With a lot of terms like faith, sin, holiness, righteousness, atonement, grace, justification, and sanctification in our toolbox of terms, let’s look today at 2 terms that incorporate these concepts and see what Christians mean by the terms “saved” and “born again”.
Some people hear Christian pleas for them to “be saved” and recoil from it, feeling that needing to be saved from anything is a sign of weakness. What are we being saved from? Is Christianity just “fire insurance” to save us from a funny-looking guy with a pitchfork in some underground cave called hell with a big lake of fire? Are we to be “saved from ourselves”? From sin? From the “world”? From our present misery? What if we feel like life is going pretty good right now, and we don’t want to be “saved” from anything right now? But the question shouldn’t be whether we feel like we need saving, but simply whether it’s true that that’s what we need. When I learned to scuba dive in college, one condition we were warned about, particularly in our deepwater class, was nitrogen narcosis, or the “rapture of the deep”. That’s where the diver’s judgment and motor skills are impaired because of pressure effects on dissolved gases in the blood. The primary danger in this often euphoric state is that the diver doesn’t recognize the danger they’re really in. He may, in fact, have never felt better than when he is in the most danger. This is the reason the Bible says “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”, and this is the reason for the Christian’s urgent pleas. The next breath is not guaranteed to any of us. So while we are saved from our own self-destructive behavior, and the power of sin in our lives, and sometimes from our present troubles, we are primarily saved from getting what we deserve: God’s perfect, unwavering, unrelenting justice. The result of that, apart from Christ’s atonement, is permanent separation from God, which is what hell is (despite whatever jokes or caricatures you’ve seen to the contrary). So are we simply after “fire insurance”? The Bible tells us that we were created to glorify God, and until we do so with our lives, we will always be missing the mark, missing our life’s purpose. So no, our salvation is tremendously important for this physical life as well as eternity. In fact, we are told that though physically alive, we were “dead in our sins” and only become truly alive when we are saved. How? Simply “that if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  While all of the terms the last few weeks play a part in this work of salvation, this is where the rubber meets the road.
If being saved is the result, being “born again” is the start of that process. The term comes from a passage in the Bible where a religious teacher named Nicodemus comes to talk to Jesus at night and admits that God is obviously with Jesus for Him to do the miracles He did. Jesus then tells him that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” If this makes you do a double take, don’t feel too bad – Nicodemus did too. With the brain gears grinding and smoke coming out his ears, Nic asked Jesus how a man could go back into his mother’s womb. But Jesus told him this was a spiritual birth, a regeneration. In the words of Matthew Henry, “to be born again is to begin anew. We must not think to patch up the old building, but begin from the foundation.” Mr. Henry’s analogy is appropriate; not only will plastering over the cracks in our walls not fix the problem, even major structural repairs to the framework of our lives won’t help with a foundation built on quicksand. Our lives apart from God are just pretty house facades covering rotten boards and cracked, shallow footings. It’s a total loss and needs to be gutted and rebuilt, but it all starts with the foundation. Only with new piles driven down to the bedrock that is Christ can our house be built securely. But this starts with God regenerating us, making us spiritually alive and able to respond to His free gift of salvation. Only God has the power to initiate this in us.
There’s a lot more that could be said about both of these terms (and others have!), but hopefully this has given you some new insight into these 2 common phrases. Questions or comments are always welcome. I may not have all the answers, but I’ll do my best to point you to the One who does. 🙂
 Hebrews 3:7 (ESV)
 Isaiah 43:7
 Romans 10:9 (NIV)
 John 3:3 (NIV)
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume, ed. Leslie F Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), p. 1517.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1994), pp702-703.