We are greatly impacted by the friends we have and the books we read. Please consider Richard Woike (president of a major insurance company and past president of CBMC-International) a friend and author as you read what he shared at a CBMC convention in Arizona.
The Chevrolet That Wanted to Be A Cadillac
When a business man gets up in front of a bunch of men like this (I understand there are almost 800 men here) and opens his Bible, some folks say, "Why doesn't he act like a business man instead of a Preacher?" I want to assure you right away that I am not going to preach a sermon. I enjoy reading my Bible. As a matter of fact, by the simple method of reading three or four pages a day, I have made a habit of reading it through once a year for the past sixteen years, and I go about recommending to other business men that this is the best investment of time I know of.
But, I have discovered that in this era of television, people don't use their minds the way they should. In the old days, when we read books, we used to visualize what we read. Now "they" do the visualizing for us. Just for a few minutes, then, I'd like to take a very familiar verse out of the Bible an ask you to do some pleasant mental exercise with me. Perhaps you'd like to close your eyes so that you can see the picture a little more clearly. I know that some of you do this on Sunday morning when the minister is preaching, and I'm sure that if he notices, he understands that you are just visualizing what he is saying.
I have a good precedent for what I am about to do, for many years ago another peddler by the name of John Bunyan wrote a book called, "Pilgrim's Progress," which is simply an allegory about the life of a Christian. I am going to borrow Bunyan's technique and give you an allegory to illustrate this Bible verse: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
My story concerns an old Chevrolet. How old? Well, if you must be exact, it was a 1926 Chevy. It had running boards, and no trunk, and the spare tire was strapped on in back, and the windshield went straight up and down. It was a good solid car, mind you, made of steel - and far enough off the ground so that you could see where you were going, and it had lots of character. Its owner was proud of the fact that he had bought it new and kept it in what he called "good condition" for more than twenty-five years, and he was perfectly satisfied with his car.
One day as he was driving down one of the main streets of his town, this man was stopped by a parade. It was around Election Day, and he soon saw that it was a political parade. There was a lot of excitement, and bands, and flags. But, most interesting of all, there was an important personage being escorted to the Armory. And who should it turn out to be but the President of the United States!
The owner little realized the effect that this parade had had on his faithful Chevy until they reached home. Just as he was about to turn off the ignition, the Chevrolet said something that startled the man out of a year's growth. (Let me stop here to say to you unimaginative folk that every car has a real personality. The trouble nowadays is that people don't drive their cars long enough to learn the language of an automobile. In the old days a car was a close friend, to which you often spoke, and which surely could talk back).
"Just a minute, please," said the Chevy. "I've been thinking a lot ever since we watched that parade this afternoon. And I've decided something very important. I don't want to be an old Chevrolet any more. I want to be a brand new Cadillac."
"A brand new Cadillac?" gasped the owner. "Why, what in the world's come over you?" "I don't know, exactly," answered the Chevy. "All I know is that when I saw that bright, shiny, new Cadillac carrying the President of the United States right up Main Street, where everybody could see him, I just got an uncontrollable urge to be a new Cadillac, so that I can carry the President around for people to see."
Whether the owner got the full import of this statement is not certain. He did a perfectly natural thing. He thought, "This old pile must be overheated." So, without saying another word he turned the ignition key and dashed into the house, hoping that good night's sleep would straighten out the whole matter.
Right here I can almost hear some of you thinking, "Now what kind of nonsense is this? Here I am, invited out to hear a business man from New York address a business men's convention in Phoenix, Arizona, and he spins a silly yarn about a 1926 Chevy that wants to be a brand new Cadillac."
Before you judge me too harshly, my friend let me remind you that I started out by asking you to visualize a verse from the Bible that we take too much for granted. It talks about what a Christian really is. It says that if any man is a Christian, he has become a brand new creation...Since it's awfully hard to think about men without getting personal, I'm simply asking you to imagine we're all automobiles. Some of you are Packard's, and some of you are 1923 Stutz Bearcats, and some of you look like Stanley Steamers. And the problem we're discussing is how these old wrecks can be made over into brand new models.
Because, you see, too many of us haven't caught the vision that the old Chevy did. He wanted to be seen carrying the President of the United States around. No man ever becomes a Christian unless he senses the desire which God alone can plant in his hears; the desire to be the vehicle in which Christ Himself can be seen. If you've never had this urge, you call all this "foolishness," and you're right. The Bible says that " the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him."
Well, back to our allegory.
