American Reformation

Gospel Fit for Battle with Nick Graff

August 23, 2023 Unite Leadership Collective Season 2 Episode 52
Gospel Fit for Battle with Nick Graff
American Reformation
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American Reformation
Gospel Fit for Battle with Nick Graff
Aug 23, 2023 Season 2 Episode 52
Unite Leadership Collective

Buckle up as we embark on a journey through faith, culture, and transformation. Our guest, Nick Graff, a former Marine Corp soldier, brings his experiences to the table as we navigate the intricacies of being gospel-forward in our communication with the world. Inspired by the Apostle Paul's approach to a pre-Christian world, we delve into the profound dual functions of law, and challenge ourselves to lead with love, not judgement.

We extend our exploration into church demographics and the underlying patterns of growth in churches. The conversation illuminates the significance of relationships, pre-consciousness, and the changing composition of American Lutheranism. As Graff narrates his transition from military duty to a proclaimer of the Word, we are reminded of the universal reach of Jesus' peace and Christ's care.

The episode takes an intriguing twist as we confront theological tensions and the resurgence of Calvinism. Graff shares his journey from a Lutheran childhood, through military service, to his current perspective, deeply rooted in the Augsburg Confession. In a world that is so often divided, we reflect on the dangers of gatekeeping salvation and the rise of Gnosticism. As we wrap up, we ponder on the resilience of the gospel in the face of adversity. Prepare to be moved, enlightened, and challenged in your understanding of faith and the gospel.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Buckle up as we embark on a journey through faith, culture, and transformation. Our guest, Nick Graff, a former Marine Corp soldier, brings his experiences to the table as we navigate the intricacies of being gospel-forward in our communication with the world. Inspired by the Apostle Paul's approach to a pre-Christian world, we delve into the profound dual functions of law, and challenge ourselves to lead with love, not judgement.

We extend our exploration into church demographics and the underlying patterns of growth in churches. The conversation illuminates the significance of relationships, pre-consciousness, and the changing composition of American Lutheranism. As Graff narrates his transition from military duty to a proclaimer of the Word, we are reminded of the universal reach of Jesus' peace and Christ's care.

The episode takes an intriguing twist as we confront theological tensions and the resurgence of Calvinism. Graff shares his journey from a Lutheran childhood, through military service, to his current perspective, deeply rooted in the Augsburg Confession. In a world that is so often divided, we reflect on the dangers of gatekeeping salvation and the rise of Gnosticism. As we wrap up, we ponder on the resilience of the gospel in the face of adversity. Prepare to be moved, enlightened, and challenged in your understanding of faith and the gospel.

Support the Show.

Watch Us On Youtube!

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the brand new American Reformation Podcast. We long to see the wider American Christian Church fall more in love with Jesus by learning from the practices of the early church and other eras of discipleship multiplication. We want to hear from you, make sure you comment and leave a review, wherever you're watching or listening, to tell us what God is doing in your life or how you feel about today's conversation. Lord, have your way in us. Let's dive in.

Speaker 2:

Happy day. Welcome to the American Reformation Podcast, tim Allman. Here I pray, wherever you're taking this in, that the joy of Jesus, the love of Jesus. Maybe you're taking it in as you head on to a great day of work. I'm recording this on a Monday. I got a good workout in, I got my water in and now I'm ready to go and hang out with my new friend partner in the gospel, longtime LCMS member and leader in our military, which you're going to hear, nick Graff. How are you doing today, nick? Great Tim.

Speaker 3:

It's a pleasure to be here with you today.

Speaker 2:

Oh man. So Nick sent me an amazing string of emails and this happens from time to time and I'm just like, wow, this guy has an unbelievable story and how the Lord is now used, using that past story, to shape your heart for ministry, wanting to be a proclamer of the word. So we're going to get to this kind of new calling in your life. But before we do that, main question here on American Reformation how are you, as you look at the landscape of the American Christian Church, nick? How are you praying for Reformation?

Speaker 3:

Man, Tim. Every day I pray that we are a little more, a lot more diligent, a lot more thoughtful in how we message the world. We're very law forward and I think we need to be more gospel forward, which is not to say I'm not a gospel reductionist, that's not to say that there's a significant place for the law, but we're very, very much first and second use for the law forward and that's what we message. And we need to learn some lessons from the apostle Paul and how he approached a world that was not post-Christian but pre-Christian and it was not steeped in a Jewish tradition of law, and that's what we need to keep in mind.

