Below is the link for this week’s .pdf containing daily Scripture readings and prayer requests; memory verse; and catechism questions. (And a good quote from John Calvin!)
As I was preparing this week’s Family Worship Guide for family devotions, I came across this quote in connection with the 8th commandment, “You shall not steal.”
Let parents undertake to nourish, govern, and teach, their children committed to them by God, not provoking their minds with cruelty or turning them against their parents; but cherishing and embracing their children with such gentleness and kindness as becomes their character as parents.
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion II.viii.46
How does this fit in with the 8th commandment? Legalism takes one of two basic forms. The first, more easily recognizable, looks to the letter of the law as it written for righteousness: I can despise my brother, but as long as I do not end his life I am obeying the law. The second, more pernicious, looks to what is not written in the law for righteousness: the child who sneaks a piece of pie after his parent has told him he cannot have cake, ice cream, candy, or cookies. One of the inherent shortcomings of law-as evidenced by the continued existence of Congress-is that one can never write enough laws to cover the misdeeds of man’s sinful nature. New laws are always needed because man is so prone to this second type of legalism: if there is no explicit law against something it must be allowed.
So as we consider the 8th commandment, we must seek the full-orbed perspective that Jesus taught concerning the Law in Matthew 5. To steal something is not only to take something that belongs to someone else. We steal when we withhold something that is rightly due to another (Prov. 3:27; Mal. 3:8; Rom. 13:17; Gal. 6:10; James 5:4). So Calvin says, “Finally, let each one see to what extent he is in duty bound to others, and let him pay his debt faithfully.”
Government owes its citizens protection and justice.
Citizens owe their government obedience and taxes.
Pastors owe their congregations faithful preaching and care.
Congregations owe their pastors honor and provision.
Children owe their parents obedience and honor.
Parents owe their children.
Parents owe their children instruction in the word of God (Deut. 6:6-9; 11:19; Ps. 78:4-7; Eph. 6:4). Parent, what are you doing to faithfully teach your child the fear of the Lord? What are you doing to faithfully instruct your child in the knowledge of Scripture? How are you raising your child to live in obedience to the Lord? All of these things and more you owe to your child.
God is our gracious heavenly Father. Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The apostle painfully, yet joyfully, experienced the Lord’s words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sometimes it just seems like too much. Who am I to teach my child in the ways of God? How can I expect to be heard by my child when I fail so often? How can I model sensitivity to the Lord when I am so hard toward my child? How am I to start family devotions when I have so long neglected them? You are in just the right place: burdened by your sin.
You cannot. And if you try, you will fail. But in the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthened by God’s grace, cleansed by Christ’s blood, you are able to accomplish God’s will. God commands parents not to steal from their children. As a good Father he gives His children the ability and means to obey His command.
Today I received the latest publication of Christian History Institute: The History of Hell: A brief survey and resource guide. Here are some thoughts:
Aesthetics: The three-tone presentation of black, white, and red is effective and well executed. The serpent graphic spanning the top of every page is provocative and helpful. The size (5½x8½) seems right for something of this nature. While the publisher might appreciate advertisers and the financial support that comes with them, I appreciated the fact that the only ad was on the inside of the back cover. I dislike commercial interruptions: even printed ones. One slight blemish is the disparity in the quality of the pictures of the various men who are discussed. The difference in quality between the images of Irenaeus, Anselm, and Dante as when compared to those of Augustine, Aquinas, and Erasmus is quite noticeable: especially since the images of Dante and Erasmus are on facing pages. Sometimes, more effort is needed than simply “copy and paste” from Wikipedia.
Content: The inside front cover offers a summary of the three main Christian views on hell: Traditional, Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism, and Restorationism or Universalism. There follows 20 pages presenting a historical overview of the beliefs of nearly 50 individuals, groups, or eras from the Didache (late 1st century) to Seventh-day Adventists (1863). Following that 7 pages offer nearly 60 contemporary works (1940-2011) that in part or in full deal with the doctrine of hell.
Some time ago the publisher made known that this resource was on the way and the purpose of it. As the subtitle indicates, the purpose of The History of Hell is not polemic, but informative. Even with this caveat, I have a feeling that those who hold to the traditional view will not be entirely satisfied with the presentation. If one were to simply count the proponents of each view, Traditionalists would have more representation than the other two views. Even so, the editors seem to be at pains to present support for opposing views where it might not exist.
In the case of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen the refrain is, “They didn’t say anything clearly repudiating the traditional view, but they could be taken to teach Annihilationism or Universalism.” In the case of Erasmus, Zwingli, and Denck the discussion seems to go beyond the question of, “Who is damned and how?” to “Who is saved and how?” The inclusion of Locke and Mill seems out of place. While they were important men in their fields, those fields were not theology, biblical studies, or ecclesiastical leadership. My perception is that the editors wanted to paint a picture of mist and clouds with nothing certain. The traditional view seems to be traditional in name only. Was there ever a time when the traditional view was by and large accepted as fact? If not, how can it be called traditional? But perhaps I am being prejudicial. Everyone wants to see his opinion afforded the greatest possible argument and I am not sure mine was.
