What is a minute? Simply a measurement of time. There are 60 in an hour, 1,440 in a day. But during those 60 clicks of the second hand, a tidal wave of thoughts with their accompanying emotional responses can sweep over you. Today, during one particular minute, a feeling of dread hit me hard. Why? I was deeply afraid that I’d done something wrong.

Ever had that feeling before? There’s a reason for it—conscience. Bible teacher John MacArthur comments, “The wisdom of our age says guilt feelings are nearly always erroneous or hurtful; therefore we should switch them off. But is that good advice?”

In Romans 2:15 we see that God has placed some sense of His moral character and law in each person’s conscience. This hard-wiring stirs us to do what we believe is right and restrains us from doing what we believe is wrong. A good conscience is a powerful ally in living to please God.

The conscience, however, is not infallible. Cultural ideals and childhood experiences may play a part in calibrating our moral compass. So even though we might hold to certain standards, they may not be biblical and can condemn us unnecessarily.

So should we switch off our conscience and harden our hearts? MacArthur offers these thoughts: “[Our] conscience reacts to the convictions of [our] mind and therefore can be encouraged and sharpened in accordance with God’s Word.”

A regular diet of Scripture and a diligent application of it will help us cultivate a good conscience as well as keep a clear one (Psalm 119:105; Hebrews 5:14). As Martin Luther said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Now, that’s some good advice to apply to each minute of every day.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 1 Samuel 1:1-28