Having conducted a wedding this afternoon, I’m still thinking about some of the things I wanted to communicate about God and marriage to the couple and to those in attendance.

Taking my thoughts primarily from Ephesians 5, I addressed the couple (particularly the husband) and exhorted them to follow the example of Christ in His role as the husband of the church.

Three thoughts were particularly convicting and encouraging to me as I prepared the message this week and then delivered it today:

The foundation for your marriage is that on this day — January 24, 2009 — you are affirming verbally before God and all these people, that you are covenanting to live for God by loving your spouse more than yourself.  Here is a statement that is completely counter-cultural and radical:  staying married is not fundamentally about staying in love; it is about keeping the covenant that you are making today.  “Until death do us part’ and “as long as we both shall live” are the same kinds of promises that Christ made to His bride when He died for her.  Christ will never leave His bride.  Your oaths today affirm that you will never leave each other.  That’s what will preserve your marriage.

While both of you should be pursuing spiritual maturity, [husband], it is your privilege to lead your family in that process.  It is the responsibility of Christ to sanctify His bride, the church, cleansing her by the washing of water with the Word, and that is your privileged responsibility as well, [husband].  Your goal for your wife is to one day stand before the throne of Christ and say, “Here is my wife, whom you entrusted to my discipleship:  I present her now to you, cleansed by the Word of God, holy and blameless…”  This is your great demonstration of love to her and to Christ.

The greatest gift of grace you can give each other is to love Christ more than you love your mate.  That’s right — the pathway to a good marriage is to love God more than you love your mate.  If you love your mate more than you love God, you will make him or her into an idol that usurps a throne fit only for God.  The reason that there is so much discontentment in marriage is not that husbands and wives are selfishly seeking their own pleasures, but that they don’t seek their pleasure in God.  But if you love God preeminently, He will also lead you into a self-sacrificing, Christ-exalting love of your spouse.