The list of modern resources is a treasure. It is an annotated bibliography of books from each position and books surveying multiple positions.
Which brings up a major shortcoming in the historical section: there are no citations in the historical section! Some of the men wrote volume upon volume and we are nowhere told where we may find what they taught on the subject. For a publication of this nature, this seems almost inexcusable. It seems almost irresponsible to assert that Justin Martyr is the father of “father of the inclusivist tradition within Christianity” but nowhere give the reader where to read in Justin in support of such a statement. Even in a survey, one should be told where to look for more in-depth information. This is a quite unfortunate failing. A good publication could have easily been made superb.
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV)
Peter begins his second epistle at the best place to begin: with God. In these four introductory verses, Peter focuses our attention on the gracious nature of our giving God. As we enter into the study of this letter we are to concentrate on three foundational gifts of God.
First, we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is God and Savior. Believers have been given faith- it is not something they worked up from within themselves (Eph. 2:8-9). They did not obtain faith through their own efforts or strength, but through God’s favor alone (Calvin). This faith has fallen to believers by the righteousness of Christ who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
Secondly, believers are given everything they need for life and godliness. Believers have not just been given new life, but are given everything they need to sustain this new life. Often this verse is used to teach dependence upon Scripture: this is an unfortunate leap.
Knowledge is an important theme in 2 Peter. Already in verse 2 the apostle states that grace and peace are multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus. In verse 3, we find everything we need for life and godliness in the knowledge of God. Knowledge is to be added to our faith to prevent us from becoming ineffective, unfruitful, nearsighted, and blind (1:5-9). Peter wrote this letter to keep certain things in the mind of believers (1:12, 13, 15). He is not a propagator of myth, but of knowable truth (1:16). Believers must know the true nature of Scripture in order to stand against irrational false teachers who forsake what they once knew to be true (1:20; 2:12, 21). While these false teachers are deliberately ignorant of the judgment of God, believers must not be ignorant of the patience of God (3:5, 8). Knowing the destiny of all creation (3:17) and that God knows how to deliver the righteous (2:9) arms the believer to grow into even greater grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior (3:18).
Scripture is obviously an indispensible element in our knowledge of God: Peter teaches as much in 1:19-21. Yet we must be careful to say what the Holy Spirit says and not what we think preaches better. Peter does not say we have been given everything we need for life and godliness in Scripture. Everything we need for life and godliness comes from knowing the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. It is not from knowing data, even inspired and inerrant data, that we find everything we need for life and godliness. We find everything in knowing a person. Eternal life does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing God and Christ (John 17:3). Godliness does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing Jesus in his death and resurrection (Phil. 3:8-12).
It is all well and good to say that God is not known apart from Scripture. That is true. But when we say everything we need for life and godliness is in Scripture, we can miss knowing the God of Scripture. Biblical faith and biblical knowledge are not primarily intellectual in nature but are primarily personal in nature.
Thirdly, believers have been given precious and very great promises. By “very great” Peter is not speaking of the amount of promises, but their value (cf. NASB “precious and magnificent promises”). The promises Peter explicitly are those centering on God’s promise of the return of Jesus and the renewal of creation (2 Peter 3:4, 9, 13). How is it that through the promises of God we share in his nature and escape the corruption of sin? Peter answers that question in 3:11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” Living in the light and knowledge of God’s promise to send his Son to punish wickedness and reward righteousness; to destroy that which is corrupted by sin and replace it with that which is perfect; motivates the believer to let go of the things of the world and pursue the things of the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells (3:13, cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3).
In these four verses Peter outlines how the gifts of God encompass the entirety of a believer’s existence. God has granted us faith- the genesis of eternal life. God has granted us everything for life and godliness- the sustaining of eternal life. God has given us precious and magnificent promises- carrying us through to the enjoyment of eternal life.
 It is debated among some whether or not the phrase “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” attributes deity to Jesus. There is nothing textually that indicates Peter might mean anything else. Any refusal to acknowledge that this text calls Jesus “God” is not textually, grammatically, or contextually based: it is prejudicially based. As Charles Bigg comments, “If the author intended to distinguish two persons, he has expressed himself with singular inaccuracy.” 2 Peter 1:1 identifies Jesus as God.