Speaker 2:

So oh, that's so good man. So let's double click on that for a second. As you think about, you use some terms that listeners may or may not be accustomed to first and second function of the law. So the law serves as a what and a what. Nick, this isn't confirmation class, but catechism is good yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so the first use is the curb right. So this is both the natural law given to us by. What's written in our hearts is God's creation and it's a little bit muted because of the fall right, but it's still in there. It's what we know to be true, and then it's also in a special revelation of the decalogue and the Ten Commandments. So we have what God's will for us is here within His creation, in the temporal realm. So we need to be mindful of that and we need to make sure that we are fulfilling God's will in the state and those sorts of things. So really, the state, through the power of the sword, through threat of punishment, is the curb right. And then the second use for the law is the mirror, and this shows us, you know, that we're not righteous before God, that we're not spiritually righteous of our own volition. Right we require, we're sick and we need medicine, and that medicine is the gospel. And so, yeah, j-drop out Tim. Am I back Tim?

Speaker 2:

All right, you're back. I think we'll catch some of that. No, that's good. So did you talk about the mirror?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I talked about the mirror, right. So that shows us that we're not righteous before God, that we are central creatures, right, and that's basically a counter to this idea of works righteousness, that somehow we can attain salvation through our own action, our own reason, right.

Speaker 2:

And the way you're talking about the law. If that is because the law needs, the law is in formulaic law. Gospel isn't necessarily formulaic. It's what does a person need to know, right? I mean, is this person just overwhelmed by the way to their sin, what they've done or not done? Overwhelmed? And what do they need? They need the gospel of Jesus Christ and as you look at the world, I think a lot of people are walking through like this heavy shame. We know we're not there. So how does the church kind of position itself immediately? And it's this gospel of Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost. And if you're far from God, man, jesus is for you. He has brought the presence of God near to you, not because of what you've done, but because of what he has done. So you're kind of speaking to that initial posture of love and care and kindness for all people, right? And you think sometimes the church leads a little bit more with judgment and legalism is what I hear you saying.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'll just I'm not going to pick on any individual person, but I'll just say we have some leaders within our Senate and they like to say, as soon as you put a microphone in front of them, they say we preach Christ crucified, and then follow it up with 30 minutes of law. So we preach Christ crucified is not the gospel, it's a statement. Perhaps it says what we do or it's a ecclesiastical edict to our clergy, but it's not the gospel proclaimed. Right, it can be one of those two things. It's neither law nor gospel, but it's followed by 20, 30, 40 minutes of the law, and I think that's a missed opportunity, at a minimum, right. So I guess what I'm saying is if you are conservative, politically, socially, right. We live in a democracy, right. So whatever is true within our democracy, whatever is subjectively true, right, because we have the objective truth of God's will, whatever subjectively true is, whatever 51% of people say, it is right. And so if you want to change what is subjective truth, if you want the curb that first use for the law, reimplement it in society, the best way to do that is not through preaching the law at society, right, the best way to do that is, preaching the gospel, bringing them into the love of Christ, bringing this third use of the law after regeneration, justification, and then those people will naturally go out. I can't remember whether it's in the epitome or the solid declaration, but the formula at Concord has this really nice thing that says something to the effect of love of Christ. Love of God, this third use of the law can extract from man what fear of punishment can never hope to like tremendous works right, and I believe that that's absolutely true and that's what we need to focus on. So if you want to restore American families, american morality, those sorts of things in our country, the best way to do it is proclaim the gospel. And again, that's not gospel reductions, there are absolute uses for the law.

Speaker 3:

When you're in front of your congregation every Sunday with your Word and Sacrament ministry, you're preaching law and gospel, not necessarily bifurcated, but law and gospel every time you're reading the Word. So we have this first reading, usually law, right. We have the second reading, the second epistle, right, and then we have the gospel right, and so these are important things for Christians to hear. But we sort of have this idea that you know there's a you talked about legalistic. There's this maximum of equity in the law, and there's maximums of equity.

Speaker 3:

There's sayings, and it says to come to equity, you must first come with clean hands, and I think that we have a tendency to say to new Christians to first come to our church, you must come with clean hands. Right, that's how we message, though. Right, whether we say that, whether it's, whether it's obvious or not, that's what our messaging leads one to conclude. And then there's the other risk. Right, there's the other, very real risk is that when you proclaim the law, the law is death, the law, we're all condemned by the law, and so you tend to harden people's hearts, right, and then that's not fertile ground to share the gospel. So we have some serious issues here and we need to think about it. We need to be more deliberate.

