Authentic spirituality

Being spiritually authentic means to be truly controlled by the Holy Spirit and willing to be used by God in faithful service to Him, with the Word of God as the sure foundation for everything we do.

For as long as he could remember, Martin wanted to be an explorer. While staying with a relative in London, young Martin spent much of his time visiting with many sailors who sailed in and out of the city. From them he learned about navigation and exploration, and by the time he was 18, he was on a ship exploring Africa’s northwest coast, close to Guinea, which is known for its rich deposits of iron ore, diamonds, and gold.

When he was 20, the young explorer was back in London, being commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I as a “privateer”– that is, a lawful pirate – who was authorized by the English crown to plunder enemy nations’ treasure ships. The young pirate gained quite a reputation for preying on French trading vessels in the waters off Guinea.

Some years later, growing tired of the pirate’s life, Martin exchanged pillaging for prospecting. His original aim was to discover the Northwest Passage – a sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific along the north coast of Canada.

After raising enough funds to purchase three ships, Martin Frobisher set sail on June 7, 1576. Crossing the Atlantic in just over seven weeks, Frobisher sighted the coast of what is now Labrador, Canada, and sailed through the bay that now bears his name. Because of windy and icy conditions, the explorer couldn’t continue to sail north, so he sailed west instead and reached Baffin Island – way up in the northern part of Canada – on August 18.

While on this detour, Frobisher was certain that he had discovered treasure – it appeared that Baffin Island was full of gold! He set sail back to England and took with him a piece of black stone that he believed to contain gold. Frobisher’s reports of possible gold mines convinced Queen Elizabeth and other investors to fund a second and a third voyage.

Setting out to sea again, Frobisher no longer cared about finding the Northwest Passage; all he could see was the glitter of what he thought to be gold.

After returning to Frobisher Bay, the former pirate turned prospector and his crew spent several weeks collecting ore – 200 tons of what they believed to be gold ore. With all 200 tons of ore onboard, Frobisher and his ships sailed back to England, where, to their dismay, they learned that the ore was not gold at all; it was pyrite – otherwise known as “fool’s gold.”

Encyclopedia Britannica makes this pointed observation about Frobisher: his “single-minded pursuit of mineral treasure limited the exploratory value of his voyages, and when the ores he brought back … proved to contain neither silver nor gold, his financing collapsed. … Frobisher was undoubtedly one of the ablest seamen of his time, but as an explorer he lacked the capacity for patient factual investigation.”1

Frobisher got sidetracked from his original mission. What he thought to be real treasure turned out to be false. He thought he had found authentic gold, but because he wasn’t patient enough to investigate the facts, he was fooled.

Looking for authenticity

Isn’t authenticity what we are looking for today? In a world that is often more virtual than real, isn’t it refreshing to discover someone or something that is genuinely authentic?

No doubt the most important area for genuine authenticity is in the spiritual realm – those things that have to do with our relationship with God and His Word, and how it affects who we are … our character.

No one who has ever lived on earth was more spiritually authentic than Jesus Christ. He was, and is, the One He claims to be: the Son of God. It is in Him we “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).2 He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). As we consider His earthly life, we see consistency – His words and actions always matched. He is authentic.

The authentic Word

He is also the Word, the authentic Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And it is through His words that we learn who Jesus really is.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus told doubting Thomas, who was looking for direction (John 14:6). In His prayer to His Father later that night, Jesus pled not only for His disciples, but for us, who would believe on Him because of their testimony: “I have given them Your word; […] Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth […] I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You (John 17:14, 17, 20-21).

God’s Word is authentic and authoritative

God’s Word is absolutely important and is our greatest treasure. Jesus tells us that His Word is Truth. He indicates that it is through God’s Word – His Word – that we are sanctified. He also prayed for us – those who would believe in Him through the word of the apostles ... their writings as preserved in the Bible.

After healing the man at the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath, Jesus was confronted by angry religious leaders, who were upset because He had healed on the Sabbath and because He claimed to be the Son of God. In answering them, Jesus went to God’s Word for authority. He said: “The Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me […] But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. … Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you – Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:37, 39-40, 45-47).

