What is salvation? It's probably not what you think, but it's important, because it has a huge impact on how we live our daily life. Unfortunately, in Christendom today, the idea of salvation has been widely marginalized.
Most, when asked what salvation is, would define it as "forgiveness of sins," and if one was to ask, "why do my sins need forgiven?" the reply is typically so that we can go to heaven when we die. Willard and Ortberg would refer to this as a "minimum entrance requirement" or a "gospel of sin management."
While that definition isn't wrong, it's not entirely right, either, and such a limited scope of salvation causes one to miss out on the abundance of life that Jesus offered. There is SO MUCH MORE!
Willard defines salvation in one word as...LIFE...and going to heaven is a natural by-product of that eternal life with God that starts now.
Ortberg explains it as receiving life from Jesus from one moment to the next. It is a life-altering reality that one finds, as an apprentice to, or student of, Jesus. He expands on this more in his book, Eternity is Now in Session:
Salvation doesn't mean simply being rescued from the consequences of our wrong choices. It doesn't mean being delivered into better circumstances. It means being changed. Salvation isn't primarily a matter of going to the good place. It's about becoming good people.
Or, as Willard says, "Being saved isn't a matter of where you are going but who you are."
We must not view salvation as "making the cut." In doing so, we miss out on experiencing the life-altering, incredible reality one finds as a student of Jesus. He did come to offer us abundant life...now. He says so himself! (John 10:10) and more here, "Enough with the Sin Talk Already." You can also read my experience of this abundant life, here.
"...if we view salvation wrongly as "making the cut," we also violate the great commandment to love God, because it makes God look unlovable and exclusive. It leads people to wonder, why doesn't God let more people into heaven?" - John Ortberg
I believe this is one huge reason long-time "Christians" are abandoning their faith in the God and Jesus of the Bible. God is unlovable, exclusive, judgement, etc. Why would a loving God let people go to hell?
Salvation as a life doesn't fully answer that question of course, and once again I would emphasize that I do believe that forgiveness of sins by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is absolutely necessary. But, by simply recognizing that salvation isn't a transaction or arrangement to guarantee your spot in the good place after death...and pursuing salvation as a life that comes from walking intimately with and learning from Jesus...I'd dare say the transformation, hope, freedom and joy that comes from that (and, of course, the Holy Spirit) will largely take care of the rest.