Speaker 2:

Oh man, I couldn't agree more. Remember? I'm just thinking about my sermon yesterday. What did I preach on? Oh yeah, exodus 32. I was talking about the golden calf and man Moses brought. God wanted to bring some really severe law upon the people because of what they'd done. Moses then actually intercedes. It's a type of a Christ right. He intercedes and really in a sense swallows up the wrath of God on behalf of the people. Now, there were some temporal consequences for their idolatry, but the primary function of God is primary characteristic, which is to love His alien. Work is to kill and destroy the wrath of God which will come on the last day.

Speaker 2:

We're not discounting that at all. So this gives us some evangelical urgency, right, but God's primary nature is to love, and we see. So how would you articulate then? You say we preach Christ crucified. That's not the gospel. So right now, given the context of this conversation, what is the full gospel now to someone who's just living with idols? Go ahead.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we'll just put a fine point on it. It is Christ's life, death and resurrection for you. That's it Done, and then we unpack that right. But that's the pointy spear of the gospel.

Speaker 2:

And how is it delivered? So yeah, you were referencing the theme at the Synodical Convention which I just came back from a few days ago, and we preach Christ crucified. I didn't even think about it as like a legalistic statement. But I guess, if you don't, there is kind of a formula for a lot of preachers you know, and you just kind of give yeah, life, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus.

Speaker 2:

I guess if the way it could be seen as legalistic is unless you hear Christ crucified, his blood covering all of your sins, kind of the just words I don't know if you're a Jack Price fan, but like the justification by grace through faith, if you don't hear that formulae, you know, declaration of the gospel then you haven't heard the gospel to which Jack Price would have said the late, great Jack Price would have said, nah, there's so many different metaphors that we can use to tell the gospel story which then find, you know, it pinpoints on that story of the perfect work and death and glorious resurrection and I would say even then the wider story right, I'm wearing this shirt about what Jesus did that great and glorious week. But then we find ourselves in the wider story of God's redemptive love, from creation all the way to recreation right. This is the gospel narrative of which we're now a part as the church anticipating the return of Christ. Anything to add there, nick? This is fine man.

Speaker 3:

Yeah Well, so the only thing that I would say is you know, I completely agree with that and I definitely. I really like Dr Price, jack Price. But what I think we should think about is when we are proclaiming the gospel within our own circles, within our own churches, is different than we proclaim the gospel in the world. It's the same gospel, but we have you have 15, 20 minutes every Sunday to finish your gospel statement. How much time do we have out in the world? Right? So we got to be on point, on target. We got to trust in the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who does the work. It's the Holy Spirit who brings, who makes the call, who gives the gift of faith. Right, and we know, by the way, we know Paul tells us in Galatians he's like listen, it is the gospel that the Holy Spirit works through.

Speaker 3:

It's not the law, it's not the law. So you know we can, we can continue to tilt the windmills and say you know, thrive and Scott Rainbows on their stuff and whatever else you know that we have issue with, but we have to, we have to really, really, really be careful, because I will tell you that you know I have had to answer in some sense of catechesis and evangelical work. I suppose I would call it I don't know if I would call it that but catechesis of adults. I've had to answer for some things that those people weren't ready to hear, that our leaders have said and it has the potential, it runs the risk, it has danger of hardening the heart and we need to be really careful about that. Now, once we're in Christ, we need to hear law and gospel every Sunday, no question about it, absolutely 100%, and we need to be living that third use for the law.

Speaker 2:

I think have you read the book the Other Half of Church?

Speaker 2:

I've referenced it a few times, jim Wilder is the author's name, the Other Half of Church and it talks about its brain, science and theology coupled.

Speaker 2:

So the right half of our brain is relationship, feeling connection, wanting to be the said love, like enveloped in this wider community.

Speaker 2:

And then obviously the left side of the brain is logic and language, and so right is pre-consciousness, and then the left half of the brain and everything comes in the back of the right half of the brain and then moves to the front and frontal lobe on the left half of the brain and the general statement is you look at, as you look at maybe our synod or any church that's maybe lost love. They have discounted the necessity of connection. And I think there's a deep connection between relational connection to one another, as I have said, love, joy-filled community, and then with arms open wide, and then how people come to know the joy of Jesus, the connection to Christ, and if we miss that relational connection, man, we'll miss the gospel. I think all they'll hear is this formula like unless it's done like this or unless you look like this, you can't be a part of this place and that's just not the way Jesus did ministry in Norsha the Church today.

