Great question, Jack.
Once someone has come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, they have already come as close to God as is possible. When you become a Christian, God accepts you and adopts you as a family member and nothing can change that.There is no such thing as a second class Christian. The way you continue in the Christian life is the same as the way as you started: by realising you’re a helpless beggar at the cross that needs the blood of Jesus to have any hope of relationship with God. Colossians 2:6-7 explains this: ‘So then, just as you recieved Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.’
While it is true that good deeds don’t bring us any closer to God, that doesn’t mean, however, that good deeds are not an essential part of the Christian life. We have been saved by faith in order to do good works. These are two truths that we must be careful to hold together and not to ignore one or the other. Ephesians 2:8-10 shows how we must think of the place of good works in the Christian life: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us.’ Humans are proud, and when we do something that we think is good, we run the danger of thinking we have done something that God needs to give us credit for. We must fight this proud urge. It’s only by God’s grace (i.e. his generostiy) that we are saved. But humans are also lazy and think ‘If my good works don’t bring me any credit, why bother?’ We must fight this lazy urge as well. We have been created for good works, and God is a loving Father who has not made us purely to make us suffer; we are much better off by living his way, rather than following our own selfishness. It is always better for us to live the way God intended. After all if we are now a member of God’s family, then we are to reflect that family likeness. This is seen in the “good works” that we do - the way we treat and talk to people, the way we live with honesty and integrity and so on.
Living the Christian life to the full means to strive to imitate Jesus in all we do, without forgetting that we can only do so because of God’s loving kindness to us through the cross. There are many passages in the New Testament that help show what that looks like (for example 2 Peter 2:5-11; Hebrews 10:19-25; Colossians 3:1-4:6; Philippians 1:27-2:18; Ephesians 6:10-20; Galatians 5:16-26, just to name a few!). One of the important reasons why Christians are encouraged to meet together with other Christians regularly (e.g. Hebrews 10:25) is to work out what that looks like in practice and to encourage each other to live that out. So the Christian life is always one that is lived in fellowship with other believers.