Posted by: phillipmway | April 10, 2012

A Picture of Grace

Wedding Ceremony
Officiated by Rev. Phillip M. Way

Anthony Lee Huff and Kimberly Ann Esparza
April 7, 2012
Laredo, Texas

Listen to the ceremony here:
Anthony and Kimberly’s Wedding

Bride’s Processional

PW: “All Rise” As the father of the bride walks her down the aisle

PW: “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”

Father of the Bride: “Her mother and I do.”

Statement of Purpose

“Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God and these witnesses to join Anthony and Kimberly in the covenant of holy marriage, which is instituted of God, regulated by His commandments, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and is to be held in honor among all men. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for His glory and for the welfare and the happiness of mankind. Our Savior has declared that “a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” , and by His apostles He has instructed those who enter into this covenant to cherish a mutual esteem and love ; to bear each other’s infirmities and weaknesses ; to comfort each other in sickness, trouble and sorrow ; and in honesty and industry to provide for each other and for their household in temporal things ; to pray for and encourage each other in the things which pertain to God , and to live together as the heirs of the grace of life .”

Prayer of Consecration for This Union

Let us pray: “Almighty God, whose presence is the happiness of every condition and whose favor hallows every relation, be now present and favorable to these Your children that they may be joined in the honorable estate of marriage in the covenant of their God. As You have brought them together by Your Providence, sanctify them by Your Spirit, giving them a new frame of heart fit for their new estate, and enrich them with all grace whereby they may enjoy the comforts, undergo the cares, endure the trials, and perform the duties of life together as is fitting under Your heavenly guidance and protection – through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.” “You may be seated.”

Charge to the Couple

The first, the greatest, and the most sacred institution known to man is that of the home. In the sovereignty and wisdom of God it was the home, not the state or the school or even the church that was first created and divinely intended to become the cornerstone of all life on earth. You have expressed the desire to become one by entering together into this blessed covenant with the understanding that God has brought you together and that you are to build a home under God and for God. You are expressing to us that you fully believe it is the will of God that you be married. So you are here today to take your vows, not simply before me, or before these guests, but primarily before God and each other. The Bible teaches that marriage is to be a permanent relationship of one man and one woman dissolved naturally only by death. That is why the Bible tells us that what God is joining together today, no man can tear apart!

Anthony and Kimberly, I remind you today that you are not entering into a social experiment or a living arrangement that might be terminated at will. This is a spiritual exercise that cannot be accomplished without submission to Jesus Christ and mutual submission to each other.

Part of that mutual submission and care is loving one another. We know that the Scriptures make it clear that love is not merely an emotion that comes and goes. Neither is it a circumstance you fall into or out of. Love is a decision. It is an act of the will wherein you decide to relate to each other based on a foundation that is truly spiritual, for true and unconditional love is a fruit of the Spirit.

When we speak about the love of God for His children, we are reminded from Romans 8:38-39 that it is impossible for you to be separated from the love of God shown in Christ Jesus. There is no change, no fluctuation, no gap in His love for you. And so now it is to be your daily goal to prevent any gap in your love for each other. To do this, you Anthony, must follow the Scriptural mandate to love your wife in the same way that Christ loves His Church and has given Himself for Her. This love then is a love of self-sacrifice. You are to lovingly lead and sacrificially give yourself for your family in any way possible.

And you, Kimberly, must also work to obey the expectations of Scripture. You must submit willingly to the leadership of your husband. To do this in no way means that you are to lower yourself or become less of a person. To submit willingly is to do all that you can to fulfill God’s role for you as a helpmate as you honor your husband.

In order for you both to meet the expectations of Scripture, you must know and willingly fulfill your God given roles within this relationship. The role of the husband as the leader and the role of the wife as a submissive helpmate has been designed by God for your own good and His eternal glory. And you must remember that we are not here today proclaiming that “the man is the head of the home” for the Bible tells us that it is Jesus Christ who is the Head of your family and as you are joining yourselves to one another here in our presence today, you are also joining yourselves to Him in this new relationship. Ecclesiastes chapter 4 tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” It takes two to get married but it takes three for a marriage truly made in heaven! For you and God together make three.