The next morning the owner found, to his dismay that the old Chevy had not gotten over his strange ambition. On the contrary, things seemed to have crystallized in his thinking. For he knew just what he wanted. And he stated his wants to no uncertain terms. "I want," said he, "to be a new Cadillac, and I've decided what you and I have to do. You have to take me down to the garage. They have a new finishing process down there that they use on all the Cadillac's in town that gives them a shine like nobody's business. I want to shine like a Cadillac. Then, I've decided I smell too much of alcohol. I want you to have me drained and flushed out and filled up with Prestone, so I won't smell of alcohol any more. Who ever heard of a Cadillac smelling of alcohol? Then I want a ring job that'll get rid of my bad habit of smoking. You look at the next Cadillac you see. Do you ever notice smoke coming out of a Cadillac exhaust? Of course not. They just don't smoke. And I want to be a Cadillac. I don't want to smoke."
The owner, fond as he was of his old car, at first balked at this unprecedented order. But, after fighting a losing battle for days, he finally gave in and had all three jobs done at the local garage. For a little while this seemed to satisfy the Chevy. "Look at me," he crowed, the first day. "Boy, do I shine like a Cadillac! I look clean, I feel clean, I don't smell of alcohol, and I don't smoke. I'm sure everybody must think I'm a new Cadillac." But all the time in his heart, he knew that he wasn't anything but an old Chevy which was trying to fool the public and not succeeding too well. So, after a short interval of exhilaration there came a depression which was almost too heavy for his springs to bear.
Some of you men know exactly how he felt. It's a funny thing how Christians succeed in confusing this issue of being a brand-new creation. We urge folks to turn over a new leaf, and polish up the outside of their lives. We even try to make Christians out of people by selling them on the idea that if they stop smelling like alcohol, or stop smoking, that this will enable them to be Christians. Of course this method doesn't work for men any more than it does for automobiles.
One day a new idea suddenly occurred to the Chevy. Downtown, his owner had been using a parking lot that charged fifty cents a day. Right across the street there was a seventy-five-cents-a-day parking lot. Naturally, there were many more Cadillac's in the latter.
"Let's go to the Cadillac parking lot," he suggested rather firmly, that morning. And, though his thrifty master balked at the added cost, that's where they went for the next few weeks. It seemed to work, too. Just being among so many Cadillac's seemed to make the Chevy feel like a Cadillac. "This Cadillac environment is just what I need," he confided happily to his owner one evening. "Why, those Caddies just accept me as if I were one of them."
But this beautiful dream came crashing into the dust one day when the Chevy heard a child cry out, shrilly, "Look at the old Chevy parked right in there with all those nice Cadillac's." So mortified was he that from then on he wanted no part of the new parking lot.
This did not prevent him, however, from perpetrating an even greater piece of strategy a short time later. It was December, and he overheard the owner mention that he would be getting new plates the next day. "New plates?" he asked. "That means you'll be filling out registration papers, doesn't it?"
"Why, yes," answered the puzzled owner. "What do you have in mind?"
"Well," came the unexpected reply, "suppose that this time when you fill in the papers, where it asks for a description of me, say that I'm a brand new Cadillac."
"How can I do that?" cried the distressed owner. "That would be perjury."
"Who's ever going to find out?" asked the Chevy. "It'll make me feel better to know that if anything ever happens to me, at least I've been registered as a Cadillac."
So nothing would do but that the unhappy owner, feeling as guilty as a check forger, filled out the registration blank for the 1926 Chevrolet by inserting a description of the car as a new Cadillac. Fortunately, no detective trailed him, and he and the car were the only ones who ever knew that the state's rolls had been padded by one non-existent Caddie.
Of course you're having no trouble in following our little allegory. You've seen folks who associate with Christians on the theory that you can become a Christian by association. You've even seen some folks get their names on a church roll by committing a slight error in providing information to the human beings who keep the registration records. They fool the people (sometimes), and they try to fool themselves, but you and they both know that they can't fool God.
Our Chevy, naturally, didn't profit by his deception, and one day as he was parked in another part of town, he noticed a female car nearby who was obviously concerned about him. He knew she was a she because she had her name right on her hubcap - Mercedes.
"What's the matter, little one?" she inquired, tenderly. "You look just miserable. Can I help? Just tell me all your troubles, because I love to listen to the troubles of others."
With such an invitation, it didn't take the Chevy long to unburden himself.
Look," he said. "My trouble is simply this. I'm a 1926 Chevrolet, and I want to be a brand new Cadillac, because I want to be able to carry the President of the United States around in me. Obviously he can't ride in me the way I am. I've tried everything I can think of, and still I know I'm not any nearer to being what I want to be than when I first started."
