Higher Than I #8: I Desire

Higher Than I

I Desire is the seventh track of the Clayton Church worship album, Higher Than I, which was officially launched on Sunday 1 May.

Album Tracks/Index

  1. Praise to the Lord Almighty
  2. Higher Than I
  3. Blessed Assurance
  4. Great is Your Love
  5. You Are 
  6. How Majestic
  7. I Desire (this article)
  8. Breathe on Me
  9. What A Friend We Have In Jesus
  10. Wonderful Cross
  11. Summary / One Month Review

Official Links

Song Background

I Desire is another original song written by the Clayton Church worship team. The basis for the song was really two lines from the time of personal reflection by the made song writer within the team: “I desire Jesus Christ” and “Nothing less than Jesus Christ”. Coupled with these two statements were three revelations:

  1. Who Jesus was
  2. Who Jesus is to myself
  3. Who Jesus is to the wider church body

This song adds to the wider album collection as a personal reflective style of worship song, in contrast to the corporate worship ballads present in the collection. These three revelations will be unpacked as we review the song and lyrics below.

Lyric Analysis

The first verse launches straight into the titular declaration – I desire Jesus Christ. This statement in itself is a powerful statement. Whilst it sets the scene for a potentially first-first focused worship song, as we will see, the song and the heart of the song writer is clear that Jesus is to be enthroned instead of ourselves. Having a desire starts from the heart; which is where we must first begin. Not that we should treat any worship song lightly, but this one demands a serious commitment and reminds me of worship songs like I Surrender All, where singing it cannot be trivialised. In order for us to desire Jesus Christ requires us to have our hearts softened and open to His invitation.

The terminology of “Jesus Christ” is also not well understood today. “Christ” is actually a title. I have actually previously blogged on this very topic as part of Christmas/New Year #1 Christmas Traditions, back in December 2014/January 2015. The following is an edited reproduction of the same material. The Anglicisation “Christ” is from the Greek root word – “Khristos” which means “anointed one”. “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew word “mashiakh” or Aramaic “mshikha”. Thus, “Christ” is the Anglicisation of a Greek word, whereas the more purist English direct translation from the original Aramaic/Hebrew is… “Messiah”! Messiah shares the same meaning of “anointed one”, and other synonyms include “saviour”. Over time, however, the common use of “Jesus Christ” in reference to the Son of God means that people nowadays think of the combination as a name only… So, when you put the two together, the Hebrew reference becomes “Yeshua Mashiakh”, or Jesus the Messiah.

Returning to the context of the song I Desire, you can start to appreciate just how powerful that one statement becomes – we are recognising Jesus as our saviour, the anointed and Holy one. This revelation of Jesus’ identity is further emphasised in the second lyric line: “He is the Lamb that once was slain”. Writing this analysis up demands a careful selection of grammar tenses, since Jesus was and is the same – yesterday, today and forever the Lamb! The symbolism of a lambs in the Jewish culture is tied up in their sacrificial temple-based system of offerings. According to the Old Testament laws, an unblemished lamb would be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the Jewish nation. Jesus was thus The sacrificial Lamb who was slain for ALL our sins, and in doing so fulfilled the ancient Jewish laws. Matthew 5:17 quotes Jesus as saying “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

The desire and submission to Jesus as Christ is an all or nothing decision. We cannot desire Jesus partially, only completely. Therefore, the third line reflects this passion for Jesus being “nothing less than Jesus Christ”. The first verse then ends with recognition that Jesus was the Son of God who died for us and our sins. The wording is carefully considered – not just any son, but The Son; the One who died for us, being slain on the cross to atone as a sacrifice for each of us. In dying on the cross, Jesus conquers death, and restores us to the fullness of a relationship with God.

I desire Jesus Christ
The Lamb that once was slain
Nothing less than Jesus Christ
A Son who died for me

Verse two repeats the same introductory line of desiring Jesus Christ, this time as the lover of our souls. This is tied to Matthew 16:216 where Jesus says “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Many a song has been written about Jesus being the lover of our souls. From my Favourite Worship Songs of the 1990s, Jesus, Lover of My Soul is ranked as #9.

The third line of the verse is sung in reverse, so to help convey the meaning, we can think of it as “I know that Jesus is the Christ”. To know about Jesus is different from knowing Jesus. Arguably, even non-believers know something about Jesus, but it is believers who know Him as Lord, Saviour, Son of God, God with us (Emmanuel). Indeed, John 17:3 states “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” To know Jesus is part of our salvation and identity with an eternal reward and destiny. In knowing Jesus, He can take our brokenness and make it whole again. Verses to support this understanding include:

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16 – 21

This last passage speaks of Jesus taking BROKEN people and making them WHOLE people: the broken-hearted, captives, those in darkness, prisoners, those who are mourning and grieving, the poor, the blind and the oppressed.

I desire Jesus Christ
The lover of my soul
This I know, that Jesus Christ
My broken life made whole

The chorus then shifts into a style of rhetorical questions, which all focus on Jesus. Nothing can take the place of Jesus, nothing can separate us from the love or grace of God. God’s hands of grace are always extended to us irrespective of our lows as long as our hearts are open to Him. Jesus/God made a way for us towards salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus states “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As a result, all of us believers can celebrate in this life of victory.

What can take Your place?
What can separate?
From His hands of grace, on me
Who has made a way?
Who can celebrate?
This life of victory

In the final third verse, our reflection shifts to the identity of Jesus in relation to the world and wider community. Jesus came to save the whole world. Accordingly, as we celebrate this corporate identity of Christ, we can praise His holy name and declare Him sovereign over all the world. Hallelujah!

I desire Jesus Christ
The saviour of the world
Praise the name of Jesus Christ
Who’s sovereign over all

The song arrangement as performed sees the first two verses closely associated, such that they are sung sequentially. This allows the melody and chord progression between verses to ramp up and then peak at the chorus. A drawn out introduction also allows for a time of prayer and reflection in preparing to declare “I desire Jesus Christ”. No real break between Verse 2 and Chorus is present, the singing flows seamlessly on. The first time singing the chorus then leads back into a short instrumental break before we move on to Verse 3. After this verse, we again flow into the chorus which is repeated a second time, forming the peak of the song. After a short one-bar break, we return to singing the first verse for a final time, which also ramps directly into the final two repetition of the chorus. We then end this worship song with the repetition of the last line – “This life of victory”