Speaker 3:

So any thoughts on that? Yeah, I'll bring up another point. I mean, this is kind of a little bit of a curveball. You may not expect this, but I hear a lot of folks talk about, you know, the demographic shift and why our sin is shrinking and all these problems right. And I got to tell you, when you unpack, that what they really mean is American Lutherans of Germanic and Scandinavian descent are having fewer children, and that is a sociological fact that you know. People, as they climb the socioeconomic ladder, tend to have fewer children, and that's what happens.

Speaker 3:

And so when I look around at how we grow our church, the reality is that, you know, at our peak, I think in 1960, we had some 4 million Missouri sin of Lutherans running around, most of them German, most of them Scandinavian. But you know that sense. You know I think we've walked back to about 2 million now. Now think about this in terms of a country that's doubled in size in that time. So don't tell me about demographics. There's more people here than ever.

Speaker 3:

Don't tell me about demographics, and my concern is that. Well, I'll just put it to you this way If you want to grow this church, I'm looking for a socially conservative, god-fearing group of people who have lots of children, and I got to look at the Hispanic community and whether that fits your political preference or not, and if it doesn't, then now your politics have sort of become an idol rather than serving Christ properly. So I'll just say it that way, because I've heard people articulate some very concerning ideas about whether certain groups are, you know, smart enough to get our complicated doctrine and our doctrine's not all that complicated. I watch these videos on YouTube about LCMS Lutheran pastors having their different things, and some of these groups say some pretty concerning things.

Speaker 2:

Well, demographic shift is real and we need to have arms wide open to meet people of different cultural backgrounds. I think we're trying, and I don't think we're doing a great job just yet, but we could. The.

Speaker 1:

Lord could change us.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I pray that he does Amen. Alright, let's get into your story, man. There's so much here. So nine years in the Marine Corps and then 16 years as a civilian in Special Forces. Now you wrote me an email talking about all sorts of things that you experienced and how the peace of Jesus, the care of Christ, really saw you through your duty. So could you tell a little bit of your story and how that led you to say hey, man, I'd love to explore being a proclaimer of word and bring you're of sacrament.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely Well. So there's a couple of ways to talk about this. I'll just start from the beginning. So because of some very forward-thinking Lutherans in St Louis, I was able to attend a Lutheran grade school, despite the fact that my parents weren't Christians at all. They didn't force their conversion or do any of those sorts of things or make them become members of the church, because if they would have, that would have never happened, right? So I would have never been able to been exposed to really the Augsburg Confession in Article 4. And that's what this is all about, right, and so that's a very different kind of Christianity than you see elsewhere. There's no way I would have received that. Had that not been for some forward-thinking congregations pastors, principals, school administrators it just wouldn't have happened, and I thank God every day that he moved them, inspired them, sanctified them and brought them into that place right when they could make those decisions that have impacted my life immeasurably.

Speaker 3:

I graduated from Lutheran High School in St Louis, lutheran South, and then joined the Marine Corps immediately as an Arabic Cryptologic Linguist. So I had to first started out with learning the Arabic language at the elemental level I mean all the way through. So that took about a year and a half. Then the Cryptologic part is the intelligence aspect of that, which is listening to communications and extracting essential elements of information, turning that into intelligence information and being able to brief that and those sorts of things. So I did that for nine years.

Speaker 3:

I was wounded and fluged in 2004. That physically I really couldn't continue in my service, so in the Marine Corps. So I got out in 2006 after really trying in vain for about a year and a half or so. I really couldn't make it happen physically. So luckily I was able to find a job in the civil service as a civilian and I got to work alongside US Special Forces for about 16 years or so. It was a great time.

Speaker 3:

But there are some challenges to that. We have about 200 or so LCMS chaplains between the active garden, reserve components and across four different services. The Marine Corps doesn't have chaplains to use the navies but at any rate in 25 years the military is a big place. I never encountered one LCMS chaplain in 25 years and it's bad luck. So obviously I'm not going to take communion from someone who's not. I would take communion from an ALC or LCMS, or even Wells wouldn't give it to me, but I'd take one from a Wells pastor.

Speaker 3:

But at any rate, during that time, especially when I was deployed, I didn't have communion. I didn't really enjoy. I got nothing out of the generic Protestant services that are offered. So they want Baptist Lutherans, church of Christ, just everything into one basket and that's your generic Protestant service and it is. I would say you would get more out of one of our kindergarten level Sunday school classes than you would get out of a generic Protestant service. So I kind of struggle with that.

