Last May I had the joy of leading worship in song at the Next conference along with three bands, including Generation Letter. One of the songs we sang, “Only Jesus,” was written by Doug Plank and based on a prayer in The Valley of Vision. I asked Doug what he was thinking when he wrote the song:
I don’t think I’ve ever before (or likely will again) be so inspired by a mere two words in songwriting. While writing a song for the “Valley of Vision” project I stumbled on the poem, “The Life Look.” One particular line struck me: “May my cry be always, Only Jesus! Only Jesus!” Once those two words were located, it really was only a matter of time, chord progressions, and editing to bring the song to fruition.
The theological and deeply emotional meaning to these two words make up the sum of my regenerated existence, with a cry for mercy, grace and protection wrapped inside. The punch of those two words for me was similar to the effect of the refrain from the old spiritual, “Give Me Jesus”: the preciousness of Jesus Christ in comparison to a crumbling world makes for the selling of all that one has to purchase a pearl of great price. “Only Jesus!” naturally made for the starting point and central part of the song.
As for the verses, I wanted to go Trinitarian – and show, somehow, that the Father’s desire and the Spirit’s purpose flow through Jesus. In that sense, Jesus has become for the sinner the touchstone of the Godhead. The Father is glorified as I pour out my heart to the Savior. The Spirit is active as my heart perceives Jesus’ greatness and responds with love and affection.
The tag came last in songwriting, almost an afterthought. As I recorded demos of the song and reviewed the lyrics over and again, I felt that the song needed a simple and devotional confession of the Savior – much as Simon Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16:16 and Mark 8:29. There is nothing sweeter for the Christian than a heartfelt confession of Jesus.
Here are the words:
Father of grace, You’ve sacrificed
Your only Son for us, the crucified Jesus
Enlarge our hearts to love Your Son
O grant to us the grace to walk with Him always
To make Him our great delight
Bringing worship with our lives
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
Give us Jesus, we cry
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
The Pearl of greatest price
Spirit of grace, You’ve shed Your light
Upon our darkened eyes, unveiling Jesus Christ
Come change our hearts, conform our ways
To honor Jesus’ Name, His glory our refrain
Let His love compel our own,
As we worship at His throne
Jesus, our great Savior
Lord of heaven, Son of God
© 2005 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP). International administration by Integrity Music.