The marriage covenant you are entering into today is also not a 50-50 business contract. It is both of you giving 100% of yourself to the one you love more than any other but God. And your marriage here today presents us with a picture of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. When God first ordained marriage, He designed it to serve as a witness of His grace. He knows we are born into this world as sinners. And even before time began, His love stretched out through eternity and found us in need of a Savior. He decided before we were even born to send His Son to die the death for sin we deserved and give us freely the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him in heaven. We must only repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus to enter into a New Covenant relationship with Him and be made a child of God.

And it is because you understand that God has created marriage in order to present us with a picture of the saving work of Christ upon the cross that you have asked me, as a minister of Jesus Christ, to preach a gospel message to those gathered here today.

Gospel Sermon

A Picture of Grace – Ephesians 2:8-9

As we gather today for this most blessed occasion we are reminded of the goodness of belonging to a family. Even as we are here to witness the covenant that signifies the beginning of a new family, we have fond memories of past family gatherings, reunions, weddings, and holidays; times when we were able to visit with relatives and share the company of those who have lived longer and learned more than we have. At times like these, it is important to remember what “family” means. The family has been called the basic unit of our society. A husband and wife, perhaps with children, born to them or adopted by a choice of their love, all of who belong to a larger group, all related by blood or by marriage.

One of the greatest passages of Scripture regarding marriage and family is found in Ephesians 5 and 6. There we read, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

Today as we witness and participate in Anthony and Kimberly’s entrance into this marriage covenant with each other and with God, we must understand that a husband who is obedient to Scripture will love his wife just as Christ loves the Church and has given Himself for her. A wife who is obedient to the Scripture will faithfully submit to the leadership of her husband just as the Church, when obedient to her Lord, serves and humbly submits to Christ. And here we are reminded from the words of Scripture that our marriages visibly demonstrate the greatest truth of all time for in this relationship we see before us pictured Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, coming to be born a man, in order to seek and save that which was lost. Marriage reminds us that we have been desired, sought, pursued, and won by One who gave Himself to redeem us.

How is it that Christ woos and wins His bride? What means does He use in order to transfer us from living under the sway of the prince of the power of the air into the kingdom of His everlasting light? How does Jesus save sinners?

Let us go back to Ephesians 2, where the Apostle Paul tells us: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Here is how Jesus saves sinners. Here we find the means, the tools, the gifts He gives in order to give to us eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

The Scripture says, “You have been saved.” Not “you will be,” or “you might be”; but “you are saved.” Let us be as clear on this point – each one of us is either saved or unsaved. Which are you? I hope that, by the witness of the Holy Spirit, you are assured of your salvation. But I do not want any of us to have a false assurance, to believe a lie from the Father of Lies, the devil, who would delight in leading us to believe we are saved when we are not.

If we can say of any man, or of any group of people, “You are saved,” we must begin with the words “by grace.” There is no other way to be saved except that which begins and ends with grace. If you are not saved by grace alone, then you are not completely and eternally saved.

Most people believe they will go to heaven when they die. Some have believed the lie from Satan that they must pay for their sin themselves before being able to enter heaven. We see constant requests for prayers for departed souls, prayers we could not and should not pray if those souls were actually and truly saved, for one who is saved, when he dies, immediately goes into the presence of Jesus his Savior. Often what we say and what we pray only serves to prove the incompleteness of the salvation offered through the preaching of false gospels that spread lies found nowhere within the pages of sacred Scripture.

It is a false gospel that preaches that salvation can be earned by our good deeds, bought with money, deserved by works of penance, or secured because of any goodness in us. The truth is that on our own we have nothing good to offer God. We have nothing good in us to mix with His grace.

The Psalmist proclaims this truth to us: The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

The Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says the very same thing: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.

Jesus himself was asked: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

Salvation must be by grace alone. If man be lost by sin, how can he be saved except through the grace of God? If he has sinned, he is condemned; and how can he, of himself, reverse that condemnation? What is to become of the past? How can old sins be blotted out? According to Scripture, salvation can only be through the free favor of God.