Speaker 3:

And what I decided to do was I decided that when people would ask me they're like what's, how are you dealing with this? What's your source of peace? All these sorts of things that you naturally emanate when you have the love of Christ inside of you and you realize that you're spiritually justified and now you set your sights on the temporal realm and try to, in your context, try to bring what you can to that. And when you're going through these difficult times, when you're seeing crimes against children that are absolutely horrendous, when you're seeing religious persecution, christians persecuted around the world, in Africa and Syria and Iraq, and those sorts of things it causes everyone, even unbelievers, believers alike, there's an emotional toll. All right.

Speaker 3:

So, yeah, back in 2017, I was cataclysm 11 individuals. We were working through Syria and doing some counter ISIS work, and it was really taking its toll on everyone. So one of the things that we were able to do is do a little bit of R&R. So we got a long weekend over Easter weekend 2017. And so we were able to go down to a resort on the Dead Sea. It's called the Moven Pick. It's super nice. If you actually want to go there, they've got their own beach access. You can go out there and float and do all the Dead Sea stuff that you want to see, but it's super fun. Yeah, and the Jordan side it's easier for an American to get in and out of Jordan as well than it is Israel, so you can land at Bengearian Airport and get the whole body cavity search if you're not careful. So it's not a whole lot of fun. So, anyway, on the Jordan side, you can get in and out of there pretty easily. And then it's just interesting to see the Dead Sea.

Speaker 3:

So it occurred to me while we were down there that I didn't want it to necessarily just be a bunch of people trying to self-medicate with alcohol and all those sorts of things that you do at a resort. So I thought what can I do to really round this experience out for them and what can I do to really bring them in to the church in an effective way? And so obviously not an ordained minister. So there's a limited amount of things that I can do. So it occurs to me that we're about 10 minutes south of Bethany, beyond the Jordan. So this is where Jesus was baptized, this is where Elijah ascended into heaven, this is where, obviously, john the Baptist did his ministry, this is where God led the Israelites with Joshua, over the Jordan River with the Ark of the Covenant before them. So I'm not a big believer in holy sites per se, but it's a pretty interesting location. Think about this this is the first place where the triune God was physically revealed to mankind. You have God this is my son and in him I am well pleased. You have the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove and obviously you have Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist.

Speaker 3:

So I called a friend of mine who is a Coptic priest. He was originally from Alexandria but due to oppression, he had to leave. He had to leave Egypt and he ends up teaching scuba diving down in Akhaba, jordan. So I called him and I was like, hey, man, can you do a baptism at Bethany, beyond the Jordan? Obviously that's a site, it's kind of a shrine, so we didn't actually, you know, violate the sanctity of that site. We just went a little further north and did a guerrilla baptism, I would call it. And so so we go, we meet him up there, 730, you know, just after sunrise and triple dunk baptizes all 11 of these people. And it was. It was, you know, it was an experience for me just to be there to see it, you know, and it was, you know.

Speaker 3:

Obviously there comes the what I think is probably a good sense of pride, being the person who's you know brought them into the church, and that's a thing that you get to. You get to that's, you know, and that's an interesting point that I like to bring up all the time, you know, in the spiritual realm, you know, if we think about the spiritual, temporal realm, that sort of dichotomy, we think of the two different kinds of righteousness and one where spiritually righteous before God and the other one where spiritually righteous in a God-pleasing way before man, in the temporal realm, so kind of this vertical and horizontal righteousness. If you think about the vertical righteousness, we do nothing in that equation there's absolutely. God does it all, absolutely all of it. Pete Slauson, true, right.

Speaker 3:

And so if you want any kind of spiritual, not agency, but if you want any kind of I don't know if you want anything that you do to have any value on the spiritual realm, it doesn't come in your relationship with God, but it can come in other people's relationship with God, and that's important to remember. Right, and so we know that the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit creates faith through hearing the gospel, right, that's how the Holy Spirit works. And if we're not going to proclaim the gospel, if we're not going to bring people into the church, then you know the Holy Spirit doesn't work. Right, people are.

Speaker 3:

We cannot buy our own reason to apprehend the gospel right, and so that's something that we get to actually partner. I would say we're at the law firm of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and you know we're partners. But we're actually working in the mailroom right, like they're doing most of it, but where we get a little bit that we get a little bit of. I don't know, I don't want to call it credit, but we get. We're living according to God's will and we're following our Lord's commands to make you know, to go forth and make disciples of all nations. Those are, those are. Those are where we actually get to support the process and other people.

