There is a danger of using 1 John 1:9 as a “Get out of Jail Free” card. The danger is seen in many people who use 1 John 1:9 like a credit card because they believe God the Father will pay, just like some young people expect their parents to pay for all their wants and desires. The verse states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJ) Because parents love their kids so much and we live in such an affluent society, many families are maxed out on credit card debt. Christians often view this verse as a “license” to sin and are unaware of the “hardening” process of what happens in their souls.
First, the verse 1 John 1:9 is dangerous, because some Christians have used it as a license for sin. First John 1:9, is a pure and simple verse, but it was never meant to be used for selfish deceitfulness. God’s forgiveness is like a blanket, but it is not a blanket for personal sin “any” time I want to abuse the grace of God’s holiness. Yes, God will forgive me, but that does not mean I should give into the flesh and do what my flesh wants. Paul says,
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom. 6:1-2 NKJ)
The Christian is dead to sin, so any sin is contrary to God’s holiness. Grace has already abounded at salvation. Therefore, never test the grace of God. Instead, the Christian should probe his ways to see if they are in line with God’s holiness. Jeremiah wrote,
40 Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD; 41 Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. (Lam. 3:40-41 NKJ)
Let us examine and lift up humble, holy hands to God in His mercy and life according to His righteousness.
Secondly, 1 John 1:9 is dangerous because it can lead to hardness of the heart. Hardening of the heart is part of the downward spiral for the Christian (Eph. 4:17-19). In fact, it can lead to becoming immoral, because “I think I can just confess my sins.” That is a serious danger and can even develop life-dominating sins without realizing the deceitfulness of the heart (Jer. 17:9-10). Continuous living in sin because of a distortion of 1 John 1:9 leads toward the danger of indifference toward the holiness of God.
There is a danger to a wrong understanding of 1 John 1:9. However, there is a greater danger to think there is no carnality in the Christian life. There are some Christians that believe that after salvation, there is no carnality, because, after all, the Christian is a new creation, so he will not live according to the old ways. Some reject what Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24 NKJ) They also reject Paul’s words to the Corinthians,
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3 NKJ)
Paul wrote to saints in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2) and said their divisive actions were from carnality. Hence, it is more dangerous because followers of this perspective develop their own list of major sins and rationalize and ignore the minor sins. There is a greater danger of becoming self-righteous and accepting a list of respectable sins, like pride, resentment, frustration, worry, etc. There is also a greater danger of looking down on others for their sins, because people who hold this perspective do not commit the major sins that are observed in others.
First John 1:9 can be a dangerous verse, but for the humble Christian, broken before God, because of his sin, it is a life-giving breath of fresh air to be relieved of the guilt of sin and a means of restoration to the holiness of God and His sovereign purposes.