We all have an internal sense of right and wrong. There is an inherent knowledge of God, and of God’s standards, which sinful humanity suppresses. But it’s there nonetheless. When we do something wrong, our conscience is pricked. Even as an unbeliever, you know that you shouldn’t have done that. You know it was wrong. Not all the time, of course. But at least some of the time. It’s certainly possible for the conscience to be seared, and for the truth to be suppressed. But still there is this reality that God has placed a moral compass within each person.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes about the great value of a good conscience, and the danger of a seared conscience.
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5, ESV)
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this [referring to a good conscience], some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18–20, ESV)
A good conscience is a very precious thing, and we put ourselves in great danger when we violate our consciences. John Stott writes, “if we disregard the voice of conscience, allowing sin to remain unconfessed and unforsaken, our faith will not long survive” (Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus, 57).