"Splendid, splendid!" gushed Mercedes. "You came to the right place for guidance, because that is exactly the kind of a situation I can help you with. You need to think right thoughts. As a matter of fact, since you want to be a Cadillac, you must think Cadillac thoughts. From now on repeat slowly, every time you find a Chevrolet thought crowding into your radiator, these words: "Every day, every moment, every second, I am becoming more and more like a brand new Cadillac. And after awhile, you'll be one!"
It seemed so easy, and so tangible, that for at least two weeks the little Chevy tried it religiously, even though most of the time the rattles of his rusty body and the squeaks of his well-worn springs seemed to drown out his aspirations of Cadillac-hood.
Finally, he came to himself, and realized that all the wishing and all the protestations of being something he wasn't were doing absolutely nothing about changing his real condition. One night he though the whole thing through and reached a great decision.
He greeted his owner the next morning with a firm declaration. ""I have decided," he said, "that I want to be a brand new Cadillac, but that I've been going at it the wrong way. I want you to take me down to 1775 Broadway at the corner of 57th Street, and I want to go right to the Head Man of General Motors. After all, he makes all the Chevies and all the Cadillac's in the world, and if there's anybody who can help me, he can."
By this time the owner knew there was no use in arguing, but he did weakly mention that the Head Man was probably too busy even to think about a 1926 Chevy. His protest being ignored, they soon found themselves wheeling down Broadway, past Columbus Circle, and right up to the Main Entrance of the General Motors Building. As they approached, the owner was glad that he hadn't pressed his point too much, because he was approaching them as they ground to a halt at the curb one whom he recognized as Harlow Curtice, the Head Man of General Motors Corporation. There was a smile of welcome on his face, as if he had been expecting them. "What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Now, wait a minute," I can hear some of you hard-headed business men exclaim, "you're letting this allegory of yours run away with your imagination. After all, you don't expect the President of a big company like General Motors to be waiting at the curb to welcome every customer that comes along."
In this particular case, believe it or not, my allegory is borrowing its facts from the Biblical account of the Prodigal Son, which assures us that when the son came to himself, and started back home, thinking up all sorts of speeches to try to win his father over, he was amazed to see his father, while he was still a long way off, coming to meet him. No, sir, I can't exaggerate the fact that the Head Man is personally and vitally interested in every old Chevrolet that wants to be a new Cadillac.
So the 1926 Chevy had his invitation to tell all that was on his heart, and he took full advantage of it. Hardly had he finished telling Mr. Curtice his desire to become a brand new Cadillac than he rejoiced to hear the words, "Why, yes. We'll be glad to do that for you."
With that the Head Man asked the owner to step out, and put one of his own men behind the wheel. "Now," thought the Chevy, "comes the exciting part. They'll probably ship me out to Detroit and fix up all my squeaks and rattles and enlarge my body and gold-plate parts of me, till I hardly recognize myself."
But he was wrong. Instead, the new driver took him through the Holland Tunnel and up a Steep hill, till he saw the name of the place - Hoboken. He drove him into a yard with a sign on it, "JUNK."
Next thing he knew, they took off his wheels, removed his interior, smashed his glass, and then suddenly, when he least expected it, dropped a five-ton weight right on his top...BLOTZO!
When he woke up, he knew, somehow, that he was different. Different? Yes, excitingly different. Suddenly, his owner came out to the garage. "Well," he asked, "and how does it feel to be a brand new Cadillac?" He sat down in the driver's seat, turned the ignition, and suddenly there came the sound of 300 horse-power purring in beautiful coordination. He backed out of the garage, and silently they rode down to the center of town - ready, willing, and able to pick up the President of the United States and to display him to all who would look.
This ends my allegory. I can't explain to you what Harlow Curtice did to turn that disreputable, worthless old 1926 Chevrolet for a brand new Cadillac. It took Harlow Curtice himself to do it, I guess, and then only because he's the Head Man, and he has the power to do miracles like that. Didn't it cost anything to make this change? Well, it didn't cost the Chevy and his owner anything, but you may be sure that under General Motor's meticulous Cost Control it had to be charged to somebody's account. In this case it was charged to the Head Man himself, Harlow Curtice.
In your case and mine, it costs nothing to be made over into a brand new creation, but it cost God a great deal. His Word tells us that He so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ paid the price for your transformation.
The thing that the Chevy couldn't understand was that he was completely scrapped before he became a brand new Cadillac. Like us, he thought that they were going to use him as a base, and sort of do him over. And unfortunately, there are a great many people today trying awfully hard to trim off a bit here and add a little there in order to prove to themselves, and the Lord, and the world that they are becoming Christians. Paul had it exactly right when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians 2:20).
"IF ANY MAN BE IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATURE:
OLD THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY;
BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW."