Pride is, by definition, idolatrous and insurrectionist because it is rooted in ingratitude. It glorifies the creature over against the Creator and claims the inheritance rights of image-bearers without acknowledging that we have these things because we reflect an image, not because we are ultimate (Rom. 1:22–23).

It is the primal sin because no other sin is possible without believing that some good gift of God is mine and mine alone to use for my purposes, for my own kingdom and glory. Satan seeks to replicate his own prideful raging for power in human creatures—that’s part of the realm he wants for himself. So the apostle Paul warns Timothy not to set apart a new convert lest he “become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Most of us know that pride and status-hunger are character flaws, but we rarely see the satanism of pride in our own situations. Part of that is because of how fallen humanity normalizes pride. We grow accustomed to thinking of self-exaltation, at least to some manageable degree, as a “normal” part of leadership and drive.

In Christian ministry self-promotion and egotism are rewarded because the more a Christian crows about his superior prayer life or his cutting-edge research or his ability to grow churches or movements, the more an audience tends to believe it. Genuine Christian humility, by contrast, often seems mousy or non-assertive by contrast. When so many leaders are proud, it becomes very difficult for the Spirit-convicted psyche to discern, “Am I prideful, or am I a leader?”

Often we’re deceived into thinking self-exaltation isn’t a weak point for us because we don’t see ourselves clamoring for global power or celebrity. But kingdom and glory are always relative terms. The satanic powers don’t care what size kingdom you want or what quantity of glory is enough for you to bow the knee. They just want to see you worship something other than God to get what you want.

This post, cross-posted from Crossway’s blog, is an excerpt from my new book, Tempted and Tried.