Thirty years ago, the notorious gangster Mickey Cohen attended a meeting in Beverly Hills addressed by Billy Graham. He expressed some interest in the message, so several of us talked with him, including Dr. Graham, but he made no commitment until some time later when another friend urged him—with Revelation 3:20 as a warrant—to invite Jesus Christ into his life.

This he professed to do, but his life subsequently gave no evidence of repentance, “the mighty change of mind, heart, and life.” He rebuked our friend, telling him, “You did not tell me that I would have to give up my work!” He meant his rackets. “You did not tell me that I would have to give up my friends!” He meant his gangster associates. He had heard that so-and-so was a Christian cowboy, so-and-so was a Christian actress, so-and-so was a Christian senator, and he really thought that he could be a Christian gangster.

Recently, people were intrigued by the announcement that a notorious pornographer professed to be “born again.” But he has given no evidence of repentance, and it has been forgotten that the only evidence of the New Birth is the new life. His first editorial said he now followed the spirit of Jesus and Buddha.

The fact is, repentance is a missing note in much modern evangelism. The appeal is not for repentance, but for enlistment. Birth defects are not only medical, but spiritual. Many ills of the Christian life are due to handicapped beginnings. Too many people are preaching a warped or truncated gospel, and spiritual birth defects are the inevitable result.

This has become a national scandal. Evangelistic enterprises are claiming the response of multitudes. A national poll has announced that ...

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