it and thought about it, I thought, Oh, they had wings, and their wings touch. So we all have the wings. Okay? And our wings are touching. Okay? So Michael, I want you to be the eagle, and the eagle represents worship. So you should, you ought to be able to represent. You all think Michael can represent worship? Okay. Alright. So you're, you're soaring above the storm. You're soaring in the heavenlies, you're... Give us your eagle sound. I don't have an Eagle sound, sorry.
Alright, I never should have given you all microphones. Alright, so Mike, you're going to represent the lion. So the lion represents prayer warfare, taking new ground, you know, storming, taking the kingdom with, strength. The microphones were a mistake. Okay, so you're the eagle. You're the lion. You're the ox, okay? Alright. Wait, wait, wait. Eagle, lion, ox? That's not fair. Well the ox represents servanthood and humility. So that makes sense now. You're saying I'm the most humble here. I get it now. Well, you were humble till you made that statement. So, alright. So, okay. So Pastor Robert, what are you going to be? I'm the man. So I'm going to represent the man. The man represents Jesus. No, I'm the man. You get to be the man? I'm the man. I'd like to be the man. Can we draw some straws for this?
Listen, I'm the man, okay? This isn't fair. Stop it! At Gateway Church, I'm the man, alright? I the man. Okay. I the man. Alright. So the man represents Jesus, which we're going to see later in the message is grace. Jesus brought grace. Okay. Eagle: worship. Ox: humility, servanthood. Lion: prayer and warfare. Okay. So now, stand, let's get where everyone can see us here. You guys come over here. Michael, you're there. You have to turn around, James. So we have big wings. I'm used to even making me face the corner. And all of you see why. Okay. So, we're, you gotta understand. We're not four creatures. We're one creature. There are four creatures, but each creature has the face of a man, the face of an eagle, the face of a lion, and the face of an ox. Everyone get that? Hello? And wherever the Spirit goes, the creatures go.
So we're one of the creatures, but we don't turn. It doesn't turn. So I I'm representing grace. So the Holy Spirit, this is the church now, so the Holy Spirit leads us to focus on grace. So we start following the Spirit. So let's follow the Spirit guys. We're following the Spirit. I can't see where I'm going. We'll go your way in a minute. Alright. So then the Holy Spirit, the wheels turn, and then the Holy Spirit leads us as a church to focus on worship. So let's follow the Spirit. So we start going this way. Uh, can we go my way now? Never should have given them microphones. So then the Holy Spirit turns again, and now let's say the Holy Spirit takes us on an emphasis. Now this is not just the church. This is, you personally.
Remember how God will take you deeper in worship or deeper in prayer and a season. Okay. So now the Holy Spirit turns and says, I want to teach you about prayer, so let's follow the Spirit. So we start going this way. You follow me? So that's the way that this creature is moving. Never...Okay. So just for James, let's focus on servanthood and humility. So let's follow the, so now we're going, James, you can go now. You can walk. Yeah, we should have started with humility. That's right. Okay. Alright. Okay. Alright. So thank you guys very much. That helps us. So do you see, you understand the creature? Alright. Okay. So here's what you need to understand. As a church, that's where we're focusing first, then were going to talk about us as individuals, this is what happens at churches. The Holy Spirit leads us because remember it says the wheels, which represents the Holy Spirit, they're lifted up. And as the wheels are lifted up, the creature's lifted up.
So what happens is, as a church, a church will begin to focus on grace and then focus on prayer maybe, and then focus on servanthood, and then focus on worship. And then when we focus on grace again, now we're at a higher level. And when we focus on prayer, now we're at a higher level. And then on servanthood we go to a higher level. Then worship, we go even higher. And then we focus on grace again, we go higher. Are y'all following me? This is exactly what happens in a church.
Now, one of these you relate to more than the other. Like we have eagles that just love to worship. If we have a night of worship, they're going to come. You can't have the worship too long for the eagles. We want to be there long as you want. We'll worship all night. We want to worship. You have a prayer meeting. All the lions show up. We're taking ground, Pastor Robert. We're going to pray. We're going to pray all night. We're to worship. And then we say, now we're going to you know, help the single moms and the homeless shelters, And we're gonna, we need a sign up for everyone who wants to serve, and all the oxes, the servants come forward. Well, I just want to serve. That's what it's all about, you know. That's what it's all about is serving, so I want to serve.
Okay. Here's the tendency though, if you're not cautious that the church you're going to will be focusing on what you want. You'll go visit that church, and that church is Boy, that's a worshiping church. Oh man. I found home. I found home. And then all of a sudden, the Spirit turns and you're like, Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, what happened? Wait, wait. We're off base. We're off track. We were going in the right direction. You guys aren't... and then the Spirit will turn and now the Spirit goes this way. And then they'll say, like James said, I can't even see where we're going. I don't even know where Gateway Church is going anymore. It's just unrecognizable to me. And then the Spirit turns again, and we go another way. Are you following me? And then the Spirit will lead and we'll go back and we'll go deeper in worship. And this is what people will, people are like, Thank God. I've been praying for Pastor Robert. He finally heard God.
