It it OK for Christians to go to the gym? Only if you do it to make Jesus look strong, says John Piper

Jenny Hill/UnsplashA runner works out to keep fit amid lovely scenery

So you thought working out in the gymn was a godly pursuit because it our bodies are 'temples of the Holy Spirit'.

It might be time to think again. 

Unless it is a means of overcoming sin, serving God or glorifying others, the pursuit of physical fitness is no more than  'sinful self-glorification' according to a leading Christian pastor.

In his latest Ask John Piper podcast, Piper, founder and teacher of Desiring God and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, who was a church pastor for 33 years, admits this is a 'huge issue' for men and women because hour after hour, every day, through advertising and other media, we are being told that, to be successful and happy, our bodies must have a certain appearance.

'Whether we're talking about the way we dress or the way we do our hair or the way we work out in order to be fit, the Christian needs to be clear about the way Jesus calls us to do this that makes us different from the world. I think he does.'

Piper was responding to a regular listener who likes to work out and is worried about the temptation to make his body 'a temple of self-glory' and to impress others with his appearance.

Piper also says it is good to overcome the enslaving impulses of the body, including laziness. He cites St Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12: 'All things are lawful for me but I will not be dominated by anything.' 

A person's aim when working out must be to become strong in a way that makes Jesus look strong.

'In other words, it's true strength when we are seeking to be strong in the strength of Christ: not strength in ourselves, but strength in the Lord...We've got to figure that out or we're going to be idolaters. We're going to be vainglorious.'