Here, Jesus is authenticating the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These writings of Moses, Jesus says, testify of Him. They reveal God’s divine purposes and plans, and explain how sin entered the world. They also reveal God’s response to sin and His relationship with human beings, and they give insight into the character and nature of God. Furthermore, if a person does not believe these writings, he or she will not believe Christ either. Jesus is showing here how the Scriptures authenticate each other, and that if we don’t believe the one we are not going to believe the other. Thus, if we don’t believe the Old Testament, we will not believe the New.

You can be sure that the Bible is God’s Word – authentic, true, trustworthy.

“The Bible is the most comprehensive and the most instructive history which men possess,” writes Ellen White. “It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth, and a divine hand has preserved its purity through all the ages. Its bright rays shine into the far distant past, where human research seeks vainly to penetrate. In God’s word alone we find an account of creation. Here we behold the power that laid the foundation of the earth, and that stretched out the heavens. Here, only, can we find a history of our race, unsullied by human prejudice or human pride.”3

The Bible, like Jesus, rises above culture, prejudice, and pride. It reveals to us the truth about ourselves, our world, and beyond. It is the authentic sourcebook in guiding us into authentic spirituality – teaching us how to have a genuine relationship with God and with each other, and giving us powerful promises so that we may live a consistent, authentic spiritual life. The Bible tells us where we’ve come from and where we are headed. It offers reliable counsel and timeless teachings.

Let’s allow the Bible to interpret itself – verse upon verse and precept upon precept – using the historical-biblical approach to understanding Scripture, rather than the historical-critical method, which places the individual above the Bible in choosing what is truth. Says Ellen White: “A great work can be done by presenting to the people the Bible just as it reads. Carry the Word of God to every man’s door, urge its plain statements upon every man’s conscience, repeat to all the Saviour’s command, ‘Search the Scriptures.’ Admonish them to take the Bible as it is, to implore divine enlightenment, and then, when the light shines, to gladly accept each precious ray, and fearlessly abide the consequences.”4

Gold standard

If you wish to know if the Bible is really God’s authentic, relevant word for us today, use the gold standard of prophecy! Study the prophecies found in Daniel and Revelation and see how they accurately trace human history. Read the prophecies of the Messiah found in the Old Testament and be convinced that Jesus is the One. After studying Bible prophecies, many atheists have come to accept the Bible as reliable and authoritative!

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,” wrote the apostle Peter, “which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21). This text does not suggest God dictated every word to these men, but that He worked through the Holy Spirit to guide them.

A spiritually-authentic church

A spiritually-authentic church is one whose teachings and people follow the “Faithful and True Witness” of Revelation (3:14) – that is, Jesus Christ.

Have you ever wondered why the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists? After all, 150 years ago there were already many other denominations in existence. What would be the purpose of one more?

The purpose is to fulfill Bible prophecy and to stand up, speak out, and share with the world the message that God has for every person on this planet. We have a three-fold mandate from heaven to:

This is the biblical message of Revelation 14. The giving of the three angels’ messages is the reason God raised up the Adventist Church. Everything is centered in Christ and His righteousness.

Is this authentic? Is this real? It is as authentic and real as the Bible itself. It comes from “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” Himself, who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).

We have the great privilege of belonging to something much larger than just another denomination or community of faith; we belong to the heaven-born Advent movement – we belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, God’s remnant church. A church God has raised up at the end of time for a unique purpose. A church that has gone through challenging times and will go through even greater challenging times ahead, according to Bible prophecy and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. A church that does not rely on traditions or human reasoning but on the written Word as its sole foundation and the Living Word, Jesus Christ. A church that does not derive its power from itself but accepts fully the admonition of the Lord: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Are we authentic?

Are we, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spiritually authentic? Are we who we say we are? Do we really believe that Jesus is coming soon? Or do we sometimes secretly hope that He will delay His coming so that we can carry out whatever plans we have in mind before He comes?