Below is a link for a .pdf containing Scripture readings and memory verse, catechism questions, and prayer requests for the coming week of July 24-July 30, 2011.
|KJV||A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.|
|NKJV||A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.|
|ESV||The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.|
|NRSV||Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult.|
|NASB||A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor.|
|NIV||A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult|
|NLT||A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.|
|CEV||Losing your temper is foolish; ignoring an insult is smart.|
|Clifford (OTL)||Fools reveal their anger, that is, they take instant offence at events or words, but the wise conceal or ignore offenses that cause arguments. The wise refuse to lower themselves to the level of their attackers.|
|Ross (EBC)||Those who are mature are able to handle criticism without responding instinctively and irrationally. The wise man does not give the enemy that satisfaction. It is not so much that the wise man represses anger or feelings but that he is more shrewd in dealing with it.|
|Fritsch (IB)||The fool has no self-control. A wise man is calm in the face of shame when he is insulted.|
|Henry||A fool is known by his anger (so some read it); not but that a wise man may be angry when there is just cause for it, but then he has his anger under check and direction, is lord of his anger, whereas a fool’s anger lords it over him. Those that are soon angry, that are quickly put into a flame by the least spark, have not that rule which they ought to have over their own spirits.|
|Horton (EB)||A fool cannot hide his vexation, but must immediately blurt it out with the tongue. When he is angry he must utter it all at once, though a wise man would keep it back and still is, so concealing shame.|
We read this verse in Proverbs last night during our family devotions. It was one I read more than once.
The seed of anger is a curious one. I read it more than once last night because upon reading it my wife and I both looked at one of our children whom we both immediately applied it to. But she comes by her temper honestly; she got it from her daddy. I see in her what I once was. Easily set off by the slightest provocation.
I wonder how much of the growth and death of anger is due to the youth and mellowing of age. Am I “better” at controlling my anger simply because I am older and more mature? Because I rationally realize there really is not much worth getting angry over? Or because the Spirit of God has been transforming my inner man? One reason to be thankful for children is that they try your patience in an abundance of new and unexpected ways. My children help me see the ways in which I have only outgrown anger and the ways in which I still struggle with it.
With this Proverb in mind, how does a parent root out the seed of anger in his child? There is certainly justification for an appeal to the irrationality of anger: it is presented in terms of foolishness and prudence. But reason can only go so far, especially when the passions rise up against it.
Parents must model prudent patience to their children. Children must see this Proverb in action. Do the failings, fightings, and outbursts of my children provoke me to instant anger? If so, I must subdue this passion by submitting to the correction of God and his word. I should seek the forgiveness of my children for being quick-tempered myself. When I respond to them in anger I am teaching them that anger is the proper response to trial. And only a fool believes that.
We have begun studying the book of 2 Peter on Wednesday nights. A striking feature is Peter’s reliance on doubles.
1:1- The author is Simeon Peter. He is a servant and apostle. By servant he identifies himself with his reader; and by apostle he identifies himself with his Lord: Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is both God and Savior.
1:2- Grace and Peace are multiplied to all believers through knowing God and Jesus.
1:3- In this knowledge we have everything we need for life and godliness because of the glory and excellence of the one who called us.
1:4- In his glory and excellence he has given to us precious and very great promises.
1:8- The supplementing of our faith prevents us from being ineffective or unfruitful.
1:10- By doing these things we make our calling and election sure.
1:16- Continuance in the faith is motivated by the hope of the power and coming of the Lord.
1:17- This Jesus is not a mere myth, but received honor and glory from God the Father who spoke by the Majestic Glory proclaiming Jesus to be his beloved Son.
1:19- The prophetic word is lamp to be headed until the day dawns and the morning star rises.
2:1- We must heed the Scriptures because there will be false prophets and false teachers.
2:3- They are under divine decrees of condemnation and destruction.
2:10- These false teachers delight in defiling passion and despising authority. They are bold and willful.
2:11- Angels, though greater in might and power, are not so bold.
2:12- False teachers are irrational animals, creatures of instinct. There only purpose for being is to be caught and destroyed.
2:13- They are blots and blemishes.
2:14- Their eyes and hearts are full of sin.
2:17- They are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.
2:22- They are dogs and pigs.
3:2- The safeguard against such false teachers is to remember the predictions and commandments of the holy prophets and apostles which they gave through the Lord and Savior.
3:7- We are to remember that the same word that created and judged the heaven and earth by water is being preserved until the day of judgment and destruction by fire.
3:10- By this fire the earth will be burned up and dissolved exposing both the earth and the works done on it.
3:11- Considering the fate of this earth, holiness and godliness should characterize our life.
3:12- We are waiting for and hastening the coming day of God. On this great day the heavens and heavenly bodies will be set on fire and dissolved.
3:14- As we wait for this day we should seek to be without spot or blemish and to be at peace.
3:16- The ignorant and unstable twist the Scriptures.
