I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, (2 Timothy 1:3, NKJV)
The conscience distinguishes us from birds, beasts, and fish. They operate on instinct to survive. Humans have been created in the image of God, unlike animals, and the conscience is one such distinguishing trait (Gen. 1:27). The conscience is a moral monitor of what we accept to be right and wrong, but not necessarily of what is right in God’s sight. It is not the standard of right and wrong – God’s word is. (Jiminy Cricket was wrong when he told Pinocchio to “always let your conscience be your guide.”) We can believe and act incorrectly, and yet our conscience can commend us in the error (Acts 23:1; 26:9). The conscience is like an early warning system, monitoring our choices and conduct to help us avoid moral danger. But, we have to train it with God’s truth for it to operate accurately. Just like sensors are adjusted and cleaned so they alert us of danger, our conscience must be “set” (educated) with God’s word and kept pure to accurately warn us of moral threats (see 1 Tim. 4:1-3). God cannot be served when our conscience is defiled by sin and error (Tit. 1:15). Jesus died to cleanse our consciences from “dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). It is up to us to educate and train our conscience with God’s word, and to keep it pure by serving God according to His truth.