Salvation is a gift. You just have to receive it. By believing and accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.
I'm not talking about simply acknowledging the existence of or mentally assenting to the fact that a person named Jesus lived, and died on the cross for me. I'm talking about believing deep down in your heart and soul to the point it impacts every aspect of your life.
Then the good deeds and acts you do are not done to earn or prove anything, but done out of a response to all that Christ has done for us.
Christ loved me enough to lay his life down for me. That's a love and sacrifice I don't deserve, and could never repay. The only thing I can do is allow that love to flow threw me and share it with the people around me.
Yes you are right you can do good with out having Jesus in your life. But what is your motivation behind the good deeds?
I believe that God cares more about the motives behind our actions than the actions them selves.
If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. - Isaac Asimov
One of my major hang-ups with contemporary christianity.
Theoretically, the death bed conversion is valid, if genuine.
So you can be a complete and total ass for a lifetime, and the acceptance of Christ, if done a day before nite-nite, is saved.
Vs. the truly good human being that is, say, Hindu.
That is simply not a God I can worship.
I, in a former life, would argue that the decision to accept Christ will then cause a transformation in the person, this transformation causing them to WANT to live more like Him ie. becoming a better person.
But the loophole exists, and it aint right. And a God worthy of prayer should have made it clear that He welcomes discussion, rather than having His minions stamp out those that seek knowledge.