At first I thought it must be a tribute to the soon to be former US President. But it's not lingerie in honour of Barak. Last year, according to an article on the BBC News this morning (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38594037), "...OMsignal launched OMbra, a smart sports bra that tracks heart rate, breathing and distance between steps, and shares this data with a smartphone app."
It's the latest in fitness trackers. The best known being Fitbit, the watch without a face that you can conveniently see. It's only the most basic end of the market. As the article points out. "For example, Fit3D uses scanners to assess the whole body to calculate body fat percentage, assess posture and give body shape scoring." I think that if it gave an loud and audible score that could really help. Hearing "Get away from that cake. You fat lump!" when I walk past the King's Centre cafe might make a difference.
The problem is that Fitness trackers don't actually appear to help. In a study by the University of Pittsburg those not given fitness trackers lost over 50% more weight than those who had them. One professor summed up the problem very simply.
"We can't expect just to buy one and that's it - some of the responsibility sits with us too. We still have to get off that sofa and complete those 10,000 steps a day."
An OMbra wouldn't restore my pecs to taught sinewy muscle all on its own. There have been a variety of things over the years that claimed to tone you up whilst you lay there watching the telly and eating a doughnut. But we've always known that pulsing energy through you or causing your flab to wobble disconcertingly didn't really make any difference.
All the fitness tracker does it tell you what you're doing. In fact the study suggested that if you kept failing to make your fitness targets, then knowing in great detail your continued lack of health would merely make you want to give up. You'd lose motivation.
I think that a lot of people have the same problem with Christianity. They either think that it's got nothing to do with them or it's got everything to do with them.
There are some people who think that being a Christian is like being set a fitness exam. God tells us that we're morally flabby, spiritually in need of some exercise. He gives us the exercise manual and then we have to get on with it and sort ourselves out. With this version of Christianity you either spend your life feeling perpetually guilty, constantly trying and failing to make the mark. Or you give up and simply change God's standards. You water down what it means to be the person God wants you to be. Historically, Roman Catholicism has led to people being trapped in guilt and Christian Liberalism has abandoned biblical morality.
The truth is that God doesn't just say that you need to improve your fitness. He says that you are dead without him. What you and I need is saving. And that is entirely his work through Jesus. The Bible calls that grace:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Being spiritually fit has nothing to do with my effort. It is entirely God's work. Motivated by His love. Empowered by His Spirit.
But knowing this can lead to another mistake about the Christian life. That it will feel easy. That all you have to do is put on Jesus and the problems will fall away. Like lying on the sofa hooked up to some ludicrous stomach toning device, following Jesus won't be hard work.
Quite the opposite is true. Following Jesus involves getting off the sofa and seeking to serve him with all your life. As Jesus himself said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) To take up your cross, is to be willing to go to your death for Christ!
You may ask, "Well how do those two things fit together? It's all God's work and I have to give up everything and work very hard?"
This is the vital difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and my fitness drive (or lack to it!). It's the question of motivation.
If I'm going to lose weight then I have to be motivated. As the article on the BBC concludes: "Now we just need an injection of willpower."
And that is exactly what God does in His people. He says, "And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:27)
As you come to Jesus, God doesn't just forgive all your sin, past, present and future. He sends His Spirit into your heart so that your desires change. You now long spiritually fit. You want to walk in the good works that he has prepared for you to do. Good works that He empowers you to do.
Now where did I put my trainers....