The exalted self is perhaps the biggest casualty of Adam’s sin. This residual effect of spiritual death has left its roots system of exalted self in every child of God.
The root of the exalted self is self-pride. And we know that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall according to Proverbs.
You can see this exalted self in the pastor seeking to build a large church from the motive of prestige or notice of accomplishment. Fellow minister, you can see it in the euphoric feeling after you preach a rousing sermon, or in the let down feeling when you’ve preached your worst message to date.
The exalted self raises its head in the business man who works to get ahead to the disregard of the well being of others, using people instead of developing them.
The exalted self unmasks itself in the mother pushing her child to perform well at school in academics and sports, inwardly knowing that the real emphasis is keeping a polished family name. The exalted self is seen in the father and husband who rules the home with an iron will, allowing no opinion other than his own.
The exalted self is frequently seen in church life. One person ruling a meeting with his or her opinion to the disregard of others who have equally good or better ideas. Or it is seen in the church member who is hurt because hard work went unnoticed. If we really did all for the glory of God alone, it would matter little to us if we had our way or if we were noticed for our work.
I could go on and on. When I place my wishes, my desires, my skill, my expertise, my wisdom, my knowledge, or my seasoned experience above the leading of the Holy Spirit through the word, I place myself in opposition to God! I exalt myself when I do this!
Jesus mentions the deep need we have to yield our will in every gospel. For me, it’s my toughest challenge:
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39). When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “ Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:34-35). And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27). Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25).
God desires to do a deeper work of His presence in your life and mine. To do so, He will come after our self-will. That deeper dealing may be a reason that some failure is allowed, or some plans go unfinished, or it seems as though we hit a wall with our plans and nothing seems to be working right.
Paul’s insight helps us with the exalted self. Notice his revealing of his own struggles in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (3) I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
When asking Jesus for a release from the pressure of the “thorn in the flesh” that came against his life we again see Paul addressing the exalted self:
But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving- kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! (10) So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [ in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength) (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – Amplified).
Over and over in scripture, we are admonished to resist this tendency to rule our life independently of God’s help.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us:
This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! ( in Jeremiah 9:23-24:
In these dark days, God will expose our weakness, for only in our weakness will we cry out for His help. And only in our inability will we find the exceeding greatness of His power working through us.