Everybody knows that doing bad things won’t bring you closer to God. That’s a no-brainer. The road to heaven is not paved with evil intentions. We don’t murder, pillage, rape, or abominate ourselves into God’s good graces. We get that.

What we don’t get is that doing good things won’t bring us closer to God, either. We don’t pray, tithe, witness, or church-go so we can strut through the pearly gates. In fact, what we deem our greatest good, the shiniest present we have to grace God’s altar, could possibly be the most evil thing in our lives. More on that in a moment.

Being a Christian is hard because it’s easy. (Rom 4:5) But we don’t want easy. Easy is for losers. Easy is for lazy ass, good-for-nothings who don’t take their religion seriously. You know, the grace-leeches who live off of another’s blood. Spare us the indignity of charity, O Lord. We don’t want a handout; we want a hand-up. Who wants to ride on training wheels their whole life?

My daughter turned 18 years old last weekend. I remember like it was yesterday when she learned how to ride a bicycle. I took off the training wheels, held the handlebars as she got onto the seat, and ran alongside her as she wobbled and weaved and gradually straightened herself out. I got her started but she finished. It was all her. I just stood there, smiling and clapping. A proud daddy.

We all want a proud daddy standing in the clouds, cheering us on after we take off the training wheels. We’re on our way to—who knows?—perhaps the spiritual Tour de France. We’re in training to become professional Christians. Honing our skills. Polishing our image. Getting our Jesus on.

The longer we’re Christians, the harder it is to be a Christian, especially if we think we lost the training wheels years ago. We mark progress by an increase in religion. The more we go to church, the more Bible we read, the more witnessing we do, the more godly music we listen to, the more zealously we promote moral crusades, the more conservative candidates we vote for, the more we assume we’re growing. We’re getting this Christianity stuff down. Maybe we’ve even stopped smoking and don’t cuss as often. We’re a nicer spouse, better parent. We have a godly distaste for Obama. Why, last year we even participated in the March for Life.

That may be all well and good. Or it may be our damnation.

Jacob's Ladder

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: if we don’t condemn even our best works, our best works will condemn us. This hurts. I know. We all want a plaque in church with our name on it. We all want to become professionals at this Christianity thing. But it’s all a ruse. What we really want is for God to move aside and let us manage the faith on our own. We’ll call if we need help. Otherwise, please God, go watch TV or smite some nasty people. We’ve got this. You’ll be impressed with what we do.

Only He isn’t. God is only impressed with Jesus. That’s why He presses us into Jesus, so that in Him, he might see us as Jesus is.

To put our trust, any trust, in what we do is to put our trust in an anti-Christ. That’s why our best and brightest deeds are so dangerous. Because if we’re going to trust in anything, it’s certainly not our skirt-chasing and gossip-spreading. It’s our tithing, Bible-reading, church-going, elder-serving, Christian-college-attending. Surely God is happy with us because of that.

God is pleased with us for one reason, and one reason only: because He is pleased with His Son. And in that Son, in whom we die and rise again, the Father is tickled pink with us. God gives out a great big belly laugh even when we sit around eating popcorn on the couch. He even smiles at us when we sleep. He loves how we drive to work, go to church, play basketball, read books, make love to our spouses, have babies, get old and feeble and have hair growing out of our ears. God loves all that because we’re in Jesus. And whoever is in Jesus is the Father’s daily delight, no matter how high and holy or low and common our deeds may be.

None of us is a professional Christian. Or an amateur Christian, for that matter. We’re just Christians—boys and girls with God’s name on them. We’re in Jesus. We’re in the One who made us right with God. We died with Him, we rose with Him, and we live in Him forevermore.

Christianity is that easy. We all live off the blood and life of another.