3:18- But believers grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ who is Lord and Savior. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
I have commented before about the Bible reading program that I use- reading a chapter a day in ten different places- and how it can alert you to connections between passages of Scripture you may never have noticed before. Today, my readings included the following passages:
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:16-19)
So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. (Exodus 10:8-11, 24-27)
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 1:3-4, 17-21)
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esther 3:1-6)
There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:12-23)
But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:12-13)
A common criticism of Christians is that they can be contentious, petty, quarrelsome. I am not sure how many churches have split over the color of the carpet, the curtains, or the pew cushions; whether we sing from a hymnal or screen; whether there is a piano and organ or praise band; whether to use whipped cream or whipping cream on desserts (and yes, I have actually heard of this); but the very first church to split over such matters was one split too many. Nevertheless there are some things worth fighting for.
We used to hear a lot about the “worship wars” within American Christianity. They certainly are not over, as evidenced by issues of Christianity Today in the past several months, but the furor seems to have more or less subsided. Now, we usually hear things along the lines of “agreeing to disagree,” or “is this worth ‘fighting’ over?”
What struck me in today’s readings was that worship has been fought over for thousands of years and will continue to be fought over until the end of time. The reason for the Exodus was not liberation from an oppressive government: it was worship. God rescued Israel to make his name known (Ex. 6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:22; 11:7; 14:4, 18). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were put into the fire because they worshipped God and not Nebuchadnezzar. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai only reverenced God, not man. Jesus warned that his followers would be hated by the world because the world would hate Jesus. Paul was brought to court by the Jews because of worship. Jude warned his readers that persecution and scoffers were not something relegated to the end times, but were present now. The faith, therefore, is always in need of Christians who will contend for it. There have always been, and always will be, those who would seek to undo the right worship of God.
Whether or not “worship wars” was the right term to use; whether or not the war was fought honorably; whether or not the “right” side “won”; worship is worth fighting over.
John Calvin gave two fundamental reasons for the Reformation: “a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is obtained.”[i] If you are unfamiliar with that rather well-known quote, you should probably stop, go back, and read it again. The most important thing in the Christian religion is the right worship of God. The second most important thing is the salvation of man.
In reply to Roman Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto who was trying to bring Geneva back into the arms of Rome, Calvin wrote, “…there is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God. The primary rudiments by which we are wont to train to piety those whom we wish to gain as disciples to Christ are these; viz., not to frame any new worship of God for themselves at random, and after their own pleasure, but to know that the only legitimate worship is that which He himself approved from the beginning.”[ii]
Worship is not a philosophy. It is not an attitude or feeling. Worship is not a tool. It is not a method. Worship is life or death. Just ask Moses and Pharaoh; Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Nebuchadnezzar; Mordecai and Haman; Jesus and Satan; Paul and the Jews; Jude and apostates. Worship is worth fighting for.
Click on the link below for 1 page pdf file with Scripture readings, prayer requests, Scripture memory, and Catechism questions to help lead in family devotions.
The book of Hebrews can be viewed as built around multiple warnings to continue in the faith and against falling away from the faith (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:26-39; 12:15-17; 12:25-29). Just as in the first warning to hear the message of God declared in his Son by attestation of the Holy Spirit; the author of Hebrews forms his second warning in a Trinitarian manner.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:7-14)
Whereas the first warning in Hebrews was to pay attention to the message delivered by the Trinity, this second warning begins to explain how we know we are paying attention to that message. The teaching is accurately summarized by the maxim, be doers of the word and not hearers only.
The person who will inherit the rest of God is the one that perseveres until the end. This emphasis of continuing “to the end” is directly from Jesus: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22 & 24:13). How does one continue to the end? The way to continue to the end is to exhort fellow believers daily. While Hebrews 10:25 is often used in support of faithful church attendance, it should not be read apart from Hebrews 3:13 and the instruction to practice exhortation “every day.” Unfortunately we separate these two verses from one another and from the centuries-long practice of the early church.
The sure sign of a believing heart is not the exuberant youth caught up in the “original confidence” of trusting Christ. The sure sign of a believing heart is the 80 year old widow who has remained faithful in tangibly supporting the ministry of her church.
What does it mean to fall away from God? What does it mean to lose fellowship with Christ? Whatever it may or may not mean, the surest indication that one has done so is that he stops fellowshipping with God’s people. That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
The larger context of this passage is also important for formulating a proper understanding of the nature of Scripture. Hebrews 3:7 unmistakably indicates a super-natural source for Scripture: the words of Psalm 95 are the words of the Holy Spirit. In the following verses, the author Hebrews continues to explain Psalm 95 and in 4:7 asserts that the words of the Psalm came “through David.”
This does not answer all of our questions about the nature of Scripture, indeed it perhaps arouses even more. Even so, the author of Hebrews presents Scripture (at least Psalm 95) as the product of the Holy Spirit speaking through men.