“The Exchange – From Guilty to Blameless” by Rick Shurtz

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series: “The Exchange.”  Rick Shurtz shared about an exchange from guilty to blameless at the McNeil campus. I shared at the South Campus.

Here are some resources for this series:

Sept 7 | From Death to Life – (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
(What’s Next If I Want To Follow Jesus?)
Sept 14 | From Despair to Hope  (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
Sept 21 | From Lonely to Never Alone (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
Sept 28 | From Striving to Satisfied (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
Oct 5 | From Guilty to Blameless (Next Steps) (Leader’s Guide)
Oct 12 | From Powerless to Empowered


If you’re not connected with a Life Group, now is a great time to jump in as we head into the Fall. Our Life Groups will dive deeper into this profound transformation God offers us and discuss the practical difference such change makes in our every day life.

Here are thoughts we shared:

“If you were to write a song about you, what would you sing?

This week, we’re looking to go from guilty to blameless, and I ask the question about self-perception, because I’m convinced guilt and shame are POWERFUL toward our own self-perceptions.

Princeton psychologist Martin Day partnered with Romona Bobocel from the University of Waterloo in a fascinating study on the effects of guilt in a person’s life. They interviewed people individually and they either asked each person to describe something ethical they had done or unethical they had done, something good they had done or something not-so-good they had done. Following the descriptions of ethical and unethical behavior, they asked the participants question. They asked “compared to your average weight—let’s say your average weight is 185 lbs—how close to your average weight do you feel today?”

Here’s what’s fascinating…

The people who had just described something unethical they had done, they rated their weight, their physical weight, compared to their own average weight, significantly heavier than the group who had described ethical stories from their lives. In other words, in that moment, after having stirred up feelings of guilt, they literally viewed themselves differently, their self-perceptions were different.

Guilt—literally—made people feel heavier.

The group that had just described an unethical event in their lives also rated physical tasks significantly harder to do than the group that had just described ethical events in their lives.

When David, the Psalmist, wrote about guilt, he wrote…

For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.- Psalm 32:4

These psychologists put their finger on something David acknowledged thousands of years ago. Guilt saps our strength. It weighs us down. It effects our perception of our selves and our perception of responsibilities in life, which no doubt effects our actions.

Pink Flamingo

For the purpose of today’s message, a pink flamingo represents guilt and shame. So then: what’s your pink flamingo?

  • What’s the guilt that you carry?
  • What do you feel shame over?
  • What when you think about it, do you feel the weight of?

Our mission today: what would it be like if your pink flamingo would spread it’s wings and fly out of your life?

Your pink flamingo is going to be different than my pink flamingo or the pink flamingo of the person sitting next to you.

Misplaced Guilt & Shame

There are at least two-types of pink flamingos:

This first we’ll call misplaced guilt. Many of us carry guilt over things we are not responsible for.

Dr. Leslie Baker-Phelps writes about misplaced guilt and gives helpful advice: “When you experience misplaced guilt, ask yourself, “What ‘crime’ did I commit? For you to really be guilty, you need to have done something wrong.”

What do we do with misplaced guilt?

I find Jesus’ much quoted statement about truth helpful here:

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

We are liberated from misplaced guilt by simply embracing the truth.

In another place in Scripture we read…

…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5

In another place Scripture refers to our spiritual enemy as the accuser.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, accuses them before our God day and night…Revelation 12:10

So our spiritual enemy is an accuser. What’s most challenging about this, is that this very same accuser is referred to as chronically dishonest…

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. -John 8:44

We experience accusations. Often, these accusations are laced with lies, feelings of guilt and shame that weigh us down, that have absolutely no basis in reality.

For this pink flamingo to spread its wings and fly out of our lives, it’s going to take confronting this bird with the truth. You put the truth in front of this bird enough times, and you stand your ground, eventually, it spreads its wings and flies away.

To help you do this: find safe people with whom you can process. Trusted and mature friends. Your Life Group. Your running partners. If needed, a Christian counselor.

I want you to find a way that you can be open with people and say, “I feel guilty about this…I feel ashamed about this…,” and I want you to hear your community say, “That’s not yours to carry! That’s not your guilt. That’s not truth! That’s a lie.”

Each time you hear that, I want you to then go back to your pink flamingo, put your hand on it’s head, and pray a little prayer:

“This isn’t mine. It shouldn’t be here. I’m not guilty.”