Let’s ask the question: are we truly the remnant church? Does God even have a remnant church? Revelation 12:17 tells us that Satan, “the dragon, was angry with the woman [that is, the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” And the “testimony of Jesus,” we are told in Revelation 19:10, “is the Spirit of Prophecy.”

What about this remnant idea? Doesn’t God love everyone? Of course He does. And He wants us to love everyone, too, including people of other faiths and those who have no faith at all.

Does this mean we are better than everyone else? No! “The remnant” is not some exclusive club that is open only to a select few. It is open to everyone who loves Jesus, accepts Him as Lord of his or her life, and takes the Bible, including all Ten Commandments, as their guide for life. And because we love people as Jesus does, we want to minister to their needs – physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually – and invite them to join us and become a part of God’s remnant church.

Authentic vs. counterfeit

Remember Martin Frobisher and his 200 tons of fool’s gold? He was fooled into thinking it was real gold because he “lacked the capacity for patient factual investigation.”

It’s important for us to remember that for every good gift that God gives, Satan has a counterfeit offer. Often the counterfeit appears to shine like gold. Satan may try to lure us away from the truth by promising an easier, more comfortable way to obtain the prize. We must be careful, because no matter how beautiful the offer may appear, in the end Satan’s authentic counterfeit – kind of like saying a “guaranteed fake” – will “bite like a serpent, and sting like a viper” (Proverbs 23:32).

We must take the time to develop the patience needed for factual investigation. God’s word gives us the criteria for determining if something, or someone, is spiritually authentic or not. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

And again: “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

An invitation

I invite you to follow Jesus Christ in living a life of spiritual authenticity, of genuine submission to God’s will through strong, regular study of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, and an intense prayer life that will propel you into sharing with others your testimony about your relationship with God, and in inviting them to enjoy His fellowship too.

Being spiritually authentic means to be truly controlled by the Holy Spirit and willing to be used by God in faithful service to Him, with the Word of God as the sure foundation for everything we do.

Ellen White counsels us: “The subject of Christ’s teaching and preaching was the word of God. He met questioners with a plain, ‘It is written.’ ‘What saith the Scriptures?’ ‘How readest thou?’ At every opportunity, when an interest was awakened by either friend or foe, He sowed the seed of the word. He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Himself the living Word, points to the Scriptures, saying, ‘They are they which testify of Me.’ And ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets,’ He opened to His disciples ‘in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ John 5:39; Luke 24:27 [KJV].

“Christ’s servants are to do the same work. In our day, as of old, the vital truths of God’s word are set aside for human theories and speculations. Many professed ministers of the gospel do not accept the whole Bible as the inspired word. One wise man rejects one portion; another questions another part. They set up their judgment as superior to the word; and the Scripture which they do teach rests upon their own authority. Its divine authenticity is destroyed. Thus the seeds of infidelity are sown broadcast; for the people become confused and know not what to believe. There are many beliefs that the mind has no right to entertain. In the days of Christ the rabbis put a forced, mystical construction upon many portions of Scripture. Because the plain teaching of God’s word condemned their practices, they tried to destroy its force. The same thing is done today. The word of God is made to appear mysterious and obscure in order to excuse transgression of His law. Christ rebuked these practices in His day. He taught that the word of God was to be understood by all. He pointed to the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The Bible is to be presented as the word of the infinite God, as the end of all controversy and the foundation of all faith.”5

As we come closer and closer to Christ’s soon coming, the choice is ours. Do we base our life of spiritual authenticity on the gold of the sure Word of God? Christ tells us, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich” (Revelation 3:18). As His remnant church in a Laodicean condition, should we not listen to His counsel that we may be revived and reformed through the power of the Holy Spirit? Only then can we experience spiritual authenticity.

Ted N.C. Wilson (Ph.D., New York University) is the world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. “Sir Martin Frobisher.” Accessed April 17, 2013. www.
  2. Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version.
  3. Ellen G. White, Christian Education (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1952), 37.
  4. -----, Christian Service (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1947), 144.
  5. -----, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1941), 38-40.