The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
The answer Paul and Silas gave him is very important: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . ." (Acts 16:31).
What does that mean? The word "believe" does not merely mean intellectual assent, acknowledging there is a God, or even that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. To believe, in a biblical sense, is much more than that, because the Bible says that "even the demons believe—and tremble!" (James 2:19). Demons acknowledge the existence of God, but they don't trust in Him.
To believe means to hold on to, to cling to. It also means to let go of. So in the Bible, belief speaks of both letting go of one thing and taking hold of another. We let go of our sin and take hold of Christ, and Christ alone, to save us. It is not Christ—plus good works that we do—that saves us. Rather, it is just Christ.
I read an article about the pastor of a megachurch who said that he doesn't believe pastors should use the word "saved" anymore in their preaching because people don't understand it. But I think "saved" is a great word, and I will keep using it because it is in the Bible.
I also think "saved" is a fairly self-explanatory term. When someone gets caught in a riptide and a lifeguard pulls him out, we say the lifeguard saved him. And "saved" is the perfect word to use when we talk about conversion, because before we put our trust in Christ, we were headed to eternal judgment.
So when we say that we are saved, that is the perfect word.