Legitimate Guilt

There’s a second kind of guilt, though. There are times when we truly have done something wrong.

Rather than take responsibility we mask our guilt in primarily two ways.

1. We medicate.

“I don’t know if I carry guilt,” we think to ourselves, “but I do see obsessive behavior in my life.”

  • Am I chronically busy?
  • Do I get nervous when I attempt to rest?

Busyness can just be busyness, or, it can be a form of medication masking something beneath it.


  • Am I overeating?
  • Am I overdrinking?
  • Am I overworking?
  • Am I spending too much money?
  • Am I obsessed with facebook, texting, or all things social media?
  • Am I in front of the TV for far more than a little bit of relaxation?

Any of these and others, they may be related to something else, but ask yourself…

2. We embrace it.

We push aside guilt by redefining right and wrong.

  • What’s wrong with pornography? We’re all consenting adults here? I’m a guy. It’s normal.
  • What’s wrong with cheating the company? I’ve given this company more than it’s given me. Everybody cheats the company. What’s the big deal?
  • What’s wrong with sleeping together before marriage? Surely we should be allowed to ‘try it before we buy it.’ Those traditional ideas of love and marriage are antiquated. What’s the big deal?

We weary of morality.
We weary of right and wrong.
We weary of trying to do good and failing.

We think: “I’m going to lose at that game, so let’s not do this.” As a result, we redefine right and wrong. We embrace those things that have traditionally made us feel guilty.

Scripture makes a bold statement.

…the wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored by humanity. – Psalm 12:8

We live in a day that is ever-increasingly honoring disobedience to God. It’s as if as a society, we’ve tired of trying to be good, so those things we used to consider not-so-good, let’s just embrace them. Let’s cover up this guilt by changing our view of things.

Which may sound all well and good. And it may sound like progressive thinking. The challenge, though, is the reality Scripture describes. We read…

The requirements of the law are written on our hearts. – Romans 2:15

In other words, right and wrong are not cultural constructions. They are not a product of our grandparent’s generation. Right and wrong are a product of what God has written on our hearts, our deep sense of morality, that the winds of culture cannot change.

Taking Responsibility

What if we didn’t embrace it, and what if we didn’t medicate it?

What if we went toe to toe and stared that guilt down.
What if we were bold and honest.
What if we said…

“You know why I deal with guilt? Because I did something wrong! Because I did something I shouldn’t have done! Because I did something that hurt people or hurt me or hurt the people I care most about! That’s why! I’m not going to wish it way or stuff it down. I’m going to bring it out in the open, and I’m going to stare at it! I’m going toe to toe with this guilt. No more pretending! No more medicating! No more ignoring or embracing!”

But, that also doesn’t mean that we let this pink flamingo set up camp in our front yard. We cannot and must not live with this weight of guilt.

So, what do we do?

I have one of the more liberating and powerful passages of Scripture I want us to meditate on for a moment. To do so, I first just want us to see one word from the passage…

…blameless… – Colossians 1:22

Blameless. Available to you, and available to me, is a state of being scripture describes as blameless. Let’s build this verse slowly.

…blameless and free from accusation… – Colossians 1:22

  • What does it take to be blameless?
  • What does it take to be free from accusation?

…holy in his sight, blameless and free from accusation. – Colossians 1:22

What does it take to be holy in the sight of God, blameless, and free from accusation?

But now Christ has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy in his sight,

blameless and free from accusation. – Colossians 1:22

What do we feel when we feel guilt?

  • We feel accused.
  • We feel undeserving of life.
  • We feel worthy of blame.

What did Christ do for us?

  • He took the accusation.
  • He experienced death.
  • He took the blame.
  • He died for our guilt.

When we choose to follow Jesus and ask Him to take on our guilt, the following takes place in our lives:

  • The guilt is forgiven.
  • The shame is gone.
  • The accusation is replaced with the truth.

If you’ve never experienced and embraced what Christ has done for you, and you’re still carrying around this pink flamingo or maybe a flock of pink flamingos, leave them today so that you will experience the love and freedom Christ gives to you today.

And if you’ve already experienced that, you’ve already experienced Christ, then you don’t need to keep going back attempting to pay your bill. It’s been paid, my hope and prayer for you today, is that you simply enjoy it.

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