Speaker 2:

So Amen, dude. That's so, so deep One that story is is nails. Not many people get to take part in something like that in a place like that. So what a what an honor.

Speaker 2:

And then there's there's deep theology there that I think a lot of times, nick, we walk right past and sometimes even as, as Lutheran Christians, were hesitant to use any sort of language, and maybe our behavior then follows this hesitancy to to work with God, and that's maybe the preposition I like, not for God, but but with God. He is, he is at work in the world and the mystery of faith is that he brings us into his mission. Right, I was reading David Maxwell in the Concordia Journal, one of my favorite favorite professors, and I love, love reading what he writes. They were writing some very provocative things in the Concordia Journal, by the way, and, and he referenced in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was present in a different way than it was when Jesus came right. And it's not like the Holy Spirit was not, not there, obviously hovering over the waters at creation and and obviously speaking through Moses and the prophets, but but when Jesus came and the, the spirit descended, fell and rested upon Jesus, it, it propelled all of his ministry to perfectly fulfill righteousness.

Speaker 2:

And he says there is this now because at Pentecost the spirit then descended upon us collectively.

Speaker 2:

Now the only good that I can do is connected to the fruit of the spirit working in and through me and my horizontal relationships, because I know in and of myself I have no right to be in the presence of God. And yet the mystery of baptism is that he brings us, he creates, sustains and enlightens our faith and gives us the eyes to see, the tongue to speak the gospel truth, to bring people into a right relationship with God. I mean the audacity this just goes back to Jesus and the apostles the audacity that the God of the universe would call fumbling, bumbling disciples you know from all ends of the spectrum, from from a zealot to a tax collector and bring them into his mission. This is just the messy work of being the church, and I think it it should lead us to ample humility and then awe and wonder that that we get to take even a small part in God's grand narrative. Anything more to say there, nick, and you've got to be a part of it, man, that's so cool.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, well, you know, and I think that I think a lot of times what we do is you know, we are, we are a church, and I mean a Senate particularly we are intoxicated by bifurcating everything, like we, we, you know, it's long gospel, it's you know everything, straight down the line. We love this bifurcation. And what I hear oftentimes and this is from Lady and Pastors alike is, I hear a misapplication of the two kingdoms doctrine right, or the two kingdoms doctrine, the two kingdoms idea, right, and one, even if we get it right, I don't know that it's as helpful as Luther's three estates, but regardless, we, we often see the world, we see the church in the world, we see divine and secular. That's how we decide that we want to divide this. That what, what we're experiencing, right, what we ought to be able, what we ought to be remembering, is that, through the economy of salvation, right, what we have is a fallen state of creation and what we have is Christ restoring not just us, not just bodily resurrecting us, and just you know, and then we ascend into heaven and then we have, like a, a, a, a never ending church service. That's, that's not what is happening. Creation actually gets restored to its proper place In these two realms, the spiritual and the temporal actually get the bridegroom puts them back together where they belong, right, and so we, we ought not think of this creation. As you know, god's kingdom is in our church and Satan's kingdom is in, is in the world, actually, at the head of literally everything, is God, right, god is at the head of this temporal realm and Satan has influence in our church. So we ought to remember all of these things, right, and and and not look at the, not look at all this.

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, and another thing that we, that we bifurcate pretty regularly, is this idea that we, you were either confessional or missional.

Speaker 3:

Right, and that one, I mean, I think I, you know there's a lot of reasons why this happens, but, you know, I think I think if you're confessional, you better be missional, right, and you know, and there's a lot of scar tissue in our church with this regard, and we get this, this idea that you know, if what happens is, you know, we, a few years ago, we ended up saying, like you know, hey, let's, let's do all these innovations, let's try to get people in the church, let's try to be, you know, missional in that regard.

Speaker 3:

But look, if we have faith in that in God's promises is revealed to us in Holy Scripture, we know that all we need to do is put the gospel out and that that's all. That's literally what we need to do. We don't? You know, there's a mega church about 30 minutes from here and they give away Yeti coolers for church attendance and things like that, right. So we don't need to do those sorts of things. And then when confessional people hear that they don't want that in our Senate and I get their scar tissue right. But we need to come back together and trust each other and really get to work doing what the Lord has commanded us to do.