Now he's preaching like he should again, on worship and the presence of God, 'cause that's where it is. Are y'all following me? But what I want to say to you is just hold on because the Spirit wants to take us higher in all four of these areas as a church. And what I've seen people do is they'll go visit a church, and it's going in their direction, and they'll join the church, and then the Spirit changes. So they go look for another church, and they find another church that's going in their direction and they join that one, but then the Spirit changes. Not because worship's not important, but because he wants to take us higher in our understanding of another area. So these are the four foundations of the church. Here's number two: The Four Foundations of life. These are four foundations in your life.
Ezekiel chapter 3 verse 13..." also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noi..." Now watch verse 14..."o the Spirit lifted me ..." So it's not just the church. It's not just a foundation of the church, it's foundation in your life. If you're not strong in one of these areas, you could ask God to take you higher in that area. You could say, you know, I love worship, love the presence of God. I feel like God's given me a good understanding of his grace. I'm serving. I'm committed somewhere But Lord, I need to go higher in my prayer life. I need to become a prayer warrior for my family. I need to become a prayer warrior for my kids. Now, this is a frequent prayer of parents of teenagers. I need to go higher in prayer for my marriage. I need to go higher in prayer for my business. I need to go higher in prayer. Okay. That's great because the Holy Spirit wants to lead you there.
So these are four foundations, not just in the church, but they have to be in your life. And so during this series, we're going to look at each of these foundations and say, where are you? Can we as a church go higher, not just as a church corporately, but I, as an individual, can I go higher in my prayer life? Can I go higher in my worship life? Can I go higher in my humility, serving others? And I can I go higher in being gracious and kind to other people as well? And my understanding of grace, even in forgiving myself, can I go higher? Now this month, February 16th will be my 40th birthday. It's true. I got saved 40 years ago. The 19 years before don't count. Okay. We're not counting those, alright?
So this month, 40 years. So 40 years walking with the Lord. Here's what I've realized. These four foundations have become warning signals to me when I watch other people's lives. If they're not humble people, they're headed for a fall. We try to quote Proverbs and say, pride goes before a fall. It actually says pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. But when I don't see humility in someone's life, I know that person's headed for a fall. When I don't see grace, if I see legalism, I know that person is headed for a fall. If that person's not a prayer, that person's not a worshiper, they're headed for a fall.
So I have over the 40 years now, I've just learned and I'm growing in my understanding. These are foundations that also I can see in other people's lives, but I also have to protect them in my life. I also have to have accountability in my life. I've had seasons where I would sing, but not worship. Are y'all with me? I put up with the worship service, not in a, that's a horrible way to say it, but I might be thinking about something else, not thinking about God. I've even had God say to me one time during the worship service, just that little impression in your heart, not an audible voice, just a little impression. I felt like one time I remember being in service and God said to me, What are you doing? I mean, I'm in the room and you're not looking at me. I'm here. Where are you?
I remember a friend of mine, close friend, this was 25 years ago, probably. And he just wasn't a worshiper. And I would notice it. He'd look at his watch during worship. Every now and then, you know, he'd raise his hand, 'cause other people were raising their hands. He doesn't want to be the guy not raising his hand, you know? Every now and then he would close his eyes, but he just didn't worship. And so I said to him one time, you don't seem like you really enter into the presence of God during worship. And this is what he said. He said, Well that's just not who I am. That's just not my personality. That same guy, we went to a Dallas Cowboys football game one time. His personality changed. He was a worshiper. He clapped. He shouted. He danced. He danced. Not good, but he danced. He raised his hands. But he told me that wasn't his personality. Are y'all following me? The same guy left his family one day, Committed adultery, left his wife, married another woman, divorced her, married another one.
Last time I heard, he was on number four or five. You want to know why? He doesn't have a foundation that when God shows up, the only thing you can do is this right here. That's it? When God shows up. So these are four foundations of the church. They're four foundations of life. And then I'll take each week and go through a foundation, so I just have one little application on this one. So here's the first foundation, really. It's part number three. It's the foundation of grace. The foundation of grace. And I preach on grace a lot, and I sprinkle every message with grace, because of the strength of sin is the law. That's 1 Corinthians 15:56. Let me just say that again, because this is so heavy, you should meditate on this months. The strength of sin is the law. Those seven words. In other words, if I stand up and preach law to you, sin actually has strength in your life. It gets stronger and stronger. The more I say don't, don't, don't, the stronger sins gets.
