Summary: Once the foundation of our faith is laid, then what?
His name was Mickey Cohen. And he was a crook. And not just a little crook either, Mickey Cohen was the top man in the Los Angeles underworld during the forties and fifties. He had his finger into everything: gambling, extortion and prostitution. At his word heads were cracked, bones were broken and people were killed.
Cohen had risen up through the ranks, born dirt poor in New York he became a punk and strong arm man in the New Jersey Crime scene. Later he moved to the west coast and became a gangster in the style of his hero, Al Capone. He was the number one bad boy of L.A., his life became a commodity and he survived several attempts on his life including having his home bombed and his car machine gunned.
Mickey was a menace to society. He could be charming one minute and as mean as a snake the next. If he had of been a dog society would have shot him. He counted among his friends Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Humphrey Bogart and then mayor of L.A. Fletcher Brown. He loved to be seen with famous people and he jumped at the chance to meet the young preacher everyone was talking about, Billy Graham. Billy shared the claims of the gospel with Mickey and gave him a Bible; it gave Mickey something to think about during the five years he spent in a federal prison for income tax evasion.
In 1955 Mickey Cohen was introduced to Jesus Christ, Bill Jones a leading lay man in L.A. shared the gospel with Mickey and led the gangster through the sinner’s prayer. Jones was convinced that Mickey Cohen had made a genuine commitment and news spread through the evangelical church, after all it was quite a coup. As a follow up to his decision Mickey flew to New York and met with Billy Graham on several occasions as Graham sought to explain the significance of the decision that Mickey had made.
After his trip to New York Cohen returned to L.A. where he dropped his contacts with Bill Jones and started hanging around with his old underworld contacts again. Jones called him up on it and told Mickey that he needed to be putting some distance between his old life and his new.
“Jones” Mickey replied, “You never told me that I had to give up my career, you never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, and Christian business men. So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all of that if that’s Christianity, then count me out”
I remember when I read that story for the first time in an autobiography of Billy Graham. I thought that is the dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard. How could Mickey Cohen possibly think that Christianity could not make a difference in His life? But you know if it’s dumb then there must be a whack of dumb people out there, because there are a pile of people in the world who would use Jesus Christ as a fire escape from hell and never think of it as a life changing commitment.
They ask Christ to forgive them, get their ticket to get them through the pearly gates and then its life as usual. But the question remains, “Is that the way Jesus wants us to live?” I don’t think so.
Last week we looked at building the foundation of our lives and we looked at Hebrews 6:1-2 So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In those two verses Paul discusses the components of a successful foundation. But it is those very things that Paul tells us to leave. Once we have laid the foundation we have to get on with the building. Once we have come to Jesus and repent of our sins, and have faith in God, and get baptised there is more to do. We can’t be like Mickey Cohen and say “Well that’s out of the way, now I can get on with life.” You don’t see it as often now but do you remember when some young couples would put in a basement, finish it, put a roof on it and live there for a while until they could afford to build the rest of the house. Nothing wrong with that, but have you ever come on one of those places that just never seemed to get beyond the basement stage, that aint the way it’s supposed to be and we aren’t always supposed to be new Christians.