Speaker 2:

Well, our theology, what I learned at the seminary and I want to get to your story because you're most likely heading there soon is not bifurcation, nick, it was integration, filled with the mysteries of the tensions of law, gospel, saints, and there are two kinds of directions. That's from Joel Behrman and many others, what I, what I learned. So the Lord handles and cares for the tensions in me. You know the wrestling and the good I want to do. I don't do Romans, chapter seven, and therefore, since he treats me kindly, I've been wrestling with their loving, not wrestling with the kindness of Christ, right, he's kind with me and he's kind with those who are far and those who are near to him. He wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

Speaker 2:

And if we, if we live in that bifurcated world and the churches Piatistically, like the, the set-apart kind of city on the hill, the walls of mighty fortress type type mentality, really really you take that to the logical extreme and it's just a repristination of Gnosticism. Yeah, separate separation from creation, first article realities, right, and Satan would love he just has a heyday. And then guess what, when we bifurcate us against the world, we bifurcate us against our fellow brothers and sisters within within the church. If you play by the law, you die by the law. Anything else that's right, nick.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean, I would also say it has the, the, the, the, the extremely negative side effect of gatekeeping salvation. I mean, look, I mean, it's this book right here. It, I mean, is a faithful exposition on the Holy Bible and All of our systematics that put together God's economy, salvation.

Speaker 2:

So just before, if you're listening, he just put for the book of. Yeah, he just put for the book of Concord, by the way. Yeah, yeah, for those of you, just so, the book of Concord, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean. So, whether it's the, you know all, you know the, the, the formula Concord, the solid declaration, the epitome, what the Augsburg confession, the apology, you know the Small-clad articles, I think that's treat us in time promise you the.

Speaker 3:

Pope. Yeah, there you go. Right, those are good ones for a Roman Catholic friends, yeah, so so anyway, yeah, you know, if you think, if you think that's true, and if you're a, if you're a Lutheran, you've, you've described, you know, you've subscribed to this. If you think that this is true and this is the best exposition of holy scripture, are the special revelation We've been given about our revealed God and his plan for salvation, and the salvation and the restoration of his entire creation, then you know, we, we have, we have a responsibility to be missional in our and in the way that we, we go out into the world. We have an absolute responsibility, and so you know that. That's just the way I look at it.

Speaker 3:

I would also say and not not to pick on our Calvinist friends, but I mean there is a huge resurgence in Calvinism and Calvinism puts people on that pride to spare paradigm you can never be sure of your salvation, all kinds of things. I mean it is, it is At times, especially the pure tulip Calvinists. I mean that that can be Really damaging and at the heart of a lot of these non-denominational and even the Southern Baptist Convention, those churches at the, at the heart, at the very bottom of this thing, you have Calvinism creeping back in, and you know that, that that robs the Christian apiece it really does, and and so you yeah.

Speaker 2:

It's bizarre. Yeah, go ahead, it is bizarre. We've had a number of folks enter into our congregation, discover the writings of Luther you know, google, where's that closest? Hell's VMS church? And they show up man in the scars of never knowing if I did enough. And then you know, baptism is held Like a carrot on a stick. It show me your fruit. Show me your fruit, you know, and I don't. I don't get. You may be more in the know, but I don't get.

Speaker 2:

Where Calvinism is that Attractive? Because the assurance of salvation, that and that I'm a child of God. Now, you know, eternal life starts now, it's just, it's just not there. And a lot of their teaching, again, I, I know they're, they're trying to be faithful, but, man, you take that to the logical extreme and you end up saying things that that God's word does not say. Again, lutheran Tension fill the ology just allows us to say, hey, how does God work? And we're gonna trust his promises in word, in the spirit and water, right bread and wine. We're just gonna trust in the revealed word of God. So, yeah, you may know more about the resurgence of Calvinism. I'd love to hear more about that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, well, well, and I would also yeah, it's, it's, it is, it's creeping its way. So, so you see, these non denominational churches, and these are people who I think are very well-intentioned, but they receive an internal call. There's no external validation, there's no body of doctrine behind them, and so they're, they're, they're either doing, like, you know, russian roulette, exegetics on Bible verses with no context whatsoever. Also, these people have, you know, no official training, and you know Greek or Hebrew or any of those sorts of things, but then they find some of these doctrines, and right, and so if you read, you know, you know God foreknew us before the foundations of the world, those who be, you know, and all these sorts of things, without the proper context you do arrive at you can arrive at a Calvinist understanding of double predestination and what you end up with is a God who creates people for damnation, which I don't understand. How you sell that? But to be honest, and so I Like, I don't know. You know, a friend of mine who's a pastor says you know, I'm in sales, that's what I do, so, but at any rate, so he's not in management, he's in sales, but you know, I don't know, I don't understand the, the, the attraction of it, but but what ends up happening is, I think people you know pastors out there, and I and I use that term as they do Pastors or ministers, whatever they want to call themselves they they end up just sort of grasping it at doctrinal straws.