You say, well, what overcomes sin? Love. See, I'm faithful to my wife, not because I stood in front of a preacher one day and said, I do, but because I love her. That's going to trump every commitment that I make by words. It's love. So I preach on grace a lot, a lot. So, but I have one burden on grace for today for us. Before I do, let me just show you why I say the man represents grace. It's because the man, and I don't know of any theologian that doesn't believe in this, he represents Jesus, and grace came through Jesus. Jesus referred to himself just in the gospel of Matthew 30 times as the Son of Man. He's the first one who ever referred to himself that way. The Son of Man, because he's God and became man. 82 times in the gospels, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. Let me just show you a few in Matthew.
Matthew 12 verse, "...the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath..."
Matthew 16:13, "...do men say that I, the Son of Man..."
Matthew 16:27, "...the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father..."
Matthew 18:11, "...the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost..."
Matthew 20:28, "...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..."
Matthew 26:2, "...know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified..."
So Jesus is the Son of Man. And then why do I say he represents grace?
John 1:17, "..the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ..."
So I have one burden about grace because I've preached a lot of series on grace, but I've got one burden for all of us right now. Okay. And that is, how gracious are you to yourself? Are you still giving yourself grace? Because when you got saved, you received grace, but are you still receiving grace 10 years later? Are you still receiving grace for your failures after you got saved? Paul traveling to Corinth comes to Ephesus, Acts 19, and he says to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? So it's a great question. Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? Okay. I thought about that question and this is what I want to use that question and turn it toward the subject of grace.
Have you received grace since you believed? In other words, someone shared the gospel with you and said, all your sins can be forgiven and you probably cried and you thought, but I'm a bad person. And they said, yeah, but Jesus died. And it's like a light came on and you're like, yes. And you received the grace of God. But how are you at receiving the grace of God since you believed? Now? How are you about receiving the grace of God for your failures since you became a Christian, not just what you did before Christ, but what you've done after Christ? And here's a test. Do you play those failures over and over in your mind? A failed business, a failed relationship, a failed marriage, a failed venture, a failed dream? So are you still receiving grace?
This is, it's like one little burden I have for you that could be a really big burden. After we started the church, the church took off, and Satan started attacking me. I've told you before my early twenties I had a big time failure in my marriage, and Satan started attacking me just with, What are you doing pastoring a church? What are you doing standing up there telling people how to live their lives, with this failure in your life? What are you doing? You don't... I mean, it was just horrible shame. Constant attack. So I'm sharing it with the elders one day, and they said, you know, maybe you need to talk to someone. And they said, is there anyone you feel that just comes to your mind? I said, you know, I've been thinking about it, and we have a pastor that's on our staff now, Pastor Tommy Briggs.
How many of you know Pastor Tommy Briggs? Okay. So he wasn't on our staff then, he was at another church. And I had not talked to him in years. We became friends almost 40, probably 40 years ago. I don't know where Tommy went. There you are. Probably in the early 80s. So '81, '82, that's close to 40 years ago. And during the 80s we were closer and even worked together some. And, but this was early 2000s, 2002, -3, -4, somewhere in there. And he hadn't come here on staff. And I said, well, I just feel like Tommy could help me. So I go in the office the next day, and my assistant it gives me, it used to be when you'd get a phone call, they'd write it on a little piece of paper. Any of you that old? And they'd tear off, and you'd have a little stack of, you know. And she said to me when she was handing it to me, A guy called here named Tommy Briggs, and he says he's one of your friends. Well there's a lot of people call my office said one of my friends, you know. So she'd gotten skeptical, you know. And, you know, I've gotten a lot of phone calls, He was your best friend in high school. And I, you know, I don't know who they are, but anyway. he says he's one of your close friends, and he said he doesn't want to bother you, but he said he has a word from God for you.
Now I just told the elders this. So I called Tommy, we got together and he starts unfolding this word. And then he says to me, I don't know what I'm talking about, Robert. I'm just telling you what God told me. But the failure that you committed after you got saved is under the blood like the failures you committed before you got saved. And you need to forgive yourself. And I received grace, as a Christian. Are y'all following me? We receive grace when we come to Christ, but you need grace today. And this is one of the foundations that you can build your life on.
I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. And I want you to just take a moment, and if there's a failure in your past that tries to haunt you, I want you, and you've probably done this many times, but I believe God could do something for you right now. I want you to just say to the Lord, I ask you to forgive me for that failure. I was wrong. I sinned, and I ask you to forgive me, and I receive grace today, even though it was after I got saved, after I was a believer. And maybe for some of you it's before. But I want you to put that sin under the blood of Jesus today. And then I want to pray for you.
Lord, I pray for every person listening to me right now, every campus, online, every living room, every car, every small group, every state, every country that could be listening right now, people everywhere. I pray Holy Spirit, that we would give ourselves grace, in the same way, to the same extent, with the same measure that you gave us grace. And I pray Lord that the failures of our past would never hold us back again. And Lord, we receive your forgiveness, your love, your mercy, and your grace in Jesus' name, amen.