Every person who has been saved by grace is a living saint, and all saints when they come to die, never conclude their lives by hoping in their good works. Those who have lived the most holy and useful lives invariably look to free grace in their final moments. Never do we hear of a godly man who found any confidence whatsoever in his own prayers, or repentance, or religiousness. Holy men have been quoted as they lay dying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” In fact, the nearer men come to heaven, and the more prepared they are for it, the more simply is their trust in the merit of the Lord Jesus, and the more intensely they abhor all trust in themselves.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. Salvation then must be through grace alone, and salvation by grace alone must be through faith alone. You cannot get a hold of salvation by grace by any other means than by faith. Salvation in our case means deliverance from guilt and ruin, and this could not have been laid hold of by a measure of good works, since we are not able on our own to perform any good works at all.

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Some try to lay hold upon salvation by grace through the use of religious ceremonies; but it will not do. You are christened, confirmed, and partake of Communion, or you are baptized, join the church, sit at the Lord’s table: does this bring you salvation?

Faith receives the statement of God concerning His way of gracious pardon, and thus it brings salvation to the man believing.

This salvation, the grace, and the faith, these all are not of ourselves. They do not originate from us, in us, or because of us. They are not the reward of good works. No unregenerate person has lived so well that God is bound to give him grace, and to bestow on him eternal life; else it would no longer be of grace, but of debt God owed us instead of a debt we owe Him. Salvation is given to us, not earned by us. Our first life is always a wandering away from God, and our new life is a return to God. Salvation is not by our works, it is by Christ’s work on our behalf, a work of undeserved mercy, given to those who greatly need, but never deserve it.

Salvation comes from above; it is never brought out from within us. Some dare to tell us that faith in Christ, and the new birth, are only the development of good things that lay hidden in us by nature; a divine spark, a prevenient grace, the gifts of life somehow produced by one dead in sin. You may take the unregenerate man, and educate him to the highest; but he remains, and must forever remain, dead in sin, unless a higher power comes in and saves him from himself.

Grace brings into the heart an entirely foreign element. It does not improve and renovate; it brings new life to the dead. Before we are given this life, we are darkness. We are not in darkness. The Scriptures tell us we are darkness itself, the absence of all light. Grace, when it comes to us, lights us afire with the life of God. It makes that which was darkness to be blazing bright and glorious light. The light of life found in the Light of the World, found in Jesus who Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Salvation by grace, through faith is not of ourselves in the sense of being the result of our own power. We are bound to view salvation as being as surely a divine act as creation, or providence, or resurrection. At every point of the process of salvation this word is appropriate—”not of ourselves.” From the first desire for salvation to the full reception of it by faith, it is from the Lord alone, and not of ourselves. The man believes, but that belief is only one result among many of the implantation of divine life within the man’s soul by God Himself.

Even the very desire to be saved by grace is not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God. A man ought to believe in Jesus: it is his duty to receive Him whom God has set forth to be a propitiation for sins. But we will not believe in Jesus; we prefer anything to faith in the redeemer. Unless the Spirit of God convinces the mind, and constrains the will, we have no heart to believe in Jesus unto eternal life.

We confess that we might have been still lost if it had not been that there was something which enlightened our understanding, and guided us to the foot of the cross. Gratefully we confess the fact; it must be so.

Salvation by grace, through faith, is not of ourselves, and none of us would dream of taking any honor to ourselves from our conversion, or from any gracious effect which has flowed from the first divine cause. God gives life. He gives grace. He gives faith. He gives us salvation. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last of all then we see that salvation by grace through faith is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. We praise God for salvation because it is a gift of grace. Salvation is so purely, so absolutely a gift of God, that nothing can be more free. God gives it because He chooses to give it, according to that grand text “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” We are all guilty and condemned, and the great King pardons whoever He chooses from among us. This is his divine prerogative. He saves in infinite sovereignty of grace.