Speaker 3:

They don't they, their influence is not based in any tradition whatsoever and and I and you know we sometimes tend to take a dim view of the Roman Catholic Church. But, man, when you get into patristics and you realize where, you know, a lot of our thoughts have come from. I mean, augustine is, you know, a tight nemen, you know. You know, there people are starting to rediscover Thomas Aquinas, who has a pretty terrible, you know name in our church, and really reviewing and Re-ingesting some of the things that he's actually saying. And you know, and I think it's our church, forefathers are Titans. I mean, we have some serious Theological thought and putting together sort of this, this whole systematic theology that we enjoy today and, and you know, praise be to God that they, that they existed, that they, that they, you know, did what they did. It's absolutely amazing.

Speaker 2:

Hey, man, and a shout out to scholars who are Curious and just going back and rereading and not not trusting. You know others who have said this about that person but go back to the originals, right, go back to the Greek in the Hebrew and obviously go back to the early church fathers. I love that we have a lot of scholars. Some people may nick listen to me and read what I've written and think that this is it Because I'm calling for some new ways to disciples, raise up leaders, blah, blah, blah. But that has in no way do I want to downgrade the need for a really deep Scholastic, theological work from a lot of the. The brain trust of the Lutheran Church, missouri Senate man.

Speaker 2:

It's. We need to double down on that. We need it on what David Maxwell and others are doing so we can learn. I think we have a major role in our church body To care for deep scholarship for the wider church. I know that's the heart of many of our Seminary professors etc. So anything more to say there?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, well, I would just say, you know, if you, if you read, you know Luther and Malenc, then Walter and peeper, and call it a day, you're missing out. You know particularly. You know, particularly if you're a pastor, I would say like if you're, or you're a decanus or something you need to, you need to go back and read some of these early church fathers and and do so maybe definitely through a Lutheran lens, but but maybe With with a fresh set of eyes and and kind of forget, maybe after you've read peeper, maybe forget a little bit of what you, what you read about Rome. You know what I mean, what you think about yeah, so.

Speaker 2:

Yep, it does, yeah, yeah let's talk as we're coming down the home stretch. You're you're interested in going to the seminary in the second season of life. Nick, what is, what is the Holy Spirit? This kind of an internal call? What makes you excited about going to Concordia Seminary in St Louis and studying there? Tell that story.

Speaker 3:

Well, yeah, I mean, I I think you know from when I was, as far back as I can remember, you know I used to. I used to fight to be the acolyte right, like that was my, that was my favorite thing to do. You know all this stuff and I really enjoyed the process of ministry and having an up close view of my pastor doing so. And you know, and I think a lot of us and I and I felt the call, like you know, probably when I was 12, 13, 14, something like that, you know, and I and I in it, and it was constant and during my life it would get louder, it would get quieter. You know those sorts of things and it's just this. You know Feeling that you're drawn to something and that you have a joy and a love for. You know really ministering to people, which I've done, obviously In the limited capacity that I can do so without ordination, for hopefully, well, and hopefully for most of my life. But you know there's the. You know you're a second or a third generation pastor, right?

Speaker 3:

Third, yeah third generation pastor right and so not that it was easy for you, but that you had, you know certainly, the blueprint laid out before you and you know I didn't have that with my parents, I had that only in my pastor right and in the limited window that I get to see what his life's like, what his you know, Kids life or like and all this.

Speaker 2:

Nick Graff is a lot of fun to talk to. He actually lives in rural Alabama and his internet connection was Not able to allow us to continue the conversation, but I'm gonna have a back on on lead time and man just a wealth of knowledge and awesome churchmen. We're actually going to have him on lead time Next, next podcast, and and talk about some things that we may even even disagree on, but we'll do it agreeably and hopefully that's a blessing to you. So thank you, nick Graff, for hanging out with us on American Reformation. We'll be back next week with a fresh episode. Sharing is carrying and all of that. We'll see you then.

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Church Demographics and Changing Times
Lutheran Faith, Military Service, and Baptism
Theological Tensions