Derwin Gray

          As I surveyed the landscape of my life in the summer of 1997, that insistent and gnawing cry that had always accompanied me echoed in my soul, “There’s got to be more to life than this.”  Sure, I escaped the West Side ghetto of San Antonio, Texas, through the vehicle of football--but only to find myself in another ghetto.  This ghetto, however, had all the right external pleasures one could possess: a beautiful wife, nice cars, nice home, great vacations, fame, an elite professional occupation, financial stability, and the financial muscle to provide for my grandparents, mother, and siblings.  Though the externals looked good, the external “stuff” I possessed could not fill the empty cavern in my soul.

          I found the stench of this ghetto to be worse than the foul-smelling one in which I spent my formative years.  You are probably thinking, “But Derwin, you lived the American Dream.”  Exactly, I had the American Dream!  But I did not have God’s dream!  God’s dream was for me to know, love, and live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14-21).  My existence is summed up by Jesus when He said the following in Mark 12:29-31: "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:? And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.?  ?And the second is like it, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.?" 

           Our Heavenly Papa longs to love and empower us so our lives can display His excellence . . . this is true and total joy.  And this is how I finally escaped the ghetto of my soul.

 The Naked Preacher

          During my rookie year (1993) with the Indianapolis Colts, I observed a linebacker on the team that was rather unique.  After practice he would take a shower, dry off, and wrap a towel around his waist.  Then he would pick up his Bible and begin walking like a 1970’s pimp as he approached guys in the locker room asking them this strange question: “Do you know Jesus?”  I did not grow up hearing about Jesus so this seemed exceedingly strange to me to see a naked man walking around with a Bible in a locker room . . . Besides, I was in the NFL to build my empire and fulfill my dreams (which eventually led to misery). 

          Out of curiosity and fear, I asked the veterans on the team, “What’s up with the naked black man walking around talking about 'Do you know Jesus'?”  They said, “Do not pay any attention to him;that’s the Naked Preacher.”  So we had a Naked Preacher in the locker room preaching, “Do you know Jesus?”

          As I look back at my first introduction to authentic Christianity, it was ingenius of the Naked Preacher (Steve Grant) to ask the question, “Do you know Jesus?”  Why?  Because in the Bible John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom I have sent.”  The word know in the Greek language means to know personally or experientially.  The Naked Preacher was basically asking his teammates that he loved and was highly respected by, "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" 

          Over a five-year period (1993-1997), as I watched his life--which gave credibility to his words--the Holy Spirit began to operate on my heart. The sovereign Creator of all that exists lavishly unleashed His uncaused, measureless, and ceaseless love upon me on August 2, 1997.   I remember it like it was yesterday.  I called my wife on the phone and said, “I want to be more committed to you and to Jesus.”  At that moment I could literally feel my soul being engulfed by God’s holy presence.  Since that awakening, my life has not been the same.  I can relate to the words of a former murderer named Paul found in Philippians 3:7-10NIV "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings."

              I humbly declare my testimony, as one who is consumed by God’s all-sufficient grace that I am a follower of Jesus whose sole purpose of existence is to love God with all that is within me, love myself in light of how God loves me, and love my fellow human beings compassionately by being a servant in this broken world.  God’s love is the fuel that ignites my passion to share Jesus with you.  It is my prayer that you would invite Him to live in you and become a part of His family.

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