Again, to be very clear, even though you may have attended church or listened to preachers before, you may not know God’s plan for pardoning sinners. You may not know what it means to be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Do you know the plan of salvation? Hear it and live by it. You have offended a Holy God; God must punish sin; how can God have mercy on you, a sinner? Only this way: Jesus Christ came from heaven and He suffered in the place of all who trust Him; He suffered what they ought to have suffered, so that God is just and yet at the same time able to forgive the very worst sinners through His dear Son.

Your debts, if you be a believer in Him, Christ has paid on your behalf when you were not able. If you will but come and rest upon Jesus, rest upon Him fully and only, God cannot punish you for your sins, for He punished Jesus for them on the cross, and it would not be just of Him to punish Christ and then to punish you, too.

My dear hearer, whoever you may be, whatever you have done in your life, however you have lived, if you will repent and trust Christ you will be saved from all your sin and guilt in a single moment and your whole past will be blotted out, forgotten by God and paid in full by Christ. There will not remain with God a single charge against you unanswered because “Jesus paid it all.” Salvation by grace means that there is nothing for you to pay. If you believe today, He has taken your guilt and left you justified and clean before God.

How can we be clean? How can we be declared right with God? When Jesus seeks us and saves us, draws us to the Father , convicts us of our sinfulness and our need for a Savior, gives us grace and faith , we see our need and trust in Him, when we repent, turning from our sin and turning in faith to Christ, we trust Him to save us, to forgive us, to take our sin away and give us eternal life. When we believe in Jesus Christ we are declared right with God.

As we see here a living picture and demonstration of the grace of God, let me ask one last time, have you trusted Jesus alone to save you? Do not leave here today until you are sure! For while we celebrate this wedding today we remember that there is nothing greater than for a sinner to come to Christ. The Bible tells us that marriage itself is a picture of the gospel, and this marriage today will be even more blessed if you will confess your faith in Christ here for the first time. In fact, Anthony and Kimberly have asked that I preach this message for this very reason. Nothing would please them more than for you this 7th day of April to proclaim, “By the grace of God alone I will not be a pretender any longer; I will give myself up to those dear hands that bled for me, and that dear heart that was pierced for me, and I will this day submit myself to Jesus Christ, my Savior.” Amen.

Vows

PW: “Anthony, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Do you promise from this day forward to provide for her spiritual leadership? Do you promise to perform unto her all the obligations and responsibilities of a Christian husband? Do you pledge yourself to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for her so long as you both shall live?

Anthony: “I do.”

PW: Kimberly, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Do you promise from this day forward to follow him as your spiritual leader? Do you promise to perform unto him all the obligations and responsibilities of a Christian wife? Do you pledge to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for him so long as you both shall live?

Kim: “I do.”

PW: “Anthony, please repeat after me:

I Anthony, take you Kimberly, to be my wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be thy loving and faithful husband, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.

PW: “Kimberly, please repeat after me:

I Kimberly, take you Anthony, to be my wedded husband, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be thy loving and faithful wife, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.

Rings

PW: “As a sign and symbol of your love and commitment to each other you have selected a ring. The ring does not make you married, it reveals you to be married. It tells the world that you belong to each other and it represents and reminds you of these very vows you have taken today.

Anthony, if you would place the ring on Kimberly’s finger and while holding it there repeat after me: “With this ring, I thee wed – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Kimberly, if you would place the ring on Anthony’s finger, and while holding it there repeat after me: “With this ring, I thee wed – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer for God’s Assistance

PW: Let us pray: “Most merciful and gracious God, bestow upon these Your children the seal of Your approval and Your Fatherly benediction, granting unto them grace to fulfill with pure and steadfast love the vow and covenant between them made today. Guide them together in the way of righteousness and peace, that loving one another they may be enriched with Your everlasting favor in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Declaration and Presentation

PW: “By the authority committed unto me by Jesus Christ as a minister of His Church and by the authority given to me according to the laws of the State of Texas, I now pronounce you husband and wife. ‘Whom God has therefore joined together, let not man put asunder.’”

“You may kiss your bride.”

“It is my great privilege to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Huff.”

Recessional


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