If they use it in the past tense, Christians usually use the word to describe the day they gave their life to Christ (or became a Christian, or the day they became born again—all meaning the same thing.) “I got saved January 11” just means that that was the day they became a Christian.
Using it in the present tense, most use it as a synonym for being a Christian. “Are you saved?” “Yes, I’m saved.”
The reality of the phrase, though, is both powerful and sublime. According to the Bible, we are saved “from” some things, and saved “for” other things. According to the book of Romans, in chapter 5 (verses 8-10), we’re told something precious and awesome (in its original sense) about God: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood [referring to His sacrifice on the cross], we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
We’re “saved” from the wrath of God, which refers to His judgment on our sin, resulting ultimately in hell if we die in our sins without the forgiveness that comes through Christ.
John 3:36 says it another way: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” For the Bible, it’s a given that because of our sin, God’s wrath rests on us, and is only temporarily held back because of His mercy. When someone comes to Christ, they are saved from that wrath.
The other side is what Christians are saved for. The list is practically endless. We are saved to know God better, to come to see Him as He really is, to give Him glory with our lives, to be changed more closely into the image of Jesus Christ, to share the news of His love and forgiveness with others, and to know real peace. Ephesians says it well in 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We’re saved to do things God has prepared for us to do, and to become who we were always meant to be—our fullest and most real selves.
Pascal perhaps said it best: “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” That’s as good a picture of what we’re saved for as any.