Everyone is born with a conscience. It's that faculty within you that distinguishes between right and wrong, prompting you to do good and avoid evil, knowing intuitively deep down inside when you've done right and when you've done wrong. It gives you forewarnings. It's like having an eyewitness with you wherever you go and in everything that you do. The witness is either for you or against you.
The conscience is common to all men — instinctive, imbedded, deep down. It's like an ambassador. If you heed your conscience you'll heed your Creator.
The word conscience comes from the root words meaning co-knowledge — to know what is right and what is wrong. It functions in order for you “to know together” with God. This innate knowledge is shared with the rest of humanity and with God. When humans first switched from an intimate friendship with God in the Garden of Eden to being alienated because they had disobeyed their Creator, it was said, “Now man has become like one of us, knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.” God, in His love for man, had given man hope even in his fallen state — a conscience.
There is a subtle deception that has come upon men. Cultural acceptance and peer pressure are powerful forces in subduing the voice of our conscience. Good is being called evil and evil is being called good. It is confusing to us and deeply troubling when something that we intuitively knew was wrong is now justified by those around us as “Not so bad!”
The conscience is a provision to protect man from the evil that he might give in to. If listened to, the conscience would protect man from going to destruction. That is why some dictionaries define sin as “an offense against God.” In the Bible sin is defined as knowing the right thing to do and not doing it, or doing what you know is wrong. So when we do wrong we know (through the conscience that God gave us) that we are going against that knowledge that God gave us, therefore we are also going against God. If you heed your conscience then you are giving heed to God. If you won't obey your conscience you won't obey God. This is what it means to sin.
The sins God is most concerned about are those that hurt and destroy other people's lives. They go against the knowledge He put in them and they go against human beings who bear His image, for we are created in His image. They have no hope of erasing the debt.
So a baby is born with great value, rather like having a big bank account and no debt. But as the baby grows up what happens? Well, it's according to the choices he makes. All little babies have great value, but whether or not they retain that original value is according to the choices they make. It's according to how they value the voice of that inner witness, their conscience.
If they value it they will heed it, obey it, thereby unconsciously honoring God, the One who put that witness in them. They will treat people well who are also made in the image of God, honoring Him that way as well. Their value, which they were born with, will remain high — very high. They are the righteous people of this earth.
God created us with a bank account — our value or inner worth. The wages of sin is death. That's why everyone dies. In death, a man's essence, his substance, is taken as payment. But some choose not to obey their conscience. They don't even want to hear it. They exchange that truth of that inner witness for a lie that suits, or serves them better. That lie justifies the way they mistreat other human beings. They end up exchanging more than just the truth for a lie — they exchange the intrinsic righteousness they were born and filled with for filthiness and unjustness. As this tendency in them progresses they become filled with unrighteousness, wickedness, and greed. The essence they were born with is de-valued. The bank account becomes empty and the debt too big to ever begin to pay. They have lost everything they had to pay with.
God has given everyone a conscience and a free will. The conscience testifies to the unseen attributes of the Creator (which are made visible through what has been made), and tells you how to treat others just the way you would want to be treated. So even if we have never read the Bible or heard of God, we know of Him instinctively and have a sense of His character — how He wants us to be and how to honor Him.
But some do not heed this witness. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness, pushing it down, out of the way, not listening. They don't honor God; they don't treat others the way they want to be treated. God notices those they mistreat. He's taking it into account. They think they are wise and tell everyone they are, but they are fools, persisting in this way. The conscience they were given is silenced, and without that holding them back, God gives them over to all forms of evil.
God loves all men. He gave all men a conscience — Buddhist, Hindu, African bushman, Christian, Jew — you. Whatever you've been born into, however you have been raised, you know the character of God to a certain extent, enough to please Him. You know enough to maintain what you've been born with so that when you get to the end of your life you can pay the debt you've accumulated from the times you did those things you regretted so much. It should be that way. Everyone has the opportunity to make it that way. But these days, few people do. It is a dark, dark time we live in. The darkness that comes into a man's heart when he does not honor his Creator, is covering this earth.
Could it even be said that those who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie are in the majority now? So now the lie is generally presented as the truth. What were we presented with when we grew up? Were we encouraged to honor God as God by obeying our conscience? Did our peers strengthen the voice of our conscience, or did they encourage us to make that fatal exchange? Was the morality that is communicated by our conscience strengthened by what we learned in school, by what we saw our friends do, our heroes do, or even our parents? Did anyone teach you to save your virginity until your wedding day? To never lie or distort the truth to your gain? To work hard? To honor your parents? Maybe a few, if you were fortunate, but probably not too many. Not that that's an excuse to do evil, because all know, all have that co-knowledge with the Creator that comes from their conscience.
One day I realized that I had exchanged what I knew to be true for a lie, exchanging the righteous personality I was created with, the righteousness I was filled with, for unrighteousness. The choices I made changed the substance of my being. I was created with a substance of high value like gold, but exchanged it for something of no value, something worthless. A man's value comes from how he treats others. If you treat others as having low value, that is actually the value that you have.
My debt was accumulating and what I had to pay it with was rapidly depreciating. I was becoming bankrupt. But thankfully, I was bothered by it. I started to wake up somehow to the reality of what I was becoming. I had a vague memory of what I started out as and I was shocked at what I had become. I felt like I had no worth (even though I pretended the opposite) because I had given most of it up. I feared death because I did not want to face my debt with nothing to pay.
Then I heard about Yahshua. He had no sin, no debt. But by His sacrifice, substituting His life for my life, He paid the debt I had accumulated. His life was of infinite value because He never sinned. He had NO debt, but He chose to pay my debt — not only mine, but the debt of the whole world.
We have to choose to receive that payment. His payment was not cheap, so our choice cannot be cheap. It cost Him His life to make the payment that my own life could never have made. The least I can do is give my whole life back to Him.
For the love of Messiah controls us having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:15)